Robert Frost wrote that a poem "begins in delight and ends in wisdom." Or maybe it ends in a Tweet.
To wrap up National Poetry Month, we asked our readers to use Twitter format — no more than 140 characters — to formulate their interpretations of Famous Last Words, a poem by University of South Florida creative writing professor Ira Sukrungruang.
Readers rose to the challenge, honing their words into remarkably penetrating analyses of the poem. Some of them read like poetry themselves.
It wasn't easy to choose just one, but Norine Noonan, regional vice chancellor of academic affairs at USF St. Petersburg, scored with her crisp, deliciously ambiguous take:
We love what kills us
or what makes us stronger."
She wins a copy of The Niagara River by Kay Ryan, U.S. poet laureate.
Below are the best of the rest. Thanks to all our readers who showed us that brevity doesn't have to be a limitation — and that technology and art aren't enemies.
• • •
Ultimately, we are addicted to what we think we most want but can never forever have: life.
Richard Downing, Hudson
One dies as one has lived, with cool liberty (eating ice cream) or in frozen slavery (smoking tobacco).
Susan Masztak, Gulfport
Ira's last words
spoken in positive tone, will suggest;
if those that hear can discern;
the nirvana we seek can be found
in life's simple joys.
Meg S. Allen, Palm Harbor
If you're lucky
And your passion's for good
Not weakening with age
Then it will fill your last breaths
An epitaph resonating through it all
J. J. Hinckley, St. Petersburg
Forget railing. Forget whimpering. Forgo banging, even. Go out, rather, with a flourish.
Jeanne P. Hilburn, Temple Terrace
Smoke, a poem, a feeling, a request for ice cream
no fear, no revelation. Not-so-famous last words
put life's end in perspective for the poet.
Margaret Watts, Tampa
This is not about words.
This is about introspectiveness and the calming acceptance of the inevitable;
A poetic primer on dying quietly.
Jim Fleck, Crystal River
Survivors want — no, need — last words to be words that last.
Sometimes, final words endure; sometimes, they're just the end.
Claire Brantley, Tampa
Celebrate death as you celebrated life.
Beverly Wolanyk, St. Petersburg
I can no longer live life on my own terms, but I will choose once more before I give up this life.
Billie Poteat, Tarpon Springs
Like a poem, parting words should be brief and profound; unforgettable caricature sketches meant to capture a soul. Too bad most are not.
Kevin Faugl, Tampa
Death seeks a voice — aims for profound, hits mundane. It looks for sublime, finds ridiculous. We want our 15, get a breath. Life speaks.
Susan J. Johnston, Clearwater
Colette Bancroft can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8435.