Choose Your Own Epigraph

by | Oct 1, 2021 | Weekly Prompt

My first attempt at writing this prompt found me casting about wildly for inspiration, and beginning a draft that wasn’t making much sense. It might shape up into something for a future prompt, but this week, I’m going to keep it simpler. 

As I said last week, I have started writing (and sharing on Instagram) The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson (affiliate link to the edition I’m transcribing). As I write, I put an asterisk beside the poems or lines that strike me particularly. 

I’ve now written 100 poems, which means a fair number of striking lines. So for today’s prompt, I’d like to offer a little collection of those lines as possible epigraphs for your work. And I’d be surprised if this is the only prompt I draw from Emily Dickinson’s poems. 


Choose one of the following Emily Dickinson lines as an epigraph for your work. You may not choose to publish the epigraph, but maybe one of the lines will give you something to work with today. Maybe it will spur you to write something new. Maybe just one word will make it into what you’re working on (I love to mine poetry for words when my lexicon feels like it’s running on fumes). 

In the spirit of transcription, I do recommend that you write or type out the line first. 

Here are your choices:

Thou art a human solo, a being cold, and lone

Wilt have no kind companion, thou reap’st what thou hast sown.


Never mind faded forests, Austin,

Never mind silent fields–


Frequently the woods are pink–

Frequently are brown.


My faith that Dark adores–


She did not sing as we did–

It was a different tune–


I spilt the dew–

But took the morn–

I chose this single star–


My story has a moral–

I have a missing friend–

“Pleiad” is its name, and Robin,

and guinea in the sand.


It’s all I have to bring today–

This, and my heart beside–

This, and my heart, and all the fields–

And all the meadows wide–


This was but a story–

What and if indeed

There were just such a coffin

In the heart instead?


A Day! Help! Help! Another Day!


There’s something quieter than sleep

Within this inner room!


If I should die, 

And you should live–

And time should gurgle on–


Peasants like me,

Peasants like Thee

Gaze perplexedly!


To comprehend a nectar

Requirest sorest need.


“Arcturus” is his other name–

I’d rather call him “Star.”

It’s very mean of Science

To go and interfere!


I’m glad I don’t believe it

For it would stop my breath

And I’d like to look a little more

At such a curious Earth!


Her breast is fit for pearls, 

But I was not a “Diver”–


My nosegays are for Captives–

Dim–long expectant eyes,

Fingers denied the plucking,

Patient till Paradise.