Poetry Prompts

December 31, 2015

I recently found myself commenting on the use of prompts for writing poetry as a I reviewed a poem that had been based on four specific words that were required to be a part of the finished twenty-line poem. When I first read it, I thought it was missing some information and that there wasn't a continuity in thought throughout the poem.  It also lacked vital information that made the poem complete.  I then saw, at the bottom, that the writer had used specific prompts.  It made me not want to review the poem because obviously the writer had taken up the challenge of meeting the requirements and that is laudable but how to critique it was my dilemma.  I decided to critique it. 


As an aside here, critiquing an unknown person’s work means we don’t know if they will take it personally or professionally and I think a lot of people who critique are worried about offending the writer and that can make the review less than authentic and beneficial to the writer (I speak about writing sites where people can have their work reviewed by fellow writers).  I tend to tell it like it is while also trying to instill some positivity to the review and that’s not always easy.  It’s like commenting on a person’s beautiful dress but avoiding commenting on the hair cut.  I do the dress and the haircut if asked specifically.


I critiqued the poem and found myself commenting not on the poem itself but the use of prompts in poetry writing specifically.  It is a tricky and difficult thing to do and anyone who even attempts it, should be lauded just for their efforts.  From experience I found it made my work forced and not genuine. It made my own writer's voice disappear. I don't write to poetry prompts anymore as a result.  I would recommend to anyone who uses poetry prompts to trust in their own talents and ideas. The words will flow and the passion behind it will be obvious.

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