Non-themed Poetry Challenge (Originally 12 Hours of Poetry Challenge)

We’ve done lots of writing challenges here and we tend to offer critiques. For a change, this challenge was just for fun with critiques by request only.

I started Saturday, June 26th, at 9 am Eastern Daylight Time, and ended at 10 pm. My personal goal was to write a poem an hour, totaling 12 hours. I did make the 12 poem goal, though I went a few minutes over the time period. It was such a fun way to spend the day, and although by the end I was so tired I was churning out doggerel, I didn’t regret a line of it. It was a true poetic workout.

Like all my challenges, this one remains open forever. This is where you can post a poem on any theme, unlike our usual challenges, which have strict requirements. Any poem that can pass a decency check will be accepted, but we are especially fond of skillful, traditional rhyming and metrical poems, as well as highly imaginative work, written for delight.

To participate, just post a poem in the comments below. I’ve posted some writing prompts, but you may also use your own ideas, or those contained in our other challenges.

Have fun!


  1. I’m getting ready for this marathon of poetry by doing my workout early and drinking a low-calorie probiotic drink that will keep me clear-headed and hydrated. I’ll be having bacon a little later. Fat is brain food!

    I’ll now post the 12 writing prompts I intend to use. Intend to… but reserve the right to go off the rails! I’ll post each writing prompt in a different comment, so responses to that prompt can be grouped underneath.

    See you soon!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. My first prompt is the classic first line challenge: these are always great to get inspiration flowing, because you’re borrowing someone else’s inspiration. My first line for today is, “When that April with his showers sweet…” and I’ll write a poem beginning with that line.

    What’s yours?


    • When that April with his showers sweet
      Hath washed the dusty body of the Earth
      And greenly clad her in a mist of grass
      And belt of yellow crocus round her girth;
      When he hath decked her with the whirling flocks
      of blackbirds small, that branches string like beads
      And crowned her cloudy hair with yellow light
      Of sun that rolls aright where Spring she leads;
      Then April mine, that maiden in my house
      Who takes her name from spring’s dawning moon
      She riseth, creeping out like soft-foot mouse
      And windfall’n birds young she findeth soon

      Liked by 1 person

      • So this poem isn’t finished.

        But interestingly, I found myself treating as a double syllable any word which would in fact have been two syllables in Middle English – bird and spring’s. I couldn’t help noticing, having begun with Chaucer’s line, that my pronunciation of these words is different, and practically begs for this treatment now that I’ve heard it.


      • Should I change it to “oozing body of the Earth?” It seems more accurate to the March I experience, as opposed to the drought Chaucer (apparently) experienced in March. It’s less dignified for sure, and I fear it will introduce a note of illness and disfunction that could interrupt the overall effect. Yet I’m attracted to it as seeming earthy and particular.


  3. Imagery: Can you make us see something freshly by comparing it to the appearance of one other thing? Example: in the last Imagery challenge, I compared a dim setting sun in a haze of thin clouds to an orange already peeled.


    • In crystal-button brightness, her eyes were always glittering;
      In breeze of light and busy feet her hems were always flittering.
      My heart was moved; I would have stayed, my time away yet frittering,
      If only she possessed a voice with sound not so like chittering!


  4. Conceptual: Can you make a poem that harmoniously combines the opposing ideas of dancing and fleeing? Or maybe two other opposing ideas? If not, what about two harmonious ideas like dancing and flying?


    • Shall I stay or shall I go?
      Which way does the water flow?
      Does it rush or does it pool
      Here and happy, calm and cool?
      Will it slip and slip away,
      Whispering what it longs to say?
      Streaming, gleaming, sliding, gliding,
      Slipping, dripping, drip away?
      Splashing, crashing, roaring, dashing,
      Tumbling far and far away?
      Where it goes, can no one say?
      Where it flows, dare I stray?
      When it goes, must I stay?

      Liked by 1 person

    • She takes the leaves of autumn;
      She takes them as she finds them.
      She gathers heart-shaped orange leaves,
      And stitches them and binds them.
      They dry and leave their ridged veins,
      Which make a lacy pattern.
      She sees it and she loves it;
      She turns the leaves; they shatter.

      She takes the airs of autumn:
      Their smoky taste and glowing.
      She breaths them in with heart-shaped mouth,
      Then sends them where they’re going,
      On autumn’s heartstopped dying fall –
      She feels, and feels, and rues it;
      The feeling grows more lovely,
      And now she’ll never lose it.


    • Cool the lights of evening stars
      Glance on men who gaze above
      Cool the holy eyes of mirth
      That neither try nor cease to love
      And while men raise
      dark eyes to gaze
      They fill the thirsty pupils up
      And dark arms raise the white limbs high
      That tremble like a joy-mad pup.


    • Here is my photo:

      The poem follows:

      I cannot help but see thee as a sprite, as white as cloud;
      Fine-formed as deer; but small enough, of bigness to be proud.
      Thy face as glowing beryls set in oval teardrop pearl;
      I cannot help but want to catch thee up again, my girl!

      But mother-feeling knows its bounds; though on its leash it shake –
      You need to go; I need to hold; thy image sole I take.

      Note: I don’t necessarily consider the more fully inflected pronouns of ‘thee and thou and ye’ to be more poetic than the ‘you’ to which contemporary usage has restricted it. But I do think we poets have the right, if anyone has, to make ourselves free of the older forms, for the simple reason that they communicate things the other, by itself, cannot. And our job as poets is, among other things, to communicate well. “Ye” of course gives us the plural; but ‘thee’ and ‘thou’ give us the familiar.

      I switched back to ‘you’ in the final line, because I judged the effect unobtrusive enough, and I wanted to avoid the stuffy ellipsis of ‘need’st’ for ‘needest.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I’m flagging a bit, and have fallen behind. So I’m trying the expedient of opening a poetry anthology I trust to a random page, and converting the first few lines I see from rhyming verse into alliterative verse. Here is an excerpt from Shelley’s ‘The Triumph of Life.’ (Please note that I have changed the punctuation so that it functions more like a speech than a dialogue, given our lack of context. Don’t copy and paste!)

      If I have been extinguished, yet there rise
      A thousand beacons from the spark I bore.
      And who are those chained to the car? The Wise,
      The great, the unforgotten: they who wore
      Mitres and helms and crowns, or wreaths of light.

      Here I will attempt the conversion.

      A fiery torch put out, a suffocated flame
      though he became, and curls and clouds of smoke that coursed the ground
      Yet caught by wind, the sparks and kindred spirits
      of his beacon born, arose and brightened there the night.

      Who were they? Some were wizards, some great men,
      forgotten, unforgotten, those who got renown
      who wore their wreaths, helms, mitres, crowns as meek as maids,
      or veils and wimples bold as warriors valorous of old.

      It will be seen upon any remote comparison that I have seriously departed from the original context and meaning here! Since it is so, let it be so.


      • To be honest, I’d rather put ‘aprons’ instead of wimples, since the latter repeats veils, which I also don’t want to do without. That will involve changing the scheme of alliteration in that line, which I may yet do.


    • The discovery of giant skeletons in my home state of Wisconsin…

      … and a WWII Captain in the British army who went into battle playing his bagpipes, and survived.

      Geez, I picked the two most interesting things I could find on short notice, without thinking about how they might fit together. Let’s see…

      The strangest battle ever
      took place in my home town
      The Scots had come to Endever,
      the giants had come down.

      The Scots were headed up
      by a sober-headed fool:
      That he must pipe while they attacked
      was Captain Davies’ rule.

      The giants killed his braw, bright men,
      And his lieutenants too;
      Then stared and stared at Davies
      And he stared back and blew.

      His face grew red, his eye grew wet,
      His pipes they skirled and screamed
      The giants went quite slack of jaw
      And swayed as if they dreamed.

      The west grew red while Davies played
      For all his fallen men
      The Land o’ the Leal, and Loch Lommond
      and Bonnie, Bonnie Jen.

      Alas, the greatest pipes
      Must die and fade away
      The man who kept them full of air
      could just outlast the day.

      He could not force another breath
      He fell upon his knees
      The giants woke and scratched and peered
      For Davies ‘neath the trees.

      They found him in his kilt of red
      But couldna’ bear to strike
      One giant flicked him with a nail
      One muttered, “Liddo tyke!”

      They knocked him out, they trussed him up
      And hung him in the trees
      They all went home; while Davies snored,
      His chin amongst his knees.


    • The White –
      will fall –
      yet will the Angels
      be Angels

      The Light –
      will fray-
      yet will the Night
      still sing as sweet

      Down the breached corridor
      Roofs cave in, stars shine more –

      And warm –
      warm are the arms which now lay
      mortal men before
      never-ending shores.

      I used the main them from Wagner’s Tannhauser overture for this, plus a finishing flourish of my own. I don’t think I’ve fully developed this idea or skill yet; it was hard not to settle for simply writing lyrics to a symphonic tune. I wanted the words to be able to suggest the rhythm without anyone knowing the tune. I think such a rhythm would have to be based on phrases, not words alone. You hear the conventional way of speaking the phrase, or the most likely, and that forges the next bit of rhythm.


    • So grateful I thought of this prompt ahead of time!

      The whale-bearing water-giant weird
      Has skyward flung his grim titanic beard;
      And on the sailor’s inner eye is seared
      The spears of Thunderbirds by snake-men feared.


    • “Girls can do anything boys can,” they say.
      It takes me back thirty-odd years, to the day
      I shrieked that alone, in a room full of noise
      My hands in my hips, to a few hundred boys.

      Well, eighty or ninety. Or ten. At least seven.
      I was bored, and the girls were gone. I was eleven.
      I’ll never forget the silence that fell
      And the joy in their eyes, and their laughter from hell.

      I wanted the ball, you see. They gave it to me.
      My glasses were smashed and my breath tore right through me.
      That wasn’t the worst. The worst was their guilt,
      Crowding around me, and it was my fault.

      “Girls can do anything boys can,” they say.
      I was barely past ten when I threw that away,
      and walked away bloody and thoughtful and rueful,
      and knew I was done with an error so youthful.

      Who are the adults who say these dumb things?
      Did they never grow up? Do they think pigs grew wings?
      Well, embarrassment then has saved me the shame
      Of now playing sexually autistic word games.

      Gosh, this is some damned AWFUL verse. I am TIRED!


      • You did it! Twelve poems! It’s a LOT to do in one day! Even though I inevitably end up with something awful, I love this challenge. There’s something to be said for staring at a piece of paper and dragging the words out of oneself.

        Liked by 1 person

    • What once was commonplace is now so rare:
      The scent of yeast and flour in the air.
      Too worthless is our time to work an hour
      Wrist-deep in dough, cheeks dashed and splashed with flour.
      Is it too much today for us to ask
      To wash the dishes from an honest task
      To the warmth of oven and the scent of bread,
      To eat from one’s own hand, and be well fed?

      Liked by 1 person

    • I cup my hand, reach the head of the line.
      The prester’s hand passes over mine,
      As men like angels holy melodies sing.

      Warm flesh of bread now nestles
      in the warm flesh of my palm;
      I nibble some and take some home.
      Not too sinful for the holy thing,
      am I nor my rude home nor salty tears
      accounted in these days so innocent,
      so budding and so fierce.

      It may be I shall die for what we all do here:
      you’d think no harm is meant
      by folks memorializing, sipping wine and nibbling bread,
      but we’re too sweetly, sweetly aghast
      at the secret we keep dangerously well:
      (“The Doors, the doors!”
      Went out in ringing cries
      Long before the bread was torn
      And catechumens fled
      at dreadful curtains’ rise.)
      Secret: the real nature of the body that was dead
      and dieth never more.

      ‘Cannibals’ the pagans call us; knowing not
      the sacred secret we would rather die
      than to an impious scoffer tell:
      the sacred troth, the secret oath,
      the spiritual body, raised from Earth and Hell,
      torn yet undivided, ever whole;
      the brotherly words, self-giving. “Take,
      Take and eat. This is my body- ”
      (It tastes like bread.
      He calls it his flesh, yet neither foot nor hand nor head;)
      “My body, torn for thee…”
      All the miracle of the loaf
      in which I and my fellow-saints are baked.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. On my ninth poem. I didn’t follow any prompt for this one.

    The Artist’s Destiny

    To gaze around the world and see
    all that you long yearned to create
    was done by Him whose likeness we
    are destined, bound to imitate!

    To gaze at sunsets, roses, love,
    at journeys, sorrow, dragons, death,
    and do what all the poets do
    with all their words and all their breath.

    To know with sudden certainty
    that this desire, this delight,
    so hard to quench, was given by
    the Greatest Poet e’er to write!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m open to feedback on this one. I’m considering rearranging the order of the stanzas. This was the order I wrote them in, but that doesn’t always mean it’s right!


    • I think it’s wonderful. My only feedback would be to shorten the final line of each stanza. In the attempt to keep up the four-foot pattern, you’ve crowded in unneeded words.

      Oh, and you might try treating both ‘all’ and ‘yearned’ as two-syllable words. It will smooth out your verse, and get the feeling of yearning across better.

      I recognize the feeling you’ve communicated. Your poem well communicates the particular pleasure of being a poet; which after all, is distinct from that of reading poetry. Many thanks.

      Liked by 1 person

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