poetry prompt about an animal

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New to using prompts? Take a look at these notes on how to use writing prompts. Otherwise, jump right in!


For this poetry prompt about an animal, start by reading “Ecosystems” by Sarah Dickenson Snyder and give some thought to what you like/admire.

Isn’t the movement in it terrific?! “Ecosystems” considers the idea of containment not only by embodying another creature in a small pool but also by placing the narrator and the narrator’s love in their own small pool. The tension in the poem is the question: can these small worlds be enough? And the answer is the view that concludes the poem, an image of our vast universe: “a billion trillion / specks of light beyond our reach.” Note how the ending, gorgeous as it is, isn’t tidy but complicated by “beyond our reach.”

I also enjoy the music in “Ecosystem” (including the alliteration of googly and goby, the assonance of fish and lives) and the turn the poem takes from the philosophical to the personal (“How much will we never know / about what lives outside of us. // I have been with him / for thirty years––”).


  1. Describe an animal and maybe tell us something about where it lives.
  2. Go inside its head and wonder about something the animal may wonder about.
  3. Now make it personal: Connect something about the animal’s life to something in your own story.

For an extra challenge, if you answer any of the questions you pose, don’t answer completely. Like Dickenson Snyder, leave some tension unresolved.


Do not copy “Ecosystem.” It’s a good idea when you harvest material from these exercises to either credit their inspiration (i.e. make a note at the top of your poem, like after Sarah Dickenson Snyder’s “Ecosystem”) or remove the scaffolding provided by the example and keep only the material you crafted. In other words: make it your own.

Be sure to let me know if you write a poem or other piece in response to this poetry prompt about an animal. I’d love to read it! I’m going to attempt to share at least two poetry prompts with you each month in 2021. You can find past poetry prompts here, including writing prompts from prior years.

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