6 Poetic Writing Prompts that Explore the Concept of Duality

Duality is a contrast of two concepts that are often opposites. It is a powerful way to portray different perspectives or imagery when you are writing poems. Let’s walk through a few different examples of duality and identify how they can be used in your brainstorming sessions. 


Darkness and Light


The duality of darkness and light make for great opportunities for imagery. A poet can use themes such as good and evil or night and day to dive deeper into the contrasting elements of darkness and light. 


Writing Prompt: Write a poem of three stanzas: the first one focused on a theme of darkness, the second light, and the third a combination of two. It can be a literal or metaphorical poem drawing upon the concept of light versus dark in our hearts or our surroundings.


Grief and Gratitude 


The human experience is a complicated one, with many emotions coexisting in seemingly impossible ways. Every day, we try to find new ways to acknowledge and explain all the different emotions that we feel, even when they are in contrast with one another. For example, you can have extreme grief about a change in your life while also feeling thoroughly grateful for another part of your life. Neither feeling invalidates the other, but it requires honest reflection and vulnerability to feel the spectrum of complicated emotions life throws our way.


Writing Prompt: Think of two seemingly contrasting emotions that you’ve felt recently (such as the example given above of grief and gratitude). Write a poem where you explore both of these emotions and bring them together in a way that makes sense to your journey. 


Love and Loss


One absolute of this life is that we will experience loss if we’ve experienced love. This duality is similar to that of grief and gratitude, but it can be taken in slightly different directions as you analyze relationships in your life and the way they have evolved or faded over the years.


Writing Prompt: Write about a great love that resulted in loss or a great loss that resulted in love. Explore how that one relationship was able to represent both the feelings of love and loss. 


Fire and Ice 


Fire and ice are a common example of duality that we see play out in literature, especially when describing romance or competing characters. Imagery revolving around both fire and ice is powerful in describing the nature of each, as well as how incompatible they can be together. 


Writing Prompt: Explore the pros and cons of “fire” and “ice”. This could examine the components of “fire-like” personality traits compared to “cooler” ones. Consider the color palette of both or the different ways you could describe them. Write a poem about fire and ice as it applies to an aspect of your life, personality, or experience with a person or place. 


Right and Wrong


The epic showdown of good versus evil, right and wrong. Poets and writers have long examined the duality of these elements of human nature and how they impact the world around us. This topic is an opportunity to be reflective or point out the duality of a situation in your life. It can also serve to illustrate how the lines between the two can sometimes be blurred. 


Writing Prompt: Morality is often seen as “black” and “white” and actions are sorted into “right” and “wrong”. As human beings, we often find ourselves in grey areas where the right answer doesn’t seem so clear. Wrestle with this reality in a poem highlighting the contrast of right and wrong, either in a clear-cut manner or in a way that is a bit blurrier and harder to decipher. 


Heart and Mind


The common reference of listening to your heart or your mind often refers to the “emotional” versus the “practical”. They are often painted as being at odds with one another, and most of us will choose a side that best represents our personality. But are they always at odds? 


Writing Prompt: The heart and the mind are at war about a specific topic. Lay out each side’s argument and then bring the reader to a resolution. Or, you can leave it open-ended, giving the reader the opportunity to make the decision for themselves. 


The powerful imagery at play in poetry can be taken up a notch when we use contrasting themes or elements to further illustrate a point or topic. I hope these examples give you a starting point for thinking through different types of duality and how they can translate into profound and impactful poetry.