Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A Room From Your Past

Creative Writing Prompts Inspired by Ted Kooser:
A Room From Your Past

Today we are going to be thinking not of houses from our past, but rooms.  Start by making a list of 10 or more rooms you remember from your past.   They don't need to be places you lived in; they could be rooms in places you visited, a cottage you might have stayed at, a hospital room, a room from a school, etc.  

After you make your list, and only after you make your list, read Ted Kooser's poem, "A Room in the Past." 

Here are some simple reflections and study questions to help you take in the poem and notice how it works:

Study Guide and Questions to "A Room in the Past" by Ted Kooser. 

1.  Notice how everything describing the poem is concrete until you get to line 5.  What is abstract about line 5?

2.  Look at lines 9 & 10.  There are phrases of time in both.  In line 9, it is "just" to imply something had just happened, but what is the time phrase in line 10? 

3.  Look in lines 13 and 14 and notice how Kooser brings the outside into the room.  What three words are things that are from nature?

4.  On line 14, the poet makes a personal connection by mentioning someone. Who is it?  Why do you think the poet mentions this toward the end of the poem?

5.  In lines 15 - 17, a supernatural and abstract concept are combined.  Then the poem is finished off with a very concrete image, which brings it all to life and makes it all real.  What is the concrete image?

6.  How many adjectives are in the poem?  You will notice there aren't many and they aren't fancy.  Remember, don't overdo adjectives and adverbs in your poems.  Be aware of every one you use to make sure it is truly adding to the poem and moving it along. 

7.  Notice how in line 3, Kooser uses the word "you" to draw the audience in.  Do you think this is effective?

Poetry Prompts:  

1.  Pick a room from your list and work on a poem that includes some elements of nature and/or the supernatural.  Address the audience as "you" in the early part of the poem, just like Kooser did.  Bring a person into the poem (and that person can be you), but not until the poem is at least half way finished.


2.  Write a poem that ends with  "Turning his/her back on the rest of us, forever."  When you are finished, you may want to rewrite your last line so it is not exactly like Kooser's last line, but for now, use it as your guide. 

Fiction Prompt:

1.  Write a story that takes place in one of the rooms from your list.  Add an element of the supernatural to your story.  Write a minimum of 300 words. 


2.  Write a story that starts with an opening scene in the kitchen from the picture. 

Creative Nonfiction:

Write a memory about one of the rooms on your list.  Write a minimum of 300 words.


  1. Just discovered your site. Excellent. Thanks for offering these prompts

  2. After the door shut
    and the footsteps died,
    she lay in the dark and cried

    the house is still and empty
    abandoned by my memory

    broken glass and bobby pins mask the carpet
    unkind to my bare feet

    after the door shuts
    and the footsteps fade
    I turn my back, on what has passed

    four years now he’s been gone
    alone she is
    though she’d never let on


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