Saturday, March 15, 2014

Prompt #180 – The Color Green

You don’t have to be Irish to celebrate the color green and, with St. Patrick’s Day just around the corner, let do exactly that this week. Color poems have long been popular in workshop and classroom settings: pick a color and write about it. What we do this week will be different, though, because we’re not going to write about the color but, rather, about things identified with it. As you write, in order to de-simplify the write-about-a-color idea, remember that every poem should have two centers: this week, the color green (the obvious “subject”) and where your poems takes the color (its implicit “matter”).


1. Write about a green object—anything, any shade of green, but make the poem about more than the object.
2. Write about the green of envy or jealousy—it’s okay to personalize this, but be sure to reach toward the universal.
3. Write about green living that protects the environment.
4. Write about something green in nature (tree, leaf, grass, frog, etc.).
5. Write from the perspective of something green—try some personification. Click here to see prompt #175 for info on personification.
6. Write a poem about the “greening” of something. For example, the greening of the earth in spring (or, the de-greening of the earth in autumn). “Greening” is defined as the return or revival of youthful characteristics as in “the greening of America.”
7. Write a funny poem about something suddenly turning strangely green.
8. Write about any of the following or include one or more of these words in your poem:

Green Eyes
The Green Man
Military Uniforms
Peas or Broccoli, Lettuce or Kale, Avacados (or any other green veggie or fruit)
Green Apples
The Hulk
Money (American)
Praying Mantis
The Jolly Green Giant (advertising figure)
8. If your Irish is itching to write a poem, or if you love the Irish or Ireland, feel free to switch gears and write a poem about being Irish or about Ireland instead of focusing on the color green.
9. And let’s just assume that not everyone likes the color green—no worries, choose another color and go for it, but be sure to adapt the guidelines to the color you choose!

1. Be sure to focus on the narrator in your poem and experiment with using the first, second, or third person. Switch back and forth during revision to determine which voice best expresses your meaning.

2. Experiment with a bit of unusual sentence structure, play with syntax (the way you order the words in sentences and phrases).

A. The general word order of an English sentence is subject + verb + object. In poetry, though, word order may be shifted to enhance artistic purposes such as rhythm and sound, to create emphasis, or to heighten connections among words.

B. Sometimes it’s okay to “fracture” syntax beyond what’s grammatically correct if doing so reveals things not possible within the parameters of thought that grammatical language demands.

C. For a great example, read J. P. Kavanaugh’s poem “Beyond Decoration” in which he shifts syntax and writes “go out I cannot” instead of the more prosaic “I cannot go out,” thus giving emphasis to incapability conveyed by the word “cannot.” 

D. In another example, Adrienne Rich’s “For This,” the syntax is stretched in the first two stanzas to “hold off” what it is that depends on the “if” at the start of the stanzas.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Lá Fhéile Pádraig Sona Daoibh
(La ale-lah pwad-rig son-ah jeev)


  1. LOVE the cartoon of you and Chaucer, LOVE the picture of Chaucer looking like a leprechaun, and LOVE the prompt, which goes beyond the typical "color poem." Happy St. Patrick's Day!

  2. Aw, thanks, Jamie! So glad you like the "greenness!"

  3. Happy "Green Day" to Adele and blog readers.

    That's a great cartoon at the top, and this is a great prompt. Thanks.

    1. Thanks, Rich! It's good to know that some of the prompts have worked in your classroom.