52. The book.

Hmm…this could be fun


52 PROMPTS Cover v3

The 52 project originated as a life-changing year of poetry prompts, published on this site by Jo Bell in the 52 weeks between January 1st 2014 and January 1st 2015.

Now Jo’s prompts – together with ten written by guest poets including Helen Mort, Philip Gross and Neil Rollinson – are available in a single chunky book from Nine Arches Press. It’s an anthology too, with each prompt supported by poems ranging from John Donne and Edward Thomas to contemporary poets like Kei Miller and Sharon Olds.

Who is the book for? Anyone who writes poetry, at any level. Beginners will find a rich wealth of advice and illustrative poems; experienced poets will find material to refresh their practice; and all will find heart-stopping new poems to show how poetry can move, shock and touch us. The first blog (and now, the first chapter in our book) has been re-published here

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I am not yours
than you are mine
in the sense
of dirt, sea and sky
each word is not wasted
to remember
in the lean times)

I read you

the virility and strength of
the young male at his best in the morning
standing tall at 6 a.m. and boasting
crowing about youth and man and purpose
the knowing that you can do

and I read and smile, well past
my prime but making the most of it
still very much twenty-four or five
on the inside, and continue reading
between taking pills and vitamins
and exercising for the lady on PBS

turning a page, and reading the bio
I had to laugh a moment at my assumptions
seeing your lined face, the sometimes
weary eyes, but your voice, still rising up
taking on the day with the great hope
of young men and warriors, of every age

sweating over paragraphs
dainty as lace, and
I trample them
in high heeled boots
to Tears for Fears
face wet with exertion, and
I ruin them
the paper ripping
ink running
until it looks like
something I could recognize
as coming
from my soul

the seafarer


one gift
the right to rest safe on your shore
from winds and tides
to find two bright eyes like islands
pearls set with sapphires



your hair
a strange and lovely storm
magnificence intermingled
your raised hands, guides
eager and doubly precious

Out at first

out at first.jpg

When I woke, I asked for nothing
but warm rain showers, and
you at my side–egging me on
no one else makes me laugh
like that. No one–not even Elvis
can make me blush, still
after all that’s come down

And the rain–with icy fingers
rolls down my neck
and into my shirt
tho–it is not as if
I asked for that–my dear one
I keep secret in my head. One
day of bliss is better than years
of this damn blue fit I’m in

Yesterday, hoping for more
making do, with
poignant love songs and two-bit rhymes
my old flame still burning
though sometimes it coughs and chokes
its embers threatening to go out

The game still playing in my head
nearly called–on account
of an itch
begging me to play a new game
with new rules–
something like a friend
being something like a lover

In my head
In my head
In my head


I was coughing
and choking
a stranger on the bus asked
are you okay mate–
thank you
I just have
the last ten years
stuck in my throat

we rode together
for six blocks
and I said
do you ever just wanna–
do you ever just
want to?
is becoming a scary word



I stomp through your rooms
I scream my childhood until it echoes
I take off my shoes and lie on the floor
feet on the wall while I read

We live here in shifts
you with reality, I with my fairies
wandering in and out with one of them
on my shoulder. Scampering

when you come home you kick off shoes
you turn on music and from a shadow
we watch you dance away your day
before we find another place
to lie through the night

El largo invierna acaba

Attempting to leave behind all of it
the anger and the strife
the inability to forgive–
I bathe and put on something new
I purge my body of everything toxic

How do we live as if the winter was not?
how do I go on pretending we are not bruised–
so I go, so I sear with fire,
I cauterize the wounds
so I go, so I remember
how to let go of the list of wrongs

Without letting go of the wonder, the miracle
as Spring takes over my house,
as love fills the empty heart chambers
still sore
and I weep for what is lost–this day

I tell you, this day is for weeping
for what could’ve, should’ve, and
would have been
without the despicable, with
something more noble
than good intentions

But tomorrow, tomorrow
the weeping will be put away, and
life allowed to flourish, love allowed to nourish–
tomorrow will be today, the anger swept up
and tucked away, put in the bin for the burning
the burning of the last remains of winter

getaway car


was I ashamed
when I wrote the words
that came to my mind
in a rush
reading it excitedly
and no one understood

or was it a secret thrill
a coup Bond could accomplish
get it by everyone without a clue
then drive off
feeling like Pussy Galore

hoarding all my secrets
in shadows
for days weeks
months years
and decades

then like a child
I blurt them out
like exploding candy
instead of
in silky ribbons of caramel
like I mean to