Saturday, September 2, 2017

Prompt #291 – Poems for Summer's End

I recently listened to an old song called “So Long, Sweet Summer” by Dashboard Confessional, and realized that August came and went, and it’s already September.

There’s always a certain sadness when summer ends, but there’s also also a kind of hopefulness that heralds the celebratory comings of Halloween, Thanksgiving, Chanukah, and Christmas.

Of course, the end of any season may bring with it a mix of emotions, but the movement from August to September means that the abundant season will wind down and despite the brightness of autumn, we all know that winter is coming. For me, the reality of summer’s end has always happened at the beginning of September (even though here in the US, autumn doesn’t officially begin until September 22nd).

For this prompt, I thought it would be interesting to think about summer’s end and to write about an “end of summer” memory, things left to do before autumn arrives, one last visit to the beach, one more getaway—something still-summery for content but with a hint of autumn in the imagery.

While every season is a good time to take stock of our lives and to think about things that need to be changed and improved upon, the end of summer seems an especially appropriate time to me—a good time to think about things and to put a plan for change into action as we prepare for autumn and winter.


1. Begin by generating a list of things (words and phrases) that you associate with summer.

2. Next, make a list of summer memories (good or bad).

3. Then, select one of your memories to write about.

4. You may want to start with a free write. If you do, incorporate some of the things you noted in your first list and see how you can turn them into appropriate images for your poem.

5. After you’ve done your free write, read it and look for ideas and images that you can use in your poem.

6. Try to begin your poem with a line that invites (or lures) your readers in.
7. Keep in mind that a poem should mean more than the words it contains.

8. Think about how you can create a sense of relationship with your readers. How can you re-create your memory in a way that will enable and encourage readers to make a connection to it?

9. Give your readers something to reflect upon.

10. Point toward something bigger, more universal, than your personal experience.


1. Always be specific, avoid general terms, phrases, and statements.

2. Avoid lofty language and literary affectation. Neither big words nor literary pretensions lend themselves well to good poetry. Create a “wow factor” that lies in language that is unexpected and deceptively simple.

3. Watch out for clichéd images. Examine your poems carefully and note any phrases or lines that seem familiar or general. Think in terms of similes, metaphors, and other types of figurative language, and how you can use these to enhance your images.
4. Don’t merely “ornament” your poems with images. Good imagery isn’t a pair of Louboutin shoes or a Rolex watch. Imagery doesn’t “dress up” a poem and should be only be used to present your subject exactly as you perceive it. Imagery that’s too deliberate or self-consciously “poetical” can ruin an otherwise good poem. Don’t be clever or cutesy. Let your images evolve organically with just the right amount of tweaking.
5. Be wary of “imagery overkill.” Too many or over-written images can be tedious if not mind-numbing. When asked how many images a mid-sized poem should contain, my answer is always the same: if you look at poem you’re writing and only find five great lines, then the poem should only be five lines long; in the same way, if you look at a poem you’re working on and only find a single brilliant image, then the poem should only contain a single image.

6. Don’t conclude with a sentimental or emotional statement (both sentiment and emotion may be heartfelt but, when they’re blatantly stated, they can detract from the power of your poem).


A Boy Juggling a Soccer Ball by Christopher Merrill

End of Summer by Stanley Kunitz

Three Songs at the End of Summer by Jane Kenyon

End of Summer by James Richardson


  1. So sad to see summer winding down! Thanks for the prompt and great example poems.

  2. Living in Florida now, I find that the change from summer to autumn takes longer and lacks the vibrancy it has up north. I miss it! Thanks for this prompt that brought summer-to-autumn back to me.

    1. Thanks so much for your comment, Anna! I hope you and your loved ones got through the hurricane unscathed.

  3. Definitely summer's end with a return to school and teaching. Thanks for your blog! As you know, I use it often with my students!

    1. Here's wishing you and your students a great school year, Rich! Feel free to use the blog prompts with your classes.