Saturday, May 14, 2011

Poetry Prompt #53 – Fill in the Blanks

Sometimes it’s fun to work with a time-honored poem as a prompt, so this week I thought you might enjoy trying something I’ve done with workshop groups. It's a bit challenging, but it will cause you to really focus and think. T. S. Eliot’s “Morning at the Window” is our inspiration piece. Begin by reading the poem carefully several times. Then, fill in the blanks with ideas of your own (refer to the inspiration poem frequently while doing this). After you’ve filled in the blanks, look at your “inspired” poem and change it in any ways you wish to make it more completely your own.


By T.S. Eliot (1888-1965)

They are rattling breakfast plates in basement kitchens,
And along the trampled edges of the street
I am aware of the damp souls of housemaids
Sprouting despondently at area gates.

The brown waves of fog toss up to me
Twisted faces from the bottom of the street,
And tear from a passer-by with muddy skirts
An aimless smile that hovers in the air
And vanishes along the level of the roofs.

"Morning at the Window" originally appeared in Poetry, September 1916.

_______ AT THE __________

They are rattling  (plural noun)_____ in (adjective)______  (plural noun) _____,

And along the (adjective)__________ edges of the (noun)____________

I am aware of the (adjective)_______ soul(s) of (noun) __________

Sprouting (adverb)_______ at  (adjective)________   (noun)_________.

The (adjective)______ (plural noun)________ of (noun)___________toss up/down to me

Twisted (plural noun)_____ from the (noun)_________of the (noun)________,

And tear from a (noun)________ with (adjective)______    (plural noun)_______

A/An (adjective)______ (noun) _______ that hovers in the (noun)_________

And vanishes along the (noun)_______ of the (noun)________.


Here are two drafts from a workshop participant.

Draft 1:

Pines at the Start of Night

They are rattling needles in the treetop wind,
And along the loose edges of the night sky
I am aware of the murmuring souls of memory
Sprouting here at grief’s wide gate.

The green sighs of pine boughs toss down to me
Twisted sadness from the years of emptiness,
And tear from a dream with vague hands
A tangible pain that hovers in the heat
And vanishes along the border of sleep.

Draft 2:

Night Pines

Pine needles rattle in the treetop wind
     and along the sky’s loose edge. I am

aware of memory’s murmuring (like souls
     that whisper here at grief’s wide gate) –

a twisted sadness, a dream with vague hands
     that vanishes along the border of sleep.


  1. Interesting prompt (as always)! The difference between the workshopper's first and second drafts is amazing. Shows how much of a process writing poetry is.

  2. I agree with Bob about the workshopper's two versions of the poem. Thanks for posting them - it's always great to see how other poets work through their words.


  3. Thanks for your comments, Bob and Jamie!

  4. This an amazingly powerful prompt for me. Maybe because I resonate with T. S. Eliot's "music"

    Here is what I came up with

    Draft 1


    They are rotting hulls in rhythmic motions,
    And along the rocky edges of the cove
    I am aware of the ghostly souls of sailors
    Nascent incessantly at foamy wave-breaks.

    The sunken ships of the island toss up to me
    Twisted memories from the wrecks of the year
    And tear from memory with waterlogged sounds
    A sorrowful song that hovers in the harbor
    And vanishes along the end of the day.

    Draft 2


    They are rotting hulls in rhythmic motions,
    and along the edges of the cove
    I am aware of the ghosts of sailors
    dying incessantly at each foamy wave-break.

    The sunken ships of this island toss up to me
    twisted memories from last year’s wrecks
    and their waterlogged sounds wipe from memory
    a sorrowful song that hovers by the old port
    and vanishes along the end of the day.

    Basil Rouskas

  5. Basil, thanks for posting and for sharing both drafts with us. I'm so glad this prompt worked for you!

  6. To Basil,

    Thanks for sharing both drafts of your poem. I really like the way you've made subtle changes in the second draft.


  7. Thank you, Jamie.
    Basil Rouskas

  8. Hi Adele,

    Wrote a poem on this prompt a few days ago and posted it on my poetry blog. (My name links to it.) Thanks for another fun prompt!

  9. FANTASTIC, Violet! Thanks so much for sharing!