2013 November PAD Chapbook Challenge: Day 13

For today’s prompt, write a self-help poem. It can be written in the style of a self-help article or book. Or you can take it in a more subtle self-help direction.

Here’s my attempt at a self-help poem:


What happens here stays here
except for what doesn’t and

besides a city hides
beneath the city lights

in the sewer system
misplaced people find homes

tossed to the side they know
self-help means help thy self.


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Robert Lee Brewer

Robert Lee Brewer

Robert Lee Brewer is Senior Content Editor of the Writer’s Digest Writing Community and was completely captivated by the Las Vegas “tunnel people” story (click here to read). While the story has been out there for a few years, he just discovered it a few months ago. Robert is the author of Solving the World’s Problems and a former Poet Laureate of the Blogosphere. He’s married to the poet Tammy Foster Brewer, who helps him keep track of their five little poets (four boys and one princess) and who’s been doing the challenge herself. Follow Robert on Twitter @robertleebrewer.


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233 thoughts on “2013 November PAD Chapbook Challenge: Day 13

  1. Jezzie

    Start Anew

    We’ve had some problems (haven’t we all?)
    but now it’s time to call an end
    to it all and start again.
    Today is our first day.
    Forget all is past
    and start anew.
    It’s up to
    me and

  2. alanasherman

    #13 Self Help

    I Can’t Help Myself
    “Dread Sets In And Stays”
    Cormac McCarthy

    The deep sense of unease
    begins in my gut—what my doctor
    used to call free floating anxiety—
    by noon I’m shaking from head
    to toe. Life is short and brutal
    they say and I can’t figure out
    why the images of illness
    and the end of the world
    are so relentless. Disaster
    after disaster comes, tragedy after tragedy.
    How many can I take in a year?
    By two o’clock I’m desperate, fighting
    my own landscape, looking for the monster
    I long to control before it rips
    my head off. Every day it comes.
    I recognize it. No matter
    what story I tell myself, I know
    it isn’t even a good story—Who
    gets stuck with pain— Alone in the dark
    I know there is only wish (and luck)
    between ourselves and hurt.


  3. bjholmes

    Help My Self Help

    My self needs help,
    but how do I help my self?
    I can think to my self,
    or I can read to my self.
    But does that help
    my self or
    is it self help?
    I think my self needs more help!

  4. seingraham

    How to Regain Your Bearings

    When dark deserts you as it must
    Don’t fight the light, breathe it in
    and swipe leftover nightmares
    from the cavernous space
    that stands in for your mind now

    Let your feet find the floor with that
    automatic thing feet do and stand,
    start moving without thinking about it
    Just get going: bathroom, breakfast,
    meds, get dressed, coffee,
    Do the crossword, no thinking more
    than this, but yes, more coffee

    By this time, check outside and if
    it’s nice enough;
    Go for a walk — same place every day
    Around the lake near your house
    You can begin thinking now
    Consider how you feel…
    If it’s not nice enough for this,
    get in your car and drive to a mall;
    walk there…
    The thinking should commence there —
    same deal

    Every day will be the like this
    for as long as it takes
    Once you’ve been out of your mind,
    it takes a certain amount of organized
    ritualization; a commitment to
    regaining your equilibrium
    that is almost militaristic
    in its regimental severity.

    But it only takes once or twice
    around the block of non-observation;
    once or twice of ignoring the voice that tells
    you that this is wrong,
    that you need to follow a certain order
    and it’s not the natural order of things
    then you know — or that is, if you’re lucky,
    you know…
    that there’s only one route back to sanity

    If you’re not so lucky, you’ll be a long time
    finding this out
    This self-help manual will be denied you
    and you will spend inordinate amounts of time
    inside a place that will keep you safe from yourself
    but won’t help you in any other way…so try
    to learn the procedure, yes?

  5. Glory

    A Lesson Learnt

    How you lied
    broke my heart,
    and never did act contrite.

    How I grieved
    how I sighed,
    at your many hurtful lies

    How you laughed
    at my woeful face
    turned away, showed no grace.

    And now I smile
    forget those lies,
    find new love, in another’s eyes

  6. bjzeimer


    When you go by yourself
    to your feature
    and there’s no one
    to take pictures for Facebook
    and all you have
    is your Straight Talk
    slider phone
    that takes pictures,
    you try to strike
    the best pose you can,
    count on getting
    more than just your eye
    or a lopsided grin,
    hope no one’s watching,
    post your selfie on Facebook–
    that’s self-help.

  7. julie e.


    Remember to trust your instincts
    and wear clean underwear
    Remember when the signals change
    to check from side to side
    before proceeding onward
    let your conscience be your guide
    and always make good choices
    and never forget to laugh.

  8. Rosemarie Keenan

    “Posture is more important to the tall girl than to any other type. The tall girl should live up to every inch of her height to make it an asset.” Beauty column, 1937

    5’ 10”

    I get my advice from the newspapers
    from female relatives
    from Mrs. Roosevelt

    Stand up straight
    Don’t slouch
    Be proud of my altitude

    And if I can’t help myself
    from making myself
    than I am

    my Aunt Helen,
    her knuckle digging
    Into that tender spot
    between my shoulder blades,
    will set me straight.

  9. Missy McEwen

    Natural Hair

    Bring me water/for these flowers/growing/
    out my mind – Erykah Badu

    use the waters
    of lake victoria
    &/or the nile
    &/or lake minnetonka
    to wash yo hair
    you don’t need

    next dry it
    in the sun
    if there ain’t none
    (or if it ain’t warm)
    then go to a place
    where there is some
    cuz sun
    gives it shine

    fo the best
    results do this
    once every month
    & watch
    yo hair grow
    & grow
    like flowers
    in due time

  10. Dare

    All It Costs Is Some Change

    I read books
    filled with good advice
    that was
    Very Wise
    Very Practical

    I heard talks
    filled with great insight
    that was
    Very Wise
    Very Practical

    I attended groups
    Filled with brave souls
    Who were
    Very Wise
    Very Practical

    Theory was
    a piece of cake
    I choked on

  11. gl86

    Your fervid laughter fools no one;
    much less the inspirational words
    that cover your walls and buttress
    Your Broken Home

    A fortress of self-help books can
    tumble at the slightest breeze.
    And the moat is being drained by
    Your Selfish Craving

  12. BezBawni


    people always age
    time would stop for no one
    people never change
    casting every stone

    whether trained or not
    people grow tired
    people grow hot
    always have desires

    people always need
    freedom, water, air
    wounded people bleed
    kind people care

    miles always last
    lost is more than found
    people clutch their past
    go and come around

    people love and hate
    people can’t be holy
    wisdom’s always late
    pain is always early

    there’s a time to thrive
    there’s a time to wallow
    help yourself to life:
    suck it up and swallow

  13. Lori P

    Self Help

    everyone gets better
    sooner or later
    keep on doing
    what you’re doing
    put in the time

    always learn
    learn from your mistakes,
    others’ mistakes,
    others’ triumphs,
    your triumphs,
    accidents that worked somehow,
    ignorant know-it-alls,
    and if you have to—books.

  14. Rosemary Nissen-Wade

    How to Be a Cat

    You may be fat, you may be lean,
    or even something in between.
    It doesn’t really matter what;
    it’s not the waistline makes the cat.

    But you must learn to move with grace
    and be inscrutable of face.
    You need to undulate and slink,
    while not revealing what you think.

    Your deepest thoughts I mean, of course.
    The urgent you’ll convey with force —
    like, ‘Let me out!’ and ‘Feed me now!’
    ‘Purr!’ is reward; chastisement ‘Miaow!’

    You have to train your human pet.
    You must be firm. Don’t ever let
    them really have the upper hand,
    though they may think so — understand?

    But there are limits, I’m afraid,
    to how much headway can be made.
    They’ll never learn to hunt and kill
    although you demonstrate it well.

    But you can show them where you itch
    and teach them proper ways to scratch,
    and how much room you need in bed,
    and let them stroke you when they’re good.

    Your fur and whiskers and your claws,
    you will clean them — they are yours.
    And you will keep both yard and house
    free of lizard, bird or mouse.

    So you establish boundaries,
    and can create a life of ease.
    And if you will do all of that,
    it won’t be hard to be a cat.

  15. Karen H. Phillips

    Day 13
    Prompt: Write a self-help poem.

    The Self-Help Section Is Empty

    I can’t help myself.
    Nobody can help himself or herself.
    All sheep, all gone astray.
    Needing redemption, beyond hope, except–
    the blood, the cross, the forgiveness of Jesus
    the Christ.

  16. Sara McNulty

    Help Yourself

    Help yourself, they say,
    setting down a bowl, bulging
    with miniature chocolates
    wrapped in gold foil.

    He knows he should be
    watching his weight,
    and at present is flanked
    by two thin, animated
    people who seem uninterested
    in the chocolate mountain.

    If he helps himself to a few
    choice morsels, he will
    not be able to stop. Also,
    a pragmatic problem arises–
    how to pile up the wrappers.
    Imagine if someone counts
    them. No, that would not do
    at all. Politely, he excuses
    himself to the skeletons
    on either side of him,
    and moves to a seat
    across the room.

  17. Cameron Steele


    It’s really as simple
    as eating and believing
    that even though
    your face has lines
    and your legs
    don’t stretch for miles
    you are worthy
    of belonging
    to someone who will
    pour over your
    body —

    the way
    you flick through pages
    of magazines
    hungry and scared
    that you will never be
    good enough
    to wear silk
    stockings and
    gold-toed boots
    or even a hint
    of red on your cracked lips.
    Really it isn’t
    easy at all
    trying to be a
    woman when
    every glossy
    pages shows
    you what you cannot
    be unless you
    deny your body
    and starve
    your soul. But
    it’s never as
    complicated as
    you believe.

    1. PressOn

      Your title and the long, think appearance of the poem accentuate your summation, or so it seems to me. The key phrase, as I see it, is “worthy of belonging to someone.” I think this is excellent.

  18. De Jackson


    Pull yourself up and out and on
    -to something much less fragile.
    Tie them loose, though, for bare
    -foot is best in these shifting

    sands. Help yourself to second
    helpings and thirds and fourths,
    if that’s your thing. Pay no atten
    -tion to the starving man in the

    corner; he’s been here awhile.
    Wait. Maybe ask him one quest
    -ion, tell him one lie. Has he
    been to hell and back yet? Have



  19. LeAnneM

    California Drumbeat

    Spirit Rock, or

    Sweat Lodge

    Shadow Yoga
    Soul Retrieval
    EFT, or

    Circle Walking
    Triple Goddess Magick

    Drum Circle

    Soul Collage

    Deep Writing
    Singing Bowl
    Bodywork, or

    Byron Katie
    Pema Chodron
    Don Miguel, or

    Joshua Tree
    Morro Bay
    Sebastopol, and

  20. bethwk

    Aunt Eliza’s Advice for Lost Children

    Once upon a time there lived a golden child
    who followed a trail of bright flowers
    deep into the heart of the forest.

    That’s you, in case you hadn’t picked it up,
    and the forest is the life you are wandering in.
    This is the story you chose for your own
    in those rainbow days before you were born.

    Oh, for most of us, and much of the time,
    the forest is fairly navigable, and not too scary.
    But sometimes we get caught in the brambles,
    overwhelmed by the shadows, befriended
    by suave and creepy fellows in wolfskin.

    We forget how to find our way,
    forget that we are the main character,
    the child of the glorious day,
    forget our identity,
    forget our destiny, our star
    forget how to follow our guides,
    forget who they are.

    So step into the clearing, Dearies.
    Have a seat by the fire.
    Here’s a little advice:

    Keep following the flowers,
    the butterflies, the little birds,
    whatever drew you in here in the first place.

    Go ahead and flirt with the wolves,
    but don’t give them Grandma’s address.

    Breaking and entering is still
    breaking and entering, Sweetie,
    even if it’s a cute little cottage.
    You never know what’s in the oatmeal.

    Listen to the doll your mother gave you.
    Your mother’s voice inside yourself
    will always lead you true.

    Beware of riddling with old women.
    Always remember your manners,
    and always be kinder than necessary.

    There’s a happily-ever-after
    right around the bend,
    but you might have to travel
    half a lifetime and complete
    three impossible tasks
    to reach it.

    1. PKP

      This made me cry with the beauty of it all – and the synchronicity with a larger piece I’m working on now… Thank you – it is a wonderful poem and the last I shall read on this prompt <3