Lost in Westchester: A Poetry Month Odyssey

Bob Varettoni
4 min readApr 7, 2024

April is, of course, Poetry Month — a fact that should strike fear and wonder into the hearts of anyone who reads what I post.

Yesterday, at the Tarrytown Reservoir

I am, of course, once again, following a random poetry prompt to write a poem each day in April 2024. Some of the poems will undoubtedly wind up here because I consider myself in the Prehistoric Man phase of my poetic path. My MacBook Air provides durable pigments, and these posts provide the walls of a cave that will go undiscovered for melleniums.

Yesterday, I sought inspiration at the Westchester Poetry Festival. My ticket claimed the festival would be held at the Hudson Valley Writers Center at Philipse Manor Station in Sleepy Hollow. Which turned out to be deserted when I arrived. I didn’t take this as a metaphor. I didn’t take this as a practical joke or as a sign I was unwanted. No, I persisted.

A flyer at the haunted train station informed me that the festival was instead being held in Dobbs Ferry, a mere 6 miles away as the foreboding crow flies, but a 25-minute odyssey amid winding roads and long stop lights in weekend Westchester traffic.

I eventually arrived there. There, being The Masters School, a complex of buildings surrounding a crowded playing field, which was absurdly trafficked and crowded despite seemingly no athletic event in progress. Then again, perhaps it was track and field.

Still, I persisted. I found the festival, which looked like this from above:

I enjoyed myself There. I ate free cookies and brownies. The poets informed, provoked, and inspired me. Arriving back home, I prompted myself to create my own “writing prompt” poem. This:

A Dozen Poetry Prompts Inspired by a Visit to the Westchester Poetry Festival

1. The Tony Soprano Rest Area on the New Jersey Parkway is under constant renovation. Is there a poem you are constantly revising? Why, and when do you think it will be finished?

2. Consider the beauty of the bird-of-prey wingspan of the Tappan Zee Bridge. What work of architecture inspires you? Animate or personify it.

3. Imagine you are lost in Dobbs Ferry, New York. Are you anxious, frustrated, reminded of a recurring nightmare? Write about your emotions.

4. While driving and still lost, you approach a scenic waterfall and reservoir in Tarrytown. Do you pull over to admire it, perhaps take a photo? Why or why not?

5. The site the festival isn’t clearly marked amid a complex of school buildings. You chance to see an old man in a skull cap with an oversized scarf draped around his shoulders walk out of one building, so you decide to enter where he exited. Describe someone you would suspect is leaving a poetry festival.

6. The festival’s location is indeed a seemingly abandoned mansion. Write about a place or a person you think has been abandoned. What meaning does this place or person have hold over you?

7. Arrive at intermission. The MC advises that student poets have already read their works and the “Capital P” poets will soon read from their books, for sale at the table near the refreshments. Write about the difference between a poet and a Poet, or about an intermission in your life.

8. Louise Gluck wrote a promotional blurb for one Poet’s book. What poet or Poet, living or dead, would you want to review your work? What do you hope he or she would write?

9. Imagine that you are a Poet who teaches literature. Write a poem that weaves in lines or images from Shakespeare’s “King Lear” or Checkhov’s “Gooseberries.” Alternately, write a poem about Donald Trump without mentioning “Donald Trump.”

10. One Poet reads a ghazal poem, (pronounced “ghuzzle” although you hear “huzzle”). You are meant to hear a repeating rhyme or phrase at the end of each of at least five couplets of the same length. Write a ghazal about love, human or divine.

11. One Poet didn’t show up. Write about someone who didn’t show up for you. What was the cost to you, to them?

12. One Poet was inspired by this fortune cookie: “We are made to persist. That is how we know who we are.” Open a fortune cookie. Write a poem.

First thing this morning, on the Seventh Day of Poetry Month, I received this prompt in email from Another Poet (say hi to Dimitri):

I promptly scratched this into the wall of my virtual cave:

Lost in Dobbs Ferry,
where Westchester poets hide.
I seek to destroy.

Originally published at https://varettoni.blogspot.com.

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Bob Varettoni

Posting here about writing, books, tech, family, baseball. More about me at bvarcommunications.com