“Tip of the Tongue”

Poetry & Lyrics Challenge

To celebrate National Poetry Month, we challenged you to express yourself with an original short poem—even if you had never written a poem before.

More than 2,400 of you accepted the challenge! Our favorite submissions are featured below. Thank you for participating!

The Challenge

We asked you to write a poem that involves a feeling we’ve all experienced: when the right word is just out of reach, either because it’s on the tip of your tongue, or you’re completely blanking on it, or it simply doesn’t exist yet. Then we asked you to make up a word to fill the void!

There were just two simple parameters:
1. Poems were required to have at least 2 lines, but no more than 5.
2. They were required to end with one completely made-up word.

As long as it met these criteria, it could be any kind of poem: couplet, haiku, song lyrics, hip-hop bars, limerick, unrhymed free verse—all forms of poetry welcome!

To help get you started, we provided some 


A piano smashed into the ground.

It made the most incredible sound.

I tried to think of a word

To describe what I heard

But the closest I got was “GWEEOUND!”

Rhyming quatrain

My dog is a very weird boy.

He prances and acts really pompous.

He runs diagonally when he chases his toy. 

I think the right word to describe him is… “doggywampus.”


The word escapes me
For pining for the present
Perhaps “newstalgia”?


Walking, talking, and then the flash

Memes, theme songs, and all kinds of trash

Hits me all at once, brings me to my knees

And then it’s gone. It’s called a brain sneeze.

Submission Form

Challenge: Write a poem that involves having a word on the tip of your tongue, but then making one up instead. 

1. Your poem must have at least 2 lines, but no more than 5.
2. It must end with one completely made-up word—made up by you!

Featured Submissions 

It's something like a this and not a that,
Its sound is bliss, its meter pitter-pat,
And yet I miss the thing I'm aiming at!
My words have gone, and who knows where they went?
They've left my brain in deep embarglement.

It’s longer than a skwink,
But takes less time than a chorkel.
There’s no name for it, I think,
So I’ll christen it a skwirkle!

The thought door locks, ahh!
Allow the word to escape—
Ohhh, the languetip!

I can sing if I write; I can write if I try.
Yet try as I might, my mind's inkwell runs dry.
To try and describe the resplendence descried,
that beautiful word forth brought: intuilight.

Examples & Inspiration

The last day to submit is April 25. To participate, you must be 18 years of age or older.

Submit now

Wednesday, April 17

–Patrick Phelan

Jeanette Trefle

Faith Paterson


The word I wanted was there
I swear
Now evanescent
A wisp of memory
Like cotton candy at a childhood meadowfair

Curt Frye

We'll be featuring our favorite submissions here starting Wednesday, April 17. Check back each day to see if we've published your poem!

It’s that spring color,
caught between blue and purple and pink.
fanned across the evening sky,
something like “Apriline.”

–Lacy Sachsenmaier

Oh, I just can't think of that word.
I’m being driven quite absurd!
I’m quickly becoming mightily frazzled.
You might even find me to be kerfazzled!

–Penny Loughran

Blowing bubbles of lemma lexeme maps
Spherical popping a sticky lip wrap
A tongue that is catching the drops that fall splat!

–Jordin Ward

A thought so wise must be expressed,
I raise a voice so humble.
Alas, the word has evanesced.
I’m left with but a dumble.

–Suzanne Ives Dunkley

I’m in the middle of a literary crisis
Wish I could rhyme as I write my thesis
Scientific language is so boring
That’s why I am poet-crastinating!

–Zeynep Camgöz

Thursday, April 18

As I am writing, I try to think of a word.
But my brain is blank, not a sound to be heard.
I know that it’s out there, it’s just out of reach.
Ah! I know! The word is “kweatch”!

–Finn Peters

Egads! I can’t find that doohickey thing.
The gizmo that puts the “whee” in my spring.
My thingamajig? My thingamabob?
I know it. I found it. My whirligig-knob!

–Minette Bennett

There once was a girl from Antrim
Whose red hair made her prone to a tantrum
She couldn’t think of a word
To describe what she heard
So she called it a bleep logophantom.

Margaret Bratz

Am I only a prom dress
Used once and slightly torn
You posted me
Then you ghosted me
Leaving me hanging and feeling... gownworn.

David Forest

My old brain is ticking, but nothing clicks in
The word that I’m seeking is not bad or grim.
I know that it’s cheerful, or at least fun,
Oh heck, I’ll just say it’s “Bumdumdeehohum.”

Sue Whitehead

Her typing fingers stilled, her screen-lit face was drawn,
She could not find the perfect word, not even at Thesaurus.com!
Violently she smashed her forehead on her keyboard in desperate despair,
But behold, now on her page, a word the vocabulary gods had left her there:

Audrey M. R.

Grasping at the dust particles flowing near my head
Much like seeking to find the ephemeral expression in my mind
I feel deficient and my thoughts are inefficient
My words ineffective but for an invective
The ache of waning, a recognition of kenquaning

Seth Allen

Do your thoughts tend to race off train tracks at an angle?
Are the memories you’ve woven too twisted to untangle?
Do you grasp firmly for straws you’ve struggled to strangle?
This harrowing hidden illness is making you so unstable.
Ask your doctor how to fix a TimeWarpedMindMangle.


Words are combinations
Of letters with sensation
Finding the right one with contemplation
Excruciating, in sanction
Yet thrilling with no rules—PLAUSETATION

Christian Ludlam

Seeking a word, my thoughts did dance,
To express a common feeling, a familiar trance.
After a hard day’s work, weary and spent,
I anticipate the sensation of my sofa bound descent.
As I sink, body and mind find instant liberation, I’m in the embrace of pure “meltation”

Alison Eccleston

In the depths of thought, the word does hide,
Eluding grasp, it slips aside.
With furrowed brow, I search in vain,
To find the meaning of “froozalane.”

Anna Koedam

Former woes now seem light pranks
And did not cloud our brains in white banks
Now this spirit of time
Is seizing our mind:
We live in a moment of Zeitangst

Elizabeth Hudson

I meck here every chorning, hoping to ree my syme
I deally shouldn’t ro it, I tust don’t have the jime
Maybe I kould sheep quiet, just like a milly sime
My noems are worth pothing, well, maybe dust a jime
I’ll give it one gore mo because it’s nearly tupper sime

Margaret Jones

Woken up again, racing ideas compete, blot out sleep
Sounds, syllables, slang slip soundlessly into the night, evaporate through the curtains, tiptoe down the hall
They decide to cook midnight scrambled eggs, heard they induce slumber
Soporific, somniferous, somnolent, snoozy, soothing, letters leave
I’m mum-loquentzzzzzzz.

Shannon Christine

Oranges are orange, this we can see
And silverfish silver, we all must agree
So if Mr. Carroll’s sword can be mighty and vorpal
Why then, pray tell, aren’t porpoises porpal?

Andrew Boyd

I can’t find the words
Submission beckons, I yearn

Laura Schauben

At a loss for words
My mind is in overdrive
It comes out as blerp

Eli Heyrman

Groping for language, a fleeting sensation,
But the word escapes, a frustrating aberration.
In its wake, I conjure a lexical delight,
A fusion of syllables, a blazzleflight.

Susi Prola