Poetry Prompt: Graduation


Post update: May 9, 2016

This year’s commencement speakers include Barack Obama,  Jane Goodall, Spike Lee, David Lynch, and many more. We decided to reboot this prompt in honor of commencement season.

Congrats, graduates.

I have TWO things I hope you remember from all this, other than…the fact that I’ve been known to pee myself… – Abigail Washburn, Colorado College 2012

College graduation season is known for its speeches, from the bland and cliché to the inspirational and unorthodox. (As for clichéd metaphors, try this: a Buzzfeed quiz titled “Graduation speech or episode of The Bachelor?” Climb that mountain!). Or try graduation speech bingo.

Prompt: select words and phrases from any graduation speech and write a poem repurposing your found language.

2015  U.S. college commencement speakers included Michelle Obama, Salman Rushdie, Stephen Colbert, and George W. Bush. Select a commencement speech as source material, whether it is one of the best, one of the funniest, a clichéd snooze-fest, or anything in between.

NPR has listed hundreds of “the best commencement speeches, ever” along with video and quotes. Peruse some of the Time’s Top Ten Commencement Speeches  or select any current or past speech. If you are attending a graduation, jot down notes to reuse later. As always, we’d love to see what you find.


  • May 18, 2015

    james w. moore

    here’s mine, based on (shudder) Glenn Beck’s speech:

    a kind of wreck

    if you were single We’d
    understand the
    endorsement of

    time may find
    possibly give you

    We live; We live
    like this
    willing to

    I feel out of place

    — you can view the website-redaction version here:(https://jameswmoore.wordpress.com/2015/05/18/a-kind-of-wreck/)

    • May 9, 2016


      James, I really like what you’ve done with this, and especially your opening and closing lines.

  • […] Found Poetry Review The FPR’s focus is graduation speeches: select any current or past speech. If you are attending a graduation, jot down notes to reuse later. Beth provides several links for us to look for a source text. Head over. […]

  • May 26, 2015


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  • May 28, 2015

    Richard Walker


    I am surprised this magical day
    I meant to get partial credit for that

    the graduation ceremony was empty
    see the bookkeeper for the reasons

    to learn to become a writer
    a dazzling move typing and sorting triplicate forms

    not very stimulating but it paid the bills
    if you want to be an artist you have to give up your dreams

    of swimming pools of bragging
    and maybe also a tiny fortune

    society promised the throbbing anxiety
    the respect of colleagues low-grade fame

    these things will save you the culture lies
    manage to keep down dozens

    dreams connection
    hallowed ground only spirit feeds

    This is from a commencement speech by Anne Lamott.

  • May 9, 2016


    “March 14, 1986”

    I wish I had listened
    to you Coach, giving your
    commencement speech
    at Ohio State University.
    I would have made sure,
    that I’d never let the other
    team beat me, Sir,
    &pledge that I’d never
    beat myself at my own game
    either, like I did.
    I wouldn’t have felt sorry
    for myself so much,
    opening up
    the road to alcohol
    &other tearing things.
    I would have realized
    I needed a mother.
    One whom I could never
    repay, so I’d have to
    pay it forward.
    I wish you’d say it again,
    “You can outwork anybody,
    Angie.” You know, Sir,
    I almost believe I would
    have found that to be true.

    (taken from Woody Hayes’
    commencement speech)

  • May 9, 2016

    JM Scott

    Here is mine, I choose Stephen Colbert’s commencement speech http://candlesticksandcadavers.blogspot.com/2016/05/sausage-of-knowledge.html