Project of the Day: Dictionary Poems

I’m always looking for new and exciting inspiration for creative writing. I was taught this method in my high school creative writing class and hope to pass it on to you. For this project all you will need is a dictionary, some creativity, and a place to record your poetry.

This project also gives me a chance to show off one of my favorite family possessions. In our house this book is lovingly known as “The Big Red Dictionary” or simply “The Dictionary”. It is from 1979 and has never failed to help me whether I need to look up spelling, definition, or to spice up my writing.

The Beast

The Beast

Showing its age.

This project is super simple. You choose a page from the dictionary and use one of the following variables (or a mixture of them all) to write a poem:

1. Words from the page (creating alliteration)

2. Definitions or words found in the definiton

3. Pictures as inspiration for a story

When I wrote my first dictionary poem I was terrified of the alliteration. I thought it was childish (and many still hold this opinion), but it can be a great way to break free from your writing routine, or slump as I like to call it.

I was given a page containing ‘f’ words and immediately everyone thought my poem would be vulgar. I, however, focused on one word in particular, and painted a quite gloomy yet honest picture. I hope you enjoy it:


In a faraway place

Known to none but myself,

Lays a featherweight fawn.

Left alone by his blood line,

Failing to fight for his life,

He is unfazed by his fate

As he slowly becomes fertilizer

For the fragile earth.

As you can see I used many ‘f’ words such as: fawn, faraway, featherweight, failing, fight, (un)fazed, fate, fertilizer, and fragile. I also used the definition of ‘family’ with “his blood line”. Being the self-deprecating writer that I am, I hate this poem. But, it did help me to find a new muse.

It’s a real shame that dictionaries aren’t as utilized as they once were. Computers and spell-checks have replaced the good, old searching-through-hundreds-of-dictionary-pages method.

I encourage you to pick up a dictionary and carve out the poems hiding within!


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