a 30/30 challenge
It’s almost National Poetry Writing Month! Every April, poets find ways to come together and write more than usual. Last year, I shared four poetry studies that you can find in the CSITV archives.
During NaPoWriMo, the bravest among us take on what we in the poetry community call a 30/30 challenge, which means that during the month of April we endeavor to write one poem per day (30 days in the month = 30 poems!). It’s wild.
I don’t always do a 30/30 challenge because it is, by definition, challenging. Last year I was editing my book during the month of April, and the year before that I was finishing my master’s thesis. This year I am not tied up in either of those projects, so I thought I’d try a 30/30, and I wanted to invite you!
This month, I’m sharing 30 writing prompts with you so that you too can embark on a 30/30 challenge! Coming up with 30 writing prompts was much harder than I thought it would be, but I tried to offer prompts that were specific enough to give you a direction, but open enough to leave room for interpretation. It is also my hope that some of these prompts take you to places you don’t typically write from, or give you new topics and forms to shake things up with.
You don’t have to write all 30 of them, and you certainly don’t have to write them all in one month! You don’t even have to write poems. If you’d rather use these prompts to inspire visual art, or short stories, or whatever your preferred medium may be, that’s great. And of course, on any given day(s), you can always ditch the prompt and do your own thing. My only agenda here is to help you flex your creative muscles and make new things.
I was thinking it might be fun to host a little NaPoWriMo survival celebration/open mic once the month is over, if anyone is interested! We’d probably do it over Zoom. I’d love to host a space where you can share your new work, inspired by these prompts or not. If you might be interested in attending a Zoom poetry party to wrap up NaPoWriMo, fill out this Google form.
Without further ado, here are your prompts! Feel free to pick and choose, skip around, etc. Do whatever best serves you and your writing! I can’t wait to see what you create.
Shouting into the Void: The 30/30 Challenge
It’s day 1, so let’s start small. Write a poem that is 6 lines long. Your first word is “Yesterday” and your last word is “again.”
Use a band name as the title of your poem. You can pick any band from any genre, but if you need a place to start, I’ll offer Bikini Kill, smallpools, or Nine Inch Nails.
Imagine that you have no responsibilities today. The errands have been run, your office is closed, the kids have a babysitter. What will you do? If you’d like, you can approach this like an alternate universe poem.
You woke up this morning and the sky was bright pink. Write a poem explaining why. The prompt is neutral, your poem can be joyful or apocalyptic (or both?).
Write a poem about doing an everyday activity (cooking dinner, folding laundry, sitting in traffic) with a famous dead person (Shoutout to Ben Trigg for this prompt! You can read my poem about swiping on dating apps with Freddie Mercury here).
Write a poem about the first (or best) time you ever quit a job. If you’ve never quit a job before, write about something else you’ve quit or left behind.
Use your most recent tweet (or retweet) as the first line of a poem. If you don’t have Twitter, congratulations. Use your social media platform of choice. If you don’t have any social media, extra big congratulations. Use my most recent retweet: “It appears our retweets failed to stop this war.”
Write a poem about your favorite tree! It can be a type of tree, or one specific tree. I’m partial to jacarandas.
Write a poem that is 7 lines long. Your first word is “if,” your last word is “cloud.”
Write a poem about a part of your body that you like, or that has served you well. Perhaps your feet have carried you, your hands have held loved ones, etc.
You’ve just traveled back in time to visit yourself as a child. You can pick the age. You have 5 minutes to tell your younger self anything you want them to know.
Scientists have discovered that the moment just before we die, the human brain lights up with activity exactly the way it does when we’re dreaming. Write about that! Why does it happen, what do we see?
Write a poem about a memorable experience you had at a place you’ve only been to once.
Think about the realest thing that has ever happened to you (“real” as defined by you). Now, write about it as though it happened in an unreal place (“unreal” as defined by you - Oz, Atlantis, an alternate universe in which no one can hurt you, etc.).
Write a poem that is 10 lines long. Your first word is “when,” your last word is “knot.”
Write a poem about the strangest gift you’ve ever received.
Imagine you’ve found a disco ball in a place it shouldn’t be (“shouldn’t” as defined by you). Maybe it’s out in a forest or in the back of someone’s closet. Write about it.
Write a poem about something you’ve inherited. It could be an object, a belief, etc.
Think about the last song you had stuck in your head. Write a poem using a line from that song.
Imagine a celebrity of your choosing is giving you life advice. This could be someone you admire, or someone who would certainly give you advice that misses the mark. Try to see their humanity in the poem. Try to choose the first person that comes to mind.
Enter your birthday on NASA’s What Did Hubble See on Your Birthday? Tool. Use the results as inspiration for your poem. You can click “more info” if more words about the image would be helpful.
Write a poem about your best friend.
Imagine one of your emotions comes to life outside of you. You could choose fear, anxiety, joy, etc. You meet that emotion for coffee or lunch. It sits down at the table with you. What happens?
Write a poem about a haunted house. You can be in the house, outside of the house, or you could be the house.
Write a golden shovel! If you haven’t heard of that form before, you can read more about it and see examples here. Basically, you’ll choose a line or a sentence from somewhere else (a book, an article, an Instagram caption, whatever is easily accessible to you) and use each word from that line as the last word of a line in your own poem. It’s a brain game, but I promise it’s not as complicated as it sounds! See the link for examples.
Write a poem that begins with the line: “Because this is a love story…”
An elegy is a poem about grief or loss. Write an elegy for something you used to do that you don’t do anymore, or for someone who is still alive but no longer in your life.
Write a self portrait poem. You can choose a photo of yourself to write about, or write about your current state beyond the physical.
We are almost there! Write about a piece of unfinished business in your life.
You made it! Write a poem that starts with the line: “I deserve congratulations.”
As always, if these prompts inspire any writing from you I’d love to hear about it! You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or DM me on Instagram @christina.leigh.brown.
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If you are a paid subscriber, I’ll be back in your inbox tomorrow with a poem that I wrote to go along with prompt #2 on this list!
Thanks so much for being here.