Friday, May 13, 2011

Poetry Prompt with Diane Lockward

Today, I'm pleased to introduce an amazing poet, Diane Lockward, who is our guest prompter today.  We are also featuring one of Diane's poems as an example of the poetry prompt.  You can read about Diane below the post.  As a free-write prompt, you can focus on any of the steps in the exercise below and practice descriptive writing.  I hope you enjoy today's creative writing prompts!


This is an activity I adapted from one by the poet and educator, Georgia Heard.

Before you begin, fold a piece of paper so that you end up with six boxes or rooms—in half the long way, then in thirds. (Alternatively, you can use 6 index cards.) Give yourself a few minutes for each step. This should be fast writing. Try to do this one step at a time,
in order, without looking ahead to see what's next.

1. Think of something that you’ve seen outside—something that is amazing, beautiful, interesting, or that has just stayed in your mind. Close your eyes and try to see it clearly. Notice its details. In the first room, describe what you see as accurately as you can.

2. For room number two, keep the same thing in mind, but just focus on the quality of light. E.g., is the sun bright? is it a dull day? any shadows? any colors that are reflecting light?

3. In the third room, picture the same image again, but focus on sounds: any voices? rustling of leaves? sound of rain or thunder? If it’s silent, what kind of silence is it?

4.In room four, write down any questions you have about the image. Anything you want to know more about? or wonder about?

5. In room five, write down any feelings you have about this same image.

6. Before you put anything In room six, look over the other rooms and select one word, a phrase, a line, or a sentence that feels important. Then repeat that three times in room six.

7. Read over what you have in all six rooms. Then create a poem from the material. Feel free to rearrange the order of the rooms.

I wrote my poem, "April at the Arboretum," using this prompt.
Available online:

Or here it is:

April at the Arboretum

 Hope is the thing with feathers.
          —Emily Dickinson

In a glass-encased room I thought of you,
far away, in the city you’ve flown to.
All winter I’d prayed hard for a miracle.
Now rain and ice pelted the windows,
drenched the gardens I’d wanted
to stroll. Yellow daffodils tilted,
tulips and crocus collapsed, leaves
of magnolias hung heavy with slush.

Out of purple rhododendron the first
goldfinch appeared, from forsythia, another
and another, at least a dozen, swooping
and gliding from thistle seed feeder
to tree to bush. A flock of goldfinches—
tarnished, soft, and brilliant, flying fragments
of gold, as if the sun had shattered.

Leaves of gold floated past panes of glass,
each bird without cares except to feed and fly.
All around me I heard sleet rat-a-tat-tatting,
and still the birds continued their airshow.
They did not suffer from ice, but flew
in perfect formation, a miniature
roller coaster, gliding in freefall,
looping and soaring, cradled by air.

Then the rain stopped pounding, and
in that airless silence no flutter of wings, no
twitter of birdsong. I only saw those small
trapeze artists on wings, flying cordless,
without cables or net, oblivious to danger,
and I thought of you, miles away,
trembling in the cold, cold rain.

 —from Temptation by Water (Wind Publications, 2010)

About Diane Lockward:

Diane Lockward is the author of three poetry books, most recently, Temptation by Water. Her previous books are What Feeds Us, which received the 2006 Quentin R. Howard Poetry Prize, and Eve's Red Dress. Her poems have been  included in such anthologies as Poetry Daily: 360 Poems from the World's Most Popular Poetry Website and Garrison Keillor's Good Poems for Hard Times, and have been published in such journals as Harvard Review, Spoon River Poetry Review, and Prairie Schooner. Her work has also been featured on Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, and The Writer's Almanac. She lives in northern New Jersey .

Diane's website:   
Diane's Blog :


  1. I can't see the prompts for Saturday or Sunday. Have none been posted, or have they been deleted by the recent Great Blogger Outage?

  2. Thanks for letting me know your concern, Rayne. The only problem I had with the Blogger problem was that my Thursday prompt disappeared for a while and I wasn't able to post my Friday prompt as quickly as I had hoped. My plan is to post prompts Monday - Friday and have the guest prompter's Friday prmopt stay up all weekend. If you are looking for new prompts, I have a bunch at the old site and you can get there by clicking on this link:

    Good luck and happy writing!



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