Thursday, January 3, 2019

Advance Call for Kissing Poems, Plus Prompt

Terrapin Books will soon be taking submissions for a forthcoming anthology of poems on the topic of kissing. The submission period is February 12 thru March 20, 2019. Check out the Guidelines.

Some of you very likely already have poems on the topic, but if you don't, I'm going to offer you some stimulation with the following model poem and then a prompt based on the poem. This poem and prompt are from The Practicing Poet: Writing Beyond the Basics, a craft book edited by me and published by Terrapin Books. 

So read the following poem. Then when you are ready, pick up your pen and write an amazing kissing poem. I look forward to reading your work.

When Sex Was Kissing 

In high school I was somehow able to kiss
for three hours continuously without consummation.
I still remember the underwater feel of the car,
how the windows steamed, the binnacle-glow
of the dash pointing us forward towards the trees,
the jerky light outside of a diver approaching 
the wreck, pointing at this window, then that, 
the policeman asking if we were okay. Sure
we were! The brake handle of the Renault
stuck up awkwardly between us. She wore
the scarab bracelet I'd given her, a pleated 
white shirt with a gold circle pin plausibly said
to symbolize virginity, a green-blue plaid
wrap-around skirt closed by a huge safety pin,
and stockings held by garters. Only her Capezio flats 
were shucked to the car floor. Deftly, she parried
my hands wandering under her skirt, her blouse,
while somehow welcoming my embrace.
Such fine diplomacy might have saved Poland!
I remember how each cubic inch of her was 
agonizingly delightful, the soft hinges
at the back of her knees, her warm wrists touched
with Wind Song, the clean scent of her bubble-cut .
Every one of my cells awoke.
Finally, I went home bug-eyed, stunned,
half-drowned, and sat hours until dawn,
testicles aching—poor, haunted witnesses.

                        Hunt Hawkins 

In this delightful poem, Hunt Hawkins describes the pleasure of a good old-fashioned make out session. The speaker goes back to high school days and recreates the scene from memory.

The charming descriptive details set the time period as the ’50s or ’60s, e.g., the details from the girlfriend’s outfit: her scarab bracelet, pleated shirt, and wrap-around skirt. Notice, too, the virginity pin and the huge safety pin—her protective armor. Hawkins brings in olfactory images with the details of the scent of Wind Song on the girl’s wrists and the clean scent of her bubble-cut.

The poet also employs figurative language to convey his scene. Particularly notable is the exploited metaphor that begins in line 3 with the underwater feel of the car. There was steam on the windows and a compass inside the binnacle. The speaker was drowning in desire.

The metaphor continues as a diver approached, really a policeman. Notice the touch of humor and the casual diction as the policeman asked the young couple if they were okay. The speaker now asserts, Sure / we were!

Notice, too, the well-chosen fencing verb, parried, as the girl metaphorically fended off the boy’s wandering hands. Metaphor moves to hyperbole, the language of love, as the girl’s gentle removal of the speaker’s hands is compared to diplomacy: Such fine diplomacy might have saved Poland! The exaggeration continues as the speaker recalls how each cubic inch of her was / agonizingly delightful and how Every one of my cells awoke.

The poet returns to the water imagery as the speaker returned home half-drowned. The poem ends with a metaphor that makes us laugh out loud as the speaker’s aching testicles are compared to poor, haunted witnesses.


Let’s write a kissing poem. First, go back to the past and recall an important kiss or kisses—the first kiss, a French kiss, an unwanted kiss, a stolen kiss, an illicit kiss, a last kiss, a goodbye kiss, perhaps a metaphorical kiss. Your poem need not recall a warmly positive memory of kissing.

Recreate the scene. Make it clear that your first-person speaker is going back to the past. Use descriptive details to call forth that time: What was the music then or the dance style? What were the clothing styles? Any fragrance from perfume or aftershave? Any local color, e.g., flowers, trees, food?

Be sure to include some metaphors. Try to make one of them an exploited metaphor.

Use some hyperbole. If, however, your scene is not a tender one, hyperbole might not work. Try it and see what happens. If your poem becomes overly dramatic, revise it out.

Tip: If your poem recalls a painful kissing scene, you might find that using third person makes it possible for you to write the poem. In subsequent drafts, the poem might demand first person. Listen to your poem. Use the point of view that best serves the poem.

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