Behind the Curtain


The prompt: What can you do succinctly with a ready-made title, “Lace Curtain”? I liked best two efforts at defining the phrase: Pat Blake’s in the language of the dictionary

Lace Cur-tain (noun)

The boundary dividing what we think of ourselves and what others think; a veil, a mist, a tattered dream.

and Millicent Calliban’s in an allegorical figure:

Lace Curtain

Behind a respectable window, she’s always there invisible, recording our indiscretions

Runner-up Katie Belanger impressed me with her alliterative and rhythmic line:

Lace Curtain

One sip to sink, rub raw the surface, scrape off the shield.

And Aya Dela Peña took off on a narrative impulse:

Me too, she laughed, overeasy, smacking her lips wet with bitter wine and caustic words before drowning into the cackling night with a measly tip: a tapered hip.

So many other worthy entries leave me convinced that the exercise is a good one and worth doing again, perhaps with another phrase lifted from my book of cocktail recipes.

For next week, I invite all poets to take your name, any part of your name, and use it as the point of departure for a brief poem. For example, in my own case, I could write of King David in The Book of Samuel, of the medieval “leman,” of Governor Herbert Lehman in office during the New Deal, or of the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008—or I could build a poem out of anagrams (avid diva; he-man?) or an acrostic.

Deadline: Sunday, April 24, 5 P.M.

Permission required for reprinting, reproducing, or other uses.

David Lehman, a contributing editor of the Scholar, is a poet, critic, and the general editor of The Best American Poetry annual anthology and author of the book One Hundred Autobiographies. He currently writes our Talking Pictures column.


Please enter a valid email address
That address is already in use
The security code entered was incorrect
Thanks for signing up