Saturday, July 26, 2014

Prompt #193 – “Ing” and the Passive Voice

One of the things I tell poets in my workshop groups is that it’s a good idea to avoid using “ing” words. This, of course, isn’t a blanket “rule” to be applied in every case, and it can all get a bit grammatical and technical, but it’s good to be aware of things that can weaken an otherwise good poem.

The past tense refers to things that happened in the past. To make the past tense of regular verbs, “ed” is added to the infinitive, as in “I asked her a question.” The present participle refers to things that are still happening. To create the present participle, “ing” is added to the infinitive, as in “I am asking her a question.” A third option, and one that often works well in a poem, would be to simply bring everything into the immediate moment with “I ask her a question.”

So, the “ing” verb form may be used as a present participle. It may also be used as a gerund, or sometimes as an independent noun or adjective. That is, “ing” is used to form both gerunds and present participles of verbs. When “ing” forms are used as verbs, adjectives or adverbs, they are usually called present participles. When they are used like nouns, they are usually called gerunds.

Too technical? Yes, one might make a meal of the grammar, but it’s the practical application that counts, so here are examples of how you might want to edit “ing” words into forms that will be effective in writing poetry:

“Ing” Form: I was walking through the forest
“Ing-less” Form: I walk through the forest.

“Ing” Form: I am teaching the class.
“Ing-less” Form: I teach the class.

And, here are examples of changing from the passive voice to the active voice:

Active: The professor teaches the students.
Passive: The students are being taught by their professor.        

Active: The John paid the bill.
Passive: The bill has been paid by John.                

Active: I have placed an order for a new computer.
Passive: An order for a new computer has been placed by me.

Active: He has completed done his work.
Passive: His work has been completed by him.

Active: She has written a story.
Passive: A story has been written by her.

Active: My neighbors have built a Tudor-style house.
Passive: A Tudor-style house has been built by my neighbors.

So, in a nutshell (pardon the cliché), avoid overusing participles and gerunds; use them sparingly and only when they add a certain dynamism or a sense of “ongoingness” to a poem. And … work toward using the active rather than the passive voice in your poems.


1. Take a look at the following poem. It’s one I wrote many years ago and which appeared in my book Chosen Ghosts. Like many poems from the past, I look at it now and think of various ways in which I can make it a better poem than it is.

East Canada Creek

A creek-side trail in early spring,
the rocks and the water,
a narrow footbridge crossing from here to there…

I’m listening to the creek
as it tumbles and slides over moss-softened stones,
as it gurgles and lisps past one turning and another
and another. Such music!
I feel it like a dancer, with my whole body,
with every muscle on edge, especially my heart.
I’m humming Respighi and Schubert’s C Major.
I’m rubbing my hands in the bank’s wet clay,
coloring my forehead and chin, like a Celt, with its red.
I’m splashing in current up to my knees,
hooting and howling and chasing water striders.
I’m stretching my arms and my legs
and leaping with a deer into the thicket.
I’m walking through aisles lined with lupine,
with bloodroot and trillium.
I’m kneeling to pray where ferns uncurl into mist.
I’m sitting under the pines with my legs drawn up,
my elbows on my knees, my chin in my hands,
saved by the sorrows I love and this wildness,
so brilliant, so flawlessly clear.

2. Now, edit the poem by changing all the “ing” words to the simple present tense. Create an active voice (and get rid of some words and details if you think there are too many).

Here’s a quick revision (but don’t look at it until you’ve finished your own):

East Canada Creek                                               

A creek-side trail in early spring,
                 the rocks and the water,
                        a narrow footbridge crossing
                                    from here to there…

I listen to the creek as it tumbles and slides
over moss-softened stones, as it gurgles and
lisps past one turning and another. Such music!
I feel it like a dancer, with my whole body,
with every muscle on edge, especially my heart.
I hum Respighi and Schubert’s C Major, rub my
hands in the bank’s wet clay, and color my
forehead and chin, like a Celt, with its red. I
splash in current up to my knees, and chase
water striders. I stretch my arms and my legs
and leap with a deer into the thicket where I
walk through aisles lined with lupine, with
bloodroot and trillium. I kneel to pray where
ferns uncurl into mist and sit under pines with
my legs drawn up, elbows on my knees, chin
in my hands, saved by the sorrows I love and
this wildness—so brilliant, so flawlessly clear.

3. Extend the exercise and write a poem in which you use the passive voice and include several verbs with “ing” endings.
4. Then, edit the poem to remove most (if not all) of the “ing” endings, and switch to the active voice.

5. An alternative might be to take a look your own previously written poems and edit out unnecessary “ing” endings (and change to the active voice in cases where you used the passive voice). 


1. Words that end in “ing,” such as gerunds, can interfere with the flow of a poem and encumber the music and flow of a poem. Musically (or metrically) speaking, the addition of the extra syllable (“ing”) might take the place of another word that might add to the poems meaning or affect. Importantly, the extra (“ing” syllable applied to a word used to evoke emotion becomes a kind of stumbling block that causes the verb to lose some of its punch.

2. The crux of the issue is that “ing” endings can lead to passivization in a poem when an active voice and immediacy can buttress the poem’s power. Often a simple present tense works best and can add the power of immediacy to a poem.


See Above

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Prompt #192 – In, Above, Beyond: Prepositional Phrases in Poetry

One of the things you’ll hear in poetry workshops is to “cut the clutter” and that too many prepositional phrases can weaken a poem. In poetry, we usually try to eliminate prepositional phrases whenever we can. For example, why write “members of the group” when we can write more simply “group members?”

A preposition shows the relationship between a noun or pronoun and other words in a sentence. The combination of a preposition and a noun phrase is called a prepositional phrase.

Prepositions usually convey these relationships: agency (by); comparison (like, as); direction (to, toward, through); place (at, by, within, beside, on); possession (of); purpose (for); source (from, out of); and time (at, before, on, during).

The combination of a preposition and a noun phrase is called a prepositional phrase. A prepositional phrase consists of a preposition, its object (usually a noun or a pronoun), and any modifiers of the object:

preposition + noun, pronoun, gerund, or clause

preposition + modifier(s) + noun, pronoun, gerund, or clause

Assuming that you’re familiar with prepositional phrases ... and ... without getting into a long grammar lesson, let’s reverse the rule and write poems comprised mainly of prepositional phrases.


1. Come up with a subject and see how many prepositional phrases you can write that pertain to your subject.

2. Begin putting your phrases into sentences that describe or somehow explain something about your subject.

3. Each line should begin with a prepositional phrase and should include 3-5 additional words.

4. Your poem should contain several prepositional phrases. The challenge is to make some sense of things within your poem—not just a list of unrelated prepositional phrases.

5. Now, and here’s the part about practical application and your writing: look at several poems you’ve written previously and circle the prepositional phrases. Are they all necessary? Can you edit any out?


1. A prepositional phrase often appears after the word it modifies:

 A bird from my neighbor’s aviary flew into my back yard.

2. Like adverbs, prepositional phrases that modify verbs can also be found at the beginning or end of a sentence:  

In the afternoon, a bird flew into my yard.

A bird flew into my yard in the afternoon.

3. Here are some commonly used prepositions for you to work with:

instead of


At the Amusement Park

At the amusement park,
beyond the pine trees,
within the crowds,
under the roller coaster,
inside the fortuneteller’s tent,
in the house of mirrors,
over the first grief of loss
but still missing you.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Prompt #191 – Writing the Day, One Ronka at a Time by Guest Blogger Kenneth Ronkowitz

I’m happy to introduce you to this week’s guest blogger, Ken Ronkowitz, and to a form of poem called the ronka that he invented. I recently read with Ken at a group reading for The Crafty Poet: A Portable Workshop, and his poem, based on a prompt that called for a poem to be composed of clichés, really blew me away because it was so much more than just clichés—there were meaning and purpose and a strong sense of craftsmanship that made the clichés feel strangely right.

In addition to being a poet with publications in a wide range of journals and anthologies, Ken has worked a social media coordinator for the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), has been an instructor at Montclair State University, and an instructor in humanities and professional and technical communications at New Jersey Institute of Technology. His interests range from teaching, instructional design, and curriculum development to web design, blogging, and media design and management.

From Ken:

This year I wanted to take on a daily writing practice with my poetry. It’s not an original New Year’s resolution. William Stafford is the poet who inspired me the most. He wrote every day of his life from 1950 to 1993. Not everything he wrote was a poem. His 20,000 pages of daily writings include early morning meditations, poems, dream records, aphorisms, and other “visits to the unconscious.” 

I do write every day, but not always poetry, so the resolution was to do a daily poem. Stafford did go through a period when that was also his goal. When he was asked how he was able to produce a poem every morning, he replied, “I lower my standards.” I like that answer, but, while the phrase has a negative connotation, Stafford meant that he allowed himself some bad poems knowing that with daily writing there will be eventually be some good work. I wanted to impose some form on myself each day and I thought using a short form might make the project more likely to succeed. I love haiku, tanka, and other short forms, but I ended up creating my own form for this project.

   Finding a photo of her 

   from that summer when we were fifteen 
   that hot day behind the beach house 
   her bare shoulders, back, arms and legs—
   when I suddenly realized she’s a woman 
   and it startled me. It startled me.

I call my form the ronka—obviously a somewhat egotistical play on the Japanese tanka form. To read more about tanka, click here.

For my invented form, a ronka contains 5 lines, each having 7 words without concern for syllables. It’s important to know that many Westerners consider haiku to be 5, 7, and 5 lines counted by syllables, but, the Japanese language has no syllables, and applying syllables to Japanese forms of poetry has always been a Western convention. So … no syllable counts for the ronka.

Letters Loved

Old letters from lovers, not love letters,
but timelines of relationships like plot diagrams—
conflicts, turning points, resolutions, conclusions, mostly tragedies.
Why do I save them? No sequels.
Dangerous tinder to have around. Best burned.

As with traditional tanka, I decided to have no rhyme. (Even accidental rhymes were considered faults in a tanka.) I also decided to use the haiku principle of show rather than tell. For example, to indicate spring by mentioning cherry blossoms rather than stating the season. I started the year trying not to include myself or people as frequently as we do in Western poetry, those have crept into the poems. I have even added a few footnotes and links to poems.

Fathers and Sons

Sons grow up and leave their fathers
to become fathers and perhaps have sons.
Child is the father of the man,
said another poet, his heart leaping up.
Five days of rain, then, a rainbow.

We are just past mid-year and I have maintained by daily poem practice without great difficulty. I post them online at Writing the Day and each observation of the day is categorized as being from the outside world or inside the world of dwellings or the mind. I write at all times of the day, but most poems seem to come at the end of the day. (I also set a daily 10 pm reminder on my phone about posting a poem.) A non-poet might think that writing 35 words a day is not much of a challenge, but poets will understand that I frequently don’t write much faster than a word-per-minute. I also post an image (my own or borrowed) with each poem. Some poems are ars poetica or poems about poetry or writing.

Firefly Revision

Basho considered a Kikaku haiku as cruel:
A red firefly / tear off its wings –
a pepper.  A pepper / give it wings –
   a red firefly, was Basho’s simple change.
   Revision as a Buddhist act of kindness.


No, writing poetry is more like carving
wood and taking away, finding the heart
hidden inside, paring, using point and blade.
The danger comes from the dull knife.
The soft inside will be thrown away.

Some are observations on a particular day, such as this one from the Friday the 13th in June:

The Thirteenth

A thirteenth day that is a Friday.
A full moon to complete a triad
of  strange correlation without any real causation.
We look carefully for signs and connections—
find clockwork regularity; serendipity in the moments. 

The blog I post to has a “tag cloud” feature, and I tag each ronka with a few keywords that describe the poem. It is interesting to me to see what words occur most frequently: birds, time, the moon and tea have all been things that I seem to return to this year. Titles have become another way of adding a line to the poem, though I still limit myself to seven words there too.

I’m Not an Actor in Hollywood 

But I want a body and stunt double.
I want better lighting. No high definition.
More scenes and lines, 20 against 20,
gross points on profits, hand and footprints,
a star on the Walk of Fame. 

There are lots of books and websites to find poetic inspiration through writing prompts. I have been doing a monthly one at Poets Online since 1998. Adele has provided almost 200 well-defined prompts here already. My fellow New Jersey poets, Maria Mazziotti Gillan and Diane Lockward have excellent craft books with prompts—Writing Poetry To Save Your Life and The Crafty Poet, respectively. William Stafford and Stephen Dunning’s Getting the Knack is a book I bought when I started teaching and I still dip into for inspiration. Daily practices have a long history as paths of transformation spiritually, physically and for learning a craft. Perhaps, meditation and prayer will be your spiritual practice. Perhaps, yoga, tai chi or running is your physical practice. You might even combine them—kinhin is walking meditation. Consider a daily writing practice, whether it be poetry, a field guide from nature, a garden journal, one page of that long-intended novel. Disciplines of the mind are a good way to a healthy brain!

Thanks so much for sharing with us, Ken!

Ken’s advice to write something every day is a suggestion I share (although I don’t always manage to write every day). For those of you who would like to try writing a ronka, some guidelines and tips follow.

1. Decide on a subject for your ronka.
2. Compose your poem in five lines—each line must contain 7 words (no more, no less).
3. Don’t be concerned with syllables, only the number of words in each of your five lines.
4. Avoid rhyming (although alliteration, assonance, and anaphora are okay to create a sense of music in your poem).
5. Instead of just telling about your subject, include things that suggest, for example, the season or time of year.
6. Work through imagery to create meaning and an emotional center.
7. Think of a title (maybe drawn from a line or phrase in your ronka)—the title may or may not be severn words long.
8. Make room for some silences in your ronka (caesuras), and remember that sometimes the most important part of a poem is what’s left unsaid.
9. Remember that meaning should never be subordinate to form, and compose carefully with your focus on what you mean (what you want to say).
10. Resist the urge to finish a poem by tying it up in a neat little package. Your dismount should bring the poem to closure in a meaningful and memorable way.

Be sure to visit Ken’s website
and its companion blog

Saturday, July 5, 2014

A Lightness, A Thirst, or Nothing At All

I'm so happy to share the news that a publication date of  December 7, 2014 has been set for my new book, a collection of 53 prose poems! The book is already available for generously discounted pre-orders at and is up on my publisher's website Welcome Rain Publishers.

After taking this holiday weekend off (4th of July weekend), I'm going to begin the process of final tweaking and editing. So ... I hope you all have a wonderful weekend, here in the U.S. and abroad, and there will be a new prompt for you next Saturday.

Here's the book trailer!

From the Publisher's Website

"Intensely focused, compressed, and sharp-edged, these prose poems by Adele Kenny take the spiritual journey into heightened awareness of experience, place, and identity. Deliberate fragments, the language of dreams, and an occasional nod to the surreal combine with Kenny’s signature elements of striking imagery, lyrical precision, and compelling immediacy to inform an enhanced vision of the ways in which the interior life intersects with the outside world. These poems startle, surprise, and tell us things about ourselves that we didn’t know."

ISBN: 9781566493963
80 Pages

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Prompt #190 – So Much Depends

The first time I read William Carlos Williams’ famous poem “The Red Wheelbarrow,”  I thought it was silly. A red wheelbarrow beside white chickens? I was about 11 years old and hooked on Robert Frost—obviously not ready for the kind of profound compression, mystery, and power that Williams achieved.

The Red Wheelbarrow

so much depends

a red wheel

glazed with rain

beside the white

“The Red Wheelbarrow,” like so many other Williams poems, is experimental. It appears to be a single sentence that ends with a period but doesn’t begin with a capital letter. The lineation is abrupt and dotted with monosyllabic words. 

Williams doesn’t tell us why “so much depends / upon” the “red wheel / barrow / glazed with rain / water / beside the white / chickens.” He invites us to ask and to answer that question for ourselves.

In what has been called a “still life poem,” the last brushstroke adds another color and another image: white is set in juxtaposition to the earlier red, and chickens are added to the wheelbarrow image, leaving the reader to wonder what exactly depends upon the red wheelbarrow, whether or not the wheelbarrow is a metaphor for something else and, perhaps, why this poem has become well known.


1. Choose an object that represents or “remembers” something important to you (an object that you “live with” now or one from memory), and write a poem in which you describe that object. Don’t tell why it's important or what depends upon it. Use the Williams poem as a model for your own.

2. Williams famously said, “No ideas but in things,” which suggests that ideas, emotions, and abstractions should be avoided. Work toward that in your poem.

3. William breaks his poem into the red wheelbarrow’s most basic parts to create a sense of looking closely at each component of the scene. Include your object in a simple scene and create the poem’s power through compression and simplicity.

4. Williams uses line and color in much the same way that a painter might, but he uses them sparingly. Try to do the same in your poem.


1. Think carefully about why the object you chose to write about is important to you. What depends (or has depended) upon it?

2. The wheelbarrow is introduced starkly with only the word “red” to create drama and contrast with the white chickens. Introduce a single bit of bright color in your poem, and set it in juxtaposition to something white, black, or gray.

3. Use some monosyllabic words to heighten the effect.

4. Use short lines with no unnecessary words and no figures of speech.

5. There's a striking pause between “wheel” and “barrow” in the Williams poem. Create a single unusual or meaningful pause in one line of your poem.

6. Don’t explain why the object you write about is important but suggest something about its meaning.

7. Reflect upon Williams’ poem and think about what makes it so powerful. Think about creating complexity through simplicity.


Saturday, June 21, 2014

Prompt #189 – SummerScapes

Today marks the summer solstice, the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. Every year on the solstice, I read some or all of Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and think about the time I visited Stonehenge to watch the sun rise on Midsummer morning. After the severe winter we had here in the northeastern U.S., this spring and summer couldn’t come quickly enough, and now that summer is here, it seems a good time to celebrate with a poem that’s light, lovely, or filled with a sense of summer fun. With that in mind, our prompt this week is to simply write a poem about the solstice, midsummer night, summer, or any aspect of summer that makes you feel good. 


1. Make a list of happy summer memories and select one memory from your list to write about.

2. Write a funny summer poem.

3. Write a poem about any character from Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” (Titania, Oberon, Puck). Or write a poem from the perspective of one of the characters.

The entire play may be read here:

4. Do a stream of consciousness poem about summer. Think about summer and just start writing. Write for about 10 minutes and see where your thoughts have lead you.

5. Using your five senses as inspiration, create a “SummerScape” that includes summer’s sights, sounds, scents, tastes, and touches.

6. Write something "magical" (or a summer fantasy) in a poem about the summer solstice.


1. Make your poem a kind of celebration. Have fun with it. Think warmth, bright skies, sunshine, flowers, leafy trees, children playing outdoors, swimming pools, sailboats, lazy days, vacations—think fullness and abundance.

2.  Use sound (alliteration, assonance, anaphora) to give your poem a sense of summer.

3. Keep your tone light.

4. Use line and stanza breaks that enhance your content.

5. Remember: nothing superfluous—no extra words, lines, phrases, images. Don’t include anything that your poem doesn’t absolutely need.


Happy Summer solstice, dear blog readers!

"Then followed that beautiful season... Summer.... Filled was the air with a dreamy and magical light; and the landscape Lay as if new created 
in all the freshness of childhood." 
– Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

May this summer bring you the "freshness of childhood" and much joy!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Prompt #188 –Conditional Clause Poems ("If" Poems)

Perhaps you’ve heard of “If” poems? These are poems characterized by conditional clauses (“if clauses”). Such clauses can be used to get a poem started or may be inserted in various places through the text of a poem.  Poems of this type are not the typical “what if” sort of poem. They do something more.

Note: A conditional clause is a type of adverbial clause that states a hypothesis or condition, real or imagined, and their consequences. A conditional clause may be introduced by the subordinating conjunction if or another conjunction, such as because, unless, provided that, or but. Like other adverbial clauses, a conditional clause may before or after the clause on which it states a condition.

One of the most famous “if poems” is “If—” written by Rudyard Kipling. Kipling begins with a conditional clause and goes on to add interest by creating a kind of causal tension when he contradicts his “if” clauses with details, contradictions, and contrasts. There are also “result” clauses that follow the “ifs.” Here’s the beginning of Kipling’s poem:

If you can keep your head when all about you  
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,  
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too;  
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

In “King of the River,” Stanley Kunitz does much the same thing and keeps us, as readers, waiting for what will come next. His long sentences create suspense and a sense of mystery and expectation as the poem’s momentum begins and is sustained. Here’s the beginning of “King of the River:”

If the water were clear enough,
if the water were still,
but the water is not clear,
the water is not still,
you would see yourself,
slipped out of your skin…

Adrienne rich begins her poem “For this” with a conditional (“if”) clause:

If I’ve reached for your line (I have)
like letters from the dead that stir the nerves …

Her third stanza continues:

If I’ve touched your finger
with a ravenous tongue
licked from your palm a rift of salt
if I’ve dreamt or thought of you
a pack of blood fresh-drawn …

As you can see in the three examples, conditional clauses create mood, conditions, limitations, dependencies, and expectations.  Along with “if” clauses, others that work similarly include “but,” “although,” “when,” and “because.”


1. Begin by writing a list of “ifs.” Think about things in your own life, in the natural world, etc.

2. Follow with a list of “then” statements so you have “ifs” and “thens.”

3. Reflect on your lists for a while. Do any of the ideas link or match up?

4. Begin a poem with one of your “if” clauses, add an appropriate “then” and continue. See where the poem leads you.

5. Remember to start out by thinking in terms of “ifs” and “thens,” but don’t be limited by them.

6. Try writing a poem like Kipling’s in which you set up the characteristics or necessary qualities for some personal kind of success.

7. Using my prose poem below, write a poem that looks at something which made an awareness occur. Create a setting, configure a truth, move from the specific, individual experience to something more universal

If It Hadn’t Been

We wouldn’t be here if it hadn’t been for the rain, the wind-loosened trees (this quiet shelter); and I wouldn’t tell you how nothing wonderful ever matches its memory, how not going home is a sadness we all carry. I wouldn’t tell you what I know about losing, how what we keep is never all that we need.


1. Simply writing an “if-then” poem isn’t what we’re working toward. Conditional clauses, yes, but we need to expand, switch gears, make a point, and create striking imagery.

2. Try a little anaphora—repetition. You may want to use several “if” clauses within the text of your poem. read the examples and see how they use but don’t overdo repetition.

3. A really good poem almost always has two subjects—the obvious subject and the implied or suggested subject. Think about that.

4. A good ending is one that readers will remember—an ending with punch and purpose, an ending filled with meaning. Work on creating a powerful “dismount.”


Saturday, June 7, 2014

Submission Tips for Summer by Guest Blogger Donna Baier Stein

With summer quickly approaching and, hopefully, some leisure time for all of us, this seems a good week to think about submitting poems to journals. I’m delighted to present our guest blogger this week, the publisher of TIFERET Journal, Donna Baier Stein, whose long career in writing, editing and publishing provides the background for some practical and invaluable journal submission tips.

I’ve been fortunate enough to work with Donna at Tiferet since 2006, and here’s a bit about her by way of introduction: Donna Baier Stein's poetry and prose have appeared in Poet Lore, Beloit Poetry Journal, New York Quarterly, Virginia Quarterly Review, Prairie Schooner, Phoebe, Confrontation, and many other journals and anthologies. Her story collection Sympathetic People, a finalist in an earlier Iowa Fiction Awards contest, was published last year by Serving House Books. Awards include a fellowship from Johns Hopkins University Writing Seminars, a scholarship from Bread Loaf Writers Conference, the PEN/New England Discovery Award, honorable mention in the Allen Ginsberg Poetry Awards, four Pushcart nominations, and more. Donna was a founding editor of Bellevue Literary Review and is founder and publisher of TIFERET Journal. You can visit Donna online at

From Donna Baier Stein

As writers, we want to pass muster first with our own internal editor. Then, when the work feels ready for a wider audience, we push our word babies out into the world, hoping to catch the eye, heart, and approval of a publication editor. 

This process doesn’t have to be as daunting as it sometimes feels.

After viewing thousands of manuscripts submitted to Tiferet Journal and Bellevue Literary Review, I can tell you how off-putting sloppy formatting, spelling errors, and slow beginnings are to an editor you want to impress. There are always other manuscripts waiting to be read.

So here are 5 tips to increase your chance of success with an editor:

1. Start strong. As my Missouri aunt used to say, “Don’t hide your light under a bushel.” The longer it takes your writing to hook the editor’s attention, the less likely a positive response.

2. Fine-tune mercilessly. Remove every unnecessary word. Read your poem aloud to hear its internal music. Language is your medium; use it expertly.

3. Spell check. Use standard formatting and type fonts. Fair or not, handwritten submissions begin with one strike against them.

4. Include a short, professional cover note.  List prior publications if you have them but don’t worry if you don’t. The work is judged on its own merit. What is not necessary, and somewhat detrimental, is to write a long treatise about why you have just started writing.

5. Be patient. Editors really are inundated with manuscripts. At Tiferet and most journals, review is a multi-step process, with different levels of readers.

Here at Tiferet, we look for writing that is so truthful it may elicit goose bumps. Writing that resonates emotionally. And specific to our publication, writing that offers a glimpse of the invisible world, that reminds us of all that is sacred in our lives.

Many thanks, Donna!

To order Donna's books via, click here.


For lists of journals that accept submissions during the summer, please be sure to visit Diane Lockward’s excellent blog (Blogalicious):

Summer Journals Q-Z

Prompt Ideas for This Week

(Nope! I didn’t forget …)


1. Write a poem about the end of spring, the beginning of summer, or summertime,

2. Write a poem in which you highlight the tastes (or remembered childhood tastes) of summer (lemonade, Kool Aid, marshmallows, watermelon, BBQ, etc.). You may want to use a sense other than, or along with, taste for this.

3. An alternative prompt is to read Donna’s poem "The Yellow Brick Road" and let it inspire you to write something about an imaginary place or thing and its relative or metaphorical meaning to you.


1. Focus this week on sensory perceptions (sight, sound, touch, taste, smell).

2. Remember that imagery is used to suggest all the objects and qualities of sense perception in a poem—such images may use literal descriptions, allusions, or figures of speech such as similes or metaphors.

3. Keep in mind that the best poems typically contain some element of mystery or understatement. 

Good luck with your submissions!