Saturday, June 23, 2018

Prompt #316 - Aposiopesis - By Guest Blogger Joe Weil

Aposiopesis means becoming silent, but as a rhetorical device it implies tripping over your own words, cutting yourself off, halting the flow—the speaker being cut off either by the self, or by someone else. It happens far more in normal human speech than we'd think, and to master it can make you a better writer of scripts, but here, we are going to use it to make a poem: This is called “I Tried To.”


I Tried to

I tried to—oh damn
this is—
I tried to—you know
And then I thought
forget about it. I mean
it shouldn't be this—
Jesus do you always
have to chew
while I—
I'm sorry but it's like
you got
some small
in your cheek!
Anyway, I tried. I—
Jesus! Listen! I'm doing
the best I can.
You're impossible.
This is impossible.
Yes, everything's ok Mam, and
no ... no desert. Do you?
You can just bring the check.

Here, Aposiopesis creates the rhythm of halting speech, and it even implies the setting: two people seem to be sitting down to a meal. One never speaks. A third enters at the end, probably the waitress, and we never hear her question, but we can guess. We know the speaker is troubled, and annoyed by the other's “chewing.” The Aposiopesis creates a nice little shape to the poem as well. This is one of the possibilities for using an ancient rhetorical device in a free verse structure. Give it a shot.

Similar verbal phenomena to look up: non-sequitur, sentence fragments.

Poets who have used methods of Aposiopesis: Shakespeare in King Lear (and in other plays), Robert Creeley (in some respects, Creeley made an aesthetic out of it), Paul Celan in many of his poems that fragmented the German language. Many post modern poets, and poets in the modified New York school of poetry in Brooklyn use radical non-sequitur to create either surreal disconnects or a voice that is seemingly “ditzy.” You can hear this sort of feigned “ditzy” in many poets, but also in Indy scripts with “pixie” types—that so called “dream” girl who, in an earlier manifestation, was played to perfection by Carole Lombard and Jean Arthur in screwball comedies. Going from one thing to another can be construed as a kind of Aposiopesis.


1. In your poem, use aposiopesis by breaking off abruptly and leaving statements incomplete; that is, leave a sentence unfinished, so that the reader can determine his or her own meanings.

2. Use the example above to create a form/format for your own poem.

3. Sometimes a word is used to indicate something completely different from its literal meaning. Such as in this example, “Tis deepest winter in Lord Timon’s purse; that is, one may reach deep enough, and find little” (Timon of Athens, by William Shakespeare).
4. Sometimes a word is used to indicate something whose actual name is not used like, “A chair’s arm.”
5. Sometimes a paradoxical statement is used to create illogical strained metaphors. Such as, “Take arms against a sea of troubles.”

6. To create surprise, aposiopesis does not give information that the audience wants or expects to receive. This generates audience interest in the information.

7. Emotive aposiopesis does not finish a sentence due to an emotional outburst. This type of aposiopesis does not finish an idea to give a sense of something that’s beyond description, as in the case of an angry man who is so furious that he can’t even think of what he wants to do to express that anger. Example: If I catch up with you, I’ll, I’ll  – (the thought is left incomplete).

8. Abusio is a subtype of Aposiopesis, which results from the combination of two metaphors.


1. Try to stay away from long lines, remember that abrupt cut-offs are typical of Aposiopesis.

2. Remember, too, that the most effective Aposiopesis happens when the reader is able to figure out the thoughts that the poet has left unfinished.

3. Stay “conversational” without telling too much.


Many thanks to Joe Weil for this prompt!

Joe Weil is a professor teaching undergraduate and graduate creative writing at Binghamton University (SUNY). He has published numerous chapbooks and four full-length collections of poems, including A Night in Duluth, The Great Grandmother Light, and The Plumber’s Apprentice, all from NYQ Books. He also co-authored West of Home, with his wife, the poet Emily Vogel. Joe and Emily have two children, Clare and Gabriel.

A long-time poet with the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Program, Joe Weil’s poems, reviews, essays and short stories have appeared in numerous magazines and journals. He appeared on Bill Moyers’ PBS documentary, “Fooling with Words,” and, in addition to teaching for the Dodge Foundation, he has been a featured reader at the Dodge Poetry Festival. With a long list of reading series and poetry events to his credit (including the Can Of Corn Poetry Series designed to generate food donations for the hungry and homeless), Joe has worked tirelessly to create non-competitive community among poets. The New York Times described him as “working-class, irreverent, modest, but open to the world and filled with a wealth of possibilities.”

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Prompt #315 – The Museum of ...

A museum is typically described as a building that contains and displays objects of specific and lasting interest. Imagine a museum that holds a vast array of unlikely things, surprising things, things you’d never expect to find in a museum collection. Imagine a collection of emotions or lost lovers. Imagine a display of people you’ve known. Imagine a depository of negative and positive things. Now imagine yourself a metaphor for museum. What things do you keep inside?

For this prompt, let’s focus on museums of the unusual, the fantastical, the unreal, as well as on museums of the real. That sounds like a tall order but, before you give up, consider the possibilities. Here's a chance for you to create your own museum, to work with metaphors, to dig deeply into any "collection" you'd like to create in a poem. So ... fill in the blank and make your museum!


1. Begin by creating a title. Here are some suggestions (feel free to use any one of these or to come up with one of your own):

The Museum of Unlikely Objects
The Museum of Places I’ve Been
The Museum of Broken Hearts
The Museum of People I Can’t Forget
The Museum of Things I Wish I’d Never Seen
The Museum of Lost Loves (or Lost Lovers)
The Museum of Turned Corners
The Museum of Yesterday’s Dreams
The Museum of Dinosaur Spines (think in terms of metaphor for this one)
The Museum of Blank Canvases
The Museum of Unacceptable Options

2. After you’ve chosen a title, either free write for a while or list “things” that are good fits for your museum.

3. Begin writing your poem with an opening line designed to spark interest.

4, Continue writing about the items in your museum. Include details to bring each item to life. Use some similes. Move from item to item.

5. As you journey the exhibits and corridors of your museum, don't be afraid to add a touch of the surreal or a dreamlike mood. Venture into unfamiliar territory.

6. Conclude with a bang, not a whimper.


1. Don’t clutter your poem with too many items.

2. Remember that a good poem does more than state the apparent. It should have an obvious subject and an underlying subject (or subjects) that give breadth and depth to the obvious meaning.

3. Create an emotional center for your poem.

4. Be very careful not to simply create a list—go for impact. Be lyrical, paradoxical, and edgy at the same time.


Saturday, June 2, 2018

Prompt #314 – What We Keep

Of course, we all keep memories, but sometimes there are tangible objects that become “valuable” to us because of their connections to our memories. Mementos and keepsakes that belonged to loved ones, that came from places we’ve visited, were gifts given to us, and even old photographs—these all fall into the category of “what we keep.”

When my mom passed away, twenty years ago, I brought many of her things home to my house. Many of the items I treasure most are the small things that she used every day—familiar and  humble. Among them are the salt and pepper shakers from her kitchen—not her crystal, silver-topped antiques, but the dime store set that was part of her daily life. These casual items have become personal and meaningful treasures.

What have you kept that belonged to another time, another place, another person? Why did you keep it? Why do you feel “close” to it? Write a poem about something you keep and treasure because of its connection to someone you loved, a special place, or a time in your life that was especially important to you.


1. Begin by making a list of things you’ve kept and treasured over the years.

2. Next, annotate each object on your list with the people, memories, and feelings  associated with the items.

3. Then, select one of the items on your list—only one. If the object is handy, spend some time with it.

4. Free write for a while about the item you selected.

5. Finally, work on writing a poem about the item you selected.


1. Avoid sentimentality. Anything with a strong emotional attachment can lead you into the trap of becoming sentimental. Be aware of that when you write.

2. Start with a line that will invite your readers into the poem. A “so what” beginning can ruin a poem like this.

3. Include enough details to describe the item, to remember the people, place, and feelings associated with it, but be wary of over-using adjectives, articles, and prepositional phrases.

4. Steer clear of trite expressions, clichés, and hackneyed similes and metaphors. Keep your writing fresh and direct.

5. If you began writing in the past tense try switching to the present (or vice versa), and see which version works better.

6. End with a “punch.” Avoid summing up, and think about concluding with a strong image.


Read the following poem carefully, and observe how skillfully the poet creates a memoir poem based on her father's cuff links

Work Clothes by Nancy Lubarsky

 (for my father)

Long after you were gone
I found your cuff links
in a velvet pouch among my
bracelets. The A (for Arthur), etched
in gold ovals, leaned right, the tail
swirled left, like a wave receding.
There’s mystery in the curls,
from a time before font names
were familiar, when elaborate letters
pledged stories to come.

I never saw you wear them – never
watched you twist the levers into slits
on cuffed shirts, or slip your arm into
the sleeve of a pinstriped suit.
Your work clothes were heavy twill –  
drawstring pants, an apron –
you left at midnight with them
stashed in a canvas sack, and headed
deep into the Bronx.

Over time, they wore and frayed,
stained with jelly and chocolate.
In middle school, after Home Ec
ended, you surprised me with the
sewing machine. In late afternoon,
at the dinette, you cut patches
while I mended holes and edges.  
My toe touched the pedal, the machine
whirred – you asked me to print
your initials inside along the seams.

From The Only Proof, Aldrich Press, Kelsay Books 
Copyright © 2017, all rights reserved. 
Reprinted by permission of the author.