NaPoWriMo Prompts for National Poetry Month

Want to do NaPoWriMo with other poets. Check out our April 1st class
em>Want to do NaPoWriMo with other poets? com/course/30-poems-in-30-days">30 Poems in 30 Days, designed to celebrate National Poetry Month!

April is National Poetry Month in the United States. To celebrate, some poets embark on the NaPoWriMo (National Poetry Writing Month) challenge—writing a poem a day for 30 days.

Finding the inspiration to write 30 poems in 1 month might feel daunting, but doing the NaPoWriMo challenge can be incredibly fun and rewarding, too. This article offers tips for a successful national poetry writing month, as well as 30 NaPoWriMo prompts that you can use again and again and again.

But first, to honor this important month for poets, what is the history of National Poetry Month?

History of National Poetry Month

The first American National Poetry Month began in 1996, in large part because of organizational work from the Academy of American Poets. The Academy was inspired by the success of other recent national months (February’s Black History Month and March’s Women’s History Month), and wanted to establish a month that celebrates the power and diversity of American Poetry.

Decades later, National Poetry Month has inspired numerous poetry anthologies, countless poetry readings, and the Academy’s own Poem-a-Day series.

This month also inspired the start of NaPoWriMo, which was founded in 2003 by the poet Maureen Thorson, who challenged herself (and anyone who wanted to join her) to write a poem a day for 30 days.

Tips for a Successful NaPoWriMo

Writing a poem a day can seem daunting, particularly if you don’t have a standard writing practice. How do you seize the muse and write daily poetry?

Here are a few tips for having a successful NaPoWriMo:

1. Establish a consistent writing practice

It is much easier to write daily if you write in the same place and at the same time every day. Try to block out an hour or two that you know you can be free most days of the month, and figure out where you’re most comfortable writing. Some people prefer to write outdoors or in cafes; others prefer to write at their desk or even in bed.

When you have a consistent writing habit, your brain will start to associate the time and location with your daily writing period. Above all, don’t wait for inspiration—it’s something you have to chase.

2. Don’t be afraid to be bad

Poetry is all about experimentation. What happens if you try this line break, that juxtaposition, this metaphor?

But, it’s much harder to experiment—or even write a first draft—if we don’t allow ourselves to be bad.

The artistic process is riddled with mishaps, errors, and questionable decisions. This is a very good thing. By allowing ourselves to get it wrong, we also allow ourselves to stumble into greatness. Creativity depends on freedom, but when we expect ourselves to only make good art, we constrict ourselves into doing only what we’re familiar with.

NaPoWriMo is a great opportunity to experiment and be bad. Not everything you write is going to be a masterpiece, but amidst a lot of “bad” poetry (whatever that even means!), you’ll also end up writing brilliant lines, or discovering amazing ideas that you would never have discovered if you cared about being “good.”

3. Have fun with it

This is closely related to the advice above. National Poetry Month is a cause for celebration, and as such, we should enjoy April however we decide to participate.

If you’re doing NaPoWriMo, do it joyfully. Again, don’t let arbitrary notions of what’s “good” distract you from the joy of simply writing poetry. This is a challenge not just to write poetry, but to write poetry outside of your comfort zone, to write the poetry that you want to write, regardless of an imagined audience.

Find ways to make this challenge fun. Perhaps you really enjoy reading your work at open mics; if so, try to join one at least once a week, and share whatever you write! Or, maybe there are some poets whose work you really admire. Maybe you’ll have fun writing in their styles?

Lastly, find ways to reward yourself for keeping up with the challenge. And don’t be hard on yourself if you miss a day. NaPoWriMo isn’t worth doing if you don’t have fun with it, so celebrate yourself as a poet by enjoying the poetry process.

4. Write with a community

A writing community can make writing much easier and more enjoyable. This community can also take many forms: online or in person, with friends or with strangers, sharing your work or keeping it to yourself.

A writing community will make it easier to stay accountable to your daily poetry goal. It can also give you positive feedback on whatever you write, or give you NaPoWriMo prompts or ideas to get your pen moving. If you don’t have access to a poetry community in person, there are plenty of people posting about NaPoWriMo online, including on social media.

And, if you want to post your daily poems, you can add yourself to the official website for NaPoWriMo!

5. Use NaPoWriMo prompts

It’s an ages-old question: what do I write about? You might have ideas at first, but as April slogs on, you might start running out of things to run about. When this happens, NaPoWriMo prompts are your best friend.

30 NaPoWriMo Prompts for National Poetry Month

Prompts are a great way to get the creative juices flowing. However, don’t take them too seriously: if a prompt prompts you to write something completely unrelated to that prompt, follow your own creativity.

Here are some ideas to jumpstart your poetry. Feel free to use all or none of them!

  1. Write about an object that has a lot of nostalgic value for you. As a bonus challenge, try to write about this object without directly stating what it is in your poem.
  2. Write a poem about your hometown: how you feel about it, the connection you have to it, how it has shaped you (for better or worse).
  3. Collect scraps of “junk writing”—spam mail, credit card bills, newspaper clippings, billboard text, etc. Stitch those texts together into a poem.
  4. Write a poem about a piece of clothing that reflects something important or essential about who you are as a person.
  5. Find something dark and hidden inside your brain, your body, your heart. Shine a light on it. What do you see?
  6. Think of a memory where the details aren’t clear. Fill in the details in a poem.
  7. It’s spring! Write about coming out of a long hibernation—either literal or metaphorical.
  8. Flash of lightning. Crack of the baseball bat. Stoplight turns green. Write about a time when a seemingly mundane event created a stroke of inspiration.
  9. You look into the lens of something—a camera, a telescope, a pair of binoculars, etc.—and something strange peers back at you. What do you see?
  10. Write about an event that you might interpret as a sign from a higher power. This higher power could be a god, aliens, the universe, etc.
  11. Write a poem in which two people begin as lovers and end as enemies. OR the other way around.
  12. Write a poem about what keeps you warm. Perhaps it’s a hot cup of tea, the glow of a happy memory, or the light at the end of the tunnel.
  13. Write a poem that involves diametrically opposing views about something simple. For example, two people might bicker over the proper way to brew coffee, or whether a hotdog is a sandwich.
  14. What do you see in the mirror? Write a “self-portrait” poem.
  15. Spend some time listening to other people talk. It can be in a public space, a voice on the radio or TV, or outside listening to your neighbors. (Just don’t get caught!) Use a line from someone else’s conversation as the starting place for a poem.
  16. Write about two opposing yet co-existing realities.
  17. Write about an important realization you had, at a time when you felt particularly alone.
  18. What’s something you’ve seen hundreds, even thousands of times, but has never lost its beauty? Write an ode to this thing’s beauty.
  19. “Apophenia” is the human tendency to see patterns in random information. Write a poem about patterns that seem to be connected, even if they’re completely random.
  20. Write a poem in the form of a letter, addressed to a specific person.
  21. Write a poem from the perspective of a detective. They’re not solving crime, necessarily—you might write about a detective for lost things, for past emotions, for new opportunities, etc.
  22. Explain something to a younger version of yourself. How to survive heartbreak, solve differential equations, drive, avoid bad people, etc.
  23. Write about a mundane task that (secretly) doubles as a magical ritual.
  24. Smells are one of the most powerful triggers for memory. They also make for impactful imagery. Write a poem that begins with a smell. Let the smell waft into memory, then write from there.
  25. Write a poem that uses all of these words: chartreuse, guide, safe, sweat, wall, presentation, manor, perfume.
  26. Close your eyes, flip through a poetry book, and put your finger on a page. Whatever word you’re pointing at, use it as a title for your poem, and write from there.
  27. Write a poem about family traditions: keeping them, breaking them, or anything else you can do with them.
  28. Write a poem that begins at the end of something, then moves backwards.
  29. Write a poem inspired a certain genre of music. Try to write in the style of that genre—for example, pop is rhythmic, rock alternates in staccatos and riffs, etc. (You might be interested in Jazz Poetry for inspiration. Learn about it here.)
  30. “If _______ didn’t exist for a day.” Fill in the blank, and write about the results of something not existing – but only for 24 hours.

More Poetry Resources for National Poetry Month

Want to learn more about writing poetry, or find more inspiration for National Poetry Writing Month? Check out these guides!

Try the NaPoWriMo Challenge with!

Looking for more inspiration, accountability, or a community to write with? Check out the poetry classes at! Our courses are sure to push your poetry into new terrain—especially our class 30 Poems in 30 Days, designed specifically for National Poetry Month. Learn more here.


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