A Simple Poetry Writing Prompt and A Poem

Today’s writing prompt is deceptively simple. Deceptive because it can result in a more weighty poem than you’d think. The rules are: take a song, preferably from your youth, and weave a few pivotal lyrics into a poem that doesn’t have to reflect the song’s theme or intent. In the best cases, the lyrics you choose will dialogue with and fuel the engine of your own lines. I gleaned this prompt from one of my own poems, first published in BlazeVOX. I use bits of the Simple Minds song Don’t You Forget About Me but you’ll see, if you know the song, that I invest the lyrics with my own meaning for the poem, one not intended in the original song. If you want an additional challenge, you can take a song that is also the theme of a movie and work with both the song and the movie. I did this in my poem, but wasn’t consciously working with that challenge at the time. Let’s call it double ekphrasis, sounds really learned and difficult. 

Send your resulting poems along and I’ll include a few in the next post.

Good luck!


Don’t you forget about me

I was sixteen, a hot July night at the drive-in, watching The Breakfast Club

with my mother and her boyfriend. He was fun, he was young,

he would become obsessed and want to kill us

but torched our car while we slept, instead. This night was before the burning.

The three of us in the unlit car, eating popcorn. If I had to choose,

I’d say he was the line don’t you forget about me in the Simple Minds song

while I took will you stand above me and worked it into nightmares:

a dark figure at the door, a dark figure in an idling car.

I was murdered in myriad ways: knife, fire, gunshot to the head. Maybe

he didn’t realize that a daughter is housed inside her mother

like the smallest Matryoshka doll, the pea-sized one; the way she looks out

from the same eyes, how a threat to one is a threat to the other.

He was young, closer to my age than my mother’s. He was fun, when he wasn’t

harming us. I kept the memory of that night long past its usefulness:

summer’s short heat and the three of us singing don’t don’t don’t don’t. 

3 thoughts on “A Simple Poetry Writing Prompt and A Poem

  1. I like your idea of the song title/lyric poem prompt. It made me think of two of my favorite songs the summer on 1972, the summer before my senior year of high school, the trepidation of college looming. The songs are “American Pie” by Don McLean and “Heart of Gold” a Neil Young classic. This poem really wrote itself when I gave myself over to the memories of that summer.

    Summer of 72

    Scorched days and moist nights.
    Slathered in iodine-infused baby oil,
    flipping our sizzling bodies every hour,
    an even tan testimony to our persistence.

    Night games of Capture the Flag,
    the only things captured,
    a timid touch of perky breasts,
    a brush against a hard bulge in cutoff jeans.

    Four years of tomorrows buttoned down.
    The summer nights up for grabs.
    Practicing our French kissing with the neighbor boys in the baseball dugout.
    Smoking on the porch roof in the dark,
    debating the back stories of American Pie and Heart of Gold.

    Wondering what was scarier,
    planning for the flight, or the sweetness of the leap.

    • Robin,
      Thanks for taking part in the prompt! My favorite lines: “an even tan testimony to our persistence”, “four years of tomorrows buttoned down./ The summer night up for grabs.” (love the juxtaposition there and the use of ‘up for grabs’.) and the last lines. I like the use of ‘planning for the flight’, which closes the poem with a nice image of actual plane flight as well as your metaphorical intention. Great! And Thank you.

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