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August 2015

Years ago, I was interested to see a feature in The Saturday Review each issue that was called "Writer's Desk." The idea was simple. It showed a writer's actual desk and explained a bit about how they worked there. I always thought that I might gain some insight into writing or writers by knowing about the how and where of their writing. It is a questionable theory, but when I visit a writer's home I am still interested in seeing their writing space.

On our blog, I wrote more about this and have another post about being "At Home With Poets and Writers." So, it is no surprise that I was interested to see a poem by Juan Felipe Herrera, who was recently named Poet Laureate of the United States, that was used during National Poetry Month as a writing prompt about home.

You can see and hear Juan Felipe Herrera read “Five Directions to My House” online which is the model poem for this month's prompt. I must admit that I was actually more interested in the responses to his poem by students. Here are two of the poems written in response to Herrera's poem.

Six Ways to the Sky by Leyla, age 9

Turn around go to the end of the long bridge
Into the wave of clouds under the colorless arch
Under the heat of the center core.
Over the peregrine falcon flying fast as the race car
Out of the endless underwater cave
Around the wheel of fortune, around, around, around the wheel.
I said six, said six like a rainbow says seven.

Five Minutes to My House by Ilyssa, age 18

the mountain cradles the rising sun as it leaves
a warm pink collection of colors in the air.
Bright, brutal sunlight turns the sky on
like an electrical switch and the sky becomes

the staccato of a wood pecker tapping on my roof
in the morning stirs me awake.

an endless stretch of rocks and dirt, harsh
to the eyes, a barren desolate land.

a dead bunny carcass lies on the newly
paved road, it ran towards the wheels of a
car. Now, it’s left behind a sore sight
for all except hungry lone scavengers.

time, time slips through the fingers like
yellow grains of sand left behind on a beach.
Even time moves slowly in this eternal home.

Your writing prompt is to write a poem that gives directions (in any format) to your house or any particular house - including the home of a poet. It might be helpful to look at my earlier post about writer's homes and at the blog post about this prompt which contains some additional information and links.

For more on all our prompts and other things poetic, check out the Poets Online blog.


Turn twice when you spot the full moon - see
stars twinkling over your head. Hop, skip,
jump to the west. Rest on the mossy ridge, but
rise up for the shooting star. Follow it
to the small, stone house. Smell the
jasmine. Ignore the Cheshire cat on the stoop.
It's made of stone. I swear! I'll have the the teapot
simmering. Tap on the door and come in.

Marie A. Mennuto-Rovello


Coming out of the Orlando Airport,
Avoid the crowds pushing to the Magic Kingdom buses,
And don’t be distracted by the furry, big-headed characters of Chip and Dale
Promising you that a ride through their digital hell will be fun.
You know better than that.

After picking up the car, the first thing to look for
Is the Universal billboard of Harry Potter jabbing his wand directly at you,
That for the same amount of money it takes to feed a homeless family for a month,
He’ll cast a spell on you to share his tawdry problems with Voldemort.
It’s there you take the second exit to 528 West;

Keep left in the Sun Pass Lanes,
Otherwise the ad with R2-D2 and C-3PO for Star Wars Days at Disney,
Might seduce you with the Force to help
In the battle against the Evil Galactic Empire,
As if you have nothing better to do.

Go about eight miles.
At the billboard advertising Universal’s Springfield,
Home of the Simpsons, the all-American family
Loved for the happy endings of their twenty-two minute nightmares,
Take the ramp for the Florida Turnpike.

In no time at all, you’ll be home in Winter Garden,
Sitting at your desk, staring at a white screen,
Listening to the fireworks from Universal,
Followed by those from Disney,
Celebrating the destruction of all the imaginary evils
They created for tourists today.
Once they’ve finished,
And the dog stops howling,
You’ll accept that you’re no match for corporate dreaming;
So turn off the computer,
And join your wife in bed.

Ron Yazinski


This is the path to the place that remembers the first time you told a lie
The scrub grass scratches your moving calves. You don’t feel bad about it at all.
The scratches or the lies. Turn left at the willow where Eddie Delaney stuck
His tongue down your throat when you were just 13. You liked it. You don’t feel
Bad about it, either. In fact. You don’t feel anything at all. Until you get to the house.

The house is made of plastic wood dyed brown and the sunshine sinks into it like it’s a hole to somewhere. It didn’t look like that at all when you all lived there.
There are cicadas or some shit making their insane sawing noises. You stand on the sidewalk
In your sensible shoes in full sunlight wearing your adult face behind those specs you were so proud of, the ones that woman wore in that art house movie he took you to before he took all his shit and left.
When you open the door you have an idea they will be standing there. Eddie and the guy
Who bought you that popcorn and then ruined it with that special Chipotle powder those movie houses all have now along with wine and some beer that tastes like chocolate or coffee.

But no one is in the foyer or in the kitchen beyond except for that screwed up cat your Dad took in
And who now refuses to leave, his name Scion or Simon or something like that. His tail slides around the back hallway to that awful avocado kitchen that they never remodeled.
So you go up the stairs and you are giving yourself a pep talk about the stairs and how you are sure you can make it up them and through everything else and about how that
Movie sucked and so did the guy and then you get to the room and your sister has been crying and your dad is still there dying on the bed. So you steer yourself to the chair and kind of drop into it and wait
For someone to tell you
How to safely leave here. GPS you gone. And how to take the last 15 years or so with you when you go.

Patty Tomsky


I am waiting for you in the Zen garden.
Follow the house swallows across the field.
Pass the ducklings in the pond to your left
and the loquat tree just ahead on the right.
Keep walking until you smell the perfume of roses
trellised inexplicably in the middle of nothing.
Turn right and look for a pure stream
passing slowly around a jade pagoda
where the bell may be sounding if there is any wind
or if the purple myrtle flowers haven't envined them.
The sun will be setting behind my house,
and you can see me in silhouette at the window
half-covered by the pleated paper shade.
I have the Book of Changes in my hand
and I am naked.
And waiting.

Pamela Milne


1) Take the Bergen County Line of New Jersey Transit, formerly the route of the Erie- Lackawanna Railroad in the days when private railways made huge profits and weren’t a drain on the coffers of a state. Your stop is Rutherford.
2) Get down on the East Rutherford side of the tracks where once stood the Erie Bar and Grill, where once a boy was shot to death by the bartender in a failed holdup attempt. The following night, in the wee small hours after closing time, the boy’s mother returned with a jagged rock and broke every window in the bar.
3) Walk across the tracks to the train station, where Rutherford Taxi used to rent a tiny room for its office, and late nights, when the train office was locked up tight, the dispatcher and drivers, with no place else to pee, used saved coffee containers and emptied the contents on the tracks by the light of the moon. I know. I was one of those drivers.
4) Walk south across Station Square and turn up Park Avenue, passing the former Eros Café of the excellent Greek coffee but which burned to the ground one frigid night. Stop in at the Gainville Café, where the poets meet and chatter and read, and rest for a minute with Earl Grey tea and listen to a poem or two.
5) Continue on for three blocks to where the street branches in two by the steeple of the old First Presbyterian Church. This is Ridge Road. If you come to a park and a gazebo where brass bands play on hot summer nights, you’ve gone a block too far.
6) Turn up Ridge Road and immediately stop. You have reached your destination. The home of William Carlos Williams, where hundreds of scraps of phrase were molded into poems that changed the course of American literature.
7) But don’t go in. There is a family living there. Respect their privacy. But you can look, and breathe, and live in that space for a moment.

R. Bremner


Like gulls above
Wing-spanned earth
Friends swoop - call greetings,
We move along a path
Once well known
Now new, unknown
Among magpie nest hedges
To where a house waits
Suffused with hospitality,
I become aware of differences
Memory supplies -
A dog full of rabbit chase dreams
Sleeping in the shade cast
By an old tree - both are gone;
People seem older,
I become a shy stranger
Crossing thresholds
Of lives outside my own.

Anne Micklethwaite


The road from town’s a needle double-
threaded, stay-stitched down its centerline.
Beyond the last stoplight, it begins to give.
How meandering the seam.
Ghost-pine rises out of greenstone.
This is where the bear crossed,
blind curves tangled in wild grape.
A clearing, that’s our pasture,
mourning doves peck-pecking
stitches of seeds, a quilt of clover
to hold the hill together.
We’ll be waiting at the top,
dish tipped for signals from out-there,
glasses full of sky.

Taylor Graham