Tag Archives: poem

Poem Tryouts: Beyond the Pale

9:45 a.m. — San Antonio

listening to Hotel California sung by Vocal Sampling

Hello all. I hope you are well. Parents, I’m sure you are heaving sighs of relief. West Coast USA, stay safe. Those fires are even scarier than usual. The unpacking and putting away has gotten to the point that we can see what finished rooms will look like. We may even be able to pull the car into the garage, soon.

I have used my family as prompt inspirations, often. This time it’s an email back and forth between my two brothers. They had been talking about one thing and shifted off on a tangent.

Steve: Speaking of beyond the pale, did you know that there actually was a Pale you could be beyond? There was also a Pale of Calais, which now consists of a large Muslim refugee camp. When you break it down to its “roots”, a pale is a fencepost.

John: You’re all wrong. Read Rutherford’s Russka. It has to do with Jews in the Ukraine. Beyond the pale that is, not the book.

Steve: That was a Pale, but it was from the earlier English term applied to Ireland, which itself was ultimately from the Latin palus, or stake.

I love having a family that has this kind of discussion. I had looked the term up some years ago, being curious about the usage. I looked it up again, yesterday, and found myself fascinated by the other words that derive from the original pale, or stake: Pale is an old name for a pointed piece of wood driven into the ground and — by an obvious extension — to a barrier made of such stakes, a palisade or fence. Pole is from the same source, as are impale, paling and palisade. (worldwidewords)

Where does this leave us? Somewhat undirected, I think. Some possibilities:

1] Go with one of the other words that derives from the original.

2] Use the idiom in some way. You may, but don’t have to, quote the actual idiom.

3] Use two or three of the italicised words together.

4] Run with your own idea.

I shall see you Thursday for links and then I’m off for a week. Skip is homesick for Atlanta. We’ll take a quick road trip and I’ll be back here Tuesday the 15th for another prompt.

Happy writing, everyone.



Posted by on 01/09/2015 in exercises, poems, poetry


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Place and Hold for Next

One thing I have found about trying a daily prompt: I pretty much have to go with what comes out of my mind, even if that hadn’t been my plan on starting. Miz Q has given us three word lists, from which we are to use one, two, and three words in a poem about place (then save the words because there will be more).

I forgot the place part, happily chose my six words and whipped them into a short poem of sorts. Then the part of the brain that lies in wait for this sort of thing, said: Place? I kept the six words I had chosen, originally — that was my challenge to myself. The poem is metaphorical because that was the only way I could work place in.

When You’re Not in Kansas Anymore

When life is no longer a sprint
to the finish line. When you
look down your lane — marked
with its measured white —
and the tape is fuzzed. When
the track’s surface is no longer
smooth, you have a choice.
You can limp, or crawl, your way
to the end, or you can flatten death
with respect and a sledgehammer.



Posted by on 06/06/2015 in poems


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Poem Tryouts: Let’s Change It Up

8:04 a.m. — Atlanta

listening to Snow Patrol singing Chasing Cars

WHY, why, why must people change things that work fine? Hello, there. I just came from my Google Play Music. Someone decided on a new look. Pretty colours, almost unusable. For a cleaner look everything has been double-spaced. The result is like having a permanent zoom shot and never being able to see more than a few items. Worse: because of the resizing and different theme, only the first words of titles can be read. Useless. Not that I can do anything. That’s where I like my music (do not mention i-tunes).

Hi, again. Thank you. I would never have been able to settle down without a rant. HOWEVER, guess what the prompt is about now. I will resist going philosophical, as we have been philosophical enough lately, and we will make ‘change’ a word prompt. That way those who wish to be philosophical can be.

I was fascinated, as I so often am, when I looked up the etymology, to find that the Latin root for change means to barter, to ex-change one thing for another. Think about it, almost everything we use change for has exchange implicit. When you arrive at the dictionary I’m sending you to, note that ‘exchange’ is the third meaning. Look again at the first two. They both mean to change one thing for another, exchanging.

Hmmm. My computer is acting up. I’d better get this posted.

Look at the meanings for change. You can do one of a number of things:

Choose a meaning you don’t usually think of — ringing a change of bells, the change in your purse — and use it in a poem.

Or, you can pick several synonyms, all of which you use in a poem. The challenge is to choose synonyms that don’t necessarily sound as if they are.

Or, you can do a counterpoint poem: Two stanzas, one pro-change, one anti-change. You can also do the pro- anti- thing with your own idea for structure.

Or, you can think of a tiny change in your life that turned out to be a turning point, and write the scenario, or a reflection.

Or, you can go sci-fi and speak to future changes you foresee, and the effect of a change, or changes. You can have fun with this one.

Or, you can do your thing regarding change, because you had an idea as soon as I started talking.

I will see you Thursday for links; Friday for the week’s roundup of prompts; and next Tuesday for our image prompt.

Happy writing, all.



Posted by on 19/05/2015 in exercises, poems, poetry


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Poem Tryouts: Small Things

8:10 a.m. — Atlanta

listening to Cyro Baptista, Yo Yo Ma and Dave Brubek play Concordia

Good day to you all. I hope all is well in your part of the world and with your world. Now that I think of it, this leads straight into our prompt — I like it when I am accidentally clever. We live in a big, complicated and complex world and sometimes that can grow overwhelming. I have found, at those times, that focusing on the tiny things gives me great pleasure and keeps me from being overcome by my world. Conversely, if my world isn’t going so well, it takes an equally tiny thing to be the last straw.

This prompt occurred to me a few days ago when I took a sip of my morning coffee. It was a particularly well-made cup and I felt pervaded by a sense of well-being. Other small moments that give me pleasure: the moment when the sun comes out from behind a cloud — I might not have been particularly aware of the day being grey and cloudy until that moment of bright light; going through the mail and coming across a real letter, or card — I invariably feel a rush of excitement; arriving at the stove the moment when the last sizzle of water is gone from the pot of rice — I am so good at this, we don’t bother with a rice cooker!

I am a pretty relaxed and laid back person, but I can get overwhelmed easily by events in my life. Then it takes only a small thing like running out of V-8 when I had been looking forward particularly to having my husband mix me a Bloody Mary, when he arrived home. Let me tell you, I was in the slumps for the entire evening.

Meditate for a while on the last few days. During that time what small things have caused you to smile, or have made you think: Ahhh… all is good and right in my world? List them and meditate some more before choosing one upon which to focus your poem.

You can keep the poem as short and simple as the item you think of. Pick one of the many short forms with which to structure it, or write a short free form poem. Or, you may wax lyrical about your topic. You can write about the item in general, or set us in a scene.

Or, you can write about the straws that break your day.

With either poem, consider a different point of view. If you have written in first person, try the poem in third and vice versa. This is one of the simpler, easier revisions, and I am always surprised at the difference it can make to the poem and the idea it is conveying.

I will see you Thursday for National Poetry Month stuff; Friday for the roundup of this week’s prompts; and Tuesday for an image prompt and the last of my prompts until after Poetry Month. I’ll talk more on that, Thursday.

Happy writing, everyone.


Posted by on 24/03/2015 in exercises, poems, poetry


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Poem Tryouts: What’s in Your Word?

8:44 a.m. — Atlanta

listening to Up Around the Bend sung by Creedence Clearwater Revival

Hello, all. Well, unless someone knows where WordPress has hidden the classic mode for writing a post, they may finally lose me. I dislike the new format anyway, but to have the sidebar shifted to my left, drives me nuts. I keep wanting to shift the screen. Actually I did, a little. I am going to rush through this (I said it was driving me nuts) and then start Googling and getting into forums and generally yelling and hollering.

I love road trips, for themselves, but also because I do a lot of thinking on all things poetry. I often come up with prompts and then have to hope I remembered to put my notebook and pen at my feet. This time, on the way to San Antonio, for God knows what reason, the word windjammer popped into my head. From that the prompt was born.

Windjammer is an English word applied to large sailing ships because, well, the sails jam the wind. Nice, huh? But that’s not the etymology or meaning I grew up with. The meaning I grew up with and associate with the word is that of a Dutch and German word, similar to ‘jam,’ meaning to wail, thus the wind wailing through the sails. Many people thought this was the word’s origin.

I first came across the term in a book about Dutch twins (a series of novels based on twins from each country — a great way to learn about other places). The image I carry and see when I hear the word windjammer is of a sand skimmer, sail hoisted, whipping across the sand dunes. I find the word and the meaning I know, exotic. Another word, not so strongly exotic, but close, is igloo, which conjures up Eskimos, polar bears, kayaks, and ice bergs. Now that I consider it, I probably came across the word in the same series, as there was a book on the Eskimo twins.

Do you have a word that has always carried an exoticism for you? That has a far off ‘nother land, otherworldly, aspect for you? Consider what comes to mind, allowing the associated images to appear in your head. If you can tie a where and when to your meeting the word, you’ll have more details, although they don’t have to be in the poem.

Your mission is a poem that has the word in it. Straightforward.

Or, you can write the poem that arises from your thoughts when you see, or think about, the word.

I hope to see you Thursday for links and things; Friday for the week’s roundup of prompts; and next Tuesday for my prompt. If there is silence, I haven’t found the classic mode and I’m trying to decide what to do about the blog (yes, I dislike this that much).

Happy writing, all.


Posted by on 17/03/2015 in exercises, poetry


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Tuesday Tryouts: Ruins

7:45 a.m. — Atlanta

listening to Starships sung by Pentatonix/PTX

Hello everyone. This will be the last post until Tuesday, January 6 (I finally looked at a calendar and worked out when we would be traveling). My thought, therefore, is to have our image prompt, today. Yes? I thought so.

A couple of weeks ago, in an email my niece sent out, was a photograph captioned: A ruin from the Hessie Townsite that I thought Margo might enjoy for poem-prompt purposes. I loved the photo, immediately. A week ago, in a dVerse post, I read an excerpt from an anonymously written 8th century poem, ‘The Ruins’. On looking up the etymology of ‘ruins’ I found, directly from the Latin, a collapse, a rushing down, a tumbling down.

baylee ruins

Wondrous is this wall-stone, broken by fate,
the city burst apart, the giant-work crumbled.
Roofs are ruined, towers ruined,
rafters ripped away, hoarfrost on lime,
gaps in the storm-shelter, sheared and cut away
under-eaten by age.

While not quite the fortress being described in the excerpt, above, the photograph and the poem seem to fit together. Note how clever I am to have it actually snowing as you look at the photograph. What to write?

1] You can go for a straightforward response to the photograph.

2] You can describe a ruin you have seen, either at home, or in your travels; or one that you have seen on television that fascinates you.

3] You can ignore the photograph and the poem except as metaphors for some universal, or personal, truth.

4] You can go with the etymological meaning I gave you.

5] You can do whatever your heart desires, but you know that.

As always, consider that form equals content.

I shall see you again in 2015. May your next two weeks not be too terribly hectic. Until January 6 and a prompt.

Happy writing, everyone.


Posted by on 16/12/2014 in exercises, poetry


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d’Verse Limbo Challenge

Hello. No, Tuesday isn’t early. I can”t resist dVerse’s prompt. The photograph is from my sister-in-law who found this bit of enchantment in St. Maartin.

flamingo rex

Kinfolk or, The Joys of Juxtapositions

Pink plastic flamingos
fill the cavernous mouth
the empty eye sockets,
ride the undulating spine
and feather the trunk-like
legs of the iron T-Rex.



Posted by on 07/08/2014 in poems, poetry


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For ViV: A Sonnet

Many of you will have followed through the years, ViV’s challenge to me to write a full-blown, honest-to-God sonnet. As she often told me: ‘… please don’t think you can get away with calling them sonnets, even if you stretch the definition as a ‘modern’ sonnet. Fourteen lines do not a sonnet make nor four lines a volta. It is absolutely NO use counting syllables. You must count only the stresses, otherwise the rhythm simply doesn’t work.’

Yes, it has taken me this long, and even so I wait until ViV pronounces whether I may, in fact, term this as such. It started as an Elizabethan in structure and shifted into an Italian. Untitled, as yet.


What is the thing that passes in the night,
that as I tread the side-walks of behind,
hides something that I wish but cannot find,
the shadow I connect with out of sight?
When day arrives and I let in the light
— on looking I can see that out of mind
means only you have kept me undefined —
I pause to see myself again in flight.
I must not walk old ways but look my fill
then move ahead, where life is not askew;
forget old heartbreaks, all that was untrue,
and dream of when my fate is my free will.
Yet, when I think all old is made anew,
I find the doors I shut are open still.


ViV, any critiquing appreciated. I do know it needs revising, but figured if I didn’t post, I could revise forever.


Posted by on 10/05/2014 in poems, poetry


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Oulipoem 20: April 20 — Lescurean Permutations

The prompt:

Select a newspaper article or passage from a newspaper article as your source text.

Plain Permutation: Switch the first noun with the second noun, the third noun with the fourth noun, and so on until you’ve reached the end of your text.

Alternate Permutation: The 1st noun changes place with the 3rd, the 2nd with the 4th, etc.

Bracketed Permutation: The 1st noun changes place with the 4th, the 2nd with the 3rd, etc.

Roussellian Permutation: The 1st noun changes place with the last, the 2nd with the next to last, etc.

I tried each but, for my passage, the plain works best. The passage I chose is part of an essay on Dante’s Divine Comedy as self-help book [Dreher makes an interesting case]. To see what others have done be sure to check in my comments, as well as the Found Poetry Review‘s page.

The original passage [with minor deletions]:

On the evening of Good Friday, a man on the run from a death sentence wakes up in a dark forest, lost, terrified and besieged by wild animals. He spends an infernal Easter week hiking through a dismal cave, climbing up a grueling mountain, and taking what you might call the long way home.
It all works out for him, though. The traveler returns from his ordeal a better man, determined to help others learn from his experience. He writes a book about his to hell and back trek…
…..In a letter… the poet said that the goal of his trilogy… is “to remove those living in this life from the state of misery and lead them to the state of bliss”.
The Comedy does this by inviting the reader to reflect on his own failings, showing him how to fix things and regain a sense of direction, and ultimately how to live in love and harmony with God and others.
This glorious medieval cathedral in verse arose from the rubble of Dante’s life.

The poem:

On the Friday of good evening
a death sentence on the run from man
wakes up in a dark animal

lost, terrified, and besieged by the wild forest.
He spends an infernal Easter cave hiking
through a dismal week, climbing up a grueling

long way home and taking what you might call
the mountain. The ordeal returns from his traveler
a better other. Determined to help man learn

from his book, he writes an experience
about his to hell and back trek. In a poet,
a letter said, the trilogy of his goal

is to remove those living in this misery
from the state of life and lead them
to the state of bliss. The reader does this

by inviting the comedy to reflect on his own
things, showing him how to fix failings
and regain a sense of love and ultimately

how to live in direction and with God, harmony
and others. This glorious medieval verse in cathedral
arose from the life of Dante’s rubble.

The source:

Dreher, Ron. ‘Dante’s Path to Paradise.’ Review Section. Wall Street Journal 20 April 2014


Posted by on 20/04/2014 in exercises, oulipost, poems, poetry, writing


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Oulipoem 16: April 16 — Chimera

This exercise was great fun to prep. I can see, using other sources, that this has possibilities for my particular armoury. Before we get to the prompt, the Editors and Staff of the Found Poetry Review have taken the time [God knows from where. I’m pretty sure they don’t even have time to breathe.] for a Halftime Report, where each of them have picked a few examples of what has been happening among the oulipoets. Should you have plenty of time on your hands [say during a commute, at the dentist, on a conference call] check out the main page for each day’s contribution. You’ll quickly identify a few poets to follow.

The prompt:

‘The chimera of Homeric legend – lion’s head, goat’s body, treacherous serpent’s tail – has a less forbidding Oulipian counterpart. It is engendered as follows. Having chosen a newspaper article or other text for treatment, remove its nouns, verbs and adjectives. Replace the nouns with those taken in order from a different work, the verbs with those from a second work, the adjectives with those from a third.’ I did so. The only thing I tweaked was to repeat ‘no matter’.

The poem:

Gather the actor of your artist
the unflappable ultra skills. No matter

where the sales yell the role, it does not
slip — important to shout for the actor —

which throws why the instructor slips here,
to refer to the job. No matter. Win

your upper problem and warn for years
of life’s degrees, even the fictitious focus.

The sources:

Main: an ad for the Lincoln Financial Group

Nouns: Shellenbarger, Sue. ‘Typecast at Work Actor Finds a New Role in a Tech Job’ Work & Family Wall Street Journal 16 April 2014

Verbs: Robinson, Joshua. ‘Liverpool is in control but can the Reds hang on’ Sports Wall Street Journal 16 April 2014

Adjectives: Fowler, Geoffrey A. ‘Cool Tube: Testing Out Ultra High Definition TV’ Home & Digital Wall Street Journal 16 April 2014

Now, go read some of the wonderful work coming from ouliposters. Then try your hand at an ouliprompt.


Posted by on 16/04/2014 in exercises, oulipost, poems, poetry, writing


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