Saturday, January 21, 2012

Prompt #87 - The Memory of Water

A couple of nights ago I watched a DVD of my favorite British detective series, “Rosemary and Thyme.” I’ve watched all the episodes more than once, and the show I watched that night is my favorite: “The Memory of Water.” As I lay in bed thinking about the show, I segued into thoughts of this week’s prompt. Wide-awake, I reached for the top book on my bedside pile of poetry collections and opened to  Mary Oliver's "Beside the Waterfall." The next book in the pile was Diane Lockward's Temptation by Water (click link to read the title poem:

While wading in "water poems," it occurred to me that people have long sought the physical, psychological, religious, and spiritual healing powers of water – at the River Ganges; in the ancient Roman baths; in the spa waters of Bath in Somerset, England; at Mecca's holy spring of Zamzan; in Christian baptisms; at Lourdes in France; and throughout the world at various healing water sites. Continuing to think about water, I remembered reading somewhere that about 70% of the world is covered in water and about 75% of the human body is water. There I was, completely “immersed” in water thoughts and tempted by water (a la Diane's book) to write a "water prompt." 

A few ideas:

Write a poem about a water “experience” you’ve had.
Write a poem about a time that water touched your life in a special/dramatic/exciting way.
Write a poem about a time that water was healing for you.
Write a poem about a memorable rainstorm or hurricane.
Write a poem about the importance of protecting the earth’s water sources.
Write a poem about a landscape in which water is prominent.
Write a poem about a time when you were “transformed” by water.

And on the lighter side:

Write about a time that you went skinny-dipping.
Write about your earliest memory of being in water.
Write about a beach or pool party you attended.
Write a bath poem or a take-off on the old song "Splish Splash."
Write about your life as a fish in a bowl.
Write about a water cooler.
Write about a water fantasy titled “Alice in Waterland.”

Sample Poems

And, by way of sharing, here’s a “water poem” that I wrote as an elegy for a friend.

Black River by Adele Kenny

In the almost-dark of a late spring
evening, the air still holds a scent of
moss on dampened stone, the bitter
tang of bluebells.

You are with me because I remember
(the sense of you just over my left
shoulder), a shadow that follows
the light.

This was your place, where the world
should have let you go – here where
the river turns, a fishing pole in your
hand, the back of

your brown flannel shirt slipped from
your belt, your old shoes worn, as
they always were, on the insides
of their heels.

I have come to touch your death with
the palm of my hand, clench my fist
around it, and fling it upstream –
bone ash into space.

Go! Go now! I call down the stars
for your ransom. One by one they
fall into the river, which carries
them all away.

(from What Matters, Welcome Rain Publishers, New York, NY, 2011)

Click Cover for Info and Orders


  1. I love the thoroughness of your prompts. There's always so much to work with! This one is extraordinary!

    Thank you!


    1. Thanks, Jamie! Your comments are always much appreciated. So glad you like this prompt!

  2. The Mother and Her Son

    The coyotes suddenly singing
    Their nightly song
    As the last of the helicopters
    Flies overhead,
    Giving up as darkness takes over,
    Giving up the search,
    The mother and her son
    Swept away
    After weeks of torrential rain,
    Swept away by the river,
    So fascinating to watch
    All that water,
    So tragic to slip and fall.

    Did the boy fall first
    And the mother follow after?
    No one will ever know,
    Certainly not me
    As I walk home in the shadow of these mountains,
    In the light of the half-lit moon,
    Under the sparkling stars,
    Thinking how wonderful and terrible life is,
    How lucky I am to be walking home
    Where I will soon be safe,
    Soon be warm,
    While the mother and her son,
    Swallowed up by the storm.

  3. Thanks for the inspiration! I often recall this childhood experience, but have never written about it before. Here's my tanka:

    Crashing waves, Jones Beach:
    sucked in by undertow's pull,
    trapped beneath my dad,
    who fights the ocean's power--
    finally sets us free.

    1. Thanks for sharing your tanka, Madeleine! A chilling experience so perfectly remembered in the poem. I'm so glad the prompt worked for you!

  4. How lovely and instructive it is to see one of Adele's poems, "Black River," as an example. And how immediate and yet eternal this poem is.

    "This was your place, where the world should have let you go. . . ."

    The kind of passing we all wish for; likely where we return, somehow, if only to seek the "ache of memory" as Robert Frost describes it.

    1. Thank you, Russ, for your kind words about "Black River."

  5. Thank, Russ, for sharing your poem! The juxtaposition of the coyotes' song and the helicopter in the first lines sets the mood beautifully.

    I'm really happy that the prompts are working for you! Please continue to post!

  6. Great to read the poems by Russ and Madeleine! Thanks to both of them for sharing.

    And thank you, Adele, for another comprehensive prompt with several samples and many options for writing.

  7. Lovely stuff!

    Thank you, Russ & Madeleine!

    Máire Ó Cathail (Ireland)