Some Poetry Making Etudes

Mostly I have been filling the creativity well this month. Sometimes you know something is not ready. You need time to pray at holy wells. Or stare at the birds perching in the sunflowers outside your window. To ponder locked room mysteries and the people inside them. To watch and gather one’s strength for a renewal, or a beginning.

As a child I was a piano scholar, and not a terribly gifted one. Essential piano practice came in the form of a book titled Etudes. They were five finger exercises to limber up the fingers, to get you stoked for the ivory so to speak.

I welcome autumn, the nights drawing in, the soulful click of knitting needles in the evening. It heralds the richest vein for writing. Like mushrooms that have had to follow the long, underground tracks before they can emerge, finally the words begin to pop up and patterns discerned. But start the practice, as Miss Mildred instructed, with the etudes.


Out on our lane one September morning



A humming in the distance

Coming from the south – probably

(But sound carries in odd ways in the country

The wind can play hard and fast)


A bee swarm

Of human speech

Rising and falling

Babel bearing down

Upon us


All at once

A sound not unlike

Once heard outside a Stamford Hill Hassidic synagogue

Where inside the men

Daven at their prayers



Inexorably moving towards me

Coming down the lane

Shaded by its shaggy hedges

The trees


A huddle of helmets

A lycra clad choir

Bent double

Constantly chattering

As pedals creaked, gears moaned


An all male

Tenor Baritone Bass


Words spilling

Over each other



One broke ranks vocally

Acknowledging me

In passing

Not missing a beat


(Also, the day –

How it was good

For drying the washing -)

A throw away line

Fluttering to my feet


The peloton rolled past

Pedalling north

Uphill and not so fast

Becoming echoes

Pegged to the washing line

Copyright 2018 Bee Smith

Beauty and the Beholder

Day 21 of NaPoWriMo/GloMoWriMo and I do sometimes feel the tiredness of the marathon runner. I didn’t notice it so much in NapoWriMo2017. Perhaps I have kept more studiously to the Poem a Day prompts in NaPoWriMo2018? I certainly have felt stretched into less comfortable poetic places on more days than last year. I have been busier, not able to lavish as much time on the product as last year, too. I worry about being a bit slap dash or hackneyed.

Today’s prompt looks at the myth of Narcissus. Here goes:


Even narcissi
shall wither and die.

The mirror never really

It may be open
to interpretation,

bit wind ravages
even that flirtation.

The cold will bow shoulders,
making  you look older.

Sunshine betrays more detail.
it’s not  so easy to evade

the echo  of the beauty,
the cause for sighs.

They do say it’s in the ‘I’
of the beholder.

Copyright 2018 Bee Smith

The World Outside My Window

NaPoWriMo2018 Day 19

NaPoWriMo Day 19 and today’s prompt is on a topic that I have addressed many other times, although not addressing it in the crafty way they suggest. ‘Erasure’ basically starts with prose and erases words back to some kind of poetry.  Although I am not sure that my own offering has achieved the intended repetitive effect.

I have been avidly watching what goes on outside my window now for nearly sixteen years. Only last week I was setting the table for supper when I spotted a stray sheep munching on the primrose flowers in the pots set outside the front door.  I ran out in my pinny doing my best imitation of one of those Dowra mart fellows to chase them down the lane. Except I didn’t have a stick. Only my hands.

To quote today’s prompt:

Our (optional) prompt for the day takes it cue from Brady’s suggestion that erasure/word banks can allow for compelling repetitive effects. Today we challenge you to write a paragraph that briefly recounts a story, describes the scene outside your window, or even gives directions from your house to the grocery store. Now try erasing words from this paragraph to create a poem or, alternatively, use the words of your paragraph to build a new poem.

Early Morning


The world outside my window


except for birdsong



but no mist to obscure

the wind turbines on Corry Mountain


I can see three counties

a streak of sunshine

lights up the willow and ash


Turning everything

Crayola crayon

spring green


Except the sky

a watered down ink

There shall probably be rain


But back to the now

the streak of sunlight



tits and robins flit

a solitary blackbird

perches on the apple tree


that slants at

a forty-fve degree

from the wind blowing in through the gap


Copyright © 2018 Bee Smith


Shannon Pot GloPoWriMo

While April, as NaPoWriMo or GloPoWriMo, is the poetry writing month, May is often called the poetry revision month. All those drafts in the drawer need more work! But the prompt for today looks at revision slant.  I shall quote the prompt from Day 18 of NaPoWriMo as it best explains.

Our prompt for the day (optional as always) isn’t exactly based in revision, but it’s not exactly not based in revision, either. It also sounds a bit more complicated than it is, so bear with me! First, find a poem in a book or magazine (ideally one you are not familiar with). Use a piece of paper to cover over everything but the last line. Now write a line of your own that completes the thought of that single line you can see, or otherwise responds to it. Now move your piece of paper up to uncover the second-to-last line of your source poem, and write the second line of your new poem to complete/respond to this second-to-last line. Keep going, uncovering and writing, until you get to the first line of your source poem, which you will complete/respond to as the last line of your new poem. It might not be a finished draft, but hopefully it at least contains the seeds of one.

My own critieria for today was that the poem be short as I am a bit time famished. I grabbed Bloodaxe’s anthology Staying Alive and kept flipping until a really short poem appeared.  A micro-poem was really what my schedule wanted. And then I lit on a Michael Longley.

My version:

At Legnashinna

Easter 1998 2018


Aconite putting on a brave face

Bright in the uncertain climate

Show me that crop of primrose in moss

To forget the threat of upland snow


Copyright © 2018 Bee Smith


I would not normally comment on process but this small poem could do with a bit of context that makes the micro more macro.  If you are not familiar with more recent Irish history the Easter 1998  might seem unimportant. But Irish poems that have dates often point to political landmarks. Easter 1998 will forever mean the Good Friday Agreement. This is Longley’s Good Friday Agreement poem, which I later found had been published the following day in The Irish Times.

The recent 20th anniversary  of the Good Friday Agreement has been overshadowed by the uncertainty of what havoc Brexit may wreck on the lives on those of us who live in the porous border counties with Northern Ireland. There is no international border frontier since the Good Friday Agreement, no check points or Customs Posts.

Longley titles his poem At Poll Salach. I am not an Irish scholar, but Google informs me that a poll translates as a pool, hole or tidal stream. Given my own border location this suggested to me Shannon Pot. My title uses the Irish townland name for Shannon Pot, albeit in its more Hiberno-English rendering rather than as Gaelige.

Motherlines Remembered

Day 17 NaPoWriMo and I am feeling a bit more serene. I am taking my time to walk around my poem a day today. And the prompt is more congenial, too.

Our prompt for the day (optional as always) follows Gowrishankar’s suggestion that we write a poem re-telling a family anecdote that has stuck with you over time. It could be the story of the time your Uncle Louis caught a home run ball, the time your Cousin May accidentally brought home a coyote and gave it a bath, thinking it was a stray dog, or something darker (or even sillier).

The featured photo is one of my mother and Grandmother Russell, who both feature as characters in today’s offering. It was taken when my mother was about the age she was in the tale recounted.

The last time I saw my mother alive


My brother was driving us so I could catch

The Chinatown Philly-NYC jitney.

She was recounting a memory

of another bus trip maybe seventy-five

years or more ago

to the disbelieving ears of her grandson.


I was catching my first connection

back to my life that was many stops and changes

away from the USA.

She told her memory like beads on a rosary,

the pink crystal ones she kept at her bedside.

She began with her sister, oceanside

in New Jersey waving her off on her journey.


How Mamma met her at the station

in Philly to pack her off onto the correct bus

on the leg to Washington, D.C.

An unknown  friend  or some kind of cousin of Mamma’s

met her there since it was growing dark

to usher her into some midnight caravanserai

before setting off through the night

sitting bolt upright through Maryland and Virginia.


Morning light and North Carolina. Gertrude’s brother

was there in his pride and joy jalopy.

Her cumbersome suitcase filled the whole rumble seat.

The front seat was full of meet and greeters

so she clung onto the door handle

surfing into Winston-Salem on the running board,

grinning at  being  back, wind speed making her florid,

feeling a bit desperado, like Bonnie and Clyde


At this point in the narrative

her grandson  looked like his head was beginning to hurt

jaw dropped,

configuring an impossible Venn diagram from

this rather staid, devout, stalwart

ancient relative and that girl who was only

just turned fifteen.


Which was probably the age when I first heard

this tale, when I learned that my mother

was someone not solely concerned about

my health , and could actually be quite

devil may care about personal safety.


She was off with her childhood adventurers

hanging by  a speeding  Model T’s handle

with kids with whom she had climbed trees and

smoked corn silk behind the outdoor privy.

She was the before to her after.

And then, just then, I knew how

I wanted to be that woman’s daughter.

how that Her had been able to make me.


Copyright © 2018 Bee Smith


Play? Aren’t there Rules?

Day 16 of NaPoWriMo wants us to play. Play? On a Monday? Do they even imagine how much stuff needs to happen on a Monday even for people with the most flexible schedules?  So here I am two hours from day’s end and nary a moment to have had to consider writing a poem. Yes! It has been that kind of busy, mission-filled day.

And what can someone who is pathologically unable (maybe even congenitally?) to understand the rules of most team sports got to go on that topic? (It might even be genetic. My sister and I have discussed our complete puzzlement/ brain freeze with most rules of sports.) We were driving back home from a Mindfulness Meditation session past 9pm and I was beginning to sweat. Or consider just giving it a miss. But my own rules for April are to write a poem – even something that resembles the second draft of a poem – each day. And to post it. Those are the only rules that I seem capable of understanding this April. I may know nothing of GAA or chess or only vaguely grasp the principles of any card game not Authors, but I do get that there are rules. You have to know rules to play a game. And the only game I seem to be able to play is NaPoWriMo! At least by my own definition of those rules. 1) check the prompt daily, 2) write a poem, 3) post the poem on the blog.

But one thing I rarely do is versify. And I never have attempted a limerick. So with the clock ticking this is what is on offer for today.  I haven’t a clue if my anapests are in order (too tired), but I did stick to AABBA rhyme schemata.


There was once a woman blew in to Dowra

Who learned to talk Leitrim and say “How ye!”

She’s auditioning to be Corrogue’s next crone

Now she’s past sixty and fully all grown

Having found home and her own Hallelujah!

Copyright © 2018 Bee Smith

And to all a good night!

Bee Smith facilitates creative writing workshops, with experience with all age groups and in men-only and women-only groups. She leads haiku walks in Northwest Ireland. If you would like to information about workshops and events and would like to be added to the mailing list please fill in the contact form.

Seven Chakra Elevenie

Day 15 of NaPoWriMo2018 and I was completely unedified by the prompt for the first time this morning. But as one poet friend said on Facebook, ‘NaPoWriMo is not my boss!’ Maybe it is because of New Moon today, which astrologers say has a very peculiar vibe for some of us. Or it could just be that dark moons are far from energising progenitors. The moon is dark! And I certainly felt like a blind mole blinking over my blank pages this morning.

First, I tried a variation on an exercise I call ‘Word Salad’ – grab about six random words from the dictionary or from newspaper headlines and see how the dots can begin to connect.  That was a futile hour (or more.)

My next strategy was to take quite a tight form, but one in brief. I decided on the elevenie (see  here for details). I had been playing around with yellow in my futile hour of doodling words on the page and then realised I could do linked elevenie right up the chakras. So this is for all my dear reiki friends and fellows.

Seven Chakra Elevenie


is happening

relay ready, revving

get up and go




makes art

please me you

conceive, configure, conjugate, confabulate




early warning

caged canary trilling

listen to small fears




grows everything

seed, sprout, fruit

even garden your heart




just saying

body, mind, spirit

making language with flesh





sky, ocean, eye

look wide and deep




is ultra

elixir, alchemy, quitessence

adjust your inner tiara



Copyright © 2018 Bee Smith


Today’s featured image

News from My Townland

Day 12 of NaPoWriMo/GloPoWriMo and it really does feel like running a marathon. I do not have a conventional work schedule. My husband is retired and I am self-employed. How do people with a 9-5 life manage this? Draft on lunch hour? Steal some online posting time on break? I am managing to do something everyday, but I cannot guarantee quality. Maybe some people only post the really polished stuff?

Anyway, today’s prompt should have been easy, but it hasn’t and I am not sure that I have fulfilled all the qualifications for a haibun. If you want to check, read the article here. I have more tasks to confront, so I have to settle with having tried.

Here is the prompt.

We’ve challenged you to tackle the haibun in past years, but it’s such a fun one, we couldn’t resist again. Today, we’d like to challenge you specifically to write a haibun that takes in the natural landscape of the place you live. It may be the high sierra, dusty plains, lush rainforest, or a suburbia of tiny, identical houses – but wherever you live, here’s your chance to bring it to life through the charming mix-and-match methodology of haibun.

I am, at least, very fortunate to live in a landscape lush in detail.  I have to call it News from Our Townland because everytime we meet our neighbour Winnie down the lane she sticks her head into the car and says. “Any news?” And for non-Irish readers a townland is basically an outlying rural district. Our townland translates, I am told, as ‘the place of the briars.’

News From Our Townland

At noon, in fields stretching south, dye daubed sheep, lowing cattle mourning calves gone to Mart, bog cotton in springtime, the cuckoo flowers blooming just before the cuckoo arrives from Africa

wind turbines on Arigna, gorse acid splash in the mist on hummocks of hills, the gap to the southwest where the Atlantic gales blow in on us, rattling the glass

the sun slips behind that bump running along John’s and Paddy’s property line, that tangled hedge, dipping into Lough Moneen, at dusk dripping magenta, violet and ink

Place of briars. Thorn trees twined and bound in ivy and lichen year round after ditching their spring prom blossom dresses into the shuck. Or jewelling naked limbs with sloe and haw, brazen rowan for wild bird fodder.

The song sung at the holy well to a plaster Mary. Blackbird and thrush trill to trickle of stream tune. The offerings tied to the bare hawthorn – coins from around the world, a teddy, a shoelace, rosary beads in loving memory – oh Holy Mother, hear our prayers

Taming daffodils

Herds huddled in haggards

Briars still flourish

© 2018 Bee Smith


And where words fail…

I am a most fortunate woman to live where I live.


Day 7 NaPoWriMo/GloPoWriMo and the prompt is by no means easy. I could go back to this again and again and mine  several poems just from my initial list. Identity is a big theme and just think of the associations that get blurted out – fraud, theft, multiple. But what I have mulled over all day is the city mouse/country mouse dichotomy of my own life story. And yes, as I wrote the poem the categories of power and vulnerability oscillated from my original assessment.

Here is the text from the website’s prompt for Day 7:

In our interview, Kyle Dargan suggests writing out a list of all of your different layers of identity. For example, you might be a wife, a grandmother, a Philadelphian, a dental assistant, a rabid Phillies fan, a seamstress, retiree, agnostic, cancer survivor, etc.. These are all ways you could be described or lenses you could be viewed through. Now divide all of those things into lists of what makes you feel powerful and what makes you feel vulnerable. Now write a poem in which one of the identities from the first list contends or talks with an identity from the second list. This might turn out to be kind of a “heavy” exercise, emotionally, but I hope you will find the results enlightening.


It’s official


stamped on my passports

my status as

native New Yorker

fourth generation arriving

as one in six million stories

in the Naked City

in the Empire State

at the centre of the known world

in 1956


excepting my centre of gravity

(unlike my big brother’s)

is not the subway A train

My pencil pushing Dad

was transferred by his employer to the Poconos

so from 1957

I grew up in the small town

that forged and fabricated

those cars clacketing under bridges

diving through tunnels


I know more about snow

potluck suppers

and party lines

than rock salted streets

Parsons Boulevard

and stimulation 24/7


I know that insomnia

can copulate with silence

cicadas and lightening bugs

as much as in

streets numbered in their hundreds

blazing light

and the shushing of midnight traffic

snaking along the Expressway


I know how to live large

in some place small

learning there how to be

someone who leaves

to have a life beyond

to pretend the power of the streets

but to know more about

navigating the unknown

off the grid plan



I also know

that the Unisphere

is my very own


which may say something

about what is transmitted

in more than DNA

with that stamp

that certifies


and my dichotomies


©2018 Bee Smith

Mind Fullness NaPoWriMo Day6

Day 6 of NaPoWriMo/GloPoWriMo and it is all about line endings. The short and the long of them. Enjambment! Yes, the mind boggle of the poet in revision. To enjamb or not to enjamb? That is the question that has you shifting words up and down a line ad infinitum.   A workshop at Lumb Bank with Carola Luther helped me with this quandry, but it still bedevils me.

To quote today’s prompt:

Today, we’d like to challenge you to write a poem that stretches your comfort zone with line breaks. That could be a poem with very long lines, or very short lines. Or a poem that blends the two. You might break to emphasize (or de-emphasize) sounds or rhymes, or to create a moment of hesitation in the middle of a thought.

And what came to my mind was the Mindfulness Meditation evening group that my husband is running at the local open prison.

Mind Fullness


Breathe in




Breathe out


That’s the height of this mindfulness lark just thinking of nothing

Which my mother always thought the sixth impossibility of breakfast


Porridge and toast


Breathe in


Breathe out



That parcel wants collecting the tax needs paying my teeth are due cleaning

I hate my dentist


Breathe in

Buzz bizz whizzzzz Spit!


My stomach isn’t popping up and down like the nice man encouraging everyone says should happen

Deep belly breathing

My chest is tight


Breathe in

Go back to the breath

Breathe in

He says not to cork it. I’m corking. I’m sure I’m corking it


Breathe out



Breathe in



Breathe out



Just watch your thoughts as they crop up

Marrows, peas, comfrey, compost




Step into the gap

Mind The Gap!

(London Tube sound effects now playing in my head)


Breathe In



Breathe out



Breathe in


Some guy to my left just snorted like a pig.


Breathe out


Breathe in



Breathe out





Time up


Shoulder roll. Look around.

Be present

It was definitely Dermot who snored

Had to be


Kettle on



See you next week!


© 2018  Bee Smith