Saturday, January 5, 2013

Prompt #131 – Old and New

Happy New Year, everyone!
May 2013 bring you good health, abundant blessings, 
and all the things that you love most.

With the start of this new year, I’ve been reflecting on how often in life we look to the past to power the present and how often things that once seemed old become new again (either in reality or metaphorically). For many years, I wrote articles for antiques magazines and I never failed to marvel at the way trendy antiques became “tired” while “new” [different] antiques became fashionable among collectors. I believe that’s true of life in general.

This week, let’s think about the old and the new and the ways in which they become interchangeable.

Things to Think About Before Writing;

1. Is there anything is your life that became “old”  and then “new again.”
2. Has there been a relationship in your life that faded or ended and then revived?
3. Have you had an interest that you lost and then found again?
4. In “Little Gidding,” T. S. Eliot wrote,

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

Can you relate this quote to anything (time, place, interest, person) in your own life? How have things changed in your life and brought you back to places you knew before (how has something old become new again)?

5. Aldous Huxley wrote, “The charm of history and its enigmatic lesson consist in the fact that, from age to age, nothing changes and yet everything is completely different.” What is there in your personal history that affirms this quotation?

6. Is there an old dream that you gave up on and later revived (something you wished for, a person you hoped would be part of your life, a goal, etc.)?

7. It has been the job of Britain’s Poet Laureate to write a New Year's poem for many centuries. Laureate Nahum Tate wrote eight New Year odes between 1693 and 1708, and the phrase “ring out the old, ring in the new” comes from British Laureate’s Alfred Tennyson's well-known poem “In Memoriam.”

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Do these words resonate for you? When you think of “old” and “new,” what is “false” and what is "true,” what experiences or incidents come to mind?

8. There’s a great old song written by Peter Allen called “Everything Old is New Again.” The last stanza of the lyrics is:

And don't throw the past away
You might need it some other rainy day
Dreams can come true again
When everything old is new again
When everything old is new again.

Can you relate these lines to something in your life? What past dream haven't you thrown away? What past dream has come true for you?

(Here's a recording of "Everything Old is New Again" for your enjoyment and inspiration!)

  • For this poem, you’ll need to dig deeply into your experiences and to think about changes from old to new and from new to old.
  • Avoid everything superfluous: words, syllables, conjunctions, articles.
  • Avoid the passive voice. Eliminate "ing" endings to create a greater sense of immediacy in your poem.
  • Be wary of the “purely competent” poem. Take a few risks. 
  • Develop layers of meaning.
  • Your poem should astonish the reader in some way.
  • Let there be an element of mystery in your writing. Work with caesuras to allow silences a place in your poem.
  • Don’t explain—trust your images to “tell” your story, and leave some gaps for the reader to fill in.



  1. This is a thoughtful, fun post for the new year. Thanks.

  2. An extraordinary prompt for the new year! And ... headed up by our own Big Ben!

    I'm so glad you're you're posting again after the holidays — this prompt was so worth the wait.

    Happy New Year!

    1. Ooops — sorry, I didn't mean to repeat the word "you're."

    2. Thanks, Jamie! Nothing better than "The Great Clock" to ring out and ring in. Happy New Year!

  3. my cracked shell of life
    like humptey dumpty
    needs reassembly
    I have not instructions
    the pieces are spread
    over such a wide area
    I have no idea where to begin
    I think I will start
    by boiling the contents
    then eating the whites and yolk

    1. WOW! Nothing superfluous—no extra words or phrases, no extra syllables, and a wonderful surprise ending with no unnecessary explanation! Well done! Thanks so much for sharing.

    2. Ditto to what Adele wrote! Love the way you brought the poem to closure by relating back to your first line in such a surprising way!

    3. Risa, your poem is really nice, in Italian too!

      la conchiglia spezzata della mia vita
      così piccola e goffa
      devo rimontarla.
      Ma non ho le istruzioni
      i pezzi sono sparsi
      in così vasto raggio
      Non so da che parte cominciare
      Penso che inizierò
      mettendo a bollire gli ingredienti
      poi mi mangerò gli albumi
      ed anche il tuorlo.

    4. Jago! How wonderful of you to translate Risa's poem into Italian. (Through your translation I noticed for the first time that there are no punctuation marks, which gives the poem a breathless quality that enhances the meaning).

      Thank you!

    5. Thanks for all your comments! And Jago, thanks for the translation

  4. A thoughtful and thought-provoking prompt to start the New Year!

    Happy New Year, everyone.

    1. Thanks so much, Bob! Happy New Year to you too!

  5. What a great way to start a new year of poetry! Such a thought-provoking prompt. Thank you, Adele.

    Very nice (and generous) of Jago to translate Risa Roberts's poem. The sharing on this blog is fantastic.