Friday, January 23, 2015

Prompt #214 – The Language of Lunes

The Lune, also known as the American Haiku was created by poet and literature professor Robert Kelly as a response to traditional Haiku. His new “form” was a self-contained, tercet (three-line poem) that consisted of 13 syllables divided into 5, 3, 5 syllables per line (five in the first line, three in the second line, and five in the third line). Unlike haiku, though, there are no rules, no required kigo (season word), no cutting word, and no conceptual break (or the shift in perception that we often see in haiku). Kelly named his form the “Lune” because the right side of most examples creates a “syllabic shape” reminiscent of the crescent moon.

Poet Jack Collom devised a variation of Kelly’s Lune in a self-contained tercet that is word-based rather than syllable-based: three words in the first line, five words in the second line, and three words in the third line. Just as Kelly imposed no other rules, neither did Collom.


Decide which form of the Lune you’d like to try (Kelly’s syllable-number form, or Collom’s word-number form).

Then, simply write an image/thought of three words or five syllables as your first line and see where the poem takes you. Here are "formats" for you to experiment with (copy and paste into your document, and then fill in the lines).

Robert Kelly Style Lune (This style doesn’t use capitalization or punctuation.)

Line 1: Five Syllables

Line 2: Three Syllables

Line 3:  Five Syllables

Jack Collom Style Lune (This style does use capitals and punctuation.)

Line 1: Three Words

Line 2: Five Words

Line 3:  Three Words

If you like Lunes, try writing a series of related Lunes or a Lune poem that contains several Lune-stanzas (individual but related "links" that line up on the page like stanzas).


Stick to the format, and work toward the leaping (and crystal-cutting) quality of haiku.

Think in terms of imagery (Lunes are great for developing a sense of image).

Don’t try to be profound—simply make a statement and then “play” with the words to “pump up” your idea. Go for a moment in time, a small enlightenment, something wonderfully ordinary.

By nature, both Lune forms require strict attention to the words you use. Choose carefully!


A Lune from Robert Kelly’s book Knee Lunes.

     thin sliver of the
     crescent moon
     high up the real world

A Lune from Jack Collom’s  “Moving Windows: Evaluating the Poetry Children Write.”

     When the sun’s
     rays hit the shades, it
     lights up lines.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Prompt #213 – Tell It to the Birds

Everyone likes birds. 
What wild creature is more accessible to our eyes and ears,
 as close to us and everyone in the world, 
as universal as a bird (David Attenborough)

Note: I had some issues with this prompt when I first posted it on Saturday. Title and links font colors changed to an awful neon blue and, no matter how I tried, I couldn't correct them. After much "fiddling" about, and some great advice from our friend Diane Lockward, I deleted the post and have redone it. The blog seems to have "righted" itself, and all seems okay. I apologize to those of you who left comments, which were lost with the first post. Maybe you won't mind re-posting them? Thanks, dear readers, for your patience!

I’ve always loved birds (they appear frequently in my poems), and I raised small exotic birds for many years. Although I don't have any exotics living in the house with me now, I feed the backyard birds, especially during the cold months, and I always look forward to seeing them—from the nondescript sparrows to the brilliant cardinals.

This week, I’d like you write create a poem in which you direct your comments (a kind of monologue) to a bird. You may be serious or humorous, but the idea is to come up with a theme that somehow relates to or juxtaposes bird life and human life. For example, some possible themes might include freedom, flight/flying, providing for children, and not wanting to be caged (literally or figuratively).


Think of all the bird species you know and select one (i.e., sparrow, lark, robin, canary, zebra finch, parrot, macaw, hawk, egret, heron, mourning dove, early bird, night owl, phoenix, stork).

Make a list of things that you might say to a bird—work toward a single theme and stick to that theme.

Write a poem in which you talk to a bird-member of the species you chose.

An alternative might be to address comments to more than one bird (that reminds me of the story about St. Francis of Assisi and how he preached to a flock of birds).

Or, you might want to try a conversation with a bird in which you and the bird speak to one another (dialogue rather than monologue).

You may prefer a humorous approach and address a bird that dropped a little “something” on your shoulder or head, the stork that delivered your son or daughter, the crow that stole a piece of your jewelry, or the parrot (parakeet) that learned a few naughty words.


Think in terms of no more than a 12-15 lines.

Don’t spend a lot of time in describing the bird—focus on what you have to say to it.

Depending on which source you consult, you’ll find that various birds are symbolic of different qualities. Here are a few general ideas:

Doves symbolize peace.
Eagles symbolize power, resurrection, and courage.
Cranes symbolizes long life and immortality.
Falcons symbolize protection.
Nightingales symbolize love and longing.
Sparrows symbolize hope, gentleness, and intelligence.
Swans symbolize gracefulness and beauty.
Herons symbolize self-reliance and determination.
Hawks symbolize guardianship, illumination, and truth.
Woodpeckers symbolize magic and prophecy.
Robins symbolize joy, hope, and happiness.
Cardinals symbolize loved ones who have passed.
Crows symbolize trickery, cunning, and theft.


Saturday, January 10, 2015

Prompt #212 – Whatever You Do, Don't Read the Articles

If you’ve ever written for a newspaper, you know that newspaper articles must have headlines that say, “Stop and read this article.” They have to be accessible and engaging. The same is true for poems—“stop-and-read-me” titles (and first lines that invite you in) are imperative. And, like good newspaper headlines, good poems are driven by strong verbs. This week’s prompt uses newspaper headlines as the springboard for your poems.


Pick up any newspaper (current or old) and write any headlines that “jump out at you” on a piece of paper. Whatever you do, don’t read the articles, only the headlines.

Jot down headlines that immediately flash an image for you or cause you to remember something from your own or someone else’s past.

Jot down headlines that “speak” to you either figuratively (metaphorically), creatively, or remind you of actual events.

After you’ve written 5-10 headlines, sit back and read through them slowly. Make a few notes for each one.

Now, choose one and begin to write a poem based on what the headline suggested to you. Feel free to make up the content of the poem—you aren’t limited to actual experience.

For an interesting twist, check online for a foreign language newspaper, find a translation of the headline, and see what you can do with a headline in a language other than the text of your poem.


Use the active, not passive voice and strong present-tense verbs to create a sense of immediacy.

Try working with a “first, then, next” format to give the poem a sense of chronology or sequence, possibly formatting your poem in three stanzas. Feel free to make your stanzas long and closely packed.

Consider writing a narrative poem (though this is only a suggestion and not a requirement).

Work on strong verbs and a few, well-chosen adjectives.

Watch out for “ing” endings and prepositional phrases—eliminate these wherever you can.

Work on sound in your poem—that is, concentrate on alliteration, assonance, and a few internal rhymes or anaphora to give your poem a kind of music. Read your poem aloud with each bit of editing and revision and think about how it sounds.

The exact text of the headline that inspired you needn’t be included anywhere in the poem.


Couldn’t find a single one, so please send me some!

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Prompt #211 – Still Life Fast Moving & Happy New Year

Happy New Year!
It's great to be back blogging again!

I hope you all enjoyed the holiday season,
and I hope that 2015 brings you good health,
happiness and peace,
and, of course, the joys of poetry written and shared!

We’ve worked with ekphrasis before, and it’s always a great way to jump start the creative process. I thought we might begin this New Year with a prompt that takes its inspiration from a Salvador Dalí painting. (If you click on the picture, you'll get a larger image to work with.)

I recently used this prompt with one of my workshop groups, and the responses were amazing: five group members and five dramatically different poems.

By way of background on the artist, Salvador Dalí (May 11, 1904 – January 23, 1989) was born in Figueres, Spain in 1904. He is known for his technical skill as well as for his incredible imagination. Dalí was the only surviving male child of a wealthy Catalan family. After attending a leading art academy in Madrid, he became involved in the Surrealist movement (Paris, 1929), and soon became its most unmistakable and notorious member. Also in 1929, he met Gala Eluard when she visited him with her husband, poet Paul Eluard. Gala ultimately became Dalí’s wife, his muse, his principal model, and his life-long obsession.

By 1939, Dalí broke away from with the Surrealist movement. He and Gala left Europe in 1940 and spent the war years in the United States where his artistic philosophy changed as he rejected Modernism and embraced other traditions. They returned to Spain in 1947, but continued to spend time in both Spain and in the U.S. In 1974, Dalí established the Teatro-Museo Dali in Figueres to house his own art. After Gala died in 1982, Dalí’s own health declined, and he spent his final years in seclusion at home. Although considered outré by some, his work is arguably the most unique of the 20th century.


  • Look above at the picture of the painting Sill Life – Fast Moving by Salvador Dalí.
  • Study the various images and get a sense of “what’s going on” in the painting. Imagine the artist creating this painting.
  • How does the painting “speak” to you? To your life? To a specific experience that you’ve had?
  • Come up with a startling opening line (make the reader want to read more), and then write a poem based (even if only loosely) on this painting. Notice how Dalí controls his subjects and makes them float in mid-air—they tilt and tango and travel across the canvas in unexpected ways. Make your words do the same thing!
  • Don’t be afraid to experiment, to “translate” the painting into written language, to suggest emotion. Flip into the unexpected, or, find a more “standard” way of telling your “story.” Dalí was a Surrealist; so don’t hesitate to give Surrealism a nod if you’d like to try that kind of poetry. Most importantly, let the artwork direct your thoughts—let your poem tell you where it wants to go. 
  • Avoid cliches, sentimentality, and preachiness (poetry that beats you over the head with a message or moral rarely, if ever, works).
  • Create an integrated whole of language, form, and meaning.
  • Show, don't tell. 
  • Move with momentum and a sense of trajectory. 
  • Connect, reveal, surprise.
  • Remember that your dismount shouldn't merely "sum up" the poem. Close with a punch.

Here's a poem written by Bob Rosenbloom from my writing workshop group in which the inspiration painting reminded him of another, and he merged two Dalí paintings in this "encounter with the artist."

                  By Bob Rosenbloom

After The Persistence of Memory and Still Life-Fast Moving by Salvador Dali
It is what it is, Dali said— 
generations trapped
in tar pits of parent-guilt.
Travel light, he says.
He led me into his efficiency apartment. 
What is persistent memory, he asked?
It chases its tail. Its fragrant.
It smells like bacon grease.
Character is key, he pontificates,
great art, basic. 
The fundamental rules apply.
Enjoy yourself, it's later than you think.
Make someone happy.
You're nobody until somebody loves you.
I felt like a tourist in the art world, 
a Sunday driver, thanks to Sal.
Come for breakfast on the weekend, he said.
He mixed me up with someone from Manhattan,
The Village, probably.
I'm Brooklyn born, Jersey now.
His "clocks" had melted, slid down
the walls and came to relax on furniture.
Soft wax coated the sofa and credenza.
Mounds of it clogged the kitchen sink.
Time disappears like electron traces
in cloud chambers, memory clings
like sweaters charged with enough
static electricity to light up New York.
I told him what I thought to be 
universal truth, that
God wound up a big spring
clock and walked away.  
Time has been nothing but trouble
ever since.

And here's another by Nancy Lubarsky that takes a completely different direction:

     By Nancy Lubarsky

—After  Still Life – Fast Moving by Salvador Dali

The mess – It begins innocently with
yesterday’s clothes, this morning’s
breakfast dishes, today’s mail. Over time
it spreads to floors, cabinets, drawers,
and hard-to-reach shelves.

The mess – We argue, blame each other:
Aren’t those YOUR jeans?
I thought YOU put the mugs in the sink.
These coupons – do you REALLY need them?
But it’s too late.

The mess – It grows and expands
to every surface, every corner. It’s why we
can’t shut the closet door, or pull it open.
It’s the excuse not to invite friends over,
or the reason we lug piles to the attic.

The mess – We clean it up, the next day
it’s back.  It swells through doorways
and out to the porch, the yard –
it’s our own Blob without
Steve McQueen to rescue us.

The mess – It’s become family.
We squeeze between it while
watching TV, excuse ourselves
when we trip over it.
It even has its own room.

The mess – Someday we’ll retire to a
seaside cottage with tables that can tilt
toward the water. Or, better yet, when
laundry, dishes, or paper piles feel an
ocean breeze – they will rise up,
and take leave.

And ... a murder scene by Basil Rouskas:

     By Basil Rouskas      

After Sill Life – Fast Moving By Salvador Dalí

Make no mistake,
this is a murder scene!
Don’t look at half-full
wine glasses, empty bottle’s
levitation over tables, or
orange rhombuses
on the butcher table.
Forget dried coral reefs,
and artsy-stem bowls;
they are all here to distract.

Don’t be fooled by brown leaves
or a pear’s mock grind against
the sharpened knife.
Who cleaned the blood from it?
Why would you settle peeling a pear
when you’ve just drained a queen’s blood?
And, where is the second glass?

The murderer wants to confuse —
Check out the aimless
swallow’s flight
and shadowy patterns’
nitty gritty obsession
with the tablecloth’s wrinkles.

Most of all, look at
the invisible man’s hand
on the left — he sits where
the sun sits; his seashell
doesn’t miss an ocean sound.
Is he The One?
Where did the lovers go?
No blood stains?
Where are the bodies?
Are these cherries on the table,
or her lover’s eyes?
And, where is the second glass?

And, adding on January 4th, still another "take" from the poetry workshop group:

     By Wendy Rosenberg
—After Still Life–Fast Moving by Salvatore Dali

They met on the beach—
leaves in her hair,
sand stuck to cheeks.

He saw her through teenage
eyes, asked for a date—
dinner, his place.

She arrived before sunset,
watched his table float, and
the olives dangle midair.

An apple hit from behind
glared at her through its
pale, bruised skin.

She mistook a broccoli head
for flowers, sniffed it, thought,
How sweet.

Her parents, in a parked car,
didn’t see the water turn to
ribbon, or hear the neighbor’s,

No one’s home! They didn’t see
their daughter jump the gate,
pummel the table,

slice the pear, sip the Scotch,
or salt her ego. The gull
refused her invitation—

suggested instead she sit
in a bowl, chat with the shadows,
and move on.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Happy Holidays! December 6, 2014 – January 3, 2015

As in the past, I’m going to take a brief  December hiatus 
and will begin posting new prompts again in January.

I send my sincerest thanks to all of you who have visited this blog over the past year, to loyal readers who visit regularly, and to those of you who have taken the time to post comments and poems. Poetry is about sharing, and I'm grateful for the sharing that happens here! I wish you all special blessings of light, love, and peace throughout this joyous season. 

And, as this year comes to a close, I wish all of you 
a New Year filled with abundant good health and much happiness!

Regular posts will resume on Saturday, January 3, 2015, 
so please stay tuned until then.

In the meantime, if you'd like to revisit some previous holiday season prompts, here are two links:

And ... a few of my favorite holiday poems that you might enjoy:

 "A Hymn on the Nativity of My Savior" by Ben Jonson
"The Feast of Lights" by Emma Lazarus
"Are We Done Yet?" by Gail Fishman Gerwin

Visit Christmas Article & Poems for an excellent article on Christmas poems. Also on this site are Christmas poems that you can access by clicking on the titles in the left sidebar.

Happy holidays to all!

In poetry and blogging,
Adele & Chaucey

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Prompt #210 – The Loveliness of Words by Guest Prompter Diane Lockward

Once again, I’m happy to offer a guest prompt sent to us by Diane Lockward (click here for Diane's picture and bio) from her excellent resource The Crafty Poet: A Portable Workshop. If you haven’t gotten a copy of Crafty Poet yet, I strongly recommend it as a terrific text designed to jump start your writing process and to provide you with many sources of creative inspiration. Click on the book cover image to order.

From Diane

One of the qualities that distinguishes an outstanding poem from a merely competent one is language that sizzles, sings, and surprises. And yet too many of us settle for ordinary language when extraordinary language is available and free to everyone.

Never settle for the first words that come to you; go in search of the best words. If you don’t begin with the best words, as is most often the case, be sure that you end with them. In your revision process, go through your poem and interrogate each line, asking again and again, Is this the best word here? Choose words for their meaning and their music.

Here’s a poem and prompt from The Crafty Poet: A Portable Workshop. Read the poem by Rod Jellema and luxuriate in his language. Be sure to say the poem aloud. Put the words in your mouth and savor them. Then try the prompt that follows the poem. Enjoy!

Because I Never Learned the Names of Flowers

It is moonlight and white where
I slink away from my cat-quiet blue rubber truck
and motion myself to back it up to your ear.
I peel back the doors of the van and begin
to hushload into your sleep
the whole damn botanical cargo of Spring.

Sleeper, I whisk you
Trivia and Illium, Sweet Peristalsis, Flowering Delirium.

Sprigs of Purple Persiflage and Lovers’ Leap, slips
of Hysteria stick in my hair. I gather clumps of Timex,
handfuls of Buttertongues, Belly buttons and Bluelets.

I come with Trailing Nebula, I come with Late-Blooming
Paradox, with Creeping Pyromania, Pink Apoplex,
and Climbing Solar Plexus,

whispering: Needlenose,
Juice Cup, Godstem, Nexus, Sex-us, Condominium.

                                                           —Rod Jellema

I admire the wordplay in this poem, the sexiness of it. The language is romantic, fanciful, and musical. Notice the made-up words like cat-quiet and hushload. And the beauty of the flower names. Real names, made-up ones, or silly ones, they are fun to say, to roll around in the mouth.

Notice the sound devices, e.g., the alliteration in Buttertongues, Belly buttons and Bluelets. And the rhyming of Paradox, Apoplex, Plexus, Nexus, Sex-us. Wouldn’t it be lovely to be that Sleeper and have someone whispering all this into your ear as you nod off?

Choose a category, perhaps fruits, vegetables, birds, or fish. Or choose something within the category, e.g., apples, beans, or lettuces—something that has variety. Then create a bank of words with great sounds, some rhyming words, some near rhyming words. Let some of those words be nouns, some verbs, a few adjectives. Make up some of the words. Make your word choices delicious.

Imagine an auditor. (This is a key ingredient in creating a strong voice.)

Then begin your draft with Because I never learned the names of __________.

Drawing from your word hoard, write a poem delivered very privately to your auditor.

In revision change your poem to make it uniquely yours. 

You might want to check out these contemporary poems, all of which do wonderful things with language. 


Thank you, Diane!

Be sure to visit Diane online at

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Prompt #209 – List Your Blessings

“Gratitude is the heart’s memory.”
   French Proverb
Here in the U.S., Thanksgiving will be celebrated this week on Thursday, November 27th. Our Thanksgiving has a long history beginning in 1621 when the Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians shared an autumn harvest feast that is considered the first Thanksgiving celebration. For over 200 years, days of thanksgiving were celebrated by individual colonies and states. In 1827, magazine editor Sarah Josepha Hale began a campaign to establish Thanksgiving as a national holiday. Finally, in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln set the last Thursday in November as the official day for a national Thanksgiving observance. In 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt moved the holiday up a week, and in 1941 Roosevelt signed a bill that designated the fourth Thursday in November as Thanksgiving Day. Thanksgiving is also celebrated in certain other countries, including Canada, Grenada, Liberia, The Netherlands, and the Australian external territory of Norfolk Island.

Gratitude is a developmental emotion, and books have been written on its psychology. Cicero said, “Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.” There are times in our lives when we feel more Grinch than grateful, especially when the stresses of every day living gather momentum and all but overwhelm us. However, acknowledging and expressing our gratitude can have a beneficial effect on our lives, relationships, and work.

What are you grateful for? This week let’s write a list poem about the blessings in our lives and things for which we’re grateful.

A list poem is one in which each line may begin the same way (repetition or anaphora).

The French proverb above tells us, “Gratitude is the heart’s memory.” Our first step in writing this week will be to remember—to look into our memories to identify a list of things for which we’re grateful. (A couple of years ago, we did this same prompt but focused on a single thing.)


1. Make a list of blessings in your life or a list of things for which you’re thankful—be inclusive, try to get as many items on your list as possible (things for which you’re truly grateful, even small things that are sometimes taken for granted).
2. A list poem is typically one in which each line may begin the same way (repetition or anaphora). You may start out using this kind of format and either keep it or change it when you begin revising.
3. Your poem may be stichic (one stanza with no line breaks), it may be a formal poem (ode, sonnet, villanelle, or a kyrielle as we worked with in Prompt #32, November 20, 2010); you may choose to write a prose poem or your poem may take the form of prayer or a letter.
4. As you write, think about the reasons for your gratitude and show (without telling) what those feelings mean.


1. Pay attention to the order of your list. Is there a beginning, a middle, and end. You may want to move your list items around. Remember that you’ll need a good dismount—perhaps the last line in your poem won’t begin as the others have.
2. Dig deeply to reach beyond the specifics of your personal experience to the underlying universal subject with which your readers will identify.
3. As an alternative to a list poem, you might address or dedicate your poem to a person for whom you're thankful, or you might go to the flip side and write about a challenging time (or a time of adversity) that somehow led you to feelings of gratefulness (my mom used to say that good always comes from bad).


Saturday, November 15, 2014

Prompt #208 – So ... Who's YOUR Hero?

Without heroes, we're all plain people, and don't know how far we can go.

   Bernard Malamud

This prompt was inspired, believe it or not, by an old picture of the actor Fess Parker dressed as Davey Crockett. As a child I had a large poster of Fess/Davey that hung in my bedroom. My cousin Eddie and I had a coonskin caps and, along with other neighborhood kids, we played “Davey Crockett” in the woods across the street—Davey Crockett was our hero.

I think we all have heroes of one stripe or another and, of course, our heroes change as we advance in age and experience. I think it's safe to say that we all need heroes. 

Some heroes nurture and inspire us (parents, relatives, friends), some give us hope (those who are successful, those who have been where we are, survivors), and others provide us with examples of justice and morality (those who do good, those whom we admire and wish to emulate). For most of us, heroes are enlightened spirits, noble souls, courageous people who have the same frailties and shortcomings we do but who rise to overcome them. They tell us that what’s possible for them is possible for us. They give us hope, they feed our dreams, they encourage us to try harder to be better tomorrow than we are today. Even if our heroes are imaginary figures, otherworldy, or lived in another age, our admiration for them holds for us an invitation to achieve.

That said, who’s your hero or heroine? Your role model? Someone you respect and admire with all your heart?

Historically, literature includes the epic poem, which is a long, narrative poem that focuses on the deeds of a heroic person. The ancient epics of Homer and Virgil are among these, as are more modern versions by such poets as Hart Crane and Alice Notley.

Don't panic, we’re not going to write epic poems this week! Instead, let’s just write a tribute about, or to, a personal hero or heroine (past or present). Here are some ideas:
  • a comic book or movie superhero
  • a parent, foster parent, or relative
  • a husband or wife
  • a child or young person
  • an elderly person
  • a unique friend
  • a mentor or confidant
  • a person who has given something special to the world
  • a veteran of the armed services
  • a religious or spiritual leader
  • a courageous person
  • a person who has enriched your life
  • someone who saved your life (actually or metaphorically)
  • a heroic animal


1. Think about people you’ve admired (from your earliest memories to the present).
2. Select one person as the subject for your poem.
3. Begin by making a list of that person’s special qualities.
4. Jot down some ideas about your experience of, or with, that person.
5. Decide whether you prefer writing a poem addressed to your hero or a poem about your hero.
6. Alternatively, you might write a poem about heroes in general (why heroes mean to us, why they’re important).
7. Another possibility is to write a poem about an anti-hero (a flawed hero or heroine with underlying complexities of personality or experience that set him or her apart from the typical heroic person.
8. Still, another poem possibility is to write about how you have been (or tried to be) a hero or heroine to someone. A comic hero might work well with this option.


1. When you begin writing your poem, avoid over-use of complimentary adjectives. Show rather than tell why the person you’re writing to, or about, is special to you.
2. Be aware that if you “go overboard” with praise, the effect of your poems may be lost in that applause. Gratuitous back-patting never works in a poem. Again, show, don’t tell.
3. Increase the energy and immediacy of your poem by bringing it into the present tense. Even if you’re writing about a past hero, try to work through the present.
4. Work toward ways in which your poem honors a particular hero or heroine by exploring, plumbing, illuminating, and situating the human condition.
5. Don’t try to be lofty or overly laudatory. It’s important to be genuine and humble. Honor your hero through connections, revelations, and surprises.