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  • Christine Delea

April 1: Poetry Prompt: Call and Response

Updated: Apr 6, 2019

Happy National Poetry Month! i am going to try and post a prompt for each day in April, starting now.


Poems talk to other poems, and poets communicate with other poets (past, present, and future) through the act of writing.


Response poems are a little more blatant.


Choose a poem from my ever-growing list of Links to Poems I Love, then write a response to that poem. Response poems come in many forms: you can disagree and argue; you can agree and provide more "evidence"; you can choose a different persona; or you can take the form and style and change the subjects.


The Passionate Shepherd to His Love by Christopher Marlowe has produced numerous responses, including The Nymph's Reply to the Shepherd by Walter Raleigh, The Bait by John Donne, Help: The Passionate Householder to His Love by Franklin Pierce Adams, The Passionate Hipster to His Chick by Diane DiPrima, Come Lie With Me and Be My Love by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Nymph and Shepherd by Donald Hall, and many more. (Responses to Marlowe also include art works and musical compositions.)






The Passionate Shepherd To His Love by Walter Crane











Below is another poem--much more contemporary--and a response to it.


What the Dead Fear

by Kim Addonizio


On winter nights, the dead

see their photographs slipped

from the windows of wallets,

their letters stuffed in a box

with the clothes for Goodwill.

No one remembers their jokes,

their nervous habits, their dread

of enclosed places.

In these nightmares, the dead feel

the soft nub of the eraser

lightening their bones. They wake up

in a panic, go for a glass of milk

and see the moon, the fresh snow,

the stripped trees.

Maybe they fix a turkey sandwich,

or watch the patterns on the TV.

It's all a dream anyway.

In a few months

they'll turn the clocks ahead,

and when they sleep they'll know the living

are grieving for them, unbearably lonely

and indifferent to beauty. On these nights

the dead feel better. They rise

in the morning, refreshed, and when the cut

flowers are laid before their names

they smile like shy brides. Thank you,

thank you, they say. You shouldn't have,

they say, but very softly, so it sounds

like the wind, like nothing human.




What the Dead Fear More

by Ginger Adcock


—After Kim Addonizio, "What the Dead Fear"



When the Dead were twelve they wrote

I Hate Him and Don't You Wish and Maybe I'll

on slips of yellow paper, on napkins, on lineless

white pages. And they meant it. They held

their pens like pocket knives and carved

their meanness into trees. Made it stay. Went back

to check if it was there in a couple of days. Nodded

their heads It Better Be, and it was. When the Dead

got older they forgot, threw away boxes of papers,

read a few, never thought to burn any, shook their heads

and whispered Silly. And now that the Dead are dead,

they loosen the muscles in their necks and let hang.

They shuffle their feet over fog-covered gravel and clench

their teeth when they sleep. They try to remember

what prompted their pencils to write those things

now read in ink, and make low, nasal achings

that ruffle like lace from their throats. They say

I Don't Care and Never Liked Her Anyway.

But late at night when the Dead are alone, covers pulled

near and up to their thin necks, the Dead cry

their unsalted tears and wish for swings, for frogs, for days

where swagging forts were made of cloth and nothing

seemed so true it couldn't be written in the air, with a finger.



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