One thing we’re all taught in writing classes is to watch out for run-on sentences. This week, just for fun, let’s try writing a single sentence poem (but not a typical run-on that wanders aimlessly along the page).
There are many such poems by very distinguished poets, including “Piedra de Sol” by Octavio Paz, which is a 584-line one-sentence poem (that ends with a colon).
One of my all-time favorites is Ezra Pound’s “In a Station of the Metro”:
The apparition of these faces in the crowd;Petals on a wet, black bough.
And here’s a longer one-sentence poem by Linda Pastan:
The New DogInto the gravity of my life,the serious ceremoniesof polish and paperand pen, has comethis manic animalwhose innocent disruptionsmake nonsenseof my old simplicities—as if I needed himto prove again that afterall the careful planning,anything can happen.
Another by Wallace Stevens:
The Snow ManOne must have a mind of winterTo regard the frost and the boughsOf the pine-trees crusted with snow;And have been cold a long timeTo behold the junipers shagged with ice,The spruces rough in the distant glitterOf the January sun; and not to thinkOf any misery in the sound of the wind,In the sound of a few leaves,Which is the sound of the landFull of the same windThat is blowing in the same bare placeFor the listener, who listens in the snow,And, nothing himself, beholdsNothing that is not there and the nothing that is.
And this from Adrienne Rich’s Twenty-One Love Poems:
XIIIThe rules break like a thermometer,quicksilver spills across the charted systems,we’re out in a country that has no languageno laws, we’re chasing the raven and the wrenthrough gorges unexplored since dawnwhatever we do together is pure inventionthe maps they gave us were out of dateby years … we’re driving through the desertwondering if the water will hold outthe hallucinations turn to simple villagesthe music on the radio comes clear—neither Rosenkavalier nor Götterdämmerungbut a woman’s voice singing old songswith new words, with a quiet bass, a fluteplucked and fingered by women outside the law.
1. Look at the example poems above and below. Notice how the poets use punctuation and line breaks to “pace” their poems. Try to do the same with your poem.
2. You might begin with a free write that contains little or no punctuation.
3. Work toward a poem that’s 6-12 lines long, and don’t be afraid to try and divide into stanzas.
1. As always, avoid over-description and too many adjectives.
2. Don’t allow meaning to become subservient to form; that is, focus on what your poem means more than the lack of terminal punctuation.
3. Think in terms of semi-colons instead of periods.
4. Work through images as you tighten wording.
Great fun and a great challenge, to dig deeply and to write without boring the reader, and look, this is a one-sentence response to your prompt!ReplyDelete
Love your comment, Jamie, for which my thanks! Have fun with the prompt.Delete
I read the title of Linda Pastan's poem 'The New Dog' as The New Day, which became the inspiration (along with this week's prompt) for my poem —
An owl blinks at the blood of the moon
over salmon that leap from nightmare-trenches
to the open sea where fear gives way to the smile of
the sun over an oystercatcher seabird in white
shirt and straw sunhat and Siegfried Sassoon
out on the seafront with his dog that laps at
the new dawn in a frisbee.
~ ~ ~
Thanks for sharing this, Lewis! I really like where the prompt took you! There's a great image-driven surreal quality.Delete
I may have an idea for a poem and after reading your prompt the piece takes an unexpected/surprising direction.Delete
Thank you, Adele, for taking the time to provide your weekly and inspirational prompts :)
You're very welcome, Lewis! I'm so glad to know that you find the prompts helpful. Thank you again for sharing your work with us!Delete
Very nice, Lewis! Just goes to show what we can do in a single sentence!Delete
Thank you, Jamie. Single sentence poems are great fun. They seem to work as the catalyst for all sorts of ideas and exploring different ways of writing.Delete
Hi, Risa, it's a pleasure to read your poems--I'm always curious to see your response to the prompts :)Delete
Fatty and I
while birds sing cheerfully outside,
the fan whirs, and my crocheted shirt
grows longer and longer,
we no longer feel
the passage of time
Beautiful, Risa! I can picture you and Fatty sitting there.Delete
I love your poem, Risa!Delete
Really nice, Risa! Your style -- concise, no nonsense -- is always such a pleasure. I really enjoy your poems!Delete