Poets Online Archive

Yes, we used Suzanne Vega's "Widow's Walk" as a prompt. No, it's not a "poem." Yes, it's a song lyric. Or the lyrics from a song. That poetry form that is arguably often not a poem, though it is a lyric. By the way, the lyrics are from The Passionate Eye: The Collected Writing of Suzanne Vega, and can be heard on her CD Songs in Red and Gray

Do you know the widow's walk? "A small, railed observation platform atop a house. Once used by wives in New England to scout for their seamen husband's who often did not return, such walks are usually square, done in elaborately-worked wrought iron or wood." Vega's lyrics use that - and they tell of a women who walked.

Lyric is derived from the Greek word for lyre and originally referred to poetry sung to musical accompaniment. (That's Suzanne on the guitar. She's playing on stage in Pawling, NY as I type this in late 2002.)  Look it up and you'll find types like the Ode, Elegy, Canzone, Ghazal, Melic Verse, and Cycles, and Sonnet Sequences. So what is it?

It's certainly a much-used form in modern poetry. It includes poems where the speaker focuses on a single emotional thought. It may be simple or complex, serious or not, generally brief (unless you get into the ode mood.)

Now it seems that almost anything you've written fits that definition. So why not some comment on rhyme - since all our modern lyrics seem to use it. (And those ones we read in school "Ode to a Nightingale" and such.) Yet, lyric poems generally do not anything regular form or rhyme scheme. (Vega's rhymes seem to lock one stanza to another.)

Is Vega's lyric an ode or an elegy to the dissolution of her marriage?

So we'll need to impose some form here to make your lyrics walk nicely. Odes celebrate. Elegies lament. Take your choice. Stanzas are each 4 lines. Maximum stanzas = 8. Add some rhyme - we are asking for at least one word in each stanza to rhyme with a word in the next stanza.

We will be rather firm about our rules, rejecting submissions for infractions, so pay attention.

And be prepared to sing your lyric if you are called on during class.


I said good-bye. I said good bye to you,
while in the sky
strange voices cried
that I should fly to you.

Winds that breathe their sighs
from over the sea, my love.
Still fill my weeping eyes
with tears from the sea, my love.

You went away. You went away from me
How could I pray
that you would stay
here just to play with me?

Some day the storm will die
and calm all the sea, my love.
When this is true,
then we’ll be through saying goodbye.

Catherine M. LeGault


We will around the old hag dance
When you and I will Maying go,
While she sucks her white hair
And cools her heat with melting snow.

"Two sisters had I once,
Two sisters have I still
Two sisters wait in my silly head
If any man but will."

She invites my fearful girl
With too much knowing glee
And she mocks with senile sense
By tonguing her lips towards me.

"You shall dance to lame laughter,
Soft as a bitches eye and fur.
We three are here ever after
Despite your love for only her."

Edward N. Halperin


How can I write about love baby?
What do I know about love baby?
When I try love baby, I always get it wrong.
Moon, June and spoon do not add up to groom.

Love is wild,
Love is free.
Never gets me where I want to be.
Here I am in my nice little room,

But I’m lacking company.
Life is good and life is pleasant,
But it’s boring to be alone.
Shall I buy a mutt?

Shall I clean the house again?
I’m glad to go to work today to get out of my rut.
There’ll be people; lots to see and say.
Baby will you be there baby?

Despite those self help books:
Center Your Self; Being Alone and Loving It, et al.,
We are communal animals from time’s beginning,

For better or for worse.

Ellen Kaplan


she speaks to me
as I drink my wine and make dinner
though lost, she still sings and dinner is late
and the buzz in my head makes me sentimental

for foolish things--lost love and ambition
things I don¹t touch in a day
that is dedicated to the sedate
all her songs slow and sad like her

lost life. A half a glass of chardonay
and a half dead jazz singer
but for the way she still sings to me
which makes a poet of a housewife

Lili Arkin


Hanging on by slender vein, weary and forlorn,
The last leaf left on mighty oak looks upon the ground.
"It's so far down, I can't let go," he cried with labored breath.
Then a wisp of breeze sliced through his vein and he floated




He floated to his rest.
He floated to his rest,
And a wisp of breeze was all it took
To put a leaf to death.


Have you a doubt that wisdom's gained by loss
of passion and of youthful energy,
which age transmutes to stolidness and mass,
and grants the loathsome gift of prophecy?

If you are asked a demon to create,
in human form, with gift of human speech,
a child's young mind with wisdom penetrate;
place knowledge of the future in his reach.

Would you deny the wisdom of the blood,
of ancient ocean but an eddied pool,
with memory of ooze and primal mud,
but scarcely altered 'though forever schooled?

Like Dr. Faustus, would you not gladly trade
all honors, knowledge, cursed sagacity,
for care-free youth and lust, 'though devil-made,
and pay the price through all eternity?

Ben Copito


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