Saturday, January 5, 2019

Prompt #330 – Holding On/Letting Go

Happy New Year, dear blog readers!

The poet Rumi wrote that life is a balance of holding on and letting go. We all have a tendency to hold onto things from the past (especially things that have hurt us). Even though holding on doesn’t necessarily help us, it’s a natural impulse to let things continue. The fact is, though, that it’s impossible to write a new chapter when we keep re-reading an old one.

With a new year beginning, this may be a good time to think about things we haven't been able to let go and to consider how we might jettison feelings and relationships that don't bring us peace.

Sooner or later, most of us experience broken relationships: a romantic break-up, a divorce, a lost love, rifts among family members, friendships that fail. In some cases, these have been painful experiences (some with negative outcomes); in others, the results were more positive. This week, let’s write about “breaking up” with someone, someone you can’t seem to “forgive and forget.” Please note that this won’t be about a loss through death; rather, your poem’s subject matter will be a deliberate break-up (either by your choice or someone else’s). Let your poem tell the story and then think about how translating feelings into written language can be healing.


1. Think about the following:

      What’s the “exit” you’ll never forget?

      What’s the “exit” you’ll never regret?

      What breakup was a good thing for you?

      A teenage breakup, an adult breakup?
      The breakup of a friendship, not a romance?

      A breakup with family members?

You might want to jot down some ideas and then begin a free write based on one of them.

2. When you get some ideas organized, go from your free write to a poem.

3. What coping strategies worked for you at the time of the “breakup?” What was "letting go" like for you? Did you really let go? Have you been holding on?

4. How do you feel about the situation now?

5. Explore the positives as well as the negatives. If you let go, are you better in any way because you did?


1. There should be a sense of intimacy in the poem as you “tell the story” of a break-up (as you reveal something personal). However, be careful not to “overtell,” and avoid writing a confessional poem.
2. You should always leave room for the reader to enter and experience the poem from his or her unique perspective.

3. Be careful not to sentimentalize, become maudlin, or overly-emotional.


“When We Two Parted” by Lord Byron

“Falling and Flying” by Jack Gilbert

“The Break Away” by Anne Sexton

“The Nails” by W. S Merwin

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