Poetry Prompts

Image is a top-down view of a table with a vintage blue typewriter, a plant in a pot, and a gold notebook on a rustic wood surface.

RCAH Professor Anita Skeen offers writing projects during home confinement. 

Writing Prompt 2: Quote/Reflect

April 13, 2020

RCAH’s Anita Skeen offers another fun prompt:

Since most of us are confined in our houses or apartments or some other place for hours and hours, and since most of us are readers, I imagine we are taking advantage of this time to dig into some of those piles of books that have stacked up all around the house that we say we “will get to later.” This is probably as later as it’s going to get. If you are like me, you find lines that you love in the books of poems that you’re reading and often underline them or write them down. If you’re reading a novel, a character may utter a statement that knocks your socks off. If you’re reading history or essays or biographies, the authors make statements of great insights about their subjects. 

For this round of writing, select one of those lines or sentences and use it as an epigraph (a short quotation or saying at the beginning of a poem or story or essay, intended to suggest the theme of that poem or story or essay) for a poem or story or vignette, just a paragraph or so long even. Or you may have favorite quotes, “‘Just because you’ve got the emotional range of a teaspoon doesn’t mean we all have,’ said Hermione nastily, picking up her quill again.” This of course, is from the Harry Potter books. And there are many more. I’ll include a poem of mine here as an example. What you’re doing is taking a line of poetry or a statement that you want to comment on, and then writing a piece that reflects or relates to that quotation. Got it?  I hope so.

Email to rcahcomm@msu.edu by April 22. 



                                                April is the cruelest month….

                                                            --T.S. Eliot

April is the killer month,
the month of late frost smothering
apple and cherry blossoms,
the month of too much blooming
too soon in too many colors.
How many shades of pink
exist, how many constellations 
of purple in the grass, how many
galaxies of pear petals twinkling
in the field after last night’s storm?
The jonquils in their symphony
of yellow, each one claiming
to be First Trumpet, the tulips
holding high their bowls for rain.
The smiley-faced dandelions 
are back, ready to take over
the world.  There’s too much
happiness out there.  The birds
can’t keep their mouths shut, 
tweeting us before the sun
is even up.  Lilacs show some 
restraint, as do the azaleas,
not flaunting their hallmark
flowers until later.  Bees lunge
dizzy with pollen, bumping
into walls, dropping from gutters
like bungee jumpers. For some 
of us, spring’s not all that nifty.
Not all things return to life.
Graves will not open to give back
captives.  Persephone does not
come home.  All this floral hoopla, 
too funereal.  We’re relieved
when it’s time to flip the switch
to nightfall where just shapes
and silhouettes border the path.
Stars remain their constant selves,
a comfort they’re so far away.





Some Prompt 2 Submissions


By Anonymous


The Million Things

"M is for the million things she gave me."

--Theodore Morse and Howard Johnson

C is for the chaos you cause wherever you go.

O is for the only thing I’ve eaten for two weeks is noodle soup that expired in 2013.

V is for the volunteers who are risking their lives to keep things going.

I is for the isolation we are supposed to stay in.

D Well, D is for Death, isn’t it?

1 is for that person I’d do anything in my power to save.

9 is for 911, where we call out for help but no one answers.


Poetry Prompt 1: Celebrate the Light

March 30, 2020

From RCAH Professor Anita Skeen:

Dear Friends: I’m wondering, now that many of us are pretty much confined to home, if we might try for another writing project.

I don’t think I want to write about the darkness; I want to write about the light. I want to look for what we have around us every day that should be celebrated, small and insignificant as it might be. In this time when we are worrying about our family members, our retirement funds, our community, and our country, can we step away from those anxieties for a while and write a short poem about something that is lovely, meaningful, and that might be missed if WE were not the ones who pointed it out to others?

If you are not interested in doing this, that’s fine. Not all of us have the time to do this with additional responsibilities brought on by the health crisis.

Here is what I would say about the poems and the project.

  1. Write a poem about a beautiful thing; an unusual but perhaps unnoticed (except by you) thing or experience or moment; or a small miracle that you are a part of or have witnessed.
  2. The poem should be no more than 10 lines long, at the most.
  3. Pay attention to image, to music, to form. You know how to do this.
  4. Poem #1 should be written by April 7. We’ll see how this goes. 

Okay. Then...

  1. Send your poems to rcahcomm@msu.edu so we can publish it here.
  2. Tell us if we can publish it using your name or not.
  3. Do not feel that you must have it published. If you not inclined, that’s swell. If not, we'll take the poem as a gift, a little light or blessing to carry through the day.
  4. We will collect the poems and have them all in case we decide we want to continue this exercise. Perhaps that will depend on how long the crisis continues.

Anita starts us off:

No Wheelbarrow, No Rain
This afternoon, the chickens,
two spotted like static
on the old TV screen
and the red/golden one,
trundle into our yard
from beneath the cedars.
This is our first sighting
since winter kept them home.
Such joy in the fluffing of feathers.
Such happiness trotting on barbed feet.

Anita Skeen

Some Prompt 1 Submissions


By Kaylee McCarthy


I’m in love with all the little things I wouldn’t have seen 
If I wasn’t watching my feet

The sidewalk a collage of the smallest of life:
Dark, damp slug on dark, damp pavement,
Friendly twigs momentarily masquerading as earthworms, and

Newly budding crocuses,
Their little green stems humming spring into life,
Their little purple petals like stained glass in the sun


By Amelia Herron '20

a tribute to robert frost

Sanford nature trails
Life and death in equal parts
All leaves, trodden black

be kind, unwind

The world does not stop
For a single Spring Peeper
But maybe, I can

i am the moss queen

The beauty of a
Fallen tree with moss on it
Discovered by me


By Anonymous

Ode To Beggar's Velvet

The leggy puppy, new to us, trotted through the dining room,
Sweeping a dust bunny under the the straight-backed chair.
If we were in England, that dust bunny might be “slut’s wool.”
Not in the way you’re thinking, though.
Back in the day, “slut” referred to a slovenly person,
Just the type who would have balls of thread and fur and dried skin
(Because that’s what dust is) living under their bed.
But we’re here, at home, where the puppy has yet to be named
And some people call that dust bunny “beggar’s velvet.”