New Poetry, Fiction, Essays

Escaping the dead hand of writer’s block 2

3 Writers’ Prompts

You are a poet. Words creep into your head and you rush to write them down, then you sharpen them, revise them, polish them until you have a poem you are proud of. Maybe you submit it and finally, you see it in print.

But what if the words don’t come?  You can sit and wait for inspiration. And wait. And wait. And wait. Or you can act instead, and try some writing exercises which might get the cogs turning and give you a whole new set of ideas to make into poetry.

Never despise writers’ prompts however experienced you are. Just like found poetry last week you can suddenly find a whole new route opening in front of you, directions you did not know you could follow. Or you have freed up the blockage and your usual poems are there again for you to write.

Strict form

This means finding a poetic form and making yourself write within it. Here are some definitions of poetic forms for you  to try

A Sonnet, which consists of three quatrains and a couplet with a rhyme scheme of abab cdcd efef gg also known as the Shakespearean sonnet.
Haiku,  a Japanese poem of seventeen syllables, in three lines of five, seven, and five, traditionally evoking images of the natural world.

Pantoum, a Malay verse form consisting of an indefinite number of quatrains with the second and fourth lines of each quatrain repeated as the first and third lines of the following one.
Villanelle, a verse form of French origin consisting of 19 lines arranged in five tercets and a quatrain. The first and third lines of the first tercet recur alternately at the end of each subsequent tercet and both together at the end of the quatrain. It is like putting someone else’s jacket on and finding a new identity.



Take down one of your poetry books (because of course, you read contemporary poetry all the time so you have a feel for the pulse of the time. Or browse the web, of course). Find a poem you like, take the end word of each line of the poem and make your own new poem.

Try this one, it’s a challenge.

(It would be interesting for you to submit the result of some Endings in The Blue Nib and we could maybe have a section for a selection of your poems in the next issue – these are obviously not publishable in the normal sense because of the element of plagiarism).


from Tom Thumb


We should accept the obvious facts of physics.

The world is made entirely of particles in

fields of force. Of course. Tell it to Jack. Except it

doesn’t seem to be enough tonight. Not because

he’s had his supper and the upper regions are

cerulean, as they have been each evening

since the rain. Nor just because it’s nine pm and

this is when, each evening since we came, the fifty

swifts, as passionately excited as any

particles in a forcefield, are about to end

their vesper flight by escalating with thin shrieks

to such a height that my poor sight won’t see them go.

Though I imagine instantly what it might be

to separate and, sleeping, drift so far beyond

discovery that any flicker which is left

signs with a scribble underneath the galaxy.

RF Langley


‘Tom Thumb’ appears in R?F Langley’s ‘Collected Poems’, published by Carcanet at £6.95

Railway Children



Some people experience the senses differently – we have the 5 senses of sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste and some people taste colour, see music, hear textures etc, like “You tasted of violet, and I heard the salty tang of olives in your words; I saw the shout of rage when you thought I had betrayed you, and when I touched you, you were indigo and green”… try to describe a relationship in contradictory terms




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Stephen House

Stephen House: has had many plays commissioned and produced. He’s won two Awgie Awards (Australian Writers Guild), The Rhonda Jancovic Poetry Award for Social Justice,

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Following on from my piece in issue four about writing…