New to using prompts? Take a look at these notes on how to use writing prompts. Otherwise, jump right in!
GO GET SOME INSPIRATION –>
For this poetry prompt to help you write a love poem to your favorite time of day, start by reading “I Never Wanted to Die” by Dorianne Laux and give some thought to what you like/admire.
I’m struck by the “Trojan Horse” quality of this poem. It comes off, at first, as straightforward, as a thing of beauty. It opens with a simple statement: “It’s the best part of the day.” Then we get “morning light,” “rooftops,” “treetops” and “birds.” Later, there are “flowers,” “hills” and “gold.” But once you let that beauty in, it doesn’t take long to feel its gravity, to know what’s at stake. We live. We’re alive. But it can’t last. And it may not be easy. Laux leaves clues even as she introduces us to her praise of morning: the light is “sliding,” the birds are “pulling themselves up,” and “night [is] still in their throats.”
We don’t have the benefit of prior drafts to see how Laux gets to the great leap that opens the next stanza — “I never wanted to die” — but what a shock. Even though it’s also the title of the poem, we manage to be surprised. I love its matter-of-fact treatment. Five words. A simple, direct sentence that mirrors the poem’s opening. The speaker expresses the will to live without waxing philosophical, without drama or emotion. The stanza goes on to take us through loss (keeping that same dry tone) and also humor: The reason the speaker wants to live, to wake up in the morning, is to “see what happened next.” (I love that.)
In stanza three, recognition of this life force takes over the poem. It rushes forth, and the speaker rides the wave, fully succumbing its energy. A comparison of verbs in stanzas one and three shows how the poem apes the actual rise-and-shine of morning. It moves from “sliding,” “pulling” and “darkened” to “open,” “lift,” “flare” and “bare.” Laux achieves this sunrise — an upward and outward blossoming — while keeping it real. The flowers have “heavy heads.” Their backs are “creased.” In this stanza, Laux gives the poem over to its poetic impulse. She goes all in on the metaphor, which feels pretty “meta” in this particular piece. The poetry of life? It’s right here. This is it.
By stanza four, it’s clear the poem isn’t an ode to morning but to drinking it all in while we can.
Even the cut flowers in a jar of water liftfrom “I Never Wanted to Die” by Dorianne Laux
their soon to be dead heads and open
their eyes, even they want a few more sips,
to dwell here, in paradise, a few days longer.
And even here, as Laux extends the animation of the flowers and their metaphor, she doesn’t gloss over the fact that what comes after living is dying. The flowers are “cut.” They are “soon to be dead heads.” But Laux doesn’t abandon us there. The poem ends with “a few days longer.” I love that moment of lingering. It creates a kind of echo: the flowers and this poem keep us company.
I’m going to stop gushing now and get to the prompt, but one last thing: sentences! Do you see what Laux is doing? Aside from the 5-word sentence — “I never wanted to die” — Laux lets the sentences go on and on for the most part. All the stanzas except the second are single sentence stanzas that carry us away. They move us through the poem, along with the energy of the speaker and the speaker’s conviction/celebration about the will to live. The sentences build. They float. They go on a while.
NOW START WRITING –>
- Consider your favorite time of day or part of day. It should be something that has a lot of energy for you. What time of day makes you pause and “have a moment”? It can be a time of day — like morning, twilight, 2 a.m. — or it could be a part of your day, a ritual like putting on pajamas or pouring a cup of coffee. Open your poem with a stanza that describes what you love about the moment you’ve selected.
- Start a second stanza by jumping quickly and without warning to something you know for sure in that moment. (Option: See what happens if you state it twice. Laux first writes, “I never wanted to die” and then “my life was never in question.”)
- For the next stanza (and for as long as it takes), return to the physical world of your favorite moment and roll with it. Ride it out. Let it carry you where it goes, being careful to balance out light and dark to avoid either claiming too much space.
For an extra challenge, avoid telling us how you feel about all of this. Instead, like Laux, infuse your verbs with sensations that match your feelings so that we experience what you experience without being told.
IMPORTANT NOTE –>
Do not copy the poem that inspired this writing prompt. 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 Dorianne Laux’s “I Never Wanted to Die”) 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 your favorite time of day. I’d love to read it! You can find past poetry prompts here, including writing prompts from prior years.