Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 268

In case you missed it, I have another poem posted at Kind Over Matter (they accepted three poems a while back–so a third one will go live sometime in the future too). The poem is titled “discovery.” Click here to read it.

For this week’s prompt, we’re going to try something a little different: a word association prompt. I’m going to list some words below, you pick one (or more) and use to write your poem. The word does not have to appear anywhere in the poem or title, but it’s totally fine if it does. Here’s the word list:

  • toast
  • pop
  • right
  • paper
  • howl
  • little


Workshop your poetry!

Write and receive feedback on six poems during a six-week Advanced Poetry Writing course. Each course is taught by a published poet and provides an intimate workshop format.

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Here’s my attempt at a Word Association Poem:


whether words or bread

it’s hard to swallow

this left over crust

no robin would touch


Robert Lee Brewer

Robert Lee Brewer

Robert Lee Brewer is the author of Solving the World’s Problems (Press 53) and Senior Content Editor of the Writer’s Digest Writing Community. He chose “toast” as his word. He’s married to the poet Tammy Foster Brewer, who helps him keep track of their five little poets (four boys and a princess).

Follow him on Twitter @robertleebrewer.


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250 thoughts on “Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 268

  1. RohiniB


    I am,
    (imagine, you are holding me down)
    the cramp in your right foot.
    You are right about me,
    I am at right angles
    with all your sore-throated theorems,
    so very upright.

    right hand side
    equals left hand side,
    that’s what they taught you.
    You are right about me,
    right into me,
    but to your right
    are things you stow away
    for later use,
    things you want to hide,
    want to negate.
    I am,
    (imagine, you are stowing me away)
    your right hand side.

    I have-
    how should I say?-
    two right feet:
    One follows the other
    in a bitter symmetry.

    I am
    (Imagine, you are drawing me)
    A rectangle.
    One unwavering pattern,
    So right,
    So wrong.

    You are right about me,
    I am
    (imagine, you are reading me)
    A right-winged paragraph
    of an orange newspaper.
    Somewhere inbetween the broken lines,
    a wrong turns to a right:
    I right your name
    in right-slanting calligraphy.
    It is a travesty, how they
    always spell it wrong.

    Sometimes I stare at your right eye
    (Imagine, I am staring right now)
    It gleams conspiratorially
    As if it has met me,
    Like I’m an old friend.

    Two wrongs make a right.
    If I were a wrong, and you were a wrong.
    And to become a right, we…
    well, you know the rest.
    we were right for each other,
    right within each other)

    One two three
    One two three
    counting down
    of the waltz,
    Your right arm in my left.

    Its a funny day,
    rightly so.
    Look at me, being so right-handed.

    I am
    (Imagine, you are sussing me out)
    right-limbed, right-angled,
    right-aligned, right-heighted
    right-numbered, right-positioned
    chain reaction of rightnesses,
    Hanging equalled
    (like they always taught you)
    with your incorrigible
    left-hand side.

  2. taylor graham

    for Natalie & Jeremiah

    Let her consider patiently the unfixed
    plumbing, and ladle the memory of Bridal-veil
    Falls from the sound of a dripping faucet.

    Let him find her quick, fluorescent
    smile flickering up, for no particular reason,
    on a sullen Thursday.

    After the coldest winter night, let them
    surrender to the dawn, not dark, though its
    sparklers hide behind clouds.

    However little they own, let them see
    that everything in Nature – the budding leaf
    and the falling rain – is theirs.

    For the next sixty or seventy years
    of their lives together, grant them as much
    courage as love.

  3. BDP

    “Breakfast Lasso”

    “Are you about to sneak to school?” Darn, caught.
    “Sit, please, and eat your toast.” I hear his claim
    (no spoken words required, I’m mantra taught):
    your stomach’s empty, nothing fills your brain.

    Pop’s stare tells all, my thinning down in doubt,
    svelte teenage prom. I swivel, eye the door
    ten paces to my right. Then pick a drought
    of calories and stage a tug-of-war.

    “Tomorrow.” Paper down, he squints, digs in.
    Heels slip, I whine: “I’ll be a horse or cow!”
    He’s silent, yanks, eyes snapping Now! Rope burn,
    hands raw, feet sliding. Oh, his style knows how

    to counteract my howl! I draw a chair, hasty.
    More than a little butter, spoons of jam. Tasty!

    –Barb Peters

  4. Bruce Niedt

    How y’all been?


    While I read the morning paper
    he decides to fill the toaster
    with flat pastries filled with fruit.

    He watches his reflection
    in the silvery housing
    as the prize inside browns up.

    He anticipates a jack-in-the-box moment
    when they pop up at just the right time,
    but too eager, burns his tongue

    on the berry-lava center,
    lets out a little howl,
    then a moment later, bites in again.

  5. Countrygirl_97

    Wolfs at Night

    Their yellow eyes
    that stood out from the darkness
    of the forests edge met mine
    as the hairs
    on the back of my neck raised
    when their spine chilling howls
    grew louder and louder
    Their massive figures pacing
    just as the moon rose further
    into the sky
    revealing little white specks
    of snow that fell
    and landed upon
    the hardened ground.

  6. Al-Logaha Hand

    How do I stand when I am so dizzy?
    When my soul screams
    How do I stand when my heart always says amends?
    I holler
    I squabble with the moon
    All in a dream
    There are infinite reams of paper flowing with demon’s ink
    Once removed by an angel
    Spreading open wide
    I holler again and talk about spending time with strange calculations
    Let the dogs come home
    Let the sense of disparity remark on the Seven Wonders of the World
    I am hear
    I am here..;

  7. icandootoo

    This form of poetry is kicking my rear end. Would love constructive criticism :-)

    Sestina: Toast

    We would sit still, hands white on plain toast,
    Clenched tight. Saturday morning, our Pop
    Would grumble. He needed to teach us Right
    From Wrong (with strong fists). He’d read the paper
    And we’d sit so still. One false move, and we’d howl
    Under blows, – but we’d only cry a little.

    We were young, and in our foolish little
    Hearts we’d tried again to please him; but the only toast
    He’d give us was to say, “That’s your best howl?
    Effing brilliant!” We’d been whiny, so he’d pop
    Us on the mouths, with his (tightly) rolled up paper,
    Then his knuckles, so he’d know he’d done it right.

    At night, you’d say we had every right
    To feel safe, even for just a little;
    And then we’d plot to steal that paper,
    As if the paper, and not the burnt toast
    (Or the fingers holding them ) brought his pop
    Of irritation, and his fists, and our howls.

    But at dawn, as our beagle Rufus howled,
    Then we’d remember that it wasn’t Right
    To steal the paper. If we stole, then Pop
    Would make sure – since we stole – that we little
    Losers would be paying. And our burnt toast
    Would be crumpled like yesterday’s paper.

    Just prior, plans – blue pen on white paper –
    Had been burnt in your bathroom. If caught, we’d howl
    But our tears would further doom us. We’d be toast
    And the bruises he’d give us only “right
    Earned retribution.” We’d cloak the smell just a little
    Claiming bread within the toaster wouldn’t pop.

    And then, at sunrise, you and I and Pop
    Would sit there. He’d read the morning paper
    And we’d watch and wait and listen. Little
    Grunts would make us hold our breath. Then he’d howl
    At Beatle Bailey, and the world would be right.
    We’d sigh, breathe easy, take a bite of toast.

    Sunday morning, with the funnies, Pop would howl
    At the paper, and he’d say that it was Right
    For his boys to have a little jam on toast.

    1. TomNeal

      Coleridge famously observed that, “prose = words in their best order; poetry = the best words in their best order.” Although this definition is applicable to all poetry, it has a special relevance when one attempts a sestina. One must question the end words one has selected, the order in which the words are introduced, and finally is a sestina the right form to use for what one wants to say. I would suggest that these questions remain relevant even when one is merely engaged in a technical exercise designed to hone one’s skills.

      In this instance the end words selected (and the order of introduction) are found in the prompt, but does the prompt suggest a sestina?

      Sestinas seem to work best when the end words selected are either concrete nouns or active verbs. The prompt words are: toast, pop, right, paper, howl, and little. Are these words suitable for a sestina? For example, one of the words (little) immediately seems problematic to me.

      Is “little” a word that is able to bear the weight of repetition imposed by a sestina? Is it a word so rich in meaning that every repetition is able to bring something fresh to the text? I don’t think it is.

      When I run through the text I find the use of “just a little” in the third and fifth stanzas a bit stale. Here “little” offers little. (I think Shakespeare would have found the use of “little” in a sestina a difficult challenge.) In my opinion, “little” as an end word in a sestina fails Coleridge’s best word test. It’s suiting up for a baseball game in inappropriate formal attire. (I know the Yankees wear pinstripes.)

      You have devised a fiendish challenge for yourself: an already difficult form made more difficult by the end words selected. I am not surprised that you feel as though you have received a kicking. However, as a craft building technical exercise I think this a wonderful effort, and I enjoyed the poem itself.

      I do hope my comments are in line with the type of response you were seeking.

      1. Al-Logaha Hand

        I also enjoyed the effort and I find sestinas beautiful yet butt kickin as is suggested here, i think the prompt for looking for one word association but I like how you took advantage of them all-overall it is a rhythm and i applaud you =r efforts

        1. icandootoo

          Thank you. This week marks my first real foray into any kind of writing, and this prompt left me scratching my head. Choosing one word would certainly have helped make my first ‘assignment’ easier 😉 I appreciate your kindness and willingness to give feedback.

      2. icandootoo

        Absolutely! I deeply appreciate your well-reasoned and communicative response! I have no background in writing – by education I’m a home economist and by profession a CEO in a food company – so I haven’t had the privilege of learning ‘why’ or ‘how’ to choose one’s poetry form.

        I am so glad you were able to explain to me the best way to determine whether a word series was appropriate, and your explanation makes perfect sense.

        Thank you also for the kind words.

        1. BDP

          Hello, icandootoo! Sestinas do indeed give a poet a butt-kicking. I think it neat that you took the prompt and made it into a sestina. This poem kept my attention the way through. Nicely done there. TomNeal suggests that “little” isn’t a strong enough ending word for a sestina line, and perhaps that’s true. But I did like “little / Losers”–I liked the surprise I got when I reached the next line. Seemed right on, that phrase, for what’s being said. My one suggestion: for me, when there’s a story involved in a poem–sestinas are like prose poems, it seems–I’d prefer not to have each beginning of a line capitalized. I’d prefer that the poet only capitalize the beginning of a sentence.

          1. icandootoo

            Thank you for the encouraging words :-) And thank you so much for the suggestion – poetry is pretty new for me, so the idea of not having to capitalize every line is doubly welcome, both as a freeing concept, and as an education. I agree – I think it would be less jarring, and I will definitely make adjustments on my ‘official’ version.

  8. Jezzie


    What would we do
    without papers to
    tell us the news?
    Well, speaking personally,
    I for one couldn’t manage
    without several to use
    to clear up the mess
    made by my new puppy.
    Okay, the news I can see
    on my laptop or, if I cared to,
    even watch on TV,
    but, as far as I know,
    nothing else will do
    for my puppy to use
    when she wants to go.

    Sorry it’s late, but it’s a busy life being a new Mum :)

  9. seingraham

    My try at a Golden Shovel as well as using the prompt word “paper”

    used 3 lines from Pablo Neruda’s “The Great Tablecloth”

    like wasps with big bosoms
    followed by those pale
    and unfortunate public tigers


    As if without choice, it was like
    war-time, mothers, buzzing like angry wasps
    Their faces clenched as fists, eyes dark with
    worry, they carried their kids, both small and big,
    as well as all they owned, babies clasped to bosoms.

    They kept checking to make sure they weren’t followed,
    although had they been asked by
    who—to a one, it would fall to those who were not mothers.

    Those running along beside, pale
    and uncertain, keeping pace, needing to believe and
    keeping the faith, feeling to stay behind would be unfortunate
    for all of them even if they could not say why in public.

    No-one wanted to admit they were only escaping paper tigers.

  10. taylor graham


    I wonder where the money came from
    to capitalize this house.
    The railroad, that linked civilization
    to this end-of-the-world?
    Here’s no hovel, nor even a cottage.
    This was a princely domicile.
    Look at the marble steps
    from rez-de-chaussée (as the master
    might have called it) up
    to balcony with its various doors
    to the interior.
    Ladies in white gloves, dance music
    from within. A couple taking
    a waltz break under the past-full moon….
    Break – what Time does
    so well, more dependably than
    the railroad. How little
    is left. These marble steps go nowhere.
    Periwinkle entwines
    a craftsman’s masonry.
    My dog sniffs here and there,
    finds nothing recently human. Scent
    of fox and deer, a crow
    who gives corvid play-by-play
    from the grand old oak still standing.

    1. Julieann

      These vignettes or moments in time are wonderful to our senses. I love “These marble steps go nowhere. Periwinkle entwines a craftsman’s masonry.”

      1. Al-Logaha Hand

        The dog senses nothing recently human, it is evocative and past full moon makes one aware of the mystery it is taking on. The marble steps remind me of my childhood and the wonderful masonry of my grandfather. You take us by the hand step by step and help us dream out loud-lovely

    2. icandootoo

      I love this poem – so many emotions pulled through your words – nostalgia, sadness, wonder. The passage of time and the futility of our efforts to build lasting monuments….well done!

  11. gloryia

    PAPER –

    The Old Diary

    I turn each page
    black scribbles
    of yesterdays long gone.
    Eyes strain, ache,
    hold back tears that threaten
    as words half remembered
    sear my brain.

    Stained, brown-edged, each
    page a sword that pierces,
    draws forth old resentments.
    Frustrations buried deep,
    worms that gnawed held
    ever close through
    wasted years.

    A story told,
    once dear, buried beneath
    words spoken in haste.
    Never revealed the love, the hate
    held close to snake through
    body and soul until

    1. PressOn

      This gave a new slant on diaries, something with which I’m not familiar. The line that stands out for me, “A story told, / once dear, buried beneath / words spoken in haste.” Wonderful

    2. Julieann

      This is wonderful. The part that tugs at my heart, and such a truth, in my opinion is, “the hate held close to snake through body and soul until eternity.” Powerful!

  12. foodpoet

    At right angles

    The paper is empty except for
    A whimper idea scattered
    Little now comes to mind
    As I cope with
    Drowning in
    I eat a bagel
    Toasted in
    The dark and I
    Want to howl
    But finish the bagel
    To face work

    1. BDP

      Ah, facing work poemless–can be an empty feeling. As with PressOn, I like whimper idea. But “minutia drowning in family” certainly rings a clear bell.

  13. Jane Shlensky


    It takes a certain eye
    and frame of mind
    to see a tree this way—
    verdant forest slashed
    for pulp, its greenness
    bleached away, pressed
    into sheets, cut and
    cut and cut to size
    to blot a spill or line
    a cage, to swipe a bum
    or catch a thought
    that’s soon forgot,
    for packaging we throw
    away. Global warming!
    we shout, cutting shade
    trees, letting erosion
    do its work, as bird and bear,
    deer and mountain lion
    wander suburbs howling
    for trees, looking for shelter.
    Tranquilized, the danger
    quelled again, we will take
    the kids to see them in
    zoos, but not rummaging
    in our garbage cans.
    And yet their loss inflames
    our imaginations. How soon
    before we print stories
    of legendary forests, of trees
    hundreds of years old
    and the creatures who
    peopled them, who served
    us as totems and spirits
    of peace in service to
    the god Oxygen?