Thursday, July 20, 2023


Howdy, Campers and Happy Poetry Friday! (The link to PF is below)

Our topic this round is HOW DO YOU APPROACH ENDINGS?

How do we know the last chapter, last paragraph, last word is the right last piece of a puzzle?  

In ending my first picture book, TO RABBITTOWN, I took the advice of poet Maxine Kumin without realizing it.
Image of a large red speech bubble with the following quote in white lettering: "One way to end the poem is to turn it back on itself, like a serpent with its tail in its mouth." ~ Maxine Kumin

Here are the first two pages of TO RABBITTOWN by me, with beautiful watercolor illustrations by Robin Spowart (Scholastic):

I opened her rabbit-y cage
and while she nibbled celery
I asked her:
Where do the rolling hills go?
She said:
Beyond the wheat
to a pine forest
to the edge of it all
to Rabbittown

I snuggled her close
She told me:
Hop there
Ride the green waves
Find the cliffs
past the smell of the sea
There you’ll find
those brown rabbit eyes
And so I went

The child leaves home and joins a world of rabbits, slowly turning into one.  The last three pages read:

I said:
I miss them
I want to run back through the hills
to the tops of the cliffs
toward the smell of mown lawns
where I’ll find
those curious human eyes

And off I hopped
through the pine forest
over the rolling wheat hills
past the smell of the sea
back to mown lawns
and my family

To grow legs again
to grow arms again
to hold my pet bunny again
who holds memories
of Rabbittown.

That book was published in 1989. At the time, I knew nothing about serpentine endings or writing. Nothing. I just liked tinkering with words. And that's how I still feel. Every. Single. Day. (Except some days...keep reading.)

How DOES one write (and end) a poem about endings?  I began by brainstorming:


the last cookie
the last episode
the last stop for four hours so you’d better pee now
the last words before the lights go down and the curtain comes up

the end of summer
the end of the year
the end of the meeting

the end of wearing diapers
the end of wearing braces

the end of the song
the end of Uncle Rob

the end of...
the end

A week or so after writing that, I threw everything into the pot (including the fact that my son's an ER doc) and messed around with end rhymes, without any organization or story:


A fire, a falsehood, a romance? (Swipe right.)

A concert, a friendship, a novel, a flight?

A sentence (that’s spoken), a sentence (for life)?

A shell game, a head trip, a story, a hike?

A hoax at a rally, a ruling, a right?

A swing shift, a bleeding, a day and a night?


A habit, an anthem, a bias, a fight?

A birthday, a luncheon, an obit, a rite?

A card: “may this new year be filled with bright lights”?

Wild rhyme, unhinged rhyme in this labyrinth?

Good night!

Clearly it needed some kind of organizing principle. Maybe the words in each line could be related? Or the lines could all march to a satisfying ending? I sent it to my best friend Bruce Balan, asking:

Dear Poem Repair Person, Please take my out-of-tune poem and make it sing in four-part harmony. 
The suggestions he sent were supposed to go here: _________________________________. But I'm not going to tell you his suggestions because he's right and I'm tired and it'll take too much work and I don't wanna.

Well, okay, I will share one question he sent:  "My real question is, what are you trying to say?" I had no idea.  

Sometimes internal logic, metaphors and a perfect visual shape will emerge from the muck of the marsh. And since none of that happened, I was hoping he would just tell me what I was trying to say. Or just rewrite the whole thing for me. Isn't that what friends are for?
Image of the last piece fitting into a completely white puzzle with these words on the puzzle: "I was hoping that as I moved the puzzle pieces around, they would come together in a satisfying, cohesive click." ~ AHW

Though the poem above didn't have heart or logic or answer the title's question, it was a SO MUCH FUN to write!  

Breaking News:
 sometimes it's not fun.

Sometimes I have to let things "cook" for awhile and the answers appear. But I didn't have time for that--this post was due! 

I decided to admit to you, dear campers, that "I'm tired of trying to figure things out" (phrase from a song by Tom Hunter). I can't seem to write a poem about endings. So, I took Dory's advice. I just kept swimming. I thought about my favorite hike and how last week it was mysteriously much harder than usual. (I didn't know I was coming down with a cold.)


This gentle path along the bluff

becomes a trail up a hill

and now a trek up to the ridge...

that peak is far.

That peak is steep.

This hike is hard.

I hear it growl...

and then it steepens loud

at me.

all poems--or rough drafts of future Pulitzer Prize-winning poems (c)2023 April Halprin Wayland. All rights reserved.

Thank you for sticking with me to the bloody end! I'll leave you with one last thought and, of course, the link to Poetry Friday:

“Poems are short stories
with punctuation disorders”

Tom Cassidy 

Thank you, Margaret at Reflections on the Teche
for hosting Poetry Friday this week!

Image of the end papers from The Witchling's Wish
by Lu Fraser, illustrated by Sarah Massini
posted by Picturebook_particulars on Instagram 

posted with love by April Halprin Wayland with help from Bruce Balan and the infinite knowledge of poets everywhere.

PS from Carmela: Congratulations to the winner of our 2 for 1 Giveaway: A Set of Metaphor Dice and a copy of the Poetry by Chance Anthology 
Marcie F.


Margaret Simon said...

Nothing like the honest truth to drag me into a post. I love how you shared the shitty part of the process and how sometimes it doesn't satisfy you. I speak about that in my host post. We can always revise, but sometimes we revise out the whole original thought we had. When I was trying to be a painter, my husband would say "Stop before the colors turn to mud." Thanks for this post. I am collecting quotes in a new notebook, so I took the Maxine Cumin quote.

Linda Mitchell said...

LOL! I loved this post...especially that last quote by Tom Cassidy. Punctuation is beyond me. I try and try and ugh. Maybe that's why I love poetry so much. In between all the funnies you have provided some real wisdom here. Thank you. This post is a keeper for me!

Rose Cappelli said...

Thanks for the great advice! All of the poems and ideas you posted are special in their own way.

Tracey Kiff-Judson said...

I love the serpentine ending of Rabbittown. Masterful! I also enjoyed your thoughts on endings. Things inevitably come to an end. Sometimes the ending is the hard part. Sometimes it is a blessing. Sometimes it is both.

Linda B said...

All the parts become a goulash of you, April! And the final words, "punctuation disorders" is loved by me & I thought Grammarly would love it, too! Thanks for your wonderful post on how it goes, mostly always!

laurasalas said...

I struggle the most with endings. Poem endings, sometimes (because I haven't said what I wanted to say, so I end up at the final line, just stating it too overtly, too didactically, because I just want to be done!). Picture books, at least narrative ones, always! Thanks for this fun insight into your process! xo

Rosi Hollinbeck said...

This is a wonderful post. I love the serpentine ending. I will hunt down a copy of TO RABBITTOWN and read it. Thanks for the post.

Mary Lee said...

I have a hunch that now that you have said out loud that you are no longer going to try to write a poem about will find you and you will!

Marcie Flinchum Atkins said...

I love that you have someone you can write to as your "Poetry Repair Person," but that also there are no answers--just a question. :) Thanks for sharing your process. Mine is so messy and inexplicable.

maryecronin said...

I love reading about your process, April. Regarding your "How to End..." poem, sometimes I will go back to a draft and ask myself,"what is the line that makes my heart beat faster, that radiates?" And that becomes my organizing principle. There were several lines in your poem that made MY heart beat faster. Thanks for sharing it!

April Halprin Wayland said...

Thannk you for your comments, Margaret, and for hosting.

Pssst! Here's a secret: I wrote the post ahead of time and flew the coop (I'm on Bruce and his wife's sailboat in French Polynesia RIGHT THIS VERY MINUTE!), so Carmela kindly posted my post and added your link. That's what this community is all about <3

April Halprin Wayland said...

All: thank you for stopping by to comment <3 I'm on my friend Bruce and his wife's sailboat in French Polynesia! We rarely have wifi, so this will be one long response to all of you so far:

Linda & Rose it makes me happy to hear the post was useful. And isn't that last quote a keeper? It makes me laugh every time I read it!

Tracey ~ you said it EXACTLY:"Sometimes the ending is the hard part. Sometimes it is a blessing. Sometimes it is both."

Linda B ~ I love knowing that I am a goulash of everything in this post! Your comment made me hungry.

Laura S ~ my rough drafts are so often helps to hear we're all in this together, sometimes swimming with the tide, sometimes struggling against it (I can't help but see metaphors everywhere here...)

Rosi ~ thank you for hunting down To Rabbittown. LMK if you'd like me to autograph a sticker for it. That was a book that fell onto my know that magic feeling? I expected it to happen all the time after that...ha ha ha on me!

Mary Lee ~ I wouldn't be surprised if you were right and a poem about endings finds me...perhaps when this trip ends?

Marcie ~ Bruce and I sometimes simply read each others' poems without comment...and sometimes offer suggestions. It's deepened our friendship and has been a loving adventure as he sails the world.

Mary ~ Yes, YES: thank you for reminding me to ask myself,"what is the line that makes my heart beat faster, that radiates?" When I get home, I'm posting on my wall.

Patricia Franz said...

omg- I LOVED this trip down "end-ing" lane! thank you for your humility in revealing even wonderfully talented authors struggle in the writing.

April Halprin Wayland said...

Thank you for stopping by, Patricia, and for your comment. It gives me the courage to continue to tell the bloody truth!

Karen Elise Finch said...

"That's what friends are for" - ! And future Pulitzer for sure! I love how you've tinkered. I love the randomness of the content yet it's completely cohesive as a thinker's brain! You simply added some tappity tap coolness to it :) And thanks for pointing out Rabbittown. Will seek it out!

April Halprin Wayland said...

Karen ~ I love your tappity tap cool remarks in return! LMK if you'd like an autographed sticker for your To Rabbittown, if you buy one (used, of course)