Famous Starts with Humble Endings


Here is a game to play with poetry. The trick is to not read more than the first two lines of a famous poem, and then you try and write the next lines. Make no mistake, it’s generally awful, but it’s fun to do! So, get out a piece of paper and jot down your next two lines to The Sleeper by Edgar Allen Poe:

At midnight, in the month of June,
I stand beneath the mystic moon.
The light caresses all my skin
and makes me feel young again.

I haven’t done these in awhile, and it shows! The original carries weight and uses a better vocabulary than my not-quite-coffee’d brain. I did keep the meter mostly right, although my last line is off by one, but maybe that’s stylistic. We’ll go with that. 🙂
Here are Poe’s next two lines:

An opiate vapor, dewy, dim
Exhales from out her golden rim

There is no reference in a quick scan of this five stanza poem of the writer at all, so injecting the narrator as I did completely changes the focus. And, of course, it’s Poe so this poem gets weird fast. Is she dead? I’m thinking she is, which is the complete opposite of where my mind went. For you poetry nerds out there, here’s a wonderful analysis of Poe’s poem. How’d you do?

I have an app on my phone from The Poetry Foundation. You can push “Spin”, and it will randomly choose poetry to read. If you want to play this game at home, I highly recommend it. Let’s do another round!

On the Beach at Night by Walt Whitman:

On the beach at night,
Stands a child with her father,

holding his hand warmly tight
listening to the darkening water.

This poem has an odd structure. The first stanza is three lines, followed by a second stanza with jagged lines. It’s a dark poem, and I sort of thought it might be, hence my own allusion to darkening water. Wasn’t Whitman the one with the ocean/robin death poem or is that someone else I’m thinking of? Either way, you can see that after one round of practice, my poetry brain woke up a bit. I’ve got warmly tight and darkening water, both of which sound nice to my ear. How’d you do?

Feel free to share your humble endings in the comments. I hope this exercise stretched your writing mind, your courage, and brought a bit of fun to your day!

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