Saturday, March 31, 2018

Prompt #310 – National Poetry Month 2018

Established by the Academy of American Poets in 1996, National Poetry Month begins on April 1st and runs through April 30th.  This month-long celebration of poetry is held annually “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. Over the years since I started this blog, every National Poetry Month I’ve included various example poems, inspiration words and phrases, and selected lines from well-known poems to serve as “mentors” for interested blog readers. Sometimes, getting the right “jumpstart” can be challenging, and a good example can advise and guide both imagination and sensibility, take some of the risk out of getting started, and encourage poets to take risks in their own work.

This year for National Poetry Month, you’ll find thirty quotes (one for each day in April) about poetry by well-known thinkers and poets, ancient to modern. I’ve “collected” quotes about poetry for a long time, and it’s wonderful to share some of them with you here on the blog.

My idea is for you to read a quote each day, think about it, possibly locate and read a poem by the poet, and then write a poem of your own that’s inspired by either the quote or by the poem. Alternatively (and this could be fun), you might try writing your own quote about poetry. This is a little different from other years, and I hope you enjoy the process.

As always, your sharing is welcome,
so please be post your thoughts and poems as comments!

Regular weekly prompts will resume in May.
In the meantime, I wish you a wonderful and poetry-filled April!
Happy National Poetry Month!


1. Let your reactions to the quotes surprise you. Begin with no expectations, and let your poems take you where they want to go.

2. Give the quotes your own spin, twist and turn them, let the phrases trigger personal responses: pin down your ghosts, identify your frailties, build bridges and cross rivers, take chances!

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. Whatever you do this month, find some time (a little or a lot) to enjoy some poetry!

Let the poeming begin!

April 1: Poetry is finer and more philosophical than history; for poetry expresses the universal, and history only the particular. —Aristotle (384 BC-322 BC)

April 2: Poetry comes nearer to vital truth than history. —Plato (BC 427-BC 347)

April 3: Poetry is the journal of a sea animal living on land, wanting to fly in the sky. —Carl Sandburg (1878-1967)

April 4: If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry. —Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)

April 5: Poetry is not a turning loose of emotion, but an escape from emotion; it is not the expression of personality but an escape from personality. But, of course, only those we have personality and emotion know what it means to want to escape from these things.  —T. S. Eliot  (1888-1965)

April 6: Poetry is not an expression of the party line. It’s that time of night, lying in bed, thinking what you really think, making the private world public, that’s what the poet does. —Allen Ginsberg (1926-1997)

April 7: Poetry is the universal language which the heart holds with nature and itself. He who has a contempt for poetry, cannot have much respect for himself, or for anything else. —William Hazlitt (1778-1830)

April 8: Poetry is the achievement of the synthesis of hyacinths and biscuits. —Carl Sandburg (1878-1967)

April 9: It is a sad fact about our culture that a poet can earn much more money writing or talking about his art than he can by practicing it.  —W. H. Auden (1907-1973)

April 10: Any healthy man [woman] can go without food for two days—but not without poetry. —Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867)

April 11: A poem begins in delight and ends in wisdom. —Robert Frost (1875-1963)

April 12: Poetry lifts the veil from the hidden beauty of the world, and makes familiar objects be as if they were not familiar. —Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792- 1822)

April 13: Out of our quarrels with others we make rhetoric. Out of our quarrels with ourselves we make poetry. —William Butler Yeats (1865- 1939)

April 14: My poetry, I should think, has become the way of my giving out what music is within me. —Countee Cullen (1903-1946)

April 15: Poetry is an echo, asking a shadow to dance. —Carl Sandburg (1878-1967)

April 16: There is not a particle of life which does not bear poetry within it. —Gustave Flaubert (1821-1880)

April 17: Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words. —Robert Frost (1875-1963)

April 18: Poetry should surprise by a fine excess and not by singularity—it should strike the reader as a wording of his own highest thoughts, and appear almost a remembrance.” — John Keats (1795-1821)

April 19: Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility. —William Wordsworth (1770-1850)

April 20: Genuine poetry can communicate before it is understood. —T. S. Eliot (1888-1965)

April 21: Poetry is just the evidence of life. If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash. —Leonard Cohen (1934-2016)

April 22: Poetry is life distilled. —Gwendolyn Brooks (1917-2000)

April 23: I define poetry as celebration and confrontation. When we witness something, are we responsible for what we witness? That’s an on-going existential question. Perhaps we are and perhaps there’s a kind of daring, a kind of necessary energetic questioning. Because often I say it’s not what we know, it’s what we can risk discovering. —Yusef Komunyakaa (1947- )

April 24: Poetry isn’t a profession, it’s a way of life. It’s an empty basket; you put your life into it and make something out of that. —Mary Oliver (1935- )

April 25: If poetry and the arts do anything, they can fortify your inner life, your inwardness. —Seamus Heaney (1939-2013)

April 26: I’m a great believer in poetry out of the classroom, in public places, on subways, trains, on cocktail napkins. I’d rather have my poems on the subway than around the seminar table at an MFA program. —Billy Collins (1941- )

April 27: Poetry is eternal graffiti written in the heart of everyone. —Lawrence Ferlinghetti (1919- )

April 28: I think that were beginning to remember that the first poets didn’t come out of a classroom, that poetry began when somebody walked off of a savanna or out of a cave and looked up at the sky with wonder and said, “Ahhh.” That was the first poem. —Lucille Clifton (1936-2010)

April 29: Poetry is language at its most distilled and most powerful. —Rita Dove (1952-)

April 30: Poetry is everywhere; it just needs editing. —James Tate (1943-2015)

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Prompt #309 - What Wishes Are

When we were children, wishes were part of our immediate reality, and believing that our wishes would come true was easy. You may remember blowing on a dandelion puff and making a wish, or reciting “star light, star bright, first star I see tonight, I wish I may, I wish I might have the wish I wish tonight.” What happens to our wishes when we grow up? We still have them, right? This prompt is about your wishes.


Write a poem ...

1. based on a wish for more time with someone (recall the words in Jim Croce’s song: “If I could make days last forever / If words could make wishes come true / I'd save every day like a treasure and then, / Again, I would spend them with you.”),

2. that “thinks about” a wish to see or spend time with someone you lost touch with years ago,

3. that includes a wish to see/talk to someone no longer living,

4. based on a wish you had as a child,

5. about a wish that was realized and lost,

7. that deals with a wish you know will never come true,

8. that explores the old caveat: “Be careful what you wish for…”


1. The poet Robert Lowell once wrote, “A poem is an event, not the record of an event.” Work toward making your poem an “event.”

2. Be specific, avoid general terms, phrases, and statements. Images aren’t about abstractions or philosophical musings. Rather, they evoke the meaning and truth of human experiences in perceptible and “actual” terms.

3. Remember that when it comes to imagery, the “wow factor” lies in language that is unexpected and deceptively simple.

4. 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).

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

6. 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.)

7. Avoid clichés (and, while you’re at it, stay away from abstractions and sentimentality).

8. Be wary of incorporating too many details—be sure to leave room for your readers to enter and experience the poem in their own ways.

9. Show, don’t tell—through striking imagery, a strong emotional center, and an integrated whole of language, form and meaning.

10. Try incorporating anaphora. Anaphora is a kind of parallelism that happens when single words or whole phrases are repeated at the beginning of lines. Shakespeare was fond of anaphora and used it often (in “Sonnet No.66,” he began ten lines with the word “and”). Anaphora can give a sense of litany to a poem and can create a driving rhythm that intensifies a poem’s emotion. In this prompt, perhaps you can use anaphora to intensify the meaning and implications of your wish.



Saturday, March 17, 2018

Prompt #308 – Ancestors

Lá Fhéile Pádraig Sona Duit!  
Happy St. Patrick’s Day! 

This is always a special day for me – a day to think about my Irish ancestors and to re-read the works of the Irish poets I love most. The earliest surviving poems in Irish date to the sixth century, and Ireland has produced many poets including Lathóg of Tír Chonaill, Thomas Kinsella, Oscar Wilde, William Butler Yeats, James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, Seamus Heaney, Patrick Kavanagh, Paul Muldoon, Eavan Boland, Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill, Mary O’Donoghue, Elaine Feeney, and Noelle Vial. Below are some poems by a few (just a few!) of my favorite Irish poets.

 Bain sult as (enjoy)!

I've visited Ireland several times. (And, yes, I've kissed the Blarney Stone – Blarney Castle is pictured above!) The first trip was a kind of going home – not for myself but for my great grandfather Patrick Kenny who brought my family to America in 1889 and for my dad who never got to Ireland. Ancestors, family, and homeland are traditional and recurrent themes in Irish poetry. We went green in an earlier prompt, so this week let’s adopt an Irish-type theme and write poems about our various ancestries, our different nationalities, our people – our “roots.”

Some Ideas:

1. Write a poem about the country from which your ancestors came.
2. Write a poem about your ancestors.
3. Perhaps you’ve come to this country from another. Write a poem about making the decision to leave the country of your birth and to settle in a new country. Or, write a poem about your homeland.
4. Write a ballad about one of your ancestors (or a current family member).
5. Alternatively, you just might want to write a poem about St. Patrick, shamrocks, Guinness, Irish Wolf Hounds, or something else that’s wonderfully Irish, whether you’re Irish or not!

Sample Poems:

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Last Call for Poetry Contest Entries

There are still several days left to enter the Carriage House Poetry Contest!

Any style, any length, as long as you mention a tree or trees. 
Your poems needn't be purely about trees! 
The judge will look for some "tree reference" 
(actual tree, metaphor, symbol).
Please check last week's post for the guidelines!

Your entries are all welcome!

The deadline is March 15, 2018

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Poetry Contest

The 2018 Carriage House Poetry Prize

Poets of all ages are invited to enter!

Sponsored by The Carriage House Poetry Series
& The Fanwood Shade Tree Commission (Arbor Day Observance 2018)

 $300.00 Prize  
& Publication in Tiferet Journal (Autumn 2018)

  • $5.00 entry fee. Check or money orders only, made payable to Borough of Fanwood. “Poetry Contest” must appear on the subject line.

  • Poets are invited to enter two poems—40 lines or less each.

  • Each poem must be single-spaced on a separate sheet of paper.

  • Submit 2 copies of each poem, one copy with the poet’s name, address, phone number, and email address in the upper right corner. Judging will be “blind” (no names).

  • Poems must be previously unpublished and must contain reference to a tree or trees (not necessarily poems about trees). Any style or form.

  • Poems will not be returned, so keep a copy for your files. Please do not include self-addressed, stamped envelopes for notification. We regret that the large volume of entries we receive makes it impossible for us to reply to individuals other than those who win.

  • The winner and possible runners up will notified by email and will be posted on the Carriage House site, Facebook, and various print media.

  • Deadline: In-hand by March 15, 2018.

  • Send entries and entry fee by snail mail only to: 
Carriage House Poetry Prize
Fanwood Borough Hall
75 North Martine Avenue
Fanwood, NJ 07023

   Final Judge: Donna Baier Stein
Donna Baier Stein Donna is the author of The Silver Baron’s Wife (PEN/New England Discovery Award, Finalist in Foreword Reviews 2017, Book of the Year Award in General Fiction and Historical Fiction categories, and Finalist in Paterson Prize for Fiction), Sympathetic People (Iowa Fiction Award Finalist and 2015 Next Generation Indie Book Awards Finalist in Short Fiction), Sometimes You Sense the Difference (poetry), and Letting the Rain Have Its Say (poetry). She was a Founding Editor of Bellevue Literary Review and is founding publisher of Tiferet Journal.


Saturday, February 17, 2018

Prompt # 307 – Ten Recommended Journals

In the comments to last week's post, there were several requests for a list of poetry journals that I personally recommend. There are hundreds of outstanding poetry journals edited by gifted and discerning editors, and I'm grateful to those who have published my work. Below are ten (listed alphabetically) that are edited by people I know and for whom I have the greatest respect as poets and editors. I can vouch for the excellent design, elegant production, and superb poetry that are signature qualities of these fine literary journals.
Twenty years ago there were no online submissions, fewer literary magazines, fewer workshops and contests, fewer MFA programs, and fewer hopeful poets. Back then, most magazines did not allow simultaneous submissions, and most submitting was done by snail mail. Sending your poems off for consideration was an exercise in getting the materials together, sending them out, and waiting for an acceptance or a rejection to appear in your mailbox (often many months later). The “submissions culture” in those days was far different from today’s. Now, the process is quicker and easier. There are many more literary journals and e-zines looking for poetry, so poets have more choices than ever before; and submissions software for both electronic and print journals makes submitting poems less time-intensive than it used to be.

I suggest that you read a copy or two of any journal to which you hope to submit your work. It’s always a good idea to have a sense of what type of poetry is most likely to find a home before you send your poems (a way to avoid disappointment). In addition, be sure to read each journal’s specific submission guidelines carefully, and make a point of following them!

Consider this a “prompt” to encourage you to work on your poems
and to send some out for consideration.
I wish you the best!


Recommended Journals

Edison Literary Review
Editor: Gina Larkin

Editor: Tom Plante
Snail Mail Only to:
Tom Plante
PO Box 423
Fanwood, New Jersey 07023

Editor: Laura Boss

Editor: Maria Mazziotti Gillan

Poetry Editor: Emily Vogel

Editor: Mary-Jane Grandinetti

Editor: Joe Weil
An exciting new weekly online journal—still in the process 
of establishment.
You can read the first issue here: Shrew, Issue #1

Editor: David Crews

Publisher: Donna Baier Stein
Poetry Editor: Adele Kenny

Editors: Rotating, Members of U.S. 1 Poets’ Cooperative
            Snail Mail Only to:
            U.S.1 Worksheets
            P.O. Box 127
            Kingston, NJ 08528-0127

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Prompt #306 – Preparing for Publication

There are numerous journals (print and electronic) to which poets have the option of submitting their work. I’m often asked in workshops if there are guidelines that should be followed. Accordingly, every few years, I review and update the following. I hope you find this helpful!

You may think that the ultimate litmus test of your work is whether it gets accepted or rejected by literary magazines. The truth is: good quality work is often rejected purely because of an editor’s stylistic biases, and even works of innovative genius are frequently returned. By the same token, mediocre work is often published. 

Okay, let’s say you’ve read your poems at open mic sessions and have not been booed off the stage. Maybe even you’ve participated in poetry writing workshops and have refined your poems to their highest forms. If you are convinced that your poems are ready for publication, what do you do about submitting them to journals?

1.                First, you need to research your market.  You need to find out which magazines would be suitable vehicles for your work.  The best way to conduct your “market research” is to start buying poetry magazines.  Aside from buying poetry magazines, you can conduct your research over the Internet.  Many poetry magazines now have some sort of web presence, so check out their web sites.  You’ll usually find submission guidelines and information about editorial tastes; and many magazines post sample poems on their websites.  This is your best way of assessing the suitability of your work for particular magazines.  It can be time-intensive, but it will save you a fortune in stamps and considerably reduce the amount of rejection slips you accumulate.  

2.                You can also do further research in libraries, but most libraries don’t subscribe to magazines published by the smaller presses.  Invaluable resources are books like Writer’s Market are immensely helpful.

3.                When you’ve decided which journals you’d like to target for possible publication, check the journal’s submission guidelines and follow them meticulously!

Most importantly, ALWAYS be sure to check each journal’s specific guidelines and submission preferences. Following are some general guidelines. If they don’t conflict with individual journal guidelines, they may be helpful to observe.

·                 Always present your work in typescript (never hand-written), using a simple 12-point font like Arial, Times New Roman or Courier. Fancy fonts will not impress editors. On the contrary, they suggest that the sender is a novice writer who hasn't a clue about basic submission etiquette.  Poetry should be single-spaced.

·                 Always retain a copy of any material you send, especially if the guidelines call for snail mail submissions. If you send by email, be sure to save your emails.

·                  A general “rule of thumb” is to type one poem to a page.  

·                 If you include a cover letter, it should be short, including only your name, contact details, and titles of work submitted. In general, most editors do not want to read your life story, know your hobbies or your marital status. It is not necessary to include a bio. Most editors are not impressed by previous publication credits and judge submissions on their own merits. Only include a bio if the guidelines require one. 

·                 Make sure each poem has your name and contact information on it. Unless journal guidelines specify otherwise, your name, address, phone number, and email address should appear in the upper left or right hand corner. Setting this info into clever text boxes at the top or bottom of the page isn’t necessary and can look amateurish.

·                 Poems should be left-aligned (unless the form dictates otherwise). Don’t center all the lines simply because you think a poem looks nice that way. 

·                 Refrain from using copyright symbols, as this can and does offend some editors (they are not going to steal your work and pretend it's their own). 

·                 Be careful not to over-submit. Journal editors are usually more dismayed than pleased when they receive large numbers of poems from a single poet. As an editor myself, I can testify to that. Send no more than five poems, and DON’T follow up with another batch during the same reading period. 

·                 While some journals prefer snail mail submissions, the majority of both print and online journals prefer electronic submissions (often through such submission managers as cloud-based Submittables). Be sure to read each journal’s guidelines carefully before submitting.

·                 Simultaneous submissions were once a major “no-no,” but they are widely allowed today. Be sure to check the guidelines for each journal, as these may vary. Given the response times of many magazines, a poem may be “away from home” for many months before you know if it had been accepted or rejected. If you submit simultaneously, be sure to let journals to which you’ve submitted know when a poem has been accepted by another journal.

·                 Don’t query editors about the status of your work! Once you send a submission, wait for a reply. In most cases, queries about status are a turn-off to editors. Many journals will indicate response time in their guidelines – if that response time has long passed, then and only then might you query. 

·                 If a journal has a specific reading period, be sure to submit early. Unless you're submitting to a themed issue in which all poems accepted deal with a particular subject, when a poem on the same subject as yours is accepted before you submit, yours won’t be accepted even if it’s a better poem. So, send your poems sooner rather than later.

·                 You should not expect editors to make individual comments on your poems, accepted or not. Editors are not critiquers in that sense – they simply choose the poems that they wish to publish. Occasionally, an editor will suggest edits, which, if made, will result in publication. As a poet, it’s up to you to decide whether or not you agree to the changes.

·                 Editors usually work very hard and often earn little or nothing for all their efforts. Many of them even subsidise the magazines they publish from their own pockets.  Most of them do it for the same reason that poets submit – love of the art.  So please, respect the editors to whom you send your poems. This does not mean that editors are the ultimate arbiters of what is and isn’t good work. Selection is often a subjective process. If your poems are rejected, don’t take it personally. Move on. Send the poems elsewhere. It is not uncommon for poems to be rejected by numerous magazines before being accepted. It is purely a process of trial and error. So, persevere. 

A Few Additional Resources:

Beware of vanity publishing in which you pay a fee for your poems to be published.  There are unscrupulous people out there who will happily fleece you if you are desperate enough to be published at any cost. Do not be fooled by their flatteries. If you have to pay to be published, think again. This is not the same as paying an entry fee for a contest, which is not only credible but often necessary to fund the prize monies. 

To learn more about vanity published, you may want to check the following website: 

Poets & Writers offers a database that provides, as P&W phrase it “everything you need to direct your work to the publications most amenable to your vision.”

thePOETRYkit offers a comprehensive list of poetry ezines (online journals that publish poetry).

Poetry Mountain offers an alphabetical list of both print and online journals.