Saturday, December 19, 2009

December Poetry Prompt 1 - Keeping it Anonymous

A Scandal in the Suburbs

We had to have him put away,
For what if he'd grown vicious?
To play faith healer, give away
Stale bread and stinking fishes!
His soapbox preaching set the tongues
Of all the neighbors going.
Odd stuff: how lilies never spin
And birds don't bother sowing.
Why, bums were coming to the door—
His pockets had no bottom—
And then-the foot-wash from that whore!
We signed. They came and got him.

X.J. Kennedy
In a Prominent Bar in Secaucus: New and Selected Poems, 1955–2007
The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007.

XJ Kennedy's poems is a rant, and a defense, and a contemporary spin on the biblical story. I like how no names are mentioned but we are absolutely sure of what we're reading because of certain details: bread, fishes, lilies, footwash...

Can you write a poem about a famous, or infamous person, that does not mention them by name, either in the title or the text, but still make it clear who the poem is about?

To make things a little more challenging, try and keep the poem to a maximum of 12 lines too.

You can either write the poem in the voice of your chosen character, or adopt the voice of an 'observer' as in the case of this poem.

And remember, a poem needs to be 'about' something too. It needs to be the vehicle for an idea, or ideas. 'A Scandal in the Suburbs' is not just about the Jesus story, it makes me think about how easily we judge people, how we find ways to defend our actions. It's about fear of difference. Perhaps of change.

Good luck and write well. And enjoy the holidays.


Keith Wallis said...

afraid I've not kept to the 12 line parameter. Have a great Christmas Lynn.

Who else

Who else would touch a fading bloom
with refreshing teardrops,
an enhancing dignity,
a delight to the eye ?

Who else would crown a head,
Its thinning hair beyond its prime,
in silver-grey ?

Who else would paint Autumn leaves
in regal reds and golds ?
Their parting waves a crescendo of colour
when skies are dour and threatening.

Who else would lay hands on a simple meal
making it a foretaste of heaven
to heal and restore ?

Who else would handle the gravity of death
giving it purpose, celebration and joy ?

Who else ?

Lynne Rees said...

Thank you, Keith. Ah yes, joy. We all need more of that.

All best wishes for Christmas and the New Year.

Martin Cordrey said...


Angel of the north, frog eyed sidekick, shinny pieces exchanged; stones for kilts, dreams for Cymru, victory for

the gun, how he despises pride, flipping hypocrisy unelected leaders for unelected supreme courts, a puppet

Yankee strings. Green tights, bow, poison arrow, he grins like a Cheshire cat as he redistributes our wealth. How

conveniently he sailed into his new Catholicism, our scepter draped in a human rights sail, the lawyers till,

burning the union jack, stars in his eyes oblivious to their distain, dispensing equality of second rate by crushing the

equality of common sense and tradition. All the worlds his stage, now, his streets paved in gold, tainted with blood.

donna said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
donna said...

Variety, Vitality, Simplicity

exiled to Derry
unlearned in farmers' ways
building walls
seemingly indestructible;
one must wonder, was he impelled
by the path that
made the difference
trampling aimlessly through
snowy woods of roads diverged
dissolving those boyhood fears
for bravado and fortitude
to create, by form alone

Margaret Beston said...

Leaving Home

When she told me she was leaving, I almost hit the roof -
standing there with that glazed look she had those days,
the farm, the cooking, how could I manage on my own
and what would her father say when he came home?

I’d suspected there was something going on –
all that disappearing to her room, no glimmer
of light beneath the door. Late night wanderings
in the wood, slipping home without a word.

I began to wonder if she had a lover,
at least that would be normal - not like this,
chopping her hair, wearing armour like a man.
God’s will, she said - that may well be …

Now I startle at any flickering candle,
shiver at embers dying in the fire.

Margaret Beston said...

Lynn - I was unable to keep to 12 lines, my poem is 14, though has displayed as more!

Lynne Rees said...

Happy New Year, everyone : )

@ Martin - Tony Blair? It was the mention of catholicism that made me think that. You're not a member of his fan clucb then? : )

@ donna - hello. I like the poem, the language you use, but there wasn't enough info there for me to think of someone particular. Snowy woods and walls make me think of Robert Frost... but I don't think he was ever exiled to Derry. But now, I've googled! And of course, Derry Farm. Derry, here in the UK, makes me think of Ireland straight away, but the rest of the detail is so precise and clear... maybe adding 'farm' to Derry might avoid anyone else misreading it. But it could just be me!

@ Margaret - no problem re the line count! This kept me wondering and it was an 'ah' moment when I got to the last verse. I wonder if you could understate the last couplet...or even bring in the fire or candle image earlier on in the poem where it will be read quite innocently, but when the reader gets to the end of the poem, she'd go back and re-read significance into the earlier imagery. Good poem, thanks for posting.

Margaret Beston said...

Thanks for your comments Lynn. Will give some thought to your suggestion. Happy New Year!

rnga said...

Hello Lynne,
Happened on AppleHouse and felt encouraged to dip in. Is my post to late? My poem is one line longer than your prompt.


He could not have foreseen:
their fearful roar and might made
silent and cold, with legs spread-
-eagled; the trophies adorned
in halls; real rugs bragged of, stood on;
the stripped-striped-skin re-worn;
turned to jazzy upholstery
on frames of wooden symmetry,
joined, stretched and stitched; and - instead
of the fires forged that ranged jade
jungles - confinement! Had he seen
would his burning industrial
mind, handled as did the immortal?

Lynne Rees said...

Hello rnga - it's never too late to post a poem : )

And although I'm not exactly sure of who the 'he' is, the imagery of hunted animals is so powerful and diturbing. 'jazzy upholstery' is fresh and original (in fact, the voice throughout the whole poem is very original) and 'joined, stretched and stitched' extends the 'abuse', the disregard, the cruelty. Thanks for posting and hope to see you here again.

rnga said...

Hi Lynne, many thanks for your uplifting response.
I had thought that I made the 'who' too easy a guess; now it seems too obscured. Perhaps I need to inject extra clues; and does the work still hold up once you know the famous person, I wonder?
It is, as you've sussed, about a creature, endangered:
striped skin,
Britain's industrial past,
fire, furnace,
and the lines,

"what immortal hand or eye
dare frame thy fearful symmetry?"

Rhymes with billiumwake;

Just teasing a bit...Ramon

Lynne Rees said...

Of course... 'fearful symmetry' - Blake's tiger. It seems obvious now!!

For me the poem was powerful enough to communicate something to me before I made the connection, although with the added insight it means more.

Perhaps the last two lines are a little too condensed though? Perhaps the syntax might be more relaxed?

Thanks for coming back to this.

rnga said...

Hello Lynne,
Have taken your point about the last two lines, and revised. Thank you.