Dear City— micropoems as public engagement



Someone will remember us

                                            I say

                                           even in another time

This is a fragment by the ancient Greek poet Sappho, translated by Anne Carson, re-purposed here as a tweet, as a brief message to the city. A short poem, called a micropoem, can be a thought provocation, a tiny-but-mighty burst that can start a conversation in the public sphere, whether that’s in person or on a digital platform.

What do you want to say to your city?

Your micropoem can be a declaration of self-empowerment, a reminder to the powers that be. It can celebrate your city. It can ask a question. It can reveal a secret.

Please read the sample micropoems below and try one or more of the prompts. Submit 1-3 poems of no more than 5 lines to be published on Iowa City Poetry will select a few submitted poems to be included in a downtown projection project this summer.



After reading through the sample micropoems below, please try one or more (or a combination) of these prompts. Each submitted poem should be no more than 5 lines.

  • Write a haiku or a tanka, possibly beginning with the five-syllable line “Iowa City.”
  • Play around with a monostich or a free form. You can generate ideas by responding to the statement, “everyone thinks my city is X, but really it’s Y.”
  • Write a poem that fits on a postcard. What do you want the recipient to know about Iowa City? Or write the postcard poem to Iowa City itself.
  • Imagine you’re going to tweet @CityOfIowaCity. Write a Twitter-length poem (≤ 280 characters—or challenge yourself to write it in less than 140). What images best capture your experience of living in this particular place?


Haiku is a traditional Japanese form that had its beginnings in the 13th century. It’s a three-line poem consisting of 17 syllables, with lines of 5-7-5 syllables.

Tanka is one of the oldest Japanese forms, best known now as a five-line poem, with lines of 5-7-5-7-7 syllables.

A monostich is a single-line poem. Sometimes it has a title that provides context or even acts as the poem’s opening phrase. 

Free forms take whatever form the poet wants, like this micropoem from The Offing’s “micro” section:

#poetweet: With its length limits, Twitter has become a popular platform for micropoems, both traditional and contemporary.


This program is supported by Humanities Iowa and the National Endowment for the Humanities. The views and opinions expressed by this program do not necessarily reflect those of Humanities Iowa or the National Endowment for the Humanities. 

All images and text © Iowa City Poetry: 2012 - 2024. All rights reserved.

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