April is National Poetry Month, and all of this week’s prompts are first lines from poems that appear on the Library of Congress’ brilliant Poetry 180 website. This was the project US Poet Laureate Billy Collins took on for his 2001-2003 tenure. He envisioned a school year –180 days–with a poem shared in middle- and high-school assemblies, in classrooms, over the intercom, every day. He envisioned it would not only normalize poetry in everyday life, but it would possibly create a 180-degree turn-around in kids’ relationship with poetry. And it worked! All 180 poems are collected HERE.
The turquoise pool rose up to meet us,
its slide a silver afterthought ….
–Geraldine Connelly, from “The Summer I Was Sixteen”
Write about the summer you were sixteen. Or write about a summer at any age you choose. Or start your write with “The [your subject] rose up to meet me….”
This is the field where the battle did not happen,
–William Stafford, from “At the Un-National Monument at the Canadian Border”
Write about war or peace. Or write about a fight you didn’t have. Or write about a time when you were at a border or an edge.
It is a cold and snowy night. The main street is deserted.
–Robert Bly ,from “Driving to Town Late to Mail a Letter”
Write about a cold and snowy night. Or write about a time when you felt isolated or alone. Or write the story of a letter you once mailed.
Like primitives we buried the cat
with his bowl.
–Jane Kenyon, from “The Blue Bowl”
Write about a pet you have or had or know. Or write about a time an animal died. Or write about something you once buried or hid.
to spread it on thick to shoot off my mouth to get it off my chest
–Denise Dumahel, from “I’ve Been Known To”
Start a write, “I’ve been known to….” Or write about a time you “spread it on thick.” Or write about something you want or need to “get off [your] chest.”
Seems like a long time
Since the waiter took my order.
–Charles Simic, from “The Partial Explanation”
Write about a time you dined alone. Or about a time you waited. Or start with “Seems like a long time….”
It was afternoon tea, with tea foods spread out
Like in the books, except that it was coffee.
–Alberto Rios, from “Coffee in the Afternoon”
Write about a time you had afternoon tea. Or write about a time when something was off (“except that …”). Or write about a cup of coffee.
All poems (c) in the name of the poet.
Source: Poetry 180 / A Poem a Day for American High Schools
Hosted by Billy Collins, U.S. Poet Laureate, 2001-2003
Library of Congress, http://www.loc.gov/poetry/180.html