Creative Writing Prompt: Collage

Creative Writing Prompt #17

One of the most important elements of my poetry writing comes from the collages I create. I cut out images from magazines and newspapers, collect postcards of particularly interesting works of art from museum gift shops, gather brochures and unusual photos. If it looks cool and strikes a chord with me, I keep it, file it, tuck it in a lunchbox for future use.

Collage gives you a fresh creative outlet. Cutting and pasting images together in abstract and unexpected combinations will provide you with a sea of imagery from which you can pull for your poems. Don’t confuse this practice with scrapbooking – while the idea is somewhat similar, people often scrapbook with a very specific goal in mind. They do it neatly and use matching elements to make memories.

Collage isn’t a memory-maker. It’s a poem-generator. And it can be messy. In fact, the messier the better. Get those synapses firing! Artists in the Dada cultural movement – known for its way-out-of-the-box methodology, or non-methodology as the case may be – often made use of collage in their work. (The collage to the right was created by Kurt Schwitters in 1919.)

You can select a theme and collage around it – something broad like vampires, or something very specific like Edward Cullen. Or don’t choose a theme at all – just spread out some of your favorite images and start putting them together in a grouping to see how they fit.

A collage doesn’t have to be huge. You can use two or three images (or words/phrases/quotes) to develop an inspiring collage. Or you can use 50 images to create an impressive statement.

You can collage on any surface, and sometimes the surface you choose can produce very interesting results. But if you plan on making this a habit (I hope you do!) I highly recommend dedicating one entire sketchbook/notebook/journal to your visual poetry. It’s nice to have it all in one place and, when the mood strikes, you’ve got a piece of blank paper right there waiting for you to scribble your lines of verse.

There really is no right or wrong way to collage. I encourage you to practice this method though – you’ll be pleasantly surprised to discover just how much the imagery in your poems will thrive when you become an observer of the universe in a very different way.

Here’s your creative prompt:

  1. Choose a surface on which to collage.
  2. Spend a few hours gathering images from old magazines or even mail until you get an interesting inventory of items.
  3. Spread each element out on the table/floor/wherever and begin looking at how they might fit together. Is there a central image that is the firestarter for the collage as a whole? Or is a collage developing before your eyes through the combination of many small images tied together by color or theme?
  4. Begin pasting the items together into a permanent collage.
  5. Once you’re satisfied with the finished product (and remember, collages are not static – they are living things that you can edit and add to at any time), take a pen and paper and begin writing. See what verse comes out of you based on the images you’ve pulled together in this collaboration.

Especially proud of your collage? Did it inspire a poem that you’re excited about? Submit your poem to our poetry contest, or send a photo of your collage(s) to and we’ll post it here on Novel Novice!

Take a look at all of our National Poetry Month goodies

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