National Poetry Month Prompts 2021

We are reviving our tradition of sharing a series of new National Poetry Writing Month poetry prompts! We are doing things a bit differently this year by releasing all of the prompts in advance. Our series this year contains 41 new prompts, as well as the entire series of 29 prompts from 2016.

This collection is available on a pay what you can basis. Out of the funds we receive, 50% of the proceeds generated from the sale of this series will be donated to Ripple Community Center. Ripple operates a day shelter, an affordable housing program, and strives to serve those “who are living with mental illness, who have experienced significant trauma, or have other conditions or experiences that can leave them isolated and alone.”

Click here to download the prompts

hole the size of candlestick By Karina Fantillo

hole the size of candlestick

driving 101 north razed field dirt gusts in my eyes
i still expect stadium to loom along bayshore lived off
next exit paul ave no one else came to visit this side
of san francisco gray candlestick welcomed the faithful

mr gabutero exchanged niners & giants scores for extra credit
brothers & i learned to be american from tv watching strikes
& first downs our new religion on sundays camouflaged in red
& gold orange & black like the other kids at epiphany

i danced barefoot on the field niner playoff game
mixing cultures san fran blend wafting honey
smoke bbq tailgate parking lot boombox blaring
whoot there it is under our bamboo pole fans limboed

giants first to leave haunted by world series rumbling
ground cracked stadium static pebbles pelting
tv screen i was next moved to east bay my brother
mark held on registered to vote a new sf niners home

last concert after paul mccartney fireworks
electrified the stick before demolition colors rose
& fell to glitter mirrored on the bay sizzling fogless
night i called my brothers to ask if they saw fireworks too

By Karina Fantillo

Biography

Karina immigrated with her family at the age of 9 to San Francisco, where she learned about Philippine and American culture through folk dancing. Karina writes poems in lower case and minimizes punctuation as a stand against the infrastructures that deprived her of learning her native language and history in an American colony.

Karina’s poems have appeared or is forthcoming in the San Francisco Public Library, The Racket, Eunoia Review, Night Music, where she was the featured writer for the issue. She was a poetry fellow before graduating with an MFA in Writing from the University of San Francisco.

Those Moments When You Calculate Projected Lifespan By Artemisio Romero y Carver

Those Moments When You Calculate Projected Lifespan

catching Kansas fireflies
with my little cousin, with
the fireworks behind us, with
the combined effect of a
peripheral wave of tiny lights
a peripheral wall of state
police that followed us here
like younger siblings, with guns,
into this old spanish church

a rounded mud settlement
filled into a cathedral, made
to an art museum, now made,
and in a real way returned,
to a government building
an end result, among many,
is a mural celebrating colonization
the choir of conquistadors in iron
y behind a white cabinet secretary
lying about fracking1

we shout true things, which in turn
makes others shout similar things.
and the volume is flooding. as a ploy
they give a toddler a microphone
she is probably the same age as my cousin
she talks about trees, school and
extinction. the secretary is deaf
ingly earnest

By Artemisio Romero y Carver


1 an industrial process where freshwater is blasted at shale deposits in order to produce mostly radioactive waste, and a small amount of oil.

Biography

Artemisio Romero y Carver is a Chicana poet and activist. She is a YoungArts Merit Award Winner for Spoken Word and Santa Fe’s 2020 Youth Poet Laureate. Poems by Artemisio have appeared in publications that include Inlandia Literary Journal, Rigorous Literary Journal, Pasatiempo Magazine, and Magma Poetry. Her writing has appeared in the following anthologies: Dreams of Montezuma (Stalking Horse Press), Everything Feels Recent When Your Far Away (Axle Contemporary Press), and A Tiny Grain of Sand: The National Youth Poet Laureate Anthology 2021. She is currently pursuing degrees in sociology and studio arts at Washington University in Saint Louis. She also goes by Arte.

Rotten Fruit of Our Youth By Grecia Espinoza

Rotten Fruit of Our Youth

The memory of you exasperates me.
It always arrives uninvited and unannounced
like the news of your death.

After the funeral, I packed the life you knew
into boxes and moved away, just a town over.

When I arrived, the apartment was hot
and smelled of paint and mildew
It struck me then,
it’s never the house that’s haunted
but the people who bring their ghosts

I was still in a black dress when I vowed
never to furnish this place because life is brief,
and I had to be ready to run for it.

I’ve lived four springs in deafening silence.
I can’t unsee death in the blooming daffodils,
and my mattress still sleeps on the floor,

I have to get out of here, someday.
Florida is what’s left of what I’ve lost
and it’s lodged in my throat
like an unresolved heartbreak.
And the thickness of the moisture in the air
might kill me before I get the chance to.

But don’t you worry, I’m going to get better.
I’m going where the air is thin.

I’ll be in New York before the winter arrives,
and I’ll watch snow disappear into the soil
like a lowering casket. And by the end of the winter,
I’ll have found peace in knowing that I’ll never have it.

But for now, I’ll stomach this haunting,
eating it in tiny spoonfuls.

Someday, I’ll use the rotten fruit of our youth
to make jam, or to bake a sweet apple pie.

But for now, I draw the blinds, shut my eyes,
and look forward to a life of arbitrary hope.

By Grecia Espinoza

Biography

Grecia Espinoza is a Brooklyn based poet. She moved to New York to start her M.A. in English and American Literature at New York University. Her writing is inspired, almost paradoxically, by the language of confessional and Black Arts poetry both of which have been the center of her research. She’s currently working on a poetry collection that she hopes to finish by the end of the year.

Dear Moonjung By Tianyi Shen

Dear Moonjung

Open this when you need me the most,
like a jar of caramel when you crave

sugar high at midnight. We are taught
to tear through our open wounds like new-year presents

Our own knees painted, feet wide-apart, in front of sisters
we cannot console. Was it a tragedy that we were born

The same night someone else took our niche?
It does not matter. Tonight, I am only here

To hold your tears & wake you
To remembrance. Remember the time when they shattered you

To flee another country,
Remember the flash of light searing through your limbs

Like meteor, burning you to a wick.
& maybe someday I’ll even lower the veil of your obsidian eyes

Just to tell you that you are treasured.
That one day you will unwrap those scars buried deep in your marrow

& find them, because they belong to you, because they are
Gold.

By Tianyi Shen

Biography:

Tianyi is a Chinese-born, boston-based poet who explores familial conflicts and generational heritage through the medium of a second language. She has been recognized by the Scholastics Arts and Writing Awards, The Kenyon Young Writers Anthology and her school’s literary publication, the Spire. In her free time, she can be found cuddling her cat

how to speak: miami at TWILIGHT By Stella Santamaría

how to speak: miami at TWILIGHT

language of
songbirds saints

cuban sing fall
teleport

dilapidated dade pine front porch
albion sunflowers hayward roses
mar pacifico hibiscus gold

catholic coals in seas after the rains
doused latinate

la virgen de la caridad in scarlet red
san lanzaro in purple robes
display upfront
agradecida

&
little havana neighborhood blow torch

cuban sing fall teleport
catholic coals in seas after the rains doused latinate

coral walls laid flat

walkways

decibels linger


dade pine albion sunflowers hayward roses
mar pacifico hibiscus gold

offerings

agradecida

reactions

timbales
conga

millimeters language pure
what are we measuring tonight?

{ :


By Stella Santamaría

Biography

Santamaría was born in Los Angeles, daughter of a Cuban father and Guatemalan mother. Stella holds an MFA in Creative Writing (Poetry) from Saint Mary’s College of California, recipient of the School of Liberal Arts Dean’s Award. Her poetry has been recently published in The Acentos Review, Nine Mile Magazine, The Rumpus, Courtship of Winds, Juked and The Brooklyn Review, among others. She is The Sandra Cisneros Fellow at Under the Volcano 2021 and an alumna of the Community of Writers. Currently Stella lives in Miami.

Language is a Song the Body Sings By Sharmila PK

Language is a Song the Body Sings

Listen, on the inside I am all static and sound.
Scraped knees, capillaries, eyelids the color of a bruise.
See? How language unfurls on the tongue,
Slipping in like wine, soft and sensuous?
We can make anything beautiful, with the right words.

Take my flesh, for instance.
Once it billowed over my body,
Folding and curving, pure endlessness.
Now: nothing.
Now: just empty space where I used to be.
But I can make myself sound beautiful, watch –

Here.
Take away the word emaciated, replace it.
Now I am laden with light, now I am willow-thin.
A fever-flash, a diorama, of silhouette and form.
That sounds prettier, doesn’t it?

Pale skin, cold as stars.
Where does it go with nothing left to hold onto?
Answer: it repositions itself over its frame.
Bones can be lovely if you look at them long enough.
They’re the body’s secret, hidden within,
At least until you starve them up the surface.

Grotesque? No.
I prefer the word delicate.
It only becomes a sickness when you call it one.

By Sharmila PK

Biography

My name is Sharmila and I am a 24 year old student in Virginia. I am submitting a short collection of four themes, centered around the theme of eating disorders. They are titled as follows: Precious, Language is a Song the Body Sings, Hungry Woman, and Eat. In my free time I also run a personal book review blog on literaryambrosia.com. Thank you for your kind consideration!

All the ways I could have died before and the ways I still might By Priyanka Shrestha

All the ways I could have died before and the ways I still might

i.
The time I let the night
flip me upside down
hold me by the legs and drop
me on my head so
hard that just a few inches
further down would have been
a diagnosis much more lethal
than a simply concussed mind.

ii.
The time I stared at the ceiling
longer than before
imagined the way the rope would
leave small fissures on my
moisturized palms and
walked through the ghost of me
hanging in the air to climb into bed.

iii.
The time I’ll disappear
my bones seasoning for
the dust on a
stomach so empty I will
fold unto myself.

iv.
The time I cried
from the heart of
my infant lungs begging to be
free of the pain in my throat
that was only caught by a student’s intuition
(exactly the type of thing they taught
you in medical school)
which is to say had I been born a beggar’s daughter,
I would have died begging.

By Priyanka Shrestha

Biography

Priyanka Shrestha (she/her) is a junior at Stanford University studying computer science and creative writing. Her work has previously been recognized by the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, Columbia College Chicago, and the Anthony Quinn Foundation, and is forthcoming in The Oakland Arts Review. When she is not writing or coding, she can be found skateboarding downhill with her airpods in or trying to take pretty pictures of the sky.

Montage of the Bench Dusting at Perrin Park By Ava Chen

Montage of the Bench Dusting at Perrin Park

I.
You sweep your papery arm, loam
& pine pollen susurrating an arabesque.

Shadows scintillate your war-blued arteries
almost lurid. Your teeth, dandelions.

Zhè me yī xià,
the fish just skitter into our fingers!

you exclaim. Thirty years lisp away, rhythmic.

II.
Salt-twinged recession bares conch shrapnel & oysters:
we drift to shore together,
entropy lapped back in dry foam.

I crinkle past your crow’s feet branching
deep into your temples,
smell ocean in your sclera.

This rib cage bench we hobble away from
brands instance under a metal tongue.

III.
Your daughter sings once-jocular folklore:

a thatched roof crumbles under Japanese foray,
just missing your fleeing shape—

only thing intact a pot of beef steaming merrily
under the unraveled straw.

Between these characters, generations
slope brick & bokeh liminal,
erode sky a bruised Gaussian maelstrom,
blur over soot-sutured faces.

IV.
Next time we sluice Boston Harbor to fulfill the saltwater
etched in your face,

you’re already
sagging in your daughter’s arms.

The floating convenience café waitress offers
a steaming mug, a plastic cake slice.

V.
The frothy egg you beat for my favorite golden dish:
aerated palette,
shimmering edge,
clouds by the second—

by each coveted wisp of your smile.

VI.
The baby pink of pomelo droplets:

your deer-soft irises curl untouched,

gilding sweet in the eulogy your daughter—
my mother—
weaves you.

VII.
Today, I may find your handprint
if sunlight shafts just right,

peripheral lunula evanescing bone-gray
between armrest ribbons.

Under a waxing dusk:
albedo slants, winks away.

By Ava Chen

Biography:

Ava Chen is a 16-year-old poet based in Massachusetts. Her work is forthcoming in Scapegoat Review and The Daphne Review. When not writing, she can usually be found taking long walks or rewatching Christopher Nolan movies.

Needed By Leda Glass

Needed

It grows,
Blooming from shrapnel kisses,
Enveloping around like
Fleshy
Haemophilic
Nacre

Wandering thing, small
Floating vivisection
Nuzzling the earth for,
Um
Something—
Something to,
To need,
To Need it

A finger will graze it
On the exposed ribs And
it will fall over,
In the ecstasy of a
Man in the
Galleys
And the finger will

Rip,
Rip out the skin-pearl still
Beating, barely beating,
Burrowing into the
sinews

And the man,
The man behind the
Finger, past the arm and
Shoulder and
Teeth, sharp gnashing,
He will thumb a gaping
Pitiful hole
Into the heart and
Oh god, I
I can’t say it
He
He uses
He u
ses it
He

Needed.

The thing will stand up
And it will command
Earthly body
To walk, just walk
Just anywhere
That isn’t here

The pain,
The dull swallowing of
A being,
Metastasises into a
Knot of
frayed vessels and
Flayed nerves,
Growing back a heart like
A scar tissue pomegranate
That dares to
Has the gall to
Keep the thing
awake

And so it will wake,
Trembling and cracking every
Joint in that unholy body
As it crawls along,
Searching for
Something to
Som
ething to need It

By Leda Glass

Biography:

Leda Glass grew up with one foot in the grave and a pen in hand. A self-described ghost, she doesn’t know why she’s here on earth or if she even is, but she knows she must write. Every poem is an attempt to crystalise a thought, a tendril, a fragment, usually through raw and dreamy imagery. When there is so much to say and so little space to feel, Glass gets a little scrap of piece in every poem.

Graffiti By Kechi Mbah

Graffiti

i’m first discovered in the exhale of a baby-faced reflection
in some anticipated movement we call arriving at womanhood
fastened to the speed of his words:

my new

existence

is living

graffiti

i hold myself through sideways glances
soften in brief fixtures with unfamiliar eyes.

to be a beggar, i believe
is to unhook oneself
to let a want, hunger away your presence

which is to wish i’d never begged before
never lost myself / between / the breaths of my own trembling voice.

so once a new world wants to give
i’ll try to keep what’s mine

outline my haves in different places
neon down a steady washed skin

in an attempt to say
i must to decipher more than silence
spray all of this
along the exhale of then and now.

so today’s awash in memories
and i’ve vandalized the mirror.

*“my new existence is living graffiti” comes from Tongo Eisen-Martin’s poem, I Do Not Know The Spelling of Money

By Kechi Mbah

Biography

Kechi Mbah is a senior at Carnegie Vanguard High School and a Houston native. She first found a love for poetry when she stumbled upon a YouTube video of a Brave New Voices slam competition in the fall of 2019 and has been performing and writing poetry ever since. Her poetry explores many avenues from making the known strange to chronicling her experiences as a Nigerian-American and the histories of her people. She currently serves as the 2021 National Student Poet of the Southwest and her work can be found in Blue Marble Review, The Incandescent Review, elementia, and elsewhere.