Next Line, Please

Heaven, Hope, or a Ghostly Sight

By David Lehman | March 1, 2016


A lot of the submitted titles for our sonnet seemed very appealing to me, and I am really taken with Millicent Caliban’s congratulatory note to us as well as her nomination of Blake’s phrase. Of the various titles suggested, I went in the end with “Blues in the Night,” which was proposed by Carey James. It was, as noted, the title of one weekly post, and arguably the central moment in our poem. I guess I am also partial to the habit of titling poems after popular songs.

For next week, I propose that participants choose one of these lines and make it the first line of a new and succinct poem. Each of the lines is the first line of an Emily Dickinson poem:

Heaven is what I cannot reach!

Hope is a subtle glutton

The only ghost I ever saw

Do yourself a favor and do NOT read the Dickinson poem in question until after you’ve completed your poem. It’s hard to compete with her. DO read other Dickinson poems and notice the many ways she can develop an initial premise—and always with admirable brevity.

This is a one-week contest.

I also ask each participant to email at least one friend with the invitation to join in. It is wonderful to have a small but dedicate cadre, but wouldn’t it be great if we could introduce new blood and brains?

Deadline: Sunday, March 6, at noon. Good luck everyone—and thank you for taking part.

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