Poetry Friday: A Paint Swatch Poetry Prompt

If you’ve been paying any kind of attention to this blog the past couple of weeks, you know how inspiring my visit to the Highlights poetry workshop was. And you’ve probably seen a couple of the short “practice poems” I wrote while I was there, using writing prompts like #PopsiclePoetry and The Word Garden.

Well, I’m not through yet!

Today I’m sharing a little light verse I wrote as part of a writing prompt using paint swatches – you know, those colored cards you get from hardware stores that show the name of the paint and what it looks like when dry? In this case, attendees were handed a random card and asked to write a poem using either the name of the paint or the color itself as inspiration.

Always eager to tackle a challenge head-on, I opted for…both. The paint, named “Bamboo,” was a light, creamy-chocolate brown, with hints of gray. Keep in mind, these poems were for inspiration and practice, so I only had about 15 minutes or so to write them. These are not polished, perfect pieces of poetic preeminence; rather, they are quick, unpolished responses to writing prompts.

The first poem that came to mind was based on the name:


One day I brought the jungle home
and laid it on the  floor.
Smooth and firm beneath my feet,
I vowed to find some more:
a chair, a table, window blinds,
outside to the veranda.
I marvel at its beauty, but
feel sorry for the panda.

– © 2018 Matt Forrest Esenwine, all rights reserved

I was running out of time, so my second poem, based on the color itself, was even shorter:


Cappuccino, latte, chai,
tall or extra-venti –
I’m happy when my cup is full
but sad because it’s empty.

– 2018 Matt Forrest Esenwine, all rights reserved

I have to say, this was really a fun prompt! So try some #PaintSwatchPoetry yourself sometime, and see what comes of it. You can find more poetry (much more polished, too, I might add) at Today’s Little Ditty, where Michelle H. Barnes is hosting today’s Poetry Friday roundup! But go easy on her, as it’s the Friday after the U.S. elections and she might still be a bit…umm…jittery. 😉


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31 thoughts on “Poetry Friday: A Paint Swatch Poetry Prompt

  1. lindabaie

    Laura Shovan’s birthday challenge a few years ago was with color names and it was fun. I like what you did with the bamboo and with a shout out to poor panda. “Life” is what it’s all about, right? Thanks, Matt.


  2. alwriting

    I was intrigued by the title of your post Matt and felt compelled to investigate. So glad I did. Your fifteen minute burst of creativity has been well used. This is a great idea and I am now eager to visit a hardware store near my home this very day, Can’t wait to find out where the creative juices flow. Thanks for sharing this idea. I can see it working in classrooms with impressionable young poets, even as I write this.


    1. Thank you! It is, indeed, a great way to kick-start some creativity – and I’m thinking I might visit a hardware store myself and pick some up to keep doing this. Although I’m going to try not to look at or read the swatches beforehand; that way I’ll enjoy the surprise, when I sit down to work on them!


  3. Love this prompt and your very clever responses. Your coffee one made me smile because coffee has been on my mind this week I found a Vietnamese coffee shop where the blends had very intriguing names, filled with promise: ‘Energy for creativity’ and ‘energy for prosperity’ were the two I tried.


  4. Matt, I used this prompt before for with teachers during PD. I called it paint chip poetry and have a bag full of paint chip cards to share with the teachers. I enjoyed your drafts and smiled at your last line in the coffee poem.


  5. I’m loving all the creative energy that you’re sharing from your Highlights experience! I’ve heard of color chips as a prompt, but haven’t ever tried it. I’m so impressed with what you whipped up in 15 minutes! Your first poem initially struck me as light-hearted and amusing, but on second read, I realized that it was much more layered than that. Poor panda, indeed!


  6. What a delightful post. I love how Highlights has energized you! The first poem is really good. We do love all that bamboo in our furnishings….but the poor pandas. Keep writing Matt. Keep having fun. Your joy is contagious and gives me new ideas. Thank you.


  7. Hi, Matt – HA! Love these. I remember some fun poetry coming from those quick exercises at those amazing Highlights workshops… something about all that sizzling creative energy really just makes the words come alive quickly, doesn’t it? Your poems are clever, clever. (I’ve used paint chip cards in school workshops for years – those color names are fantastic!)
    Thanks for sharing.


  8. Diane Mayr

    I’m fond of your second poem, “Life.” I’m a big coffee fan, but more for its warmth than for its flavor.

    I think Laura’s Pantone challenge was my favorite of all! If you don’t have any paint chips available, visit this site and find an exotic color to get you started: https://www.webpagefx.com/web-design/color-picker/color-chart/

    You may not like the color itself, but how could resist a name like “Caput Mortuum,” “Gamboge,” or “Screamin Green”?


  9. Pingback: Poetry Prompt: “Deep, deep…” an iambic pentameter poetry prompt – Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme

  10. Pingback: Poetry Friday: A look back at a Highlights workshop poem, “The Apple Tree” – Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme

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