NaPoWriMo 2011 Poem & Prompts for April 11, 2011 11/30

April 11, 2011

April 11, 2011

Day 11…. Hopefully you continue to write and challenge yourself every day.

Feel free to use either, both or none of the prompts suggested.  There are several other places on web and several other people who are offering up prompts and idea to get you to write as well.

Today’s subject prompt:  write about something missed

Today’s form:  elegy details below


Behind these doors

Once resided a magical place

where time stood still, thousands

of adventures held their breaths

waiting for browsers to unlock

their secrets expose their stories

sip the words off the pages; silenced

now; The shelves and gathering places

where wordsmiths once recited,

excited audiences now like field

after last autumn harvest on new moon night.


Why lift the weight of book

Touch the old words

When they can appear on screen

While I simultaneously text and

listen to music, conveniently, multi-task?

Keyboard gatherings discuss on screen

Look ahead, not in hand

Cameras tell the stories now.


This place will soon be dress shop, shoe store

And time will forget curmudgeon bookseller who

growled at giggling teenage lovers stealing kisses

amongst the bookshelves.

Goodbye bookstore;

Fade slow.

© 2011

In literature, an elegy is a mournful, melancholic or plaintive poem, especially a funeral song or a lament for the dead.

The elegy began as an ancient Greek metrical form and is traditionally written in response to the death of a person or group. Though similar in function, the elegy is distinct from the epitaph, ode, and eulogy: the epitaph is very brief; the ode solely exalts; and the eulogy is most often written in formal prose.

The elements of a traditional elegy mirror three stages of loss. First, there is a lament, where the speaker expresses grief and sorrow, then praise and admiration of the idealized dead, and finally consolation and solace. These three stages can be seen in W. H. Auden’s classic “In Memory of W. B. Yeats,” written for the Irish master, which includes these stanzas:


With the farming of a verse

Make a vineyard of the curse,

Sing of human unsuccess

In a rapture of distress;


In the deserts of the heart

Let the healing fountain start,

In the prison of his days

Teach the free man how to praise.


Other well-known elegies include “Fugue of Death” by Paul Celan, written for victims of the Holocaust, and “O Captain! My Captain!” by Walt Whitman, written for President Abraham Lincoln.


Many modern elegies have been written not out of a sense of personal grief, but rather a broad feeling of loss and metaphysical sadness. A famous example is the mournful series of ten poems in Duino Elegies, by German poet Rainer Maria Rilke. The first poem begins:


If I cried out

who would hear me up there

among the angelic orders?

And suppose one suddenly

took me to his heart

I would shrivel


Other works that can be considered elegiac in the broader sense are James Merrill’s monumental The Changing Light at Sandover, Robert Lowell’s “For the Union Dead,” Seamus Heaney’s The Haw Lantern, and the work of Czeslaw Milosz, which often laments the modern cruelties he witnessed in Europe.

© 2011


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