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January 2011

The word stanza means "room." The origin is late 16th century from Italian.

A poem divided into stanzas is a house of rooms. It's not a great hall with space not formally separated by walls and doors.

When you write a poem instead of prose, the act of creating stanzas and breaks has an effect. Yes, prose has paragraphs, but they are "logical" in most senses and stanza breaks do other things with those divisions.

or a continuous poetic form such as blank verse has one very obvious effect: to divide the narrative up. When the little boxes, or rooms, into which it is divided are standard forms, such as ottava rima or rhyme-royal, another effect is also evident: the divisions all have the same size and shape.

Then it might seem odd that I chose the poem "A Story" by Philip Levineimg as a model this month since it is all one stanza. Levine is writing about how a story can be a house, a series of rooms, filled with things -

"tables, chairs, cupboards, drawers
closed to hide tiny beds where children once slept
or big drawers that yawn open to reveal
precisely folded garments washed half to death"

For this month's prompt, our subject is rooms, though we'll accept a sinle room too. The form is any number of stanzas, but we ask you to think carefully about how you arrange those stanzas. Should 4 rooms be 4 stanzas? Should the movement from room to room be done only by stanza breaks? If a poem about one room has 4 stanzas, why is that?

If you want to play more with the stanza form, take a look at the accompanying blog post for this prompt.


Framed memories staring at me
in my writing room
sepia of mother
with marcelled hair
pearls resting on bosom
her lips my daughter's lips
her marvelous eyes , with the sadness of mine.

My father, in felt hat,
trying to dispel the look of greenhorn.

Room of ghosts and family lore.
My stern grandfather,
in one of the gold braided uniforms
he tailored so meticulously
for his Russian regiment
it earned him re-conscription.

Grandma in lace collar to her chin
her delicate face
belying the strength she had,
baby on her knee, a knife
carried in her apron pocket
when grandpa fled
to America before her.

All my ghosts
in this room
once designed for guests
who seldom come
and if they do
I fear a single violation-
someone placing a cup on my papers
or carelessly fingering old picture frames.

If the doorbell rings
shall I drape
white sheets
across my memories?

Beverly Rosenblum


My slippered feet move almost silently down
the hall past the blue devils and black dogs
sitting on their beds in their rooms.

A beam of light leads me to the big room
like the light in church paintings
except it points ahead and not up.

The right word is on the table but
like scrabbled tiles, it makes no sense.
The muse is amused.

She lies on my bed when I return.
The loneliness of rhyme, she says,
seems worse in the daylight.
In the photograph of this room,
is one man still,
and all around him is the blur of motion.

Charles Michaels


not a room with a view, as requested,
but a view of other rooms
ten per row and stacked nine high

some curtained and dark
but some open and lit
with people moving about

no more voyeur than you,
I look across and see
one woman undressing.

she looks back at me
but I know she cannot see
me dark in the dark room.

why would you place a tree
full of fruit before me
and then forbid me to eat?

pomology is the evening's study.
the soft flesh, the sweet liquid
the stone at the center.

Pamela Milne


Jefferson’s Monticello is grand and utilitarian.
A room with seven thousand books, a library;
I haven’t counted mine, but half of a (small) room at least.
For him a dining table seats twelve;
My apartment holds my ten closest friends for dinner—
Six at a table and four on the couch—cozy.

His oval flowerbeds and a winding flower border
Three well watered Xmas cacti
Surviving the winter on a radiator.

His Entrance a natural history museum.
Scattered throughout are mementoes of trips around the world,
Engravings of historical moments—the signing of the Declaration of Independence,
Photo collections of friends, family and places.
My life’s history. Not as grand as his, but in my one bedroom apartment, similar.
Oh to have a real garden!

Ellen Kaplan


“Up the wooden hill to Bedfordshire”,
was your direction. And each night
I spent with you I would consider
that velvet gradient and breath

would catch and falter. So steep,
the climb away from firelight into
the half-dark shadowfields above.
Yellow bulbs that melted buttery hollows

into the hard darkness, the ghost-
scent of lavender, the bulk of a double bed,
a grounded barge, and the cold that hung
shimmering like the northern lights.

The cottage is gone now under the roads
that tie another world together. Cars
carry their interiors, brash, impersonal,
through different nightscapes.

Lights bloom within them like
clever flowers; sunless heat like
a birthright; motion as an imperative
in a land that would be still.

Dick Jones


Home for respite from the foreign world,
I learned the news: the house was sold.
My mother, just remarried, saw my face.
What else could I do? she said.
As though I were a child, she talked about
a great big new brick house, and your new room.
She told me, call him Dad.

My mother sorted memories for her new life.
They wound up in his basement or his attic,
or the Good Will, or hung on isolated walls,
not to intrude upon the plush décor
or disturb the paperweights,
the figurines displayed in perfect order.

I found my bed and dresser in a dustless room
with windows not just locked
but bolted shut against intruders.
The closet held a box of diaries, dolls, drawings.
I never did unpack them, simply left them
in that room. It was not mine.

What happened to my father’s clothes,
his ink bottles, his scrawling sloping script?
What happened to his pocketknife,
his garden tools, the letters from his father?
What happened to the chair where he’d sat
at bedtime reading me Tom Sawyer?

Kathy Nelson


Off Rome’s Via Veneto is a reliquary of seven rooms,
Baroque with the bones of four thousand monks,
Plus a handful of orphans whose delicate remains
Hover as the skeletons of angels
Above the tabernacle, itself of femurs and tibia.
There are pillars of skulls here, and chandeliers of scapulas,
And rosaries of vertebrae constellating the low ceilings like a starry night.
There’s even a clock of finger and foot bones,

That always reads the end is near.
God must laugh each time someone visits,
Not because the bitchy woman who demands your donation to enter
Belittles you because as an American

You’re incapable of realizing that life is fleeting;
Nor is it the cliché in the last cell which proclaims,
“As you are now, we once were;
“As we are now, you will be,”

As if all of life is a set-up
And death the punch line delivered by robed corpses.
No, the laughter of God is at the will of these monks
To be part of this display.

Not that it got them out of Purgatory,
But because of the need men have to bond with one another,
Even if they hated each other
When their bones were still blunted by fat and flesh.

Even grotesques like this are preferable to being alone.
And so God, who made us
Out of his own loneliness,
Must laugh at us, and feel better.

Ron Yazinski

There is room within me
room without
That wants to get inside
and bind inside by vow

There are 7 doors
That spread by my core

First is laser red
To keep the good in
and the evil

The next is orange
Which keeps me healthy
My body moving
Exact. ly
as is should be

Above that one
There is no order
This one controls
decisions and emotion
Through a yellow border

Side to side
By call I answer
In green light I find love
in this stanza

Over this
My voice sings true
You will need a blue key
to enter this room

With my eyes
I see the truth
Be purple
Or silver
Or shining blue

The last door you find
The room dis
To a high higher power
That protects me
That guides me
That has my essence

And now you've toured through all the doors
The rooms are all
They hold metaphor
But there's fire within
And light to match
There's life and there's comfort
Do you need more than that?

My room is not physical
But I like it a lot
And when the end decides to come
I won't lose what I've got

Nicola Thoner


within the framework
of a one room house
no windows or doors
no ceiling no floor
she lives unconfined
lost in time
out of rhyme
on the brink
out of sync
dancing wild and free
from within
a room inside a room
within her mind resides
a nesting doll inside
a doll within a doll in a spin
spinning and spinning
like a top in the wind

Marie A. Mennuto-Rovello


The floors would creak
when you would walk through,
thin sheets of plywood
on wheels,
walls of aluminum.
A few rooms were
paved in linoleum.
A few were blanketed
in dirty cream colored shag.

My cousins lived
where there was and upstairs,
a downstairs,
an attic,
a basement and
they called me spoiled,
"the only child,"
of a manically depressed
single mother.
It was an idea their mother
planted in them
and I would often lie awake in bed
trying to understand what I had
that they didn’t.

Oh, yeah,
there was the
luxurious faux wood paneling
the coffee stained, floral print furniture
all that solitary time
to reflect
and the creaks in the night
the floor would make,
just like footsteps,
painting images of axe murderers
and knife-slasher, killers
in my sleepless mind.
I could have just as easily
pictured a father
coming home.
But I didn’t.

And outside my front door
rows and rows and rows
of more
Boxes on wheels
housing best friends
that were destined
to have their homes
pulled away
to far off, magical destinations,
The rather obvious advantage
of mobile home living,
the excitement,
the freedom to be
a transient being.

There was a sense of community
every time a trailer would burn down
all the neighbors would turn out
rubber necked and awed,
we would huddle about
sharing the warmth.
And when those propane tanks would blow
oh, what a show.

I half remember some cliché
how you can’t ever really
go back
to the place you grew up.
It seems to me
you can’t ever quite get away.
People seem to see
those mobile home wheels
forever turning in me.
Every time I speak
those floor boards creak.
There is the fire in my eyes of
Formica counter tops
and particle board blazing,
my sweat smelling just like burnt plastic.
The labels on my clothes might say linen
but I am forever clad in Dacron.

Forever I am searching
for that girl with poor grammar and
easy eyes that match her thighs.
She is an expert at coupling curse words
She wears tube-tops and
sometimes her tits fall out.
She is married to my neighbor
but she fucks me like I’m Santa Claus.
My long lost first love.
I was only thirteen.
I guess by now
she would probably be looking pretty ruff
but damned if she isn't lying next to me
on some lonely nights in my bedroom.

You can move away,
find a new home,
decorate the rooms
any way you wish.
You can burn that trailer to the ground but
the trash,
it dirties things up
for a lifetime.

Michael L Sutter