April 5, 2019
Poetry Prompt #4

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.

Every year, I change up the reading list in my poetry class at University of Indianapolis to include recently published poetry books. This year, I included Pitch Dark Anarchy by Randall Horton, who visited UIndy for the Kellogg Writers Series, and Bluewords Greening by Christine Stewart-Nuñez, who UIndy students chose as the poetry winner of 2018 Etchings Press Whirling Prize. I picked Jenny Xie’s Eye Level because I wanted to read it, and reading a new, nationally recognized book with my students is tremendous. We read Terrance Hayes’ American Sonnets for my Past and Future Assassin and excerpts from his book about Etheridge Knight, To Float in the Space Between, because of his connection to Knight and his reading at Franklin College supported in part by Indiana Humanities. Hayes recent sonnets are inspired by Los Angeles poet Wanda Coleman and her American sonnets.

Read sonnets by Coleman, Hayes, and Etheridge Knight, then write your own American sonnet. Don’t rhyme or worry about syllable counts. You must have 14 lines, and you must  make the turn–the volta–where the thought or rhetoric or argument changes.


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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