Weekly Poem and a Change of Scenery

I am treating this as an exercise separate to NaPoWriMo this year since I am juggling writing projects and teaching. For instance, today I completed the first draft of a poem for a friend’s birthday. Under Lockdown, it can be hard to source birthday presents. I asked her if she would like an audiobook. She went away to think about it and came back with the request for a poem just for her. Her wish is my command!

Likewise, on the teaching front we have been deep diving into form since March. The NaPoWriMo Day 3 prompt introduced the concept of the Personal Universal Deck, which is a really handy tool to get your poetry going. But it takes a long time, especially under Covid timelines. (Well, doesn’t everything take longer?!) We used some session time to work on it as all of us are juggling projects, jobs, and in some cases home schooling kids. Though we seemingly have all the time in the world under Lockdown, time still seems to be in short supply. I drive my husband mad with what he calls my ‘infinite to do list’ that is running through my mind. However, he benefits from that organizational mental gymnastics!

And yet, as of yesterday, our restrictions have loosened somewhat. We can move around our county and the kids are all back doing in-person schooling. My husband will get his first Covid-19 vaccination this Friday. We celebrated these milestones by going for a woodland walk about 8 miles from home. Glenfarne Demesne was carpeted with wood anemones. We stopped to pat the pillows of sphagnum moss on the rocks. The greenery in the woodland was positively psychedelic. A little shower did not deter us from wandering along a 2 kilometre trail and stopping to stare at Lough MacNean. We filled our hungry eyes with a change of scenery.

But to the weekly poem. As opposed to an occasional NaPoWriMo daily offering that I am tossing at the blog as time allows. After playing with our Universal Personal decks in Zoom class last Saturday we took a quotation from a Tom Paulin poem as a jumping off point.

In the meadows of the spirit

I kiss the word

Tom Paulin, The Other Voice
Kiss Each Word

I kiss each word that spells out
the magic in imagination.
I shut my eyes and I am there
in the meadow beside the Shannon Pot,
full of  as yet uncut cowslips,
pyramidal orchids, buttercups.
I am the child running waist deep
in grass and reeds
her yellow hair swishing left and right
in the late afternoon summer sunlight.
ViviLnk

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.