Saturday, October 12, 2013

Prompt # 167 – Ten-Line Poems

Before beginning this week’s prompt, I’d like to invite you to take a look at the slideshow from this year’s pet blessing. Just scroll a few items down in the right sidebar until you come to “2013 Pet Blessing.” Click on the arrow. Hope you enjoy it!

Now, on with the prompt. This week’s challenge is for you to write a 10-line poem using a prescribed format. For starters, the “rules” are specific, so try to follow them closely for your first draft.

The “Rules”

1. Don’t use any terminal punctuation, but begin each line with a capital letter.

2. Throw out all prose impulses (no narrative poems).

3. Resist all formal tendencies (no metrical patterns or rhyme schemes).

4. Don’t plan any part of your poem—just write from line to line.

5. As you write, see what relationships develop; discover what’s going on in the poem.

6. When you finish, look through the poem for a word or phrase that you can use as a title.

7. Let the poem “sit” for a day or two and then look at it again. That will be the time to make changes, to break the rules, tweak, refine, and “color outside the margins.”

8. Make changes in capitalization and punctuation (add periods, question marks, commas etc).

9. Work on alliteration and other sound qualities in your poem.

10. Decide on line breaks.


Line 1: Open the poem with an action.
Line 2: Write a specific image related (even if only superficially) to the last word in line 1.
Line 3: Ask an unconnected question and put it in italics.
Line 4: Write an image related to the question in line 3.
Line 5: Answer the question in line 3 and include a color.
Line 6: Write an image related to the answer in line 5 (direct or suggested).
Line 7: Add a detail in which you modify a noun with an unusual or unlikely adjective.
Line 8: Add an image that echoes or relates to the action in line 1.
Line 9: Free line—add whatever you wish.
Line 10: Close with something seemingly unrelated, strange, or surreal.

Sample Poem

Line 1:  She lifts the potted plant from its place on the windowsill
Line 2:  Dusk slips in through parted curtains
Line 3:  A lingering dream, and what came after
Line 4:  The evening sky deepens into something darker
Line 5:  A shade of blue she’s never seen before
Line 6:  Ghosts in spaces between the stars
Line 7:  The clattering choices were hers to make
Line 8:  Gently, her fingertip traces the edge of a tiny bloom
Line 9:  Choices, yes, and flowers among the regrets
Line 10: She removes the china doll from her dresser drawer


  1. Ten for Two or Tea for Ten

    Crawl, breathe, crawl, breathe, touch, turn, swim
    Icy pool, diced onions, pools of sorrow
    Where have all the young men gone
    Handsome, virile, every one
    Plaid pants, old-shoed, grey-haired
    On curbs, at markets, in trucks—
    Rancid candy corn
    Near the ladder, grasp it, climb
    Did you ever see a lassie
    And the harvest moon turned itself off

    —Gail Fishman Gerwin

  2. WONDERFUL, GAIL! Thanks so much for sharing with us!

  3. This is a wonderful prompt for anyone looking for a kick start! Thanks, Adele! And thank you, Gail Fishman Gerwin, for the great example (love the controlled playful quirkiness of it and the way you appeal to several of the senses).

  4. Whoa! How cool is this! Line by line, and what interesting "rules."

    Thanks, Gail, for sharing your poem. And thanks Adele for another great prompt.

  5. Máire Ó Cathail (Ireland)October 17, 2013 at 8:08 AM

    Adele, this is lovely! I've been "playing" with it for several days and the results are so interesting. After following the rules, the refining phase is great fun. I've shared it with my writing group here in Ireland, and we'll met again next week to "view" the results. Thank you!

  6. Máire Ó Cathail (Ireland)October 17, 2013 at 8:10 AM

    Oops, forgot to note: Thank you Gail Fishman Gerwin for posting your poem. What fun! Imagine a harvest moon turning itself off!

  7. Thanks, Maire! So glad you used the prompt with your writing group.

  8. Great idea for a prompt and a nice blend,with the other prompts, of structured and not-so-structured ideas.