Our first collection of poetry prompts for Frankenstories

I was bought at a store. I am made of bananas. I live in the sun and am always freezing. My desk is made of roses and I have to water them every day. I read books about myself.

We've published a collection of poetry writing prompts based on the poet Kenneth Koch's 1970 classic, Wishes, Lies & Dreams.

Wishes, Lies, and Dreams. Teaching children to write poetry. By Kenneth Koch

I've had a copy of this book for decades, but never used it in teaching. What appealed to me in this instance was its accessibility; Koch worked with NYC kids in grades 1-6, so he was interested in finding hooks that made students want to write and think of themselves as poets.

For example, he would ask young students to write lists of wishes or lies, since, on those topics, kids had plenty to say and weren't constrained by reality:

I wish I was a beautiful chick who could be in any period of life. In the future or in the past would be nice. Being Cleopatra in Egypt with handsome men at my feet.

Meanwhile, for older students, he developed patterns such as "I seem to be / But really" that fit their growing self-consciousness.

I seem to be shy when she passes by, but really inside of me I have a wonderful feeling. As we went for a walk in the park, I felt a wet kiss hit my dry skin.

We've adapted 18 of Koch's formats as Frankenstories poetry game prompts, scaled at a few levels of complexity to create 55 prompts in total.

We've made prompts for beginner and intermediate poets, to explore wishes, powers, comparisons, lies, colours, and more.

These games are not technical; there's nothing about rhyme or meter or particular forms (though they do explore metaphor and onomatopoeia).

Their purpose is to invite students to play with language, sound, and image (and use line breaks), and to develop a taste for both writing and reading poetry.

For example, here is a poem based entirely on asking questions and speculating about the answers:

A Frankenstory with the prompt: Write a poem made entirely of questions, with a vintage photo-style picture of two cats in Victorian era clothes. It begins: When you walked down the aisle with him were you thinking about how he would scratch your furniture until it bled, the sap running down the legs of the dresser? No, you didn't. You only thought about his eyes.

And this is a poem that uses words from an unfamiliar language (in this case, Wiradjuri):

A Frankenstory with the prompt: Write a poem about this image, using words from language you don't speak or understand, with a cartoonish image of a dapper crustacean. It begins: It's showtime folks. My feet tap on the flagwalk. My clippers dharra out of my pockets. Click click.

More to come

We'll publish a few more poetry prompt collections in the coming months, but I hope these are a useful start for those of you teaching poetry, especially to younger grades.

Let us know if you have any feedback!

Content Frankenstories