My Very Own Poetry Prompt

From We Write PoemsPrompt #54 Take the driver’s seat!

First consider what prompt would be an interesting and challenging prompt for you, including then what you think would be good for the group. Then 1) write a brief paragraph describing the poem prompt itself, and 2) go ahead and write your own poem to that prompt.


After some thought, I decided on the following.  I want to write a poem (and read others’ who take this challenge) filled with scent.  A fellow writer/blogger/friend has told me that she loves anything that can incorporate scent.  It is one of the most under-used senses in writing.  Those words have stayed with me, challenged me, on a daily basis.  Now I’ll pass the baton to other writers.

Choose a concept, anything except sex (too easy and too common).  Ideas?  Ok, how about one of these:  death, marriage, childhood, friendship, mother/motherhood, father/fatherhood, loss, grief, joy, harmony, faith, beauty, regret, temptation, darkness, light, hate, sorrow, complication, or something else along those lines.  Now the challenge:  write a poem (form is your choice) that builds scent into your chosen concept.  Scent doesn’t necessarily have to be the focus.  It should definitely have an influence in the poem.  The imagery and language should invoke smells, both remembered and imagined, in your reader, and of course yourself.

There’s the challenge.  Here is my humble effort.


melancholy wears
a funny perfume–fruity
on the too ripe side,
mixed with smokey tears, talcum,
love letter pressed rose petals

Here is one I like even better.

About T A Smith

Just one of the literacy scholars on this site who wants to explore writing in all its complexities.
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38 Responses to My Very Own Poetry Prompt

  1. yoshizen says:

    It took a while to figure-out what is Ginko no kukai = 銀杏の句会
    —- Maiden-hair tree Haiku Group —- is it correct ?
    ( Since, in Buddhst term 苦界 = Samsara / Harsh world, is more familiar to us)

    Among the Haikus = [old fire] and [Violet] were the clearest to visualize for me
    = simply because I’ve seen it 😀

    • Yousei Hime says:

      I’m sorry, I couldn’t tell you if your translation is correct or not, since I didn’t name the group. I assumed it was named for the ginko trees and didn’t think to ask. You could always ask the blogger at the Haiku Bandit Society site. There are some lovely writings there. These were mine:

      thousand prayers drift down
      Kashima grows stronger—
      each sakura petal

      catfish ripples –
      one turtle plunges,
      one endures

      I know now that they weren’t good haiku. Yet I’m still learning and still desire to improve. That is the best part.

      • yoshizen says:

        Of course I’ve read both though, I couldn’t understand what it meant.
        What is [Growing strong Kashima] neither what sakura petal to do with it.
        And [one endured] —- ? What is this [one] ? Is there another turtle which
        didn’t plunge ? —- but endure what ?
        So, I couldn’t make any image, may be due to my English level. 😀

        • Yousei Hime says:

          Your English might be part of the problem, but I think my writing is the bigger problem. By “Kashima grows stronger” I meant that the prayers around the world, like all the thousands of sakura petals that fall in the spring, would make the god Kashima strong enough to control the catfish that causes earthquakes. In the second poem, the catfish ripples again refers to earthquakes. The turtles represent the people lost in the earthquake and tsunami and the people who survived. Endured means to survive. Does that help?

          • yoshizen says:

            Ha ha ha, I see Catfish meant to be that Catfish in the Myth !
            But I don’t think any Japanese, let alone English could make
            connection between the quake and the Catfish these days. 😀
            There is the Kashima Shirline (Kashima-jingu) though,
            There isn’t God called Kashima. The Guardian God of area
            is called Ubusuna-Gami and Kashima is only the name of
            the area or his turf.
            If I may say,
            I don’t think Haiku isn’t long enough to handle abstract notion.
            Make it visual, like a snap-shot would be the better.

            • Yousei Hime says:

              I agree. My research was incomplete. Takemikazuchi is the kami, correct? Kashima Jingu is the shrine. You’re right no matter what, the haiku is better as a snap-shot. I’ve always believed that, but I sometimes get too excited with the legends and folklore I read. Thank you for your explanation as a Japanese reader. That is important to me because I want to write haiku that are more universal. You have given me good advice and good things to think about. Thank you.

  2. yoshizen says:

    I remember an English teacher in my High-school — I wasn’t a good student then 😀
    And my poetry Guru was Arther Rimboud —- but I read it in Japanese translation 😀
    ( I have an old post [Short poem, but not Haiku] —- Can be Googled )

  3. lolamouse says:

    Nicely done. I love the way you’ve woven scent into an emotion. (and I LOVE your blog background!)

  4. Mr. Walker says:

    Yousei, I like your poem and the prompt idea. It is one that is overlooked – and is territory ripe for exploration. Thanks.


    • Yousei Hime says:

      Thank you. I happen to agree with both of your observations. I was so glad my friend brought it to my attention. The wheels started creaking and turning . . . now how do I incorporate this into my writing on a regular basis. Perhaps it is often overlooked because it is difficult to do. I’m glad I saw it as a challenge and not an obstacle. I appreciate your visits and comments.

  5. Loved your use of the prompt, Yousei, and the rose petals pressed, very evocative. All around good reading – and I read them all aloud. These words somehow tasted good, do you know what I mean? Despite the melancholy, there is beauty here. Amy

    • Yousei Hime says:

      Thank you. That is exactly what I was hoping to create in the atmosphere of the brief poem, that and of course that sense of smell. Though it wasn’t intended, it doesn’t surprise me that the words left a little taste in your mouth. Smell and taste are sense siblings. I also believe that as writers/readers some words we find so fun we just have to say them. I appreciate your thoughtful comment and your visit.

  6. rdl says:

    Yes, very nice! funny I just used scent recently here:
    apologies, evidently I’ve forgotten how to leave a hyperlink.

  7. neil reid says:

    Good prompt, and yes, scent of oft given less thought in front, however little else can so quickly, deeply evoke emotional response. Certainly we will be using this prompt in a community wide WWP prompt – useful to remind us of all we do include. Thanks Yousei. Actually I’ve been so so pleased with all the responses to this request.

    Suppose I’m going against the grain, but I felt more energized by the first poem response right here. (Maybe not easy saying why, but that’s the nature of scent isn’t it!) I’d agree, while I appreciate it as it is, I could imagine an even more fleshed out future version too – ripe and ready perhaps? Like already said, this poem smells good. (I like that description.) Big thanks again.

    • Yousei Hime says:

      neil reid,
      Thank you so much for your comment. I’m grateful to my friend for bringing scent to my writing mind’s attention. I’m also grateful for your encouragement. We all need a bit from time to time. This is one of those times for me. I’ll see if Melancholy will sit for an interview. Let me know when you’d like to hear more of her story.

  8. wayne says:

    indeed a nicely done poem…..and really like the prompt….thanks for sharing this

  9. 1sojournal says:

    My first poetry mentor always told us to use sense imagery, but you are correct, few use the sense of smell to an advantage. It’s a hard one, a bit more difficult than sight or sound. I really like your example, and loved the second poem as well. I will definitely have to try to remember to use this idea more. Thank you,


    • Yousei Hime says:

      You’re welcome. I was really struck by the thought when my friend brought it up. She’s absolutely right, I thought. Since then, I try to remember to use smell whenever I can. Glad you enjoyed the poems and prompt.

  10. Artswebshow says:

    Your humble effort is fantastic Yousei

    • Yousei Hime says:

      Thank you. I like the one on the link better, but I think the posted one is a good start to a longer poem. Maybe I’ll finish it sometime.

  11. pamelasayers says:

    Love both the poem and the prompt.


  12. slpmartin says:

    I also loved the prompt and poems…a very interesting process.

  13. LT says:

    Yeah! I like both poems, but especially the second one. Great tone in the second one, great intensity and physicality. Good work, friend.

  14. Tilly Bud says:

    A lovely prompt and I like your poem.

  15. Good poem, and I like the prompt too.

  16. Irene says:

    Yes if melancholy had a smell, it would be that perfumed mix..a lovely picture too. You got me thinking about scenting my closet with those Marks and Spencer liners I forgot about, maybe a poem, I wish..Thanks Yousei, scent is truly primal and a great prompt. I just love what everyone took out from their pockets.

    • Yousei Hime says:

      I once had a book of poems in which each poem personified an emotion. I loaned it to someone and of course, never got it back. I often think of those poems when writing. Each character was so wonderfully crafted. Actually, that would make a great prompt too. Maybe I’ll add it later, lol. Too sleepy now.

  17. vivinfrance says:

    I love this prompt: can’t wait to try it. The poems smell good, too.

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