January 2016 NaHaiWriMo Writing Prompts


Selected by Peggy Hale Bilbro



Y’all. Down here in Dixie we start most sentences with this word, so I only thought it appropriate to start this new year and our penultimate alphabet month with a focus on y’all, my haiku friends. Or if you want to riff off this as a representative colloquialism, y’all feel free.


Yankee. Since we began with a southern U.S. regionalism, it is only fair to give our northern cousins a nod of recognition, and to acknowledge that in many parts of the world, the word Yankee is simply a synonym for anyone from the United States.


Yangtze. The longest river in Asia and third longest in the world is our focus today. This is the river that stretches across most of China and is the bloodline of China’s history and culture.


Yacht. Today’s prompt may evoke the mystery of far-off travels or a life spent lounging around the marina. It’s your voyage.


Yardstick. Perhaps you have memories of an old wooden school yardstick laying in a dusty chalk tray. Most of the world takes their measures in meters now, but our language is firmly rooted in the yards and feet and inches of yesteryear.


Yarn. Follow where your mind leads as you unwind the skein of your thoughts. This prompt may tell a tall tale or be knit into a warm blanket.


Yak. Here is another ambiguous word for you. It could name an animal common to Northern areas of Asia, or it could evoke long hours with friends yakking about this and that.


Yawn. I love a good jaw-cracking yawn just before falling asleep. It’s the first step to throwing off our inhibitions and giving ourselves over to the world of dreams.


Yam. The yam is an humble food, dug from the ground with mud still clinging to it. In the Americas it may be the food most associated with thanksgiving for earth’s bounty.


Yew. Let your imagination loose with this fertile prompt! Ancient tree representing everlasting life, rebirth, transformation and access to the Otherworld and our ancestors, it is a tough, resilient wood, perfect for the famous longbows of the Middle Ages. The entire tree is poisonous—wood, bark, needles, and seed, but at the same time it provides protection against evil, is a bringer of dreams and a symbol of old magic. Some ancient yew trees are estimated to be as much as 4000 to 5000 years old.


Yearling. Still just a youngster and free to roam before settling into the harness. I see a high-stepping horse, or an adolescent anxious to break free.


Yeast. Without yeast we have no bread, no beer, no bubbling potential for life. Explore all that leavening in your poetry.


Yearn. What is your heart’s desire? Dare you say it?


Yeoman. A steady worker, salt-of-the-earth, someone ready to carry the extra load or walk the extra mile. Let us now praise common men. And women, who have been unfairly ignored.


Yin/yang. I wrote my first poem because a professor told us that every poem must have conflict. I thought to prove him wrong, but failed, and in the process discovered the eternal push and pull, give and take embodied in the duality of yin and yang. Please explore this off-balance equilibrium of life.


Yiddish. We are unified and separated by the language of our ancestors. At times it becomes a magical incantation only understood and shared by those in the inner circle, whether family, friends or ethnic group.


Yield. I offer you another ambiguous word for today. Do you read it as the bounty of a good crop or the ceding of will to another?


Yikes. Snakes! Spiders! Politics! What startles you out of your complacency today?


Yoda. Guru and master of odd grammatical structures. Wisdom in odd places and odd figures we find.


Yolk. The sun-filled, glowing heart where life is nourished.


Yoga. This ancient practice unifies our physical, mental, and spiritual selves on the journey to serenity in an often chaotic world. We must each follow our own path to peace.


Yon/yonder. Yonder—another good southern word! Things are always just over yonder. However, it harks back at least as far as Shakespeare: “But, soft! what light through yonder window breaks? It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.”


Yoke. Not just oxen are yoked. We are each yoked willingly or unwillingly to someone or something. What is your yoke?


Yore. What olden days this word evokes!


Yodel/yodeler. The yodeler must have mountains to echo back his song. Or perhaps a deep canyon wall.


YOLO. My son introduced me to this acronym: You Only Live Once. Or as we used to say, carpe diem!


Yurt. A perfect evocation of nomadic life on the steppes. Home is home, no matter what form it takes.


Yucca. A proud stalk of white flowers in the midst of sword-sharp, spiky leaves—another duality that attracts and repels at the same time. Perhaps all it wants is to survive in the arid desert.


Yule/yuletide. In the midst of the cold, dark days of winter, let us celebrate the slow return of light and warmth, of rebirth and renewal.


Yukon. Frozen breath, adventure, gold, and panting huskies pulling a burdened sled!


Yuengling. The oldest operating brewery in the United States, established in 1829. What are you brewing up? Cheers, and thanks for sharing this month’s pint-full of words with me.