April 4, 2019
Poetry Prompt #3

It's National Poetry Month, so what better time to write some poetry? To get you started, here's a prompt from local poet Kevin McKelvey.

Long after I should have, I learned of Lorine Neidecker, a Wisconsin poet who lived most of her life on rural Blackhawk Island, a peninsula along the Rock River in south-central Wisconsin. Her spare poems are in some ways inspired by the sparse beauty of rural natural areas and the raw reality of rural life.

Read these three poems from the August, 1963 edition of Poetry. Pick a relevant event or experience, something mundane or portentous or fateful to write about. Then use what I call Neidecker rules to write your poem.

  1. Three images to suggest your narrative as well as your revelation or metaphor
  2. No longer than 15 lines
  3. No more than 3 stanzas
  4. All lines should be 2-4 words long
  5. You are allowed one line of 6 words
  6. Focus on nouns and verbs
  7. Avoid prepositions, articles, and conjunctions

I set up my poetry class now so that students will discover the poets who mean the most to them (since I also learned of Robinson Jeffers long after I should have), and I keep learning, too, discovering the poet Louis Zukofsky and his life-long correspondence with Lorine Neidecker.

Also check out Adam Henze reading Neidecker’s “Who Was Mary Shelley” for Indiana Humanities’ FrankenSlam Frankenfilms.


Kevin McKelvey is place-based writer, poet, designer, and social practice artist. His poetry book, Dream Wilderness, was published last year, and another book, Indiana Nocturnes, written with Curtis Crisler, will be published this year. He is at work on a novel and regularly completes workshops, art installations, and placemaking projects around Indiana. At University of Indianapolis, he serves as associate professor in the English Department and as director of the university’s Masters in Social Practice of Art program. Kevin grew up on the edge of a corn field near Lebanon, Indiana, and attended DePauw University and Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

Posted In: National Poetry Month

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