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!
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.
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.
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.
The daily prompt from NaPoWriMo2019 asks us to take a reference book and choose words from two pages in front of you and go from there. I mixed this up a bit, since it is a bit like an exercise I do in Word Alchemy that I call “Word Salad.” But I choose up to six words that pop up at random and then go about trying to make a connection. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it’s a stretch. Sometimes it’s hilarious. For the purposes of today’s NaPowriMo2019 exercise in poetry writing I left the OED on the shelf and picked up the Chamber’s Dictionary of Etymology, which always makes for fascinating reading. The random words I picked out were spike, exemplary, protest, detest, nomad. They are all in there in some form of their etymological definition.
This was great fun! Who doesn’t love a lexicon?! I’ve loved the word ever since I found it in an Emily Dickonson poem age 11.
Lexical Slaw Word Alchemy
So many versions of how to know the word universe in the mind of God in just about any language
which may be somewhat helpful to the venturing nomad searching and incurring on new pasture
yet even words can splinter language deflecting into dialect so dense the origins get swallowed whole
but something sticks in the throat like a vow to dissent that then regurgitates like a solemn curse
Source document as reference is public testimony for all to see. Yet time will free the redactions of agreed meaning, as necessity or adventure into word alchemy.
…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.
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 could relish NaPoWriMo’s Day 13 poetry prompt. It’s all things witchy and magical.” Today, we’d like to challenge you to write a poem about something mysterious and spooky! Your poem could be about something that is mysterious and spooky in a bad way (like a witch), or mysterious and spooky in a good way (possibly also like a witch? It depends on the witch, I guess!) Or just the everyday, mysterious, spooky quality of being alive. ” Now I don’t really do spooky, but I do do WooWoo. I do live in the liminal space where magic can and does happen now and then.
My eye also fell upon a random note. My nickname and nom de plume (Bee) is derived from the Old English for been, or bean, meaning “a prayer, a favour.” It then became associated with working parties like sewing or quilting bees. And, by way of synchronicity the other day I arrived in the classroom just as the kids were closing their Irish books. I flaunted my minute Irish vocabulary, mentioning that I was nearly late because my husband was doing meitheal with his mate. Meitheal is the Irish for a working party, neighbours helping each other get work done (“many hands makes light work”), especially at harvest or hay making time. Even the teacher hadn’t heard this one. And I did spell it right! (I checked when I got home. Preen moment.)
As to the featured photo of the white calf…well, it is standing before a fairy fort. And any pure white animal with a single red part is in with the fairies.
This is what the black bird said: You can slip between worlds through this gap in the hedge. Each tree's knot, knarl and burl makes you wise to ways nigh forgotten, all but for those of us who fly or crawl. But The Good People like to make allies with some of the Other Crowd who've no knack for stomp and stalk. They like silence, but can sing loud. Because you need to know how to dream a world into being.
It's like this,the blackbird continued, saying: Magic is made of many parts- prayer, song, a pure intention backed by your flora and fauna friends, done by the movements of the moon. It's the knowing when to sow, the time to reap, the way to keen. Magic is in neighbourly exchange of hedgerow jelly in autumn time and the collecting of sloes to flavour Yule wine. It's shooing lost sheep back to their fold and helping mend fencing strong enough to hold any gleeful lamb who leaps too high too soon like the calf that jumped over the moon.
And then there is this: A hedgewitch keeps herself well only so long until someone else can spell her and assume her magical work between the blackthorn and the hazel trees, to ken the mending of what has been rent between the folks that stamp and stalk and have lost all good sense, those who simply cannot see what lives in the woods, what lives in the trees. Or The Good People, living beyond yon hedge, in the gap where there is a magical screen. They who work all the magic yet are never not seen.
Despite the sunshine I am feeling lacklustre about the poetry practice this morning. I have rules for myself. I really, really need to do it in the morning because my energy is likely to run out of puff by the evening. Evening is either a full flop or dedicated to interactions with friends, often telephonically or video linked. Mornings are for the poetry making, no matter how incomplete. And writing fast, playing the scales up and down, I realise I do need to find time to go back and see if the poem is an actual whole. Am I writing fragments? Are they poems at all? Writers can funk. even when the sun is shining and the blackthorn blossom is adorning all the hedgerows around.
One of rules for NaPoWriMo is to actually do what the prompt says. I know the website says it is optional. It’s a self-imposed rule. “Today, we’d like to challenge you to write a poem about a dull thing that you own, and why (and how) you love it. Alternatively, what would it mean to you to give away or destroy a significant object?” I am not a materialistic person, but having dragged various objects with me through three country moves it is fairly easy to designate objects of significance. Mine is a conch shell. Provenance: Long Beach Island, NJ. Found by: sister Given to: sister.
You can put it into the box with me. Place it so my ear rests against the conch. They say hearing is the last sense to go. Let me go out with music from the sea as the casket solemnly slides to launch toward the cremie's flames red hot glow. Let us face together eternity ashes to ashes love's ocean and me.
I slept in this morning. Two workshops down. One more to go. Then repeat next week. Just another sprint and then it eases off a little. Except when I finally got around to looking at today’s prompt they want a poem on sad. They also suggest a sonnet. If you had asked me ten years ago to try writing a sonnet I would have have said ‘ no way!’ But since 15th September 2018 I have dipped my toes into sonnet seas a few times. But this is probably going to be my last jab at any official acts today. I need a day of rest. And some time with my head buried in a cozy mystery. And maybe happy weep over a few episodes of “Queer Eye.”
But what to title it?
Sonnet Spring 2019
It's the brittle smile, belladonna bright eyes,that's the tell of denial. Lids shut over eyes like tombstone magma. What the eye doesn't see, truth cannot defile. It's the breakdowns over crazy things. The backed up sink. The cracked tea cup handle unmooring you from the ballast one clings. Lose a home, but weep over lost baubles. Which is easier than walking with ghosts, feeling their hand grasp yours at the cross walk's empty air. Most days it's just better to coast. You are still shaken by the after shocks. But try to gauge if your appropriate sad has become a depression's Stalingrad.
So I start my days by flicking over to the http://www.napowrimo.net/ to get the daily poetry prompt. “Today’s prompt is based in a poem by Larry Levis called “The Two Trees.” It is a poem that seems to meander, full of little digressions, odd bits of information, but fundamentally, it is a poem that takes time. It takes its time getting where it’s going, and the action of the poem itself takes place over months. Today, I’d like to challenge you to similarly write something that involves a story or action that unfolds over an appreciable length of time. Perhaps, as you do, you can focus on imagery, or sound, or emotional content (or all three!)”
It’s a tall order for before 7am. I needed cereal first. Am off to teach nine 10-11 year olds soon, trying to facilitate their unfolding a story. But I decided to be game. As I have told the little kids, being creative means being willing to fail.
They were planning the move while I was still in the womb. I was born knowing how to pack. I can make a life in a room.
I can shed skin like a snake. I can abandon my shell. I was born knowing to forsake. I was bottlefed in an hotel.
This transitory life, roaming, more than rolling rock. Collecting some accoutrements, then dispersing my householder's stock.
I have left behind plenty changes of address notes. I have left behind some dreams' scope. I've crawled into a few lifeboats.
Moving felt most like home. Being the stranger is my inalienable right zone of every place, or none, then one.
The nomad took a settler to husband for all of life, an acre and a full quarter to have and hold and to be wife.
It's a briary place with roots that know to tunnel and trap the escaping ankles preparing to go off on travels.
The rock can rest, roll no more. It can remain still at last. What is it to know a homeplace? That all the packing is now past.
As usual I have a dual identity going on even with NaPoWriMo and GloPoWriMo. I can claim NaPoWriMo since it is from my country of origin. But I haven’t lived there since 1982 so the GloPoWriMo tag feels more accurate. But I have settled on being both.
The prompt for today is to end a poem in a question. And I just seemed to end my poetry practice for today in a volley of questions. After yesterday’s villanelle I am back to syllabbics.
An Uncertain Climate
Then the cold returns... fat snowflakes softly settled on the old dog's back, blackthorn blossom briefly obscured on the hedge.
Will the seeds we've sown shrivel? Will the summer turn winter like in Black '47? How long can denial remain inconsequential?
Happy NaPoWritMo/GloPoWriMo 2019! I may have been writing a Poetry Daily since 15th September 2018, but I am really happy to open a website and have a prompt AND some poetry resources that are new to me to get me inspired and fired up again with the daly poetry practice. It’s not too late for you to join in. The website I follow is http://www.napowrimo.net.But there are other sites out there offering daily poetry prompts, too. Just Google your way around NaPoWriMo and you will find one that suits.
Today’s prompt is all about instructions. Five years ago Clare Shaw gave a workshop I was participating in the prompt on instructions for saying goodbye. Instructions are like list poems. They are great gateway poems. NaPoWriMo.net mentioned IKEA. Which did get me thinking about past flat pack furniture assembly. Then I decided I had not written a villanelle in a really long time. So I challenged myself on that score.
How to Know How To
It's hard to know how to how to when facts and the truth are so slippery and the flat pack arrives missing some screws. So the furniture wobbles like tofu. Which makes spousal types loudly disagree. It's hard to know how to how to when the culture is self-help and can do. We're supposed to know how to live sanely, but the flat pack arrives missing some screws. The final straw to a major boo-hoo makes you sound like a neighbourhood banshee.. . It's hard to know how to how to when the world doesn't want a big to-do. There are oughts to get you caught so archly. Why did the flat pack arrive missing screws? Why did the wood glue not hold true? Why can't we help feeling completely screwed? It's hard to know how to how to when the flat pack arrives missing some screws.