Here’s An Opening Line That Works Every Time.

Doug Delia

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.

Amanda Lanzone

Amanda Lanzone

If there is one thing I wish I did better it’s draw, but I’ve been fortunate to surround myself with talented illustrators. When I owned the Cocoa Village Playhouse in Florida, Susan Rush did all the posters and art design. Jeff Bowe did the art work for the massage school and now I’m blessed to have found Amanda Lanzone. A good marketing person will tell you presentation is everything, and Amanda’s work is both creative and whimsical. Amanda’s illustrations appear in my first chapbook “26point2poems,” and she designed the cover for “A Thousand Peaceful Buddhas.” Her work has appeared in “The New Yorker” and “The New York Times.” You can view her work at



Doug D'Elia meets with Sister Megan Rice

Doug D’Elia meets with Peace Activist & nun Sister Megan Rice.

Written on the 25th anniversary

of the Tiananmen Square Massacre.



Such a tiny man in the shadow of all that metal

each of his hands holding tight to a bag of

produce fresh from the market that he may

never get to eat, his body the only weapon

against such tyranny, climbing onto the metal tank

in the center of Tiananmen Square banging on the turret




Such a tiny man, Thich Quang Duc,

the Buddhist monk sitting lotus

in the center of a busy Saigon street

as his brothers pour gasoline

on his body and lit him afire

in protest of unfair treatment towards

Buddhists by Catholic converts.

His disciplined body never flinching as

his flesh melts away amid the whispers,



Such a tiny woman, Sister Megan Rice,

the 85 year-old Catholic nun that has spent

a vast portion of her life in Africa ministering

to the poor, now sentenced to 5 (to life?)

years in prison for breaching security at

the maximum security nuclear facility

in Tennessee – the makers of weapons

of mass destruction, armed with nothing

more than spray paint and a bible, banging

on the door yelling,




Macabre May, that’s what I’m calling it.

This month’s “Jitter” magazine features my short story, “Eels.” I thought I would give horror a try and while it was fun I won’t be writing it much, too scary!” My Sci-Fi poem, “2-Steps Ahead of the Vapor Line” has been selected to appear in a Sci-Fi Anthology sponsored by the Houston Writers Guild. It will appear later this year on-line and at Barnes and Noble. My tribute to the Salem witchcraft trials, “Dead Witches in Cold Well Water,” appears on-line in this issue of H-ngM-n Press (Hangman Press). The site also includes an interview with the author. A video recording of “Dead Witches” should be on-line at Hangman soon.

Excerpt from “Eels”

“The next morning I saw nothing unusual – no ambulances, police, or yellow tape. I wondered if her body was yet to be found, or perhaps I imagined everthing. Did my neighbor simply bring home a lover that couldn’t get enough of her? Were garbage trucks rattling about in the night? Surely there was a rational explanation?” Excert from “Dead Witches.” “Must be the season to hear the rattle of wagon wheels and tired nags snorting cold air as they trudge through the mud under the weight of condemned witches slouching towards dreary Gallows Hill, where pitch black crows pass the time on wooden crossbars.”

Peace, Doug

View The Hangman Press Website

Read “Dead Witches in Cold Well Water,”


A Thousand Peaceful Buddhas 2nd Printing

A Thousand Peaceful Buddhas final A

I would like to thank everyone who bought or supported my chapbook, “A Thousand Peaceful Buddhas.” The first run is sold out and more are on the way (digital copies available on Amazon). Eight poems from the collection have been accepted for publication and a second book is planned for this summer. Also, a book of my non-military poems is in the works. Some proceeds from the book have been donated to to various Veterans writing groups as well as an organization that removes mines from Vietnam and another that teaches Vietnamese children to play traditional instruments. Thanks again for your support.


Doug D’Elia



Thanks to everyone who emailed to wish me “good luck.” The Intertext reading was a success and I’m grateful to Syracuse University for including me in the program. There were a few wet eyes, but the poem, “Heavy Metal,” is about a disfigured Vietnam Veteran who has decided to commit suicide to Led Zeppelin. 

My mother cries at night, she doesn’t know I
can hear her down here in the basement,
down here in my own private Hanoi Hilton.
My headphones smother my ears
lost in Led Zeppelin played full tilt,
volume up, screaming.
Whole Lotta Love.
“Got a Whole Lot of Love,” baby.
Every night I wire my middle finger
to the trigger of my revolver,
wondering if tonight will be the night
I have the courage to end the pain…

Writer’s Block


This winter, I attended a writers workshop and one of the breakout sessions was titled: “How to Overcome Writers’ Block.” The facilitator remarked that some mornings she had to “trick herself” into getting started. I’m fortunate enough never to have had that problem.
The Irish poet Yates felt that all his poems were channeled and he was only a facilitator. I often feel that way, and sometimes when I read a poem I’ve previous written I can’t remember the inspiration or even the actual writing of the piece.
American poet Jane Hirshfield remarked that she often has no idea where her ideas or words came from. I think if your work is divinely inspired it would be impossible to ever have writers’ block. Still, I will offer some practical advice:

1. I always carry a notebook and write down words, phrases, or ideas as they come to me.
2. I will often return to a piece I don’t feel is complete, or could use more attention.
3. I write haiku, or mini-poems (one sentence poems).
4. I read great poets, or become engaged in the art of others.
5. I go for a run or walk. As a kinesthetic learner, movement often triggers thoughts. I actually did write my chapbook “26point2 poems on the run.
Both Truman Capote and Mark Twain wrote best lying down.
6. I practice patience and seek solitude – a quiet mind is a blank canvas.

Haiku You

My first authentic exposure to Haiku was last summer at the Omega Institute.
I knew Kerouac wrote haiku (via Ginsberg and Snyder), and I was immediately attracted to the idea of expressing myself as fully as possible in three short lines (traditionally 17 syllables). The idea seemed so Zen, and a major shift from my prose style writing which in comparison resembled the “Odyssey.” The exercise of writing haiku is so centering and relaxing that I’ve made it a key element of my writing routine. “Every Wednesday I Write Haiku” is also the title of my recently published haibun appearing on-line in “Haibun Today.” Writing haiku is an ever present reminder to reduce, reduce, reduce! Write less, say more!
the rusty bell
still clamors
like an old friend

Maria Santana


I enjoy keeping the company of creative people. I find creative energy to be inciting

(like a riot) and often the inspiration for a poem. Maria Santana is a sculptor, and the creator of the amazing clay “Shaman Whistle Women.” The idea originated from the creation myths of her native country, Venezuela. Her woman are uniquely designed and decorated with functional whistles making each piece both sculpture and instrument.

excerpt from “Shaman Whistle Woman.”

The faces of
Indigenous shaman
women agaze through peeled
stick and reed,
shaped in the kiln of the
forest with whistles
angled from heads and

breasts covered with
hawk feathers and
tinted legs
rustling under
pasture skirts the color
of South American
butterflies, lush Amazon
straggly root-grass hair
adorned with
sea glass bangles
and beads
that drip from
curved hips……

See her art at:

Geographical Inspiration

Jack Kerouac's house
March 11, 2014
Jack Kerouac’s house is just blocks away from my winter home in Orlando, Florida.
Orlando was the backdrop for many of Jack’s adventures and it is in this Clouser Avenue cottage that he wrote, “Dharma Bums,” in just 11 days and nights! I’ve written from his space, feeling the energy of his writing passion. I have always felt that each geographical location, be it room or city, influences my writing differently. I would love to hear from anyone who else who has felt inspired in a specific location or venue.