Writing prompt by Poetics Online member Jimmy Fishhawk.

If you’d like to share your results, or submit a prompt for us to post (with credit or without), let us know.


This is a time-sensitive prompt—that is to say, it requires that you be sensitive to the time of day. Ideally, early morning, although dusk/early evening could be a fitting substitute, and any time of day that you have at least an hour to be still and write can work.

Sit still, maybe even close your eyes, and listen for birdsong. Especially if it is dawn or early morning, sift through the sounds you’re hearing and choose one particular song. If you know what species of bird is making that sound, try choosing another, if there’s another in earshot—one you aren’t familiar with. (If you’re a hardcore birder, or an ornithologist, this prompt may not work as easily for you!)

What is that bird saying? What does that song mean? Is it a plaintive cry for love and companionship? A war cry for defense of territory and nest? Call and response to a mate, a flock, or a family? Something else entirely?

Write your interpretation of the bird’s song. You may want to write as the bird, or about the bird. Or you may choose to reinterpret the whole scenario—that’s not a bird, it’s an alien trapped on a distant world, far from home, sending the only distress call it has left out into the air! It’s a mythological beast more powerful and dangerous, or more beautiful and beguiling, than its diminutive song implies.

Write in whatever direction the feelings evoked by birdsong take you. Just keep writing.

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