The Things You Don’t Say: Tuesday Tryouts

17 Jan

:34 a.m. — Atlanta

Hello all. I hope everything goes well. Today, a short, and possibly simple, prompt. No, really. This time, it will be short.

What are the things you don’t say? Think over the past few days. Has there been a time[s] when you did not say something, when you could have? Past few weeks? Months? Years? Was your reason for not saying something to do with upbringing, tact, diplomacy, self-preservation…?

List as many as you can think of, jotting notes next to them as to context. Choose two or three and expand on your notes. The notes are for you to do actively, while the brain works on retrieving details. Jot place, time, situation, motivations, emotions, sensory details of what was happening around you.

Consider why you chose not to say something. Use this as your seed. Have you noticed a pattern in the things you don’t say and want to write about that? Go. Do you have a specific instance when you didn’t say something, but can now? How do you want to present that within the framework of a poem? If you wish to be more general, are there things you have noticed that people don’t say, that you want to write about?

If the things you don’t say does not strike a chord, how about the things you won’t say? You might enjoy writing a poetic commentary about what you will not say.

Remembering that the poet is never the speaker [even when it is about the poet], feel free to change details, to create a different setting, to do whatever is required by the poem to convey the truth [ironically, that often requires changing the reality].

Consider form versus free verse. Some topics lend themselves to specific forms and are enhanced by them. Consider a conversation poem for this topic.There is no wrong way, or wrong path. Write a poem and post.

I shall see you Thursday for a few announcements. If you have anything you would like me to post, send it along. Friday will be the usual roundup of prompts. Next Tuesday we will consider the opposite of idyll as a topic, rather than a form.

See: short.

Happy writing,all.



Posted by on 17/01/2012 in exercises, poetry, writing


Tags: , , , , ,

51 responses to “The Things You Don’t Say: Tuesday Tryouts

  1. tmhHoover

    17/01/2012 at 9:25 am

    Margo- I did not say last week that I was intimidated by idylls… ah I feel so much better. xo

    • margo roby

      17/01/2012 at 9:33 am

      Lol! But, Teri, one of the first things I said was let’s invent an idyll for the 21st century. So, if you want to ride this horse, look at the elements of an idyll, consider your idyllic spot, and choose a form you want to write in…really! My idyll is completely free verse and only one stanza. But, you know, you don’t have to.


      PS Your comment is a brilliant way to do this week’s prompt. I love it 🙂

  2. markwindham

    17/01/2012 at 9:39 am

    Short prompt maybe,but the possible answers…..

    • margo roby

      17/01/2012 at 9:41 am

      I know! I’m hoping to see quite a diversity of interesting items, Mark. People might even write two poems if they wished.


      • markwindham

        17/01/2012 at 9:47 am

        Now cut that out! I have not gotten over last weeks parting shot of ‘might even be the beginning of a poem’. Still running that around the noggin’.

        • margo roby

          17/01/2012 at 9:50 am

          Ahhh! My day is complete. We can’t ever have too much poem fodder in the noggin.

          • markwindham

            17/01/2012 at 10:09 am

            I am quite certain this blogging disease
            has rendered me incapable of saying NO
            to any prompt that I might read.
            This need to post and link continues to grow,
            to overflow my head with fodder and rhyme –
            I am pretty sure I just lost a good line,
            oozing out of my brain,
            dribbling out of my left ear.


            • margo roby

              17/01/2012 at 10:32 am

              Oh, the image, Mark. But I’m okay with that, so long as you don’t get fired. Poets already don’t get paid…living on the streets, while providing plenty of fodder, is not quite what you want, with a family and all [although the vision of you on the street with lines oozing out your brain and dribbling out your ear is almost irresistible]

              I have found, for myself, that to visit all the blogs, and try all the prompts is death to my creativity. It seems to work for a lot of people, but not me. I have my four favourites [besides me :-)], but even then, I only work the prompt if my heart sings at it, and even then, I rarely make deadlines. I look at the prompts more as a resource than a posting opportunity, although I do my best for the Wordles, because it’s good practice.

              Aiee! The teacher, the teacher…she is always there…

            • markwindham

              17/01/2012 at 10:51 am

              Teach away! Good for your soul and we love the input. I do like the prompts because they at least keep me writing, practicing. MIght be time to slow down a little though; maybe go back and edit a few dozen or so. Like the Wordles too; had a doozy of one yesterday.

              I am sure you’ll be seeing something from me today.

  3. The Happy Amateur

    17/01/2012 at 11:33 am

    I was just telling Hannah that I felt the need to pull back on blogging a little. A bit too much of a good thing. I’d rather do fewer prompts, but better, without the rush, and the pressure to post. I’ll try to come up with something in response to your today’s prompt, Margo. Certainly plenty of things to say about things we don’t or won’t say!
    Thank you for the challenge.

    • margo roby

      17/01/2012 at 12:04 pm

      I agree. In fact, that’s the reason I don’t have a deadline for my prompts. You can write a poem six months from now on a prompt you like, and post.

      Your site does not seem to like me. I was wandering through just now, liking the paintings you choose and noticed a couple of poems I know I wrote comments on. I must be posting the comments in other venues I hope you see. If not, I absolutely love the winding and unwinding of the reels. The content and form are made for each other. And, the idyll is a lovely little poem.

      Now I’m off to investigate Ivan Shishkin. I like the painting.

      I’m glad you visited — margo

      • The Happy Amateur

        17/01/2012 at 12:31 pm

        I wonder what’s wrong with my site.. I noticed a couple of days ago it acted kind of funny, but seems to be OK now. Maybe your comments will still show up?.. I hope so. Thank you very much for your words. It’s funny, I never really liked Shishkin before: I thought he was too polished, too photo-like. One of his paintings is on a candy wrapper, that’s what I always associated his art with – candy. And now his paintings warm my heart.

    • b_y

      17/01/2012 at 3:27 pm

      I follow a batch of prompts. Sometimes one will just doesn’t kick in for me, but then I’ll see another, and the two combine in some weird way. I’m not really answering either, but I’ve got something that wouldn’t have occurred to me without them.

      (I’m still waiting for the idylls to emerge)

      • margo roby

        20/01/2012 at 11:16 am

        Hmmmm. I thought I replied to you, barb. Tuesday’s blackout seems to have confused my blog.

        I know I visited the poem and commented__ I am going to have to check…how could I forget the fingers!

        I must have commented there and forgot here.

        Don’t mind me. It’s a rambling sort of day.

  4. wordsandthoughtspjs

    17/01/2012 at 11:39 am

    Margo, do I dare say this prompt could very well bring out some issues. I will have to think about this. It is compelling.


    • margo roby

      17/01/2012 at 11:52 am

      Pamela, I thought about that, but people can approach the prompt from a less personal angle. Or, they can use the prompt to say something. I’m guilty, if you will, of not saying a lot, when maybe I should. I would have to go for a different approach, but might write the things I don’t say, for myself, on the theory it’s healthy, and to see what comes out. It is compelling, isn’t it?


  5. The Happy Amateur

    17/01/2012 at 12:32 pm

    Here’s my attempt:

    I hear your ‘Talk to me!’ And so they come,
    Words I don’t say, but only to hit
    The wall of the blank stare, the all
    Knowing, unamused boredom.
    All tangled up, my words,
    Just like my feelings,
    Crawl back inside.
    They will be
    Never said

  6. The Happy Amateur

    17/01/2012 at 12:44 pm

    I messed up on the syllable count at the end… Maybe, like this:

    I hear your ‘Talk to me!’ And so they come,
    Words I don’t say, but only to hit
    The wall of the blank stare, the all
    Knowing, unamused boredom.
    All tangled up, my words,
    Just like my feelings,
    Crawl back inside
    To stay there,
    Come out

    Sorry for double posting.

    • margo roby

      17/01/2012 at 1:33 pm

      Never a problem [see comment below!].

      Boy, does this poem resonate with me:
      All tangled up, my words,
      Just like my feelings,
      Crawl back inside
      To stay there,

      I can’t help feeling that if I had stepped up and said what I felt, things might have been easier here and there. I’m still guilty though.


    • markwindham

      17/01/2012 at 4:21 pm

      I like this one. How often do we start to say our piece and then clam up when we get a bad reaction. Been fond of this form a lot lately too.

      • The Happy Amateur

        17/01/2012 at 5:01 pm

        Thanks, Mark. I do not know much about forms (to put it mildly), but I learned about this one from Margo (thank you, Margo!), and I like it a lot.

  7. The Happy Amateur

    17/01/2012 at 1:05 pm

    It’s I…again.. I just thought of a poem I wrote some time ago, it also has the ‘unsaid words’ in it.

    • margo roby

      17/01/2012 at 1:30 pm

      I was grinning by the time I got to this comment. I love the feel of your being practically in the same room as I am! As if we are chatting and adding stuff as we think of it.


    • margo roby

      17/01/2012 at 1:41 pm

      Well, nuts. The comments won’t take my comment, so I’m going to have to get to you sideways. Good thing I copied my comment:

      Really? Russian? Neat. I read [and speak] Greek, so love to see the similar alphabet.

      I like the poem very much, particularly the first stanza…but then I like the second stanza…you tell the story in such a way that it is easy to connect on several levels.


      Holding my breath til this posts…okay, stopped holding my breath. I was turning blue.

      • The Happy Amateur

        17/01/2012 at 2:42 pm

        Why wouldn’t the comments take your comment?… A mystery. I checked the spam folder, it’s not there, either. Frustrating!
        Thank you for commenting here, on your blog, Margo. Yep! My sister left a comment in Russian and kind of ‘blew my cover’, I guess. 🙂 My mother-in-law is Greek. She doesn’t speak Greek as well as she used to when she was a little girl growing up in a Greek family, but she’s still very fond of the language obviously. Every now and then I’d hear her say something in Greek, or see her write a few Greek words. I’m trying to keep the Russian going for my kids, but boy, is it hard!

        I like the feeling of a real conversation, too (that is when the comments go through OK!)

      • viv blake

        18/01/2012 at 1:25 am

        I just commented on it: a new phenomenon, when you hit ‘publish’ the word verification bit is hidden until you scroll down (if that makes sense). It fazed me the first time, then the penny dropped.

    • markwindham

      17/01/2012 at 4:25 pm

      cannot post to your sight either… a couple of Blogger sights have done this to me lately. But I liked ‘Blessing’ too.

      • The Happy Amateur

        17/01/2012 at 5:03 pm

        Thank you, Mark! Too bad about the comments, though. I’d love to see comments from Margo and you on my blog.. Hope it’s some temporary ‘technical difficulty.’

  8. markwindham

    17/01/2012 at 2:14 pm

    Alright, whipped out another ugly ‘double duty’ (triple maybe) piece. A bit of a stretch on the prompt. But that should be no surprise.

    Another later when this darn job thing is not interfering.

    • margo roby

      17/01/2012 at 2:23 pm

      You poor thing. You’re a generation behind me which means, you have to work until you are seventy…seventy. Makes me weep for you. How’s a body supposed to create masterpieces?

      • markwindham

        17/01/2012 at 2:47 pm

        Well, the plan, as with any writer, is to finish my book and live off being a writer. Now when you finish laughing go to my reply to your comment and read something happy.

        Thanks for doing what you do!

  9. b_y

    17/01/2012 at 3:22 pm

    I’m not really in such a foul mood as my poem sounds (she says by way of warning). Just took the thought and ran with it a bit.

    • margo roby

      17/01/2012 at 3:25 pm

      Had to laugh when I read your remark, Barb. This prompt probably lends itself to undercurrants.


  10. viv blake

    18/01/2012 at 1:05 am

    I found I couldn’t say the things I don’t say:

    • margo roby

      18/01/2012 at 7:11 am

      Which in itself is a topic. I’ll be over soon.


  11. Irene

    18/01/2012 at 6:18 am

    A cool prompt in my book, Margo. Thank you!

    the things you don’t say

    • margo roby

      18/01/2012 at 7:12 am

      You are welcome, Irene. I’ll visit soon.


  12. anl4

    19/01/2012 at 10:57 am

    I’m not sure? Where are you supposed to post your response to the prompt?

    • margo roby

      19/01/2012 at 11:02 am

      Annell, if you have the poem posted on your blog, then leave the link [URL] here in comments, like we do on WWP. You can, if you don’t have the poem posted on your blog, post the entire poem in the comments. I’m excited that you have something.

  13. purplepeninportland

    19/01/2012 at 3:10 pm

    What you can’t or won’t say

    Had to post this here, as do not want it on my blog.

    Shadormas on the edge of my tongue

    Tasteful espresso
    machine say
    I to she
    (money better spent on late
    payments to save house)

    Sorry your schedule
    prevents you
    seeing me
    (Your priorities puzzle
    me, hurt my feelings)

    Shame he’s rarely home
    works even
    on holidays
    (Be honest; you know the truth.
    Why not have a life?)

    • margo roby

      20/01/2012 at 11:19 am

      Understood, Sara. I am glad you posted. Shadormas and a form of conversation poems! I like the linking of the shadormas.


  14. Mary

    19/01/2012 at 8:37 pm

    Margo, here’s mine. It is a composite of many things unsaid. Thank you for giving me license to write these things!

    • margo roby

      20/01/2012 at 11:21 am

      If all I do is give license to write hitherto unwriteables, I am happy.


      • Mary

        22/01/2012 at 7:16 pm

        Margo, then you should be happy! (And on another note, if you need a link to use for this next week’s poetry jam prompt that does not just go to comments, maybe I can SEND you such a link. I don’t really understand what is happening with your link.)

        • margo roby

          23/01/2012 at 7:44 am

          I am!Have you seen the variety of responses from people? Interesting items.

          I don’t understand either, Mary. And, it’s not just Poetry Jam, but a couple of other Blogger sites. Let me refresh the pages in my bookmarks this week and see what happens. Although I could have your sent link as backup! If you will be so kind [and remember :-)], will you send the link: margoroby[at]


  15. wordsandthoughtspjs

    20/01/2012 at 12:46 am

    Margo, I have written this to the prompt, and I have another in the works (not sure when that will be completed) I will let you know though. Thanks for the prompt.


    “All the Berries have Different Names”

    • margo roby

      20/01/2012 at 11:19 am

      I have already visited and absolutely love the poem, Pamela.


  16. pmwanken

    21/01/2012 at 11:01 am

    I know there are some specific “unsaid” words I could write…but they’ve remained “unsaid” and at this point, are clamoring to remain as such.

    So…as I have been thinking about this prompt, the words that keep bouncing around in my head are those from a poem I wrote a year or so ago:

    What I will NOT leave unsaid is this: your faithfulness to teaching and encouraging your fellow poets is such a blessing, margo!

    ~ Paula

    • margo roby

      21/01/2012 at 11:06 am

      Yay! You are back among us. I have missed seeing you, but hope you had a fabulous time.

      This has been an interesting prompt from the point of view of the variety of the responses. When you are caught up with your life, come back and wander through.

      And, thank you. It’s partly selfish, you know. All of you give me so much.



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