In July of “69” I came back from the Vietnam Theatre and 30 days later I was on my way to Woodstock, forty-five years later I arrived! The wonderful museum brought back memories and CSN still sound great! To say it was a moving experience is an understatement and the following poem was born there:
Peace of Stone
Polished stone cut
into the earth to tell of it.
On the plains of Montana
where arrows darken the sky
like a murder of spooked crows,
the dead Lakota, Arapaho
Cheyenne, and General Custer
his yellow hair a Coup
on a well-visited teepee.
a stone erected
between two crematoria,
“Forever let this place
be a cry of despair.”
The stench of death
so violent it will never
be smudged away.
roam in Peace Park
and children leave flowers
and paper cranes on cold stone.
Stone at the Book Depository,
Stone at the World Trade Center,
Stone at the Vietnam Memorial,
and at Woodstock to commemorate
three days of Peace, Love,
and Hope at Bethel, NY.
Where I stand imagining
lines of school buses filled
with children come to
Do I have your attention? I keep a journal dedicated to “first lines.“ It’s an easy and fun exercise that helps me avoid writer’s block. A blank white page can be intimidating and a good first line helps stimulate the creative process. A first line should leave your reader wanting, wanting more! In one line you have the opportunity to provide the reader with enough information to decide if this story is for them and unlike a novel if you don’t like the story there is another, perhaps more interesting poem, on the next page.
Here are some examples from my work:
Alice and Bernie have a curious
and unusual fascination with road kill.
from “Road Kill Detectives”
In 12 lines you have told your reader that the story is about two people Alice and Bernie, and it has something curious to do with road kill. Hopefully, you will be compelled to read more, but if you have a strong aversion to road kill you may want to quit the story here.
Another technique is to open with a question.
What if you had sight for just one hour of each day?
from “Crossing Midnight”
appearing in Wayfarer Journal
This line starts the reader thinking about their response and to compare their preference to the authors. It is an interesting question, because even though the subject of this poem is non-sighted for 23 hours each day, it is a poem about gratitude.
Do you have a first line you would like to share? It can be from your work or someone else’s.