One must make a distinction however: when dragged into prominence by half poets, the result is not poetry, nor till the autocrats among us can be “literalists of the imagination”—above insolence and triviality and can present for inspection, imaginary gardens with real toads in them, shall we have it.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Sunday Mini-Challenge

Hello Toads, Susan here, emerging from this grey Philadelphia week with sunshine in my heart and triple layers against the cold.

Today I start a once-a-month-series for Real Toads: “First and Last Lines.” Today it is the Sunday mini-challenge, posted a day early so you can take your time.  Next month it will be on last Wednesdays.  I was called into action because Ella of “Ella’s Edge” is taking a break, but I cannot pretend to replace that passionate young Toad. I’ll introduce form and ideas, hoping that Ella will stop by to raise the roof.  

Today's idea grew out of my experience essay and letter-writing. Among the many reasons to write, I write to think. Often it is not until the end of a long rant that I am clear about what I want to say. The conclusion makes a better introduction, and then I can organize strategically to bring readers along. Does this sound familiar to you?

When I tried the same with a poem, I liked the result, and have ever since been carrying around a list of last lines the way other people carry around crossword puzzles!

Here’s the challenge: Look at five to ten of the latest poems you wrote and find last lines that are rich with possibility for a new beginning. If none of your last lines leap out at you, simply pick one you like and use it for today’s prompt. It will be the first line (or two) of your brand new poem—long or short—that you write this weekend.

Here’s an example. The second poem is built from the last line of the first:

A New Beginning by Susan L. Chast

Hsssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss . . .
Where was I when I began, she wondered.
She stroked tiles tightly tucked around her,
tiles tilting forward and turning.
This was not her typical maze:
It wasn’t alive and it wasn’t green and it didn’t stand
still as it should while she moved. Ths one was much like
fish scales covering a spiraling mobius strip.
I’m in the DNA, she thought, I hope it’s mine.
If it were possible to be in the DNA, why care if it’s my own?
She giggled at this second thought, and pushed forward.
She felt the wall undulating around her. Snakeskin! 
She thought, it doesn’t even smell fishy! Snakeskin,
and probably discarded. Unless I am the snake, she said aloud.
And a hiss echoed around her spiked tongue.

Most Fateful Day: a ghazal by Susan L. Chast

A hiss echoed from its spiked tongue and you thought
That the snake had not lied to you in word and in thought?

Watch it slide away and take the apple along too
Neither giving it to you nor to God as we thought

Your tell-tale teeth marks are in it too, along with my own—
Seeing our DNA together, the snake will guess that YOU thought

We’d be together in Eden or in jail and no matter how much
We pay for it; happiness follows this ability to have thought.

But doubt is quite difficult and I liked it much better
When fate was determined and we need not have thought

About all of the options, the leaves of the trees, whether
To beat you or to love you. I wish I had thought

This before, dear Lady, I opened my mouth to your pleases
And caresses and most seductive scatterings of thought.

I write these rapidly, following my first thought and letting go of consideration of form until I stop. The above revision demanded a few changes in the opening line and a small amount of repetition to help the character think. Within a few changes it became a ghazal. But what if it had stayed alive as a free form or a prose poem, a short poem or a long poem?    For an example of free verse last line poems, see "Execution" which is a last line poem from “Peace.”

As long as it breathes, post your new poem for us Toads to enjoy in the Garden, with a link back to its source poem.  Then come on back to read and comment on other "First and Last Lines."  

Enjoy!  I am looking forward to reading your poetry.


Mary said...

I enjoyed this prompt, Susan! Thank you.

Kerry O'Connor said...

I'm always up for new suggestions on ways to approach writing. Thank you for sharing this idea with us, Susan. I'm sure it will give rise to some amazing poems.

Kay L. Davies said...

Oh, what an interesting idea, Susan. I'm going to enjoy this, I think.
Luv, K

Margaret said...

How intriguing... New approaches, new creativity! I will be back.

Susan said...

What fun! Thank you Mary, Kerry, Kay, and Margaret for getting here right away and encouraging me. Mary, your poem is so fine, swinging out into the universe! I look forward to going wherever you (and the rest of the Toads and our visitors) take me!

Sherry Blue Sky said...

This is such a WONDERFUL - and intriguing - prompt. And yippee, I can begin with an already-written line!!!!!

Susan said...

See? You are half-way here. Can't wait.

Grace said...

A lovely approach to writing ~

I will be back to contemplate on the possibilities ~

Have a good Saturday everyone ~

Laurie Kolp said...

This is a wonderful prompt, Susan. I'm so happy to see you here!

Marian said...

love it! yippee!
but i ain't writing no ghazal, JUST SAYING. :)

Susan said...

See you on your blogs, Toads! Marian, if your poem breathes . . . or, ok, I'll accept a dead one too as long as it has a parent poem . . .

Ella said...

I love this idea Susan! I look forward to you on Wednesday :D
Thank you, you are sweet~ I will try, lol I know picture a toad and a roof, tee,hee~

Happy weekend everyone!

Thank you Susan for all your inspiration! You rock ;D

Hannah said...

I love this challenge, Susan, thank you!! It's permission to reuse old goodies!! Great examples...I enjoyed reading your poetry, Susan! :)

Helen said...

THIS is a great prompt, Susan!

Mama Zen said...

Cool challenge, Susan!

Kim Nelson said...

I did not, until tackling this prompt, realize how many of my final lines area exceedingly short. I see patterns in my own work heretofore not recognized. A good exercise for me, Susan. Thank you!

Susan said...

I'm happy to see you here Toads . . . and I am enjoying your lines--even the short ones, Kim, you are in very good company.

I'm going to eat. I'll be back in 2 hours.

Gail said...

Enjoyed your magical creations.

Loredana Donovan said...

Thank you, Susan, this was a wonderful challenge and I really enjoyed it! What a great idea and inspiration--I just linked my newly written poem. :)

Susan said...

Bedtime for me. I'll catch up with you again tomorrow.

Isadora Gruye said...

I just realized...I have reaaaaalllllllyyyy long last lines. Viva la

Susan said...

Thank you, Gail! Loredana, thank you for rebooting joy of winter with poetry and photograph! Loved your poems, Kerry and Isadora--you two gave my Sunday morning its contemplation. Mayhaps I should call this prompt "Poems in Tandem."

Emma Major said...

I've been completely caught up with the launch of my book but now I'm back and I'm ready to play and write; the question is just - where do I start?

Susie Clevenger said...

Love it!! What fun to revisit an old poem and create a new one from it...I too have some looonnnggg last lines...:)

Judy Roney said...

This was a fun one but it was slow getting the right ending to start the new one. :)

Susan said...

Wonderful poems, Emma and Susie and Judy! I think some of the fun here is re-reading your own work so purposefully.
I just returned home from "Talk Cinema" where I saw a poetic gem of a film "Renoir"--an impressionistic film about the impressionistic artist and the training of the film-maker, his son. And while at the cinema, I stayed to see "Silver Lining Playbook" set right here near Philadelphia. Loved them both and so I am in a great mood. Your poems made this lovely day even brighter!

Susan said...

O! A toad just rejoined the Imaginary Garden's banner. A beautiful Toad. Brava!

Manicddaily said...

This was a very interesting exercise, Susan, which I actually found extremely difficult. I did not choose a great line, maybe, and then after I'd almost finished one poem converted it into a bunch of different ones. I don't know. Anyway, it was very interesting to try. Thanks much.

I also really enjoyed your poems in the prompt. k.

Lolamouse said...

Very cool idea, Susan! I loved your poems, and it really helped me tap into some inspiration.

Susan said...

Thank you, k and Lolamouse . . . your poems moved me. Glad to be the little wind that pushed you to reread your work in the context of today. K, I hope you keep the scraps so you can catch them on another day.

Margaret said...

Spent the day and evening with the family, but will be back tomorrow and link up with Open Link Monday if inspiration comes my way. I love this idea.

Susan said...

I'll check back tomorrow, too You all have good dreams now!

Ella said...

Hi Susan
Crazy weekend...started a poem, but have been dealing with frozen pipes and waterline in fridge! Then our internet went down?!
I will post tomorrow, later today ;D
Sweet dreams to all Toads!

my heart's love songs said...

i'll be slow getting around but do want to visit everyone!

have a great week!

Sara McNulty said...

nice prompt. Still arguing with Mr. Linky, so I am at:

Margaret said...

I also posted this on Open Link Night. Thanks for this really fun challenge! A great idea.

Susan said...

Sara, I saw many fine poems on your blog, but none for this prompt. Please redirect me.

Susan said...

Fayaz Pasha, Please link your poem to another so I can appreciate how this poem fits this prompt. Thank you. I'll check back to see tomorrow.

Margaret said...

Just wanted to let you know I WILL be back to comment. Just finished up Open Link Monday. It's been a bit busy here at our house as we are putting it back on the market for sale. I thought this was such a great idea and really want to see what people came up with. My lateness does not imply disinterest. :)