Saturday, July 20, 2013

Prompt #155 – Had We But World Enough and Time

This week, our prompt is about things you wish you had time for (past and present). Think in terms of things for which you didn’t or couldn’t make time or things you just can’t fit into your schedule right now.

The “inspiration poem” for this prompt is “Something I’ve Not Done” by former U.S. Poet Laureate W. S Merwin. Read the poem a few times and reflect on what it “says” to you. How do you relate to the poem? What’s something you’ve not done that “follows you?” Notice how Merwin’s poem begins with a slightly lighter tone and then becomes “heavier” at the end.

Following last week’s prompt on epigraphs, when you feel ready to begin your poem, use Merwin’s first two lines as an epigraph to get you started: “Something I’ve not done / is following me …” But don’t rewrite Merwin’s poem. Be sure to move away from the inspiration poem in ways that are unique to your own style and content.

Remember that the poem you write this week won’t be about things you have done but, rather, about things you haven’t done. Do you have regrets about a specific something for which you didn’t or couldn’t make time? A relationship that needed more time? A chance that needed time you didn’t or couldn’t spend on it? A kindness that you didn’t make time to extend? An opportunity that you didn’t have time to pursue? A place there wasn’t time to visit? Any of these might provide the content of your poem. 

Notice that Merwin doesn’t name the thing not done. You may want to try that in your poem or you may want to go in the opposite direction and tell exactly what you didn’t do. After writing a draft or two, think about what your poem suggests about regrets. How is the thing not done the subject of your poem; and how is the way you feel about not doing it the “second subject?”

Inspiration Poem:

Something I’ve Not Done
By W.S. Merwin

Something I’ve not done
is following me
I haven’t done it again and again
so it has many footsteps
Like a drumstick that’s grown old and never been used

In late afternoon I hear it come close
at times it climbs out of a sea
onto my shoulders
and I shrug it off
losing one more chance

Every morning
it’s drunk up part of my breath for the day
and knows which way
I’m going
and already it’s not done there

But once more I say I’ll lay hands on it
and add its footsteps to my heart
and its story to my regrets
and its silence to my compass


  1. Wow, Adele! This is a great idea, and I love the inspiration poem. The picture you used is so evocative.

    This might be something to try with senior citizens in a workshop setting with lots of discussion and sharing before writing.

    1. Thanks so much, Jamie! So glad the image "speaks" to you. Maybe I should have added writing about the image as an alternative prompt.

      I have used this in a few workshops with seniors and have been truly touched by the regrets shared in both discussions and poems.

  2. Great idea and inspiration poem.

    This prompt reminded me of a line from John Ashbery's "Syringa."

    But how late to be regretting all this, even
    Bearing in mind that regrets are always late, too late!

    The whole poem may be found at:

    1. Thanks for your comment, Bob! It's interesting that the prompt made you think of the Ashbery poem. I read it a long time ago, and appreciated the link you provided so I could read it again. Yes, I do see the connection!

  3. Can't miss the opportunity to post the text of the poem from which you drew the title of this prompt! Good old Andrew Marvell!

    Thanks for another great prompt, Adele!

    To His Coy Mistress
    by Andrew Marvell

    Had we but world enough, and time,
    This coyness, Lady, were no crime.
    We would sit down and think which way
    To walk and pass our long love's day.
    Thou by the Indian Ganges' side
    Shouldst rubies find: I by the tide
    Of Humber would complain. I would
    Love you ten years before the Flood,
    And you should, if you please, refuse
    Till the conversion of the Jews.
    My vegetable love should grow
    Vaster than empires, and more slow;
    An hundred years should go to praise
    Thine eyes and on thy forehead gaze;
    Two hundred to adore each breast;
    But thirty thousand to the rest;
    An age at least to every part,
    And the last age should show your heart;
    For, Lady, you deserve this state,
    Nor would I love at lower rate.
    But at my back I always hear
    Time's wingèd chariot hurrying near;
    And yonder all before us lie
    Deserts of vast eternity.
    Thy beauty shall no more be found,
    Nor, in thy marble vault, shall sound
    My echoing song: then worms shall try
    That long preserved virginity,
    And your quaint honour turn to dust,
    And into ashes all my lust:
    The grave's a fine and private place,
    But none, I think, do there embrace.
    Now therefore, while the youthful hue
    Sits on thy skin like morning dew,
    And while thy willing soul transpires
    At every pore with instant fires,
    Now let us sport us while we may,
    And now, like amorous birds of prey,
    Rather at once our time devour
    Than languish in his slow-chapt power.
    Let us roll all our strength and all
    Our sweetness up into one ball,
    And tear our pleasures with rough strife
    Thorough the iron gates of life:
    Thus, though we cannot make our sun
    Stand still, yet we will make him run.

    1. Thanks, Gillian! You're right, of course, the prompt title came from Marvell's famous (and infamous) poem! Thanks for sharing the whole poem.

  4. Were celebrating the Royal birth in grand fashion here In England, and I was happy to see the addition of your puppy's birthday video in the sidebar! Two happy birth-days, and lovely to celebrate! :-)

    1. Congrats on the birth of your future king! I'm looking forward to our first "news view" of him and also to knowing his name.

      So glad you noticed the video. I try to add little bits in the sidebar from time to time.

  5. I notice we all carry few regrets from our past lives. i think its inevitable as we can't do everything we want.. To achieve something, we do leave behind certain things which we value later. I think we should keep them in mind and later make amends for it when we get time. Simultaneously one should not over burden oneself with the things he couldn't do or enjoy. By this way he/she can't even enjoy the present success

    1. Thank you, Gurbakhshish, for this thoughtful reflection on the prompt topic! I hope you'll visit again!

    2. Very perceptive and profound comment, Gurbakhshish. Thanks for sharing.

    3. Thank you guys. Honestly I was kind of worried about this post of mine 'coz I've never interacted like this on any social site/blog except facebook (only with my best known friends). I'm glad u liked it..I'll be visiting more often! Thanks :)
      I'll try to read as many prompts I can. I've missed 154 of them.. :-o
      I've read the prompts on color and the prose poems prompt.. and few more of those and I must say Adele Ma'm I've already become a huge admirer of yours..the way you research for your article/blog and the way you write.. Thanks for inspiring me to write my own poetry blog.

    4. Gurbakhshish,

      So glad you're enjoying the blog! Many thanks for your kind words.


  6. Ma'm please visit It's my blog I've recently started. Your suggestions and comments would be of great value to me. Thank you

  7. Live with no regrets
    Second guessing is useless
    The sun is shining

    1. Lovely, Risa! As always, your succinct and "to the point" style with a "shining" dismount! (We all need to notice when the sun is shining!) Thanks so much for sharing.

    2. A great reminder that what's past is over, and today the sun is shining (metaphorically, a new day, a new beginning). You never need more than a few words to convey your meaning.