Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 307

A couple things before the prompt today: First, the Writer’s Digest Annual Writing Competition has a June 5 deadline that’s coming up fast (learn more here). Second, Poetic Asides all stars Jane Shlensky and Nancy Posey have teamed up to put together a face-to-face event in Hickory, North Carolina, for all interested Poetic Asides poets (learn more about that here).

For today’s prompt, write a learning poem. The poem could be about things you learn at school, on the streets, or in affairs of the heart. Heck, the poem could be about things you learn poeming–or anything really. Have fun with it!


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Here’s my attempt at a Learning Poem:

“what i’ve learned”

when i was young & dumb
i thought i knew it all

but as i’ve grown smarter
my ego’s taken a fall

until i’m now a fool genius
who knows nothing at all


roberttwitterimageRobert Lee Brewer is Senior Content Editor of the Writer’s Digest Writing Community, which means he maintains this blog, edits a couple Market Books (Poet’s Market and Writer’s Market), writes a poetry column for Writer’s Digest magazine, leads online education, speaks around the country on publishing and poetry, and a lot of other fun writing-related stuff.

He loves learning new things. And he’s the author of Solving the World’s Problems.

Follow him on Twitter @RobertLeeBrewer.


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475 thoughts on “Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 307

  1. SestinaNia

    Finally 🙂

    The Syllabus

    If you want to be
    like the masters—
    paint, crate, dance,
    like the masters—
    you must become
    of subtraction.
    Break down every
    turn, note, and sway
    of the hips, of the wrist.
    Pull apart
    lines, brushstrokes,
    pages and steps.
    Tease out
    the textures, hues,
    and flavors,
    until you can see
    the blank masterpiece.
    Then build it up
    using only
    the wells within you.

  2. taylor graham


    From the vantage point of another solitary
    birthday, consider your room lit by a single
    table-lamp. Everything looks odd, even
    your own penmanship on a to-do list
    unearthed from the past. And that everyday
    gadget on the desk – it turns grotesque
    on its own shadow, staple-remover transformed
    to tiny mountain-lion, fangs and all. Glint
    of lamp-shine off a paperclip, flight of a silver
    dragonfly. Surprise! You owe thanks to the
    commonest objects for this gift:
    after all your proper pedestrian years,
    you’re learning to see things in the strange new
    light of not-likely but what-if, or even just

  3. SestinaNia

    So–I’ve been trying all week to write something, and just wasn’t having any luck…but I got something last night at 11:45 (well after I was in bed, go figure!)–it will be posted later this evening (since I left it at home). It’s been fun reading all your offerings this week! Thank you, everyone, for sharing 🙂

  4. carolecole66

    This Is What I’ve Learned

    In third grade we practiced
    crouching in the corridor with coats
    over our heads, assured we’d be safe
    from soviet bombs if only we could
    stay still against aching knees
    and sudden needs to sneeze.
    The alarm cut into our brains
    like scythes, each of us
    alone in our own terrors.

    Five thousand fifty seven miles
    northeast, children squatted
    in dim halls or under small desks,
    imagined demon Americans
    in fast planes making quick work
    of the painfully gained homes
    they fled to in the frigid Russian night.

    Here in the safe future we fear little,
    only lean old age beset by the small
    indignities of frail bones.

    I have watched too many sunsets
    from a kitchen window, felt the shudder
    of a jay slamming into glass,
    watched it flung to its back stunned
    by its sudden end.

    A melody half remembered, fragments
    of song, drift through my mind like snow,
    outlines dimmed, the edges blurred
    like vision turned to see inside itself.

    1. SestinaNia

      I really like the first half of this–great contrasts and similarities, good strong emotions. I had a little trouble connecting the last two stanza–they felt like the were another poem. Can you make the link from the bomb drills to the last two stronger?

      Lovely draft!

      1. carolecole66

        I really appreciate your thoughtfulness and couldn’t agree more. It definitely needs some work, probably because I wrote the two halves four days apart. Thanks for taking the time.

  5. luigikorrey

    t may sound difficult, but do not be afraid to voice your exact feelings. Emotions are what make poems, and if you lie about your emotions it can be easily sensed in the poem. Write them down as quickly as possible, and when you’re done, go through the list and look for connections or certain items that get your creative juices flowing.
    Try to fit into a particular scene you want to write about. For example, if you want to write about nature, try to visit a park or a small forest nearby. The natural scenery may inspire a few lines, even if they’re not perfect.

  6. Shennon

    As I Age

    Time and money
    will always lack.
    When someone’s in need,
    never turn your back.

    Embrace emotions,
    just don’t let them rule.
    Always apologize
    if you do lose your cool.

    Help those who are weak,
    those living in pain.
    Teach manners and respect.
    Let words polish, not stain.

    For this I have learned,
    as I age each day:
    Stay positive, be humble,
    and never forget to pray.


  7. josephdaniel

    The Race

    once running in marathons
    now elapses in sprints
    A year
    now feels like
    just yesterday
    I’m coping
    I’m learning
    to pace myself
    The finish line
    will just have to wait

  8. Doakley

    Learning Train

    I see the train a coming,
    I hear the whistle blow,
    I put the penny on the track,
    I hide myself down low,

    that train keeps on a rolling,
    smashed that penny flat,
    the train steams out of sight,
    I get up from where I’m at,

    hustle to the railroad track,
    quick to find my spot,
    retrieve that penny where it fell
    look to see how big it got.

      1. Doakley

        I had to google the peanut song,

        A peanut sat on a railroad track
        his heart was all aflutter
        round the bend came number ten
        Toot! Toot! peanut butter! squish!

  9. ReathaThomasOakley

    What I learned…

    At ten,
    when Mrs. Kaler gave me
    permission to sit on the
    cloak room floor and read
    dusty encyclopedias
    Shakespeare and The Golden
    Bough, I learned there were worlds
    outside West Augustine Elementary School.

    At twenty,
    when my two best friends
    were married, one with a baby,
    and I had two marriage proposals
    in the same year, I learned I was not ready
    for husbands or babies I wanted whatever worlds
    awaited me outside the expected path.

    At thirty,
    when I had my perfect little life
    two sons handsome husband coming home
    every night, I learned everything I could about
    how to have a happy home how to cook how
    to sew how to plant rows of runner beans
    along the back yard fence that protected me
    from the world outside.

    At forty,
    when everything changed,
    I learned to laugh about the benefits
    of divorce to drink beer to meet friends
    at bars with the best happy hours to parallel
    park to swear to wonder if there was
    another world
    outside the life I had.

    At fifty,
    when I was beginning to feel
    comfortable in my own skin, I’d learned
    I could rear my sons by myself
    could go back to school get a degree find out
    who I was suppose to be what my life’s work was
    in that great outside world.

    At sixty,
    when I began to slow down a bit,
    I learned I needed to be in a place where I
    was safe to live to perhaps take one more
    chance at love to find one man in the wide world
    to spend my next decades with.

    At seventy,
    when I cannot believe that word
    is true, I’ve learned there is still much
    for us, together, to explore in the wide world
    outside our door we have the time
    some mornings the decades behind
    only seem like yesterdays.

    1. seingraham

      I really loved how you unwound your journey, and so succinctly (given the length of it especially)…and am thrilled for you, in this decade, that your explorations are becoming intriguing again and that you’ve found someone worth doing them with…

      1. trishwrites

        Simply beautiful and what a wonderful tribute to your husband. And thank you for your comment on my ‘reading’ poem. I must confess, the way you are able to tell a story w. your poetry gave me much inspiration during the PAD challenge. So thank you for sharing your talent!

  10. James Von Hendy

    It’s been a strangely grueling couple of weeks, some of it naturally of my own doing, but it’s good to be back. Here, as they say in the movies, is something “based on a true story,” whatever that can possibly mean.

    Sonnet Education

    About the crown of sonnets I set out
    to write, I’ve learned the first that wrote itself
    was teaser for the rest. They fester, knots
    that burden simple thoughts with syntax pure

    hell. But then again, I lie. What’s most rare
    for me is “simple.” I know shades of thoughts
    that twist upon themselves, expression’s gulf
    a hurdle, true, but one I chose to sate

    my need for challenge, craft. My learning edge?
    To box complexities in sonnet form
    without concession to the stark demand

    of rhyme and meter, though you’ll see I’ve planned
    to hew to them with liberties, no harm
    in making poems mine. You be the judge.

    1. ReathaThomasOakley

      Oh, I so enjoyed this. I’ve not attempted a sonnet, or any other form, for decades. My brain doesn’t seem to work that way anymore, but this encourages me!

    2. seingraham

      I’m with both William and Rhetha…I think what you’ve done here is masterful. I envy anyone who can work within form constraints and produce something worth reading, and you’ve set the bar high here, James. I’m also a fan of well-used enjambment and again, as William says, yours is delightful. Am glad that whatever was making your weeks strangely grueling has let go enough to allow you to write.

  11. seingraham


    Just when I think I’m done with it
    finished with hope and with grief
    I tell myself I’ve moved on with life
    There are places to see and things
    that I want to do and I don’t
    have to waste any more time
    weeping and wishing for those
    that I love, but can’t have any more
    so that’s that – here I go, never-mind.

    When, oh when, will I ever learn
    do you think – that there’s no getting
    over and done; that grieving the living
    goes on all their life, or at least all
    of mine, that much is becoming clear
    What I have learned just this week,
    and it’s something I guess, is that
    legally I can write of my pain – as long
    as the thoughts are mine alone and
    as long as I tell no lies of this pain

    The one that has written me out of her
    life, and out of the lives of her kids
    saw fit to have sent me a notice
    to “cease and desist” to keep me
    from trying to reach her…
    So that’s the end of my attempts to
    reconcile, but, the notice also
    threatened to censor my words,
    demanding I tear down any and all
    where-ever they’re posted and not
    post any more if they have to do
    with her, or the pain I feel about her.

    However, what I’ve learned from
    the law is, it seems she cannot
    censor me no matter what
    my words say as long as the
    thoughts are my own and I don’t
    tell any lies – no matter should my
    pain be about her…God knows,
    why would I lie?

        1. seingraham

          Thanks James, William, and Reatha – I noticed my words come out sounding quite glib when really, I feel devastated again … as I’ve said more than once, grieving the living is a terrible process and sometimes seems unending … however, the prospect of having my poetry (or any of my writing) also taken from me (in effect, that’s what I saw the “gag order” doing) both enraged and sickened me. To learn that at least this won’t happen was a minor coup, more than minor, but in the midst of the other pain, I need to take a few breaths to take it in. Again, thank you for reading, for “getting” the poem, and saying so. It means more than I can say.

  12. grcran, please

    Festus festered at his site, you guessed,
    Stragglers wandered wondering if he was there or gone
    Could they learn this factoid? Well a-yes a-no may-be
    Better searching elsewhere for the truth: that’s right, wiki
    How I learn stuff nowadays and wiki’s in first place
    MOOCs and kooks and pbs before it fell from grace
    Never trusting network news nor printed daily press
    State of affairs mighty sad and yes I do digress
    Ever since election of our actor prez rea-gunz
    USA’s been hurting for some truth geewhiz dadgum
    Now I know we’ll never learn (we never learned back then)
    Anyways it’s fun to speculate what if where when

    *note: Ken Curtis, who played Festus in Gunsmoke for 17 years and 304 episodes, died in 1991 at age 74, in a shootout… wait, I mean he died in his sleep, peacefully… according to wiki…

    by gpr crane

  13. Kaulmer

    Hands so tiny, the laces snake about
    Like ropes – all a tangle.
    Hair cascades down to the floor,
    Face bent over, so near her feet
    I wonder at how a body
    Can collapse itself, so small.

    Again her fingers dance about,
    Twining the strings,
    Around and over and under.
    She sets to the task with
    As much sheer will and concentration
    As any surgeon lying up knots might do.

    But it all comes undone,
    And eyes like full moons look up
    And pull me into her gravity,
    Knees sink to the floor,
    Heads bowed down to the ground,
    Our hands wrestle the snake together.

    -Krina Ulmer

  14. grcran

    a little faith learning

    John had his own problems
    Jesus knew, saw through to true
    helped him do tough times
    John in turn helped Jesus learn
    to wade into unworthy throngs
    to take the wet with the dry climes

    this learning not feasible for those of little fates
    no choices in the passion play anyway heavyweights
    do what they must
    trust in the unseen
    fortune or bust

    so goes the story of Jesus and John
    waxing macabre as the saga goes on
    nailed on a cross for the former
    and a nod to the latter
    his head on a platter

    by gpr crane

  15. josephdaniel

    A Light Bulb Moment

    There are days when
    information overload
    impedes my learning,
    causing a power outage
    to my brain.
    In the dark, I remain
    still, patiently waiting
    for that spark of light
    to start flickering.

  16. idiaz

    Learned Nothing

    I see in my eyes
    I have come to realize
    What I thought I knew

    Thought I had to do
    Never worked for me at all
    So I fall and fall

    Into depression
    My life complete confusion
    Happiness withdraws

    The panic then crawls
    In my mind I hear them call
    “Learned nothing at all”

  17. Jane Shlensky

    In Spite of

    His b’s explode, his k’s crunch
    like rubble beneath his boots,
    his mouth scrunched down
    as he scans her report card, all A’s.

    “You’re a great one for book learnin’,”
    he says as if lessons of one kind
    are superior to another, his trial
    and error, mostly error, all he knows.

    “I could tell those teachers of yours
    a few things they don’t know, even
    without their ‘credentials’,” he says,
    leaning meanly on words he dislikes.

    “School of hard knocks,” he lifts
    his chin so life can hit it squarely
    and he can ‘take it like a man.’
    He takes pride in life’s bullying him,

    whipping the desire to become
    to its knees, humbling it. He wishes
    she would throw her books across
    the room and follow him to the fields.

    He wishes she would tell him
    he’s a fool, grab her books and run
    far away into a better life.
    He wishes he could show pride

    in her curiosity and joy in learning,
    could conjure enthusiasm for what
    his own father called ‘smart fools’
    who forgot where they came from.

    He’s a survivor of years of negativity,
    standing tall for spite, without leaning
    on books or schools. The empty spot
    in his gut gnaws around something lost,

    as he signs his name and hands her
    the card that records her best efforts.
    She looks down embarrassed, sad
    as if he’d slapped her on her birthday

    but determined in a way that tells him
    he is the negativity she will survive.
    That softens him some. He lifts her chin
    and meets her eyes, apologetic and resigned.

    He pulls her into an awkward hug.
    “Chip off the old block,” he says.

    1. grcran

      this is very well-written, wonderfully capturing the emotion in the continuing conflicts between literate and illiterate, between one generation and another… made me cry even tho I didn’t want to… I enjoyed it anyway… rusty

  18. summersetsun

    The Journey is the Learning

    First birth
    touch, taste, sound, smell, sight
    One, two, three…
    A, B, C,…
    Happy, sad, angry,….
    Love, Hate and Indifference
    Pride , lust and ignorance
    Gain and loss
    Reason and wisdom

    (Then repeat until you get it right)

  19. Doakley

    School Days

    I went to school
    most every day,
    tried to learn
    but liked to play.

    Mercy passes moved me
    up each year you see,
    I wonder if their mercy was
    for the teachers or for me?

  20. Doakley

    Nature is the Teacher

    I learned by watching natural events unfold,
    more efficiently than I could ever have been told.
    I saw a mother bird build her nest on the branch near my window
    she laid eggs, fed her babies, they flew away, in only a month or so.
    A caterpillar emerged eating holes in the bright green leaf
    that held his cocoon just a short time ago, out of sight underneath.
    fishing trips alone, at the creek, poking, lifting, wading, an education earned,
    Trail rides, puppy dogs, catching gophers in the park, that’s how I learned.

  21. Daniel Paicopulos


    Sitting in the backyard on a May gray day,
    feeling the eyes of Max and Reesie,
    taking a break from their morning play,
    looking out the window, enjoying cat t.v..
    Sitting doing nothing, not thinking too much,
    learning patience, quieting my monkey mind,
    waiting for the tomatoes to ripen,
    waiting for the cactus to flower,
    waiting for the birds to sing,
    thinking about the difference between
    being quiet and finding silence,
    remembering to pray when things are
    going well.

  22. shellcook

    The Plan

    I am not what I do,
    and I want to believe,
    there is more meaning
    than the jobs we complete.

    I have learned that the labels
    direct all our lives,
    regardless of who we are,
    when we do, what we must.

    I don’t know how to answer,
    when the question comes up.
    I was this, I was that
    for much of my life.

    If thoughts become things,
    and I know this is true,
    what might I aspire
    to become, be, or do.

    It’s an interesting trip,
    this journey we’re on,
    into who we might be,
    for all or for some,

    for today, for tomorrow,
    or somewhere in between,
    if, in fact, it is true,
    you are, what you do.

    I have reached all my goals.
    I’ve done the right stuff.
    The rest is up to me
    To live the life I want.

    All of my life,
    I’ve worked with a plan,
    now is the time,
    I can lay down my hands.

    All of the work,
    so simple to see,
    now is the time,
    I get to be me.


  23. Alaina Dawson

    Right, right, right, left, right

    We learn to march to the steady beat of the drum
    In line with each other, never breaking formation
    Four years of elementary school
    Four years of middle school
    Four years of high school
    Four years of undergraduate school
    Sixteen years of walking in a perfect, forward motion
    What did we learn
    In our sixteen years of school
    What did we learn
    If not but to follow without question
    What did we learn
    If not but to never really know

  24. Jean Kay


    I had a wonderful experience
    when I was sixty years old
    I became a teacher
    and a good one, I was told.

    I taught computer classes
    on cruise ships for over two years.
    It was a wonderful experience
    helping people over their petty fears.

    We taught basic windows and email,
    first level Word and Excel,
    and four classes in Photoshop Elements
    helping their photos to turn out well.

    Who would take classes on a cruise
    when there was so much else to do?
    You may be surprised to know
    student ages ranged from 8 to 82.

    We taught basics to retired CEO’s
    who had always had someone else do it
    and they didn’t want people at home to know
    that they hadn’t a clue how to do it.

    So taking classes out at sea
    was a good way for them to learn,
    where nobody knew who they were
    and that they’d relied on others to earn.

    Our training manual was crucial
    so every class was taught the same way.
    I enjoyed all the hours I spent learning
    and would go back again any day.

    Jean Kay

  25. Jezzie


    When she was young she fell
    in love at the drop of a hat
    with the very first man that
    professed he loved her as well.

    Infatuation. It didn’t last.

    When she was older and wiser
    she took it very slow.
    She wanted to know
    he would never despise her.

    It didn’t work. That’s in the past.

    But now in her golden years
    she’s learned not to chance.
    another romance
    and she is spared many tears.

    She got a dog. Love unsurpassed.

  26. Amaria

    you held on tight
    as I began turning the pedals
    you proudly watched
    as I found my balance on two wheels
    and you cried softly
    when I rode off into the sunset

  27. ppfautsch24

    Learning anew…
    Learning something new can be exhilarating and heady.
    Tapping into your mental state and getting yourself ready.
    Taking on a new task and perhaps making yourself better.
    Learning how to love for the very first time can get your heart in a knotted tether.
    You would try the lesson over again until you figure it out.
    Because falling in love can be exhilarating and something to dream about.
    By: Pamelap

  28. Bruce Niedt

    I just posted my poems for each May weekly prompt today – they are at or near the top if you want to read them. They are on a theme inspired by Jane Hirshfield’s first group of poems in her new book, “The Beauty”. The poems all have titles starting with the word “My”- my favorites are “My Skeleton” and “My Corkboard”. Anyway, here’s the fourth in my series of “My” poems:

    My Learning Curve

    has a negative slope.
    I’m the old dog
    to your new tricks.

    Memory is like a library shelf.
    I need to remove some books
    To make room for more,

    and the content is lost
    in a cardboard box
    somewhere in the attic.

    Sometimes I have to tear out pages,
    or even whole chapters.
    I’m dealing with decades of clutter.

    So when I struggle to remember
    the name of that actor,
    or how to get to the train station,

    be patient with me.
    And when it comes to new tricks,
    I’ll learn them eventually,

    but I may have to do
    some housecleaning, and send
    a few memories to Goodwill

    so someone else can use them,
    and read them or wear them
    as if they were their own.

    1. SestinaNia

      fantastic! Some excellent concrete images in here 🙂 My whole brain is like a library, and I spend more time wandering up and down the stacks, looking for stuff, than I care to admit 😀


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