Day 20 of NaPoWriMo is all out of order. I slept ten hours and rose late for me. It was sunny. So that dictated doing laundry. Also, I had the lines of a completely other poem going through my head as I was waking, so I jotted that draft down before I would forget, as I drank my first cup of tea. So here I am well past lunchtime getting down to the the daily promp for posting . And although I am sort of writing according to spec, I feel as if I am colouring a bit outside the lines. Rather than concentrate on a single item, I found myself in list poem land. Or maybe it is a litany of (handmade) small and great gratitudes.This was the actual (optional) prompt.
Today, in gratitude for making it to Day 20, our (optional) prompt asks you to write a poem about a handmade or homemade gift that you have received. It could be a friendship bracelet made for you by a grade-school classmate, an itchy sweater from your Aunt Louisa, a plateful of cinnamon toast from your grandmother, a mix-tape from an old girlfriend. And whatever gift you choose, we wish you happy writing!
NaPoWriMo Day 19 dawns overcast and chilly. It’s the kind of day when, since it is a Sunday, calls for pulling on a cardigan that colour coordinates with your pyjamas and call it getting dressed. Sunday, after all, is meant to be a day of rest. Being confined within two kilometers from home has meant keeping pretty busy – not just poetry, but helping in the garden and keeping domestic upkeep ticking over. I have maintained a fairly strict routine, but today I am feeling like I need a flop. Which is why when the NaPoWriMo Day 19 prompt called for “walking archive” I decided to tackle the prompt by letting my eyes do the walking from my bed. This was the full invitation:
Today, our optional prompt challenges you to write a poem based on a “walking archive.” What’s that? Well, it’s when you go on a walk and gather up interesting thing – a flower, a strange piece of bark, a rock. This then becomes your “walking archive” – the physical instantiation of your walk. If you’re unable to get out of the house (as many of us now are), you can create a “walking archive” by wandering around your own home and gathering knick-knacks, family photos, maybe a strange spice or kitchen gadget you never use. One you’ve finished your gathering, lay all your materials out on a tray table, like museum specimens. Now, let your group of materials inspire your poem! You can write about just one of the things you’ve gathered, or how all of them are all linked, or even what they say about you, who chose them and brought them together.
I tend to group items that have caught my eye or have personal meaning and place them on windowsills around my house. They are like mini-altars to…whatever. So I let my eyes rove around like I was a chief inspector trying to learn something about a victim or suspect. (Yes, this has been influenced by some late night reading of a detective novel. Louise Penny, as it happens. I have been rationing the reading of my library books while staying home. That was my last fresh whodunit finished in the early hours.)
The prompt from NaPoWriMo Day 18 would have us thinking about Saturdays. That, inevitably, invites a contrast between before lockdown and what a weekend means now that we are in lockdown. Because without external cues, we might lose track of what day it is at all. My husband had to check with me a couple days ago. My reply was that I checked on my tablet everyday to keep track.
Our optional prompt for the day also honors the idea of Saturday (the Saturdays of the soul, perhaps?), by challenging you to write an ode to life’s small pleasures. Perhaps it’s the first sip of your morning coffee. Or finding some money in the pockets of an old jacket. Discovering a bird’s nest in a lilac bush or just looking up at the sky and watching the clouds go by.
I figure I have written a good deal of poetry about small pleasures. They feature largely in our life out on an acre and quarter in West Cavan and give it much of its rich texture and rewards. Again, to quote the husband who says (ironically), “Another fine mess you got me in.” Which is a Stan Laurel line.
One of the features of our life in lockdown, and semi-retirement, is to have self-imposed routines. So my topic zeroed in on a new feature in our home routine of the small pleasure kind during lockdown and staying at home. My husband is very fond of cake, but when there was a dearth of flour and eggs early on in lockdown I brushed off some of my American cookbooks and returned to my native tradition of cookie baking. There is more bang for your buck in terms of ingredients. Also, they last a whole lot longer in this house.
The poem that finally emerged in my notebook and got tarted up when typing up, does steal a phrase from Stephen Colbert’s “A Late Show with Stephen Colbert.” I daresay he hasn’t trademarked it (yet) and I hope I will be forgiven for snatching it to go in the final stanza.
NaPoWriMo Day 17 has invited us to write a poem about old technology. If you are technically kind of (b)old, then you have seen lots of technology upgrade and go. But the one that I feel is the most radical and historically revolutionary is the typewriter. I began my typing career as a callow fifteen year old learning how to improve my typing skills in a summer school class. I had had my own portable typewriter since I was twelve, a Confirmation gift if memory is correct. By the time I had an office job manual typewriters were making way for electric typewriters, the ever so jittery IBM Selectrics where you had to learn to virtually coo at the the keys instead of bullying them like some of the crankier manual models. I graduated to word processing early on with the first PCs and never looked back. Wow! You can easily correct your mistakes. For someone who was fast, but not always accurate, this was such a wheeze!
So my poem is a salute to the QWERTY keyboard and the manual typewriter in the days when you used five fingers instead of the opposable thumb to tap on a keyboard.
I have to say that the the past few days’ NaPoWriMo prompts have not really grabbed me, but I have faithfully plodded on getting up and writing and posting something daily. Today’s NaPoWriMo prompt didn’t really do it for me either. The prompts are optional, but no other prospect appeared, so I decided to just treat this as a five finger exercise, a poetry etude. This was the prompt:
today we challenge you to write a poem of over-the-top compliments. Pick a person, place, or thing you love, and praise it in the most effusive way you can. Go for broke with metaphors, similes, and more. Need a little inspiration? Perhaps you’ll find it in the lyrics of Cole Porter’s “You’re The Top.”
So my offering today has no particular person, place or thing in mind. I just decided to see how many over the top, effusive, statements I could make that would rhyme with ‘Top.” So, today I have simply indulged in word play.
Over the Top
My ickle licky lollypop,
you’re the cure I suck from every cough drop.
You inspire such belly flops
that you are my go to non-stop
when pursued by traffic cops.
We’re desperados outwitting hotel bellhops.
We’re sneaking out before the cheque flops.
You are my hat, shoe, book, coffee, butcher,
bucket and head shop.
You are the pepperoni on my pizza top,
the fizz in my soda pop,
and all the food I need, my mutton chop.
You deserve for the organ to let out all its stops.
You shine when drenched in soft spring raindrops.
You grace the wallpaper of my ancient laptop.
because you make a destination of any old whistle stop.
You make my heart beat be-bop.
You are the Swing Time that keeps me on the hop,
NaPoWriMo Day 15, the true midpoint in the month’s writing a poem a day challenge. Today, they want us to take our cue from some music we love. Now, I tried a jazz inspired poem months ago https://sojourningsmith.blog/2020/01/12/noodling/. This was the exact wording of today’s challenge, which had me nonplussed for a bit.
Today, I’d like to challenge you to write a poem inspired by your favorite kind of music. Try to recreate the sounds and timing of a pop ballad, a jazz improvisation, or a Bach fugue. That could mean incorporating refrains, neologisms and flights of whimsy, or repeating/inverting lines or ideas – whatever your chosen musical form would seem to require! Perhaps a good way to start is to listen to your favorite piece of music and “free-write” for the duration of the piece, and then use what you’ve written as the building blocks for your poem.
I tend to think of my husband as the musical one in our household. He sings and strums. I am more of a hummer girl. Which was a nickname from junior high. I hummed absent mindedly in the school library. Mostly because I forget lyrics. It’s the tune for me that is catching. One artist that I did catch from exposure to my husband’s taste in music is Van Morrison. It took me a while, but his Avalon Sunset album converted me. And today, I have taken the song that would most certainly make the cut for my Desert Island disc. (For those who are unfamiliar with this cultural reference, BBC Radio 4 has had a Sunday morning programme for decades where a celebrity is interviewed and they choose ten pieces of music that would be pressed to take with them when they are stranded on a desert island. They are given the Bible and allowed one luxury to choose as well.)
Van Morrison’s Coney Island would definitely make it on the Desert Island disc. For one thing…there are lots of strings in the instrumental. His song refers to a Coney Island on the Ards Peninsula in Northern Ireland. Sligo also has a Coney Island, rabbits being fairly prolific in these parts. My poem doesn’t end at Coney Island, but the one place I really want to visit after lockdown in over. Because I miss the ocean.
Day 14 of NaPoWriMo2020 is the midpoint of the month. It is not unnatural to flag when you are running in a marathon. Although when I did the 365 poem a day marathon from September 2018 until September 2019, it was July, when the end was in sight that I really felt I might stumble, fall down and not get up. This morning felt a bit like that moment. I was up way to late hand sewing face masks for friends (I have scrap fabric; my young friend who shops for us sourced elastic in Carrick on Shannon.) My brain felt a little fragile. I didn’t want a really big challenge, or any challenge really.
I challenge you today to write a poem that deals with the poems, poets, and other people who inspired you to write poems. These could be poems/poets/poepl that you strive to be like, or even poems, poets, and people that you strive not to be like. There are as many ways to go with this prompt as there are ways to be inspired.
In the end I did do something I do not ordinarily do. I decided to tackle the task as a prose poem. Whether it works or not I have no clue. But I did have some fun with it. And that was really what I needed this morning, when I slept late while the sun shined.
Dead Poets’ Halloween Party
Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton have their heads together over vodka stingers, there in that dark corner. No one wants to interrupt. Because. You know! collective eye roll) it didn’t end very well for both. They suffered for their art. Bless their wounded hearts! Men disappointed them. Dorothy Parker could have told them so. She was sad, too. Oh! There’s little Emily Dickinson. Even she is living her life over in that solitary corner like it is a loaded gun while she sedately sips her sherry. I wonder if you sauntered closer if her eyes really are the colour of fortified wine? They do seem to unnaturally glitter and shine. Mary Oliver and Wendell Berry have only just recently entered the room. He has come as The Green Man. Mary is Mother Goose this year, leading a posse of her late, much lamented dogs into the party. They are chowing down on cocktail sausages put down on the floor by the bartender. Good Lord! The bartender is Frank O’Hara! Meanwhile, some Imagists are striking a tableau over to one side. An absurdist is pouring concrete onto their feet to make them a plinth. What poet does not want to be an edifice? If this bar stocked saki, I bet the top banana himself, old Basho, would grace this party. Him standing amidst the fray in his shabby kimono. It might potentially offer an amusing Zen moment, everyone’s poetic lack of permanencewhen all we strive for is eternity.