Saturday, January 28, 2017

Prompt #273 – Building Bridges: The Puente

I've never been a very enthusiastic fan of most "form" poems, but I recently came across a form of poetry that really appeals to me. I thought I’d share it with you this week and hope that you like it as much as I do. It seems easy at first blush, but it’s really quite sophisticated and wonderfully challenging.

Called the “Puente,” this is a 3-stanza form created by James Rasmusson. The first and third stanzas have an equal number of lines, and the middle stanza has only one line, which acts as a bridge (puente in Spanish) between the first and third stanzas. The single-line stanza in the middle serves as the ending or closure for the last line of the first stanza and as the beginning for the first line of the third stanza. The first and third stanzas are related (they share a topical or thematic thread), but there can be a shift in content and emotion from the first to the third stanzas. There are no rhyme or line length requirements.

In the examples I found online written by James Rasmussen, the third line begins and ends with a tilde (~), but you may prefer to use either an en dash (–) or a longer em dash (—). Remember that with en and em dashes, there should be no space either before or after them.

Keep in mind that your first and third stanzas may have any number of lines as long as the number of lines in each is the same. There will always be a single line stanza (a "bridge") between them.


1. After you have some idea of topic and possible content, free write for a while. Jot down images and phrases as they occur to you.

2. Then, look over what you’ve written and begin to write a poem.

3. Because stanzas are integral to this form, work on creating two stanzas (1st and 3rd) that have the same number of lines.

4. Now, here’s the fun part: write a  second stanza in a single line that will serve as the closure line for your first stanza as well as the “opener” for the third stanza. Think in terms of how the one-line stanza relates to the 1st and 3rd stanzas and connects them in some way. This may be a bit tricky, and you may want to try several lines before deciding upon the one that you will include in your poem.

5. Capitalize and punctuate as you would in prose throughout your poem. Don’t use a capital to begin your middle line, and don’t end with a comma, semi-colon, colon, or terminal punctuation mark. (Please see the examples below.)


1. Remember that each of your two stanzas may have as many lines as you like as long as the line number is equal in both. Make sure your second stanza (one-line stanza) is powerful, evocative, and meaningful.

2. Show, don’t tell—through striking imagery, a strong emotional center, and an integrated whole of language, form, and meaning.

3. Challenge the ordinary, connect, reveal, surprise! And … remember that a poem should mean more than the words it contains.

4. Understand that overstatement and the obvious are deadly when it comes to writing poetry. Don’t ramble on, and don’t try to explain everything. Your stanzas don’t have to contain a lot of lines. Often in poetry, less is more.

5. Bring your poem to closure with a dazzling dismount. (Be careful not to undercut your poem’s “authority” by ending with trivia or a “so what” line that doesn’t make your readers gasp.)


Following is an example from the form’s originator, James Rasmussen, and then four samples from my own work. Take special note of the way the second stanza (middle, single-line stanza) creates a "bridge" (puente) between the first and third stanzas.


To Find a Better Life
By James Rasmussen

“I can’t read or write
but experience taught me
wrong from right”
were grandpa’s final words as Roberto
began his journey on the migrant trail

~to find a better life~

he’d suffer hunger, thirst
and blistered feet to
leave the Mixteca world
of the Zapotec to become
a stranger in a strange land.

Copyright © 2008 by James Rasmusson. All rights reserved.


By Adele Kenny

I have seen it in the small hills of a sleeping child's eyes,
in the pond after rain when water filled the edges with
something like light. I have felt it in the yellow petal
of a daffodil that touched my face like a tender palm;

—I have heard it in a sighing somewhere, gentle—

like my mother's breath in my ear before I was born.
And sometimes, when spring comes easy, I hear it in
something high, in a soft soprano, in the weeping
and warbling of something with wings.

Copyright © 2017 by Adele Kenny All rights reserved.


Seeley Road
By Adele Kenny

More rust on the iron gates, but here on the hill
things are mostly the same. A milk snake still
twists through the weeds; the thorn apple scratches
a side of the sky. As a child I came here often.
Once, I lay with a tombstone at my head and tried
to feel what death is like,

—my shadow lengthens across these stones—

and I think how shadows hold us, sober us,
tease memory with what refuses to be forgotten,
and bring us back to places we started from or
slept through. I think how shadows are cut from
another side of light like a string of paper dolls,
each one unfolding another.

Copyright © 2017 by Adele Kenny All rights reserved.

Tonight the Wind
By Adele Kenny

Tonight the wind huddles, murmuring
through pines that deepen and fringe
the sides of the valley. On the distant
hillside, a stand of poplars lifts the
tree line into stars. The creek's last
rush takes the maple grove, whirling,
flinging pieces of brighter seasons over
the falls. There is a faint or perhaps
remembered scent of wild mint.

 —a lingering sadness for what has gone—

It’s like this with change: none, innocent
or calculated, quick or slow, is easy.
Something is always left behind or washed
away; something lost remembered. But from
the great and gathering dark of every winter
there comes an unwary light that nothing will stop.
And I smile, not minding this cold rain that by
morning will thicken into snow, covering the earth
with a white and shameless expectancy.

Copyright © 2017 by Adele Kenny All rights reserved.



  1. Yowzers! I love this prompt, and your example poems are fantastic! Thank you!

    1. So glad you like this one, Jamie! Thanks so much for your enthusiastic response and for your kind words.

  2. Great prompt! Thanks so much.

    Oh, and your examples are beautiful. Thanks for sharing them.

    1. Thanks, Sandy! And thank you so much for your kind words about my example poems.

  3. I never heard of this form before, but it's great! Thanks! Your examples poems are wonderful.

    1. Thanks so much for your comment, J. Weiland! Thanks for your kind words about the example poems.

  4. So, my students loved the prompt and one smarty even asked if he could write one-line stanzas for all three. I told him to go ahead and try. He actually came up with quite a good poem with five lines in stanzas 1 & 3. Thanks for another great "lesson plan."

    1. There's one in every class, isn't there, Rich? I'm so glad to hear that your students liked the prompt.

  5. I've just discovered your blog and wanted to say how great it is. I'm sure I'll be a regular visitor. Thanks!

    1. Welcome to the blog, John! Thanks for your kind words.