Write a Poem-a-Day in April

Olive-skinned older woman with dark hair looking at a blank computer screen and a blank piece of paper.
Olive-skinned older woman with dark hair looking at a blank computer screen and a blank piece of paper.
At my desk with a blank piece of paper and a blank screen.

It’s April! All month, I’ll be posting prompts, examples, and short insight pieces on writing poetry to help myself and my readers to make the most of the NaPoWriMo challenge.

Human experience is diverse and limitless, which means there’s a diverse and limitless pool of potential topics for poems. Still, I struggle with the idea of writing a poem a day. One thing that helps me is assuring myself that I don’t have to write finished poems. Beginnings are enough!

Some kinds of writing, like poetry, happen very slowly for me. It’s usually months or even years before I get…

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My memoir of surviving teenage intimate partner violence is serialized here on Medium beginning February 1, 2021.

The events begin in the 1970’s, when officials often dismissed violence against intimate partners as a “private matter.” Attitudes have changed over the years, but not as much as they need to change.

New chapters of Walk Away appeared each Saturday:

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

The idea for serializing the story comes from my interest in the many 19th century novels that were first published as serials. Authors and magazines released…


#NaPoWriMo Poetry Prompts

Asian woman with white hair and glasses, hands folded under her chin, wearing a bright yellow shirt
Asian woman with white hair and glasses, hands folded under her chin, wearing a bright yellow shirt
Photo by BBH Singapore on Unsplash

Aging is the sort of inevitable, non-negotiable topic that fascinates poets. Birth, school, work, death, in the immortal lyrics of The Godfathers.

Some of us fight aging. Some of us embrace it. Whichever approach is yours, though, aging beats its only known alternative. In the immortal words of someone.

People in my family die young. Maybe that’s why I’ve always wanted to be old. Or maybe it’s because I’d hoped to be old and wise, to stop making the same foolish mistakes over and over again. This year, I’ll be 64, and the bad news is I’m still making foolish…


NaPoWriMo Poetry Prompts

An olive green book of Shakespeare nestled in a white duvet with a cup and saucer
An olive green book of Shakespeare nestled in a white duvet with a cup and saucer
Photo by dazhi on Unsplash

Sonnets are often the first poetic form people learn about, and for good reason. They are fourteen lines long, usually about one subject, and contain a brief argument that makes a distinct point. These three qualities — brevity, focus, and argument — make them accessible to those who are beginning to read poetry.

The two traditional forms of the sonnet are the Shakespearean (think Shakespeare) and the Petrarchan (think — you guessed it — Petrarch). …


#NaPoWriMo Poetry Prompts

White datura blossom
White datura blossom
Photo of datura blossom by saikat das from Pexels

The word “villanelle” is from the French, although the form itself probably originated in Renaissance Italy. Originally, it was not a very structured form, but the villanelle we know today plays by a long list of rules.

Poets are so often rule-breakers. Why would they be drawn to the limits imposed by form? Can free spirits abide having limits set on their creativity?

Some poets believe imposed limits free them from their mind’s repetitive patterns.

I’m in that camp. For example, writing in form forces my brain away from the patterns it wants to follow. It forces me to find…


#NaPoWriMo2021 Poetry Prompts

a display of accordion fold paper flowers (or possibly the tops of umbrellas) in shades of yellow
a display of accordion fold paper flowers (or possibly the tops of umbrellas) in shades of yellow
Photo by Cathy Mü on Unsplash

T.S. Eliot (why do I keep bringing him up when I claim to resent him?) is credited with saying “Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal.” Of course, it’s plain wrong to plagiarize, and Eliot’s statement shouldn’t be taken as a license to lie. In fact, if we practice good research habits and read the statement in context, it becomes clear exactly what he meant by “steal.”

One of the surest of tests [of excellence] is the way in which a poet borrows. Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets…


#NaPoWriMo Poetry Prompts

Two feet in black and white
Two feet in black and white
Photo by How-Soon Ngu on Unsplash

I don’t recall where this idea to “write a poem to part of your body” came from, or even if it came from a prompt. The idea may have come to me spontaneously, but I wrote the poem at the end of this post during NaPoWriMo 2018, and I did make use of prompts from many sources that month. So . . .

Poems addressing body parts often have a humorous tone. One of my favorites, “Homage to My Hips” by Lucille Clifton, spans the spaces between history, humor and wisdom with miraculous elegance. …


#NaPoWriMo Poetry Prompt

Book cover of The Triggering Town by Richard Hugo showing a dilapidated house in an overgrown field
Book cover of The Triggering Town by Richard Hugo showing a dilapidated house in an overgrown field
Book cover of The Triggering Town by Richard Hugo

Have you ever felt left out of a conversation?

I felt that way when I began an MFA in Creative Writing program in the 1990’s. I didn’t get why my fellow students kept mentioning “Hugo.” It was “Hugo this” and “Hugo that.” I broke down and asked one of the professors, “Why does everyone keep talking about Victor Hugo?”

If you’re a fan of 20th century poetry, you’re probably laughing at me (good-naturedly, of course).

The other students weren’t talking about Victor Hugo, the 19th century French author of Les Miserables. They were talking about Richard Hugo


Photo by Unseen Histories on Unsplash

Political poetry has a long and illustrious history dating from at least the works of classical Greece and Confucian China. Most recently, it had a resurgence in America following the 2016 election, and in Maoist China with Misty Poets.

Poetry characterized by resistance to a status quo challenges our assumptions and brings us together as we speak and act against the injustices and oppressions of yesterday and today. In desperate times, poetry sometimes thrives. Jane Hirschfield says, “When poetry is a backwater it means times are O.K. When times are dire, that’s exactly when poetry is needed.”

A few of…


Photo by Héctor J. Rivas on Unsplash

Feeling some angst? Writing a poem might help.

Angsty adolescents have written poetry for centuries. It’s a turbulent time of life when we’re wrestling with identity, independence, and desire. No wonder so many young people turn to poetry to try to sort out their feelings and make sense of their place in the world.

Adolescence is a liminal state, on the threshold between childhood and adulthood. This is the perfect place for creativity. If you’re no longer an adolescent, try mining your memories of that time in your life. What was important to you? What barriers did you face? What…

Michele Sharpe

Words in NYT, WaPo, Oprah Mag, Poets&Writers, et als. Adoptee/high school dropout/hep C survivor/former trial attorney. @MicheleJSharpe & MicheleSharpe.com

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