Saturday, February 26, 2011

Poetry Prompt #45 – Sides of the Fence

As the snow has begun to melt, and my backyard comes into clearer view again, I've been happy to see the lawn but less thrilled to realize that the backyard fence needs replacing. I've also been working on a video trailer for my forthcoming poetry collection and spent a whole afternoon last week searching for a fence photo. Needless to say, I've had fences on my mind, which led to this prompt.

The "prompt proper" this week is to write a poem in which you move from one side of the metaphorical fence to another; that is, each stanza you write will be followed by a partner stanza that's an answer, affirmation, rebuttal, or argument. For example, a statement made in stanza 1 will be followed by a direct response in stanza 2. Stanzas 3 and 4 may continue the thread or move to another subject. You may have as many stanzas as you wish: the only requirement is that each stanza be answered in some way by the stanza that follows it. There are lots of possibilities – to rant and then rave back, to make a statement and rebut it, to "talk" to yourself from two different perspectives, to make a case for something and argue against it, or to create a dialog between two people with each speaking in every other stanza. 

If this doesn't quite work for you, here are some alternative fence prompts:

1. Write a poem entitled "Both Sides of the Fence" or "Fence Sitting."
2. Write a poem about an actual fence (picket, barbed wire, chain link, stone, electric).
3. Write a poem in which a fence is your extended metaphor (a metaphor that is drawn-out beyond the usual word or phrase through the entire poem by using multiple comparisons).
4. Write a poem about the proverbial "other side of the fence."
5. Write a poem about what you see through a hole in your backyard fence.
6. Write a poem based on the famous line in "The Mending Wall" by Robert Frost: "Good fences make good neighbors." ("The Mending Wall" by Robert Frost)

Fence Poem Examples:


  1. Very interesting prompt (and thank you for all the options)! You really put a lot of time into your blog! Thank you!


  2. Thanks, Jamie! Your comments are always much appreciated!

  3. This prompt reminded me of the old cowboy song, "Don't Fence Me In," and the Dean Martin & Mireille Mathieu duet. You can view it on YouTube (the video quality is poor but the audio is great).

  4. Hey, Bob! I thought of the old cowboy song too! (My dad used to sing it.) Thanks for your comment.

  5. Your prompt resulted in my realizing I did not have a "fence" poem. So below is a working draft of my ideas this week as a result of your prompt. This is posted for workshoping, so any readers of Adele's, feel free to comment. Thank you.

    The Fence – At the Edge of My Life

    The fence which marks the boundary of my human existence,
    the end, though but the beginning of that timeless infinity,
    an occasional black vortex, but mostly the stars in the distance,
    without borders, but not barrier-less.

    An oak hewed grain,
    weathered, but not,
    something ominous about this fence,
    more so than most
    where climbing is their main attraction.

    This fence avoided, kept at a distance,
    no foreboding signs
    just omens of an unknown destiny
    only faintly perceived through the mystique,
    imagines, which glimmer through the slatted joints.

    Probing at times for a handle,
    hand wrought iron,
    though a gate adds nothing to a fence
    unless it swings both ways.

    Life pushes towards the demarked wall,
    an air of resignation,
    in my wake,
    the countless -
    for whom this fence
    is but a faint blur on the horizon.

    Ray Brown

  6. Ray, I'm so glad to see that the prompts are inspiring you to write! Thanks so much for posting your draft.

  7. To Ray Brown,

    It's nice of you to offer your poem for workshopping. I think we can learn much from one another's work.

    Although I don't feel comfortable "critiquing," I would like to suggest that you work on this poem to pare it down and eliminate some of the wordiness. Sometimes a great idea can be diminished by writing too much. Something for you to consider.