Saturday, February 26, 2011

Poetry Prompt #45 – Sides of the Fence

As the snow has begun to melt, and my backyard comes into clearer view again, I've been happy to see the lawn but less thrilled to realize that the backyard fence needs replacing. I've also been working on a video trailer for my forthcoming poetry collection and spent a whole afternoon last week searching for a fence photo. Needless to say, I've had fences on my mind, which led to this prompt.

The "prompt proper" this week is to write a poem in which you move from one side of the metaphorical fence to another; that is, each stanza you write will be followed by a partner stanza that's an answer, affirmation, rebuttal, or argument. For example, a statement made in stanza 1 will be followed by a direct response in stanza 2. Stanzas 3 and 4 may continue the thread or move to another subject. You may have as many stanzas as you wish: the only requirement is that each stanza be answered in some way by the stanza that follows it. There are lots of possibilities – to rant and then rave back, to make a statement and rebut it, to "talk" to yourself from two different perspectives, to make a case for something and argue against it, or to create a dialog between two people with each speaking in every other stanza. 

If this doesn't quite work for you, here are some alternative fence prompts:

1. Write a poem entitled "Both Sides of the Fence" or "Fence Sitting."
2. Write a poem about an actual fence (picket, barbed wire, chain link, stone, electric).
3. Write a poem in which a fence is your extended metaphor (a metaphor that is drawn-out beyond the usual word or phrase through the entire poem by using multiple comparisons).
4. Write a poem about the proverbial "other side of the fence."
5. Write a poem about what you see through a hole in your backyard fence.
6. Write a poem based on the famous line in "The Mending Wall" by Robert Frost: "Good fences make good neighbors." ("The Mending Wall" by Robert Frost)

Fence Poem Examples:

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Poetry Prompt #44 – Delightful Dizains

As we begin the last full week of this shortest month and begin looking toward spring, I thought it might be fun to experiment with dizains – short poems that have their roots in 15th and 16th century French verse. 

Typically, a dizain appears in stichic format (a single stanza). There are only ten lines, and no specific meter is required (although iambic pentameter is sometimes associated with dizain form). A rhyme scheme of a, b, a, b, b, c, c, d, c, d is customary. Eight-line dizains are also seen, and these octets contain a rhyme scheme of a, b, a, b, c, d, c, d. (For this prompt, try to rhyme, but if the rhyme scheme gets in the way of your poem, it's okay to eliminate it!)

Some suggestions:

Write a "dated" dizain about this time of year.
Write a "delicious" dizain about a particular food.
Write a "dreamscape" dizain about a dream you've had (real or imagined).
Write a "dilema" dizain about a conflict in your life.
Write a "dear departed" dizain about someone no longer living.
Write a "dramatic" dizain (try a dramatic monologue).
Write a "dazzling" dizain about something wonderful.
Write a "darling" dizain about a relationship.
Write a "doggy" dizain about a dog (or other pet).
Write a "daffy" (humorous) dizain.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Poetry Prompt #43 – Love Poems

We celebrate Valentine's Day this Monday, and in observance of the holiday, our topic this week is (yes, you guessed it!) love. 

The love poem's history is long and distinguished and includes Sappho's love poems, the Ancient Egyptians' love poems, the "Song of Songs" ("Song of Solomon") from the Bible, love poems sung by the troubadours, Shakespeare's "dark lady" sonnets, Elizabeth Barrett Browning's "How Do I Love Thee? (Sonnet 43),"  William Butler Yeats's "When You Are Old," and hundreds of others. I like to think that love poems have been around as long as love itself.

In writing love poems this week, there are two important requirements:

1. Avoid the pitfall of being sentimental, maudlin, or "mushy."

2. Use the word love no more than twice (or not at all) within your poem.

The challenge is to evoke the essence/feeling of love without mentioning "love" directly. The idea is to focus on imagery – as William Carlos Williams wrote, "No ideas but in things." What images will tell your love story?

Before you begin, here are some examples of famous love poems:

How Do I Love Thee? (Sonnet 43)
 by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
When You are Old by W. B. Yeats
My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun 
(Sonnet 130) by William Shakespeare
Wild Nights – Wild Nights! (249) 
by Emily Dickinson
The Look by Sara Teasdale
Lullaby by W. H. Auden

A Line-storm Song by Robert Frost

A Love Song by William Carlos Williams
To Dorothy by Marvin Bell

The Kiss by Stephen Dunn

Suggestions for your poems: 
  • Write a poem about your first love.
  • Write a love letter in the form of a poem.
  • Write a poem about unrequited love.
  • Write a poem about a lost love.
  • Write a poem about an impossible love.
  • Write a poem about a love other than romantic (friend, family member).
  • Write a poem about "puppy love" (about a real dog, cat, or other pet).
  • Write a "love poem" in praise of nature or some aspect of the natural world.
  • Write a formal love sonnet (Shakespearean form: 14 lines with a rhyme scheme of a-b-a-b, c-d-c-d, e-f-e-f, g-g; the last two lines are a rhyming couplet).
  • Write a funny love poem, a love limerick, or a parody of Elizabeth Barrett Browning's "How Do I Love Thee? (Sonnet 43)."

If you enjoy reading love poems, here are some great ones 
(all available on the Internet, just Google the title with the poet's name).
Enjoy! Happy Valentine's Day!

            (Lord Byron) “When We Two Parted”  
            (Hayden Carruth) “Letter to Denise” 
            (Emily Dickinson) “I never lost as much but twice”    
            (John Donne) “The Flea”
(e. e. cummings) “my father lived through dooms of love”
(Robert Frost) “Love and a Question”
            (Maria Mazziotti Gillan) “It’s Complicated, This Loving Now”           
(Dorianne Laux) “The Shipfitter’s Wife”
(Andrew Marvell) “The Definition Of Love”
            (Edna St. Vincent Millay) “Love Is Not All”
            (Pablo Neruda) “Love Sonnet XVII”
            (Alexander Pushkin) “The Wondrous Moment”
            (Rainer Maria Rilke) “Again And Again”
            (Carl Sandburg) “Under the Harvest Moon”
            (Anne Sexton) “The Big Heart”
(Percy Bysshe Shelley) “Music, When Soft Voices Die”
(Walt Whitman) “To a Stranger”
(William Butler Yeats) “Brown Penny”

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Poetry Prompt #42 – From the Medicine Cabinet

I recently saw a video about a teaching hospital in Florida where patients' lives have been "dramatically changed by the incorporation of poetry into their recovery process."

To view article and video, click here:

Poetry has been a source of healing in my own life, and I thought it might be interesting to incorporate poetry and medicine in this week's prompt. From Lydia Pinkham's Vegetable Compound to Carter's Little Liver Pills, and from Band-Aids to razor blades, medicine cabinets have housed a wide range of indispensables for many generations. This week, reach into your medicine cabinet and pull out a poem!

1. Patent medicines of the past were found in 18th and 19th century medicine cabinets and chests. The term "patent medicine" is generally associated with drug compounds made during the seventeen and eighteen hundreds. Although few were actually patented, these questionable remedies were openly sold to the public with no prescription required. Make up your own patent medicine or elixir? What does it cure?

2. Do you remember mercurochrome, merthiolate, and iodine from your childhood? (Back in the 50s and 60s, most medicine cabinets contained these items, which were used to treat minor scrapes and cuts. Of the three, iodine was the most dreaded by children because it stung – if the injury wasn't cause for tears, iodine often was.) Write a poem about something in your childhood medicine cabinet or, alternatively, write a poem about a childhood incident in which an old medicine cabinet items plays a role (or at least gets a mention).

3. We've all heard the saying that laughter is the best medicine. Write a funny poem about a medicine cabinet or a medicine cabinet item.

4. What's your "best medicine?" What's the one thing in your metaphorical medicine cabinet that best heals the stresses and hurts of your life: the sea at night, a walk in the forest, gardening, nature, faith, food, your spouse or partner, being among animals, your dog or cat, special friends? Write a poem about your best medicine or what you keep in your metaphorical medicine cabinet to heal your spirit.

5. Read Emily Dickinson's "It Knew No Medicine." Does this poem spark any "medicine poem" ideas for you? "It Knew No Medicine" by Emily Dickinson

If poetry has been healing for you, 
consider writing a poem or posting a comment about it. 
Your sharing is always welcome!