Narrative Poetry and Paint Chips

Hey there, poetry friends. Sorry for the missed prompt last week. A family issue was taking up all of my thoughts and energy and I just couldn’t get it done. But I’m back and I don’t plan to make a habit of missing Friday prompts. Which is a good thing, because the fact that I post these weekly has been shared by one of youSusan at https://suestrifles.wordpress.comwho wrote about these prompts in a wonderful article for the Association of Christian Writers website. You can read that article here.

This week we are in the N section of the poetry dictionary and I’ve selected one of my favorite types of poetry: narrative poetry. I love to tell stories and that’s what this form of poetry calls the poet do.

NARRATIVE POETRY Poetry that tells a story. It is one of the three main genres of poetry (the others being dramatic poetry and lyric poetry).

Narrative poetry presents characters and leads them through a plot. Its oldest form is the epic, such as Homer’s The Illiad. Traditional ballads are also narrative. “The Demon Lover,” for example, tells the story of a woman who is seduced and taken away by a man who changes into a demon as soon as their ship reaches the high seas; he sinks the ship to the bottom. The rise of the prose novel diverted more and more of the narrative impulse away from poetry, but some late-twentieth-century poets, such as Louis Simpson, Andrew Hudgins, and Jimmy Santiago Baca, have brought storytelling back into verse.

the poetry dictionary, pg. 184

The Challenge

Your challenge is to write a narrative poem, to tell a story. It can be true, completely fictional, or a combination thereof. The format is up to you. Couplets, free verse, rhyming or not.

The paint chip words and phrases you have to work with are antique rose, surf’s up, mistletoe, mustard seed, skyscraper, easy peasy, and jack-o’-lantern.

I would like you to use at least four of these paint chips in your poem. For an extra twist, perhaps incorporate one or two of the colors themselves, using whatever name you would ascribe to them.

My Poem

Surf's Up

They told Judy she couldn't do it,
over and over the surfers taunted her.
Surf's up, but you'll drown if you try.

Except for Jack, nicknamed Jack-o'-lantern
because of his bronze tan and slate gray eyes.
He encouraged her, told her that with faith
as small as a mustard seed she could surf
with the best of them. It's easy peasy.

A wave rolled in as high as a skyscraper
and crashed on the shore. Judy's faith 
in her ability to surf was small as a grain of sand.

But Jack believed she could do it.
He promised to teach her and he was the best.
Maybe that, and sun shining in the cerulean sky, were enough.

Let's go to the a different beach,
away from these naysayers.

She picked up her antique rose surfboard
and followed Jack to his VW Van. 
Her heart skipped a beat to think
that maybe, just maybe, he really liked her.

Remembering that day, sitting in the waiting room
of her counselor's office, tears welled in her eyes.
Perhaps it would have been better if she'd tried to surf alone
and drown, like the other surfers warned.

Judy's new counselor, a sweet middle-aged Christian woman,
called her back for their first session together.
Hi, I'm Melinda. Tell me why you're here.
She had no idea where to begin. 
But the warmth of Melinda's smile assured her
there was hope. There is always hope.

Okay, that took a dark turn before I knew where it was going. Yikes! But I couldn’t leave it there. I despise a story with a sad ending. There is always hope. Always.

Your Turn

Okay, now it’s your turn. Write your narrative poem in the comments if you like. Or you can post it on your blog and drop a link in the comments. It would be awesome if you shared this prompt with your other poet friends, like Susan did. The more the merrier. I love reading what you all come up with based on a dictionary entry and a few paint chips.

I am a Jesus Freak, and I don't care who knows it. I am a wife, mother, sister, aunt, daughter, and friend. My blood family is only part of the larger family of Christ that I belong to. I love to write, especially about my dear Savior.


15 Responses

  1. Nice to have you back Linda! I’m not sure this serves as a narrative, but here it is. Sorry its not happy. And it is totally fictional in my world right now anyways.

    Its Not Always a (Good)-bye

    Her hands ran across the glass table
    An antique rose sealed between glass
    She remembered when he gave it to her
    This was how she made the memory last
    Petals intact
    Beauty captured
    Breathless and still
    Now she was the one that couldn’t breathe
    Autumn turned to winter too soon that year
    Sudden death is a whiteout
    No colors appear
    Now she felt like a jack-o-lantern
    A flame in a hollow shell
    Burning tears run down
    Till all is melted on the ground
    How many more mustard seeds would grow
    Mistletoe above her waited
    But no one kissed

  2. I liked the hopeful ending in yours and I wonder what happened to Jack. I feel confident she learned to surf.

    Here is my attempt at the challenge:


    The Night of the Jack-O’-Lantern

    The jack-o’-lantern’s hollow nose
    turned darkly down on Antique Rose.
    It’s scornful eyes pierced Mistletoe.
    It’s toothy mouth warned them to go:
    “It’s easy peasy in the street
    Where greens and pinks and yellows meet.”
    But pleasure wasn’t why they came.
    No morbid magic, flashing flame
    Could substitute for righteous light.
    They stood their ground, prepared to fight.

    The jack-o’-lantern burnt all night.

    It’s pride at dawn collapsed within.
    Mistletoe knew they would win
    And so did joyful Antique Rose.
    Their faith like Mustard Seed’s still grows.

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