Wakening to bright sunshine and blue sky after a nighttime that brought welcome showers on our acre plot. NaPoWriMo’s last Thursday prompt is:
I’d like to challenge you to write a poem that:
Is specific to a season
Uses imagery that relates to all five senses (sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell)
Includes a rhetorical question, (like Keats’ “where are the songs of spring?”)
So the season I am writing about is just around the corner. In Ireland we call May Bealtaine. It is pronounced Be-ahl-ta-nah round where I live. Or you can have it as Beltaine in English. It’s also the name for one of the four cross quarter days of the pagan wheel of the year. It marks the six weeks up until midsummer . Or, the three month period up until harvest, or Lunasagh, at 1st August. Seasons are a bit flexible like that in Ireland. Call it late spring. Call it the official opening of summer. Beataine is the most sensual time of year. Living as I do in the West Cavan part of Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark, nature is providing plenty of sensory inspiration.
I heard the cuckoo calling its plaint for a mate quite faint last Easter Sunday, but full throated and hearty the evening of Tuesday. It will carol the uplands until the longest day when nights are shortest and dawn does not delay.
But today...well the bluebells are still out in the shade, mingling in with the aromatic of wild garlic, (which sharpens the appetite.) its star white flower crowding into the bluebell dell on the forest floor along with the white bells of wood sorrel, that not-shamrock tasting of lemon spinach. A munch quenches thirst on walks through this wooded glen, the river in full conversation rolling over the rocks from another epoch, the fallen trees downed
or bent like the crick in my back from sowing beans and carrots. I have an ache in muscles unused to industry, gone slack during the dark months. We mimick all these nesting birds who already have some hatchlings, or the energy of gamboling lambs ridiculous and bucking up their heels. Calves are appearing in neighbours' pastures sporting their new eartags. And the weeds! Everything is rushing towards being. The bees are at the nectar. The butterflies have been released from self-made cocoons. The blackthorn blossom is floating down butterfly kissing our foreheads. It's a benediction. It's a glory.
Bealtaine Go leor! Is everything not plenty? Is everything not enough? Everything is in a rush towards its blooming and being.
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.
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.
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.
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.
NaPoWriMo, National Poetry Writing Month, aka GloPoWriMo, Global Poetry Writing Month, commences on April Fools Day. But the folk over at http://www.napowrimo.net/ have already provided a prompt to flex the poetry writing muscles. While readers on the other side of the Atlantic put their clocks forward two weeks ago,we sprang forward at 2am today. The clock ‘Spring Forward’ thing has always addled me and I feel very late with poetry practice. Given I am up and out early several mornings this week, the NaPoWriMo prompts may not get attention until later in the day.
The prompt on the website today is to write a self-portrait poem. This is my effort. The examples they give are lovely and mythic. But I have lost an hour and may be feeling a tad prosaic. However, it is something of a relief to have someone else suggest the subject or theme for the Poem A Day.
Yeasty and doughy. No surprise. The years' toll has given rise...
I am a Sunday loaf of bread made with flour kept for guests.
I've a plain 'go to Meeting' face. A glint of flint. Just a trace.
Though too smiley for piety by some Quaker ancestry.
Generations long gone, sometimes blood will out and ideals chime.
There's holy anger for justice meets a pacific genus.
I keep Sabbath and most mornings in silent allowing,
a prayer, a poem, baking a loaf of bread offering.
Over the next two weeks I will be teaching three workshops each week. So I am relieved that NaPoWriMo will be providing daily poetry prompts from tomorrow. Because this little engine that could is running our of steam. And I do seriously think that April will be the end of my Poem A Day writing. At some point I need to address editting…
However, the brief sweetness of senryu suggested itself for today as I prepare to deliver a workshop on creative non-fiction.
Today would have been my sister-in-law’s 65th birthday. She died just after last Christmas and her funeral was the day after New Year’s. My husband will be memorialising her today planting sunflower seeds, a flower they both favour and have adopted as a family symbol. Gardening, as his late mother knew, heals all.