Saturday, March 30, 2019

Prompt #336 – A Form a Day for National Poetry Month 2019

It’s hard to believe that a whole year has passed since the last National Poetry Month! Established by the Academy of American Poets in 1996, National Poetry Month begins on April 1st and runs through April 30th. This month-long “event” is held every April “to widen the attention of individuals and the media to the art of poetry, to living poets, to our complex poetic heritage, and to poetry books and journals of wide aesthetic range and concern.” During April, poets, poetry lovers, publishers, booksellers, literary organizations, libraries, and schools throughout the US celebrate poetry.

One of the challenges of NPM is to read and/or write a poem every day. So ... in the spirit of the observance, as I’ve done for the past several years, I offer you what I hope will be encouraging “prompts” for each of April’s days. This year, I decided to do something a little different and to offer you information about 30 selected types of poetry in the hope that you’ll find some inspiration among the forms and examples.

I invite you to read, to enjoy, and to write some poems of your own!


1. Don’t feel compelled to match your content or style to the poetry types and examples. Enjoy them, of course, and, hopefully, try some of the forms. Most importantly, write whatever you want to write.

2.  Begin with no expectations, and let your poems take you where they want to go.

3. Keep in mind that writing a poem a day doesn’t mean you have to “finish” each poem immediately. You can write a draft each day and set your drafts aside to work on later.

4. If one type of poem especially appeals to you, go ahead and write more than one poem in that form (30 sonnets, 30 prose poems, 30 sestinas—whatever works for you).

5. Even if you don’t read or write a poem every day, whatever you do this month, find some time (a little or a lot) to enjoy some poetry!

April 1 – Acrostic

Here’s an easy form for starters. An acrostic poem is a poem in which the first letters of each line spell out a word or phrase vertically that acts as the theme or message of the poem. Sometimes a word or phrase can also be found down the middle or end of the poem, but the most common is at the beginning. Often, these poems describe people or holidays, and lines can be made up of single words or phrases.


Clare (for Clare Vogel Weil)

Creative child with a delicate voice—
Laughing, she sings nameless tunes.
Autism doesn’t detract from her beauty.
Richness lives in every part of her being;
Everything about her is love.

April 2 – Limerick

This is a fun way to play with meter and rhyme. Technically, limericks are five-line poems that have a distinctive rhyme scheme of AABBA. They use anapestic meter, with three feet in the longer lines and two in the shorter. The best way to become familiar with limerick meter and rhyme is to read a lot of them.


Limerick By Edward Lear

There was an Old Man with a beard,
Who said, “It is just as I feared!
Two Owls and a Hen,
Four Larks and a Wren,
Have all built their nests in my beard!”

April 3 – Ode

An ode is poetic form that may be generalized as a poem addressed to a particular person, event, or thing. Odes often praise or glorify their subjects. As a poetic form, the ode comes from ancient Greece and there are various types of odes, including Pindaric, Horatian, and Irregular.  If you wish, you can Google these for detailed information. For our purposes here, keep in mind that, essentially, if your poem addresses something or someone directly and praises that something or someone, it is an ode.


Ode to My Glasses by Laura Boss

You are the first thing
I reach for when I wake
You make the world snap into
focus from the London fog haze
surrounding me
You have a strong sense of style
with your narrow frame and
your subtle designer monogram
And at times I haven’t been able to resist
sleeping with you on me all night

Nuthatch By Ray Cicetti

I watch it fly across the yard, carrying sunrise on its back, then land upside down on the sugar maple, wings tucked in like a teaching, only to disappear into the dark woods, like a small blue god's visitation. How I want to follow it, praise it, cup its soft fierceness in my hands.

I step into the moment, arms outstretched, and secretly become a bird. I breathe in autumn's fullness and turn in the crisp air.

The morning lifts me like wings over charcoal roofs. I warm my lined face with my hands, far away from the poverty of knowing. Awake as I will ever be.

(Note: this poem didn't begin life as an ode, but the quality of praise for the subject is indeed ode-like and, even without being directly addressed to the nuthatch as the traditional form would be, this poem suggests a very ode-like sensibility.)

April 4 – Haiku

Haiku, a minimalist form of poetry, has enjoyed considerable popularity among modern poets. Allen Ginsberg and Pulitzer Prize winner Paul Muldoon wrote collections of haiku, and haiku-like poems are found in the works of such literary notables as Ezra Pound, Amy Lowell, Richard Wright, and Gary Snyder. Haiku are compact and direct, and are usually written in the present tense with a sense of immediacy (a sense of being “in the moment”). The natural world and our responses to it are integral to haiku.

Haiku origins have been traced to a form of Japanese poetry known as haikai no renga, a form of linked poetry that was practiced widely by Matsuo Bashō and his contemporaries. In traditional Japanese, the haiku was typically written vertically on the page  (from top to bottom). Each contained seventeen sound symbols. The sound symbols were usually divided into 3 sections, with the middle one being slightly longer than the others, and often with a pause at the end of the first or second section to divide the haiku into two thoughts or images.

Early translators mistakenly assumed that a Japanese sound symbol was equivalent to a syllable in the English language and that haiku should be written in three lines containing 5,7, and 5 syllables respectively. Although incorrect, these “defining” qualities of haiku are still accepted by many. A more acceptable standard for English-language haiku is 10-20 syllables in 3 lines having a longer second line and shorter first and third lines. Three lines have become the norm, but haiku of one and two lines are also seen, although less frequently. As you write, keep in mind that haiku contain two phrases (or images) that are inherently unrelated but are juxtaposed to show some commonality within a particular experience. (Note: "haiku" forms its own plural—"haikus" is incorrect.)


By Matsuo Bashō

No one travels
Along this way but I,
This autumn evening.

By Jack Kerouac

Snow in my shoe
Sparrow’s nest

By R. G. Rader

her funeral:
faintly the groundkeeper’s

April 5 – Tanka

Tanka, the 5-line lyric poem of Japan, is like haiku—both are grounded in specific images. Tanka, however, are characterized by greater lyric intensity and intimacy that come from the direct expression of emotions, as well as from implication, suggestion, and nuance. You can write on just about any subject and express your thoughts and feelings explicitly. Tanka is generally written in two parts. The first three lines form one part, and the last two lines form the second. You may include kigo (season words), but it is not necessary. One exercise for beginners is to write a haiku and add two more lines. If you try this, keep in mind that tanka is not really a longer haiku, and should not be thought of as such. The third line of a tanka may be a “pivot line” or turning point similar to the shift in a haiku. In Japan, tanka is often written in one line with segments consisting of 5-7-5-7-7 sound-symbols. Some people write English tanka in five lines with 5-7-5-7-7 syllables to approximate the Japanese model. Many tanka poets use from about 20 to 30 syllables and a short-long-short-long-long structure. There are many contemporary variations of this, though, and tanka are often seen in free form structure using five lines. You may wish to experiment with these approaches.


Tanka by Ishikawa Takuboku

東海の Tōkai no           
小島の磯の kojima no iso no                       
白砂に shirasuna ni                                   
われ泣きぬれて ware naki nurete           
蟹とたわむる kani to tawamuru

[short] On the white sand                        
[long]  Of the beach of a small island            
[short] In the Eastern Sea                                    
[long]  I, my face streaked with tears,            
[long] Am playing with a crab

Tanka by Machi Tawara

freezing my smile
for half a second
I look
toward your camera
that can’t photograph my heart

April 6 – Epigram

An epigram is a short, often witty or satirical poem or poem-like remark that expresses an idea in a clever way. Rhyme is not considered essential, although many epigrams are rhymed.


Epigram by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Sir, I admit your general rule,
That every poet is a fool,
But you yourself may serve to show it,
That every fool is not a poet.

Epigram by John Dryden

Here's my wife:
here let her lie!
Now she's at rest—
and so am I.

April 7 ­– Cinquain

A cinquain is a 5-line poem that follows a specific format. Invented by Adelaide Crapsey, the form grew out of her advanced knowledge of metrics and her interest in Japanese haiku and tanka. Crapsey did not invent the five-line poem. The Sicilian quintain, the English quintain, the Spanish quintella, the Japanese tanka, and the French cinquain all predate hers. However, she did invent a unique American version of the "five liner"

There are various types of cinquains. Some are created with a number of words or syllables in mind. Another form is created using various parts of speech.

Line 1- 1 word
Line 2- 2 words
Line 3- 3 words
Line 4- 4 words
Line 5- 1 word

Line 1-2 syllables
Line 2- 4 syllables
Line 3- 6 syllables
Line 4- 8 syllables
Line 5- 2 syllables

Parts of Speech:
Line 1- noun
Line 2- 2 adjectives
Line 3- 3 -ing words
Line 4- a phrase
Line 5- another word for the noun from line 1


November Night by Adelaide Crapsey

With faint dry sound,
Like steps of passing ghosts,
The leaves, frost-crisp'd, break from the trees
And fall.

Snow by Adelaide Crapsey

Look up . . .
From bleakening hills
Blows down the light, first breath
Of wintry wind . . . look up, and scent
The snow!

Blue Hyacinths by Adelaide Crapsey

In your
Curled petals what ghosts
Of blue headlands and seas,
What perfumed immortal breath sighing
Of Greece.

April 8 – Sonnet

Any kind of formal poem can be a challenge, but the sonnet (a form of lyrical poetry) is relatively simple. There are three well-known sonnet forms: Petrarchan (the Italian sonnet that consists of two sections—one eight-line section, the octave, and one six-line section, the sestet), Spenserian (also a 14-line poem in which 3 quatrains are followed by a rhymed couplet with a rhyme scheme of ABAB BCBC CDCD EE); and the Shakespearean (the form we’ll use for this activity). Shakespeare is perhaps the most famous of all sonnet poets.

A conventional Shakespearean sonnet is comprised of fourteen lines (three stanzas of four lines (quatrains), and a fourth of two lines (a couplet) at the end). To write a Shakespearean sonnet: in each of the first three stanzas, rhyme the first and third lines and the second and fourth lines (a, b, a, b, c, d, c, d, e, f, e, f); and rhyme the lines of the concluding couplet (g, g). Sonnets have a musical quality, usually achieved through use of iambic pentameter and rhyme. (Did you know that when we speak naturally, we often speak in iambic pentameter?). To get a practical sense of iambic pentameter and the sound quality of a Shakespearean sonnet, read some aloud before you begin to write. (Be aware that in sonnets exact rhymes aren’t absolutely required, and off-rhymes occur in some of the best.)


Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer’s Day by William Shakespeare

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm’d;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature’s changing course, untrimm’d;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest;
Nor shall Death brag thou wander’st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou growest;
So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

(Note: following is a one-line, contemporary sonnet that takes liberties with the traditional form. For information about one-sentence poems, please see April 16th.)

For a Moment, Like Stones by Adele Kenny

Terrified or indifferent, having taken enough chances—
all things at once (and then regret), it's easy to forget
what we're here for, easy to become like every unreadable
thing (and the moon that has no light of its own); because there are
no equivalents, only what falls by accident or master plan—
like everything brief, anything provisional, we stand on
afterthought (the balance point of when), a place of
half spaces and scattered distractions; and awakened from dreams
that don't make sense, we measure time in immediate history
(what belongs to us, what's not returned); transients here,
awkward and sad, we trust in mysteries we don't understand
and barely trust ourselves: like Icarus we create whatever
flight we can, glimpse our shadows on the wave below
and float ... for a moment, like stones.

April 9 – Elegy and Epitaph

An elegy is a poem that remembers someone who has died or relates a poignant memory.

An epitaph is like a short elegy. It’s the kind of poem that might appear on a gravestone, although it doesn’t have to. It’s brief and it either pays tribute to a person who has passed away or it commemorates another loss.

Examples (elegy):

Long Overdue Letter to My Father by Tom Plante

I see your face in my mind’s screening room,
the look of what’s going on in this kid’s head? that you gave me
during arguments before I hopped a Greyhound for California.
I left behind only assurances that I’d be back.

And I see your young smile in a souvenir photograph
from the House of O’Sullivan on Sunset Blvd.
when you were an Army trainee far from Brooklyn
before you were stationed in Panama to protect the canal.

The same eyes and smile that I last saw
when I flew in from Berkeley to be at your bedside.
One never knows, do one? as you used to say
were among your last words.

Snow fell that April night, a rare weekend blizzard.
The thick white quilt at the cemetery
meant extra duty for the gravediggers.
You would have been 101 yesterday.

I still see your face and knowing smile. I imagine
you watched me when I returned to the job
in California, only to be asked by a worker,
How was your vacation?

In Memory of W. B. Yeats by W. H. Auden


He disappeared in the dead of winter:
The brooks were frozen, the airports almost deserted,
And snow disfigured the public statues;
The mercury sank in the mouth of the dying day.
What instruments we have agree
The day of his death was a dark cold day.

Far from his illness
The wolves ran on through the evergreen forests,
The peasant river was untempted by the fashionable quays;
By mourning tongues
The death of the poet was kept from his poems.

But for him it was his last afternoon as himself,
An afternoon of nurses and rumours;
The provinces of his body revolted,
The squares of his mind were empty,
Silence invaded the suburbs,
The current of his feeling failed; he became his admirers.

Now he is scattered among a hundred cities
And wholly given over to unfamiliar affections,
To find his happiness in another kind of wood
And be punished under a foreign code of conscience.
The words of a dead man
Are modified in the guts of the living.

But in the importance and noise of to-morrow
When the brokers are roaring like beasts on the floor of the
And the poor have the sufferings to which they are fairly
And each in the cell of himself is almost convinced of his
A few thousand will think of this day
As one thinks of a day when one did something slightly unusual.

What instruments we have agree
The day of his death was a dark cold day.


You were silly like us; your gift survived it all:
The parish of rich women, physical decay,
Yourself. Mad Ireland hurt you into poetry.
Now Ireland has her madness and her weather still,
For poetry makes nothing happen: it survives
In the valley of its making where executives
Would never want to tamper, flows on south
From ranches of isolation and the busy griefs,
Raw towns that we believe and die in; it survives,
A way of happening, a mouth.


Earth, receive an honoured guest:
William Yeats is laid to rest.
Let the Irish vessel lie
Emptied of its poetry.

In the nightmare of the dark
All the dogs of Europe bark,
And the living nations wait,
Each sequestered in its hate;

Intellectual disgrace
Stares from every human face,
And the seas of pity lie
Locked and frozen in each eye.

Follow, poet, follow right
To the bottom of the night,
With your unconstraining voice
Still persuade us to rejoice;

With the farming of a verse
Make a vineyard of the curse,
Sing of human unsuccess
In a rapture of distress;

In the deserts of the heart
Let the healing fountain start,
In the prison of his days
Teach the free man how to praise.

Examples (epitaph):

Epitaph by Edna St. Vincent Millay

Heap not on this mound
Roses that she loved so well:
Why bewilder her with roses,
That she cannot see or smell?
She is happy where she lies
With the dust upon her eyes.

Robert Frost's Epitaph

Note: Sometimes, poets have epitaphs on their tombstones that were taken from their longer poems. Robert Frost's epitaph, taken from the poem "The Lesson for Today" is:

And were an epitaph to be my story
I'd have a short one ready for my own.
I would have written of me on my stone:
I had a lover's quarrel with the world.

April 10 – Pantoum

The pantoum originated in Malaysia in the fifteenth-century as a short folk poem. A typical pantoum is made up of two rhyming couplets that were recited or sung. However, as the pantoum spread, and Western writers altered and adapted the form, the importance of rhyming and brevity diminished. The modern pantoum is a poem (any length), presented in four-line stanzas (quatrains). The second and fourth lines of each stanza serve as the first and third lines of the next stanza. (The last line of a pantoum is often the same as the first, but this is not always the case.)

The pantoum was especially popular with nineteenth century French and British writers, including Charles Baudelaire and Victor Hugo (credited with introducing the form to European writers). The pantoum gained popularity among contemporary American writers such as Anne Waldman and Donald Justice after John Ashbery published the form in his 1956 book, Some Trees.


Something About The Trees by Linda Pastan

I remember what my father told me:
There is an age when you are most yourself.
He was just past fifty then,
Was it something about the trees that make him speak?

There is an age when you are most yourself.
I know more than I did once.
Was it something about the trees that make him speak?
Only a single leaf had turned so far.

I know more than I did once.
I used to think he’d always be the surgeon.
Only a single leaf had turned so far,
Even his body kept its secrets.

I used to think he’d always be the surgeon,
My mother was the perfect surgeon’s wife.
Even his body kept its secrets.
I thought they both would live forever.

My mother was the perfect surgeon’s wife,
I can still see her face at thirty.
I thought they both would live forever.
I thought I’d always be their child.

I can still see her face at thirty.
When will I be most myself?
I thought I’d always be their child.
In my sleep it’s never winter.

When will I be most myself?
I remember what my father told me.
In my sleep it’s never winter.
He was just past fifty then.

April 11 – Haibun

Today, we return to Japanese forms of poetry. A haibun is a terse, relatively short prose poem (see April 25th for an explanation of prose poem form) that typically ends with a haiku. Most haibun range from under 100 words to 200 or 300. Some longer haibun may contain a few haiku interspersed between sections of prose. In haibun, the connections between the prose and any included haiku may not be immediately obvious—the haiku may deepen the tone, or take the work in a new direction, transforming the meaning of the prose. Japanese haibun apparently developed from brief notes occasionally written to introduce individual haiku, but soon grew into a distinct genre. The word “haibun” is sometimes applied to longer works, such as the memoirs, diaries, or travel writings of haiku poets, though technically they are parts of the separate and much older genres of journal and travel literature (nikki and kikôbun).


For the Long Night by Penny Harter

At dusk a crow calls from a branch of the dead tree beside the tracks. I feel the coming dark in its harsh caw. On this Solstice Eve, I light candles for the four directions, contemplate the hiss of flame and melting wax. Honoring the Earth, breathing the sky, I close my eyes and lean into the night before I tilt toward fire.

the night wind blows
through bare branches—
I answer

Night Sky by Michelle Ortega

Long after dinner, we wander the sleepy town, move from shadows into the streetlights, back into shadows again. You, just ahead of me, name them: Cassiopeia, Orion’s Belt, nebula. I feel your voice in my chest, in the small space between us; my eyes follow the contour of your raised arm, your thick fingers as you point skyward. Behind us, a river rushes as if it had somewhere important to go.

black lace trees,
new moon

April 12 – Clerihew

The clerihew was invented by Edmund Clerihew Bentley (1875-1956) who was so bored in his high school chemistry class that he jotted down a silly rhyme about Sir Humphrey Davy (the Cornish chemist and inventor who discovered, among other things, sodium). Clerihews developed from this first poem and have continued to be about famous people (or any people, characters from literature, pets, and places their authors know). The name of the subject is always the first line. The rest of the poem is supposed to reveal something funny, absurd, or satirical about the subject.  Short and pithy, the best clerihews combine a mix of clownish and urbane elements.

The line length and meter in these poems is usually irregular, the rhymes are often humorously forced, and the rhyme scheme is AABB. Clerihews have a few simple rules:

1. They are four lines long.
2. The first and second lines rhyme with each other, and the third and fourth lines rhyme with each other.
3. The first line names a person, and the second line ends with something that rhymes with the name of the person.
4. A clerihew is a micro-biography and the intent is humor.

Clerihews can be great fun when you need to vent about someone; alternatively, they can make great little witty gifts for friends and family members; most of all, they’re just amusing to “noodle” around with.


Clerihew by Edmund Bentley

The art of Biography
Is different from Geography.
Geography is about maps,
But Biography is about chaps.

April 13 – Love Poems

Love poems have always held a place in poetry, and have probably been around as long as love itself. Among the love poems of the ages (to name just a few) are Sappho’s love poems, love poems of the ancient Egyptians, the “Song of Songs” (“Song of Solomon”), love poems sung by troubadours, Shakespeare’s sonnets to his “dark lady,” Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s famous “How Do I Love Thee,” and William Butler Yeats’s “When You Are Old.” The best love poems avoid the pitfalls of being sentimental, maudlin, or mushy.


When You Are Old by William Butler Yeats

    When you are old and gray and full of sleep,
    And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
    And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
    Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;
    How many loved your moments of glad grace,
    And loved your beauty with love false or true,
    But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
    And loved the sorrows of your changing face;
    And bending down beside the glowing bars,
    Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
    And paced upon the mountains overhead
    And hid his face among a crowd of stars. 

Fast Song by John McDermott 

Six thousand miles from rock and roll
while the baby sleeps
on his bamboo mat
on the red painted floor
of our room in this concrete dorm
instead of discussing Marvell
or Oral English Practice
we dance a long slow dance
to an old fast song
because I need
to smell
your hair

Last Love Letter to My Ex-Husband by Linda Radice

In the house we bought together
I forgot to think about you,
married someone else, an easy man,
and read the Sunday Times in peace
at the oak table you said cost too much.

The woman who spent her days in shallow breaths,
watchful of the level of liquid in each bottle
mindful of the shakes that signal the start of DT's,
who practiced hiding car keys, money, anger,
faded slowly away, thought by thought,
into the days of the winter after you left.

lorida became your haven of warmth,
easy disability and the old childhood friend
who shared the needles of Newark you started on
and helped you end with cheap brandy and vodka.
Tormented by private demons and "wet brain,"

you sent birthday cards in the months
when neither child had a birthday,
Christmas cards in August or April,
and placed your last disjointed call
one sticky summer night eighteen years ago.

The trees outside my windows grew taller,
the sun lights the house at different angles now,
you never herd your son drumming sweet and
jazzy, you didn't dance with your daughter on her
wedding day. Two decades made you final distant
images, sharing nothing but genetics and a beginning.

No one knew for two years that you had died, a body
off the road reported by some passerby. The death
certificate says, "found in swampy water," the box
for next of kin marked "unknown."

Your death was handled by efficient strangers
who must have wondered who would miss you,
why someone had not cared enough to sit beside you,
to hold your hand, to ease the way, to say goodbye.

In one last letter I would tell you
that the insecure woman is still here,
but the frightened one never came back.
The front door still sticks,
I didn't change the locks.
I never blamed you for your disease.
Your granddaughter has your mother's eyes.

April 14 – Dizain

The dizain is a short form of poetry that has its roots in 15th and 16th century French verse. Typically, a dizain appears in stichic format (a single stanza). There are only ten lines, and each line typically contains 10 syllables. No specific meter is required (although iambic pentameter is sometimes associated with dizain form). A rhyme scheme of a, b, a, b, b, c, c, d, c, d is customary. Eight-line dizains are also seen, and these octets contain a rhyme scheme of a, b, a, b, c, d, c, d.


Bonfire by Robert Lee Brewer

We talked briskly by the light of the fire
with our hands flying about like embers
using Shakespeare to disguise our desire
burning through the soft chill of December.
If there were others, I don’t remember–
lost in the flames flickering off your eyes,
my only passion was to memorize
every word and each quirky turn of phrase
leading me through a labyrinth of sighs–
to recall racing through a love-cast maze.

April 15 – Decastich

Technically, a decastich is any poem or stanza consisting of ten lines. However, to make the challenge a little more interesting, today’s decastich will have a prescribed format.

Line 1: Open the poem with an action.
Line 2: Write a specific image related (even if only superficially) to the last word in line 1.
Line 3: Ask an unconnected question and put it in italics.
Line 4: Write an image related to the question in line 3.
Line 5: Answer the question in line 3 and include a color.
Line 6: Write an image related to the answer in line 5.
Line 7: Add a detail in which you modify a noun with an unusual or unlikely adjective.
Line 8: Add an image that echoes or relates to the action in line 1.
Line 9: Free line—add whatever you wish.
Line 10: Close with something seemingly unrelated, strange, or surreal.


Among the Regrets by Adele Kenny

She lifts the potted plant from its place on the windowsill.
Dusk slips in through parted curtains—
a lingering dream—and what came after?
The evening sky deepens into something darker,
a shade of blue she’s never seen before.
Ghosts appear in spaces between the stars
(the clattering choices were hers to make).
Gently, her fingertip traces the edge of a tiny bloom.
Choices, yes, and flowers among the regrets ...
she removes the china doll from her dresser drawer.

April 16 – One Sentence

One thing we’re all taught in writing classes is to watch out for run-on sentences. Today, we throw that caveat to the wind and write one-sentence poems. 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.


The New Dog by Linda Pastan

Into the gravity of my life,
the serious ceremonies
of polish and paper
and pen, has come

this manic animal
whose innocent disruptions
make nonsense
of my old simplicities—

as if I needed him
to prove again that after
all the careful planning,
anything can happen.

The Snow Man by Wallace Stevens

One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;

And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter

Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,

Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place

For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.

April 17 – Fibonacci

By way of an intro to fibonacci form, I’m going to quote from a definition provided by The Fib Review’s editor, distinguished poet Mary-Jane Grandinetti. “The Fibonacci poem is a poetry form based on the structure of the fibonacci number sequence. For those unfamiliar with the Fibonacci Sequence, it is a mathematical sequence in which every figure is the sum of the two preceding it. Thus, you begin with 1 and the sequence follows as such: 1+1=2; then in turn 1+2=3; then 2+3=5; then 3+5=8 and so on. The poetry sequence therefore consists of lines of 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, and so on with each number representing the number of syllables or words that a writer places in each line of the poem. As a literary device, it is used as a formatted pattern in which one can offer meaning in any organized way, providing the number sequence remains the constancy of the form.

The subject of the fibonacci poem has no restriction, but the difference between a good fib and a great fib is the poetic element that speaks to the reader. No longer just a fun form to write as a math student, the poets who write fibonacci poems have replaced the ‘geek’ with the poet.”

Here’s the format: 

For a 6-line poem:

1 syllable or word for first line
1 syllable or word for second line
2 syllables or words for third
3 syllables or words for fourth
5 syllables or words for fifth
8 syllables or words for sixth

Note: A fib poem doesn’t have to stop as above but may continue the sequence as far as the poet wishes to take it. 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8 ...


Love Is ... by Mary-Jane Grandinetti 

his wheelchair
the years roll forward
as they stop to watch the sunset

A Plutonian Fib by Mary-Jane Grandinetti

I stare
at the universe
not caring to be part of it

... Do Us Part by Mark Arvid White

Her last name
is the same as mine
but we live in different towns.
To strangers, she introduces me as her husband,
and yet we never touch, and yet we never kiss, and yet my toothbrush lies by itself
as my hand reaches for her side of the bed,
clutching only the sheet, the spread...
It is my marriage.
It’s not much.
It’s all

Bear in mind that fibonacci poems go beyond mere number sequencing and should incorporate poetic language, heart, and spirit. It isn’t enough to just adhere to the syllable or word number sequence. In other words, you don’t just drop a so-what poem into a numbered frame. Instead, you create a meaningful poem that appears in fibonacci form.

April 18 – Ekphrastic

Derived from the ancient Greeks, ekphrastic poetry began when students learned to write poems by focusing on the architecture and art in museums or public places. The form has interested poets of the past and has made a comeback in the last decade. Right now, it seems to be especially popular.

Ekphrasis usually includes, but is not limited to, the use of enargia. This term comes from classical rhetoric. It means to make an object appear lively before the reader’s eye. This usually happens through careful recreation of the visual art through verbal means, such as detailed description, use of sensory information, imagery, etc. In other words, ekphrasis can attempt to visually reproduce the art object (i.e. painting) for the reader so the reader can experience the same effect or reaction as the poet. This is sometimes called “painterly” poetry.

Importantly, though, true ekphrastic poetry is more than mere textual description or verbal interpretation of a work of art. Making an object (painting or other work of art) lively before the reader’s eye involves, in the best ekphrastic poems, an emotional and perhaps even spiritual response to the work of art—achieved through written language.

Through the centuries of literary history, such poets as John Keats, in his poem “Ode on a Grecian Urn” have experimented with ekphrastic poetry. Robert Browning, in his poems “Fra Lippo Lippi” and “Andrea del Sarto,” created dramatic monologues in which painters muse to themselves about their paintings.

For this activity, choose a work of art that “speaks” to you in a special way (painting, sculpture, musical composition, choreography, etc.) and write a poem based on it. (Be sure to acknowledge the artwork somewhere in your poem—I like to do this at the beginning of the poem, just under the title).


Landscape with the Fall of Icarus by William Carlos Williams
    (after The Fall of Icarus by Pieter Brueghel)

According to Brueghel
when Icarus fell
it was spring
a farmer was ploughing
his field
the whole pageantry
of the year was
awake tingling
with itself
sweating in the sun
that melted
the wings' wax
off the coast
there was
a splash quite unnoticed
this was
Icarus drowning

Sugar Woman by Bernadette McBride
     (on Gustav Klimt's Portrait of Adele Block-Bauer, 1907)

She flumes
through the curve-
clung gown
as though she
were built of
god eyes;
bosom to belly,
hips to ankles.
Or peacock feathers
cloaked in amber
wings amid whorls
of silver and gold.
All fragile glint
—as if everything
could dissolve
at any moment
to burnt sugar.

April 19 – Narrative

Historically, poetry has its roots in an oral tradition that predates all other forms of modern communication. Before there were printed books, people told stories through narrative poems. Early narrative verse used rhythm, rhyme, repetition, and vivid language—easily remembered and recited and, arguably, the first examples of performance poetry.

Early narratives include ballads, epics, idylls, and lays. Many of these are long, especially examples such as Homer’s “The Iliad” and “The Odyssey,” and Tennyson’s “Idylls of the King.” Narrative poems have also been collected into interrelated groups, as with Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales.

As a “genre,” narrative poetry has retained importance throughout written history. Over the past thirty years, the form has made a comeback against lyric poetry, which dominated the last century. Contemporary narrative poems are dramatic and compelling and deal with personal histories, losses, regrets, and recollections.


At the Factory Where My Mother Worked by Maria Mazziotti Gillan

Once when I was seventeen, I visited the factory
where my mother worked. It was on the second floor
up a flight of narrow, rickety stairs, and when I opened
the door, the noise of sewing machines slapped my face.
I searched for my mother in the close-packed row
of women bent over their sewing. The floor manager
picked up one of the pieces my mother had finished,
screamed, “You call this sewing?” and threw the coat
on the floor. The tables were lit by bare light bulbs,
dangling down on cords. I had never seen the place
where my mother worked. She thought we should be
protected from all that was ugly and mean
in the grown-up world. “Children should be children,”
she’d say. “They’ll learn trouble soon enough.
We don’t need to tell them about it.” She did not answer
the floor walker. Instead she bent her head over her sewing,
but not before I saw the shame in her face.

Nathan Kessman by Nancy Lubarsky

I Googled Nathan Kessman ­­– couldn’t  
find him. Searched Facebook – he
wasn’t there. The system to recapture

lost loves had failed me. The alphabet
is what brought us together – his K,
my L – Mrs. Butterworth’s technique

to quickly target miscreants and
expedite the exchange of papers. It kept
Nathan’s grimy neck in view all of first

grade – so close his scent of canned
peas made me gag. Turn around, I
seethed, as he tried to talk to me.

She always caught us both, made us
stand in opposite corners for great
chunks of the morning. At recess

one day everything changed. I love you,
he said in the middle of jump rope, and
that he’d wait for me. And there he was

 – on the steps after school as other
children tumbled past him. He offered
up a sweaty palm (I held it but wiped

my hand as he  looked away).
I saw my future along 16th Avenue. 
He kissed me. It was more like Mom’s

satin than Dad’s bristle. Our romance
lasted almost two blocks. Right before
we reached the Boulevard, I knew –

My mom wants me home by 4, he
said – and then disappeared. The
rest is murky – I only remember

he left me with the crossing guard.
She held up her hand to stop traffic. I
ran home in time to see the Flintstones.

At the Factory by Deborah LaVeglia

Working for Durex
the summer before
sticking rubber inserts
into eyelash curlers
on the assembly line
where I was told not even 
to sing while I worked
because it disturbed
the other workers
on the assembly line
where the chemicals made me
dizzy and ready to fall,
where, in summer, the temperature
rose beyond 120 degrees
on the assembly line
where Maria Ramos
who had five children and didn't
speak "too good English"
worked two machines at a time
to make a better bonus
to bring home food,
Maria Ramos, who stood on her feet
eight hours a day
even though her back ached
and her hands hurt
Maria Ramos, who told me she loved
music and would coax me
in her broken English,
"Ok, now you sing."

(Please note that Deborah LaVeglia's above poem is also a perfect example of one-sentence format. See April 16th.)

Grandma by Catherine Doty

Mischief made her lift her arms and turn
with such a look of wonder on her face
that I was not afraid to see the flames
licking along both sides of her flannel robe,
but stepped back, as one does from an act
of God, the better to take in her glittering
pale green eyes, her pirate's nose, the few
yellow teeth in her little open mouth
as my mother, her own mouth open
in a scream, rushed up behind her to yank
off the blazing robe and dance on its burning,
and Grandma, naked, triumphant, winked at me
while the kettle shrieked its way to boiling dry,
and sent me from some far hilltop in her far world
a sneak peek at what it was likely I'd become:
wild-eyed and crazy and blazing like a six-gun,
nothing at all to be met with shame or fear.
So this is for her, who now has long been ash,
another poem the last word of which is oh.

April 20 – Ballad

Ballads tell stories in poetry. Related to narrative poetry, ballads have more specific “rules.” The form is an old one, and many ballads were passed from one generation to the next through an oral tradition. To follow the rules of the form strictly, keep in mind that ballads are written in quatrains, groups of four lines, and have a rhyme scheme of ABAB or ABCB. The lines alternate between eight syllables and six syllables. Happily, the form is flexible enough to allow for variations on the conventional form.


Annabel Lee by Edgar Allan Poe

It was many and many a year ago,
   In a kingdom by the sea,
That a maiden there lived whom you may know
   By the name of Annabel Lee;
And this maiden she lived with no other thought
   Than to love and be loved by me.

I was a child and she was a child,
   In this kingdom by the sea:
But we loved with a love that was more than love—
   I and my Annabel Lee;
With a love that the winged seraphs of heaven
   Coveted her and me.

And this was the reason that, long ago,
   In this kingdom by the sea,
A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling
   My beautiful Annabel Lee;
So that her highborn kinsman came
   And bore her away from me,
To shut her up in a sepulchre
   In this kingdom by the sea.

The angels, not half so happy in heaven,
   Went envying her and me—
Yes!—that was the reason (as all men know,
   In this kingdom by the sea)
That the wind came out of the cloud by night,
   Chilling and killing my Annabel Lee.

But our love it was stronger by far than the love
   Of those who were older than we—
   Of many far wiser than we—
And neither the angels in heaven above,
   Nor the demons down under the sea,
Can ever dissever my soul from the soul
   Of the beautiful Annabel Lee:

For the moon never beams, without bringing me dreams
   Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And the stars never rise, but I feel the bright eyes
   Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side
Of my darling—my darling—my life and my bride,
   In her sepulchre there by the sea,
   In her tomb by the sounding sea.

April 21 – Kyrielle

Once very popular, the kyrielle originated in France, dates to the Middle Ages, and takes its name from kyrie (a litany in the Catholic Mass). Many hymn lyrics were written in this form, but content is not limited to religious subjects. A traditional kyrielle is often short, octosyllabic (each line contains eight syllables), is typically presented in four-line stanzas, and may also contain a refrain (a repeated line, phrase, or word) at the end of each stanza. The form lends itself well to poems in which thankfulness is expressed. You might want to try that, keeping in mind that although the following example is “religious,” your kyrielle needn’t be.  Feel free to adapt the form to your own preferences.


A Lenten Hymn by Thomas Campion

With broken heart and contrite sigh,
A trembling sinner, Lord, I cry:
Thy pard’ning grace is rich and free:
O God, be merciful to me.

I smite upon my troubled breast,
With deep and conscious guilt oppress,
Christ and His cross my only plea:
O God, be merciful to me.

Far off I stand with tearful eyes,
Nor dare uplift them to the skies;
But Thou dost all my anguish see:
O God, be merciful to me.

Nor alms, nor deeds that I have done,
Can for a single sin atone;
To Calvary alone I flee:
O God, be merciful to me.

And when, redeemed from sin and hell,
With all the ransomed throng I dwell,
My raptured song shall ever be,
God has been merciful to me.

April 22 – Rondel

A rondel is a form of poetry that originated in French lyrical poetry of the 14th century. It was later used in the verse of other languages as well, such as English and Romanian. It is a variation of the rondeau consisting of two quatrains followed by a quintet (13 lines total) or a sestet (14 lines total). There are several variations of the rondel, and some inconsistencies. For example, sometimes only the first line of the poem is repeated at the end, or the second refrain may return at the end of the last stanza.


The Wanderer by Henry Austin Dobson

Love comes back to his vacant dwelling,—
The old, old Love that we knew of yore!
We see him stand by the open door,
With his great eyes sad, and his bosom swelling.

He makes as though in our arms repelling,
He fain would lie as he lay before;—
Love comes back to his vacant dwelling,
The old, old Love that we knew of yore!

Ah, who shall help us from over-spelling
That sweet, forgotten, forbidden lore!
E’en as we doubt in our heart once more,
With a rush of tears to our eyelids welling,
Love comes back to his vacant dwelling.

April 23 – Aubade

An aubade is a morning love song (as opposed to a serenade, which takes place in the evening), or a song or poem about lovers separating at dawn. Aubades, then, may celebrate dawn’s arrival or they may lament it. The aubade has also been defined as “a song or instrumental composition concerning, accompanying, or evoking daybreak.”


Aubade by by Philip Larkin

I work all day, and get half-drunk at night.

Waking at four to soundless dark, I stare.

In time the curtain-edges will grow light.

Till then I see what’s really always there:
Unresting death, a whole day nearer now,
Making all thought impossible but how
And where and when I shall myself die.

Arid interrogation: yet the dread
Of dying, and being dead,
Flashes afresh to hold and horrify.

The mind blanks at the glare.
Not in remorse
 —The good not done, the love not given, time
Torn off unused—nor wretchedly because
An only life can take so long to climb
Clear of its wrong beginnings, and may never;
But at the total emptiness for ever,
The sure extinction that we travel to
And shall be lost in always.
Not to be here,
Not to be anywhere,
And soon; nothing more terrible, nothing more true.

This is a special way of being afraid
No trick dispels.
Religion used to try,
That vast moth-eaten musical brocade
Created to pretend we never die,
And specious stuff that says No rational being
Can fear a thing it will not feel, not seeing
That this is what we fear—no sight, no sound,
No touch or taste or smell, nothing to think with,
Nothing to love or link with,
The anaesthetic from which none come round.

And so it stays just on the edge of vision,
A small unfocused blur, a standing chill
That slows each impulse down to indecision.

Most things may never happen: this one will,
And realisation of it rages out
In furnace-fear when we are caught without
People or drink.
Courage is no good:
It means not scaring others.
Being brave
Lets no one off the grave.

Death is no different whined at than withstood.

Slowly light strengthens, and the room takes shape.

It stands plain as a wardrobe, what we know,
Have always known, know that we can’t escape,
Yet can’t accept.
One side will have to go.

Meanwhile telephones crouch, getting ready to ring
In locked-up offices, and all the uncaring
Intricate rented world begins to rouse.

The sky is white as clay, with no sun.

Work has to be done.

Postmen like doctors go from house to house.

April 24 – Ghazal

The ghazal is a type of poem, akin to the ode, that originated in Arabic poetry. A ghazal may be understood as a poetic expression of both the pain of loss or separation and the beauty of love in spite of that pain. Ghazals commonly consist of between five (minimum) and fifteen couplets, which are independent, but are linked abstractly in their theme; and more strictly in their poetic form.

Often each line of the poem is of the same length, but meter is not always present in English. Among the best known poets who used this form are Rumi, Robert Bly, Galway Kinnell, Maxine Kumin, and Thomas Hardy. Variations on the form are not uncommon.


If There’s No Trace of Love by Rumi (Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī)

(Translated from the Persian by Brad Gooch & Maryam Mortaz)

If there’s no trace of love in his heart
Cover him like an angry cloud over the moon

Dry tree, don’t grow in that garden,
Poor thing, left without the shade of a tree

Even if you’re a pearl, don’t separate from this love,
Love is your father and your family

In the world of lovers, a deadly sickness strikes
Each day more painful than the last

If you see the blush of love in someone’s face
Know that he is no longer merely mortal

If you see a reed-flute, bent by love, grab it
Squeeze the reed until you taste the sweetest sugar

Shams of Tabriz lures you into his trap
Don’t look left or right, you can’t resist.

April 25 – Prose Poem

The term prose poem seems contradictory, but the form is one that’s been around for a long time and is currently enjoying a renaissance of attention. A prose poem has one foot in prose and the other in poetry, but it doesn't put its weight completely on either.

Not bound by lineation, prose poems resemble prose. They are presented in paragraphs with lines that break with the margins. Prose poems contain both complete sentences and intentional fragments; they rely heavily on imagery and figurative language; they sometimes speak the language of dreams; and they often give a nod to the surreal. 

Prose poems are usually compact; they bear a physical resemblance to prose but move away from typical prose techniques in favor of poetry-like imagery and/or emotional effect. The prose poem’s allegiance to poetry is unmistakable in sonic impression, internal rhyme, assonance, alliteration, figures of speech, and imagery. Prose poems vary in length from a single paragraph to more than a page.


Family Photo by Bob Rosenbloom

My nephew’s death angel crabwalks across the lower left hand corner and perches himself on the sofa next to his thirteen year-old daughter, in front of his wife, three sons to the left—how will I tell his grandmother, my mother? I still talk to her, mostly when I walk my two miles at the start of each day. Mother Morningstar—how good to see you. People in concentration camps you fled from looked better than my nephew, your grandson. In this photo, his hair is white and gray like dust or snow that falls on park statues and benches, but mostly in graveyards.

[my father is ashes] by Renee Ashley

We are electric I know our conductor He is a very sad man We are not in a field of cosmos We are not is a field I'm only telling you that when the message leaves the body I do not know what to make of the world I make you up from the little I know with almost with soon Is it possible the thing I love most is guilt or that you are gone? We are such pain and we are utterance We are a strange thing in the air You are so imperfectly dead

Just an Idea by Michael T. Young

I am the abstract man, living life in my head. And in these halls—how little people suspect—drift the aromas of lilac and lily, the sun's burning iris diffusing its setting light through he maples and steam from the refinery smokestacks, while the crimson at the horizon shifts into fading surges of heather. It is the idea of spring and like a book opens in the mind of the reader, motionless under his lamp at night. And this is what spring will be for all, come autumn, come winter, just an idea, a memory or hope, maybe of gratitude.


Sequestering by Emily Vogel

There are sound barriers among abundances of snow. From the house, I can hear a man's voice like a distant shotgun. My newborn daughter gasps delightedly at the sight of an inanimate object. She smiles as she sleeps. The world is otherwise full of concrete and rumors about zombies. Other claim God is definitely a hoax of the highest order. A clock determines all relevant narratives. You are drowsy. You laugh as you watch very old movies. This sequestering from the snow is a type of indemnity, a reason not to get shot to death on an ordinary day at the supermarket. Meanwhile, the world is desperate to go on existing, and God's unassailable love is on many desperate radios.

April 26 – Canzone

The canzone is a form of poetry that we don’t hear a lot about. “Canzone” derives from cantio, which means song in Italian, and is a medieval Italian prototype of the sonnet. Rooted in the Provençal song or ballad, it was more fully developed and practiced in Italy and was popularized through the writings of Petrarch and Dante.

Canzones are lyric poems that don’t have the same, conventional rhyme scheme as sonnets. For the most part, they are written in various stanzaic arrangements and usually conclude with an envoy (a short stanza at the end of the poem that brings the poem to closure, often with an address to a real or imagined person or as a comment on the preceding parts of the poem).

In structure, sonnets are typically set in a pattern of fourteen lines; however, canzones may contain from seven to twenty lines. Canzones may also contain anywhere from one to seven stanzas and may include a range of rhyme schemes. (Any rhyme scheme may be used, but for starters, rhymed couplets are suggested.) Additionally, each line in a canzone contains ten or eleven syllables, but this can also vary. Greater flexibility in structure make canzones easier to write than sonnets.


(The following example is a fourteen-line poem with ten-syllable lines. The language is archaic, but reading the poem and counting out the syllabic pattern may be helpful in giving you an idea of how you might structure your own poem.)

Canzone 1 by Dante Alighieri

    Ladies that have intelligence in love,
    Of my own lady I will speak with you;
    Not that I hope to count her praises through,
    But telling what I may, to ease my mind.
    And I declare that when I speak thereof
    Love sheds such perfect sweetness over me
    That if my courage failed not, certainly
    To him my listeners must be all resigned.
    Wherefore I will not speak in such large kind
    That mine own speech should foil me, which were base;
    But only will discourse of her high grace
    In these poor words, the best that I can find,
    With you alone, dear dames and damozels:
    ‘Twere ill to speak thereof with any else.

Dante’s rhyme scheme (abbcdeeccffcgg) is intricate, but because there’s no fixed rhyme pattern for this form of poetry, you can feel free to invent your own or to leave out rhyme entirely.

My suggestion is that you plan on a twelve to fourteen-line poem that ends with two lines (envoy) designed to bring the poem to closure. In keeping with lyricism, try to create a sense of music in your poem and be sure to choose a topic that will lend itself to poetic musicality. If the idea appeals to you, make each line contain the same number of syllables as in the example above. Some topics that may work for you include: nature, seasonal subjects, a particular place or geography, love and other relationships, and people you know or admire.

April 27 – Cento

The cento is a form that derives from the Latin word for patchwork (as in a patchwork quilt). In poetry, a cento is a kind of collage poem made entirely of lines taken from poems by other authors. The rules are simple: no more than one line may be taken from any one poem; any number of quotes is acceptable; and centos may be rhymed or unrhymed. Though some poets adapt this form to include borrowed lines from other poets’ work along with lines of their own, a true cento is composed only of lines from other sources.

Remember that “borrowing” other poets’ words is typically regarded as an honorific practice when the work is well done and sources are properly credited. Be sure to provide credits (usually at the end of your poem).

Historically, the cento is ancient. Early Greeks built poems from such works as The Iliad and The Odyssey. Roman poets composed centos taken from the works of Virgil, and Renaissance poets worked with lines from Petrarch and Cicero. Modern cento forms include variations (i.e., a single borrowed line that’s echoed throughout a poem), and today’s centos are often witty or ironic. 
Remember, this isn’t a form about “grand theft poetry”—it’s about how other poets’ writing can inspire your own.

Centos are fun to experiment with and are reasonably easy to “put together.” For this activity, create a cento based on a particular idea or theme (don’t simply collage randomly). Use a poetry anthology if you have one handy. Alternatively, the Internet offers many poetry sites at which you can look for poems by poets or by titles and themes. At some point, be sure to read “The Dong with the Luminous Nose” (a cento by John Ashbury that takes its title from Edward Lear and includes lines from poems by Gerard Manley Hopkins, T. S. Eliot, and Lord Byron).


Perfect (a cento) by Wendy Rosenberg

I put you into my memories on purpose –
a balm for the nerves –
the notion of some infinitely gentle thing.

You do not have to walk on your knees
like a willow swept by rain.

Beauty is momentary in the mind,
conceived in a wordless encounter
by means of a searching pause.

We all have reasons for moving –
I never knew survival was like that.

I would like to be the air –
more like a memory of heaven
and certain certainties.

Your face sounds like that.
Let me hear every perfect note.

Line 1: Julia Cohen “In the Dark We Crush”
Line 2: Alberto Rios “Coffee in the Afternoon”
Line 3: T. S. Eliot “Preludes”
Line 4: Mary Oliver “Wild Geese”
Line 5: Wallace Stevens “Peter Quince at the Clavier”
Line 6: Wallace Stevens “Peter Quince at the Clavier”
Line 7: Naomi Mulvihill “Poetry”
Line 8: Naomi Mulvihill “Poetry”
Line 9: Mark Strand “Keeping things Whole”
Line 10: Ada Limón, “Before”
Line 11: Margaret Atwood: “Variation on the Word Sleep”
Line 12: Li-Young Lee “Discrepancies, Happy and Sad”
Line 13: T. S. Eliot “Preludes”
Line 14: Julia Cohen “In the Dark We Crush”
Line 15: Jonathan Wells “Love’s Body”

April 28 – Senryu

Senryu s a form of poetry very like haiku, but senryu always contain an element of humor or irony.  Like haiku, senryu usually contain three lines and a total of about 10 to 16 syllables in no preset arrangement. The purpose is to convey an image with a wry or tongue-in-cheek twist.


By Alan Pizzarelli

in front of the go-go bar
     a broken umbrella
          shakes with the wind

By Michael Dylan Welch

at his favourite deli
the bald man finds a hair
in his soup

April 29 – Sestina

The sestina is what's known as a "fixed verse form" that comes from12th-century Provence. It contains considerable repetition, but there is no rhyme requirement. A sestina must have six stanzas (sixains) of six lines each, and a closing stanza or envoy of three lines (a tercet). The end words of the first stanza are repeated in different order as end words in each of the five stanzas that follow. The closing envoy must contain all six words, two in each line, placed in the middle and at the end of the three closing. The form is demanding to master but is a challenge worth taking on. Have fun with this one.


Sestina by Elizabeth Bishop

September rain falls on the house.
In the failing light, the old grandmother
sits in the kitchen with the child
beside the Little Marvel Stove,
reading the jokes from the almanac,
laughing and talking to hide her tears.

She thinks that her equinoctial tears
and the rain that beats on the roof of the house
were both foretold by the almanac,
but only known to a grandmother.
The iron kettle sings on the stove.
She cuts some bread and says to the child,

It’s time for tea now; but the child
is watching the teakettle’s small hard tears
dance like mad on the hot black stove,
the way the rain must dance on the house.
Tidying up, the old grandmother
hangs up the clever almanac

on its string. Birdlike, the almanac
hovers half open above the child,
hovers above the old grandmother
and her teacup full of dark brown tears.
She shivers and says she thinks the house
feels chilly, and puts more wood in the stove.

It was to be, says the Marvel Stove.
I know what I know, says the almanac.
With crayons the child draws a rigid house
and a winding pathway. Then the child
puts in a man with buttons like tears
and shows it proudly to the grandmother.

But secretly, while the grandmother
busies herself about the stove,
the little moons fall down like tears
from between the pages of the almanac
into the flower bed the child
has carefully placed in the front of the house.

Time to plant tears, says the almanac.
The grandmother sings to the marvelous stove
and the child draws another inscrutable house.

April 30 – Villanelle

The French brought the villanelle into literary form during the late 1500s. Before that time, it was known as the villanella, “an old Italian folk song with an accompanying dance.” Although the “rules” may seem, at first blush, to be complicated, the form is an interesting and perhaps even entertaining challenge for the poet.  

A villanelle has 19 lines and uses a lot of repeated rhymes (which means that villanelles have wonderful sonic impression when read aloud). The 19 lines are organized into six stanzas: the first five stanzas have three lines (triplets), and the last one has four lines (a quatrain). The rhyme pattern is aba for the first five stanzas and then abaa for the last one. A famous example is “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night” by Dylan Thomas. 
To make a villanelle work, you need to choose end-words that have strong rhymes. Although a villanelle is 19 lines long, it only uses two rhymes, while also repeating two lines (refrains) throughout the poem. The rhyme scheme is: “aba aba aba aba aba abaa.” The 1st and the 3rd lines alternate as the last lines of stanzas 2, 3, and 4, and then stanza 5 (“dismount”) as a couplet. Admittedly, it sounds confusing, but I hope you’ll give it a try.

The form:

A1  (refrain)
A2 (refrain)

A1 (refrain)

A2 (refrain)

A1 (refrain)

A2 (refrain)

A2 (refrain)


Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night by Dylan Thomas

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Mad Girl's Love Song by Sylvia Plath

I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead,
I lift my lids and all is born again.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

The stars go waltzing out in blue and red,
And arbitrary darkness gallops in.
I shut my eyes and all the word drops dead.

I dreamed that you bewitched me into bed
And sung me moon-struck, kissed me quite insane.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

God topples from the sky, hell's fires fade:
Exit seraphim and enter Satan's men:
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.

I fancied you'd return the way you said.
But I grow old and I forget your name.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

I should have loved a thunderbird instead
At least when spring comes they roar back again.
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)


Happy National Poetry Month!

Regular prompts will resume with a post on April 27th for you to begin on May 1st.


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