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Journal Prompts

English 302A / Spring 2017


Journal Prompts


Journal 1: Personal Universe

Complete your Personal Universe Sheet (see handout). Type it up and post.
Formatting note: lists of words is one of the easier ways to post this. For example:

Taste: copper, kale, kelp, seawater, aspirin …

Touch: x, y, z, a, b, c …

Smell: …



Journal 2: The Next Thing Always Belongs

Here it is: the amazing, do-it-yourself, just add water collage poem based on the following instructions! This assignment is inspired by Richard Hugo, author of The Triggering Town, essays on poetry writing. In the book he writes, “Most people are like me, I find. The longer they talk about one subject, the duller they get. Make the subject of the next sentence different from the subject of the sentence you just put down. Depend on rhythm, tonality, and they music of language to hold things together. It is impossible to write meaningless sequences. In a sense, the next thing always belongs.”

Read the instructions below and follow to create your poem. Each instruction corresponds roughly to a single line of your poem, though you will want to be careful to vary your phrasing and sentence structure, and not end-stop all of your lines. One additional guideline: though you will probably not make any logical sense in this poem, try to have an emotional, thematic, or situational unity.

  1. Use the proper noun of a person or place
  2. An image involving the sense of hearing
  3. Something embarrassing that happened to you
  4. A fact you’ve read in a textbook or encyclopedia
  5. Any simile
  6. Any line using the word “bone”
  7. A line beginning “Who knew”
  8. A bit of conversation you overheard recently
  9. A line beginning “I want”
  10. Say something absurd you wish was true
  11. An image involving an animal
  12. A line with a quirky item found in the supermarket
  13. Use a slang word you’ve never seen in a poem
  14. Write about a subject that doesn’t belong in any poem
  15. Contradict something you’ve already written
  16. Any question
  17. An image involving something you might find in a garage
  18. A line mentioning a relative of yours
  19. Any metaphor
  20. A line beginning “I can’t stop…”
  21. A line involving a specific part of the body
  22. A line with a series of three nouns, connected by commas
  23. Refer to someone famous
  24. Use a vivid image that echoes something you’ve already mentioned
  25. Write a line in command form



Journal 3: Similes Experiment

Write a short poem about an intense or disturbing experience, using lots of unified similes, taking “Feared Drowned” [from Poet’s Companion, pp. 95-96] as a model. Then write a second version of the poem, only using as many different similes as possible for what the experience was like; that is, keep changing comparisons: “It was like … Or else it was like … ”

Your post should include both versions of the poem.



Journal 4: Cento

A cento (Latin for “patchwork”) is a collage poem made up entirely (or almost entirely) of lines from other people’s poems. By rearranging or decontextualizing lines from other poems, your task is to create your own poem by stealing from other accomplished artists. While you can’t change anything within the appropriated lines themselves, you may choose to break a longer line in half or use just part of a line as needed.

Start by using the selection of poems from the “Fairy Tale and Dream” Supplemental Packet, and write your own cento. You may branch out and add lines from any of the poems that we have read so far in class. Try to build a unique emotional, thematic or situational unity. Compose a minimum of 10 lines.

Formatting note: in order to acknowledge and give credit to the original text, include a list at the end of your post of the authors that are included, in order of appearance.



Journal 5: Form and Play

Choose ONE:

(1) Write a double dactyl. See handout for rules.


(2) (From PC): Take some raw material for a poem—notes, jotted images, thoughts—or use a failed poem from the bottom of the pile. Cast it into three different forms:

–iambic tetrameter (unrhymed)
–rhymed couplets
–a limerick


(3) (From PC): Invent rules that you then strictly follow: one sound per line; a poem that uses all the synonyms for ‘love’; a poem in which each stanza begins and ends with the same word. The point is to challenge yourself, to nudge your imagination in a potentially surprising direction. Include your invented rules at the top of your post.



Journal 6: Anaphora Experiment

Write a poem that uses anaphora. Use one or more of the following, which are guaranteed to trigger something interesting. Or invent your own.

I want
I remember
I used to
Give me back
You never