My Students’ Writing Prompts in Celebration of National Poetry Month (Amy)

If you want a poem,” wrote Gwendolyn Brooks, “You only have to look out a window. There is material always, walking, running, fighting or screaming or singing.”

Photo by Mike Laitinen

In celebration of today being the 1st day of National Poetry Month my creative writing students at Gwinn High School created this collection of writing prompts:

  1. Playing with phrases until I find one that suits you best. ~Zoe Clairmont; 11thgrade                                                       

2.  The awkward silence fills the room with the fragrance of honey, so sweet and tasteful, as if the alphabet had dripped on my tongue to create digital words. ~Zoe Clairmont; 11th grade   

3.  Free verse, free form, life’s corner, drift away, paper pistol missile of lies in my eyes. ~Tom Marlow (pen name)

4.  What about the art we share and the words we create? Doesn’t creating involve thinking? No, it involves feeling. ~Nikki Handschuh; 12th grade

5.  Love, hate, laughter and cries. Write anything you want even if you lie. ~N.G.

6.  Let your tongue spill the words of your mind, there isn’t enough time.~N.G.

7.  More time, more words, switch around and reverse. ~N.G.

8.  Our words are our mirrors, they reflect who we are.~Anika Jamison                                  

9.  I find no strength to stand on my own, in place of my weakness you blow whispers at me urging me to write. ~Kendra Heikkila: 12th grade

10. As if with a string of your words, would provide stability or structure. ~Kendra Heikkila; 12th grade

11. Challenge yourself to write a poem without the judgment within. ~S.J.S.; 11th grade

12. “…reading into a thing that silently sings.” (Poetry poem) ~Kara Wixtrom; 11th grade

13. “…fly him home from deserts afar…” (from ‘Santa Please’ poem) ~Kara Wixtrom; 11th grade

14. You’re as clear as metaphors in my poems, but you can’t even read. ~Anon

Photo by Mike Laitinen

15. Sharing stories, like sharing a heartbeat. The stories we tell connects us to one another…someway, somehow. ~Anon

16. A story is never forgotten, it will always be told somehow, someway. ~Anon

17. Each line keeping your mind captured like a favored summer song or a memory teaser from years previous. ~H. Marine

18. Any boundaries in writing are illusions created by a fear to truly express yourself. ~Marc Moore

19. A person who writes about evil things well is better than one who writes about good things badly. ~Marc Moore

20. I watched her write to Aphrodite. ~Alex Pastor

21. Each line forms a river to tomorrow. ~Alex Pastor

22. Song bird sings a lemon sweet tune to the barriers Michelangelo kissed. ~Alex Pastor

23. The children kill her slowly, weathering away her youth (from ‘Little Monsters’) ~Anon

24. Feel each stab of a word as you litter the page. ~Anon

25. I do not sketch in coffee shops. ~Seal

Photo by Mike Laitinen

26. There is always something about the place you’re in That caresses the hand you write with If you were to write a poem about trees in the forest versus the city which would be better? Why? How do we connect so well with our habitats & why is that vital? ~Seal

27. Talking always make things worse. Just let your poem be your voice. Let your written do what you couldn’t. ~J.O.

28. An infinite number of nothings can be added together to get something. Nothing can be something. Paradox. ~Allie VanDuzer

29. Ink is the way of life. Life would be dull without colour. Colour wouldn’t exist without ink. ~A. Rose (Pen name)

30. I’ll make believe that this symphony is only for you, and me, and the stars that glimmer like those singing keys that live on your fingertips. Words drip slowly into broken crevices. Flailing, flying, screaming, help. ~Onyx Nelson

Photo by Mike Laitinen


The window in my classroom looks out on a tiny, forgotten little courtyard. Even on a bitter Upper Michigan morning on the 1st of April my creative writing students can find poetry breathing in the courtyard’s matted brown grass, under stubborn patches of snow and loitering between diminutive saplings that forage minerals from the soil. Each day, third hour, we write and make time for sharing. Nikki always volunteers first to reveal her deeply touching personal pieces, CJ blends military verbs with a delicate sensitivity to awe us, and Sarah always celebrates each poet’s voice and reminds us that laughter is an important part of discovery and healing.

Today as I blog, gas prices swell, school budgets hemorrhage and the twenty-two students in my third hour remind me that humans are resilient and that we do not need an expensive textbook or a plethora of supplies for learning to happen. On any given day I can procure an item out of my “bag of tricks”, or even out of my handbag, and twenty-two pencils become antennas and notebooks morph into mirrors that reflect the individual and the universe. A worn tube of lipstick becomes Amber’s gorgeously rich and textured metaphoric commentary on the unrealistic expectations that society places on female beauty. A crumpled receipt from the supermarket becomes Marc’s piece about how large corporations are stealing rural America and a smart phone becomes Kara’s manifesto about how we need to re-examine nature and explore and develop our language lexicon to describe the elements.

While we do not consult a textbook in creative writing, we do sometimes slink away to the computer lab to polish poems, browse Poetry Foundation and discover Sharon Olds, Robert Pinsky, Mary Oliver, Charles Simic, and Jane Kenyon. However, most of our first drafts are sketched with primitive pencil to paper. Or as my students would eloquently say, “by submerging ourselves in graphite.” Truth be told, not only is there not a textbook, but there is not even a teacher in the creative writing class. Mrs. Laitinen may be the guide to help point to a trite phrase and provide a prompt. But in reality, I too am a student in room 116. Together we hot-seat poems, write in collaborative journals, explore digital landscapes and on Fridays we even have a “dance party” for the first few minutes of class to Rebecca Black’s infamous song Friday. Today Mrs. Hollands even joined the dancing chaos. When the students came into the room the two of us greeted them wearing silly witches’ hats as we perched on chairs and employed our best 80s dance moves! While we know how to have a great time in creative writing, serious writing is recorded, shared and explicated. Be careful about hurling clichés. My students will call you on it!

Anika’s writing will often juxtapose rural vs. urban landscapes to comment on society and as she tackles the inner-censor she blooms. I have been inspired by how brave Ryan was in the 9th grade and how now as a senior is his voice is potent and has the capacity to cause a shift in culture. Austin is skilled in both words and on the canvas and he has also taught us about the art of loyalty and friendship. I marvel at the complex images that Alex plaits into her poetry and while she has dreams of being a teacher, I think that she already is. Seal dazzles as she questions and probes at society with sophisticated inquiry. I don’t think she ever puts her pencil down.

My students understand the power of language and words. Addi always has our undivided attention and we wait spellbound for the turn at the end of her poem. Kendra’s writing is governed by patience as she weaves beautiful poems embedded with morals and spirituality. Onyx has recently started sharing more and the pages of her journal have become a splashing foundation of light. I hope Izzy is resting comfortably at home as she heals and it will be great to hear her voice again when we get back from break. James is entertaining and his sharp sense of humor shapes clever and concise poems.

I delight in the way that poetry makes us slow down from our busy lives and examine the

Photo by Mike Laitinen

world with fresh new eyes. My students harvest poems that question, probe and even condemn. They peddle words that are caustic and raw, cultivated and soothing. They deliver poems that are genuine and real. While Hayley is quiet in class her poetry bubbles with wit. Zoe, always experimenting with language, scribes line-after-line-after-line of intense metaphor. Naomi’s voice is brave and tender at the same time as she trusts us with her secrets. Kaileena and Macy both brim with enough tangible creative energy to fuel their generation and I admire the way they combine visual with the written in the digital sphere. I am thrilled that Allie has taken creative writing this year and I admire the way her scientific mind examines the world with an astute perspective.

In room 116 my students write about gender roles and stereotypes. They write about war and politics, about crushes and first kisses, about finding their voice and what it means to be a teenager. We mull over society together. We laugh and cry together. We learn

together and we use cognitive skills. While the country celebrates April as National Poetry Month, my students help me celebrate poetry each day. They help me become a student in my classroom. I thank them for every word they gather and gift me.

Photo by Mike Laitinen

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2 Responses to My Students’ Writing Prompts in Celebration of National Poetry Month (Amy)

  1. This is amazing. I think it’s great you’re giving these kids the taste of such creativity. Believe me, it’s not common. Having just started college last semester (I graduated high school late), this reminds me a lot of my senior year. But man, your kids are definitely going to be creative powerhouses. How you describe them also makes me want to keep up with this blog.

    I can’t tell you how much I wish I had teachers like you in high school!

    • hamy10 says:

      Thank you so much. Your comment really means a great deal. I am so proud of my students…they are incredible. There will be more posts coming for National Poetry Month! Thank you for your kinds words! 🙂 ~Amy

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