Saturday, March 5, 2016

Prompt #248 – Aging

 Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don't mind it, it doesn't matter.
                                                                                              —Mark Twain

Like it or not, aging is something we’re all doing—right now—regardless of how old or young we may be. Have you thought about getting older and what that means to you?

Last Thursday night, I read in a series directed by poets Maria Mazziotti Gillan and Laura Boss. My co-reader was a wonderful poet whom you know from previous posts—Joe Weil. We prepared a back-and-forth reading, both of us at the mic at the same time, taking turns reading on predetermined subjects. One of those subjects was aging. The next morning, I happened upon former United States Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky’s presentation on just that topic, and I began to think about a related prompt.

This week, the challenge is to reflect upon getting older
and to write a poem about it.


1. Free write for a while, and see what happens.
2. Let your free write sit for an hour or so (or even longer), and then go back to it. Read it carefully and select an important point that you made. (This might be a specific incident or a more general reflection.)
3. Begin a poem based on something in your free write.


1. Some subjects you might consider include:
  • The Difference Between Getting Older and Getting Old
  • Wishing You Were Older When You Were Young 
  • Waiting to be Old Enough to Do Something
  • Moving Ahead
  • The Past
  • Self-Knowledge and Getting Older
  • The Wisdom of Age
  • Aging Parents
  • Religion and Aging
  • Retirement
  • Memory? What memory?

2. Remember, even if you are a younger writer, things are different now than they were five or ten years ago. You might want to consider that in your poem.

3. You may want to write from the perspective of a much younger you or even the you that you will be years from now.

4.  William Butler Yeats looks at aging with regret in his poem “When You Are Old”:

          When you are old and gray and full of sleep,
           And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
           And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
           Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

However, you might take a humorous approach in your poem.

5. Avoid sentimentality!

6. Keep in mind that adjectives are descriptors and, in general, they lack the power of nouns and verbs. Often, adjectives are just spectators at a prizefight, the real power and punch come through nouns and verbs. In fact, adjectives sometimes duplicate the meaning of the nouns they describe and are therefore redundant. Too many adjectives can ruin an otherwise good poem. So, as Mark Twain wrote, “When you catch an adjective, kill it. No, I don’t mean utterly, but kill most of them—then the rest will be valuable. They weaken when close together. They give strength when they are wide apart.”

7. Avoid overuse of conjunctions such as and, remove prepositional phrases wherever you can, and stay away from the passive voice.

Examples (Google titles, all may be found online):
“When You Are Old” by William Butler Yeats
“Age” by Robert Creeley
“Affirmation” by Donald Hall
“Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night” by Dylan Thomas
“Lines on Retirement after Reading Lear” by David Wright

And this prose poem, by way of sharing, from my book A Lightness, A Thirst, or Nothing At All:

You Reach a Certain Age

And sometimes the weight of it gets to you, this language of leaving, of holding on. It’s nothing to do with what gets lifted up—a river holds whatever the sky throws into it, a bird that has no need of earth flies away. You reach a certain age and begin to see how things unwind, the way it all plays out. You learn what’s essential, what’s not, and it hardly matters what the world was like when you first tried to exalt it. There are rooms in your life unaccounted for, but you can live with that. (Remember the room you slept in as a child? In less time than you spent there, the sun turned its curtains into dust.) You push back your chair and get up. Outside, a neighbor’s cat stitches and re-stitches the same torn hem, its yellow eye in line with the moon.

(A Lightness, a Thirst, or Nothing at All, Welcome Rain Publishers, 2015, 
Copyright © by Adele Kenny. All rights reserved.)


  1. Hey, where is everyone? I usually wait to comment until a few others have, but here I am first up and aging away! Seriously, a great prompt -- thank you!

  2. This week's prompt has me writing non-stop. Thank you, Adele.

    ~ ~ ~

    The Play Of Flames

    I am older now than they were —
    When the curtains are drawn
    The jumbled toys and clothes put away
    To the kiss on my forehead
    I respond 'goodnight mom!'
    And dad in the garage works on
    His latest cigar box guitar.

    From the open window, I hear grandpa
    On the porch, his heavy eyelids
    Over eyes too soon
    To lose sight of grandma's eternity ring
    With its inset row of blue diamonds
    That hangs on a chain of antique gold
    He wears as a keepsake around his neck

    To which he speaks his last words —
    'The god's set a match
    To every candle's wick
    And choose when to put out the flame
    Of each of us
    A flicker of time
    On a cosmic layered birthday cake.'

    ~ ~ ~

    1. Most enjoyable, Lewis! Thanks for sharing!

    2. Hi, Jamie. I am always happy to share a poem, especially if someone else enjoys reading it. For me, that's what it's all about — entertainment! :)

    3. Very nicely done, Lewis! Thank you, as always, for sharing!

  3. Interesting comments by Pinsky and an interesting prompt. It's not fun to think about getting old, but the possibilities you suggest with this prompt are great.

  4. Amita Jayaraman (Mumbai)March 11, 2016 at 10:06 AM

    A quick 'Thank You' for another wonderful prompt, and a reach out to Lewis for being so nice as to share his poems with us. (Risa, I have always enjoyed your poems too and hope you will share with us again.)

    1. Thanks so much for your comment, Amita!

    2. Hi, Amita. I too enjoy Risa's poems and would also love to read the poems written by others who visit here at 'The Music In It.' At first, posting poems here can be a bit daunting but after a while, you see that others do care and will offer positive encouragement. Best of all is improving our writing and knowing that we are all sharing what we have learned from each other. :)

  5. Your poem "You reach a Certain Age" is truly stunning! Thank you for sharing it.

    1. Oops, sorry, capital "R" on "reach."

    2. I agree, Sandy. And would add to that Adele's books are filled with poems which with careful reading something of the magical begins to reveal itself.

    3. Thank so much, Sandy, for your kind words.

    4. Thank you, Lewis, your kind and generous words are much appreciated.