Saturday, May 4, 2013

Prompt #144 – Forgiveness

To err is human; to forgive, divine.
—Alexander Pope

I recently came across Whittier’s “Forgiveness,” which made me think of personal “forgiveness experiences.” We all have them: things we’ve forgiven, things we can’t forgive, hurts that haunt us, people who refuse to forgive us

Forgiveness by John Greenleaf Whittier

My heart was heavy, for its trust had been
Abused, its kindness answered with foul wrong;
So, turning gloomily from my fellow-men,
One summer Sabbath day I strolled among
The green mounds of the village burial-place;
Where, pondering how all human love and hate
Find one sad level; and how, soon or late,
Wronged and wrongdoer, each with meekened face,
And cold hands folded over a still heart,
Pass the green threshold of our common grave,
Whither all footsteps tend, whence none depart,
Awed for myself, and pitying my race,
Our common sorrow, like a mighty wave,
Swept all my pride away, and trembling I forgave!

How often in our lives have we been hurt and carried that hurt with us, unable or unwilling to let it go? Holding onto anger and resentment can cause us extreme emotional stress, and often, we suffer more than the people who have hurt us. Such feelings can damage us emotionally and spiritually, but getting past them, releasing anger, resentment, and bitterness—forgiving—can lead us to inner peace. We all need to “forgive and forget” (though forgetting is sometimes harder than forgiving); and we all need to move forward, to let the past go. This can happen when we forgive. That said, I know how challenging true forgiveness can be, but forgiving (when we’re able to manage it) can be very freeing. Writing, too, can be freeing. This week, let’s use poetry to work toward resolving some forgiveness issues.


Write a poem about someone you’ve forgiven or someone you haven’t been able to forgive.

Write a poem about something for which you need to be forgiven.

Write a poem about something for which you’ve forgiven or not forgiven yourself.

Write a poem about something you’ve forgiven but can’t forget.

Write a poem about a time in which you “let go” of something (or someone) through forgiveness.

Write a poem about someone who refuses to forgive you.


1. This prompt lends itself to a narrative poem (a poem in which you tell a story).

2. Be careful not to over-tell; don’t include too many details; watch out for overuse of adjectives; and be especially wary of overstating sentiment and emotion. Focus on the elements of your story that readers will relate to (the details may be different, but the response you want to evoke is, “Yes, I know that feeling”).

3. Remember that your poem should contain no unnecessary words, no superfluous phrases, and no explanations. Center on strong images.

4. Use sounds (alliteration, assonance, internal rhymes) to help tell your story.

5. Try writing your narrative poem in the third person and, when you’ve completed it, change to the first person. Which version is better?



  1. Hooray! Regular prompt posts are back! And this one is a cracking one!

    1. Thanks, Jamie!

      (Love that English "cracking.")

  2. Defluxit amor etiam si infinitum dicitur...

    E' svanito in qualche triste vento
    invernale, il nostro amore che pure
    chiamammo infinito; in me lasciò
    ferro dolce di rimpianti, in te,
    forse , solo un ricordo da non
    dimenticare. E ancora ricordo
    tutte le certezze, adesso amare.

    Vanished in some sad winter wind
    our love that even we called infinite;
    it left soft iron regrets in me, in you,
    perhaps,just a memory not to be forget.
    And I still remember certainties,
    so bitter nowadays.

    Adele, I don't know if this translation is understandable or if there are "gross" mistakes; feel free to not post it!


    1. Jago, I just read this on your blog:

      Your language in the translation is brilliant, though I have to admit that I don't know the original language well enough, which translates to this: I love your translation regardless of the original!

      Thanks so much for posting this!

    2. I wish I could read the original properly, though my linguistics background helped a bit. This is a lovely interpretation of the prompt.

    3. Jago, this is brilliant! You're wonderful!

  3. Your lovely prompt made me attempt something that's been burbling around in my brain for some time:

    1. Wonderful, Vivinfrance! You've chosen a little-used form to articulate a powerful life message. thanks for sharing with us.

    2. Thanks so much for sharing. I love that you've written a Spenserian sonnet (not the easiest sonnet form) to reflect on a relationship and the quality of forgiveness. Beautifully written (and your blog is beautifully designed).

      For readers not familiar with Spenserian Sonnet form:

      Spenserian stanza, verse form that consists of eight iambic pentameter lines followed by a ninth line of six iambic feet (an alexandrine); the rhyme scheme is ababbcbcc. The first eight lines produce an effect of formal unity, while the hexameter completes the thought of the stanza. Invented by Edmund Spenser for his poem The Faerie Queene (1590–1609), the Spenserian stanza has origins in the Old French ballade (eight-line stanzas, rhyming ababbcbc), the Italian ottava rima (eight iambic pentameter lines with a rhyme scheme of abababcc), and the stanza form used by Chaucer in his “Monk’s Tale” (eight lines rhyming ... (100 of 148 words)

  4. Basil, don't you dare disappear now that Poetry Month is over!

    You MUST give us a poem or two from time to time. (Even if you repeat one of the older ones.)

    1. Okay, I'm adding my ditto too. (I hope you'll keep posting poems, Basil.)

  5. Jamie and Adele,
    How can I resist?
    I will, I will.
    Thank you both!

  6. Thank you Rich, as well.
    I appreciate your words.

  7. - MH -

    was just a girl
    'splaying rubiauburn caracole
    in dingy sunlight
    as hungry danced 'round
    hungry for something

    she was just a girl

    a daughter-mother
    to skill & scullery
    as the others danced
    merry into dingy sunlight
    hungry for something
    & jessedressy

    she was just a girl

    the strains of music assuaged,
    like an unfamiliar bosom's
    familiar melody,
    to the wireless
    or of the paucitous street
    marconi 'n cheese
    never cheesy enough

    she was just a girl

    whirls, & whirled
    of pirates & barons
    like a vested, barren jessedressy
    restive for something
    beyond vacancy
    & vacated friends,
    now coveted

    she was just a girl

    of violate pianokey smudge:
    what size? critisize,
    home to eyes
    streaked like windows
    in her dingy sunlight
    born to moaning,
    when our cord was cut
    she cried
    is the necessity of invention

    she was just a girl

    two centenaries
    rubiauburn caracole
    too soon silvered
    to bleach white
    like marrowless bones
    fed on resentaplenty...
    wilting silk flowers
    was just a girl

    she was just a girl

    (For F)

    1. HaroHalola,

      Thanks so much for sharing your poem. The inventive word combinations and rhythms are very striking!

    2. Brilliant! The rhythms are amazing!

  8. Forgiveness

    Your bitter tears
    shaking, unsteady voice
    fill my heart
    with your pain
    Only the medicine
    of prayer
    eases the aching
    I willingly
    listen to your
    accept your abuse
    Were I near
    I'd hold your hand
    brush your hair
    and sit by
    your side all day
    I can't stop weeping

    1. The tears we shed for those whom we love, and in those tears forgiveness ...

      The emotional center of this poem is profoundly universal—deceptively simple in your uncomplicated and accessible style. Many of us weep with you!

    2. I guess because this is such an emotional situation, and writing about it is also so emotional, your comment is valued and appreciated, and so needed.

    3. So touching and sad, Risa! This is what forgiveness is about. I hope writing the poem brought you some comfort.

  9. Hello Adele & Jamie - I am privileged to be a participant/contributor to the site's current prompt...pleased & humbled by your assessment of my work. As Sunday is Mother's Day, the piece is a fitting homage; and as I seemingly am the proverbial newly betrothed down the aisle, am I permitted to offer other pieces germane?

    I look forward to reading & responding-to others' proffers here; again, thank you for the opportunity to share poetry with poets.

    1. Hello HaroHalola,

      I'm delighted to "meet" you here on the blog, and, yes, please post again. Your poems and comments are most welcome!

  10. Ms. Adele - Thank you, a pleasure, I am sure; I will continue to strive here to literary worthiness through both my work & comments/crits. for others'.

    1. Your interest in the blog and your inputs are much appreciated!

  11. Hello Risa - "...the medicine of prayer," indeed; your poem brings me closer to the "there," to the easing of the aching.

  12. Today is May 9, 2013 and the prompting theme is FORGIVENESS


    I don't know where she bought it and when
    (a plastic baby, of no name, neutral gender,
    with painted blue eyes, low tech, no voice),
    yet, always impeccably dressed in sweaters
    she knitted for it — a new one every year.

    On my vacation trips back from America
    she always seated it on the corner chair
    right next to the convertible couch
    where I spent my guest nights back home,
    turning my head in the mornings

    to avoid its stare and the guilt it was designed
    to cause. Ultimately, mother stopped conversations
    about real children from me
    and settled for her plastic grand kid.
    I only hope she forgave me.

    1. Hooray and THANK YOU, Basil for continuing to share with us!

      I'm sure she loved you with the kind of maternal love that never needs to forgive. A beautiful poem!

    2. So glad to see a new poem from you, Basil! And I echo Jamie's comment, which is so perceptively stated.

      Thanks, as always, for sharing!

  13. Basil - Perhaps I didn't effectively click "Publish" with my comment; so reiterating, I found this surreal, well-constructed, poignantly-pained & expressive; you are "forgiven." Thank you.

  14. I fell in love with the lines written by John Greenleaf Whittier!! amazing !! good job!!