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Autumnal Stroll
by Margaret R. Sáraco

the playground, austere
in darkness, out of

place without children,
eerie shadows cast

from the yellow 
lantern light onto

bucket swings and the 
cedar jungle gym

the wind spreads its spell 
moving the sling, swings

up and down, back and 
forth, ever twisting

on this fall evening 
the leaves abandoned

their trees, the waning 
crescent moon fleetingly

visible in the 
night sky, covered by

stratocumulus clouds,
puffy and multicolored gray

as I traipse through
the resplendent, ghastly

photographic negative
of its daytime counterpart,

I take pleasure in 
its alternate state

don’t yearn for children 
to repopulate

in daylight, with 
laughter, play and song

typing prompt

Current Writing Prompt
Deadline Extended

Space is location, physical space, and physical geography. But "place" is what gives a space meaning, a “personality” and a connection to a cultural or personal identity. It is the culturally ascribed meaning given to a space

I have participated in several workshops that focused on the poetry of place. Usually, we were writing about a particular place and focused on the details and sensory descriptions. The three components of place are location, locale, and a sense of place. In writing about a place this month, a sense of place is our primary concern. That is the emotions someone attaches to an area based on their experiences. 

For this call for submissions, I thought of Exit 13 poetry magazine which is a small publication focused on travel, geography and places where we live, work, and explore. 

This theme is one of the oldest in poetry. Homer’s Odyssey, Virgil’s poems about farms and farming, Dante’s Inferno, Wordsworth's poems of the English Lake District, T.S. Eliot’s The Wasteland, Elizabeth’s Bishop’s Nova Scotia, Robert Hass’s California, and the southern New Jersey poems of Stephen Dunn of some of the many examples of poets who brought place into their poetry. I found a poetry atlas online that puts poems on the map, literally. 

What makes this writing prompt different is that we want you to write about a place where what makes it that place is removed from it. It is a process of subtraction that can make us reexamine how the place is defined.

This month we are using a poem by Margaret R. Sáraco from her new collection If There Is No Wind. In fact, the book's title itself suggests that kind of subtraction. In her poem, "Autumnal Stroll," we know immediately that this space lacks what makes it a place.

the playground, austere
in darkness, out of
place without children,

A playground without children still has all of the equipment but is not a playground in the way that we connect to it emotionally.

A school without students is just a building. The process of the subtraction can be removing people or objects. Take all the plants from a greenhouse. Remove all the food from the kitchen. Enter a library without books. A bedroom without a bed.  

Does this mean that the place is empty and lonely? A beach in the off-season or covered with snow and without beachgoers can be ideal for some people. In Sáraco's poem, the empty playground is ultimately enjoyable. 

The time of day or the season can literally subtract people from places. In "February Evening in New York" by Denise Levertov, it is the usually busy city emptied. 

As the stores close, a winter light
opens air to iris blue,
glint of frost through the smoke
grains of mica, salt of the sidewalk.

As the buildings close, released autonomous 
feet pattern the streets
in hurry and stroll; balloon heads
drift and dive above them; the bodies   
aren't really there.

Place can be applied at any scale - a small room or a landscape that stretches to the horizon.

Wallace Stevens’ “Anecdote of the Jar” creates a new place by placing an object to a space where it doesn't quite belong.

I placed a jar in Tennessee,
And round it was, upon a hill.
It made the slovenly wilderness
Surround that hill.
The wilderness rose up to it,
And sprawled around, no longer wild.

For our January issue, we ask for poems about places where what gives them an emotional sense has been removed. Though the place might become a space, it can also become a new place.


The deadline for submissions for the next issue is
January 31, 2022
Please refer to our submission guidelines and look at our archive of more than two decades of prompts and poems, and our blog for much more about the prompts and poetry.