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You are Spring: Poetry Prompt

This week's writing prompt takes its own inspiration from Gwendolyn Brooks and her poem (also posted on this blog today), "To the Young Who Want to Die."

First, choose a group that your poem will address. It can be anything from the termites in our lake cabin to motorcyclists without helmets, the nurses caring for my neighbor to the Terra Cotta Soldiers, the maple trees in the arboretum to the 2nd graders at my daughter's birthday party. Brooks chose a very specific group, and so should you.

  1. Address your group directly.

  2. Start by giving your chosen group specific directions, advice, assurance, or instruction.

  3. Stanza 1: The word "will" appears in Brooks' poem 9 times, all in the first 8 lines. Normally, such a word would not be a great one to repeat, but here "will" carries a lot of weight: the will to live, a last will, and 6 of Brooks' use of the word is as "will wait," and that is her wish for those she addresses. Is there a word or phrase that you can repeat, especially one which allows your readers to connect the word with your poem's meaning? As the use of the word "will" winds down (and the use of words with the letter "l," especially words with "ll," Brooks uses Death 4 times, each time in caps. When the word "Death" first appears, it is paired with "will," making for a smooth transition. Repeat your second word a few times in your first stanza, after leaving your first repeated word behind.

  4. Your second stanza should be short. The last words of this stanza's first and last lines should be opposites (Brooks has "today" and "tomorrow," which are not exactly opposites, but yours should be).

  5. Your last stanza should be a couplet that mentions a color and a season, as Brooks does with "green" and "Spring." In this stanza, equate your group to something as she does with "You are Spring." What is your group?

  6. You can also have a lot of connected words in your poem, as Brooks does with words associated with time.

  7. Do you need more of a challenge? Begin 2 lines in your second stanza with the same 2 words, and use 3 words in that stanza that begin with the letter "p."

  8. Gwendolyn Brooks is one of the 20th Century's greatest poets, and one of America's greatest poets. Her attention to diction is part of what makes her work so compelling: assonance, consonance, alliteration, repetition, rhyme, slant rhyme, connotation, symbolism, etc. In her poem, "To the Young Who Want to Die," her mastery of language--especially the repetition--adds to the tone of urgency and desperation to be listened to that the speaker is feeling. As you revise this poem, pay special attention to the words you use in it. Whatever tone your poem takes, revise with it in mind; does your language reflect the tone?

  9. Title your poem as Brooks does: "To . . . ".

  10. As always, have fun! Write, revise, repeat!

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