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May 2011

Poets Online has been posting prompts since 1999. No matter what the prompt says, there are always at least as many submissions that have nothing to do with prompt as there are poems that address the prompt.

Many of the poems are off-topic are ones we would consider for publication if they addressed the current prompt. It is easy to set aside the cliched love poems, religious and political prompts and sets of a dozen poems sent in by one person.

But, at times, there will be a poem that we like that has nothing to do with the prompt. I will ask the other readers to consider again - "Does it address the prompt? Am I'm missing something?"  Usually the answer is No.

But we save all the submissions in mail folders "Used" and "Rejected" and a few in that latter folder get a mail flag on them as being a poet that we may want to keep an eye out for next time.

Occasionally, I will email those poets with some encouraging rejection note. (Yes, there is a such a thing. I have received them.) Sometimes we suspect that the poet is a young poet in age or experience. Rejection is tough.

When we fell behind in our reading and updating recently (end of the semester, exams, unpoetic papers to grade and that distracting thing we call Life), we went back the rejected folder and looked for some poems that were off topic, but we liked.

Don't forget that the Poets Online blog has a lot more than just the prompts.


Windshields are mirrors here
when they are intact
fitted smoothly across
foreheads of the abandoned.
Not even weeds grow here
the ground so beaten
and covered with grease
and piles of raked metal.
A light hits off chrome
woman's face, sideview mirror.
I fumble for something
in a long black bag.

John Maffey


I passed the entire afternoon
rereading your letters,
but I couldn't find anything there.
Your poems seem less than before,
but they are unchanged.
A few moments are intact -
the old used bookstore
that we browsed,
shopping for dinner and
stealing grapes and cherries,
you telling me that I
smelled like sweaters, late afternoon,
leaves, early autumn.
If I could reread
my letters,
there I could find it.
No more real,
but in a familiar hand.

Charles Michaels


Tell me that there are letters still to be written
and that I have three seasons awaiting me.
The snow is undisturbed on the towpath
drawing a white line along the river.
Despite my youth, I am too old for another autumn
or songs about the moon
or poems that neatly rhyme.
This fresh paper pad is too thick with hope.
My eyes follow the threadbare trails on the floor
to the ragged tassels on the borders
of the coast of this island prison.
I will put down my pen,
follow a trail,
navigate the wrecks
to the door,
the hallway,
the cold morning time beyond.

Ron Campbell


It is the middle of the week and the day.
You between classes and I - just between.

Across the table we talk, smoke and drink.
(Air & liquid, I observe. Nothing solid.)

It is warm enough to sit outside
but I can't light my cigarette in the wind
(Yours is lit. I borrow your fire. Perhaps that is our link.)

We talk until it is no longer afternoon
and then, weary of time,
the evening comes to consciousness.

Pamela Milne


Her rainbowed silhouette framed
by carved maple and her hair.
She is frosted etching on glass,
back-lit aureate sunset
that turns towards me.
Eyes perhaps meet,
ask but do not reply,
close for just a moment
but long enough for the sun
to prism through her
and for the snow to fall
like icy feathers.

Will Brunswick


I found this note
and wondered who wrote it
Was it you
between these rows of books
dressed in gray
You glanced up
when I passed
and I looked down
over your shoulder
at your handwriting
and I thought the air
trembled for a moment
and then held its breath.

Cynthia Carli


bookshop Oxford 1960s
Tenniel Victorian miss
grown-up face strap shoes
striped skirt
bored pre-teen
nymphet tousled hair
bare limbs

March Hare my Ascot hat
White Queen watching
she passes
as close as a chess-piece
autumn perfume
encouraged me to ask who she was
a blunder
she asked me
to buy her coffee.
Down the hole.

Scott Newberg