Saturday, May 2, 2015

Prompt #221 – Dazzling Dismounts

If this prompt feels familiar, it probably is. It was originally posted on March 28th, three days before the annual National Poetry Month post. I decided to remove the post on April 1st, post the annual Poetry Month "inspirations," and re-post this prompt in the event that you might like to spend more time with it after the Poetry Month reading and writing.

Have you ever read a poem that fell flat at the end? A poem, perhaps, that failed to come to closure in a memorable way? In my workshop groups, I always encourage participants to “dismount” with a punch. That is, to conclude their poems with something powerful, stunning, remarkable. This isn’t about simply “summing up” or coming up with a clever ending. This is about not letting a poem slip through a crack in your keyboard but, rather, creating a poem that looks for and finds a substantial way out—what I call a “dazzling dismount.”

Take a look at these last lines by famous poets. What is it about them that makes them memorable? What ineffable quality do they possess? 

This is the way the world ends Not with a bang but a whimper.
—T.S. Eliot, "The Hollow Men"

The silver apples of the moon, The golden apples of the sun.
—W B Yeats, “The Song of Wandering Aengus” 

I only know that summer sang in me A little while, that in me sings no more.
—Edna St Vincent Millay, “Sonnet” 

Better by far you should forget and smile Than that you should remember and be sad.
—Christina Rossetti, “Remember” 

And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor Shall be lifted ­– nevermore!
—Edgar Allan Poe, “The Raven” 

If this be error and upon me proved, I never writ, nor no man ever loved.
—William Shakespeare, “Sonnet 116” 

I took the one less travelled by, And that has made all the difference.
—Robert Frost, “The Road Not Taken” 

What immortal hand or eye, Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?
—William Blake, “The Tyger” 

Was it a vision, or a waking dream? Fled is that music – do I wake or sleep?
—John Keats, “Ode to a Nightingale” 

And then my heart with pleasure fills And dances with the daffodils.
—William Wordsworth, “I Wandered Lonely As a Cloud” 

I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.
—William Ernest Henley, “Invictus” 

For he has forgotten self, forgotten bird And on the riverbank forgotten the river’s name.
—Seamus Heaney, “St. Kevin and the Blackbird” 

Then you begin, slowly, to read the whole story.
—Mary Oliver, “Breakage”

This week, the challenge is to write a poem starting with the last line. I know this sounds contrived, and perhaps it is, but remember that this is an exercise to be used in working toward the goal of writing a good poem. Several poets I know agree that there are times when a last line “appears” before any other part of the poem, and it is from those lines that their poems develop.


First, “play” with some last-line ideas—just think up what might be great last lines. Write them down.

Then, think up some first lines. These first two steps will give your poem its “bookends.”

Next ... think, think, think ... and write the body of the poem.

Finally, read and revise. Make changes. Toss lines and phrases, even the first and last lines if you come up with better ideas.

Tips (dos and don’ts):

Don’t: End with a moral.

Don’t: Close with an “I’m going to tell you what this poem is about” ending.

Don’t: Go with an expected outcome (especially in a narrative poem). Shake up your readers’ expectations.

Don’t: Use up all the air in your poem on the last couple of lines—leave the reader room to breathe.

Don’t: Undercut your poem’s “authority” by ending with trivia or a “so what” line that doesn’t make your readers gasp.

Don’t: Conclude with a sentimental or emotional statement (both sentiment and emotion may be heartfelt but, when they’re blatantly stated, they can detract from the power of your poem).

Don’t: Close the door on your poem; leave it slightly ajar.

Do: Link the end of the poem to the beginning but not overtly—and don’t over-write.

Do: Write beyond the last line, then go back and find the last line hidden in what you’ve written.

Do: Use more one-syllable words than multi-syllable words in your last couple of lines (think in terms of strong verbs and no superfluous language).

Do: Try (minimal) repetition from another part of the poem—sometimes this can work very well.

Do: Resist the urge to apologize (or to even suggest apology).

Do: Leave your reader something to reflect upon.

Do: Point toward something broader than the body of the poem.

Do: Create a new resonance for your readers, a lit spark that doesn’t go out when the poem is “over.”


Go back to some of your already-written poems and check out their dismounts. Are there some that might be better? If so, try working on them!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

National Poetry Month 2015

Established by the Academy of American Poets in 1996, National Poetry Month begins on April 1st and runs through April 30th every year. This month-long celebration of poetry is designed “to widen the attention of individuals and the media to the art of poetry, to living poets, to our complex poetic heritage, and to poetry books and journals of wide aesthetic range and concern.” During April, poets, poetry lovers, publishers, booksellers, literary organizations, libraries, and schools throughout the United States celebrate poetry.

One of the challenges of NPM is to read and/or write a poem every day. So ... in the spirit of the observance, for the fifth year I offer you what I hope will be inspiration for each of April’s thirty days.

This year, I’ve done some research into the most popular poems of all time and have listed my favorites among them below (in no particular order). As a change from previous years, this year, I ask you to click on the links below the poem titles and poets and to read the poems—one each day of the month. After reading the poem for any given day, spend some time with it; think about the content and anything in the poem that “strikes a chord” for you. Working from that “chord,” try to write a poem of your own that may or may not involve similar content. Let the famous poems inspire you and, then, follow your muse!

April 1—“Daffodils” (“I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud”) by William Wordsworth

April 2—“Remember” by Christina Rossetti

April 3—“If” by Rudyard Kipling

April 4—“Invictus” by W. E. Henley

April 5—“Hope Is the thing with Feathers” by Emily Dickinson

April 6—“Answer to a Child’s Question” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

April 7—“Jabberwocky” by Lewis Carroll (with audio)

April 8—“Love and Friendship” by Emily Brontë

April 9—“The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost

April 10—“I Carry Your heart With Me” by E. E. Cummings

April 11—“I Loved You” by Alexander Pushkin

April 12—“Life Is Fine” by Langston Hughes

April 13—“Seven Ages of Man” by William Shakespeare

April 14—“The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe

April 15—“I Taught Myself to Live Simply” by Anna Akhmatova

April 16—“Brown Penny” by William Butler Yeats

April 17—“If You Forget Me” by Pablo Neruda

April 18—“Digging” by Seamus Heaney

April 19—“I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” by Maya Angelou

April 20—“Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night” by Dylan Thomas

April 21—“Cinderella” by Sylvia Plath

April 22—“Laughing Song” by William Blake

April 23—“The Starry Night” by Anne Sexton

April 24—“Dreams” by Langston Hughes

April 25—“Song of Myself” by Walt Whitman

April 26—“No Man Is an Island” by John Donne

April 27—“Forgetfulness” by Billy Collins

April 28—“Blackberry-Picking” by Seamus Heaney

April 29—“The Bear” by Galway Kinnell

April 30—“Alone” by Philip Levine

1. Don’t feel compelled to match your content to the examples’—in fact, do just the opposite and make your poems as different as you possibly can. The example poems are only intended to trigger some poetry-spark that’s unique to you and to guide your thinking a little—don’t let them enter too deeply into your poems, don’t let their content become your content.

2. Let your reactions to the poems surprise you. Begin with no expectations, and let your poems take you where they want to go.

3. Give the topics your own spin, twist and turn them, let the phrases trigger personal responses: pin down your ghosts, identify your frailties, build bridges and cross rivers, take chances!

4. Keep in mind that writing a poem a day doesn’t mean you have to “finish” each poem immediately. You can write a draft each day and set your drafts aside to work on later.

5. Whatever you do this month, find some time (a little or a lot) to enjoy some poetry!

As always, your sharing is welcome,
so please feel welcome to post your thoughts and poems as comments!

Regular weekly prompts will resume on Saturday, May 2nd.
In the meantime, I wish you a wonderful and poetry-filled April!
Happy National Poetry Month!

Let the poem-ing begin!

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Wonderful News!

When I started this blog, I promised myself that it wouldn't be an "about-me" blog, and I've tried to keep that promise. This week, however, I'm excited to share some really special news with you in lieu of a prompt or guest blogger post.

My new book, A Lightness, A Thirst, Or Nothing At All, is now ready for immediate shipment (at a generous discount) via



If you haven't already ordered a copy,
I very much hope you will (and thank you in advance for your support)!


(You may also place an order through your favorite bookseller.)

From the Publisher's Press Release

"Welcome Rain Publishers ( is pleased to announce publication of A Lightness, A Thirst, Or Nothing At All by Adele Kenny, a collection of 53 prose poems. Prose poems, which are arranged in short paragraphs rather than in lines, include deliberate fragments, the language of dreams, and an occasional nod to the surreal. Kenny combines these techniques with her signature elements of striking imagery and compelling immediacy to inform an enhanced view 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."


About the Book

"A gorgeous, deeply pondered work of art. I love it."
          —Renée Ashley, Poetry Editor of The Literary Review

"In language so subtly pitched, paced and modulated it captures our attention without drawing attention to itself, Kenny draws us into discovering that what never changes is all around us in the ever-changing world, that one is only approachable, knowable, bearable through the other.  We trust her to be our guide because her vision is so unwavering."

          —Martin J. Farawell, Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival Director

"Talk about channeling! Here reborn is Emily Dickinson, replete with the mystery, the haunting spirituality, and the metaphysical imagery. Adele, more than any other contemporary poet, balances all these elements so well, though with a touch far more personal than Dickinson’s." 
          —Charles DeFanti, Author of The Wages of Expectation


Sample Poems

Click Here for Video Remix of "Twilight and What There Is" (Video and Reading by Nic Sebastian)


A stray dog laps the moon from a broken flowerpot. Silk hydrangeas bloom against the fence. A heron stands on the clothesline—bluer than blue—perched where (sky, earth) edges converge.

On the wall, the painting of a clock ticks, hands painted in at three forty-seven. She takes a wax apple from the bowl and peels it with a silver fruit knife. Sugared bread dries on the table. Across the room, a dimensional window masquerades as persuasion. If you believe it, it is.


Back then, I wasn’t sure what calling meant. I thought something mystical—God’s hand on my arm, a divine voice speaking my name. Instead, I discovered the colors of cyclamen, how even the meanest weeds burst into bloom.

It works like this—among the books and fires—grace comes disguised as the winter finch, its beak in the seed; the twilight opossum that feeds on scraps—her babies born beneath my neighbor’s shed. Every day, I learn what love is: the finches, the opossum, the child with Down Syndrome who asked, Can I hug you a hundred times?

Whatever idea I had of myself turns on this: what lives on breath is spirit. I discover the power of simple places—silence—the desire to become nothing.