Saturday, June 27, 2020

Pedestal Magazine Review of Wind Over Stones

The Pedestal Magazine's most recent issue (#86, June 2020) includes a review by Vivian Wagner of my newest book, Wind Over Stones. I'm really delighted and so grateful to Ms. Wagner and to the Pedestal's founder and managing editor John Amen.

As many of us with recently published books know, the Covid-19 crisis has made readings, book launches, workshops, etc. impossible, and books sales aren't what we hoped they might be; so, in lieu of any of the usual new book events, this review functions as a kind of book launch for me. 

A few excerpts follow, along with the link in case you'd like to read the whole review. 
There are also links for ordering the book online.

Click here to order Wind Over Stones from Barnes & Noble.

Big thanks to you if you order a copy of the book!

Pedestal Magazine Review by Vivian Wagner, Excerpts:

Wind Over Stones is a remarkable collection of ekphrastic prose poems by Adele Kenny exploring mortality, loss, and joy. At the bottom of each poem’s page there’s a QR code leading to the artwork that inspired the poem, and this design proves a creative method of weaving together the written word and visual imagery, keeping the reader actively engaged in the process of exploring the art in the context of the poems.”

“As with the best ekphrastic poetry, the poems don’t simply describe the art that inspired them; rather, they use it as a jumping-off point, a place from which to make sense of one’s life.”

“The QR codes, as little black-and-white portals on the bottom of each page, are a kind of art themselves. They speak of secrecy and translation, and of the way in which there’s never a one-to-one correspondence between a work of art and our responses to it.”

All of the poems in Wind Over Stones explore, on some level, how we come to terms with mortality and still manage to create fulfilling and happy lives. The poems, in their interactions with the complementary paintings, examine and describe the way life is a not a fixed or predictable story, but rather a near-infinite series of moments simultaneously informed by both grief and joy.”

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Prompt #355 – Painting to Poem

 1. Man and Woman Contemplating the Moon by Caspar David Friedrich

2. The Sun by Edvard Munch

3. Mountain Landscape with Bridge by Thomas Gainsborough

These days, with the pandemic still present and a threat throughout the world, with so many related worries and concerns, and with all the other issues that affect our daily lives, it can be good to step outside of our "personal spaces" and enter the art world. I’ve selected three paintings (above) that I hope you’ll find inspirational. I worked with these paintings myself in my most recent book. 

Our goal for this prompt is to write an ekphrastic poem based on one of the paintings above. If none of these painting works for you, feel free to choose any other.

Importantly, Ekphrastic poetry is more than mere textual description or verbal interpretation of visual 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.


1. Look at the paintings and choose one that especially appeals to you.

2. Notice details within the painting you’ve chosen.

3. Then, jot down 10 or 12 things that in the painting that capture your attention (and, hopefully, your imagination).

4. Think about how your items relate to one another, how they work together to form a unified whole.

5. Jot down some notes about what you “see”—this will become your “sensory pool.”

6. Free write for a while and begin thinking in terms of a poem.

7. Then, begin writing a poem that’s based on, about, or that includes some of the items you noted. Look for connections among those "things" and yourself. How and why do they "speak" to you? What story might they tell?

8. Let your painting become the “emotion,” the “landscape,” or the topic of your poem. Write in the present tense—here and now. Let your ten-twelve items direct the content of your poem. Describe them, define them, contextualize them, analyze them, repurpose them, recreate them. Let your poem take you where it wants to go.


1. You can approach your ekphrastic poem in several ways and, as the poet, it's your choice. You may write about your experience viewing the art, about an experience the artwork draws from your memory or a monologue or story you imagine coming from a voice inside the painting. The choice is up to you, and what notes you jotted in your sensory pool will help you pick.

2. Pay close attention to sight, suggested sound, color, light, feeling, movement and other aspects of the painting you chose. Try to disregard your analytical mind or any historical knowledge, and instead experience the artwork through your senses. A poet doesn't need to "know" facts about a piece of art. Instead, the poet experiences the artwork: memories, sensations of smell or touch, impressions of the images you see inside the art. These will help to inform your poem once you've decided on your approach.

3. You may want to create a dialog in which you journey in “conversation” between the painting and your text.

4. 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).

5.  Don’t just describe the artwork you’ve chosen; let the artwork be your guide and see where it leads you.  Relate the artwork to something else (a memory, a person, an experience, a place, an emotion).

6. Work with strong images and, if you tell a story in a narrative poem, be sure not to overtell.

7. Think about including some caesuras (pauses) for emphasis, and leave some things unsaid—give your readers space to fill in some blanks.

8. Pose an unanswered question or go for an element of surprise. Let your poem take an interesting or unexpected turn based on something triggered by the painting.

9. Look at the “movement” of the painting you’ve chosen and try to represent that movement in your line and stanza breaks. For example, if a painting “moves” across the canvas, find a way to suggest similar movement in the way you indent and create line breaks.

10. Most importantly, let the painting you chose inspire you.


All Examples are from Wind Over Stones, Welcome Rain Publishers, LLC, 
Copyright © 2019 by Adele Kenny. All rights reserved.

This Almost Night

(After Man and Woman Contemplating the Moon by Caspar David Friedrich)

It’s the way trees darken before the sky … this almost night … another side of time and new. We think in pauses and, in those pauses, everything (it seems) stands still.

The moon, rising, reorders the sky, drifts and slips through clouds—sliver of moon, its nimbus pale, like a word almost spoken.

A night bird lifts its shadow away from the world, a world flown white with the ghosts of our passing (thoughts vaguely remembered)—the sky dimmed to November gray, and us moonstruck—what we thought we knew, fistfuls of winter we didn’t see coming, this sack of rocks slung over memory’s shoulder.

This Particular Light

(After The Sun by Edvard Munch)

Weavers of the same place—beyond the body’s dark containment, we entered the forest by our own choosing. Above us, galaxies pitched and sieved through air—another degree of second thought. Having used up all the words we knew for loneliness (and not sure what we found or what to call it), we considered options (as if happiness might be a choice). Finally, we returned to the larks’ twill, the blue jays’ liquid clicks—this life that is not about what things are but what they mean (all gift, and so much more than blood in the heart).

Do you remember the fox at twilight, the edge of the woods like a mirror in rain? Face it, there’s only (ever) one whole note—the minor third, the perfect fifth—gratefully, we turn from the dark’s protective depth into the brimmed burning of this particular light.

Once, Late in the Day:
                       East Canada Creek, Stratford, NY

(After Mountain Landscape with Bridge by Thomas Gainsborough)

I’ve come to see the sun flick over stones in moments of gentle flashing, to think how fast a memory becomes its own illusion. I’m here because what we call the soul—that almost visual echo—is always close to holiness.

A birch on the shoreline shapes itself to the breeze; aspens tremble as if this moment were all there is between one beauty and another, between mystery and revelation. Here, there is no revision, no opposite for recollection.

Once, late in the day, my father and I fished beneath this bridge. I was seven or eight, and small trout shone underwater, quietly golden. On the only road home, we were part of the shadows’ perfection (trees and what was left of the sky). As we walked between hills (close in the last light), my pail of water filled with stars, and the sun came down, fallen from a larger light that, far too soon, my father walked into and was gone.

Saturday, June 6, 2020

Prompt #354 – Hiareth

Have you ever had the experience of hearing a new and unusual word for the first time and vowing to remember it? I remember the first time I heard the word gobsmacked. My former professor and long-time mentor and friend, Charles DeFanti, introduced me to that word, and I can’t count the number of times I’ve used it since (i.e., I was gobsmacked when I read Eliot’s “Little Gidding” for the first time).

I recently came across the word hiraeth, a Welsh word with no exact translation into English, which generally means “homesickness for a home to which you cannot return, a home which maybe never was; the nostalgia, the yearning, the grief for the lost places of your past.” Words typically used to try to explain it are homesickness, yearning, and longing. However, there is greater depth and suggested meaning to hiraeth than in any of those words on their own.

Just the sound of the word resonated for me and, then, when I looked it up, I couldn’t help but relate it to pre- and post-pandemic life—how much things have changed, and how much most of us long to have our lives back—our yearning and homesickness for life as it was. With so much uncertainty about when or if that will happen, I thought it might be interesting to use the word hiraeth as a kind of jumping off word for a poem about how life has changed since Covid-19, how we feel about what’s happened, and whether or not we think things will ever be the same as they were before Covid.

Can a poem begin with a single word even if that word doesn’t appear in the poem? 
It's may seem a little strange at first but, of course, it can!

There are many poems being written right now about Covid-19 and its collision with personal and global life. Many of the poems are insightful and profoundly meaningful. I recommend reading several before you begin writing, and here’s a place where you’ll find some:

Some Things to Think about before Writing:

  • What was your life like before Covid-19 (personal, national, or global)?
  • How has the virus affected your family life, friendships, work life, and social life?
  • What do you miss most about life before Covid? What are you “homesick” for?
  • When was the last time you hugged someone who isn’t a member of your immediate family?
  • When was the last time you shook a stranger’s hand?
  • When was the last time you attended a religious service in a filled house of worship? Attended a wedding or a funeral where there were no restrictions? 
  • How does it feel not to be able to go to a restaurant with family members or friends and sit down together (inside the restaurant) to enjoy a meal together?
  • How does social distancing change the dynamic of being part of any group?
  • What’s it like for you to wear a mask when grocery shopping, going to a doctor, or walking in a park?
  • How long do you think this will all go on?
  • What things do you fear may never change back to what they were before Covid? Do you think there are some irrevocable changes?


1. Keep the word hiareth in mind (not the word itself but what the word suggests to you), then relate its meaning to what you feel about the pandemic and its personal impact on your life.

2. You might want to start by making a list of the ways in which the pandemic has changed your life.

3. Remember: you don’t have to use the word hiareth in your poem—that’s not required—but try to evoke the word’s feeling in images.

4. Write about family changes, work changes, travel changes, social changes.

5. Write about fear—your personal fears and how fear has impacted your life.

6. Write about friends or co-workers who have contracted the virus.

7. Write about those who have not survived.

8. This is a personal poem, so don’t be afraid to show how the virus has directly affected your life.

9. Importantly, think in terms of the nostalgia for things of your pre-Covid life—what do you long for, what real or metaphorical "homesickness" are you experiencing? 

10. Whatever you write, don't be afraid to interject a note of hope.


1. 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).

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

3. The great author 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. Think about surface and underlying meanings.

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

8. If you take a risk, make it a big one; if your poem is edgy, take it all the way to the farthest edge.

9. 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.

10. Bring your poem to closure with a memorable dismount. (Be careful not to undercut your poem’s “authority” by ending with trivia or a “so what” line.)

NOTE: Think about making your poem unusual, edgy, different in some way. Try a prose poem, dip into the surreal, be satirical, try a haibun or a haiku sequence, perhaps a limerick.

Whatever you write, and whatever form you choose,
go for Ezra Pound’s classic dictum,” Make it new!”

On Breathing
By Alicia Jo Rabins

I’m OK during the day, but at night I get scared,
Which makes it hard to breathe, which is a symptom
Of the pandemic, which is what scares me.
Well played, anxiety, my old friend. You’ve always
Warned me something like this might happen.
You’re a gift from my ancestors who survived plagues,
And worse. They wove you into my DNA to warn me,
So that I too might survive. Now that it’s happening,
Anxiety, I don’t need you any more. I need
The ones who gave you to me. So hear me, ancestors
Who lived though danger times: I’m ready for you now.
All these years I’ve carried your worries in my bones.
Now I need your love, your thousand-year view.
Tell me it’s going to be OK, remind me you made it
Through and we will too. Teach me to breathe. 

Reprinted by permission of the author.)

Coronavirus, One Month Later
     By Nancy Lubarsky
Outside, streets are vacant
except for delivery trucks
and half-mast flags. There

are fewer places where I can
walk. As the parks empty, my
head is crowded with lost

people­—artists, legends, and
ordinary folk who spent their
lives making ends meet or

keeping us safe. There is less
music now, less poetry, fewer
pictures. I mourn for the people

I don’t know of, and the ones
I do—my colleague’s 90 year
old mother, our synagogue’s

past president, a friend’s
musician pal. As I learn about
their lives, I try to make them

comfortable in my mind’s
multiple rooms. My hope is
they’ll be there a long time.

(First Published in Frost Meadow Review)


Two-Day Diary     
     By Penny Harter

mid-morning heat—
humidity already
a mask

late afternoon
a heavy rain cleanses
the dense air

steam rises
from hot pavement—
sirens somewhere

sudden thunder—
distant rumbles echo
in its wake

just a minor
accident—spilling beans
from a torn bag

supper again—
knife, fork, plate
and TV

of childhood flicker at
the edge of sleep

midnight waking—
try to reenter my
lingering dream

eyes closed—
another landscape opens
inside me

clearing night—
even through the roof

hazy morning—
stirring daily collagen
into my tea 

(Copyright © 2020 by Penny Harter)


Sheltered in Place
     By Adele Kenny

Working from home—
anthills appear
on the driveway.

     I spray the mail with Lysol,
     then wash my hands 

Sheltered in place,
I lose track 
of the date.

     Below my window,
     a man on the street 
     sings behind his mask.

Memories of childhood—
wishing for last year 
or any year before.

     Peonies begin to bloom—
     I long for the way
     things were.

(Copyright © 2020 by Adele Kenny)


Stay safe and be well, dear friends!