Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 402

Yesterday was my birthday. I turned 39, which I consider my sestina year. It’s also divisible by three, so I came up with three possible prompts for today.

Pick one, two, or all of the following prompts:

  1. Write a form poem. Sestina, sonnet, haiku, clogyrnach, golden shovel, etc.
  2. Write an anti-form poem. Don’t like forms? Vent about it. Or just bust free verse.
  3. Write a birthday poem.


Order the Poet’s Market!

The 2017 Poet’s Market, edited by Robert Lee Brewer, includes hundreds of poetry markets, including listings for poetry publications, publishers, contests, and more! With names, contact information, and submission tips, poets can find the right markets for their poetry and achieve more publication success than ever before.

In addition to the listings, there are articles on the craft, business, and promotion of poetry–so that poets can learn the ins and outs of writing poetry and seeking publication. Plus, it includes a one-year subscription to the poetry-related information on All in all, it’s the best resource for poets looking to secure publication.

Click to continue.


Here’s my attempt at a Form, Anti-Form, and/or Happy Birthday Poem:

“Writing a Sestina on the Day After My Birthday and Venting About It”

The older I get the more I realize I hate
it when strangers take liberties with my first name,
too lazy to utter two syllables: Robert.
I mean, I know I should have more patience, but no,
I loathe the sound of Bob, Bobby, Robby, and Bo,
and what better way to vent than this sestina,

because there’s no better poem than sestina
for repeating the several words you abhor.
For instance, I receive e-mails addressed to Bob,
which rhymes with slob, which is not an appealing name,
which if you didn’t, then now you most surely know,
and yes, I admit that I once strayed from Robert,

which is why some people call me Rob, but Robert
is the name on my Facebook and this sestina.
Besides it’s my birthday, and I want you to know
how to sing the Birthday Song without my reproach
for you not singing the correct Birthday Song name,
because I’d be so bummed to hear a high “Bobby,”

even though I once was fine being a Robby–
we all make decisions we regret–but Robert
is positively, absolutely the right name
to put on my cake, or in a bad sestina,
because even a sad sestina I despise
is better than an okay poem that doesn’t know

that to abbreviations I say: Just say no!
Just say no to Bobby, Bert, and/or Roberto;
just say no to anything other folks detest;
just say no to every name that is not Robert;
and while at it, just say no to the sestina
and all traditional forms of another name,

because your readers should not be able to name
the form as if it makes poems something they know–
like math or science–some quantified sestina
that is comparable to some quantified Bob,
who’d prefer to be a mysterious Robert
and not some loosely nicknamed abomination.

No person should shudder at the sound of their name
shortened from a simple Robert to the no-no
of Bob in Birthday Song or Birthday Sestina.


Robert Lee Brewer is Senior Content Editor of the Writer’s Digest Writing Community and author of Solving the World’s Problems (Press 53). He’s written more than 100 sestinas, and he’s still hasn’t found what he’s looking for.

Follow him on Twitter @RobertLeeBrewer.


Find more poetic posts here:

You might also like:

  • No Related Posts

52 thoughts on “Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 402

  1. taylor graham


    What do I want, you ask?
    A fancy dinner out, with hovering waiter?
    A box of chocolates, dozen red roses?
    Or would I rather just relax
    and let the day slip by?
    Would I like to learn, so late, to fly?

    How about a new bug-zapper? that fly
    that’s pestering a question to ask –
    there it goes buzzing by
    again! obnoxious as a waiter
    who’s waiting for a tip so he can relax
    in luxury among the roses.

    I never was a big fan of roses,
    much prefer sunflowers, a dragonfly
    over a pool in the creek. Relax,
    don’t worry about birthdays. Don’t ask.
    If you want to be a waiter,
    throw the dog an ice-cube. By

    the way, there’s another log to cut, by
    the garden – all those roses
    planted by the previous folks. A waiter
    one must be, for bee and butterfly,
    to cultivate flowers that ask
    for so much tending. I’d rather relax

    by weed-eating the pasture. Relax?
    that season will be over, by and by,
    like a birthday. Time doesn’t ask
    what we want. Neither do rock roses
    or the buzzards that fly
    in easy spirals like a winged waiter

    for the next meal. Waiter
    I am – waiting to be hiking the trail; relax
    at the saddle, watch an eagle fly
    so much higher, eastbound, passing by;
    and mariposa lily lovelier than roses,
    and a blue lake colder than I could ask.

    Ask what I really want? No waiter
    at a table with roses. Relax
    the spirit by imagining I could fly.

  2. Orchid381

    Nose Dive to Thirtynine

    No inheritance was left for me,
    So I gotta get it out the mud, no H.U.D..
    The real estate that Big Mama n Paw Paw had, the ones before me fucked it over and sold the rest on both sides of the family.
    So you see, ain’t shit left for me.
    Worked my way through college without a loan in a community filled with potholes, gunshots, and broken homes.
    Grinding 10xs harder than my counterparts.
    They think I’m stuck up, nose in the air like somebody farted. But I’m far from it.
    Well dressed clowns in designer gowns.
    Their hair and skin unlike mine.
    Lost many young….Sesame Street brought to you by the glock 9.
    Homicide, self inflicted Genocide.
    So naturally I don’t fit in,
    I don’t give in,
    I hustle in foreign.
    While they go on trips and attend weddings.
    Friends fading and becoming God parents to out of wedlock babies.
    I know shit ain’t perfect.
    It’s far from a fairytale, no marriage, horse and carriage.
    Might as well be on set with Ted Bundy but the shit ain’t funny.
    As I take this nose dive into 39
    Brown Sugar, Cyndi Lauper honey

  3. Juanita Lewison-Snyder

    by juanita lewison-snyder

    how is it that birthdays have become…well…so boringly repetitive?
    like a dog that constantly licks cheetos debris off your pant leg
    to happily remind you where your hands have been.
    yeah, birthdays are like that.

    © 2017 by Juanita Lewison-Snyder

  4. taylor graham


    Come out and listen to the chickens,
    he says. She has better things to do
    but he won’t give her any peace
    so she goes out and hears the cackling
    which doesn’t sound all that strange,
    just normal chatter laying-of-an-egg.

    And it’s high time! even one egg
    makes her think better of chickens
    who consider laying to be strange—
    beneath their dignity. They don’t do
    much of anything except cackling
    loud enough to disturb the peace.

    Everyone moves out here for peace
    and quiet, feathering a nest-egg,
    and sitting on back porches cackling
    like so many non-laying chickens
    with nothing more in the world to do
    but get old and cranky and strange.

    But she’s fascinated by the strange
    and contradictory, and this peace-
    ful life with just the same-ol’ to do
    bores her like a sestina, a boiled egg,
    a rooster-less bunch of chickens.
    He wants her to listen to cackling

    like it was a symphony? Cackling
    is only hen-conversation—strange
    if it didn’t issue from the chickens.
    A big event? Oh, leave her in peace.
    Too much hoopla like an egg
    that’s never laid. A great to-do.

    She tells him what she’s going to do:
    turn the TV on—so much cackling
    about news like how to drop an egg
    three stories without breaking: strange!
    She’d rather hear paeons of peace
    in the barnyard among the chickens.

    And yes, very strange was the to-do
    among the chickens, all that cackling.
    But look, they’ve laid two eggs apiece!

  5. Heather


    She sits in silence under the sun.
    Fanning flames of quiet passion.
    His words quench, like still cool water
    Drowning out her dark despair,
    Singing sweetly of surrender,
    Love, whole, soft and tender.

    Lips brush skin, sweet and tender
    Teasingly, smiling at the sun.
    Who watches, waiting for surrender.
    They embrace, refuse the passion,
    Scorning, scorching the edge of despair
    Their love, as necessary as water.

    She drowns in love, like water,
    Desire, once opposed to tender
    Breathes new life into despair.
    She gazes up, blinks at the sun,
    Eclipsed by the moon in passion,
    Caught up in it’s own surrender.

    Shielding herself from surrender
    Breathing deeply under water
    Flows the tide, deep in passion.
    Slowly moving, gently tender
    She breaks open, bright as the sun.
    Rising back from deep despair.

    She sings defiantly of despair,
    Eclipsed by her great surrender
    As the moon releases the sun
    Drawing ebbs and flows of water.
    She dreams quietly of love, tender
    That carves the heart with passion.

    She blinks now in the waning passion
    Love replaces her despair,
    Sweetly singing, soft and tender
    Of that moment in surrender.
    Her body moves like rushing water,
    That ebbs and flows beneath the sun.

    Tender remnants of their passion
    Eclipse the sun and buries despair,
    Love surrenders to water’s flow.

    ~also published on
    My first sestina. Next time I’ll plan it more ahead. Does anyone else feel they get repetitive?

  6. candy

    Golden Shovel -using the first line, a child on a silver bike, from Billy Collins’ poem Traffic

    When I’m Gone

    what will happen to my things? a
    box of toys from when I was a child
    my grandmother’s clock that sat on
    her mantle, mother’s jewelry in a
    box made of silver
    and my old blue bicycle

  7. taylor graham

    a photo

    In the old winery cellar stoops a dim
    figure as if examining loose stone
    between flooring and earth – an edge, a rim.
    In the old winery cellar stoops a dim
    image – is it Wendy? searching; each limb
    poised for a word, a memory not her own.
    In the old winery cellar stoops a dim
    figure as if examining loose stone.

  8. Lynn Burton

    At the Window

    Should you find the day vanishes
    against the pane to imitate
    darkness that slips its fragmented
    fingers into your soul by chance,
    tune your heart and mind to the breeze.
    The magic windsong is subtle.

    Gauzy breath ignites, fears vanish
    into the gently stirring breeze
    alongside mere imitations.
    Fate welcomes a window of chance
    grasp its hand before it fragments.

    Framed in light, stars shine glass fragments
    of new hope and not so subtle
    cravings carve incredible chance
    in concrete so as to vanish
    stifled need from imitations.
    Float new beginnings on the breeze.

    Time and place shift through open breeze,
    channel to connect fragmented
    dreams only schemes can imitate
    hearts align and shine through subtle
    eyelet starbursts where seams vanish
    on lacy frills and wind chime chance.

    Tangled stars breathe life into chance  
    caught up in a dizzying breeze
    can’t sleep, don’t want dream to vanish.                 
    What would we see if the fragments                                 
    fixed themselves to the less subtle                                                   
    surface? Where deep lies imitate.

    Look within, no imitations
    no scattered remains, just chance
    blended with sunrise as subtle                  
    as a  whimsical dancing breeze
    so light, the teardrop-stained fragments
    sparkle with joy, pain vanishes.     

    Trace hearts on the breeze, imitate      
    nothing from past fragmented chance.      
    Sighs vanish into subtle night.      

  9. taylor graham


    You ask how I want to celebrate:
    nice dinner in a restaurant with hovering
    waiter? No, I’ll take a sandwich for the road,
    a drive up Ice House almost to Robbs
    Peak; search out Cheese Camp
    Creek and ask the water how it got its name,
    and why I can’t find it on the map.
    Somewhere between the Jones Fork and
    Big Silver, both of them emptying into Union
    Valley Reservoir where, years ago, we saw
    a rare – back then – Bald Eagle nesting
    high in a pine, and at dawn the great bird rose
    to skim the lake and – swoop! above a fisherman
    in his boat, snatched a fish. But
    that doesn’t give a clue to Cheese Camp Creek
    just short of Desolation Wilderness.

  10. grcran


    When sonnet is your thing you write you smile.
    No haiku-ing no formless neo mod.
    Go willy-nilly villanelle awhile.

    Fond of your form, it goes with your argyle.
    Unrhymed, you grimace greatly, find a fraud.
    When sonnet is your thing you write you smile.

    Still, balladeers becoming versatile
    branch out to nineteen lines, fans do applaud.
    Go willy-nilly villanelle awhile.

    Try catchy cute refrains, be juvenile.
    OK to make ‘em even make ‘em odd.
    When sonnet is your thing you write you smile.

    You sing the chorus. I’ll do verse, then I’ll
    profile a luminescent firing squad.
    Go willy-nilly villanelle awhile.

    Lady Mac said and so to bed. Stockpile
    your z’s and abc’s. Form it unflawed.
    When sonnet is your thing you write you smile.
    Go willy-nilly villanelle awhile.

    gpr crane

  11. deringer1

    There once was a young man named Sy
    who wrote all his poems in rhyme.
    He ran out of words,
    so he used only verbs,
    and now he thinks rhyme is a crime.

  12. Anthony94

    Another Pontius Pilate

    What do you know of emptiness
    this hollowed inside of the vase
    the very air inside my hands
    that holds your carving out
    like stolen seed from melon’s heart
    the reddened cave, now dark and cold.

    But unlike ice it’s not so cold
    it won’t soon melt into another emptiness
    so like the aching of my heart.
    I’ve shoved flowered stems inside the vase
    to watch them drink the water out
    and leave that space, the same within my hands.

    I’ve run at air and tried to grasp, my hands
    unclenched, I’ve nothing left but cold
    within my fingers, cramped and still without
    a single thing to show. How I want emptiness
    to have a face to slap, to shatter like the vase
    when hurled on stone like pieces of this heart.

    But I’ve discovered muscles of the heart
    are strong striated lines like those within my hands.
    Seven times I’ve filled vase after vase
    watched water run so clear and felt the cold.
    I’ve held it to the light but found but emptiness
    inside the two of us. Oblivious you still go out

    into the your world, storm in and out
    of my life uncaring how you shred my heart
    how you hollow out and carve its emptiness
    with your selfishness and lies, your very hands
    grown into weapons made of steel, so cold
    against my flesh. You’ve set me like some vase

    upon your shelf of conquests, a trembling vase
    never to be filled with stems or water from without.
    Your warmth that once thrilled me grown so cold
    black ice congeals the blood within my heart.
    Thirsting, I’ve wilted at your very hands
    I’m hollowed out, a vase of emptiness.

    A vase whose shards are bloodied pieces of my heart
    yet out of judgment’s sight, I’ve seen you wash your hands,
    a Pontius Pilate, you’ve condemned yourself to emptiness.

  13. Tracy Davidson

    Nightmares (a palindrome poem)

    vivid and violent…
    haunted, I’m breathless
    left sweaty and frightened.
    Monstrous faces become shadows,
    swirling images, grotesque,
    all is chaos and noise.
    Confused memories resurfaced
    generate nightmares
    nightmares generate
    resurfaced memories, confused
    noise and chaos in all.
    Grotesque images swirling,
    shadows become faces, monstrous.
    Frightened and sweaty, left
    breathless, I’m haunted…
    violent and vivid

  14. Arash

    Happy birthday [i]Bob[/i]…err…I mean Robert. 😉

    On the Porch
    by Arash

    On the porch the sunshine pours into me
    like a bowl of mom’s butternut squash soup
    so hot the baby blue table turns white
    where scented steam clumps or streaks across but
    freezes long enough like a memory.

  15. taylor graham


    I wondered to myself,
    will mankind ever learn restraint?
    His Gold Rush talk was compelling,
    how old-time miners tunneled under Spanish Hill
    from upper Broadway to Coon Hollow,
    and didn’t daylight till they reached Poor Red’s.
    All fueled by gold-fever.
    They caught mountain water from the high lakes,
    ditched it down to power their hydraulic cannon
    and blast away a side of Spanish Hill,
    cutting up long natural lines of landscape,
    its form and function, our foundation.
    You can see the bluff, golden color of hardened sand
    above a scrub-brush basin dry as bone.
    He showed that slide,
    and then another: earthmover of our modern day.
    “Just think what they could’ve done
    if they’d had this!” he said.
    And now we have it. And who will referee?

  16. lsteadly

    A tribune to honor the 3’s and 9’s

    thirty nine
    mighty fine
    years to show

    you have got
    the right stuff
    to go long

    wishing you
    happy days

    Happy birthday, Robert!

  17. Daniel Paicopulos

    Name Dropping

    April 7 is the Buddha’s birthday.
    I don’t know how we know that,
    But it is. It just is.

    What if his most recent incarnation
    is in a poet, and not just any poet,
    but in Billy Collins, a rhyming superstar.

    Or maybe he’s in Garrison Keillor,
    a lover of all things poetic,
    and a mighty fine hot damn poet himself.

    I’m pretty sure he
    wasn’t in Wordsworth,
    though April 7 is his birthday too.

    It’s more likely
    to be Ravi Shankar,
    92 on an April 7, 2012,
    but he died that same year.

    He could, I suppose,
    be in that poet Moskowitz,
    wouldn’t that be a hoot?
    I haven’t heard from him in a while.
    Maybe he achieved Nirvanna.

  18. qbit

    The birth rate of vowels
    Has been slowing for decades
    And many of the aging ones
    Are dying off like Beowulf —
    Hwæt! Syððan þæs!

    Soon, we may be reduced
    To just the long “i”, “o”, and “a”
    Which is ok by me
    Since I’m long and tall

    Sad though
    To lose
    “u” and “e”,
    As I love you, and
    Will miss thee.

  19. taylor graham

    a dorsimbra

    Come out and see the morning, clouds dawn-lit
    in passing over ridgetops on their way
    to where? Soon it will be so hot, we’ll sit
    in oak-tree shade and waste an hour away.

    Oh let’s chase the clouds
    upcountry, where it’s cool, and fresh
    air’s a tonic,
    and our dogs can run ahead exploring.

    There’s just so many months of summer. Now
    the mountains beckon from their heart of stone,
    and some black raven calls, forevermore!
    Come out and see the morning clouds dawn-lit.

  20. headintheclouds87

    Thought I’d take a stab at a clogyrnach, and use a theme similar to your sestina 🙂 Was fun!

    The Struggle of Stuarts (or Stewarts)

    People always seem to struggle
    Or get the letters all muddled
    When spelling ‘Stuart’,
    Thinking they knew it
    But blew it, befuddled.

    Are you ‘u’ or ‘e-double-u’?
    Is the question first asked of you
    So you state which one
    Thinking it’s said, done,
    But then shown error anew…

    ‘Stewert’ is what’s seen, in horror,
    Offending both spelling’s honour,
    But yet, a mistake
    Bold in its own take
    As to make some laughter.

  21. Marie Elena

    In view of her form,
    Sestina would look lovely
    dressed in a Sonnet

    Happy birthday to
    this Sonnet-praising, anti-
    Sestina haiku.

    Now six years old, and
    being resuscitated.
    Indulge me this, please.

    I know a VERY easy way to write an excellent Sestina: ask Walt to do it for me! 😀

  22. PowerUnit

    Antwerp Graffiti

    and blue lions
    exaggerated grins
    fat, empty letters
    splatters, randomly
    filling the dead
    spaces, unused
    uncared for, seen
    only by the trains
    who flash
    their own signals
    and signatures

  23. seamuscorleone

    Funeral Day

    We count
    For birth
    Because we do not
    Enough to count
    Down, though
    That is what we are
    Doing, counting
    Down to a
    Day that we will
    Be around to
    Celebrate or

    We are our
    Suits and our
    Suits are


    For liftoff:

    The Challenger
    Was only a
    Tragedy to those
    Left be

  24. rlk67

    “Bust free verse”, he said above, oh, what a great expression!
    I thought Sestina was a plane, ignore my sad transgression.
    My poetry haiku is low, my posts are getting fewer,
    This post–I’ll sonnet with my name,
    Congrats, sir, Mr. Brewer!


  25. Connie Peters

    Sweet Sixteen

    Was sweet sixteen so long ago
    A high school junior with long hair
    A date who drove like A. J. Foyt
    No clue to what would lie ahead

    I had my friends and Jesus, too
    Was sweet sixteen so long ago
    The moods that went so up and down
    And having fun my main delight

    The memories are jumbled now
    The speeding car on PA turns
    Was sweet sixteen so long ago
    The many kisses in the night

    The A. J. Foyt guy’s still alive
    But he’s so far back in the past
    I’m married now with two grown kids
    Was sweet sixteen so long ago

  26. SarahLeaSales

    Mr. Reed and Miss Wright: A Pantoum

    He loved the truth, so
    he wrote hard news;
    she loved the analysis of truth, so
    she wrote features.

    He wrote hard news
    because he was a reporter;
    she wrote features
    because she was a writer.

    Because he was a reporter,
    he was hated for his facts;
    because she was a writer,
    she was loved for her stories.

  27. MET

    IT is really an anniversary

    When I was small my father would ask me,
    “How many birthdays have you had?”
    I respond that I was four or five,
    He would smile and say,
    “No, you have had only one birthday…
    All the rest are anniversaries of that day.”
    One day when he asked me that question,
    I answered with grin on my face,
    “I have had only one birthday,
    But I have had six anniversaries.”
    We both laughed.

    Mary Elizabeth Todd
    July 19, 2017

    Happy 39th Anniversary

  28. PressOn


    He stayed
    at thirty-nine
    until he was eighty,
    assisted by a Valentine
    birth day.

    NB: You;re in good company at 39, Robert. Happy birthday to you. Your sestina made me smile.

  29. barbara_y

    Your Words Are Golden

    Yesterday was dull. Then yesterday
    was tom turkey, hen turkey, six brown chicks.
    My word for today is benediction. My
    birthday gift–turkeys. Lend me those birthday words:
    I will show them our local color, send them back
    turned. Into turkeys or chair legs, but turned.

  30. tripoet

    The Day I was Born — 4th child in a family of 9 kids

    By the time I came along
    My mother was used to the routine
    and already getting a little tired.

  31. bryanpitchford

    Mr. Brewer,
    Brave man for taking on the sestina! This is a form I need more practice on. Your example here reminds me of Jonah Winter’s “Sestina: Bob”. Thanks for the prompt, keep them coming!


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.