The Expanse of Spirit

Flickr/Indigo Skies Photography
Flickr/Indigo Skies Photography

Let’s write a collective poem—either a sonnet or a 16-line poem divided into four quatrains—one stanza at a time.

Here’s what I propose. Take the following sentence as your opening line:

“I spent my days in an expanse of spirit.”

Write three more lines. They do not have to rhyme. It would be wise, given the abstract nature of the line, to be as specific and concrete as possible.

Bear in mind this first line from Shakespeare’s Sonnet 129: “The expense of spirit in a waste of shame.” The subject of the sonnet is the intense urgency of sexual desire, “lust in action.” It is a great subject, but it need not be yours.

I changed expense to expanse, but the wordplay of “spend” and “expense” remains just below the surface.

Do not begin any subsequent line with “I.” Donald Hall instructed writers never to begin two sentences in a row with “I,” and certainly not two paragraphs in a row. This is a rule that I always do my best to follow.

Thanks, everyone.

Deadline: Saturday, January 26, 2019, midnight any time zone.

To participate, please post your entry in the comments below.

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.


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