21 Astronomy Poetry Prompts

Tomorrow, two of our awesome Adler Summer Teen Interns start working with me! Inspired by Chris Emdin’s Science Genius, my two interns will be working on creating performance pieces inspired by astronomy. Since there’s nothing scarier than a blank page, I’ve adapted some of Kelli Russell Agodon’s “30 Writing Prompts for National Poetry Month” to focus on space, and specifically exhibits here at the Adler.  Over the next few weeks, we’ll be creating work based on some of these prompts– some of which will be up online and annotated with additional info! If you visit the Adler, feel free to join along and respond to some of these prompts– and if you can’t visit, feel free to adapt them as you see fit and contribute online. Many thanks to Kevin Hainline for additions & edits to the prompts below.

1. Grab a book whose title or cover intrigues you from the Adler’s Astronomy library. Go to page 29. Write down 10 words that catch your eye*. Use 7 of those words in a poem. For extra credit, have 4 of them appear at the end of a line.
*if you land on a page without words, feel free to flip forward to the next page that has text

2. Write a poem that is really a letter to someone you love. Make sure some of these words are in the poem: dung beetle, scientist, nuclear, exoplanet, stellar, martian, black hole, aurora, nebula, field, fusion, atmosphere, magnetism, mirror, collapse, accretion, orbit.

3. Find a fact or collection of facts you think is weird or odd in the planetarium, and write a poem about it/them. Try to include why you think they are weird!

4. Find 5 things in the planetarium that all begin with the same letter. Write a poem as an ode to one of these items or that includes these items.

5. Look up the 88 astronomical constellations and write a poem to your favorite one. Look up the stars that make up this constellation and see if you can use some of the star names in your poem.

6. Make a list of seven words you see in the planetarium that have the same vowel sounds (like bee, treat, pepperoni, eagle) and use them in a repetitive way throughout a poem.

7. Go to the Cosmology Gallery and find the display on the recipe for making life in the universe. Now write a poem inspired or in the style of that recipe about you or where you are from.

8. Turn your paper so that it’s in the landscape position. Go up to Galileo’s Cafe and look out at the horizon over the water, then write a poem about the universe with longer lines to see what happens.

9. Head up to the Solar System Gallery, choose one of the eight planets and write an eight-line poem with only eight words per line.

10. Go outside and stand on 12th Street Beach with your feet in the sand, looking at the planetarium. Think about the fact that you are standing on a planet. Write a poem about what you see.

11. Go to http://hubblesite.org/gallery/album/ and find an image you enjoy. Write a poem that describes that image.

12. Go to the Astronomy Picture of the Day archive: http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/archivepix.html
Find the picture from your most memorable recent birthday, and write a poem about this image or the object/event shown in the image. Bonus points if you can relate it to your own memory of that day!

13. Write a poem in two sections about two things that are separated by something big: for example, two events that happened far apart in time, two things that are distant from each other in space, two things that are very different sizes, etc. Have the title link both things today in a surprising way.

14. Write a poem that begins with the last important thing you can remember someone saying to you today or yesterday. See if you can use that to talk about something in space.

15. Read: http://www.universetoday.com/25560/the-switch-to-digital-switches-off-big-bang-tv-signal/
Think about the fact that people could once “see” the afterglow of the Big Bang in their homes with an ordinary appliance. Write an elegy about no longer being able to do so.

16. Think of the nicest thing someone ever said to you, then watch this video about the heat death of the universe: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mSzCS_5qtVY
Write a poem about the end of the universe, finishing it with the good thing someone said.

17. Go to the section of the Cosmology Gallery that shows movies from small scales to big scales. Write a poem about something small, in small writing, that is 5 lines long. Use the rest of the page to write a poem about something big, in big writing, that is only one line long.

18. Go to your favorite spot in the planetarium, close your eyes and listen to the sounds around you. If the sounds are peaceful, write a poem with a violent word as the title. If the sounds are loud, write a poem with a kind word as the title. Bonus points for including any words you overhear.

19. Think of something you’ve seen in the planetarium (or read about) that you find difficult to understand. Write a poem about this topic with the opposite hand that you write with (or if you type your poems on the computer, use only one hand to type).

20. Write a poem that includes these words: apogalacticon, event horizon, syzygy. Have the title include one of these words: telluric, constellation, astrolabe.

21. Read a bit about the following people, then write a poem where one of them shows up and tells you something and/or gives you something:
Benjamin Banneker
Ada Lovelace
Valentina Tereshkova
Annie Jump Cannon
Alan Turing
Mae Jemison

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