November Yeats challenge: Day One

November is the month when those of us who write are encouraged (or goaded) to finish or start that manuscript, to take that brilliant idea and give it life. It’s a challenge I’ve accepted on previous years and have written, if not the full 50,000 words of the challenge, a goodly chunk.

This finishing off of great ideas though inevitably poses the question of what next. For writers, the answer is always, to get it published. That, dear reader, is easier to rattle off than to do, and there is nothing more depressing than having a beautiful story that nobody wants to read.

So, this year, instead of continuing my alternate history/parallel universe storyโ€”a lonely boy discovers how to get his nose out of his navel and let himself be rescued by an Iron Age girl with attitude, who also happens to be the girl in his class who is missing and feared murdered by her violent step-fatherโ€”I’m going to write poetry instead.

I like my story and have enjoyed plotting it out, but I dread finishing it and having to put it on the pile with my other unsung masterpieces. There are no expectations with poetry. It’s a personal effort, written for personal reasons, and I certainly don’t feel compelled to see myย  efforts in print.

For each day of this month of frenzied novel scribbling, I am going to post a quote, a handfull of words from a poem by Yeats, and let his magic inspire a poem. Limiting the prompt to just a line of poetry has been hard, as Yeats often spins a single image across half a poem, and I might have been a bit cack-handed with the cut-off point.

Anyone who cares to join me is very welcome. Just leave a link to your poem in the comments or do a pingback so I can read it. May all the saints and all the old gods inspire you ๐Ÿ™‚

“they will ride the North when the ger-eagle flies,

With heavy whitening wings, and a heart fallen cold:” โ€”W. B. Yeats


This is my first Yeats-inspired poem.

The dark half of the year


The dark half of the yearโ€™s upon us

Galloping with the sound of the wind

That pours from the north, cold as hunger.

The dark half of the yearโ€™s upon us

And the moon has horns of silver light

That mask the starry host from sight.

The dark half of the year comes swift

But draws on slow as a hagโ€™s shambling

On the rocky cliff road.

In the darker part of the year I creep

Beneath the bare oak with the hare

And wait for the sharp bright sun of spring.





Published by

Jane Dougherty

I used to do lots of things I didn't much enjoy. Now I am officially a writer. It's what I always wanted to be.

66 thoughts on “November Yeats challenge: Day One”

  1. I thought this Yeat’s line is “so Jane,” and I love this wild, romantic thrill of a poem that you’ve written from it. I’m just finishing breakfast. I will have to ponder for a bit. ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. I’m glad you like itโ€”poem and line. It was harder than I expected to find short lines as prompts, so some of them are several lines of poetry. I have a head start on you because I know what the next day’s quote will be ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Have fun with your Yeats month, Jane! I will be off in the NaNo trenches, spitting out — odds are — a novel that nobody will ever read. But who knows? Good things do sometimes happen to people who write. But I see what you mean: good things happen *immediately* to people who write poetry. I feel the same about the flash fiction I post on my blog (which I won’t be doing for a month). Hm, better get started on that novel…

      1. And time. And concentration. And ideas for the next sentence…. I really should feel a ton more prepared than I did last time, but that blank page is a bit intimidating. I realize that this is the first time I’ve sat down to deliberately write a novel. That first one, I thought it was going to be a short story, and I was 30K into it before I realized I was nowhere near the midpoint yet. So when I added on 60K words to that one for NaNo 2015, I was already started.

        Okay, deep breath: the page is only blank until those first few words get written, and those don’t have to be any good. ๐Ÿ™‚

      2. Not sure I could do that, start from a blank page with no plan. When I’ve done NaNo it’s been with a story already started that I was picking at from time to time. It needed a push of concentrated writing to get it going. It worked, but a year later I haven’t done anything with the finished product!

      3. Oh no, I couldn’t do that either. I have a blank page with “chapter 1” at the top, but I also have pages upon pages written up of character ideas, world-building ideas, plot point ideas, etc. Of course, I got to the end of Day 1 (6772 words, whew!) and realized that an awful lot of that world-building was woefully underdeveloped and needs an instant overhaul if I’m going to figure out what happens next.

      4. The world-building aspect is exactly thatโ€”it builds up brick by brick. That’s the part I enjoy most, going back over a finished novel and adding layers to the world I’ve got to know.

      5. I agree, it’s fun! Some of the world-building I’ve already committed to with other stories set in the same world, so I have to make sure it all matches. But this story in set in a different area and time, so I have to put some thought into what their religion(s) would be, given what I know the religions *will* be later, and how they might evolve through syncretism or schisms. Most of the rest of the world-building that has to do with descriptions, I’ll fill in and/or add to later. But I really do have to know things like their religion, and how far it is from one country to the next if they’re going to journey there, etc.

      6. That is part of the fun, weeding out the inconsistencies and adding bits to the beginning of the story that lead in to what you know is going to happen later. I tend not to get too involved with religions. As most of my stories are set in a fantasy world where I call the shots, or a future of our world, I write societies that have transcended the need for religion. Even when I write historical fantasy, I reckon that most ordinary people were much more concerned by their ancient superstitions and beliefs than the rules of a well-organized religion.

      7. I’m fascinated with religions myself, and how they change and merge and separate. So I do the opposite — since this is my fantasy world and I call the shots, I get to do whatever religions I want! But then, I’m the only one who knows which gods are real and which aren’t. ๐Ÿ˜‰

      8. Oh yeah, lots of them. So I have religions that think they’re at odds with each other who are actually worshiping the same god. I have religions who think they’re worshiping the same god that are actually worshiping different gods. I have religions that are worshiping false gods (who may or may not be accidentally doing arcane magic and thinking it’s divine magic) and religions whose gods started out real but have lost interest and wandered off. And I have “religions” of people who argue that just because the gods are real, we still shouldn’t worship them. ๐Ÿ˜€

      9. Oh, and almost all of the religions have their own origin myth about how their specific god(s) created the world, and every single one of them are wrong.

      10. Well, this is a totally fictional world, so the Big Bang doesn’t apply. And some of the peoples are actually correct that their god created *them* — I have a several intelligent species in my world who were created rather than evolved (e.g., fey, elves, dwarves).

      11. Now that is a step I have never taken, to imagine a world where gods/God is real. It’s strange but although I’m fine with mythical beasts, magic and all kinds of inexplicable natural phenomena, my imagination refuses to create gods. The nearest I have got to that is with ‘Revelation’ which is set in Paradisio which ought to be full of angels and a supreme being…

      12. I am perversely fascinated by playing with the idea that even when the gods are real, mortals still make up their own religions and get most of the details wrong. ๐Ÿ˜‰ And the fact that there are multiple gods (and no, they’re not part of some unified pantheon, they’re mostly independent and some are actively fighting each other) makes it even more interesting, because there is no one correct answer to what “the gods” want or what happens after you die (except “it depends”).

      13. That sounds rather like two negatives cancelling one another out. When the life of the immortals is so complicated, I imagine ordinary mortals just let them get on with it. You can’t be always worrying about which god you might have offended inadvertently.

  3. Break the bondage of tyranny
    To chain yourself with goals
    Like the leafs of fall
    Fallen and crumpled
    Bare tree standing
    You will be left naked
    Take wings and fly

    1. “I will arise and go, now” You’re right. There is more to life than achieving goals, more to creativity than production line writing. Neither of which is bad, if that’s what you want.

  4. Still in bed. After coffee, will need to think if I am upto the challenge of writing a poem everyday.

    “There are no expectations with poetry. Itโ€™s a personal effort, written for personal reasons, and I certainly donโ€™t feel compelled to see my efforts in print” . – well said.

  5. I love this idea, Jane and the poem it inspired you to write today. The ‘hag shambling on the rocky cliff road’ really conveys the snail’s pace that the dark months seem to linger!

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