Saturday, March 24, 2018

Prompt #309 - What Wishes Are

When we were children, wishes were part of our immediate reality, and believing that our wishes would come true was easy. You may remember blowing on a dandelion puff and making a wish, or reciting “star light, star bright, first star I see tonight, I wish I may, I wish I might have the wish I wish tonight.” What happens to our wishes when we grow up? We still have them, right? This prompt is about your wishes.


Write a poem ...

1. based on a wish for more time with someone (recall the words in Jim Croce’s song: “If I could make days last forever / If words could make wishes come true / I'd save every day like a treasure and then, / Again, I would spend them with you.”),

2. that “thinks about” a wish to see or spend time with someone you lost touch with years ago,

3. that includes a wish to see/talk to someone no longer living,

4. based on a wish you had as a child,

5. about a wish that was realized and lost,

7. that deals with a wish you know will never come true,

8. that explores the old caveat: “Be careful what you wish for…”


1. The poet Robert Lowell once wrote, “A poem is an event, not the record of an event.” Work toward making your poem an “event.”

2. Be specific, avoid general terms, phrases, and statements. Images aren’t about abstractions or philosophical musings. Rather, they evoke the meaning and truth of human experiences in perceptible and “actual” terms.

3. Remember that when it comes to imagery, the “wow factor” lies in language that is unexpected and deceptively simple.

4. Try to write in the active, not the passive, voice. To do that, it can be helpful to remove “ing” endings and to write in the present tense (this will also create a greater sense of immediacy).

5. Be on the lookout for prepositional phrases that you might remove (articles and conjunctions too).

6. The great author Mark Twain once 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.” This is especially true in poetry. So ... as you work on a poem, think about adjectives and which ones your poem can live without. (Often the concept is already in the noun, and you don’t need a lot of adjectives to convey your meaning.)

7. Avoid clichés (and, while you’re at it, stay away from abstractions and sentimentality).

8. Be wary of incorporating too many details—be sure to leave room for your readers to enter and experience the poem in their own ways.

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

10. Try incorporating anaphora. Anaphora is a kind of parallelism that happens when single words or whole phrases are repeated at the beginning of lines. Shakespeare was fond of anaphora and used it often (in “Sonnet No.66,” he began ten lines with the word “and”). Anaphora can give a sense of litany to a poem and can create a driving rhythm that intensifies a poem’s emotion. In this prompt, perhaps you can use anaphora to intensify the meaning and implications of your wish.




  1. This is the first time I've visited your blog, Adele. It's amazing! I lead a busy life, but will do my best to return as often as I can.

    1. Thanks so much for your kind words, Maude! I hope you find some of the prompts and ideas useful!

  2. Great idea! I wish you and your family a blessed and joyous Easter!

  3. Thanks so much, Jamie! I hope you and your family had a wonderful Easter!