This Writer's Life

Thirteen Little Poetry Projects



This is the final post for 2014.

I’ll be back in January with musings on Shakespeare, why I’m a sucker for kids’ poetry, the pros and cons of daily practice, prose vs. poetry, writing reviews, basking in obscurity, and other observations from the writing life.


Thirteen Little Poetry Projects

The list below contains my favorites from “20 Poetry Projects,” the creation of the late Jim Simmerman, a poet and professor from Northern Arizona University who died in 2006. I’m grateful for these little nudges in the direction of creativity, and refer to the list often. Mix them up; rearrange the list; choose three or four at random. You’ll have fun, and you might get a poem out of it.


  1. Begin your poem with a metaphor or a simile.
  2. Say something specific but utterly preposterous.
  3. Use at least one image for each of the five senses, either in succession or scattered randomly throughout the poem.
  4. Use the proper name of a person and the proper name of a place.
  5. Use a word – slang? that you’ve never used in a poem.
  6. Use an example of false cause-and-effect logic.
  7. Use a piece of “talk” you’ve actually heard.
  8. Make the character in the poem do something he or she could not do in real life.
  9. Refer to yourself by nickname and in the third person.
  10. Write in the future tense, so that part of the poem seems to be prediction.
  11. Modify a noun with an unlikely object.
  12. Use a phrase from a language other than English.
  13. Make a nonhuman say or do something human (personification).


Reprinted from Vibrant Words: Ideas and Inspirations for Poets by Erica Goss

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