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FIVE POETRY PROMPTS & ACTIVITIES FOR YOUR NEXT WORKSHOP
Besides spending time with other creatives, I love hosting poetry workshops because (like with any art) every experience is unique. From the "I'm just here to observe" folks who need to be encouraged that we have a judge-free space, to the seasoned writers who bring a bit of humor and insight to every piece, I marvel at how prompts inspire such a myriad of work. Over the years, I've spent hours upon hours thinking of ways to make these workshops engaging - more than just picking a theme from a hat and writing for 30 minutes. Below I share five poetry activities and related prompts that will bring a bit of laughter, energy, and insight to your poetry workshop.
Activity - To warm up, have a simple poem or nursery rhyme that everyone would know and scraps of paper with emotions written on them (jealousy, fear, excitement). Pass a container around and have each poet pick an emotion without showing the others. Take turns reciting the poem with the emotion chosen. The poet has to keep going until the group guesses their emotion correctly.
Writing - Have the poets write a poem based on the emotion they had in the game. Their poem should be about something or someone that makes them feel the emotion (so if it was anger, perhaps they would write a poem about the moment they realizedthat what they thought was a chocolate chip cookie was actually raisins - yuck).
TELL MY STORY
Activity - This workshop is inspired by a series on SoulPancake. It works well with groups who don't know each other. Have the poets pair up or work in groups of three with people they didn't come with. Provide a list of 6 questions that each poet has to guess about the other. The questions should grow in complexity, such as Name? Does the person have any pets, if so what kind? If the person could travel to any country where would they go? If the person could have any superpower, what would they choose? Who has been the greatest support in the person's life? If the person had to give a talk on one of the following virtues - love, determination, justice, faith - which would they choose? Give the poets time to share with one another and see if they got any answers right. (Note of caution - this is not a good activity if people tend to show up late, as it's hard to catch up and pair off).
Writing - If the group is in a public space, like a park or cafe, have them observe the people around and choose a random person to write a poem about. If there are not many people around, ask them to think of an interesting stranger they've seen or met in the past, and write a poem about them.
ODE TO THE STONE
Activity - I recently did this activity at a Baha'i summer school and the results were incredibly insightful. This workshop focuses on attention to detail, which is an essential part of writing meaningful poetry. Have a bag of stones or any other object that is easily accessible to you. Have the poets choose one and tell them they are going to have silent meditation with their object. They need to be present with their object for 5 minutes and get to know it to such a degree that if you were to place 10 objects on the table, they would know which one is theirs (of course, you don't need to actually test them on this, but it's good motivation).
Writing - After 5 minutes, have the poets write an ode to their object. For less-experienced writers, you can have a list of questions that might help them brainstorm. Some of the questions I used for Ode to the Stone were What does it look/feel like? What does it remind you of? How is it like or not like you? You can read my Ode to the Stone right here on WriteSpike. (https://www.writespike.com/story/eWcXj13C2V8D/ode-to-the-stone/)
AT LEAST TWO SIDES TO A STORY
Acitivty - Choose a poem or story that's told from the main character's perspective but has multiple distinct characters. Find or write a short summary of the story for the purpose of the exercise and read it aloud in the group. Then separate the poets into smaller groups and give them a supporting character. For example, if you chose the story Aladdin, the groups could be Jasmine, the Sultan, Jafar, and the Genie. The poets are to discuss how that character might feel, their backstory, and their perspective on the main storyline.
Writing - Either using the story from the activity or if they have a poem or story in mind of their own, have the poets write from the perspective of anyone but the main character in the original poem/story.
TONIGHT SHOW HASHTAGS
Activity - This workshop is inspired by a segment on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. Choose 5 popular hashtags and give poets time to write short pieces - 25 words or less. The pieces can be funny or insightful, based on a true story or totally made up. When the time is up (you can gauge when most people are done), take turns sharing the pieces, mentioning the hashtag at the end. Some great ones from the show are: #howigotfired, #ionceoverheard, #whyimsingle #parentingfail, #myweirdsecret
Write - Poets can choose one of their own pieces or one from someone else to develop into a longer poem.
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