Honk if You Were a Teenage Swan (A Poetry Prompt)

Inspiration for the poetry prompts here at Tweetspeak comes from a variety of sources. Sometimes, a good song inspires the weekly prompt. Other times, a prompt will hit me on a morning run or while I’m mowing the lawn. On occasion, I draw my inspiration by searching the Creative Commons for photographs relating to the monthly theme.

This week as I was perusing the Commons, I stumbled upon the above photograph of the cygnet, mottled into awkward adolescence. The caption read, “honk if you’re a teenage swan.” It drew a chuckle, then a low groan. “I remember those days,” I thought.

When I think back to my gangly arms and legs, my lollipop head, and my protuberant nose (into which my head would eventually grow… kind of), it’s easy to remember the ugly-duckling feeling. And as I’ve grown older, I’ve found that everyone remembers those days, even if they were one of the “cool kids.” Insecurities are equal opportunity, you see.

It’s easy to see where Hans Christian Andersen drew his inspiration. Right?

In 1843, Andersen published the story of the Ugly Duckling in New Fairy Tales. First Collection. 1844. According to the the tale, after the hatching of a mother duck’s eggs, one duckling is singled out as being odd, different. The ugly duckling is tormented by the other hatchlings until he flees the flock. He becomes a vagabond, finding no home, no fit in his first year of life. After suffering many trials and overcoming a harsh, solitary winter, the ugly duckling sees a flock of swans, on the lake. Expecting them to pick him apart, he swims into the flock hoping to meet his end at the beaks of such beautiful birds. Despite his suicidal notions, and to his great surprise, the swans accept him. Looking down into the water, the duckling sees his reflection and notices that he has turned into something spectacular—a beautiful and mature swan.

Andersen’s story resonated with the masses of the day, and was both a commercial and critical success. Andersen went on to write many more fairy tales, and after achieving mass-appeal was asked whether he might write his autobiography. He responded that he already had—he had written “The Ugly Duckling.”


Poetry Prompt: This week, let’s write coming-of-age poems, poems of conquering our insecurities. I think there’s great fodder here, and it might just help a person or two along the way. So who’s first? Honk if you were a teenage swan!

Tweetspeak’s May Swans, Swallows, Phoenix Poetry Prompt:

This month we’re writing poems around the theme “Swan’s, Swallows, Phoenix.” How do you participate?

1. Consider a swan, swallow, or Phoenix (the bird or Arizona; we’re open to all interpretations). Listen to our monthly prompt-themed playlist. What images, emotions, metaphors, or allegories do they conjure? Do the birds (or does the city) stir any memories? Do you have any thoughts regarding the particular poetry prompt of the week?

2.  Compose your own poem around the theme.

3. Tweet your poems to us. Add a #TSSwan hashtag so we can find it and maybe share it with the world.

4. If you aren’t a Twitter user, or if you’d rather, leave your poem here in the comment box.

5. At the end of the month, we’ll choose a poem to feature in one of our upcoming Weekly Top 10 Poetic Picks.

Do you want to have your work highlighted here at Tweetspeak? Join us this month as we explore the theme “Swans, Swallows, Phoenix,” and maybe we’ll highlight your poem in the coming months.

Photo by  zappowbang, Creative Commons via Flickr. Post by Seth Haines


Buy a year of Every Day Poems, just $5.99 — Read a poem a day, become a better poet. In May we’re exploring the poetry theme Swan, Swallow, Phoenix.

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  1. Marcy Terwilliger says

    The last born,
    Why me?
    Runt of the bunch am I.
    Picked on by three,
    give me a place to hide.
    That’s my middle name,
    Married to an abuser,
    Some things never change.

  2. says

    She swam in the wake of the beautiful
    Honked a bit off key
    Dressed in plumage of greys and dull down
    Tapped her beak to the beat of a waiting
    Dove to the bottom for bits and pieces
    And knew another whenever he flew by
    And bye
    Birds of a feather
    Can spot one another
    And she should know better
    How to love
    The ones that wear dull brown, worn down
    And honk in a lonely key.

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