Think outside the box to generate ideas for your poetry

One of the things I have learned trying to generate ideas in poetry is that they are often generated by stimuli.

As tempting as it is for me to subscribe to the idea of a poet being a vessel that is divinely inspired by the muse, I just don’t buy into it.

Oddly enough I have never had writers block. Any time there has been a slowing down in my writing, it has been directly connected to a slowing down in my reading.

You see reading for me gives me permission to have ideas. Not to copy ideas but to stimulate new ones.

Conversations, magazines, movies and plays also become catalysts for poem ideas.

One of my favourite things to do is to create prompts for poems and see where the exercise takes me.

Not every exercise leads to a great poem but some do and at the very least they keep me sharp for when a great poem comes. Exercises also sharpen the poetic eye needed to recognise a poem when it comes.

Here are seven ways for you to generate ideas for your poetry.

I hope that they lead you to great poems.


Pick 7 people you really dislike and write a composite portrait with a two-line description for each of them.


Write a 15 line biography of your life so far as you remember, but with a few slightly embellished fantasy lines.


Take a passage from a book, like a bad romance book, a pulp detective novel or horror story.

Elevate it into a sonnet with a tie-in to your daily life.


Pick a poem that you like and borrow the first line from it and then write the rest of the poem based on your inspiration from the first line.

When the poem is finished erase the first line and substitute your own.


Try to identify the latest thing that you think you will remember all of your life.

Write down everything you can remember about it.

Rewrite it as a scene. Make sure that your reader can smell, taste, touch, hear and see this moment.


Remember a heated discussion you had with another person.

Write a poem called Why I Was Right, which blurs the line between being right and wrong.


Write a poem that talks about the struggle to overcome one of the most difficult things in your life

But never say what that thing is.


Author RogerRobinson

Roger is a Trinidadian writer and musician based in the UK. Chosen by Decibel as one of 50 writers who have influenced the black-British writing canon over the past 50 years. He has received commissions from Theatre Royal Stratford East - where he has also been an Associate Artist, The National Trust, London Open House and the National Portrait Gallery. His books include fiction Adventures in 3D and poetry collections Suitcase and Suckle winner of the Peoples Book Prize. In 2006 he released a solo album Illclectica He is lead vocalist for King Midas Sound, whose critically acclaimed debut album Waiting for You was released on Hyperdub Records.

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