Saturday, September 20, 2014

Prompt #201 – Poem Beginning with a Line By ...

Autumn begins here in the Eastern United States in two days’ time, and that got me thinking about  beginnings. Accordingly, in a spirit of beginnings, it might be interesting to write a poem that begins with a line by another poet (kind of a new beginning for a previously written line).

This, of course, isn’t a new idea or one unique to me, but it’s a great way to create a poem, especially during those times when wrestling a poem out of your pen isn’t easy.


1. Read a couple of the example poems below.

2. Now read several other poems, poems that are long-time favorites or new poems (perhaps in current issues of journals) that you haven’t read before.

3. From the poems you read, select the one that “speaks” to you the loudest and read it again.

4. Pick one line from that poem and use it as the first line in your own poem.

5. Either use quotation marks or italics to set the line apart and to indicate that it’s the quoted line (and make a note of the title of the poem from which the line comes).

6. Let the line you quote inspire you, let it direct the content of your poem; give it its “head” and see where it leads you.


1. Keep your poem under 30 lines.

2. Remember that good poems have more than one subject (the obvious and the suggested or inherent).

3.  Show, don’t tell.

4. Don’t let the obvious meaning of the line dictate what your content will be.

5. Let your poem connect, reveal, and surprise.


Some Lines You Might Like to Use:
  1. “In my beginning is my end” by T. S. Eliot from “East Coker”
  2. “Beauty is truth, truth beauty; that is all” from “Ode On A Grecian Urn” by John Keats
  3. “But at my back I always hear” from “To His Coy Mistress” by Andrew Marvell
  4. “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold” from “The Second Coming” by William Butler Yeats
  5. “And miles to go before I sleep” from “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” by Robert Frost
  6. “Let us go then, you and I,” from T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”
  7. “Because I could not stop for Death,” from Emily Dickinson’s “Because I could not stop for Death”
  8. “I celebrate myself, and sing myself,” from Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself”
  9. “Hope is the thing with feathers” from “Hope Is The Thing With Feathers” by Emily Dickinson
  10. “Scarcely a tear to shed” from “An Evening” by Gwendolyn Brooks
  11. “Our whisper woke no clocks” from “Dear, Though the Night Is Gone” by W.H. Auden“When we two parted / In silence and tears” from “When We Two Parted” by George Gordon (Lord) Byron
  12. "When we two parted / In silence and tears” from “When We Two Parted” by George Gordon (Lord) Byron)


  1. A line that immediately sprang to mind is 'Let us go, then, you and I ...' from Eliot's 'Prufrock.'

    This prompt is great to take us back to poems we love and then to create new ones. Thanks, Adele!

    1. Great line from "Prufrock," Jamie. Thanks so much for your comment.

  2. This is great. I've done something similar with students in which I give them a line from a poem to use as their opening line. All the students start with the same line, and it's amazing to see how different each poem turns out.

    1. Interesting, Rich. Must be fun to see how each student "interprets" the line you give them. thanks for commenting.

  3. The first line is from the Greek poet (Nobel laureat) Odysseus Elytis poem "Event in August"


    And I picked up a stone and aimed it afar
    between the still lake and daylight
    that bled at the west hill line

    Up and down, it skipped the water
    and (spent) came to a stand
    and sank

    after it set my evening
    in a silent

    Basil Rouskas

    1. A great first line, Basil, and a fine job with your extension of it. Thanks so much for sharing.

    2. I like your poem, Basil. The "inspiration" line from the Greek poet laureate is so evocative.

  4. Great way to jumpstart the writing process.

    Nice poem, Basil!

    1. Yep, jumpstarting is what these prompts are about! thanks for commenting, Bob!

  5. Let's go then
    you and I
    Let's raise ourselves
    to a higher high
    Leave behind the gross and heavy forms
    and fly
    to freedom
    Leave this beautiful horrible world
    and exist in a different consciousness
    on another plain
    Let's go then
    you and I

    1. Love it, Risa! Your signature style of dead-serious whimsy, brief, to the point, and so meaningful. I agree with Adele's comment about the "music in it." Thank you for sharing with us!

  6. This is the second time I've tried to post a reply to your poem, Risa! Apparently something glitchy is going on with Blogger.

    I love the way you created a strong sense of sound with alliteration, assonance, and repetition. Skillfully done! Thanks so much for sharing.

  7. Thank you Adele for this wonderful blog, the connections with others and these thought inspiring prompts!