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Opening Hooks
Posted by: StephenFryer (
Date: September 18, 2004 11:52AM

I've been having such fun at this site, thought I'd share:
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Re: Opening Hooks
Posted by: IanB (
Date: September 18, 2004 06:25PM

Thanks, Stephen. And there's poetry in there too!


Re: Opening Hooks
Posted by: StephenFryer (
Date: September 18, 2004 06:28PM

Oh, poetry. Don't tempt me. What's your favourite opening line of a poem then, m'lord?


Re: Opening Hooks
Posted by: lg (
Date: September 18, 2004 06:56PM

Don't get us started Stephen.

My current top five:

1. She walks in beauty, like the night (She Walks in Beauty, Lord Byron)

2. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways (How do I love thee? Elizabeth Barrett Browning)

3. My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun; (Sonnet 130, William Shakespeare)

4. Do not go gentle into that good night, (DO NOT GO GENTLE INTO THAT GOOD NIGHT, Dylan Thomas)

5. Something there is that doesn't love a wall, (Mending Wall, Robert Frost)


Post Edited (09-25-04 05:00)

Re: Opening Hooks
Posted by: IanB (
Date: September 18, 2004 09:50PM

Hmm. That’s a tough question. And a mischievously unfair one.

The best openings of poems are those that cast an immediate spell, transporting the reader into the special world of the poem and its elements (the style; the mood; the metre; the setting; the subject; etc), signalling that the poet is in control, and impelling the reader to read on.

There are so many first lines that do that, or start to do that. How can one possibly pick a favourite? Some well-known examples:

Full fathom five thy father lies

Tyger, tyger, burning bright

‘Twas brillig and the slithy toves

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan

That’s my last duchess hanging on the wall

Awake! For morning in the bowl of night

I have seen old ships sail like swans asleep

Quinquireme of Nineveh from distant Ophir

Once a jolly swagman camped by a billabong

Obviously these vary as widely as the poems they serve. I can’t say that any serves better or worse than the others.

Your mischief, Stephen, lies in confining the question to single lines. That openinghooks website doesn’t even limit submissions to single sentences; you can nominate whole paragraphs (and there are some great nominations).

In poetry the opening hook may have to be longer than one line. If you judge just by the first line, you’ll overlook riveting opening stanzas like those of Macaulay’s ‘Horatius’ (first line: ‘Lars Porsena of Clusium’) and E. P. Mathers’ ‘Black Marigolds’ (first line: ‘Even now’), and the prize will probably go to some ballad like Banjo Paterson’s ‘Johnson’s Snakebite Antidote’ (first line: ‘Down along the snakebite river where the overlanders camp’). Not that there’s anything wrong with a good light-hearted ballad, of which that’s a particularly enjoyable example.

I’d better stop. I've written too much already. Don’t take any of this too seriously!


PS: For those in need of attributions, the lines listed above are from:
Ariel's song in 'The Tempest', by William Shakespeare
'The Tyger' by William Blake
'Jabberwocky' by Lewis Carroll
'Xanadu' by S.T.Coleridge
'My Last Duchess' by Robert Browning
'The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam' by Edward FitzGerald
'Old Ships' by James Elroy Flecker
'Cargoes' by John Masefield
'Waltzing Matilda' by Banjo Paterson

Post Edited (09-20-04 16:06)

Re: Opening Hooks
Posted by: peternsz (
Date: September 18, 2004 10:52PM

And then went down to the ship, /Set keel to breakers, forth on the godly sea, and

"Rigour of beauty is the quest. But how will you find beauty / when it is locked in the mind past all remonstrance?"

The eye's plain version is a thing apart, / The vulgate of experience. Of this, / A few words, an and yet, and yet, and yet--

The tanned blonde/ in the green print sack/ in the center of the subway car/ standing/ though there are seats/ has had it from

As I sit looking out of the window of the building / I wish I did not have to write the instruction manual on / the uses of a new metal

--these are each hooks from touchstone poems

Re: Opening Hooks
Posted by: rikki (
Date: September 20, 2004 03:08AM

Aha, this is fun. Some random opening hooks that have popped into my head:

Sometimes gladness crooks me like an arm

My foundling, my fondling, my frolic first-footer

The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees

On reflection, it all came down to nylon

I'd shoot the man who pulled up slowly in his hot car this morning

It's an ode to a relationship when you put your foot / through
your grandmother's bridal sheets


Re: Opening Hooks
Posted by: joseph r. torelli (
Date: September 20, 2004 01:03PM

"Sunset and evenigh star,"

"Since there's no hope, come let us kiss and part;"

"The year's at the spring,"

"It little profits that an idle king"

....and, of course, the immortal:

"I never saw a purple cow."


Re: Opening Hooks
Posted by: Marian-NYC (
Date: September 20, 2004 07:54PM

"And did those feet, in ancient times..." -- Blake, JERUSALEM

"Life, friends, is boring!" -- John Berryman, DREAM SONG #14

Several of my friends would immediately think of the opening line of Philip Larkin's "This Be The Verse." Rather than type it here in censored style, I'll give you a link: []

Re: Opening Hooks
Posted by: ch (
Date: October 26, 2004 04:12PM

'Give me women, wine, and snuff!' - Keats

Re: Opening Hooks
Posted by: marian2 (
Date: October 27, 2004 05:19AM

Didn't know Keats watched that kind of movie!

Re: Opening Hooks
Posted by: JohnnySansCulo (
Date: October 27, 2004 10:37AM

Byron maybe, not Keats !

Like Whitman singing the body electric, I didn't even know they HAD electric in those days.......and to continue the rant, the Walt Whitman House here on Long Island, he only lived there til he was like 6 or so.

Re: Opening Hooks
Posted by: Marian-NYC (
Date: October 27, 2004 12:20PM

"Life, friends, is boring!" (Berryman, Dream Song #14)

Re: Opening Hooks
Posted by: JohnnySansCulo (
Date: October 27, 2004 12:26PM

BerryMan would be an interesting Superhero, as well as PullMan that camus mentioned on another thread

Re: Opening Hooks
Posted by: Hugh Clary (
Date: October 27, 2004 01:12PM

Necrophilia is dead boring - anon.

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