Saturday, February 5, 2022


When I started this blog in 2012, I had no long-term expectations for it. I simply wanted to provide prompts as a small service to other poets. Over the past 12 years, there have been 375 prompts, a number of guest blogger posts, and various other poetry-related items offered. It's been a lot of work, but it's also been a  lot of fun.


I'm happy to report that since 2020 and the start of the Covid pandemic, I've been fully vaccinated and boosted and continue to wear a mask when I'm out. So far, so good, and I'm still Covid-free. Sadly, though, I think we're all Covid-weary and long for our lives to re-inflate.  


Having found it challenging to write during the past two years, and because a number of my poet colleagues and friends have expressed similar feelings, I've decided that this may be a good time to take an extended "time out," to regroup, revamp and re-energize. I'm definitely not cancelling the blog and plan to resume posting sometime in the future. In the meantime, I wish you all the best, every success with your writing, and much good health. 


The blog will remain up! There are lots of posts, which I hope you'll visit and, hopefully, find useful. If you'd like to be in touch, I invite you to contact me via my website


God's abundant blessings to each of you!



With my sincerest and most grateful good wishes,



 To be continued!





Saturday, December 18, 2021



As this year comes to a close, I wish all of you the best blessings of the season—


light, love, good health, and peace—now and throughout the coming year.



May the treasures of this special season


become the golden memories of tomorrow.


As Tiny Tim observed in A Christmas Carol,  "God bless us, everyone."



Love and virtual hugs to each of you!



P.S. Posts will resume in about a month. 

Monday, November 29, 2021

Prompt #375 - Travel Poems from Guest Blogger Nancy Lubarsky


Dear Blog Readers,


First I wish our Jewish friends a Hanukkah filled with light and peace, and I wish a blessed Advent season to our readers who observe it. This is the time of year when we think about love and light and miracles; a time when we celebrate families and friendships; a time when the word “peace” is often spoken. This is a time of year when we travel inward and outward spiritually. We think history, of others, and those who are in need. We live in troubled and challenging times, but the spirit of hope is a constant we can all embrace. 



 I wish you all the best blessings of this special time of year!

At this beginning of Hanukah and of Advent, I’m happy to share a wonderful prompt that my friend and fellow poet Nancy Lubarsky has written for us.

Nancy has been an educator for over 35 years. A retired school superintendent, she holds a Doctorate in English Education from Rutgers University. Nancy has been published in various journals, including Edison Literary Review, Lips, Poetry Nook, Poetica, Tiferet, Exit 13, Stillwater Review, Howl of Sorrow Anthology, Paterson Literary Review, Poetry Nook, Great Falls/Passaic River Anthology, and US1 Worksheets. Nancy received honorable mention in the 2014 and 2016 Allen Ginsberg Poetry Awards, and Editor’s Choice in 2017. She has also been nominated twice for the Pushcart prize. She is the author of two books: Tattoos (Finishing Line Press) and The Only Proof (Kelsay Press, a Division of Aldrich Books).

Travel Poems by Nancy Lubarsky

Summer is over. Did you get to travel anywhere? Some of us, despite the pandemic, have managed to squeeze out travel, whether by car, by mass transit, or by plane. Maybe your reasons were to just get away, travel for work or to visit someone after far too long. Or perhaps you’ve been cooped up all these months and you keep reflecting on places you’ve been years ago, who you were with, and what it all means to you. (Perhaps your trips have been more utilitarian – to the grocery store or the doctor, no matter.)

Travel is such a rich subject for poetry. It’s a unique way to memorialize where you’ve been. Besides just taking photographs, you can create word pictures of your travels. Travel poems have been written from a variety of perspectives: some focus on the journey, some on the destination, some focus on someone the writer has encountered along the way, some focus on an object, a place or a souvenir that triggers great meaning or memory.

What follows are some excerpts from travel poems (in loose categories with lots of overlap) from some well-known and lesser-known poets (including a few I’ve written) with a brief introduction, just to give you some ideas and or inspiration. Except where noted, if there is an ellipsis, the complete poems are contained in the links at the end of this blog.

Getting There

Sometimes getting there is as interesting than being there. Rita Dove is at the airport observing people as she waits to board. Bob Hickok describes his experience on a Greyhound bus. My poem is about a car trip where my family passed right by our destination!


Rita Dove

I love the hour before takeoff,
that stretch of no time, no home
but the gray vinyl seats linked like
unfolding paper dolls. Soon we shall
be summoned to the gate, soon enough
there’ll be the clumsy procedure of row numbers
and perforated stubs—but for now
I can look at these ragtag nuclear families
with their cooing and bickering
or the heeled bachelorette trying
to ignore a baby’s wail and the baby’s
exhausted mother waiting to be called up early
while the athlete, one monstrous hand
asleep on his duffel bag, listens,
perched like a seal trained for the plunge…


Go Greyhound

Bob Hiok


A few hours after Des Moines

the toilet overflowed.

This wasn't the adventure it sounds.

I sat with a man whose tattoos

weighed more than I did.

He played Hendrix on mouth guitar.

His Electric Ladyland lips

weren't fast enough

and if pitch and melody

are the rudiments of music,

this was just

memory, a body nostalgic

for the touch of adored sound.

Hope's a smaller thing on a bus…

You Just Passed the Red Apple Rest

Nancy Lubarsky

The Red Apple Rest finally rested in

2007. The New York Thruway killed it.

People stopped going to the Catskills.

Every summer, when I was little, we

visited my aunt’s Monticello bungalow

but, truthfully, it’s a blur. The Red Apple

Rest is all I remember. Each roadside

billboard, strategically placed with a

prominent apple and decreasing numbers,

led us there on our journey along Route

17. We didn’t have to annoy my parents

with, Are we there yet? 25 miles to the Red

Apple Rest, 22 miles, and then 15, 5, 1 mile,

500 feet … Inside the car, our family had a

clear focus, a midway point, a distraction from

the long ride. The Red Apple was the perfect

place to stop, but we never did…

Who’s Along for the Ride

The people you meet along the way can impact the way you experience a place. In Major Jackson’s poem he describes his meeting with the poet Mark Strand at a café in Italy. In my poem, I focus on my experience at a synagogue in Cuba where I encountered a different man named Fidel.


Major Jackson

for Mark Strand

Beneath canopies of green, unionists marched doggedly
The Embassy. Their din was no match
for light lancing through leaves of madrone trees
lining the Paseo then flashing off glossy black 
skidding round a plaza like a monarch fleeing the paparazzi.
Your voice skipped and paused like a pencil.
Layers of morning pastries flaked gingerly
then fell, soft as vowels, on a china plate. One learns
to cherish the wizened reserve of old world manners,
two blotched hands making wings of a daily paper
beside us between sips of café con leche, a demeanor
in short gentle as grand edifices along this boulevard…

This Fidel

Nancy Lubarsky

The turquoise convertible, with the 1950’s

flair, drops us at a broken sidewalk in front

of El Patronato. Through locked metal gates

we see the paneled doors carved with the

twelve tribes of Israel. Years before, fifteen

thousand Cuban Jews caught whiff of a new

dictator, another upheaval. Most paddled or

flew to seek asylum. Those who remained

stayed silent. Left with nothing but their

birthright, they whispered it to their children.

This Fidel opens the gate, welcomes us. He is

bald, clean shaven, no army fatigues. Born

and raised in Havana, he maintains this

sanctuary with meager resources, waits for

the rabbi to circle back every few months…


Sometimes your journey is anchored to a special food, an object or an animal. In these poems Charlie Smith remembers a stuffed pastry (called a Crostata) in Italy, Laura Tohe stole a blue Impala in Arizona, and Tom Plante remembers a particular bird in Costa Rica.

Crostatas (complete poem)

Charlie Smith

in rome I got down among the weeds and tiny perfumed
flowers like eyeballs dabbed in blood and the big ruins
said do it my way pal while starlings
kept offering show biz solutions and well the vatican
pursued its interests the palm trees like singular affidavits
the wind succinct and the mountains painted blue
just before dawn accelerated at the last point
of departure before the big illuminated structures
dug up from the basement got going and I ate crostatas
for breakfast and on the terrace chatted
with the clay-faced old man next door and said I was
after a woman who’d left me years ago and he said lord aren’t we all.

Blue Impala (complete poem)

Laura Tohe


That time I stole a blue Impala in Flagstaff

   the first year they made those automatic windows, you know?

   I was sixteen and I was cruising down the highway 

Hot on the trail to Albuquerque 

I was hungry

             and I was howling, man.

It was like stealing the best horse in the herd.


For That (complete poem)

Tom Plante


Someone asked the poet

where his inspiration comes from.


His hand reached up and he made a fist

as if he were trying to snatch an annoying gnat.


That reminded me of being asked

if I’d written any Costa Rica poems.


I stayed there for a week, ten degrees north of the equator.

Maybe I’ll know in a few years, I said.


The small yellow bird that enjoyed our deck at dawn

inspired me to write but wouldn’t say its name.


When I find out what it’s called, I’ll know

more than I did before. It’s not a swallow,


not a lark, not a vulture. It woke me at 5 a.m.

and taught me to love the dawn. For that I’m grateful.

A Look Back

Your memories of childhood vacations or trips with family (even day trips) are rich sources for reflection and writing. Richard Blanco revisits the Gulf Motel in Florida and it brings back such clear memories. My poem takes me back to one particular ride at an amusement park.

Looking for the Gulf Motel

Richard Blanco

…My mother should still be in the kitchenette
of The Gulf Motel, her daisy sandals from Kmart
squeaking across the linoleum, still gorgeous
in her teal swimsuit and amber earrings
stirring a pot of arroz-con-pollo, adding sprinkles
of onion powder and dollops of tomato sauce.
My father should still be in a terrycloth jacket
smoking, clinking a glass of amber whiskey
in the sunset at the Gulf Motel, watching us
dive into the pool, two boys he'll never see
grow into men who will be proud of him…

Casa Loco

Nancy Lubarsky

Our guide stayed upright as he talked.

He made it look easy. But people began

to slip. We held onto the rail. My parents

struggled to stay balanced. I can’t

remember much about Freedomland, an

amusement park in the Bronx. My parents

weren’t well off. They had health issues.

We rarely went anywhere. But we went to

Freedomland every year for the five years

it lasted…


Travel can be a great source of humor. Read how Bob Rosenbloom compares his view of the Grand Canyon to a thick deli sandwich. Billy Collins shares his stories about his travels by telling you why he is so happy to stay home.

Grand Canyon

Bob Rosenbloom

When I went sight-seeing, I couldn’t

get over how much the eroded rock

looked like layers of corned beef

and pastrami, the redder rock, the meat,

the paler, in-between, outcroppings,

layers of fat my mother made a point

of asking me to ask the guys at the deli counter

to cut. It should never have been an issue.

Sometimes they did. Other times, they didn’t.

My mother would let me know how I did each trip…


Billy Collins

How agreeable it is not to be touring Italy this summer,
wandering her cities and ascending her torrid hilltowns.
How much better to cruise these local, familiar streets,
fully grasping the meaning of every road sign and billboard
and all the sudden hand gestures of my compatriots.

There are no abbeys here, no crumbling frescoes or famous
domes and there is no need to memorize a succession
of kings or tour the dripping corners of a dungeon.
No need to stand around a sarcophagus, see Napoleon’s
little bed on Elba, or view the bones of a saint under glass.

How much better to command the simple precinct of home
than be dwarfed by pillar, arch, and basilica.
Why hide my head in phrase books and wrinkled maps?
Why feed scenery into a hungry, one-eyed camera
eager to eat the world one monument at a time?...


Now it’s your turn to write your travel poem. See if the following prompts can help:

  1. What did you hate about travel? Can you use Billy Collins’s poem as a model and describe why you won’t ever travel again through the places you’ve been.

  1. For those of you who’ve been cooped up for the past few years, think about when you did final venture out. What was that like? Can you capture your fear or trepidation, your relief that you were finally “on the road”? What object, person or experience most captures that moment?

  1. In all of your poems, pay attention to the words that these poets use to describe their travels. In so many of them, they bring us to the seat right next to them, experiencing what they experienced with rich description and sensory detail.

  1. Perhaps you can start out trying to model one of the above poems, or use one of the themes in these poems as a springboard to write your own.

Poems in Their Entirety:


Thank you, Nancy!




Saturday, October 30, 2021

Prompt #374 – Someone Who Changed Your Life for the Better

(Me, Charlie's Wife Leni Fuhrman, Charles DeFanti)

For our last prompt, I wrote about my seventh grade English teacher and the autumn poem to which she introduced me. I invited you to write poems about October and/or autumn. This time, I'm writing about another teacher, this time a college professor, who has had a powerful impact on my life. 


I started my undergraduate work as a physical education major when I was 17 years old and quickly realized that it wasn't right for me. I decided on phys ed because I was involved in dance and gymnastics, and I thought it would be a good fit. Sadly, it wasn't. One afternoon, I was hit in the mouth with a field hockey stick during a game (oh, how I hated team sports). With a bloody lower lip and all the rage I could muster, I walked off the field to the sound of our instructor yelling, "Kenny, where the hell do you think you're going?" 


In those days, we were assigned counselors. Mine happened to be my freshman composition professor, Charles DeFanti. I marched myself, bleeding lip and all, into his office and asked him to get me out of that "blankety-blank" major. He very calmly handed me a handkerchief and asked if I needed medical help. I said, "no" (the cut was small and didn't go through my lip, it just bled a lot). 


So ... I sat there fuming and mopping my lip with his handkerchief. When I calmed down and the bleeding let up, DeFanti (as the students referred to him) asked me if I was serious about changing majors. I definitely was! He asked what major appealed to me, but I didn't have a clue. He then asked me what I liked to do. I replied that writing poetry and reading were the things I enjoyed most, to which he replied,"Okay, good, you can be an English major." I had no idea what was involved in transferring from one major to another, nor did I have a clue as to what was expected of English majors in terms of courses, but DeFanti took care of it all. In record time, I was happily and deeply immersed in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales and the intricacies of American English grammar. I never looked back.

In the years after college, I taught English, creative writing, and gifted ed. After twenty years in the public school system, five years at the College of New Rochelle, and ten years at a local Police Academy, I retired from teaching and have been writing poems and nonfiction since. If it hadn't been for Charles DeFanti (his caring, intelligence, and good judgment), my life would have taken a very different course. 


Most importantly, Charlie's influence on my life wasn't momentary. He and I have stayed in touch for 55 years, and he has remained a dear friend, a trusted mentor, and a major source of encouragement in all areas of my life. Without his indelible support and the role model he has provided, it's doubtful that I would have been able to accomplish much in the field of writing at all. My gratitude to him has been, and will always remain, a profoundly relevant part of who I am.

In talking to friends, I learned that a number of them have had experiences with important people in their lives who, as Charles DeFanti did for me, made their lives better just by being there for them. Perhaps you've had a similar person (parent, spouse, friend, child, teacher, mentor) to support, guide, and direct you.

For this prompt, I invite you to think about your life and to pick one person who has helped to empower you, who has directed your course in some special way, and who has led you to actualize your potential.





1. Begin by thinking about the people who have impacted your life in special ways.


2. Choose one person to write about.


3. Create a list of the ways in which this person has contributed positively to your life.


4. Make a word or phrase bank of your person's special attributes and qualities of character.


5.  Keep in mind that most poems have strong emotional centers that don't smother meaning with sentiment. (There's a big difference between sentimentality and poetic sentiment.)

6. Work on a sense of immediacy (even when you write in the past tense). Stay away from the passive voice, and be wary of "ing" endings.


7. Avoid over-use of adjectives and too many details (bulk without substance can be deadly).

8. Remember that imagery is key, and write about things, not ideas. Show, don't simply tell.


9. You poem may be ode-like in content and form, it may be a thank-you poem or a narrative, it may be presented in the form of a letter, and it may be composed in lineated or prose poem format.


10. The idea is to honor someone special who has encouraged you to be your best "you."


Saturday, October 9, 2021

Prompt #373 – Autumn


Many (many) years ago, when I was in 7th grade, we had two periods of English every day. One was for all the technical aspects of grammar, and the other was for literature. Diagramming sentences was a little too much like math for me, and all the rules of where to place commas escaped me (I simply put them wherever there was a natural pause). Of course, I loved the literature classes best.


Our literature teacher was a young woman named Dorothy Muccilli (1932-2018). Miss Muccilli introduced us to all kinds of written art, but she had a special love for poetry, and she encouraged us to write poems as class assignments. She was the only teacher who actually told me she thought I had a gift for writing poetry. Needless to say, I adored her and her class. 

That October (I was 11 years old at the time and would turn 12 in November), Miss Muccilli read a poem to us by a poet named Bliss Carmen. The poem was titled "A Vagabond Song." I remember how the words of that poem touched me and how my response to it was like nothing I'd ever experienced before. I could visualize the images but, even more importantly, I "felt" the poem in some deep place that I now call "spirit." 

Something special happened with Miss Muccilli's reading of Bliss Carmen's poem that resulted in the moment I consciously realized how much I love poetry, that poetry would always be part of my life, and that I always wanted to write poems. Yes, definitely a conscious realization, although I wouldn't have called it that back then. Why that poem, why then? Who knows, but it brought about a revelation for me that has impacted my life ever since.  


I memorized "A Vagabond Song" when I was in 7th grade and, believe it or not, I can still recite it from memory today (60+ years later).


A Vagabond Song

        By Bliss Carmen

There is something in the autumn that is native to my blood—
Touch of manner, hint of mood;
And my heart is like a rhyme,
With the yellow and the purple and the crimson keeping time.

The scarlet of the maples can shake me like a cry
Of bugles going by.
And my lonely spirit thrills
To see the frosty asters like a smoke upon the hills.

There is something in October sets the gypsy blood astir;
We must rise and follow her,
When from every hill of flame
She calls and calls each vagabond by name.



The Prompt


 The prompt I offer you is to simply write a poem about October (or autumn in general).




1. Jot down some ideas about this time of year. 


2. Make an image "bank" from which you can draw when writing your poem.


3. Evoke a feeling through the details you include.


4. Put yourself into the poem; write in the first person and consider writing in the present tense to create a sense of immediacy. Also consider not including anyone but yourself in the poem—focus on your reflections and what the season means to you.

5. Watch out for "ing" endings that your poems can live without. Avoid the passive voice.

6. Be judicious in your use of adjectives. Remember that too many can spoil an otherwise good poem. 


7. Edit carefully. It might be a good idea to write what feels like your final draft and then let it "sit" for a day or two before you come back to it. 


8. Enjoy the writing!

I send you, dear blog readers, my very best wishes 

for a healthy, safe, and beautiful autumn season!






Saturday, September 25, 2021

On Being a Poet from Guest Blogger Michael T. Young

I’m happy to once again welcome Michael T. Young to the blog. Mike is an amazing poet who calls me his “poetry mom.” I’m proud to call him my “poetry son.”

Mike’s third full-length collection, The Infinite Doctrine of Water (check out the amazing cover image), published by Terrapin Books (, was longlisted for the Julie Suk Award. His previous collections are The Beautiful Moment of Being Lost and Transcriptions of Daylight. He received a Fellowship from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts. His chapbook, Living in the Counterpoint, received the Jean Pedrick Chapbook Award. His poetry has been featured on Verse Daily and The Writer’s Almanac. It has also appeared or is forthcoming in numerous journals including Banyan Review, Gargoyle Magazine, Rattle, Talking River Review, Tiferet, and Valparaiso Poetry Review.


Michael's Website:


To Order Michael's Books:



From Michael T. Young


Rilke, in response to a young poet who sought his advice, wrote, “ask yourself in the most silent hour of your night: must I write? Dig into yourself for a deep answer. And if this answer rings out in assent, if you meet this solemn question with a strong, simple ‘I must,’ then build your life in accordance with this necessity; your whole life, even into its humblest and most indifferent hour, must become a sign and witness to this impulse.”

On the one hand, it’s commendable that Rilke advises the young poet not to seek validation for his art in its publication but in his urge to create. This rings true and is something we could all stand to remember as we pursue publication in the most prestigious journals or long for the big prizes. On the other hand, the singlemindedness of that closing declaration about building one’s whole life around writing, is more like a call to a religious passion and conjures images of monasteries and stained glass rather than someone at a desk striking out a bad line. This perspective goes back at least to the Romantics who deified the imagination. But it’s false and isolating.

Treating the desire to write poetry as a kind of monastic calling implies that if I’m not willing to sacrifice everyone and everything to my writing, then I’m not a poet. To that, I say, “h----s---.” I’m a poet because I write poems, because I like writing poems, I like laboring over the right word, the right rhythm, the image development, and every other nuance of language and poetic transition and metamorphosis. But I don’t have to turn my back on my wife to do that. I don’t have to ignore my children or friends to do that. I don’t have to quit my job and live under a bridge.

Poetry is not an all or nothing proposition; life as a poet is not an either/or ultimatum. To make life as a poet a devotion exclusive of all other things in life except perhaps as fodder for new work is to isolate the poet as a freakish creature from the rest of the world. It is to make of the poet a parasite that merely uses and consumes all around them in the production of their art, rather than seeing it as it is: one element in a full life. It is to turn the poet into a monster and provide a justification to replace the conscience they have sacrificed to the god of their imagination. But this doesn’t have to be. A poet is one who writes poems and likes the labor of writing poems. Plain and simple. This doesn’t require a monkish devotion that excludes all other aspects of life or a sacrifice of them. That is a lie the world tries to sell. As the poet Charles Martin put it in his poem, “A Walk in the Hills above the Artists’ House”:

“But if our writing matters, what 

Makes it matter matters more

Than it does.”




Thank you so much, Michael!