Friday, May 27, 2011

Poetry Prompt With Adele Kenny

Jeremyreds |

I'm very pleased to introduce this weekend's guest prompter Adele Kenny.  I'm not only a fan of Adele's poetry, but I'm also a fan of her blog "The Music In It," where you can find weekly poetry prompts that will offer a challenge alongside great examples.  In my opinion, Adele's blog offers THE BEST poetry prompts on the web.  So for those of you into writing poetry, you will definately want to follow her blog. 

Today Adele offers us a prompt and a poem which won the Merton Poetry of the Sacred Prize in 2007.  For those who don't normally write poetry, I ask you to give this exercise a try. You are also free to free-write from today's picture for 5 minutes without stopping. 

And now, here is today's prompt with Adele Kenny.  Enjoy!


This is a prompt I designed for a workshop group many years ago and still use. The focus is a memory – something real, sourced to the past. Begin by thinking of a moment in your life that was especially meaningful.

(a) Write a word or two to set a specific time that you associate with your memory. The word(s) with which you begin can be a season, month, day, occasion, morning, afternoon, night. End with a period.

(b) On the same line start an image that characterizes your time word(s). This is an image – descriptive, evocative… Stay in the present tense – the poem begins now, (this will help create a sense of immediacy in your poem). Find a natural pause in your image and go to the next line to complete it. You may need more than one line to do this. Remember: break to a new line when you “feel” a pause. Use as many lines as you need, but keep it fairly brief. Punctuate as you would in prose.

(c) Now add a second brief image, still in the present tense. Use as many lines as you need.

(d) Here’s where you get to the memory. If you look at the sample, you’ll see the ellipsis at the end of the last line. This doesn’t signal the end of the poem! At this point you get into your memory. You don’t have to use words like “I remember” (you may if you wish, but there are better ways to make the transition from present to past). From this point on, you will write the memory.

(e) Finally, find a way to bring the poem to closure – not a summation or moralization. You don’t need to overtly make your point in the last line – the body of the poem should do that. Remember that less can be more.

After you’ve drafted the poem, edit, revise, and tweak. This is the best time to revamp the pattern and rewrite if you wish. As you tweak, look for adjectives that you don’t need. Be ready to eliminate prepositions or prepositional phrases (e.g. change a phrase like “the whisper of a church” to “a church’s whisper” or “the colors of the rainbow” to “the rainbow’s colors”). Polish your poem’s form (stanzas, use of space). Choose a title (often a significant phrase from the poem)

Sample:(a) Late night. (b) Deepening dark
(b) and no moon.
(c) Curtains billow into my room
(c) like pale ghosts
(c) through the window’s white driftwood.
(d) It is now and night
(d) and twenty years ago…
(e) ______________________

I wrote my poem “Of Feathers, Of Flight” using this prompt as a starter.
Available online:

Or, here it is:

Of Feathers, Of Flight

…if I look up into the heavens I think that it will all come right …
and that peace and tranquility will return again.
                                                                                 – Anne Frank
That spring, a baby jay fell from its nest,
   and we took it to Mrs. Levine, who told
us the mother would know our hands and
   never take it back. Spring that year was a

cardboard box, cries for eyedropper food –
   feather-stalks stretched into wings. We
knew, of course, that we couldn’t keep it.
   (Later, we would mark the spot with stones

and twigs – where the bird fell, where we
   let it go – and sometimes, stopped in the
middle of play, would point and say, there,
   right there.) The day we freed it, it beat, a

heart-clock (wound and sprung in Ruth
   Levine’s old hand) that, finally, finding
the sky, flew higher than all the briars
   strung like metal barbs above the fence –

a speck of updraft ash and gone. Heaven,
   fuller then for one small bird, spread its
blue wing over us and the tree and Mrs.
   Levine who, breathing deeply, raised her

numbered arm to the light and moved her
   thumb over each fingertip as if she could
feel to the ends of her skin the miracle
   edge of freedom, of feathers, of flight.

 – Merton Poetry of the Sacred Prize (2007)
    First Published in Merton Seasonal

About Adele Kenny

Adele Kenny is the author of 23 books (poetry & nonfiction). Her poems, reviews, and articles have been published in journals worldwide, and her poems have appeared in books and anthologies published by Crown, Tuttle, Shambhala, and McGraw-Hill. She is the recipient of numerous awards for her poetry, including two poetry fellowships from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, a first place Merit Book Award, a Thomas Merton Poetry of the Sacred Award, and a Writer’s Digest Poetry Award. A former professor of creative writing in the College of New Rochelle’s Graduate School, she is the founding director of the Carriage House Poetry Series and poetry editor of Tiferet. Welcome Rain will publish her newest collection of poems, What Matters, in 2011.

Adele’s Website:

Adele’s Blog:

Books by Adele


  1. Anjie,
    I love this prompt and the fine sample that Adele offers us in this posting.

    Prompt sites with the quality such as yours (and hers) are opening the gates for creativity's inspiring energy to visit, trigger and be triggered - and most importantly be re-expressed in the continuous cycle of life.

    Basil Rouskas

  2. Thanks Anjie and Adele! This is really great!


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