The prompt for the day is a favorite of my writing twin, but for me it’s always a challenge. Today was called Sonnet Sunday, and the challenge was to write …. Wait for it… a sonnet!
A traditional sonnet is 14 lines long, with each line having ten syllables that are in iambic pentameter (where an unstressed syllable is followed by a stressed syllable). Blah blah blah… read between the lines that I’m not feeling in the Shakespeare way today. Still the theme was love and I tried my best, but what you see is what I got.
I chose a more modern version of the sonnet. I chose a curtal sonnet. The curtal sonnet is a form invented by Gerard Manley Hopkins, and used in three of his poems. It is an eleven-line (or, more accurately, ten-and-a-half-line) sonnet, this the name “curtal”—a curtailed or contracted sonnet.
This type of sonnet refers to a sonnet of 11 lines rhyming abcabc dcbdc or abcabc dbcdc with the last line a tail, or half a line. I’m not sure at all that I did it “right”, but the practice was engaging and valuable as always.
Yes I know…
Some of you are thinking “whatever, Carla”…trust me I feel the same but I press on with the practice because it brings me joy. So… here is my rather interesting take on a love sonnet to a thief. Enjoy!
Perchance one day she’ll catch the old thief who slipped and stole—tip toe hush hush—the wind that rose beneath her sails. She’ll jaunt away with jubilee on a junket of her own motif. She found not a soul had noticed her wilted woes— instead the slippery folk strained their necks to see. Ranting relief brought rancor and rage; after carefully crafted and curated glee, she discovered the power of poems and prose. Freedom fell and she escaped that golden-gilded cage— she found her sanity.
Today’s prompt was a doozy and a good one for Saturday. After running around all day, I wrote in snippets here and there, so if things seem disjointed, you’ll at least understand the reason why.
The prompt was another oldie-but-goodie. It really pushes you to use specific details, and to work on “conducting” the poem as it grows, instead of trying to force the poem to be one thing or another in particular. The prompt is called the “Twenty Little Poetry Projects,” and was originally developed by Jim Simmerman. Here is the list of the twenty little projects themselves — the challenge is to use them all in one poem. Whew! And I’m here to tell you it’s not nothing to attempt this particular prompt.
Here are the instructions:
1. Begin the poem with a metaphor. 2. Say something specific but utterly preposterous. 3. Use at least one image for each of the five senses, either in succession or scattered randomly throughout the poem. 4. Use one example of synesthesia (mixing the senses). 5. Use the proper name of a person and the proper name of a place. 6. Contradict something you said earlier in the poem. 7. Change direction or digress from the last thing you said. 8. Use a word (slang?) you’ve never seen in a poem. 9. Use an example of false cause-effect logic. 10. Use a piece of talk you’ve actually heard (preferably in dialect and/or which you don’t understand). 11. Create a metaphor using the following construction: “The (adjective) (concrete noun) of (abstract noun) . . .” 12. Use an image in such a way as to reverse its usual associative qualities. 13. Make the persona or character in the poem do something he or she could not do in “real life.” 14. Refer to yourself by nickname and in the third person. 15. Write in the future tense, such that part of the poem seems to be a prediction. 16. Modify a noun with an unlikely adjective. 17. Make a declarative assertion that sounds convincing but that finally makes no sense. 18. Use a phrase from a language other than English. 19. Make a non-human object say or do something human (personification). 20. Close the poem with a vivid image that makes no statement, but that “echoes” an image from earlier in the poem.
Below is my attempt at following this prompt. Enjoy!
Wisdom is a window that opens a crack only to shatters into shards— the sound like bells calling me to rise.
My hand reaches to brush away the mess only to feel the sharp bits pierce my skin. Thinking back, I realize the beauty of wonder
lived in her smile, and Virginia was her name but her singing, oh yes, her singing! Her singing was the color of sunshine.
I remember how she looked like the moon and drank water from her hands. Every morning she woke with a headache caused by her flat feet and smize
But her speech,(yes,her speech!) tasted like spicy honey, especially when she leaned out the window and hollered, “Flaming emmets!”
The sudden shifting of love caused her to hate them on sight, but it was her lips that bellowed bright with the dull ache felt deep in her gut.
The bird escaped mere moments before the clouds collapsed and Miss J made her escape. Some day, yes some day, some day she will be free
to follow the fertile flight of her futile fancy. Until then. “Sånt är livet när kjolen är randig”—that’s life when the skirt is striped.
The window of wisdom opens with ignorance while the monkey whispers lies about how freedom and fear walk arm in arm.
Today’s prompt was to take a look around Poetry International for a poem in a language I don’t know. I chose one far from the realm of any possible understanding—Vietnamese.
After reading the entire poem to myself, I thought about the sound and shape of the words, and the degree to which they reminded me of English words.
This then became the basis for a new poem.
What an engaging exercise this was! Not only did the words have to coordinate on some phonetic level, somehow they also had to make enough sense in English to create a poem.
I chose a work based on part of a poem by the lovely and deep Hanoi-based poet, Nhã Thuyên. First I will share it in the original language followed by my English poem. This is only part of her body of work (two stanzas) as the process of creating a poem like this is quite tedious, and time constraints didn’t allow for me to do more.
(***Read between the lines: I still have to keep my day job so my time is limited.***)
quà tặng vào những buổi chiều, trong lúc chờ những chuyến tàu đến và đi, chúng tôi thường ngồi đối diện nhau, để không ai nhìn thấy nhau
chúng tôi bày cuộc đời mình ra đó, món đồ chơi của trẻ nhỏ, mỗi kẻ hiểu về người kia theo cách mình thích và tôi, cuối cùng vẫn chẳng biết gì về hắn
quiet time we hung black cherries, truly lacking nothing, choosing the thick of night to go down along the narrow path,
clinging to the buoyancy of dormant memory. now we counter thorns with those hazy nights that caught in our throats, changing grief to honey.
Today the challenge was to write a poem in the style of Kay Ryan, whose poems tend to be short and snappy – with a lot of rhyme and soundplay. They also have a deceptive simplicity about them, like proverbs or aphorisms.
I’m not sure if I accomplished it, but here is my poem for today.
Ghosts in Late Summer
Words hung softly, but still too loud for a dead thing. All that remained of summer seemed spent, so I ran straight away into the chill of autumn nipping. Never mind the plotted hours of living where we found stolen strength to see past what was in front of our eyes. When I heard your last whisper through the wall, I wasn’t ready to face winter alone. I felt lost, for we loved deeply and without many words. Imagine then my surprise at the loud voice of your ghost.
Today the challenge was to write a poem about a mythical person or creature doing something unusual – or at least something that seems unusual in relation to that person/creature.
I tell you the truth, this one threw me. So I turned to my friend Jennifer Kautz, an expert in mythology. She suggested I do a dragon who serves food instead of fear, so all the credit goes to Jen for that brilliant idea.
I used a six line poetry form with an ABABCC rhyme scheme and a meter of 10, 10, 10, 10, 14 and 10. Not sure if it works in the epic way I thought it might before I started, but I wrote, which is always the most important thing for me this month.
The Horse and The Dragon
The horse met up with the dragon one day To discuss her plans for a coffee shop; With a great aplomb (and a rare Beaujolais) Horse methodically let her vision drop. Thus began the legend of their fine collaboration Cloaked in love and honest admiration.
The dragon shifted shapes from salty beast To honest hard-working entrepreneur; Slowly the vision saw steady increase as a conifer cone became a fir— dragon opened up and learned to serve food instead of fear, and shared with horse a miraculous year.
The prompt for today was to write a poem . . . in the form of a poetry prompt. If that sounds silly, well, maybe it is! But it’s not without precedent.
The poet Mathias Svalina has been writing surrealist prompt-poems for quite a while, posting them to Instagram. You can find examples here, and here, and here.
And as always, you can read my spin on it below.
An Ode To Writing Prompts for Spring 2022
1. Come to the garden gate 2. And lie down in the patch of hydrangeas. 3. Write your name in the earth; 4. Remember how it belongs only to you. 5. Count the plants and name the blossoms; 6. Write their names in the sky like clouds. 7. Choose the most brilliant blue to mark this sacred place 8. and choose to remember (do not be fooled: this is the hardest part)— 9. Choose to remember where you alone have been.
Today’s prompt is based on Robert Hass’s remarkable prose poem, “A Story About the Body.” The idea is to write my own prose poem that, whatever title I choose to give it, is a story about the body. The poem should contain an encounter between two people, some spoken language, and at least one crisp visual image. Here is my attempt.
For me, holding things in has been a way of life. The natural outcome of this internal action has been the external result of packing on the pounds.
I was never allowed to talk about anything negative, especially any sort of family issues in front of anyone else. And I learned that habit young.
Only recently have I learned to express myself in healthy ways, holding others accountable for their words and actions. Only recently have I been able to consistently begin to shed the weight of those secrets, and along with it, has come actual weight loss.
Fifty-two pounds, to be exact.
There is no more holding of secrets, and I don’t plan to pass this on to the next generation. It can stop with me.
“Sssh. Hush hush. Don’t say that. It’s taboo.” Only the perfect blush of color is allowed in our flawless family tree. No embolus of evil, no skeletons here. No binges of beer or illegitimate broods. No family feuds. “Sssh. Hush hush. Don’t say that. It’s taboo.” And so my story begins: I'm not allowed to show disappointment or speak pain into the air. “Surely it wasn’t quite that way. Anyway,it all happened yesterday.” I must move on. Get over it. Suck it in. Suck it up. So I suck up everything I can find until my body swells with the excess weight. My feet slow, my spirits droop, and even in my sluggish state, I hear her voice, “But don’t you dare spit it out.” So I shut my mouth—I suck it up like a Hoover vacuum, like the vortex of a tornado, like a slurpee through a straw, and all I'm left with is one colossal brain-freeze.
Musings on the International Day of Peace and the first weeks of school:
Here I am teaching in-person for the first time in a year and a half. It seems funny to even use the words “in-person”; I mean, how else do you teach?
But now many of us understand words Ike virtual learning, zoom calls, and home office from firsthand experience. This past year and half we learned the value of hunkering down and staying home to “be safe” and the sheer joy of being able to gather together with friends and family. We found peace and made peace and offered peace where none was given.
We saw conflict, felt tension, and recoiled from verbal combat every time we opened a social media app.
But just like teaching, living in peace with one another is less about relaying information or our point of view and more about building relationships. It’s less about building fences and more about building bridges.
So with these thoughts in mind, I taught the students the song “With Just One Small Voice” this week, and we talked about what it means to use your voice together with others to speak out for or against something. I asked the students what things they would speak out about if given the chance.
A fifth grader said he would speak out against homelessness, another said they would raise awareness about hunger, a third grader said she would want to use her voice to encourage others to clean up the environment, and a second grader raised her hand and shared her heart for the plight of Haitian immigrants so passionately and articulately, I thought I had been transported to middle school.
These are the future peacemakers and bridge builders of our world. These are the thinkers and change makers.
And I get to work with them every day.
I will bind myself willingly to this kind of work–to peacemaking and restoration and love because I believe this is what will ultimately change the world. Respect, cooperation, listening with empathy, being willing to change your mind: these are the heart of hope for our future.
And so with this fullness of hope in my heart, I pray that peace finds its way to you wherever you are and in whatever you do.
We are what the world is becoming, so with one small but collective voice let’s sing so our voice is heard.