Saturday, December 8, 2018

Prompt #329 – The Festive Season

This time of year is always special whether it’s about a specific holiday or just the “feeling” of the season. Here in the northern hemisphere, winter begins in December, but in other parts of the world, it’s summer. Whatever the weather, this is a festive season—a time of good cheer and light, of music and old movies, of giving and receiving.

Did you know that Nobel Laureate, Russian poet Joseph Brodsky was so taken with Christmas that he wrote a Christmas poem every year (now collected in his book Nativity Poems)? Holiday poems and stories have an enduring appeal, and most of you are familiar with Charles Dickens’s story about Scrooge, Tiny Tim, and the ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present, and Christmas Yet to Come. For this prompt, we’re going to do some variations on the past, present, and future theme, and you’ll need to think about your past, present, and future Christmases, Chanukahs, Kwanzas, Yules, or other annual winter-season celebrations. 


1. Write about a holiday from your past (dig deeply into family memories).

2. Write a poem in which you compare winter holidays of the past, present, and/or future.

3. Write about metaphorical seasonal ghosts that haunt you.

4. Write about people from your past who are no longer with you and how that impacts your present holiday season; or, write about one special person with whom you always associate the winter holidays.

5. Write about aspects of winter holiday traditions that remain part of your annual celebrations.

6. Write about the faith and/or cultural aspects of your winter holidays.

7. Write about one unforgettable winter holiday.

8. Write about holiday food treats and how they sweeten your memories.

9. Write about a holiday song that replays in your mind because of its associations (or, write your own words to a Christmas carol or other winter holiday song).

10. Write a poem based on an old Christmas, Chanukah, or other winter holiday photograph.

11. Write about a historical holiday-time event.

12. Write about a winter holiday yet to come. You might consider a fantasy poem with a futuristic sensibility. 


1. Keep in mind that holiday literature can be tricky—be sure to sidestep the pitfalls of sentimentality, schmaltziness, nostalgia, and clichés.

2. Try to 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. Mark Twain once wrote, “When you catch an adjective, kill it. No, I don’t mean utterly, but kill most of them—then the rest will be valuable. They weaken when close together. They give strength when they are wide apart.” This is especially true in poetry. So ... as you work on a poem, think about adjectives and which ones your poem can live without. (Often the concept is already in the noun, and you don’t need a lot of adjectives to convey your meaning.)

4. Avoid clichés (and, while you’re at it, stay away from abstractions and sentimentality).

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

6. Challenge the ordinary, connect, reveal, surprise! And … remember that a poem should mean more than the words it contains.

7. Create a new resonance for your readers, a lit spark that doesn’t go out when the poem is “over.”

8. Understand that overstatement and the obvious are deadly when it comes to writing poetry. Don’t ramble on, and don’t try to explain everything. Think about this: a poem with only five great lines should be five lines long. 


“Meditations on the Fall and Winter Holidays” by Charles Reznikoff 

“Christmas Trees” by Robert Frost 

“Noël: Christmas Eve 1913” by Robert Bridges 

“The Czar's Last Christmas Letter: A Barn in the Urals” by Norman Dubie 

“The Feast of Lights” by Emma Lazarus 

“Are We Done Yet” by Gail Fishman Gerwin

As in the past, I’m going to take a brief December hiatus

and will begin posting again in January.

I send my sincerest thanks 

to all of you who have visited this blog over the past year
to those of you who were new to "The Music In It" 
and to loyal readers who visit regularly.
Poetry is about sharing, and I'm grateful for the sharing that happens here!

I send all of you my best holiday wishes for good health, happiness, and peace,
and for a New Year filled with all the things that bring you joy.

Regular posts will resume on Saturday, January 5, 2019, so please stay tuned until then.
I have some wonderful prompts and guest blogger articles lined up for you.

Happy holidays to all!

In poetry and blogging,