Poetry Prompt: Writing a Collection - Poetry Teatime
Poetry Prompt: Writing a Collection

Poetry Prompt: Writing a Collection

So far, our poetry prompts have focused on inspiration for one poem or one new idea. But what if you wanted to write a collection of poems instead? How would you get started? Today's prompt will help you develop a group of ideas you can turn into poetry.

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Now, poets approach writing collections with all sorts of methods. Some have an idea for a series of poems about one character, like Janet Wong's A Suitcase of Seaweed. Others share the same form, like Bob Raczka's Guyku, a book of haikus.

But many, many poetry collections by one author are centered on one topic.

Maybe it's a season, like Francisco X. Alarcón's From the Bellybutton of the Moon: And Other Summer Poems. Perhaps it's a place the poet loves, like Amy Ludwig VanDerwater's Forest Has a Song.

No matter what the topic may be, the poet makes sure that each poem in the collection somehow connects back to it.

It's this third type of poetry collection that we're going to focus on today: poems about one topic.

Making Your Collection

We're going to use an easy, simple format that anyone can follow. It's called "________ I Have Known."

Fill in the blank with one topic: trees you've known, or trains, seashells, starry nights, suitcases, rope swings. Choose something concrete that sparks a memory.

Like we often do at Brave Writer, we're going to collect our ideas with a freewrite.

Set the timer for fifteen minutes (or however long you'd like). Write a list of all the memories that come to mind when you think about your topic. Use bullet points, words, or sentences and write.

For example, some trees:

  • That one tree out front with perfect branches for climbing
  • The tree in the logo of your favorite TV show
  • The orange tree you thought would grow from the seeds you swallowed
  • When the neighbors cut down their massive oak tree and there was a huge hole in the sky
  • The one time you climbed up in a tree and read a book for four hours and no one could find you

Once you've written a list, take a look at it and see which particular memories strike you. Put a star next to them.

If you don't have five or six different memories connected to the topic, either save the list and keep adding memories to it, or start with a different topic and create a new list.

Then, it's time to pick one of those memories and write.

Whenever you'd like to add another poem to the collection, choose another memory from the list and let that idea spark your poem.

And, above all, keep adding more memories to the list. Keep the list in a safe place or type it up on a computer.

After all, a collection isn't written in a day. You can keep adding to it for years, or even for your entire life. As you get to know more trees or find more constellations, your collection of ideas and poems will grow and change with you.

So go, find a tree, and write.

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