Saturday, October 4, 2014

Prompt #203 – "The Art of Losing"

I recently read Elizabeth Bishop’s “One Art” for about the thousandth time and thought that, this week, we might take a very concrete approach to something lost. We’ve all lost things from time to time, and by “lost things” I place the emphasis on “things.” This week let’s write about things that we’ve lost—actual objects, not loves, not feelings, not friendships, not people, not pets.


1. Begin by making a list of things that you’ve lost (a favorite book, a piece of jewelry, an old photograph that meant a lot to you, a family heirloom, a treasured memento of a special time).

2. Select one item from your list and begin making a new list of what that lost item meant to you. What were the conditions or circumstances that made it important to you?

3. How did you feel about losing the item?

4. Begin your poem with a statement about the object and then go on to explain how it was lost. From there, let the poem take you where it wants to go.

5. Another option you might consider is to write from the lost object’s point of view (adopt the lost object’s persona).


1. Think in terms of a narrative poem in which you tell the story of your lost item, but be sure not to over-tell. Remember that the best poems show, they don’t just tell.

2. Your obvious subject will be the lost item, but you should work toward another subject that goes beyond the simple act of losing something.

3. Use language that’s engaging and accessible.

4. Avoid clichés and sentimentality. Evoke emotion through images.

5. Try to create a “dismount” that doesn’t sum up your particular loss as much as it sums up the universal feeling of something lost.



  1. So interesting to focus on something lost as the 'object' of a poem and to consider in verse the emotional meaning and impact of that object's loss.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Jamie! Glad you enjoyed the idea.

  2. Interesting idea to "engage" a lost object. I hope you're planning something fun for Halloween week that I can use in my classroom (hint, hint)!

    1. Thanks, Rich; and, yes, there will be two Halloween season prompts this year (starting next week).

  3. Again, my thank you for a most interesting and helpful prompt. I also greatly enjoyed the poem by Elizabeth Bishop.

    Amita (India)

    1. Thank you, Amita! I'm so glad to know that you found the prompt helpful and that you like the Elizabeth Bishop poem (it's one of my favorites).

  4. Just found this blog -- so many great ideas for writing poetry! I'm going to share the url with teacher friends and colleagues. Thanks!

    1. Thanks, Sandra! So glad to hear that you're enjoying the blog. Thanks for your comment.

  5. Oh, dear!
    Now, where did you go? Where are you?
    Your gold plated shaft with pink faux gems
    You can't be missed on all the earth green floors
    or near sky cloud white walls
    So, where'd ya go?
    Let me see
    I rolled up my hair and stuck you in at the top
    You're not in the sheets
    You're not in the closets
    So, where'd ya go?
    If I close my eyes and dream on it, I'll see you

    there on the sidewalk
    in someone else's hair!
    Better shared than squashed
    But there's not replacement here
    Oh, yet another excuse
    to escape to China!

    1. Well done, Risa! Great that you described the object without telling what it is. Thanks so much for sharing!