Saturday, September 25, 2010

Poetry Prompt #24 – Autumn

As we begin this autumn season, I think about clear, crisp air, the scent of woodsmoke, leaves changing color, the sound of migrating geese, and the taste of apple cider. There is something magical in autumn that fills the senses. When I was a child autumn fascinated me with its sweet sadness. My mom taught me how to read and write when I was four, and one of my earliest poems (my mom saved them all, bless her) was titled “Autumn” (see below and check out the spelling of “chrysanthemum”).

From The Kite & Other Poems from Childhood 

Okay, by now you will have guessed that this prompt deals with autumn imagery, themes, and moods. Before you look at the prompt suggestions and begin writing, be sure to read a few autumn poems. There are, of course, many dozens by some of the greatest poets. Following are a few of my favorites, and you will find more at Famous Autumn Poems.

Now, the writing …

1. How does autumn touch your senses? Write a poem that captures autumn's essence in sights, sounds, scents, touches, and tastes (think in terms of colorful leaves, bonfires, cornhusks, pumpkins, acorns, blue skies, crisp air, and crunchy ripe apples).

2. Have you ever thought about autumn as a symbol for human life? What other autumn symbolisms have you considered? Write a poem in which autumn is a metaphor for a particular time in human life.

3. Has something memorable happened to you in autumn? Write a poem about your best or worst autumn memory.

4. What does autumn mean to you? Write a poem titled “Autumn Is” in which you combine descriptive autumn elements with personal meanings.

5. What mood does autumn typically evoke? What “atmosphere” does it suggest to you? Write a poem in which you create an autumn mood.

6. Does anything in one of the following quotations resonate for you? If so, write a poem based on the quote (you may want to use the quote as an epigraph). 

"Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower." (Albert Camus)

I saw old autumn in the misty morn / Stand shadowless like silence, listening / To silence(Thomas Hood)

There is a harmony / In autumn, and a lustre in its sky, / Which through the summer is not heard or seen,  / As if it could not be, as if it had not been! (Percy Bysshe Shelley)

7. Do you know anyone whose personality reminds you of autumn? Try writing a poem in which autumn characteristics represent personality traits. 

Happy Autumn – I wish you a rich harvest of poetry and peace!


  1. Thank you for this prompt and ALL the great poetry prompts and information. I tried to register for a Google account but I must have done something incorrectly. The only way I could post was "anonymous." No anonymity intended! My name is Anna Hainsworth, and I live in London.

    For me, autumn always brings back memories of someone special who committed suicide in October.


    (In Memory of a Friend Who committed Suicide)

    And what I remember: color
    and color, a softness in the air.

    Everything swept with the quality
    of dream. And you – I think I

    believed you were autumn itself –
    almost too bright, too much fire –

    burning, always burning, the way
    October burns itself out.

  2. Thanks so much, Anna – for your kind words and for your poem, which is very moving. You've created a sense of edgy finality (as in the end of the autumn and the end of a life). The strong emotional center of the poem is enhanced by brevity, compressed imagery, and two-line stanzas. Thanks again!

  3. I've always liked this "vision" of autumn from your poem "Chosen Ghosts."

    From "Chosen Ghosts" by Adele Kenny (excerpt)

    A chattering wind brings down the leaves,
    remnants of bagworm and chestnut lie in the tangle.
    Moonlight falls in fractions through dead bindweed,
    on milkweed pods that crack open and float away.
    The air turns colder.
    A hard breath blown through the lips of God
    tugs at the pines like catgut, back and forth,
    until their stringed tongues tremble and wail.
    Always in autumn, when the backyard thins
    and the brittleness starts,
    I go back to my griefs.
    I bury the last chrysanthemums
    and pray for my sorrows, wishing it was still summer
    when the sky traveled in a thousand directions at once
    or years ago when every season was spring.
    But now, here and now,
    in the whirl of this brief, sad season,
    I call my ghosts home and gather them around me.
    Like the flock of geese
    that sleeps in an open field near the river,
    they rise in a rush of wings
    that remembers the victory of flight.

  4. Bob! Thanks for remembering that poem! It's been a long time since I last read it.

  5. Thanks, Adele, from Libby Jacobs.

    "Autumn is the eternal corrective. It is ripeness and color and a time of maturity; but it is also breadth, and depth, and distance.  What man can stand with autumn on a hilltop and fail to see the span of his world and the meaning of the rolling hills that reach to the far horizon?  – Hal Borland

    Gail Fishman Gerwin

    Birdsong mocks
    as I watch the early
    November sky,
    grey with its burden
    of late autumn
    against trees garbed
    in remnants of red
    and dry brown.
    A lonely warble plays
    against encroaching cold,
    cries I am spring, ready
    to burst with growth
    and hope.
    I am summer, filled
    with careless joy,
    sunwashed days.
    The last leaves fall
    to the rhythm
    of birdsong

  7. Hi Gail! Thanks so much for sharing your November poem! I can hear the last leaves falling to the sound of that "lonely warble." Wonderful!

  8. Scenes from Our Lands

    It is late this Friday, this October
    evening – wind swirls the fallen leaves,
    a sense of winter fills the air.

    In our suburban lands shopping centers
    are about to shut down neon lights switch
    off, but Home Depot’s still open.

    In the empty aisles
    tired workers check the clock
    as they shift stock on the racks.

    There are no announcements, no calls
    for customer inquiries, a few
    small-time contractors pick plywood.

    A lonely man in his fifties reads
    installation instructions on a box,
    and a warehouse-man lines up his

    ladder with a shelf while a
    contractor carries PVC pipes
    to the checkout. We are on the way

    home from work, you and I, the only
    ones here in business clothes, here to
    select a new liner for our bath. And as

    a closing announcement fills the air
    we walk slowly to the front, credit
    card in hand, ready to call it a night.

    From Basil Rouskas' Poetry Collection
    "Redrawing Borders" to be released on 10/10/10
    Published by Finishing Line Press

  9. Thanks, Basil! From your forthcoming book! All good wishes to you!

  10. Thanks Anna, Gail, and Basil for sharing your poems! They're all wonderful (such great imagery) and show how well these prompts work. You inspire me!

    Thanks, Bob for the excerpt from Adele's poem (I have the book and, like the title poem you quote from, the whole collection is filled with music and compelling imagery).

    I'm trying to work up enough courage to post a poem of my own. :-)

    Cassie B.

  11. I've been trying to figure out how to post (I don't have and don't want a Google account). Now I see that others are using "anonymous." Works for me!

    An autumn haiku:

    a hawk circling
    everything changed:
    what I remember...

    K. S.

  12. Thanks, K.S., for your autumn haiku!