Celebrate National Poetry Month With Daily Writing Prompts
A word about the prompts:
These prompts are meant to springboard you into invention. Try to record your response to the prompts without prematurely revising. I could imagine at least two ways of handling them: draft 3-5 lines to each day’s prompt (returning later to complete the compelling ones) or sketch out a full rough draft to a select number. Of course, feel absolutely free to alter the prompts as you see fit! However you decide to experiment, I hope you enjoy the creative process. – Alexandria Peary
Are you an aspiring or veteran poet? Or perhaps you’re just looking for a COVID-safe springtime activity that you can do anywhere.
In partnership with the imaginative New Hampshire Poet Laureate Alexandria Peary, we will be publishing 30 days of poetry prompts for the month of April, in celebration of National Poetry Month. Poems created from these prompts can be submitted for review and potential publication in Peary’s second COVID-19 poetry anthology.
Peary keeps plenty busy — she’s the author of seven books and is working on more, teaches at Salem State University and offers mindful writing workshops. This doesn’t even include her many admirable missions and events as New Hampshire’s poet laureate.
In the fall of 2019, Peary received a call from Gov. Chris Sununu, and was honored when he asked her to be the state’s next poet laureate. Typically serving a five-year term, the New Hampshire poet laureate can take on a variety of missions, goals and events, depending on their interests.
“It’s been the honor of my life. Really, I’m having the time of my life,” she says. “Especially during COVID, it just gives me a real sense of purpose and connection. And I just love it.”
Her roles as poet laureate include being an ambassador for all poets in the state, and working to emphasize its importance and prominence through the initiatives and events of her choosing. Establishing mindful writing workshops for opioid epidemic survivors and creating opportunities for youth writers, specifically in rural areas, are Peary’s main initiatives. In May, the inaugural North Country Young Writers’ Festival will occur in a completely virtual format (you can learn more about the festival in our upcoming May issue).
Peary has a large team of interns and collaborators to assist in her events and initiatives.
Peary practices what she teaches, often starting to write in the early hours of the morning and working until late at night. “Writing is just a complete joy for me,” she says. Both writing and teaching are parts of Peary’s life that bring her an immense amount of happiness.
With two master of fine arts degrees in poetry and a doctorate in English composition, Peary’s career falls in both “worlds” of academia and creative writing. An international leader in mindful writing, she recently gave a Tedx Talk titled “How Mindfulness Can Transform the Way You Write.”
After having to cancel many of her events scheduled in April of 2020, Peary came up with the idea to share the importance of poetry and writing, even given the circumstances — a reflective COVID-19 anthology. “Whenever something bad happens, I think, how can you harvest that? There’s gotta be some good, something positive in this,” she says.
“COVID Spring” features poetry submitted by residents across the state, coupled with contextualized snippets about how their individual town or region in New Hampshire was dealing with the early stages of the pandemic, with the opportunity to have their work published. She partnered with Kirsty Walker, the president of Hobblebush Books, and the project grew from there. A portion of the profits from each anthology sold went to the New Hampshire Food Bank.
One of Peary’s goals with the prompts is to encourage an abundance of writing, where participants can ultimately pick something to polish and submit to be published. Each prompt is related to COVID-19 in some way, but there is lots of room for creativity and freedom. For some of them, Peary suggests a particular poetry form, such as crafting a sonnet or writing in tercets. However, she notes that writers should feel free to alter the prompts to fit their own style or preferences.
Participants are not expected to have a full, refined draft for every single prompt. Peary suggests two potential approaches: Draft three to five lines for each day’s prompt (returning later to revise and complete the compelling ones) or sketch out a full rough draft to a select number that most pique the writer’s interests.
Peary sees poetry prompts as a way to jumpstart the creative writing process, “to springboard you into invention.”
When beginning the writing process, Peary recommends distancing from the perceived audience, and focusing on the prompts and one’s own writing. She recommends thinking of the writing as private, without worry that someone will read it. “So, you are doing it for yourselves without worry about judgment or how good something is early on — that’s really important. A lot of times when we write, we get distracted by long term goals,” she says. “By distancing yourself from your worry about criticism or rejection, you give yourself the freedom to write more openly and effectively.”
With the previous anthology and this upcoming one, Peary reads and reviews each poem blindly, meaning she does not know who any of the authors are.
Hannah McCarthy, a longtime friend of Peary’s, has advised her throughout her time as poet laureate. “Alex is incredibly productive, she is truly one of the most productive people I’ve ever met in my life, as well as being generous and talented,” says McCarthy. “And so, when she was chosen as a poet laureate, I was so excited for her. She really wanted to use these years as poet laureate to make a difference.”
Kirsty Walker is the president at Hobblebush Books, the publisher of both the first “COVID Spring” and the upcoming anthology. “I hope that we can open it up this time to more people who might never consider themselves a poet. There’s so many entry points with the writing prompts too, so I’m really looking forward to seeing what comes in,” she says. Walker notes that Peary reviews all of the poetry submissions blindly, which makes the judging process completely impartial.
Since it’s been almost a year since COVID-19 first hit the United States, Walker is looking forward to the new lived experiences and perspectives in the upcoming anthology. “I think the perspectives that we get in the poems will be very different, and I think having the two volumes side by side will be a really nice comparison,” she says.
The first prompt will be posted on our social media on April 1st. Be sure to keep a copy of each completed poem or draft, so at the end of the month participants can pick one or two favorites to refine and submit for possible publication.
poem with fruit flies and narrative bees
Fruit flies land on the poem & change the poem,
downloading content. Fruit flies are flecks of being & energy,
shifting the piece closer to prewriting & propelling
it hours ahead, to editing, then send it back,
the poem resting on a simple table near the open window of a line break.
Because of drowsy proofreading moths & spellcheck wasps
fruit flies add voice to metallic fruit, softening the font. Fruit flies
also add their two syllables, the voiceless sound of labiodental fricative,
meaning the vocal cords do not vibrate, unlike honey bees with pompom socks
like pocket-sized yellow dual language dictionaries:
German bees, the Italian honey bee Apis mellifera liquistica, & Russian bees
—though it’s a narrative bee who lures us into the storycomb,
phrase by phrase a maze, so that a mascot of a hornet emerging
from the margin bootlegs a sweet peachy part, a noun with hooks,
causing fruit flies to land again on the poem & change the poem.
*This poem previously appeared in New American Writing.