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.
Please pay what you can if you are able. If you are experiencing financial hardships, feel free to download the prompts for free. 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.”
Paris, Sisters and brothers. I had missed the Explosion of tastes that comes with a cere, and The comfort of food eaten around the same bowl.
I rushed to printers and full metros between Porte Brancion and Concorde, Feeling the weight of my black hijab flowing on my young shoulders And the pressure of my blackness in the white crowds. As never before.
Saint Paul. A life of adventures in higher academia. Movie nights with salty abundant popcorn followed Study days roaring with nervousness in complex papers and numbers. The freedom to stretch my feet on the granite grows smaller Each day that goes by. Masks on. More indoor nights and introspections.
I can still hear the laughter of the reunions Smell the perfume of our friendly hugs Taste the smooth melody of warm meals we Shared on a rainy day in January 2020.
Vines, I recall the hikes between the dense green Norwegian trees , the salty sweat lingering on my Smiling face, stunned before the birds spreading its Wings over the soothing Fjord.
Flekke Friends. Chiquitas, we called each other. Dancing in the kitchen while cooking jollof rice, Taking pictures in our clothes smelling like a mix of garlic and pepper, Our faces, breathing sisterhood.
A year passed, but still one more had to come. Studying together from the early afternoon till the cooling Fjord mirrored the moon We cheered each other up, when grades made our moods dull.
Little did we know that the final year would be cut short. What about the dresses we needed to try before graduation day? What about jumping in the fjord after writing the last exam? What about the last dinner in the Flekke bubble?
We rushed to pack, muttered sobbing goodbyes, unexpected In one last breathtaking effort, we smiled at the diplomas , and watched each other fly for what Could be the last time.
The freedom to stretch my feet on the granite grows smaller Each day that goes by. Masks on. More indoor nights and introspections.
By Anna D Sene
Anna Diagne Sene was born and raised in Dakar. Anna started writing in English to get out of her comfort zone, and to reflect on her life as a Black Muslim woman. Outside school, she likes reading, meeting new people, drinking bubble tea, and eating cere, her favourite Senegalese meal.
I often cry alone in public bathrooms, in the stalls at the very end because no one thinks to look there first. Sometimes I’m too afraid to want thing; I yearn too much, down to the root, so much obsession wracking this asphalt body, it quickly resembles hunger. Tell me: what could be more tragic than the act of not getting thing you desire most? Craving it so badly that you run headfirst into anything that smells like an offering. Somedays existing is hard. Somedays I’d rather stay in bed and collapse beneath my sheets, think of all the ways one can hurt without even leaving a room. I am sometimes this girl underneath. Solemn. Semi-rotten. Squishy in certain places, almost fragile to the touch. Still; I want love to rock me violently. Stretch me to the point of snapping, like string.
By Karese Burrows
Karese Burrows is a poet and graphic designer from The Bahamas. Her poetry has previously been featured in The Rising Phoenix Review, Harpoon Review, L’Ephemere Review, Penstrike Journal and Words Dance Publishing. Her first chapbook This Is How We Lost Each Other was published by UK independent publisher Platypus Press in 2018 and can be purchased from Platypus Press, Barnes & Noble and Amazon. She can be found at kareseburrows.tumblr.com.
remember the spring we spent clearing brush from the grove between the pitted stone walls, grit crunching between our teeth, hollow vines and limestone campfires flickering shadows in the night lost in worlds of warrior clans and mermaid queens before running home to watermelon smoothies. remember the fraying tire swing, sunscorched rubber scalding our hands, we jumped at the peak and joined the mockingbirds among the trees if only for a moment. remember the day we painted our names in front of your old house, fingers stained with colors of tropical islands we imagined we could escape to before california took you away.
remember this and know that when i say i want to see you, i don’t mean you miss-debate-champion-track-athlete- with-a-stony-smile-and-haunted-eyes i mean you, the girl who shot arrows at the mulberries, built leaf forts in the fall, danced with pinatas around the room, chased crickets in the yard, read books in the treetops, and watched the stars rise curled next to me on dewy grass before the fireworks lit up the sky on the fourth of july.
where did you go?
By Mira Jiang
Mira Jiang lives and attends school in a suburb near Dallas. Apart from a brief stint in China, she was born and raised in Texas. Her work has been recognized in contests from Hollins University, the Poetry Matters Project, and the Geek Partnership Society.
The saffron rain spits on my flesh. I walk home from Nani’s, my hair blistered yellow like deities
ethereal, hijacked. Vagabond dark peddler sells them to me. Arms outstretched bloodshot irises and asphalt
fingers and tarred gums. He chants a bhajan that bleeds past my ears, I hear nothingness
even though Nani just sang it to me. His garam masala breath splits my lip searing them into two petals. Two
screams: mine and the doll. His child eats the face of the doll, it sticks between two teeth. Her face massaged clean
in dirt. She looks just like me. I smile, she stares. To her I am just a body, a body she wants to eat, but cannot. Mama used to
pluck eucalyptus leaves, strung them into a necklace for the martyred deities. My eyes welter yellowed tarnish
as they melt the rotten eucalyptus tree like the British Raj shrapnel that killed great-
Nana. I watch the scent ravage through Mama’s village, reminded of the martyred bodies in Paradise
and Chico. But in this nation, the alive are still living. And I rot.
By Palak Parikh
Palak Parikh is an emerging Indian-American writer from the San Francisco Bay Area. She is intrigued with writing as a means to foster female empowerment and connect with first generation Americans. She often explores topics like feminism, race, and cultural mongrelization. She has been recognized by the California State PTA and Alliance for Young Artists & Writers. When she is not writing, Palak enjoys drinking coffee and trying new exotic foods!
birthed me from desert death and snake rattle swaddled in strange silhouette i buried the first of my
beginnings bound together by sticky caramel spread from south america abandoned by father’s tongue i come from dried fig and dragon myth from the era of superheroes and revolutionaries in bedtime stories and childhood texts the words that grant us adult strength raised me to expect more from the world
i did not become a person until i was fourteen when Mouth realized its mobility and was quick to defend Self and Stigma
from childhood revolutionary texts inspiration from magic and mythos to deliver verdict to villain strength from starship explorers
at eighteen i exchanged arid desert and mediterranean coast for humid dusk and cicada song abandoned mother’s tongue for mother’s land encountered mother’s identity and claimed it as my own forged mother and father tongue into skeleton key to construct my own bridges and holy texts
i mistook my first snowfall as wildfire ash confused the numbness of my nose as smokescreen instead of burning winter intent so i rewrote the list of things i knew to say you are still being made.
By Mia T. Hamernik
Mia T. Hamernik is a California native pursuing her bachelor’s degree at Washington University in St. Louis. She likes to remind people she’s Latina by bemoaning the severe limitation of Mexican restaurants in St. Louis and listening to Bad Bunny on full blast at every opportunity. She has not suffered a foosball defeat in six years.
They’ll turn her gay. Those girls she hangs out with, wearing suits to dances and cutting their hair short.
The room is dim, blinds closed as always, something about a glare on the TV screen. Papa is telling me about the girls who are infecting my cousin in between bites of fruit and cheese, neatly sliced on his plate.
She dresses like such a boy. I hate the way she dresses. I hate the slit she cuts in her eyebrow. I wouldn’t let her out of the house like that if she was my daughter.
The TV blares on behind me, playing reruns of old westerns. The cowboy hero lifts the damsel onto his horse. He rides off while she is still adjusting her layered dress draped sidesaddle. Her hat blows off in the wind. It lands in the dust. I take a bite of the plum Papa cut for me and let the skin snap between my teeth.
We all thought she was so hot.
My date sits across from me at the round cafe table, describing how he and the boys drooled over the girl in his class. I cup my hands around my hot chocolate mug and stare at the mural on the wall over his shoulder. The painted girl is kneeling on the grass holding a daisy between her thumb and forefinger admiring it without tearing from the earth.
She kicked her legs on the chair in front of her and- you wouldn’t believe it – her legs were as hairy as mine! As soon as we saw that, we were all like ew, nevermind.
He laughed, shaking his head, his hair bouncing slightly under the layer of gel. He got up to refill my water cup. The painted girl’s painted hair is the same color as the wheat field behind her, the same color as the sun. She has a hint on a smile tilting on her lips. I crossed my legs under the table and wondered if the boy’s story was from before or after we started dating.
Hey sweetheart, you need help with that?
My coworker is leaning on the shelves in the back of the store, where we keep the 500-gram fireworks. He ignores the new truckload of boxes but offers his calloused hand to me as I carry a ladder to the front of the store. The box next to his elbow is the firework “American Beauty”. On the packaging is a woman in leather laying on a black motorcycle, her skimpy clothes barely more than undergarments, her bedroom eyes staring blankly. I decline his help and walk past him and the motorcycle girl.
Well, there’s no need to get huffy. I was just offerin’.
The stock boy two years younger than me passes by straining under the weight of “Green Envy” which displays an angry red-headed woman with only leaves to cover her, and “Sexy” which shows a woman in only lingerie and feathered wings. The man yanks his baseball cap further over his gray ponytail and leans back against the shelf, nothing to offer the boy. The glossy women on the fireworks boxes watch me wipe gunpowder from my brow and climb the ladder, unassisted.
My roommate sits cross-legged on her bed, tapping her slender fingers against her cheekbone. I look up at her, her paint-splattered freckles, her dyed maroon hair tucked behind her ear. She stares back at me, eyebrows knit together.
I don’t know.I can’t think of a time someone treated me differently because I’m a girl.
By Ally Blovits
Ally Blovits is an undergraduate student at Michigan State University studying creative writing and theatre. When not in East Lansing at MSU, Ally lives in Grandville, Michigan with her parents and her twin brother. Ally’s work has previously been published in Apiary Magazine, The Sheepshead Review, and LAMP poetry collection.
Your life was for the birds. Three days after you’ve gone, red-winged blackbirds and sparrows still sit at your sill, looking for seed. In the window, the cat sleeps, dreaming of mourning doves and other manna she’s never known. In the field beyond your fence, squirrels wait in trees for seeds from the feeder to fall, deer wish for water to be poured in bird baths like wine, and starlings watch the door for your resurrection, hoping you’re about to burst forth carrying bits of bread and crusts, cupping victuals in your venerable hands, communion for crows.
By Kristen Perillo
Kristen Perillo is a writer and high school English teacher in Buffalo, NY. Her former fitness blog was developed into a memoir, Following Fit, and her writing can be found at kristenperillo.com.
MY THERAPIST SAYS I HAVE TERRIBLE COPING MECHANISMS
my sister told me the day I was molested (at 3) I showed my niece
I guess this is just how I communicate now
The easiest way to open a body is with your finger
tear apart a deer skull from the eyeball out
using your hands as a crowbar
gut a fish with your fingernails
wedged into its mouth
like an orange eaten as an apple
Force your teeth through the skin
open your daughter in the bathtub
I learned this: the body knows when not to open my labia fused together for a year
I find myself craving all kinds of being torn apart in the last year I’ve had 30 bodies pass through my own
“sex is a way of holding yourself”
I find myself held swaddled in jackets and carpenter pants and argyle printed thrifted bed sheets hotel quilts, a bandana a sock wrapped around my throat or a hand pressed tight into my skin
“You are looking for a mother in every bed”
I am looking for a mother like a monkey breastfeeds a baby doll I am looking for a mother and I keep finding my underwear crammed in
the corner of my backpack
I am looking for a mother but all I am finding is her fingers
and when I find her it is always the same story: an opening
a finger wedged between me like a pitch fork into a hen still alive
By Anna Šverclová
Anna Šverclová (they/them) is a totally queer sophomore director of Macalester College’s slam poetry team, MacSlams. They were born and raised in the Twin Cities suburbs and they cry whenever it snows. Over the years, they have become an expert in layering. Their secret? A journal compliments every outfit.
I want to run through my body and lock every door inside of me, I want to live in a dark box where I am invisible, I want to stack furniture against my heart. I want to stretch myself so thin and far apart That any ropes still snaking around my body burst And fall slack to the ground. I want to slam the blinds closed And dance and scream inside my head Until every part of you runs out of my eyes and ears. I want to stand on the roof of my life and scream “NO” Until it gets through your thick skull that I never wanted it. I want to plant a tree made out of what is left of myself and eat its fruit. I want to cut you out of myself with giant ceremonial scissors. I want to float above everything and watch my world go on without your abuse.
By Audrey McGuinness
Audrey McGuinness is from Oakland, California and is a first year at Macalester College. She has dedicated a great deal of time and energy to processing trauma, abuse, and assault, and balances these experiences by seeking beauty in mundanity. She writes when poems start writing themselves in her head.
i try for you like the world is on fire and i live for you when you don’t want to anymore. i’m sorry your dad told you if you pressed your thirteen year old lips against hers and felt something he’d kill you and now the world won’t be the only one burning. i’m sorry your stuffy white priest in stuffy white clothes clenched his hands around your throat after he groped your budding breasts and told you that’s the only kind of touch you need to like. i’m sorry i didn’t pin you up against the wall and show you how passion feels when i knew your eyes were hungry, begging “taste me”. i’m sorry he tasted sour, they all will for us, he’s just itching to pull up your skirt and show you he can make you straight (if you two only spend one magical night together). isn’t it enough to watch him come? selfish bitch.
i’m sorry parades feel too big and her hand feels too small and you’re starting to believe there’s just no place for you between it all. but i try for you like the world is on fire, i write for you so you don’t have to, and i love for you so we never have to apologize again.
By Siri Greene
Siri Greene (she/her) is a first year at Macalester College. She grew up in rainy Seattle and loves expressing herself through poetry and music. She writes poems as a way to heal, and often explores mental illness, sexual assault, and queer identity in her work.