December 27, 2021

Submission Deadline Extended to January 4

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
   Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
   The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.
-- Alfred Lord Tennyson

The holidays and the year end are busy times. I'll (hopefully) be traveling at the end of 2021 and (hopefully) returning a few days into 2022. As such, I won't really be looking at poems in this last week of the year or doing much on a computer.

So, I will extend of December call for submissions from our prompt by a few days to January 4, 2022.

We all need a little extra time. And maybe when the year is actually over, your thoughts on the end of 2021 or the end of any year will be different.

I hope all of you are well, and well cared for, warm and safe and writing poems. And maybe one will come our way.

Image by Engin Akyurt from Pixabay

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December 21, 2021

Enter Winter

Stonehenge on a Winter Solstice

The Winter Solstice has just slipped into place and it may look and feel like winter where you are now or it may be the start of summer if you are in the Southern Hemisphere.

In years past, I have usually posted something about winter and poetry. Around the start of December, my analytics usually show that people search and find posts and prompts about winter. So, this year I'm going to start the season with this anthology post of past winter posts.

Do you ever have a mind of winter? I posted once about that idea and Wallace Steven's poem "The Snow Man"

I have created mini-winter poem anthologies too. I posted a few winter poems by Mary Oliver and others in 2016 and some poems to move you into winter on the solstice.   

There are some thoughts on winter by Williams, Thoreau and Shakespeare and Emily Dickinson's poem about the snow that never drifts - which I will admit to still not quite figuring out, though I enjoy rereading it.

I think I have written more than once about Robert Frost's solstice when he stopped in the woods to watch the snow fall. That is one of the best-known American poems. I found it interesting that he sat down to write it on a warm June day.   

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

Somehow winter haiku always seems very appropriate to the season - spare and quiet like the day after a snowstorm.  

You should not forget in this time when some people, due to holidays, the new year, and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) fall into a depression that tending your inner garden in winter can be aided by reading and writing poems.    

You can browse all my posts about winter at my tag for"winter."

I hope you have a good winter season filled with health, joy, and poetry.

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December 10, 2021

Emily's 191st Birthday

“We turn not older with years, but newer every day.”

Hailee Steinfeld as a modernized Emily on Dickinson (Apple+)

Emily Dickinson, the middle child of Edward and Emily Norcross Dickinson, was born on December 10, 1830, in the family home on Main Street in Amherst, Massachusetts. 

Wild nights – Wild nights!
Were I with thee
Wild nights should be
Our luxury!

She celebrated 55 birthdays before her death in 1886. After her death, her family members found her hand-sewn books, or “fascicles.” These fascicles contained nearly 1,800 poems. 

I heard a Fly buzz - when I died -
The Stillness in the Room
Was like the Stillness in the Air -
Between the Heaves of Storm -

The Eyes around - had wrung them dry -
And Breaths were gathering firm
For that last Onset - when the King
Be witnessed - in the Room -

I willed my Keepsakes - Signed away
What portion of me be
Assignable - and then it was
There interposed a Fly -

With Blue - uncertain - stumbling Buzz -
Between the light - and me -
And then the Windows failed - and then
I could not see to see -

While Dickinson was extremely prolific as a poet and regularly enclosed poems in letters to friends, she was not publicly recognized during her lifetime. The first volume of her work was published posthumously in 1890.

I'm Nobody! Who are you?
Are you – Nobody – too?
Then there's a pair of us!
Don't tell! they'd advertise – you know!

How dreary – to be – Somebody!
How public – like a Frog –
To tell one's name – the livelong June –
To an admiring Bog!

She admired the poetry of Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning and John Keats. She was dissuaded from reading the verse of her contemporary, Walt Whitman, because she was told that his poetry was disgraceful.

Because I could not stop for Death –
He kindly stopped for me –
The Carriage held but just Ourselves –
And Immortality.

We slowly drove – He knew no haste
And I had put away
My labor and my leisure too,
For His Civility – 

We passed the School, where Children strove
At Recess – in the Ring –
We passed the Fields of Gazing Grain –
We passed the Setting Sun – 

Or rather – He passed us –
The Dews drew quivering and chill –
For only Gossamer, my Gown –
My Tippet – only Tulle – 

We paused before a House that seemed
A Swelling of the Ground –
The Roof was scarcely visible –
The Cornice – in the Ground – 

Since then – 'tis Centuries – and yet
Feels shorter than the Day
I first surmised the Horses' Heads
Were toward Eternity – 

Emily lost several close friends and several family members, including her mother in the 1880s which seemed to have a negative effect on her health. She also reported severe headaches and nausea in her letters. Her deathbed coma was punctuated by raspy and difficult breathing. This has led researchers to conclude that she died of heart failure induced by severe hypertension.

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December 2, 2021

Prompt: Year End


As a year ends, we often look back on what we have experienced. That review may bring to mind what we have accomplished and good memories. It may also include regrets, things undone, and things we wish we could forget.

In a poem from 1784, "New Year’s Verses" by Philip Freneau, he blesses whoever came up with the idea of a year.

Blest be the man who early prov’d
    And first contriv’d to make it clear
That Time upon a dial mov’d,
    And trac’d that circle call’d a year;

I'm not sure if all of us would bless that calendar maker. Some might instead curse.

December is filled with holidays that mark the Winter Solstice and the end of the year. Though some of us in the North might be sad to see winter arrive, since ancient times both solstices were viewed as a celebration. Starting on the winter solstice, the days get longer moving to the vernal equinox and the start of spring.

From the Scandinavia Yule, to Hanukkah, to a bonfire on Mount Fuji and the Hopi tradition of Soyal with its Sun Chief,  the day of the "sun's rebirth” is often marked with fire and light.

For this month's writing prompt, we look at "Burning the Old Year" by Naomi Shihab Nye (from Words Under the Words: Selected Poems) which seems to follow these fire traditions. In her short poem, "Letters swallow themselves in seconds" and notes "sizzle like moth wings" in a "swirling flame of days." 

Read the full poem. Is Nye is actually burning something or is this a metaphor using the idea of burning? What does she mean when she says, "I begin again with the smallest numbers?" Why is it that "only the things I didn’t do" are what will finally "crackle after the blazing dies?"  (If you have thoughts on this poem, please post a comment below.)

The end-of-year celebration that seems closest to Nye's poem is from England. The modern-day (and possibly short-lived) “Burning of the Clocks” festival in the seaside town of Brighton takes fire as a necessity for lighting the dark days of winter. People wear clock costumes and carry paper lanterns to the beach to put in a bonfire. Do they symbolize wishes, hopes, fears, or Time itself?

In ancient cultures, marking time for farmers planting crops and tending animals was important and treated at times as religious. Winter was dangerous and the return of light and warmth was critical to their survival. The Neolithic who constructed Stonehenge did so to monitor movements of the sun and seasons and it probably had religious uses too. At the winter solstice, where the tallest trilithon at the monument once stood is where the sun would have set between in its narrow gap.

Our prompt for December is to write a poem to close the year, but this is not "a happy new year" poem prompt but more of a look back at a year - this one or some past one. Would you burn some or all of it? Do you see the light of the solstice? How do you close "that circle call’d a year?"

Submission deadline January 4, 2022.     Please view our submission guidelines.


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