NaPoWriMo2021, Day 8

Awake and wakeful at stupid o’clock there seemed nothing for it but to see if NaPoWriMo had posted the daily prompt. Given that they are based many time zones away from me. They had and today’s prompt borrows from Edgar Lee Masters’ Spoon River Anthology. I have a copy on my poetry shelves so did not need to look online. There is such pleasure in having paper reading matter during this pandemic. Too much screen time. And yet, here I am tapping away while my porridge slow cooks. And not a surprising acquisition for someone who had an academic interest in 19th century American lit and intellectual history.

Today, I’d like to challenge you to read a few of the poems from Spoon River Anthology, and then write your own poem in the form of a monologue delivered by someone who is dead. Not a famous person, necessarily – perhaps a remembered acquaintance from your childhood, like the gentleman who ran the shoeshine stand, or one of your grandmother’s bingo buddies. As with Masters’ poems, the monologue doesn’t have to be a recounting of the person’s whole life, but could be a fictional remembering of some important moment, or statement of purpose or philosophy. Be as dramatic as you like – Masters’ certainly didn’t shy away from high emotion in writing his poems.

napowrimo.net, Day 8, 2021

My poem’s character died in 1972 when I was in high school. We bonded in Drama Club and somehow I feel she would be really pleased to have figured in a poem. Spoon River is a volume of monologues by the dead, which is also a kind of eulogy.

Debbie Harter

I dotted my 'i's with a heart
when signing off yearbook notes with
'Love, Life and Laughter.'
Though life  was not a long gift
I had plenty of love. And the latter.
I was loved most my sixteen years
of small hometown nurture.
I wore my own Cancerian born heart openly,
just like the dot over the 'i 'in Debbie.
Life ended one dark March midnight
when we plowed into a tree.
Yet somehow it felt whole-
my life was complete
with very little sorrow,
a full heart and much laughter

NaPoWriMo 2021, Day 7

…in which we tackle the short, very tautly structured syllabic forms of either the shadorma or the Fib. We have worked on shadorma in my creative writing Zoom workshops and I cannot say that I am terribly enamoured. The Fib, however, has a basis in natural science, not in alternative facts. Though imagination does enter into it. So I chose the second (optional) prompt for today’s flexing of the poetry writing muscles.

Our second syllabic form is much more forthright about its recent origins. Like the shadorma, the Fib is a six-line form. But now, the syllable count is based off the Fibonacci sequence of 1/1/2/3/5/8. You can  link multiple Fibs together into a multi-stanza poem, or even start going backwards after your first six lines, with syllable counts of 8/5/3/2/1/1. Perhaps you remember the Fibonacci sequence from math or science class – or even from nature walks. Lots of things in the natural world hew to the sequence – like pinecones and flower petals. And now your poems can, too.

Napowrimo.net, Day 7, 2021
The Fibonacci (Spring) Sequence in Dowra

One
branch 
unfurls
catkin's fuzz
that defies hail stone
snow flurry, sleet, overnight frost

Unlike nipped tulips that bend
faces down to the ground
stamina
tested
this
Spring

Spring
coils
ready
to slither
like the sly serpent
out, around, following the sun

Happy poetry writing! Despite a think layer of snow on the ground yesterday at dawn, and hail pellets and sleety rain drops, it all melted away by 10am. But the daffodils and tulips have taken a bit of a battering.

Buddha Daffodils
Woodland garden in Spring

NaPoWriMo 2021, Day 6

fate destiny breathing

I seem to be waking earlier than usual, which is allowing for poetry writing in the morning. Which has a knock on effect of allowing some posting time in the day. So I decided to do NaPoWriMo Day 6’s prompt while I am awake and rarin’ to go. (Which dear friends will tell you is not really me. I am usually an object of amusement in the morning.) Here is today’s prompt.

Go to a book you love. Find a short line that strikes you. Make that line the title of your poem. Write a poem inspired by the line. Then, after you’ve finished, change the title completely.

Holly Lyn Walrath, NaPoWriMo.net, Day 6, 2021

As it happens I generally grab a poetry anthology first thing. Today it was Clive James’ The Fire of Joy. Since Walrath reckons really good poems need a killer first line I picked this from my random opening of the book.

I know that I shall meet my fate

W. B. Yeats, An Irish Airman Foresees His Death
Breathing 

With each breath that takes me nearer death
curiosity and courage
carry me through climate both clement
and complex.  On a chart's vertex
you find your fate is awaiting you.
It crouches like the sleeping cat
alert to its moment with one eye
half-open, half-shut. What stranger
will walk in? What global happening
will call and you can answer, "Yes!"
With that affirmative breath you step
to the edge. Fly? Die? Who knows?
But in that moment's embrace you meet
all three Fates. What we spin and weave
is complete. The thread is cut. Fini!
Yet what could be worse than forever
waiting just for the deciding time.
To never arrive.  For each breath
simply to carry you nearer death.
To have failed the moment. Walked passed
the person, the place of destiny.
Know that you shall go and meet fate.
That you and that moment suspended
in time are one, in harmony.
You are history, not just your fate.

I usually publish my weekly poem on a Tuesday these days. Though Sunday may sometimes offer a bonus poem. So this counts as this week’s poem. Though there may be more if I keep waking early.

Featured image is a Photo by Keith Hardy on Unsplash

NaPoWriMo 2021 Day 5

Just when I said I would not be frequently posting during NaPoWriMo 2021, I contradict myself. Partly because I was awake earlier and felt rarin’ for a poetry prompt. Also, one of the examples for today’s prompt is entitled “Pennsylvania.” Since I was reared in that state I felt that I needed to rise to the occasion. Also, the prompt kind of irritated me. I resisted it. And then I riffed …But you may want to refer to Natalie Shapero’s poem “Pennsylvania” to see what I did with it. The inner light referenced in Shapero’s poem was a phrase popular with Quakers, who founded the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. My reference is less oblique.

This prompt challenges you to find a poem, and then write a new poem that has the shape of the original, and in which every line starts with the first letter of the corresponding line in the original poem. If I used Roethke’s poem as my model, for example, the first line would start with “I,” the second line with “W,” and the third line with “A.” And I would try to make all my lines neither super-short nor overlong, but have about ten syllables. I would also have my poem take the form of four, seven-line stanzas. I have found this prompt particularly inspiring when I use a base poem that mixes long and short lines, or stanzas of different lengths. Any poem will do as a jumping-off point, but if you’re having trouble finding one, perhaps you might consider Mary Szybist’s “We Think We Do Not Have Medieval Eyes” or for something shorter, Natalie Shapero’s “Pennsylvania.”

NaPoWriMo.net, Day 5 2021
The State of Utopia

Other children knew church, factories,
coal mines, farms, strip malls and Dairy Queen.

I knew confusion.

I thought God was transcendent, not
confined within buildings and rites.

In school, it was mentioned our state was
William Penn's "Holy Experiment."

There's such a thing?!

There were reams and screeds written
throughout the 19th century -

obsolete schemes for a better world -
best for love and kindness.

Evangelised. Despised.

Anywhere a chancel light glows
within dreams green utopia.

One of the reasons for not posting as often is that even re-worked posts are not eligible for submitting to publications or competitions. One NaPoWriMo poet I follow erases part of the work after a few days. This feels like a lot of admin. But some I will hold back for future reference elsewhere. Such is my rationale in 2021. But then again, I may contradict myself!

The featured image of the Susquehanna River is Photo by USGS on Unsplash.

NaPoWriMo 2021, Day 4

I have been faithfully writing a poem a day this year, even if it is just a haiku or senryu in my bedside journal. For NaPoWriMo 2021 I am not being slavish about posting every single day. For instance, the past three days have been warm and sunny in my part of Ireland. When you live in the country you work with the weather. I despatched nine loads of laundry to line dry, and then launched into some house and garden paint projects to freshen us up. Keeping active and creative is good for our mental health, especially this winter of Lockdown. Changing the hobby creative activity itself can reinvigourate your writing. So that is what I did for the first few days of NaPoWriMo, working away in the sunshine by day and writing last thing at night in my notebook.

I congratulate those poet FBF who have been faithfully posting on their page daily. But this year I have decided to be flexible in terms of daily posts. I have my hands fairly full with managing the Geopark Poetry Map project. Also, I am mindful that I need to pace myself given the toll of Lockdown Fatigue. Last week, I was fortunate to have a Zoom workshop for Cavan Creative types with Miffy Hoad of Mental Health Ireland. I have been working hard on keeping my five pillars of mental health upright this past year: Connect, Be Active, Take Notice, Keep Learning and Give. I need to do some work on Take Notice. Which I am doing. Pace, pace, pace. As Cristina Baldwin writes: “Go at the pace of guidance.”

I loved the NaPoWriMo Day 3activity of creating a personal universal deck as a writing tool. I will get round to it this week, but must check my card stock stash first. It strikes me as a really useful tool for prompts that I will pass on to my students.

But now for the Day 4 2021 NaPoWriMo prompt:

Poetry often takes us to strange places – to feelings and actions that are hard to express except through the medium of a poem. To the “liminal,” in other words – a place or sensation that exists at or on both sides of a boundary or threshold, neither one thing or the other, but something betwixt and between.

In honor of the always-becoming nature of poetry, I challenge you today to select a photograph from the perpetually disconcerting @SpaceLiminalBot, and write a poem inspired by one of these odd, in-transition spaces

NaPoWriMo.net, Day 4, 2021
@SpaceLiminalBot
Closed For Renovations

One is never so derelict as to become
transfigured - no project ever too arduous,
or mountain high to climb. We have plans for glory!
From ruin, the decrepit wreckage that is
hollow shell, many storied splintered timber
becomes the body of a dream. Before what is...What
shall transition from a slippery becoming
into solid being? For time, lubricious
quantity that it is, even tenses overlap.
What is past ruin? Where is current plan? Future
can be both perfect and imperfect, the fairy
that grants wishes and mischief. We are, for now,
closed. In need of refreshment and refurbishment
before we open fully to all the glory.

Have a restful and safe Easter holiday weekend.

Will You NaPoWriMo this April?

sunflower

I think this is my fourth or fifth year of writing a poem a day every day in April, which is both National and Global Poetry Writing Month. It may sound daunting, but there is no better way to up your poetry writing game than by writing regularly. With the daily prompts and supporting material from websites like https://www.napowrimo.net/ you can really exercise your poetry writing muscles. I like to think of it as a kind of poetry jocks’ annual event. Which is sort of cognitively dissonant since most poets are the antithesis of jock. But, hey ho!

Tarot afficionados may like Angela T. Carr’s April poetry prompts based on the Rider Waite deck. Here is the link to that: http://www.adreamingskin.com/fools-gold-30-days-tarot-writing-challenge-napowrimo-2021.

Exercising the poetry muscles might just be the kind of training you need to compose and submit a poem that might well put one of Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark on the Poetry Map I am curating. You can find out more about the project on a past blog here: https://sojourningsmith.blog/2021/03/21/happy-unesco-world-poetry-day/.

You can email GeoparkPoetryMap@gmail.com for submission guidelines and support material on the geoheritage of many of the Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark sites.

But back to NaPoWriMo or GloPoWriMo as those of us living outside the USA may style it…There is an early bird prompt to get us warmed up. I did a little yip of delight (and there have not been many of them here lately) when it was revealed that the prompt is based in one of my happy places on this globe. As a family used to visit it regularly from when I was a tween and most trips back to the States have incorporated a visit to the Met and the Brooklyn Museum of Art to see Judy Chicago’s Dinner Party in the Feminist Art Wing.

Finally, because April 1 arrives a few hours earlier for many of our participants than it does for us at Na/GloPoWriMo headquarters, we’re also featuring an early-bird prompt today. Today, we’d like to challenge you to spend a few minutes looking for a piece of art that interests you in the online galleries of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.

napowritmo.net

I wandered many galleries but always seem to gravitate to the Impressionist to visit Monet’s Bridge over Waterlilies and to say hello to Vincent Van Gogh’s work. The last visit was with my 15 year old niece who went on to study art at college. She was working on a GCSE project at that time and commented that one of her classmates was doing her project on a Roy Lichtenstein and here she was looking at one in person, not in some book or online. Seeing art in-person really is an entirely different experience.

My own first draft was compelled from early memories of ranging round the Met galleries.

Impressionable

The water lily pond could wash you away!
So massive, taking up all a gallery wall,
dwarfing a twelve year old, who in memory
shuddered at the huge canvas' dimensions, all
majesty and "Look At Me!" - how minute
the ambitions of lesser imaginations.
Let the colour and brushwork engulf you -
one artist's grandeur, an act of diminution.

I preferred the paintings more human scale.
Monet did do flowers very well - sunflowers
in a Japanese vase. Gauguin is alleged
to have said Van Gogh's were much better.
I agree. Even sunflower husks dredged
have more heart beating in every strand of his brush.
I bought a print from the museum shop.
Years on, I went to A'dam on the Magic Bus
to have sunflowers and night stars make my heart stop.

Happy GloPoWriMo/NaPoWriMo!

Something Returns

This is the final post for NaPo WriMo/ GloPoWriMo 2020. April comes to an end in Ireland with Poetry Day Ireland. Before lockdown, there were plans for me to visit five national (primary) schools in West Cavan, giving workshops to the classes. Then Poetry Day Ireland had to go digital. Somehow I felt unequal to recording a video of me reading a poem (though I am grateful others that have) or put something onto SoundCloud. It has been enough of a challenge to simply face the blank page each morning, to write, to revise and then post. And all going along side the wider news, staying connected with far flung family and friends, taking some daily exercise, helping in the garden, and getting creative in the kitchen while limiting shopping expeditions. And, of course, “sanitise, sanitise, sanitise. ” The theme for this year’s Poetry Day Ireland is “There Will Be Time.” If you would like to read the poem I have written for the day, you can read it on this separate post. https://sojourningsmith.blog/2020/04/30/happy-poetry-day-ireland-2/

For the past two years, I have spent the latter part of NaPoWriMo on the road. In 2018, I was visiting the sacred sites of southwest England with friends – Stonehenge, Avebury, Tintagel, Glastonbury, cathedrals. Last year my creative colleague, Morag, and I were motoring through Scotland to make it to Orkney by Bealtaine. Both May Days dawned chilly and here at home it seems like we will have a similar chill start to the month of Beataine.

But, the final poetry prompt from NaPoWriMo is on the theme of “something that returns.” For us, what we harken to is the cuckoo. I mark the date when we first hear its call in my diary. Given that I married a Cuckson, it feels familial.

Cuckoo
 
Each April we listen for the cuckoo’s
calling out for a mate. We tsk if it is late
from its migrate up from Africa.
 
They leave their larger egg in unsuspecting
foster household nests. Yet, their own offspring
make their way south bound, homing.
 
What goes up, like the sun, comes down.
Just as the moon moves to full partum,
then sheds her baby weigh to nothing.
 
Perhaps the seasons are best trusting,
the year’s wheel turning, following
the light as it returns after darkness,
with, or without, natural justice.
 
Copyright © Bee Smith, 2020. All rights reserved.

The featured image is a photo by Vogelartinfo – Own work, GFDL 1.2, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12867547

Happy Poetry Day Ireland

While many friends and strangers have been writing their poem a day for NaPoWriMo/ GloPoWriMo 2020, which ends today, here in Ireland we celebrate Poetry Day Ireland. This year I should have been working with the kids in my local primary school, but such are the lockdown realities that PoetryDayIRL has had to go digital. I am grateful that many poets have created videos or shared sound files. Follow this link and you can find virtual/digital events that have been created on the hoof given lockdown realities. https://www.poetryireland.ie/news/poetry-day-ireland-2020-goes-digital.

The theme for 2020 is “There Will Be Time.” The ‘spark’ came from a poetry resource from NaPoWriMo, which referenced both Robert Browning and Emily Dickinson. As they say…poets steal.

There Will Be Time
 
Past present, yet to be –
where we once again tread
upon enchanted ground.
 
When once we cried out time
was all that we wanted,
It was, actually,
 
the remedy needed.
Not sands dissolving down
the hour glass, or ray’s
 
tracing shadow over
sundial or yardarm.
No. Enchantment succeeds
 
by threading the needle
in the haystack. And still
drops, when all time has stopped.
 
Copyright © Bee Smith, 2020. All rights reserved.

The cuckoo clock that is the featured image is an invitation to visit my final poem of NaPoWriMo GloPoWriMo 2020. Click here https://sojourningsmith.blog/2020/04/30/something-returns/

Praise Song for A Tuxedo Tom

The penultimate day of NaPoWriMo/ GloPoWriMo2020 invites us to pen a paean to a pet. Those who follow me on Facebook from way back in 2016 will be familiar with the saga of The Taming of a Tuxedo Tom. He appeared in the summer of 2016 and slid in through the kitchen window, which we use as a kind of cat flap to save ourselves constantly opening and closing doors and windows. (We had two cats back then. We swelled to four and now are back to three. Also three dogs, now just two. ) Eighteen months later he was the Cat Who Came in from the Cold. There have been many cats who have padded through my life and won my heart, but this tom really wowed me. If familiars are soul friends, then Felix is my feline anam cara. Also, as my husband might say, my bit of rough.

Felix has an autoimmune condition, feline leukaemia, so we know we have been his life savers. But I am also aware that he may only be on loan to us. He is four years old and doing pretty well. Love sometimes is the best medicine.

The Taming Of A Tuxedo Tom
 
Consider my familiar, Felix, a formerly feral
feline fellow, who took his time to shapeshift
from spit and drawn claws, accepting a human’s
outstretched paw and promise of domesticated bliss.
First came the head bumps, then accepting a head scritch
in exchange for Cat Milk, tinned Whiskas and kibble.
 
He began his career as cat burglar, sneaking in to snitch
the other cats’ Whiskas. But inside all that street swagger
I recognised a less bumptious soul, one hungering
to come in from the cold. He looked in our window
from outside at Christmastide and saw all the animals
lounging, ranged round. But he needed some better manners.
 
Courtships go as courtships go. There were spats.
Some requiring antiseptic. There were lectures on the benefits
of being a lover rather than a fighter. Finally, wounded,
he trusted in me. The vet said he had all the makings
of a great pet. He was read the House Rules.
(Be in by midnight. Don’t biff The Girls. Don’t nip or bite.)
 
It’s  hard to resist a reformed Bad Boy.
He got with the whole Love Programme thing, yet
there remain the embers of his former life -
the odd irritable tail flick, a wildish
snap in his agate eyes, the scarring on his pink nose,
the occasional raised hackle and fur fly.
 
He loves – wholeheartedly.  Made friends with one other cat.
Will share some affection with other, stranger humans.
Sometimes, if I will be very still and give up
my daily bustling round,  he insinuates himself
onto my hip. He purrs. He restrains himself from tangling
my wool as I knit.
                              To love and be loved in return.
To have the courage to lower a defending paw.
To give fealty based on mutual loyalty.
Oh, my kingdom, for Felix, a cat.
 
Copyright © Bee Smith, 2020.  All rights reserved.

And if you are a real glutton for cute kitty videos I include one of our conversations from October 2017 when he was considering moving in, but hadn’t really bought into the whole family dynamic yet.

The Taming of the Tuxedo Tom

A Room of One’s Own

We are nearly at the end of April and NaPoWriMo. April 30th is also Poetry Day Ireland. Yesterday brought sad news of the death of Irish poet Eavan Boland, a recent editor of the Poetry Ireland Review, at age 75. I once heard her on a BBC Radio 4 broadcast years ago recount her query to women poetry workshop participants. She asked if they would go back to their homes and tell people they were poets. One woman balefully responded, “Why no! They would think I was the kind of woman who never washed her curtains!” Shocking! Which became an example for me. I write poetry. I rarely wash my curtains. I only dust because I have allergies. Today’s prompt is sourced in another woman poet who greatly influenced my life, if not my poetry style. That was Emily Dickinson, who I first encountered in a child’s biography in the Berwick Public Library. I bought a thin volume of her poems from my weekly allowance instead of expanding my Nancy Drew collection.

The NaPoWriMo Day 28 prompt includes an excerpt by Emily Dickinson’s niece, describing the poet’s room, a prompt devised by the Emily Dickinson Museum. “Martha Dickinson Bianchi’s description of her aunt’s cozy room, scented with hyacinths and a crackling stove, warmly recalls the setting decades later. Describe a bedroom from your past in a series of descriptive paragraphs or a poem. It could be your childhood room, your grandmother’s room, a college dormitory or another significant space from your life.

I scrolled back to my bedroom when I was eleven and first encountered Emily Dickinson.

 
A Room of One’s Own
 
is always, in memory, golden.
See my bedspread? It matches the finish
of the glass fronted bookcase, marketed
as the 1960s version of ‘Antique Gold.’
It’s full of volumes by Alcott, Emily Dickinson,
and hand me down vintage Nancy Drews.
I liked things to be mellow and old, too nervous
a child for psychedelic acid yellow and rock n roll.
This was my place to retreat  
inside pale green walls of a castle built of books.
I could dream of a life where one day
I would see a moor and sail out overseas
to the origin lands of my foreign doll collection,
all neatly arrayed on their peg board display –
the Dutch girl and Indonesian man, the Greek boy,
the kimonoed geisha brought home
from the New York World’s Fair.
None of that would have done for Emily.
But it was much, much better for me.
 
Copyright © Bee Smith, 2020. All rights reserved.