The Prompter Room

For January 2, 2018:


Poetry is a constructed conversation on the frontier of dreaming. It is a mechanism by which the essential state of reverie can be made available to our conscious minds. By means of the poem, we can enter this state of reverie with all our faculties alert and intact. Poems make possible a conscious entry into the preconscious mind, a lucid dreaming.

Poems are there, waiting, whenever we feel we need our minds to think in a different way. We can go into the poem whenever we like, as many times as we want, with full alertness. We can be aware of reverie while it is happening, and can hold on to that experience in the poem. Reading the poem allows us to achieve, consciously, a particular kind of very precious awareness.

Matthew Zapruder, WHY POETRY, excerpted in the essay ‘Unlocking the Unconscious Through Poetry’ in The Paris Review, August 14, 2017





The Prompter Room

For Friday, December 29, 2017:


A man should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of his life, in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe


(h/t to Phibby for the source)

The Prompter Room

For Tuesday, October 10, 2017:


A mysterious quickening inhabits the depths of any good poem—protean, elusive, alive in its own right…. We feel something stir, shiver, swim its way into the world when a good poem opens its eyes. Poetry’s work is not simply the recording of inner or outer perception; it makes by words and music new possibilities of perceiving…. The eyes and ears must learn to abandon the habits of useful serving and take up instead a participatory delight in their own ends. A work of art is not a piece of fruit lifted from a tree branch: it is a ripening collaboration of artist, receiver, and world.



The Prompter Room

For Friday, September 8, 2017:


From the most serious to the most comic, the simplest to the most baroque, the most personal to the most political, poems alter the landscape of the given.  This tilting of ordinary reality and ordinary expectation is the gesture that lives in the ink of art’s first impulse.

Jane Hirshfield, ‘The American Poetry Review,’ Sept/Oct 2017

The Prompter Room

For Tuesday (the right one this time!), April 25, 2017:


Attempt to write every day, to read everything, to listen, to be in the world, to challenge ideas and to question ourselves.  Because it’s not just poetry; it’s the experience of inquiry.

Yusef Kamunyakaa, New York State Poet

The Prompter Room

For Tuesday, July 26, 2016:


“I have spent most of the day putting in a comma and the rest of the day taking it out.”

Oscar Wilde

Oh yes, I have done this!  More than once.  One poem in particular, though, stands out.  Here’s the poem, written many, many years ago:


The trains of misty, foggy nights

entice my thoughts to go along.

Each night they call to me

of where they’re going

and of where they’ve been.

Each night the whistles cry,

and then the silence

holds the echoes

for me to hear again.


I wonder: is there one inside

who sees,

and wonders, as they pass,

if there is one alone out there

who hears,

and wonders too?




Poetry is hard to punctuate because it’s so subjective and based, usually, on the writer’s speaking style and breathing patterns.  But sometimes punctuation can make a point or guide us in a direction by its very presence or absence.   I think this is one reason some people have a hard time with Emily Dickinson’s poetry.  Her famous dashes can be hard to translate to our modern ear: where do I stop, where do I pause, when do I slow down as I read?

‘Communion’ is one of those poems that comes along rarely, at least for me.  I could almost see the whole of it at once in my mind’s eye as I transferred it to the page (it helped that it’s short).   In the 25-30 years since that night, I haven’t changed a word, I haven’t changed the order of anything.  That, too, is rare for me.  I usually change something the next few times I work on a poem.

But every single time (almost) that I look at it, I try to decide if that blasted comma should stay in or be deleted.  It makes a difference, too, if I’m just reading it to myself or if I plan to read it aloud somewhere.  (Hint: it is – or isn’t – in the second stanza.)

I’m at the point now where I think this might be a good candidate for no punctuation at all.  That way the reader can make his or her own decision and I can finally let it go.


“The best way out is always through.”

Robert Frost

My apologies for being missing in action recently … The last two or three weeks have been taken over by ‘life’ and medical and health issues.  I had hoped to stay on my daily prompt routine throughout – though I did take the respective weekends off to recoup some energy – but that didn’t work out.

This week is more of the same, including drives to and from doctors’ appointments that are five hour-long round trips.  Sometimes this part of the world is a little piece of heaven.  When it comes to some medical specialists … not so much, thereby necessitating the long, tedious, painful drives.

But in life, as in writing, we forge ahead, sometimes creeping (and creaking!), other times with resilience, but always through.

I hope to get back to the daily Prompter Room as soon as possible – at this point, it looks like sometime next week will be my earliest chance.  Things should settle down a little by then.  In the meantime, I hope to be able to announce some good literary news in two or three days.

Many blessings and thanks!

~~ Genie

The Prompter Room

For Friday, May 20, 2016:


“Some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.”

C. S. Lewis

It is my hope that there will come a time, in the near or far future, when we will never stop reading fairy tales.  There is so much to learn from them, those of our childhood and folk tales alike.  Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ Women Who Run With the Wolves is a fascinating treatise on how such tales inform and shape our grown-up lives, and I highly recommend it.

If you don’t want to read a fairy tale or two (though I recommend that, too!) then how about writing one?  This can be a good exercise on a number of levels.  It takes us out of our everyday thinking and actions, for one thing.  If we write in genres other than fantasy, too, crafting a new-to-us story form stretches our creative muscles.

Though it’s not my favorite genre to read, I once wrote a zombie short story that turned out a lot better than I thought it would.  I’d never written one before – and probably won’t again – but I wanted to try something new, and I’m rather proud of the result.

Zombie stories aren’t fairy tales, of course, though they’re definitely fantasy.  The point is to try something new.  It doesn’t need to be fairy tales.  If you’re a poet and always write sonnets, try a haiku or senryu.  If you write essays or memoir, try a short-short story.  Can you write a complete story, with beginning, middle, and end, in 250 words?  Or use Hemingway’s model of a story (or poem?) in six words.  Find a story you’ve written and turn it into a poem, or a poem into a story.  Try to make a poem rhyme if you usually write free verse.

Or write that fairy tale.  We all have them in us.

Once upon a time, there was a group of writers who excelled at everything creative they put their minds – and pens – to.  The townspeople of the place in which they lived expected nothing else, and it was always an honor when a humble townsperson was asked to join this elite group.

One day, word reached the writers that a young woman thought she was ….

Good enough/not good enough to be one of the writers?  What happens in each case?  How do various characters’ perspectives change?  For the better or the worse?  What is the moral of the story, what do readers learn?

Go for it!