Next Line, Please

Beneath a Blood Wolf Moon

By David Lehman | January 29, 2019
Flickr/Arnie Grever

Last week, I gave this opening line as a prompt: “I spent my days in an expanse of spirit.” You were asked to add three lines to form stanza one of a group poem that would culminate in either a sonnet or a 16-line poem consisting of four quatrains. You did not disappoint.

Reviewing the entries, I was so taken by individual lines that I decided to exercise my editorial chops and integrate selected lines into collaborative stanzas. The result: four excellent possibilities. There are two first-prize winners and two runners-up.

From Pamela Joyce S come the first two lines of this splendid stanza; the last two are from “Misanthrope” by Koahakumele. I added only a one em-dash after line three:

I spend my days in an expanse of spirits,
vodka, scotch, tequila, gin—pick a poison then—
then spent, I slept; of reality dreamt;
and by mourning, could find no rest.

Pamela changes “spirit” to “spirits” in line one and opts for the present tense. It is almost eerie how Koahakumele’s lines logically follow. The pun on “mourning” is fine and opens up possibilities for subsequent stanzas. Who (or what) died?

The co-winner combines Jay Ronson’s opening with two knockout lines from Patricia Wallace:

I spent my days in an expanse of spirit,
gave thanks to God for enemies with bad aim,
as snow fell into the trees and blackbirds clustered
thick as leaves on the limbs, glossy shades of night.

The winter landscape is beautifully conjured, and we have “God” and “enemies” to work with going forward.

In this stanza, line two comes from Diane Ferraro, line three from Charise Hoge, and line four from Christa Whitsett Overbeck:

I spent my days in an expanse of spirit,
as an ashamed atheist, searching for God,
hungover with the elixir of space. See
to whose marvelous matter was given much worth.

It may be accidental, but the transition from line two to three is breathtaking, and line four offers lovely alliteration and an end word that begs to be joined to a rhyme word like “earth” or “birth.”

The fourth stanza that emerged includes contributions from Charise Hoge (line two), Pamela Joyce S (line three), and Eric Fretz (line four).

I spent my days in an expanse of spirit,
the dance dancing dances danced
beneath a blood wolf moon of winter’s waking,
crooning, in and out of pants, in Spanish.

The humor in line four balances the breathtaking beauty of the “blood wolf moon.”

So … now I ask all to submit a four-line second stanza indicating whether you are following up the stanza beginning “I spend my days in an expanse of spirits” (which I shall designate as “A”) or the stanza concluding with “blackbirds clustered / thick as leaves on the limbs, glossy shades of night” (designated “B”).

Who knows? Maybe we will end up with two brilliant poems duking it out for the championship, the way Djokovic faced off against Nadal at the Australian Open.

Consider beginning your stanza with “When”—and make something happen. One use of “I” maximum.

Deadline: Saturday, February 2, 2019, midnight any time zone.

Permission required for reprinting, reproducing, or other uses.

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