February 16, 2022

Gibran, The Prophet

I have written here in the past few months about recent best-selling poets Amanda Gorman, Rupi Paur, and Courtney Peppernell. But some of the real best-selling poets are from pretty far in the past. Rumi, Lao Tzu, and the classic haiku poets like Basho and Issa have been selling well for hundreds of years. Amazon has an always-updating list of poetry best-sellers on the site that are a very eclectic group of "poets."


I saw a while back that it was the birthday of poet Khalil Gibran who was born in Lebanon in 1883. However, he lived in Boston where he met Alfred A. Knopf who published his book The Prophet in 1923. It wasn't an instant best-seller but it gained popularity. In the swinging 1960s, it became a favorite of the counterculture. 

It has been translated into more than 100 languages. It has never been out of print. Today,  Gibran is now the third-best-selling poet in history, after two other exceptionally good poets, William Shakespeare and Lao-Tzu.

The book is not what some will consider typical "poetry." It is 26 prose poetry "fables."

The "prophet" is not Gibran. It is Al Mustafa who after living away for 12 years, he is about to board a ship home. He is stopped by a group of people and talks with them about life and the human condition. Each chapter deals with a topic like love, marriage, children, giving, eating and drinking, work, joy and sorrow, houses, clothes, buying and selling, crime and punishment, laws, freedom, reason and passion, pain, self-knowledge, teaching, friendship, talking, time, good and evil, prayer, pleasure, beauty, religion, and death. That's a lot of ground to cover.

The book's appeal is not totally unlike some contemporary best-selling poets. Short pieces on big topics. Quotable lines. Easy to read. No dense language.

The Prophet often shows up being quoted at weddings.

Love one another, but make not a bond of love:
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls

I've heard it at births, baptisms, and baby events.

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you they belong not to you.

And his lines show up at the other end of life.

When you are sorrowful look again in
your heart, and you shall see that in truth
you are weeping for that which has been
your delight.


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February 11, 2022

One Line A Day

A nice lined, refillable journal with a faux leather cover & tree of life

Did you have a resolution for the new year to write more often? Try to produce a poem every day? (I did that back in 2014.) Finish that manuscript and get it published? Good ideas, but not that easy to accomplish.

Keeping a journal is one less threatening way to keep writing regularly, even on a daily basis, and a way to make that even easier is to commit to just one line a day.

A friend told me that she received a "One Line A Day" journal book as a holiday gift. Interestingly, the particular edition she received has on each page of the journal an entry space for five successive years. This allows you to look back at your thoughts on a specific day of the year over the span of five years. That's an interesting way to note change, progress, or lack thereof.

I keep journals and I do sometimes look back to an earlier volume to see what I was doing on an earlier day, week, or month.

You might find that holidays, anniversaries, birthdays, solstices, equinoxes, and other calendar events or simply a particular day have interesting coincidences or synchronicities. 

I have also seen the suggestion to do a 5-minute daily journal format. People sometimes will make it a ritual - the first or last thing they do in a day or a lunchtime activity.


What would you write in your daily journal? I know people also keep Gratitude Journals trying to record something each day. I tried that but - sadly - found it hard to come up with something every day without repeating rather obvious things. 

You don't really need a special book to do this, but the structure will probably help some procrastinators and be a reminder to establish this as a practice.

Sure, you can use a spiral notebook like you used in school, but they don't encourage creativity and remind me too much of school writing and "notes."

A step up is a bound blank book that will look like a book on your shelf. I am convinced that writing in something that looks like a "real book" helps. They also last a lot longer. I have journals that are more than 50 years old and are in great shape.  

If you want to add some structure to your journaling, here are a few links to specialty journal blank books.

There is even an assortment of One Line A Day journals. This is the journal my friend got as a gift and that I reviewed. She has been keeping it up so far this year. I like the look of the celestial version shown to the left that has watercolor artwork from artist and designer Yao Cheng with shimmering gold foil stars and gilded page edges.

There are also many versions of the beloved Moleskine journals, notebooks, sketchbooks and specialized books. 

I mentioned the 5-Minute and gratitude journal. Maybe you'll find that giving thanks and practicing positivity will help you find joy. 


Visit our website at poetsonline.org

February 3, 2022

Prompt: Quatrain Definitions

In this short month and following last month's zuhitsu prompt that generated many long poems, we will ask you to write a poem in a short form. 

The quatrain appears in poems from the poetic traditions of various ancient civilizations including Persia, Ancient India, Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome, and China, and continues into the 21st century. 

In the eleventh century, the poet Omár Khayyám created a book of connected quatrain verses known as the “Rubáiyát” which translates as quatrains in Arabic. In the nineteenth century, the “Rubáiyát” was translated by an English poet named Edward Fitzgerald, which brought about a resurgence of this four-line stanza. Nostradamus used quatrains to write his prophecies. Rumi used the form for many poems.

A quatrain can be a four-line stanza using a rhyme scheme, but these six quatrains by Ursula K. Le Guin illustrate how one alone can also be a short poem. 
On the longest night of all the year
in the forests up the hill,
the little owl spoke soft and clear
to bid the night be longer still.
To make this prompt a bit more challenging, we ask you to use as your title a single word - an unusual word, a word that will need a definition for many readers - and your quatrain will be a rhyming definition.

For example, if your title is "CORUSCATE," the four rhyming lines will need to make it clear - without sounding like a dictionary - that this word means to glitter, sparkle, in bright flashes - like gems or the sunlight on moving water.

I could not find a poem that exactly fits the three requirements of this prompt, so I simply used on the website prompt examples of stanzas from the poems below to illustrate the rhyme possibilities.

You will also need to choose a rhyme scheme. Here are six of the fifteen possibilities and examples of poems containing stanzas using them.

Your task: a poem that defines the one-word title in four rhyming lines.

Submission Deadline: February 28, 2022

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February 2, 2022

Pillow Thoughts

When I was assembling our writing prompt on zuihitsu and reading the very old Pillow Book, I also came across a new book by Courtney Peppernell titled Pillow Thoughts. I had never heard of Peppernell and I thought the book might be connected to my prompt in some way.

The Pillow Book was written by Sei Shonagon, a courtesan, around 1000, and it is a diary-like collection of her thoughts and observations on life. 

The modern-day Pillow Thoughts is a collection of poetry and prose that is - according to online descriptions - about heartbreak, love, loss, and self-worth. It is divided into ten sections, "making it so simple to skip to the parts where you want to feel the most." Hmmm, that's an interesting pitch.

It turns out that Peppernell is quite a bestselling author. Her writing career began in 2015 with her first novel, Chasing Paper Cranes

Her first poetry collection, Pillow Thoughts, was released in 2016 and reached number one in its category, and attracted the attention of other artists, including The Chainsmokers. 

The collection was then re-published by Andrews McMeel Universal, along with her second poetry collection The Road Between in August 2017. That year she also released her second novel, Keeping Long Island.

samples via her Instagram account

In an online interview, she explains the publication story.

What happened with Pillow Thoughts is originally it was self-published, and it had been out for a couple of months, and one morning I woke up and all these people on Instagram had messaged me and said that the Chainsmokers had tweeted out a poem from the book and everybody was asking “where is this poem from, we love this poem” so just to wake up to that was incredible. I knew who the Chainsmokers were too, I love their music, I like what they’re about, so to have them connect with a piece of my writing was super awesome and so we contacted them and they said “yeah send us a copy of the book we’d love to read it” and everything happened from there.


Courtney Peppernell is an Australian LGBT author, and she sells a lot of books. 

For me being in the LGBT community I wanna be…. I write for everyone. But LGBTQ+ they’re special to me too. Especially with pillow thoughts…there still a lot of people out there who think I’m male. They don’t realize I’m actually a female. They have no idea that I’m gay. Some of my favorite messages are…they’ll come to my page and go “Courtney I thought you were a guy and sort of now I kind of get you and your book makes way more sense now” that’s cool bc it shows that love is universal but it also connects me with LGBT readers and the struggles that some of them go through and just mental illness in general.

Visit our website at poetsonline.org