Saturday, July 18, 2020

Prompt #356 – Right As Rain

“A poet is someone who stands outside in the rain 
hoping to be struck by lightning.” 

(James Dickey)

From the opening words of Chaucer’s Prologue in The Canterbury Tales, poetry has often opened its windows to the weather. In my corner of the world, we had a very rainy spring and, on this summer day, as we stand on the verge of a heat wave, it’s raining. It may be sunny and bright when you read this, but it occurred to me that for this prompt we might “stand outside in the rain” and make some “poetry lightning.”

Before you begin writing, following are a few rain poems that might inspire you.

1. “April Rain Song” by Langston Hughes

Let the rain kiss you
Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops
Let the rain sing you a lullaby
The rain makes still pools on the sidewalk
The rain makes running pools in the gutter
The rain plays a little sleep song on our roof at night
And I love the rain.

2. “The Rain” by Robert Creeley

3. “The Rainwalkers” by Denise Levertov

An old man whose black face
shines golden-brown as wet pebbles
under the streetlamp, is walking two mongrel dogs of dis–
proportionate size, in the rain,
in the relaxed early-evening avenue.

The small sleek one wants to stop,
docile to the imploring soul of the trashbasket,
but the young tall curly one
wants to walk on; the glistening sidewalk entices him
to arcane happenings.

Increasing rain. The old bareheaded man
smiles and grumbles to himself.
The lights change: the avenue’s
endless nave echoes notes of
liturgical red. He drifts

between his dogs’ desires.
The three of them are enveloped—
turning now to go crosstown—in their
sense of each other, of pleasure,
of weather, of corners,
of leisurely tensions between them
and private silence.

4. “Summer Shower” by Emily Dickinson

A Drop fell on the Apple Tree –
Another – on the Roof –
A Half a Dozen kissed the Eaves –
And made the Gables laugh –

A few went out to help the Brook,
That went to help the Sea –
Myself Conjectured were they Pearls –
What Necklaces could be –

5. “The Rainy Day” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Be still, sad heart! and cease repining;
Behind the clouds is the sun still shining;
Thy fate is the common fate of all,
Into each life some rain must fall,
Some days must be dark and dreary.

Guidelines and Tips:

1. Before writing, consider the following:
     How does rain make you feel?
     Do rain clouds and rain make you feel melancholy?
     Is there anything romantic about rain?
     Does rain make you feel sleepy?
     Do you love falling asleep to the sound of rain on the windows and roof? 
     Does a rainy day in any season remind you of springtime?
     Is there a freshness (newness, cleanness) in rain that speaks to you?
     What memories does rain evoke?
     How do thunder and lightning storms make you feel; what memories do they suggest?
     Do you like the feeling of rain on your face?
     Does hearing rain outdoors make you feel cozy indoors?
     How does walking in rain make you feel?
     Have you ever walked in the woods while it was raining softly?
     Have you ever visited in a graveyard in rain?
     How is rain like a voice behind a door?

2. After thinking about the above questions, and with an idea about rain in mind, begin writing your poem. You might want to begin with a free write or even some stream of consciousness writing.

3. Begin to shape a poem from your free write. Work on imagery, metaphor, and sound quality (including alliteration, assonance and consonance). Think about juxtaposing images.

4. Whether you share a memory, tell a story, or simply reflect upon rain, try limiting your poem to 25 lines or less. This isn't arbitrary – compression is important – be careful of including too many details.

5. Let the rain in your poem speak to you, and remember that the best poems mean more than they say.

6. Alternatively, you may wish to substitute another “weather” and write a poem using that as your muse (frost, snow, sleet, hail).

7. A second alternative is to use “April Rain Song” by Langston Hughes as a model for your poem. 

Let the rain________
Let the rain________
Let the rain________

(Fill in the blanks and take it from there.)


For something special, and a different kind of challenge, try writing a haiku about rain.

NOTE: Haiku are compact and direct, and are usually written in the present tense with a sense of immediacy (a sense of being “in the moment”). The natural world and our responses to it are integral to haiku. While haiku appear to be light and spontaneous, their writing requires profound reflection and discipline.  Haiku are about spiritual realities, the realities of our every-day lives, and the realities of human and natural world relationships. Most importantly, haiku honor the inside of an experience through attention to the outside. Three lines have become the norm, but haiku of one and two lines are also seen. Typically, haiku contain two phrases (or images) that are inherently unrelated but are juxtaposed to show some commonality within a particular experience. Organize your thoughts into approximately three lines. Use only the most absolutely necessary words, and keep things simple.

Here's an absolutely perfect little gem powered by the juxtaposition of utter loneliness and rain. Try reading the poem twice, slowly—then, close your eyes and "feel" the haiku.

 By Pamela A. Babusci

     utter loneliness
     the sound of rain
     at every window

From Haiku in Action, Nick Virgilio Haiku Association. 
Winning selection for July 4 – July 10, 2020.

Pamela is an internationally award-winning haiku/tanka poet and haiga artist; 
she is the founding editor of Moonbathing: A Journal of Women's Tanka.


Additional Examples:

“The Rain” by Ruby Archer
“After the Rain” by Thomas Bailey Aldrich
“After Rain” by Alfred Noyes
“In St. Germain Street” by Bliss Carman
“The Rainy Day” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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