Hello again! I can’t believe that there are only two more days of this year’s NaPoWriMo. I’m sad to say the least. Today’s prompt was to write a concrete poem. Like acrostic poems, concrete poems are a favorite for grade-school writing assignments, so this may not be a first time at the concrete-poem rodeo.
In brief, a concrete poem is one in which the lines are shaped in a way that mimics the topic of the poem. For example, May Swenson’s poem “Women” mimics curves, reinforcing the poem’s references to motion, rocking horses, and even the shape of a woman’s body. George Starbuck’s “Sonnet in the Shape of a Potted Christmas Tree” is – you guessed it – a sonnet in the shape of a potted Christmas tree.
So, my concrete poem proved difficult to post without the shape shifting when previewed via mobile phone or desktop. What you will find is that I have posted an image of my poem for those reading from mobile apps and a regular copy for those reading from a laptop or desktop. Either way you are reading it, I hope you will be able to detect my “tree” form.
are full of
trees like the
in the middle
of the little grove
of trees hidden
behind the new
It was there that
I dreamed of spending
my adult life
clacking the keys of
my old typewriter
as I cranked out
my next best-selling
novel. Then there was
the colossal oak on the
playground--the one whose
ground roots held me like a
comforting mother as I watched
the other children run and play
together from a disassociated
distance. The oak was my friend—
my best friend—and I loved her.
In later years, there was the young
sapling who gave its life to save mine.
It happened when the canoe tipped over,
I slipped quietly into the swirling river, and
I thought I was dead at sixteen--until I spotted
my father uprooting a small sapling from the bank.
He held the tree across the river and told me to grab on;
It was then I knew I was safe in the strength of the tree and
my father. Safe in my childhood memories safe in the arms of trees.
Dedicated to my dear friend who has so graciously allowed others to experience with her how she has processed the religious environment in which she was raised. She is smart and witty and writes so articulately about how she has grown and changed through the years.
I was also raised in this sort of religious environment and can relate on many levels to her story of deconstruction and reconstruction. It is here I find myself in wild-waters, the waters difficult to navigate with grace.
All the stages of grief live in this space of deconstructing and reconstructing—denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. They don’t follow a natural progression and sometimes even after I think that acceptance has settled over my bones, denial and anger can revisit.
You know, just for old times sake.
I didn’t follow a prompt today, instead I let my spirit wander over words until they settled into a poem. This poem and life is a process of growth. My only hope is that I continue to grow and change until I take my last breath.
She looked as certain as the sky without a cloud never questioning life, never doubting God. Her life was as settled as her eternity, and she liked it that way— without a glimmer of mystery and brimming with the loveliest of certainties. After all, on what could she rely if not that certainty?
She found out unexpectedly that it wasn’t the destination. it was the journey that mattered most. When the unthinkable happened,. the restorative property of a palliative remedy moderated more than mere words. In the middle of her misgiving, she plucked some half-dead daisies and put them in her favorite vase while she quietly waited for certainty.
She found instead the pull of the undertow was so much stronger than the weight of her will. In the end it was the absence of nothing and everything that was the final blow to her certainty. It seemed the questions came, all at once, wrenching and pulling her apart before slowly reconstructing her heart. All that remained certain was the presence of uncertainty and a lingering regret for years lost.
Today’s prompt was one gleaned from the poet Betsy Sholl. This prompt asked me to write a poem in which I first recall someone I used to know closely but are no longer in touch with, then a job I used to have but no longer do, and then a piece of art that I saw once and that has stuck with you over time. Finally, I was to close the poem with an unanswerable question.
Happy writing to me! Happy reading to you!
When the sun is laid to sleep, Darkness drips in desperation The universe shifts and suddenly I become your enemy.
Wordless and wry, my will resolves into Nothing that will matter. But why then does hunger remain? Hunger is hereditary—
I read that once in a poem, At least I think I did. I can’t Seem to separate the silk sails from the flagpole standing still
But my strong knees and stiff back Can carry the weight of my will So all is well. Or is it? When the inky black beckons me
To lie down among the lilies, I resist. I draw all that is good, but the leaves still fall. Tell me why do the leaves insist on falling?
Today’s challenge was to write a poem that starts with a command. It could be as uncomplicated as “Look,” as plaintive as “Come back,” or as silly as “Don’t you even think about putting that hot sauce in your hair.”
By the time I started writing today, I was completely exhausted. I had so much work to do after I got home, and by the time I sat down to write, it was 8:20 pm.
Short and sweet is what the day demanded.
Open the book Read the prologue And you’ll know All my intent
Open the book Read the epilogue And you’ll know Where I went.
Open the book Read the chapters And you’ll know What I meant.
Today’s prompt is based on Faisal Mohyuddin’s poem “Five Answers to the Same Question.” I was challenged to write my own poem that provides five answers to the same question – without ever specifically identifying the question that is being answered.
It seems simple enough but proved to be quite challenging. This poem is definitely a draft and I will be revisiting to “tweak” for days to come.
I used the form and format-ish of Faisal Mohyuddin as a guide when I wrote this poem. It felt right to do so, and I enjoyed the clean look of the finished poem.
Five Answers To The Same Questions
I. After breath I found the wind full of sorrow and empty.
II. The baby robin perched still as death before taking flight.
III. Girls dancing unaware (just yet) of the rainbow.
IV. The hoops lit on fire created quite a spectacle
V. of light. I tried to wake myself and found the face of God.
Today’s challenge was an interesting one. I was to write a poem that takes the form of the opening scene of a movie depicting my life.
This year the prompts have all been similar in some ways. There’s not much focus on form. Instead, the focus is just on using words to paint pictures. It’s been a challenge and has tightened my connection with words (or the lack thereof).
I don’t always know where the ideas come from. As I fall asleep, I prick my fingertips and they bleed onto the page. When I wake, the words have formed a poem.
When folks say things like “it’s all about the journey”, believe them. Every word is true.
Here is what I have learned halfway through this month. It is nothing new or even particularly profound, but it is the story of my journey: embrace the past (you can’t escape it), face the future (it’s coming so you might as well face it), and live in the now.
I turn off Main Street and head south— top down, breeze blowing.
I push my hair back, and suddenly I can see.
Behind me lemon groves bear fruit; my trunk full of lemons as proof.
With the heat of midday, I smell delicate decisions— citrus songs, fermenting fruit.
Intersections define direction; not all roads lead back home.
I suppose home lives in the trunk with the lemons, fermenting into luscious limoncello.
Today’s prompt was the challenge to write a poem that argues against, or somehow questions, a proverb or saying.
They say that “all cats are black at midnight,” but are they really? Surely some of them remain striped. And maybe there is an ill wind that blows some good. Perhaps that wind just has some mild dyspepsia.
I chose a phrase from Emily Dickinson who had become my muse for this poetry writing month. It’s rather a metaphor than a proverb but that’s close enough for me today. I’m feeling the joy of tweaking a piece I wrote some time ago when Ryan was still living directly underneath the Brown Line “L” Train in Chicago.
when death comes
emily says dying is a wild night and a new road. i say dying is sort of like walking too close to the rails when the chicago “l” whizzes by--whooosh! nowyouseeme. nowyoudon’t. dying tastes like a quiet color in explosive rainbow proportions. i hear the clacking coming, i feel the rush of wind, i touch the steamy air just before that silver bullet train whizzes toward me.
i wonder if the actual moment of death feels like being a rider on the train watching the people stare as i pass by them.
i wonder if death feels like new life.
i wonder if becalmanddie would make a good slogan on a billboard to advertise dying.
perhaps emily is right after all; perhaps there should be a billboard sign lit in blinking neon lights, guiding the way home on the new road, which just happens to pass a tad too close to the Chicago l tracks—
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 was a bit complex. The challenge was to write a Spanish form called a “glosa” – literally a poem that glosses, or explains, or in some way responds to another poem.
The idea is to take a quatrain from a poem that you like, and then write a four-stanza poem that explains or responds to each line of the quatrain, with each of the quatrain’s four lines in turn forming the last line of each stanza. Traditionally, each stanza has ten lines, and here is a nice summary of the glosa form for anyone who is interested.
I chose a poem by Rumi found in a book of his quatrains (Rubaiyat) put together by John Moyne and Coleman Barks. I love reading Rumi anyway, so I was delighted to find this book in an online format, easily accessible to all.
This is the quatrain or rubyaiyat I chose:
“The morning wind spreads its fresh smell. We must get up and take that in, that wind that lets us live. Breathe, before it's gone.” —Unseen Rain: Quatrains of Rumi
And here is my response to Rumi with each line of the Rumi quatrain woven in to complete my verse of ten lines.
The Wind That Lets Us Live
I am so small a twinkle in the starry night, a single ray of light escaping from behind a cloud. I do not know the strength I own— Like the scent of salty air, I permeate the taste buds. I am alive, breathe in— The morning wind spreads its fresh smell.
I am fearless in my tiny state I know not when or where. I know not how or what’s to come, yet move ahead without an inkling of tomorrows’s fright. I am alive, breathe in— We must get up and take that in,
I must get up with brave resolve not filled with dread or doom. Tragedy might tear apart, yet I choose to stand— to look in the eyes of wailing winds whipping wildly lash and cheek. I am alive, breathe in— that wind that lets us live.
I sing of life; I dream of death. I fear not either one. I see eternity among the stars, still choose to shine my light. Not everyone can see the rays, I find contentment there— moving forward, arms outstretched; I am alive, breathe in— Breathe, before it's gone.
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.