Poetry Prompt: Open the Door of a Life


In his collection Pursuit of a Wound, former poet laureate Sydney Lea includes a poem called “Local Story: Reading the Signs.” The poem is a narrative that slowly reveals the imagined details of a life the speaker glimpsed through a short obituary. The speaker populates the dead woman’s life with heartbreaking details, and it reads more like a short fiction piece than a poem. Its language is straighforward and plain, but crafted to reveal the depths of a life.


Find a short article–obituary, reportage, news event–in a newspaper or magazine and use it as inspiration to imagine the life of its subject. Use this article to open the door of a life. Write a poem that reveals the details of this life in a straighforward, narrative style.