First off, apologies for the rat’s nest of a format on Day 22 NaPoWriMo. I was typing it in the WordPress block form in Safari on my iPad Mini. It looked okay, but obviously not! I have reservations about the the WordPress app I have on my device because before blocks came into WordPress it played havoc with any kind of poetry formatting. I needed to practice for my road trip, which starts on April 28th. At least now I can try and rectify or update the app before I go. And if not, then I just have to deal with the limitations because I am not lugging my laptop all around Scotland.
Today’s NaPoWriMo daily prompt is about animals. Living where I do I figured that what I see on a daily basis needed to be front and centre. And I don’t mean dogs or cats. They get enough attention in this blog already. These are Irish cows by the way. They are quite conversational and like to come up to the field’s perimeter to ask for gossip. Therefore, I have salted the Irish for white cow – bo fin – to alert the reader that this is not just any old calf.
Wee Bo Fin in the field, looking outside it under the watchful eyes of your massive mammy, would you look at your knobbly knees?! For all your half-ton weight you kick up your heels as gleeful as the little lambies in yonder pasture. A sweet wee heffer they would say of ye, eating spring's sweet new grass seasoned with buttercup and cow parsley.
When they load you into the trailer to go off to mart you may never hear your mother's keening moos. But I will. For days afterwards.
…and I am up way to early for the NaPoWriMo prompt to be published on the website. Basically, I fell asleep too early and wound up taking a nap. So after a while I gave up on sleep and began to remember how I loved writing in darkness at winter solstice. Then it got light earlier and I slept a bit later. I am semi-allergic to sunshine and actually prefer autumn/winter to summer. And who doesn’t love spring (except in Elliot’s Wasteland.
So I decided to just to do poetry practice and work with what was staring me in my face. Also, time for another villanelle practice.
It’s so still. I love writing in the dark. I write with a plump peach moon for my lampstand in silence before those up with the larks (barring the scratch of my pen making marks, the twang of rubberband mental reaches). It’s so still. I love writing in the dark. It redefines what is shadow, and stark. In the small hours I can explore new found land in silence before those up with the larks. I chivvy inspiration’s divine spark. I write so I might fully understand. It’s so still. I love to write in the dark. I like my little nightime writing ark. I sail in it, ride tides, beach on strands in silence, before those up with the larks when all is phosphorescent, with few sharks to trouble my inner night hinterland. It’s so still. I love to write in the dark in silence, before those up with the larks.
It has been a gloriously sunny Easter bank holiday weekend so far. I’m itching to get out and do a bit more gardening. With nature doing its happy dance you might think that the NaPoWriMo Day 21 prompt might have been a bit cheerier. But no! Fairy tales! Those dark little folkloric cautionary tales. Or I could have chosen myth, but I have poems that touch on them, too. The prompt is to tell it from a minor character’s point of view. I was really resisting this prompt. And I have not completely fulfilled the brief, but…
And so when I was flagging this morning and thinking I could just eat
breakfast and get on with sowing climbing beans and radishes, I counted
up how many days I have been at this poetry practice.
218…two hundred and eighteen days.
And I needed a jolt of encouragement from a review of Richard Russo’s essays “The Destiny Thief: Essays on Writing, Writers and Life. ” It notes that in his essay Getting Good, he notes this:
Writing, like life, is difficult. Many truly talented people give up everyday.
Anthony Quinn’s The Guardian Review, 13 April 2019
Talent is important. But practice is what sees you through to the next level. Some of us are less precious about sharing our flops in public. Because if I didn’t have to turn up on WordPress I could not prove to myself that I really had not funked on the practice.
But back to NaPoWriMo2019, where I have semi-fulfilled their spec for today. I chose the witch’s point of view from the fairytale Hansel and Gretel. Hansel and Gretel has featured in this blog before. https://sojourningsmith.blog/2018/07/03/hansel-and-gretel-reconsidered/. I have no clue why I opted for this fairy tale over other less gory ones. But I try to operate on the “first thought, best thought” principle and just run with it with this practice.
I only do what you have not the imagination to do. My house is no mirage. It is an oasis of surprise. And at the very least, Hansel and Gretel were made to feel welcome at my table.
What parents send wee childer out to wander alone in a dark wood? Wolves! Bears! Brigands! (I shudder at the prospect of the latter.) We who have known hunger and danger and survive have to keep our wits about us. But I grew old. And rather blind.
The little boy just bemoaned their fate from inside his cage of bones. But his sister, now that little girl did have her wits about her. She was never going to be one to end up in a cast iron pot. Tricking the Cannibal Hag, freeing the feeble boy, they plucked jelly beans right from the chimney breast. The Vandals! They licked the icing from the gable end and ripped out the gingerbread roof slates until my whole sweet Gingerbread House caved in.
They never went home. They'd met the Cannibal Hag. Now they are my own.
As I was opening the iPad mini this morning to check out Day 19’s prompt from NaPoWriMo2019 a random tweet came up on my screen. And that changed my morning routine. There was news of riot and shooting in London/Derry City last night. There! Now you know what the Stroke City in the title refers. It was coined by the late Gerry Anderson, a radio announcer in Northern Ireland. The full or abbreviated version you choose to use tends to reveal a lot about where you stand sectarian wise. A journalist was shot in the melee and died. Right on the the 21st anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement that stopped this kind of thing making the morning news. It’s not that there have not been the odd incidents over the years, but for there to be one so close to this kind of anniversary is just not the way you want to begin your day. Truth be told, with the Brexit wrangles there has been a low level anxiety that things might kick off again. Also, a lot of denial that things will ever go back to how bad things were before the Good Friday Ageement. It all feels especially poignant since I was working yesterday on an EU Peace IV arts project that had children from both Cavan and Fermanagh in the group.Peace building is a long haul process.
So I have scrapped NaPoWriMo for today and have reverted to Poetry Daily type. Thoughts this Good Friday for the family of Lyra McKee, 29, who died in the course of doing her journalism job.
Pesach/Good Friday in Stroke City
Last night, a full moon so bright it might as well have been daylight.
All the uncertainty has peaked. Still, it is accord most of us seek.
The danger has not passed. Blood on the street. But no tear gas.
It is a season of bitter herbs, salt tears, the temple disturbed.
Once, a generation ago, on a Good Friday the flow
of hope and history rhymed. Today, I awake to a report of a crime
too like the past of tension and tears, when people lived on their nerves and fears.
This was then Planet Normal. A twenty-one year lull...
Wash her blood from the street. Pray the Peace never becomes obsolete.
Today’s featured photo is my own of a sculpture that looks over Lough MacNean and the border between Fermanagh and Cavan, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Imagine peace…may it be so and make it so.
Often what connects people is loss. Poetry is all about making connections. They even have that slogan on the NaPoWriMo.net website banner. Losses…we have all had some, whether it is a loved one – pet or person – or a job, a home, a family. In the way that the universe operates in synchronicity a bedtime conversation last night feels appropriate for the morning’s poetry practice.
Last night at bedtime your daughter and I discussed you. And really? You raised your kids fine. But they miss you.
Part of it is emptying the family homeplace. First, your clothes to all your favourite charity shops. Then the NHS patient appliances back to the hospital. Again. But.. It's all good recycling. Still... your daughter flees the house absent of your smell. Empty now has a scent. Also, the having to fold your reading glasses found on your bedside cabinet beside the Jodi Picoult book you will never now know how it all ended.
Her friends are kind. But they are young and think the object of grief is to forget its ache. All she wants to do is remember you. So we talk of what went right and some of your unlived life.
Just before she leaves before the lights go out and kisses my cheek saying "Night Night" I tell your daughter how all daughters eventually become their mothers. Even if only in our small foibles. Like the reminder notes I post beside my purse and on the kitchen counter for tomorrow just like my own mother. And your daughter goes to her bed with a smile.
I am less rebellious today. But I also realised that I picked up the daily prompt yesterday from another year.(I thought it felt a bit familiar! I know there is recycling, but really…!) Anyway. Day 17 of NaPoWriMo2019 has dawned and the #APoemADay prompt is “Today, I’d like you to challenge you to write a poem that similarly presents a scene from an unusual point of view. “ Hmnnn…my notebook is nearly full. So I thought I might allow the notebook to have a voice from its perspective.
There are only two pages left fully blank. I am nearly full of your ink your squinky handwriting that smoothed across me day after day since just before New Year.
You began me on the first day of official mourning the restlessness after relief of suffering, in the exhaustion after bedside hovering.
Nearly four months you have massaged your mind across each page every morning. In two days time, at most three, you will fill the last blank space in me. I will be full of your preoccupations. Or not. What deflections and elisions have not been confessed? After all it is not just a case of commission.
If a daily practice is for the good of your soul leave some imprint. What is the shape of your spirit? Ink blot and flow, crossings out, re-routes of line breaks, countings out of each syllable in pitch black Quink to match my cover and the ribbon marker and the elastic arm band that surrounds.
I broke my rule yesterday. I looked at the prompt today and felt similarly rebellious. The challenge is to take a poem in a language you don’t know and see what you can make of the words to do a translation that is not a translation. I did have a bash at it, but felt very flat and uninspired. The resource they offer includes translations into English, so there is a temptation to peek. That feels like a cheat. Nor can I get my head around rhyming nonsense verse this morning. Which might be one way of tackling the challenge. So I took my poetry practice today on my own merry way again this morning. Maybe there is something rebellious in the air. I am feeling all wayward this week. I did, however, stick to the theme.
Sitting in the classroom with my two-way dictionary, I still can smell stale fumes- chalk dust, adolescent bodies - hear the sing-song droning of foreign vocabulary, verbs that are transitive, or intransitory.
No one knows anyone speaking this way everyday. It's like ancient Greek, or snatched ancestral language. Who can match sounds of lost voices long in graves to words on this page?
The sounds of lost voices with words in translation. How much is lost? How much is gained?
We seek new connections in words on a page gone two ways. Of walking in the world that can be both. Of course, in translation we hear a new conversation.
Body spray overlaying sweat of curious adolescent. Do ancestors clap, stamp, dance at this new version? Some will. Some won't. You can be both.