Saturday, May 19, 2018

Prompt #313 – Metaphors for Ourselves

The continued existence of wildlife and wilderness 
is important to the quality of life of humans.
—Jim Fowler

One morning last week, my neighbor found a baby deer curled up next to his front steps (pictured below). A little later I found another baby deer on the other side (pictured above). Both babies seemed alert and well. There were no signs of illness or injury. I did some research and called a baby wildlife rescue organization in Blairstown, NJ. They strongly advised us to leave the babies alone and to keep an eye out for the mama. Often, a mama deer will often leave her babies in what she considers a safe spot and come back later to feed and care for them (often many hours later). If there’s more than one baby, the mom will separate them to limit the chances of a predator getting both. 

Throughout the day, I checked on the babies from a distance and saw the mama moving from one neighbor’s yard to another. She finally came back for the larger of the two babies (moving it to my neighbor’s back yard and lying on the grass while the baby “danced” around her). A couple of hours later, she came back for the smaller fawn. What an amazing gift to see those precious babies and how their mom cared for them. I live in a small, suburban town (1.342 mi²), where houses are close. It saddens me more than I can say to see how these beautiful and dignified creatures habitat has been so taken over by people that they are reduced to having their young on front lawns. 

This experience, of course, led me to read about nature and, specifically about wildlife. Among the poems and articles, I read that there are times when we see animals as furred and four-legged metaphors for ourselves. Many poets have written powerfully and touchingly about wildlife. I thought that this week we might try writing related poems of our own.


1. Think about the natural world and its creatures. What feelings or memories do your thoughts bring forward?

2.  How do you feel about wildlife? Does the idea of animals in peril and vanishing species trouble you or hurt your spirit?

3. Try writing a poem about nature, a particular species of animal, an endangered species, or wildlife with which you've had a personal experience.

4. Write a poem in which you use personification and write from a wild animal's point of view.

5. Write a poem in which you tell how the natural world and its creatures touch, enhance, or expand your own sense of being.

6. Write a poem about a species of wildlife that you'd like to be.

7. Write a poem about the quote by Jim Fowler above or the Albert Einstein quote below.


1. Write from your heart, but don’t get carried away by sentimentality.

2. Make your poem accessible and engaging.

3. Use fresh language, concreteness, and establish a strong emotional core.

4. Don’t rely on abstractions

5. Avoid clichés. 

6. Show without telling.

"A Night with a Wolf –  

Wild Geese by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

from Dream Work by Mary Oliver
published by Atlantic Monthly Press
© Mary Oliver

The Animals by Edwin Muir

They do not live in the world,
Are not in time and space.
From birth to death hurled
No word do they have, not one
To plant a foot upon,
Were never in any place.

For with names the world was called
Out of the empty air,
With names was built and walled,
Line and circle and square,
Dust and emerald;
Snatched from deceiving death
By the articulate breath.

But these have never trod
Twice the familiar track,
Never never turned back
Into the memoried day.
All is new and near
In the unchanging Here
Of the fifth great day of God,
That shall remain the same,
Never shall pass away.

Our task must be to free ourselves … 
by widening our circle of compassion 
to embrace all living creatures 
and the whole of nature and its beauty. 

—Albert Einstein

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Prompt #312 – The Aubade

An aubade is a morning love song or poem (unlike a serenade, which is specific to evening). It may also be a poem about the separation of lovers at dawn. By some definitions, the aubade evokes daybreak or is a poem about beginnings. Aubades may be charming or pensive but may take on darker tones as well.

John Donne's poem "The Sunne Rising" is an example of the aubade in English. Aubades were written periodically into the 18th and 19th centuries. In the 20th century, the focus of the aubade shifted from a kind of courtly love context into the more nonrepresentational theme of lovers parting at daybreak.

This week, let’s try writing aubades: a morning love song (not necessarily romantic love for this exercise), a poem about lovers separating, a poem that evokes daybreak, or a poem in which dawn or parting are key to the poem’s emotional center.


1. Start by defining your subject and the type of aubade you’d like to write.

2. Think of your aubade as a dialogue between two people, as address to the dawn, or perhaps someone (you, the poet) speaking to one of dawn’s heralds (birds, the sun, morning shadows on your bedroom wall)

3. Some aubades rhyme, but there’s no rule that says they must. Try writing a free verse aubade.

4. Think about what things arrive with the dawn: the responsibilities of the day such as childcare, work, housework, shopping, meal preparation, etc. How can you incorporate some poetic tension with attention to these?

5. Don’t limit yourself to romantic love.

6. Think about how morning brings with it the dissolution of dreams. What does the alarm clock signal other then waking up? What remains of our dreams when morning comes?

7. Think about someone you love leaving (for work, other commitments, breaking up) in the morning.

8. Be creative. Your aubade doesn’t have to be based in fact.


1. Start writing and let your aubade take you where it wants to go. It’s okay to start writing about one subject and then shift to another.

2. Write in the active, not the passive, voice. To do that, it can be helpful to remove “ing” endings and to write in the present tense (this will also create a greater sense of immediacy).

3.. Be on the lookout for prepositional phrases that you might remove (articles & conjunctions too).

4. Limit use of adjectives. Remember that your concept is often already in the noun, and you don’t need a lot of adjectives to convey your meaning.

4. Avoid clichés (and, especially avoid abstractions and sentimentality).

5. Show, don’t tell—through striking imagery, a strong emotional center, and an integrated whole of language, form, and meaning.