Next Line, Please

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By David Lehman

July 5, 2016


 

We are writing a collaborative poem entitled “Lucky You” and this week, to coincide with the Fourth of July, our imperative was to write a first line containing the word “Independence” (or “independence”) as well as the name of a color, the name of a flower, and a verb pulling it together into a coherent statement.

A tall order, yet we received some marvelous suggestions, and I feel that for next week, you, dear player poets, should choose among these first lines before adding your own candidate for line two. I offer you these four finalists.

From MD:

“Independence without Freedom, a vase without violets, is what you gave me.”

From Christine Rhein:

“For starters, take Independence Day, your hollyhocks—red, white, and blue.”

From Peter O’Connell:

“Independence . . . a bloom mostly blue.”

And from Paul Michelsen, who remains as inventive and offbeat as he is indefatigable:

“Lucky you, watching [The] Purple Rose of Cairo on the Independent Film Channel”

Notes:

MD’s assertive line separating “Independence” from “Freedom” promises a poem of intellectual complexity. Writers may feel free to shorten the line to its first eight words (“Independence without Freedom, a vase without violets, is”).

Given Christine Rhein’s use of our national colors, her use of a personal pronoun, and her self-reflexive opening words, her line offers many different directions to explore, all potentially fruitful.

If the ellipsis is seen as the equivalent of “is,” and a metonymy of a flower can substitute for the name of the species, then Peter O’Connell’s “Independence . . . a bloom mostly blue” seems an open door to a wonderfully laconic poem in the manner of Emily Dickinson.

Finally, Paul Michelsen’s “Lucky you, watching [The] Purple Rose of Cairo on the Independent Film Channel” lowers the temperature and the poetic diction to embrace a quotidian reality.

Which would I vote for? Not sure; perhaps I will try each of the four. Feel free to do the same. Shall we add specific requirements for line two? Well, how about this option: try writing a second line that rhymes with the line one of your choice.

Deadline: Sunday, July 11, Midnight in 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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