1. Write a poem where each line starts with a letter from your first name (an acrostic). It can be about anything, but it should not be about you or your name.
Eventually thoughts don’t float, they flurry
Moving confusion through confined space,
Mind’s a snow globe that’s been shaken…
A gentle hand will let them lilt and settle.
2. Who was the last person you texted? Write a five line poem to that person.
It’s sad that tragedy can unite us
when acquaintance is part 1 of the relay
and we haven’t even passed the baton yet.
Before we start on blood sweat and tears
maybe we should get drinks first.
3. Find the nearest book. Turn to page 8. Use the first ten full words on the page in a poem. You may use them in any order, anywhere in the poem.
Book of Mormon (yes, really — the script was the closest book on my shelf. I was a theatre minor).
Page 8: “The most important time of a Mormon kid’s life is” [his mission].
I seem to recall they couldn’t elect a Mormon
because bigotry runs deeper than religion,
though godless exclamations resonate
as long as the shouter claims “Christian…”
Keep building those oppressive idols.
Pulsing heart of meritocracy
bleeds out in due time
when the most important lesson of life is
Liberation vs. Status Quo Preservation —
tick tock, time to destroy the world?
Don’t worry bout us. The kids are alright.
4. Write a haiku. They’re usually about nature, but yours can be about anything.
Oily rain pummels
Winter creaks, ease the pressure
Now there are potholes.
5. Write a three line poem about lemons without using the following words: lemon, yellow, round, fruit, citrus, tart, juicy, peel, and sour.
Lips squish, eyes squint, drool dribbles, teeth bite
“I swear it tastes good,” wedged-open mouth winces —
Since when did I care about enamel’s plight?
6. Write a poem of any length incorporating every word from your latest Facebook status.
Post: “The problem with acting resilient means that people assume time erases your hurts. It doesn’t get easier; it just gets more familiar.”
It doesn’t get easier,
the choices between paths
forked by sinister dead ends and
perforated by concrete blooms.
These winding roads assume no travelers.
These indignant trails bear no footprints
though they remember the passage of the resilient.
Time erases their problems — or maybe history does that —
hurts preserved in memory but painted
in vivid color whenever called to mind.
It just gets more familiar.
7. Take a walk until you find a tree you identify with, then write a poem using the tree as a metaphor for yourself or your life.
Roots are hidden, but I’m surely a transplant.
Nobody’s altruistic enough to stand sentinel here
where artificial shade confuses the ground
and there’s no way to tell how distant the sky is.
Rain only nourishes instability
and sunlight boosts ego with nothing to show for it.
When existing structures edge out my roots,
who cares if I grow tall?
Height won’t matter when spring comes
and blossoms replace twigs as the story.
8. Write a cinquain on an object nearby.
frizzing, curling, wilting
useless to me now
9. Quickly jot down four verbs, four adjectives, and four nouns. Write a poem using all 12 words.
Drown, live, linger, siphon
Long, caffeinated, fragile, drowsy
Magic, descent, cinnamon, queen
Silence is descent into madness
but we should try to linger there.
We must drown all traces of
caffeinated sorrow and passion
in cinnamon and chamomile —
Long live the drowsy shadow self
who siphons unslept nights
through tunnel vision,
the kaleidoscope that lines up
fragile fragments into power.
Rest easy, Queen,
in the morning there’s magic to do.
10. Pick a one line song lyric to serve as an epigraph to your poem. Then, write the poem to accompany it.
“You’re free but in your mind, your freedom’s in a bind” — Janelle Monae, “Many Moons”
We have built cities of counterfeit equality
and pretend the foundation isn’t quicksand.
Ignorance really is bliss when you believe
that all lives matter and we bleed the same color
and oppression isn’t a breathing allegory.
In these cities live the monsters that
wear friendly masks and whisper compliments
meant to make all free in love and war.
I’m forced to sign treaties in invisible ink.
My body is a nation, and this sovereignty is mine.
I’m reclaiming it by planting poppies
in the deep furrows you plowed on stolen land —
“Ni la tierra ni las mujeres somos territorio de conquista”
11. Write a list poem.
Here’s insomnia poem No. 2,804
Not that I want to be a bore
But maybe you’d understand my pain
If I listed the things in my nighttime brain:
Recipes, homework, data entry,
Embarrassing tales from elementary,
Management science, strange film clips,
Insanity, feet, jalapeno chips,
Nightmare interviews, job anxiety,
Everything I hate about society,
Seagulls, long walks, annoying voices,
People’s questionable life choices,
Facebook, travel, TED talks, welfare,
Fashion, podcasts, serenity prayer,
Musicals, baggage, coconut oil,
Situations that make blood boil,
Revolution, grudges, DST,
The toil I go through for this degree,
Hiking, aliens, patriotism,
Monsters, Wasi’chu, “reverse racism,”
Revolution, robots, Navy SEAL,
Growing hatred for instant oatmeal,
Tattoos, feminists, the friend veto,
And my craving for a great burrito.
Not just sad things keep me up at night —
This dumb crap worsens my plight.
Unless I can stop being so whack,
I’ll remain a sluggish, tired maniac.
12. Tell your life story in 6 words.
Stumbling around, looking for questions first.
13. Write a short poem that a child would like.
Sorry, I Don’t Like Cats
I think there are monsters under my bed
and I wish they would disappear.
If we have to get rid of them instead,
we’ll need a plan and good gear.
You get some helmets, I’ll grab a bat.
Oh no! I can’t take the suspense!
But look, no monsters…only the cat!
Monster? Cat? Hmm..makes sense…
14. Write a bad poem, make it as lousy as you can, do everything wrong, let yourself be awful.
Time crawls by,
some insect I can’t crush underfoot
nor even pinch between my fingers
without it wailing and
stinging me back.
Clearly a lost cause, I retreat
and poke at it with a long stick.
The longer I observe it, the more
I feel that it’s observing me.
Am I also hideous in its eyes?
Does it wish to trample me, squish me,
mash me, diminish me?
Maybe it could if it tried.
15. Post a poem (written by someone else) that you love (for any reason).
by Honduran poet Indira Flamenco.
16. Respond to the poem you posted yesterday with a poem of your own.
The soul of the world speaks many languages,
but revolution rarely televised
is written without subtitles for deaf audiences.
When distant winds carry wails of despair
we close our eyes and let empathy hold them there,
at arm’s length because solidarity is
We nevertheless weave hope on this loom
of struggle, of victory, of chaos, of dignity.
“The people united will never be defeated”
though chances offered aren’t seized.
Courage is the diet of resistance.
Joy is the sustenance of the fight.
We ask God if our prayers are heard and
She responds: “I don’t get distracted.”
17. Write a poem that employs a rhyme scheme.
(I’m going to cop-out here and post a poem I wrote in September 2001 because
1. this challenge is making me very tired, and
2. I was a much better poet at age 9 than I am now.)
Darkness and Flame
How could darkness follow the flame
without its black growing old?
And who could the fire harshly blame
for not following its power, cold?
Or who could light follow by chance
without being seen —
for the speechless night has yet a word
inside its throat, so mean.
Light exists inside darkness cruel,
for the flame has but a chance:
could darkness be the midnight fuel
for the oncoming day, a dance?
Could darkness die away
from one flame alone?
Die away by the break of day,
and flame become life’s throne?
Dedicated to Robert P. Northcott
18. Write a poem without any end rhyme, only internal rhyme.
When the sonder sparks, I glance in wonder
at those who believe the golden past is beholden
to prophesies of dire descent into hellfire —
the past’s memory is gilded treachery.
Lord, please bless this newly created mess.
We’re digesting the same filth we’re protesting,
filing empty petitions against permanent conditions.
This void will just deepen as we hunt our demons.
19. Imagine yourself doing any household task/chore, then write a poem using what you’ve imagined as an extended metaphor for writing.
Writing is Cleaning the Bathroom
You can arrive with a bucket of tools
but it will never turn out as planned.
Better to not prepare and expect the worst.
Hair in the drain won’t vanish by wishing.
Monotonous spraying, wiping, arms aching
and finger-cloth teams circling grime away.
That one spot actually needs baking soda
while sweeping the floor takes minutes.
I smell like chemicals. Back hurts.
But it’s done.
Guests are impressed, look, I can adult.
So I’ve won?
20. Write a narrative poem detailing a specific childhood memory.
We were rolling on carpet one soggy fall morning,
Me making the little bro my usual pawn,
When all of a sudden, with no kind of warning,
Dad switched the vacuum cleaner on.
We didn’t get up, letting come what may
So Dad yelled out over the noise:
“You’d better move out of the way,
There’s fire under here, so pick up your toys.”
“FIRE?!?!” we screeched, jumping to action
As we imagined our stuff going up in flame.
I’m sure Dad got much satisfaction
From this hilarious parenting game.
Little did he know I believed till age ten
That underneath each vacuum was fire —
The ruse was evidently lasting bait
Because actors are convincing liars.
21. Choose one of the poems you’ve already written and posted as part of this challenge and re-order it in some way. You could rearrange the lines or stanzas or even words in a line. Think of it as a puzzle!
Insomnia poem –> herbal tea poem
Long live the Queen of chamomile
who drowns fragile fragments of cinnamon
and lingers in the silence of caffeinated sorrow.
Her shadow self siphons passion through unslept nights.
Drowsy tunnel vision powers magic, but
the kaleidoscope of morning will bring
traces of descent into madness.
22. What is the first car you bought/drove/remember? Write a poem about it.
An Ode to the Ghettomobile
1MSGO70, ill-advised license plate reads;
lil engine that could barely make 45.
I was master of restarting when
it stalled in the middle of a left turn,
of patiently waiting with numb fingers
between pumps on the gas pedal on
chilly, stubborn mornings.
Freeway driving not allowed, unless it was
Dad coasting us along Monterey Rd. at 55
to pick up live crickets for frogs and toads.
Childhood errands turned into my own
independence when a car older than me
became my freedom from school buses.
Wiping fogged windshield down with
soggy pink towel,
tapping sticky ceiling where tan lining
had been torn away,
opening the door in drive-thru lanes
because the window wouldn’t roll down.
Nothing else was broken,
it just never existed —
backseat shoulder straps on seat belts,
right-hand side mirror,
The upholstery was coated with
laughing memories and my dog Jasper’s hair.
The picture still teases a smile to my lips.
This vessel carried my youth.
23. Write a seven line poem that begins with “it’s true that fresh air is good for the body” (from Frank O’Hara’s poem “Ave Maria”) and ends with “this is our body” (from Gary Snyder’s “The Bath”).
It’s true that fresh air is good for the body.
We as walkers don’t pace lightly,
inhaling all the argon of millenniums past
and revitalizing our cells with the remnants of stars.
The tapestry of our collective energy
twists onward through root and ocean.
This is our body.
24. Write a poem that’s different in some way from anything you’ve ever written. Take a chance! Be wild!
Cliche, cliche…white suburban dreams
All things grow with love,
like the flowers of tomorrow
that are the seeds of yesterday.
As delicate as roses
and as pure as snow,
we break new ground,
caught between a rock and a hard place.
All the branches of the tree of life
extend outwards into the clouds
that have silver linings.
Come hell or high water,
we are careful to not
put all of our eggs in one basket
because, just one drop in the bucket,
we want to bring small change
to our world.
We’re little fish in a big pond,
yet our fountains of energy
enable us to be free as birds.
We will be
the change we wish to see in the world.
25. Write a poem that includes all of the following words: pistachio, ink, pebble, weather, varnish.
Even moody weather cannot tarnish
this place where grandparents celebrate
anniversaries and my skin still remembers
skulking on all fours across slippery rock.
Ink waves of indigo push pistachio foam
onto shore that is more pebble than sand,
more cliff than beach, more stone than slope.
Sea salt is varnish painted on clammy feet.
The sky’s brow furrows over Lovers Point
and kelp-scented air pierces nostrils
like darts thrown through churning fog.
Cloudy California is beautiful too.
26. Gather some magazines/catalogs you don’t mind cutting up and spend ten minutes flipping through them looking for words/sentences that spark your interest. Cut out the words as you go, and (at the end of the ten minutes) arrange the words to form a cut-out poem.
27. Begin with the title “The Poem I’d Never Write.” Then, write that poem.
The Poem I’d Never Write
4:06 am, and my fingers itch to type out
words I should never think, let alone write.
A letter too ironic to make real
even if its sentences never breathe
and its intentions collect dust.
Naive footprints of separately walked paths
are more than just worlds apart —
handwritten and watercolor memories seep
into the wrinkles of time and hibernate there.
“Tread softly, because you tread on my dreams.”
28. Visit a virtual art gallery and look around until you find a piece that intrigues you. Write a poem inspired by the artwork.
(I actually visited a real art gallery today, by total coincidence. It was the “Empowerment” gallery at Future Tenant, showcasing art made by Carnegie Mellon students about sexual assault.)
We have a problem.
A masculinity problem.
A power and control problem.
An entitlement problem.
A problem that reigns king
with armies so large that all
opposing warriors need protection.
We shouldn’t need it.
Our armor is invisible
to hungering eyes,
our ferocity transparent
to controlling stares,
our latent anxiety obvious
to predatory glances.
Awareness is our only salvation.
In solitude we murmur
“come upstairs and I’ll
show you where all my…
where my demons hide from you”
and nurse our wounds in
We have a problem.
A trust problem.
A misplaced blame problem.
An empathy problem.
Kick us when we’re down;
yell words in echo chambers
that aren’t really empty.
Privilege is the draft exemption
that frees them from
going to battle.
But it’s only a deferment.
Sooner or later,
the vicious cycle will
ensnare us all.
Caring is our only remedy.
Is it really so hard to say
“I believe you?”
(Lyrics from “Lost and Found,” by Lianne La Havas)
(Picture from Pittsburgh Slutwalk, which took place earlier today)
29. Briefly research a poetic form of your choice and write a poem according to the rules of that particular form.
Spring makes me restless
When will finals be over
I don’t deserve warmth
Because I procrastinate
Writing poems, not coding.
30. Write a poem employing extended metaphor to illustrate the experience of the last 30 days.
My mind is a garden overflowing with foliage,
and I haven’t had time to prune in awhile.
I pay homage to the reckless weeds
as they’re torn by root from loose soil,
some resisting and some coming freely.
The snarling brambles prick and draw blood
on their way out. Should’ve worn gloves.
Now I remember why I don’t garden.
Pollen shaken loose dances to gain
loud signs of attention. Sneeze away.
Maybe with time this thumb will turn green
and neatly planted rows of vegetable
and flower will bud forth harmonious.
Springtime dreams are distant, though, in winter.
The untamed field holds its own beauty…
the poppy and daisy don’t need tending.
With flower beds, let come what may.
This challenge was very interesting. The last time I wrote this much poetry in such a short time period was 3rd or 4th grade. Writing so many poems back-to-back made me realize which motifs I tend to fall back on, and which stylistic requirements make me produce crappy poems (there are definitely some in here). Most importantly, though, I learned that I’m most creative and produce the best results when given seemingly tougher challenges, like “write a poem using only these words” or “write a poem of this exact length.” I’m not particularly useful or exemplary in completing open-ended tasks, but can be extra creative given strict parameters. I will definitely apply this knowledge to my career and life planning as I continue to grow and analyze my strengths. This challenge was kind of exhausting, but very fun! I encourage others to do it too!