“A Pass-around Poem: Reflection on Emily Dickinson”

Pass-around poems are wonderful creative collaborations meant for three or more people. The first step in creating a pass-around poem is establishing a topic, theme, or frame of reference. This will be what the poem is based on. The first person then begins by writing a strong opening line to the poem which will establish the direction of the poem (though with pass-around poems the directions can and will change!). The first person then passes the poem to the second person, making sure that no one else sees the line that the first person wrote! The second person then reads the line and writes the next flowing from and inspired by the first. Then, and this is the key to creating a pass-around poem, the second person folds the paper over the first line completely covering it but leaving the second line exposed. The second person then passes the poem to the third, who follows along in a like fashion, reading the previous line, writing a line flowing from and inspired by it, and then folding the paper over it to cover it. The poem is passed around until everyone has written at least one line but can continue for as long as the group desires. It is interesting to allow the person who wrote the first line to also write the last line as this can bring a “coming full circle” effect to the poem. At the end, the poem should resemble one or more tightly folded pieces of paper. Now the greatest fun . . . open, read aloud, and enjoy the twists and turns your pass around poem taken!

A room of her own and
A certain slant of light
Both of which I made my own
And am honored.
A basket full of gingerbread
Lowered from the window
Of a very private home.
Moderate temperatures made
The burial ground tolerable;
Poem 341 as freezing persons
Recollect the snow – first chill.
Her passing noted on her tombstone
Was in the spring, still.
Walking the sculptured stone garden round
Granite memories in different versions.
Walking past past persons,
We are passing
Called back from life,
Life’s passing thrill.
As I stood beneath this massive oak
I heard the calls of feather’d dreams
That have all flown south.
The wind blew through the barren branches
And moved the sun’s influence
From one eye to the other.
I stopped inside the sacred room
Where many secrets were kept.
I looked at the faces and saw the thoughtful looks.
I admired the shadows coming
Through the thick glass pane.
The rooms are cool,
With scents of long dead afternoons.
I stand in a sliver of sunshine and marvel
At the patterns on the cracked floors.
And I fold myself neatly with the light
And place us both together at the foot of the bed.

~Transcendentalist Travelers 2006




This poem was composed on March 11, 2006, in Amherst, Massachusetts.


“American Transcendentalism: An Online Travel Guide” was produced by students in ENGL 446, American Transcendentalism, and ENGL 447, American Literature and the Prominence of Place: A Travel Practicum. These courses were team-taught in the Department of English at Shepherd College (now Shepherd University), Shepherdstown, West Virginia, in Spring 2002 by Dr. Patricia Dwyer and Dr. Linda Tate. For more information on the course and the web project, visit “About This Site.” © 2003 Linda Tate.