Next Line, Please

“Yet Once More, O Ye Laurels ... ”

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By David Lehman

August 16, 2016


 

 

The prompt for this week was to devise a compelling prompt.

My own suggestion: convert any two to six lines of Milton’s “Lycidas” into a modern American poem that sounds nothing like it but conveys the same or a similar message. Millicent Caliban and Elizabeth Solsburg endorsed this idea, and there were thumbs up from other regulars (Paul Michelsen, Angela Ball, Charise Hoge, Chrstine Rhein). Let’s do it! Among the virtues of this prompt is that it requires us to reread the greatest elegy in the language. I can’t wait. I’m pretty sure I know which lines I’ll try my hand at.

Other good prompts came in. Christine Rhein suggests writing “a one-sentence poem in the present tense about the Summer Olympic Games (a sport or an athlete).” Wonderful idea, and watching the gymnasts and divers is inspiring. So if you feel the impulse, please share the results with us.

Patricia Smith proposes “an XYZ poem—3 Xs, 3 Ys, 3 Zs—no more, no less than 3 of each.” Terrific. And probably a prompt I will be using in a future week. Thank you, Patricia.

Charise Hoge wonders “how about a sounds-oriented prompt, like onomatopoeia, or anaphora? This could also be combined with another type of prompt.”

Someone with a Clue writes “Since school is about to begin again, how about we rewrite any or all verses of Dylan Thomas’s ‘Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night’ as if Dr. Seuss wrote it?” The idea reminds me a little of a poem I wrote entitled “Poem in the Manner of Wallace Stevens as Rewritten by Gertrude Stein” (which gives me a chance to plug my new book, “Poems in the Manner Of,” which Scribner will release next spring).

Finally, Paul Michelsen suggests that people create 20-line collages made up of lines submitted but not chosen for “Next Line, Please” competitions. Let’s keep the possibility in mind.

The idea of turning our efforts into a book has also been talked up. More on that soon.

Let’s see what happens when we tackle “Lycidas.”

Deadline: Sunday, August 21, midnight any time zone.


David Lehman is a poet and the general editor of The Best American Poetry series. He teaches at The New School in New York City.

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