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.
The daily prompt was different today. It was a prompt developed by the comic artist Lynda Barry, and it asked us to think about dogs you have known, seen, or heard about, and then use them as a springboard into wherever they take you.
I made Trace do it with me because I think it’s always good to write. Also, this prompt was so specific and timed that even those who don’t love writing (is that even a thing?!) could do it. I’d love to read your dog writings.
Don’t be off put by the time. You can half the time and get just as good a result. In fact, this is what I did with Trace. Here is your chance to experience NaPoWriMo for yourself and to do something more than scrolling on your phone.
Here are the instructions:
Set up a a 5-10-minute timer and briefly list as many dogs as you can think of. These can be childhood pets and just dogs you came across one day and never saw again. List as many dogs as you can, but try to get to at least ten.
Underline the one dog you're not surprised to see in the list—the obvious dog (because the dog was your first pet, or a family favorite, or one you just saw right before you began the exercise).
Circle the dog that surprised you--the one you didn't remember until you began the exercise.
Set up a 10-15-minute timer and write, to begin with, about that dog. Don't stop writing. Tell where you were, what you were doing.
Write about the dog but also around the dog. What else was going on? Let the writing take you where it wants to take you.
I hope you give it a try. Mine is below, and I post it with a Trigger Warning.
A Tragic Tale in Three Parts
I. The Prologue
Sometimes the ones we love the most get hurt the worst by our own foolishness.
Carmen was such a pretty girl. Caramel colored little pup—Vizsla-like(no wonder I loved her) We all loved her, even mom, and she never loved any dog after our perfect Pepper passed. But Carmen wasn’t our dog, she was yours, and I think you loved her most of all.
II. The Story
The night was dark and rainy (Don’t most tragedies begin here?) The street was mostly deserted.
Most would say being downtown Detroit at 2 am in a souped up car on deserted streets is foolishness, pure and simple. Every one knows the underworld comes alive at 2 am.
The gall and puffed up pride it takes to believe you’ll be fine where others weren’t is enough to blind or to get you blinded or to get you blindsided.
You never saw them coming.
How could you not see them coming?
When you saw the car with darkened windows pull up behind you, what did you think?
Hit the gas! Drive away!
Six guys got out and you thought you would be ok. How could you?
III. The Epilogue
In the end, your face was unrecognizable, but Carmen, Poor Carmen— She paid with her life.
Whew! Today’s prompt was a doozy and just what I needed to recharge my brain.
Today we were challenged to write a curtal sonnet. A curtal sonnet is a variation on the classic 14-line sonnet. The curtal sonnet form was developed by Gerard Manley Hopkins, and he used it for what is probably his most famous poem, “Pied Beauty.”
A curtal sonnet has eleven lines, instead of the usual fourteen, and the last line is shorter than the ten that precede it. The rhyme scheme is 11 lines rhyming abcabc dcbdc or abcabc dbcdc with the last line a tail, or half a line.
There is some mathematical formula Hopkins used to precisely curtail the typical sonnet, but the real cog in the works is the sprung rhythm that breaks away from the traditional iambic pentameter of Shakespeare or Dr. Seuss.
To be completely honest, I have no idea at all what I am doing. I researched and read a number of examples, but each one was different from the other in some critical form/stylistic way.
So, I’m not sure if this is really a curtal sonnet or not, but it is my poem for the day. I chose to use 12 syllable lines and the abcabc dcbdc rhyme scheme.
Over all, under and through, the mystery lasts. Look how I trust and hope even after I rolled Down the hill with darkness closing in on all sides. I realize now the truth of how light contrasts With hope invisible and her friend harrow bold. Oh the tragedy of how disaster divides!
Loneliness overstays; isolation befriends— And I am left wondering how the earth provides For everything missing or lost at the threshold. Look with wonder at how simplicity amends
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 a challenge to write a poem about a very large thing. It could be a mountain or a blue whale or a skyscraper or a planet or the various contenders for the honor of being the Biggest Ball of Twine. Whatever I wanted.
So I sat down to write and this story happened. Weird and a bit quirky, but I tend to trust the process of writing and flow with it.
The Squamous Juke
The size is what she remembered the most. It was silver and purple and looming— With dragonflies dip-dashing overhead And red tiger lilies blooming below.
Imagining it all belonged to her, she reached out a tentative fingertip And immediately regretted it. The tingling moved quickly from her fingers
to her arm, and slid slowly to her heart here the tiniest sliver embedded. They found her like that, clutching at her heart and resting serenely under the stem
of the giant squamous juke tree. The peace on her face showed a kind of contentment she never knew while awake, and for that she couldn’t fault the tree. When she woke up,
she was different somehow—a changed woman who loved mammoth trees, dragonflies, and sun. A woman who would forever carry A tiny sliver of tree in her heart.
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.