Saturday, August 28, 2021

Prompt #372 – The Cherita

As summer stretches on, and the heat continues where I live, it's nice to have an easy prompt to relax with and to write from. Accordingly, I've culled some info from the Net about a form of poetry called the Cherita. Here's hoping you'll find it an enjoyable "summer form."

The "Cherita" is a creation of ai li, the founding editor of "still: home for short verse," and now its independent e-zine offshoot "dew-on-line." 

Cherita [pronounced CHAIR-rita] is the Malay word for story or tale. A Cherita consists of a single stanza verse, followed by a two-line verse, and then finishing with a three-line verse. It can be written solo or with up to three partners. The Cherita tells a story. More can be found about the cherita's origin, on the still website at still: home for short verse Here you will find examples of ai li's cherita, and others, by looking under the section "linked forms" and under that for "Cherita."

Cherita forms its own plural just ad “haiku” and “tanka” do.

For additional info on this form, please visit

Believing that the reading of the form surpasses any effort to explain it, here are a few examples by some of the Cherita's first and finest practitioners. 


Two Cherita by Larry Kimmel

his clothes to charity

unpacking the suitcases
of the vacation no longer awaited

the Valentine meant
for today


after seeing you off

taking the path along
the canal

a rustle of

Copyright © Larry Kimmel 2007


Two cherita by ai li


drifting paper boat

the rain
on banana leaves

by an open window


Copyright © ai li 2002-2007


Two Cherita by Sheila Windsor


the agoraphobic's room

along the windowsill
porcelain dolls

perfectly aligned
and smiling
at any passer-by



Two Cherita by Ed Markowski

wildflowers unfolding

in a field between two
sagging barns

she reassures me
"it's so much better
than a room at the Drake."

Benny's Diner

"the blue plate special, meatloaf
mashed, a wedge of cream pie

off at ten,"
the waitress winks

Copyright © ed markowski 2007


1. Have fun writing a cherita or two. It’s that simple! Read some cherita, get an idea of the form, and then try writing some. Enjoy!



Saturday, August 14, 2021

Prompt #371 – Condense, Condense, Condense


Here we are in the "dog days" of summer, and where I live, we're just beginning to move toward a respite from extremely humid, 95º+ days. I find myself looking forward to autumn! In weather like this it's hard to concentrate on writing, and perhaps even harder to work on refining poems already written. This prompt will revisit one from the first year of the blog that I hope will be helpful to you, whatever weather you may be experiencing.

In poetry, condensing and compression are about making poems more compact and less wordy. They are skills that enable poets to use the fewest possible words and to extend beyond literal understanding into nuances and associations that offer deeper meanings. In poetry, less really is more. As Dylan Thomas wrote, "The best craftsmanship always leaves holes and gaps ... so that something not in the poem can creep, crawl, flash or thunder in." Those holes and gaps can't happen in an overwritten poem.


In the earlier prompt I mentioned an interesting article that presents a view toward boosting awareness of condensing in our poems. From the article (


"Allen Ginsberg was a full believer in condense, condense, condense – which is a Pound dictum..." 


The article continues (and this is what caught my attention), "Check Allen's poetry for articles (remember "a," "an," "the"?) and you'll see where he starts – these bitty words all but disappear in his work, which not only condenses but gives a rushing sense of immediacy to his work." The article goes on to discuss Ginsberg's reaction to haiku, a genre that I credit with teaching me much about condensing and compression. Ginsberg's answer to haiku first appeared in his book Cosmopolitan Greetings in the form he called "American Sentences." According to Ginsberg, an American Sentence is simply one sentence that contains seventeen syllables (the writing of which is a great way to focus on condensing and compression). 


So here goes – our prompt this week is to create American Sentences in the manner of Allen Ginsberg, and then to look at our already-written poems with an eye toward condensing and compressing them. 

Before you begin, be sure to read some American Sentences online and become familiar with how they work.


1. Pick 3-5 topics (anything that catches your fancy).

2. Write an American Sentence on each topic you chose (have fun with this and be aware of how you condense  and compress).

3. After you've written a few American Sentences, take a look at some of your already-written poems. Think about how you might condense and compress to improve them.

4. Are there unnecessary prepositions that you can lose?

5. Are there articles (a, an, the) that you don't need?

6. Are there conjunctions (and, but, although, when, while, yet, because, for, until, etc.) that your poems can live without?

7. Do you include more details than necessary? Do you "tell" with words rather than "show" with effective imagery? The best [poems show without overt telling.

8. How can you condense and compress to create greater immediacy, energy, and power?