Saturday, November 15, 2014

Prompt #208 – So ... Who's YOUR Hero?

Without heroes, we're all plain people, and don't know how far we can go.

   Bernard Malamud

This prompt was inspired, believe it or not, by an old picture of the actor Fess Parker dressed as Davey Crockett. As a child I had a large poster of Fess/Davey that hung in my bedroom. My cousin Eddie and I had a coonskin caps and, along with other neighborhood kids, we played “Davey Crockett” in the woods across the street—Davey Crockett was our hero.

I think we all have heroes of one stripe or another and, of course, our heroes change as we advance in age and experience. I think it's safe to say that we all need heroes. 

Some heroes nurture and inspire us (parents, relatives, friends), some give us hope (those who are successful, those who have been where we are, survivors), and others provide us with examples of justice and morality (those who do good, those whom we admire and wish to emulate). For most of us, heroes are enlightened spirits, noble souls, courageous people who have the same frailties and shortcomings we do but who rise to overcome them. They tell us that what’s possible for them is possible for us. They give us hope, they feed our dreams, they encourage us to try harder to be better tomorrow than we are today. Even if our heroes are imaginary figures, otherworldy, or lived in another age, our admiration for them holds for us an invitation to achieve.

That said, who’s your hero or heroine? Your role model? Someone you respect and admire with all your heart?

Historically, literature includes the epic poem, which is a long, narrative poem that focuses on the deeds of a heroic person. The ancient epics of Homer and Virgil are among these, as are more modern versions by such poets as Hart Crane and Alice Notley.

Don't panic, we’re not going to write epic poems this week! Instead, let’s just write a tribute about, or to, a personal hero or heroine (past or present). Here are some ideas:
  • a comic book or movie superhero
  • a parent, foster parent, or relative
  • a husband or wife
  • a child or young person
  • an elderly person
  • a unique friend
  • a mentor or confidant
  • a person who has given something special to the world
  • a veteran of the armed services
  • a religious or spiritual leader
  • a courageous person
  • a person who has enriched your life
  • someone who saved your life (actually or metaphorically)
  • a heroic animal


1. Think about people you’ve admired (from your earliest memories to the present).
2. Select one person as the subject for your poem.
3. Begin by making a list of that person’s special qualities.
4. Jot down some ideas about your experience of, or with, that person.
5. Decide whether you prefer writing a poem addressed to your hero or a poem about your hero.
6. Alternatively, you might write a poem about heroes in general (why heroes mean to us, why they’re important).
7. Another possibility is to write a poem about an anti-hero (a flawed hero or heroine with underlying complexities of personality or experience that set him or her apart from the typical heroic person.
8. Still, another poem possibility is to write about how you have been (or tried to be) a hero or heroine to someone. A comic hero might work well with this option.


1. When you begin writing your poem, avoid over-use of complimentary adjectives. Show rather than tell why the person you’re writing to, or about, is special to you.
2. Be aware that if you “go overboard” with praise, the effect of your poems may be lost in that applause. Gratuitous back-patting never works in a poem. Again, show, don’t tell.
3. Increase the energy and immediacy of your poem by bringing it into the present tense. Even if you’re writing about a past hero, try to work through the present.
4. Work toward ways in which your poem honors a particular hero or heroine by exploring, plumbing, illuminating, and situating the human condition.
5. Don’t try to be lofty or overly laudatory. It’s important to be genuine and humble. Honor your hero through connections, revelations, and surprises. 



  1. I love it, Adele! My childhood heroine was Princess Diana (shared, I'm sure, by many little English girls like me).

    1. Thanks, Jamie! I think a lot of little girls and older women, too, consider Princess Diana their heroine!

  2. We must be of the same generation or thereabouts -- Davey Crockett was my hero too (and I also had a coonskin cap). I think his rifle was called "Betsy." Great prompt and another I'll take to my classroom.

    1. Thanks Rich! Good memory—I'm sure the rifle was "Betsy." Hope you get good results fro your students.

  3. This prompt brought back happy childhood memories! Those were the days!

    I used to sing the theme from the Davey Crockett movie all the time!

    Here's a link to hear it on YouTube:

    1. Thanks for your comment, John, and for the link! "Davey, Davey Crockett, king of the wild frontier ..." I remember most of the words!

  4. I find it interesting to think that people in different countries have different heroes, as well as heroes in common. With communication so inclusive and immediate today, that's easily understood.

    I very much enjoyed this prompt, and it set me thinking about who my heroes were when I was a child and who they are now. Quite clearly, my hero-needs have changed.

    Thank you, Adele.

    1. Thanks so much for your comment, Amita! Glad you enjoyed the prompt.

  5. Yeah dear!! T.S. Eliot, Robert Frost, Allen Ginsberg, Elizabeth Bishop are most famous poets and people love to read their poems today also. They have given messages in their poems and they are legend for me.
    20th century poets

    1. Thanks so much for your comment, Liza! I love those poets too!

  6. you
    at two
    flying by
    with your plastic superman cape
    tied around your shoulders
    that mad look in your eyes
    stole my heart

    1. A lovely poem—thanks so much for sharing with us!

    2. Very nice, Risa! How beautifully concise -- I love the image of the two-year old "flying" about in a Superman cape.