Day 27 NaPoWriMo2019

Today’s prompt is to do a “remix” of a Shakespearean sonnet. Sonnets used to scare me, but since this poem a day lark started last September I have had a bash at them a few times. Some of my efforts I even like (especially the one where Brooklyn Bridge features). Today I chose Sonnet 116, the one that begins

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,

William Shakespeare, Sonnet 116
Riff on 116

Love does not rock and roll when the key shifts.
It's more like jazz - improvisational.
Love keeps making the music that lifts.
Phone home and they always will take your call.
It doesn't matter what dive you are in
some far flung corner of the unknown earth.
They love you famous or has been
or have had repossessed your house of mirth.
Yeah, they know your whole story, chapter, verse,
the back when, the first dance, all your bold hopes,
the down and dirty hours when you cursed
any and every person. But nope!
Love did not flinch. Even when called a fool.
Love knows its mind. And music has its rules.

Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.

Feature Photo by Jefferson Santos on Unsplash

NaPoWriMo2019 GloPoWriMo2019
Bee Smith is participating in GloPoWriMo2019

What If…NaPoWriMo2019’s Day 6

So this is where the NaPoWriMo2019 Day 6 prompt collides with some of my teaching. I am currently doing creative writing work with 10-12 year olds in the Cruinniú na nÓG programme sponsored by the Cavan Monaghan Training Board. We are working on story, in the first instance letting their imaginations roam free, then with story based in fact. I’ve started them in group work as a confidence booster and to just observe how they work. True to their age stereotypes, they divided along gender lines for the group work, as I gently nudge them towards skills for individual pieces.

What really has struck me was how the boy’s group immediately began to create a war story. The two girl’s groups could basically be classified as falling into crime/thriller and romance genres, although violence also permeates their stories, too. It’s as if the only narrative in town in destruction. I turned to the teacher at playtime and mused, “How can we change this narrative?” When I talked about this with my husband, saying my little boys were having a war between Cavan and Fermanagh (please no Brexit!), he responded that at that age, inspired by 1950s American telly, he and his friends in Armagh were playing cowboys and Indians. “Of course, we didn’t know then that Colonel Custer was the baddie.”

And, of course, changing the narrative is not exactly in my remit to fit into sixteen hours of classroom time. This is where NaPoWriMo2019’s Day 6 prompt enters my stream of consciousness. ” Today, we’d like to challenge you to write a poem of the possible. What does that mean? Well, take a look at these poems by Raena Shirali and Rachel Mennies. Both poems are squarely focused not on what has happened, or what will happen, but on what might happen if the conditions are right. Today, write a poem that emphasizes the power of “if,” of the woulds and coulds and shoulds of the world.”

So here is a sonnet to possibility.

I was an anxious child with a mother who had many worries. On many a car journey I peppered her with so many “What If…” scenarios I probably fed her own anxieties.

What If

What if little boys did not toy
with the glamour of war,
the thrill of massive destruction?

What if boys did not deploy
into male avatars,
ComicCon  cut-outs of action?

What if they dreamed not of cowboys
as played by movie stars
gunning down Native Americans?

"What if..."  - asked by anxious boys,
ones already so scarred,
our small hostages to fortune.

What if we raised boys into men
where peace made them sovereign?

Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.

Featured Photo by Rosie Kerr on Unsplash

GloPoWriMo 2019
Bee Smith is particpating in Na/GloPoWriMo2019

NaPoWriMo2019 Day 4

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.

Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.
Sojourning Smith is participatingin GloPoWriMo2019.

Featured Photo by Kat J on Unsplash

Ancestor Echoes

ancestor echoes

I woke up well pre-dawn today. So poetry practice in early darkness is back on track. And I had an inkling that I wanted to write about ancestral objects. I seem to collect objects that have family story attached. My walls are adorned with paintings by my father-in-law, brother-in-law, great uncle and niece. I have family tree photo montages. Yet there are plenty of blanks in the family history, as well as some secrets and probably a few lies, too.

After I wrote today’s poem – which is a curtal sonnet, a form invented by Gerard Manley Hopkins – I realised that today is my name day. In German tradition, you celebrate your patron saint’s feast day. Today is St. Barbara’s Day. I am Barbara the Third on the paternal line. So Happy Name Day Oma and Grandma!

The featured photo is of a portable writing desk that a cousin passed to me. When a friend refurbished it we realised that it had been an 1879 Christmas present from my maternal Great-great Grandmother Mary Ella to my Great-Grandmother Mary Ella (there are a lot of mother/daughter name repetitions on both sides of the family!). There was writing on the underside of the writing case in faded ink that said as much and recorded the date of the gifting. Helga reckoned it was handmade. There were a few signs of a shortcuts taken in its manufacture, probably as the deadline of the Great Day loomed.

In the days before laptop computers, these personal writing cases or lap desks were important personal objects. It felt fitting that a writer in the family became custodian.

Ancestor Echoes

We like to keep tokens to memory
Be it book or china jug or medal.
These solid things are both secrets and clues.
Ancestral objects of passed family,
Proof of links we cannot deny or annul.
They cannot speak. May not have wanted to.
The object remains of stories they leave –
A wedding ring, Will’s ruining fiddle -
What stories we tell are family’s glue.
Do they speak of love? Are we done with grief?
How true?
Copyright © 2018 Bee Smith

Love Sonnet

I woke early for me, before it was fully light, which allowed me to peacefully creep into the day once I had fed the cat collective. I read while I drink the first cup of tea of the day (green, with lemon, and a sugar/stevia sweetener to try and curb my sugar habit). I don’t know what I will write. But I am not an immediately wide awake riser. I slowly surface, like those divers who used to have to ascend metre by metre, so they didn’t get a bad case of the bends. I browse emails, social media, or a real book in hand. Whatever takes my fancy. What prompted today’s poem came from a stray line in a Brain Pickings email – no heart goes unplundered. That sentence was the trigger.

Surprising myself, I decided to bash away at another sonnet. Love and grief and sonnets cluster together nicely. There are so many kinds of love and loving, yet the essentials always remain true no matter what form it takes.


Love Sonnet


Love is not an object ordinary,

being subject to laws of physics.

Love is beyond chemistry, godlessly

opposed, lawless, crossing demographics,

moving nanoseconds faster than light.

Love has presence that will always pervade

absence. Grief will take us to darkest night.

Love will raise us upright and unbetrayed.

Even when we only have its perfume,

someone’s scent on sweater worn, though fading,

wraps its wooly memory, restoring bloom –

stem erect and poised for flower.

Resilience is love’s gift and power.


Copyright © Bee Smith 2018


Featured Image By Hu Totya – Own work, Public Domain,

On Brooklyn Bridge

Last thing at night I made up my mind to write a sonnet. This was no easy option. I’ve tried and failed many times to write sonnets. I think I probably completed on for NaPoWriMo, just because I was bloody-minded and said I would complete each post’s challenge. But given the option of rhyming couplet or odes, it was looking more attractive.  This did not, however, stop me from indulging in lots of displacement activity this morning. I had a burning need to know whodunit and complete reading Sophie Hannah’s latest Hercule Poirot novel. (Incidentally, she began her writing career while still at Cambridge with a volume of villanelles.)  Then I also had errands to carry out., the compost bin to rearrange, the dog walked. THEN, I urgently needed to mop floors because we have guests arriving tomorrow evening.

But a sonnet it is for today’s poetry practice. It has been committed.

On Brooklyn Bridge


As I stand on Brookyn Bridge and looking

out to Lady Liberty beyond, and muse

to self how that sight felt to ancestors

who passed Her gaze and beheld this thing

arising so huge and full of portent,

which rhymed with heart and mind. That as may be.

That symbol would change their tongue and accent.

What losses paid for aspired to Beauty?

Those empty eyes. That light so high aloft

would only blink at passing ships at night.

Too feeble to make it safe to harbour,

to puncture venal desires, curing vices,

or elevate, or conform to higher choices.


Copyright © Bee Smith 2018

Day 11 NaPoWriMo2017

Today’s challenge – The Bop! ” the Bop is a kind of combination sonnet + song. Like a Shakespearan sonnet, it introduces, discusses, and then solves (or fails to solve) a problem. Like a song, it relies on refrains and repetition”

I actually wrote two poems. Up uncharacteristically early, my first effort was not really to my satisfaction. Then the internet went down. So I tried again. It may not really bop, but I think I may have managed to write my first sonnet!


The way we live now – obese, addicted

and over our collective sleepy heads,

in debt to octane, oligarchs and dead

from the eyes down.  Industry evicted.

The buckles rusted, belt redundant now.

Aground.  Or drowning . Not enough life boats

to go around.

Connection is the cure.


Despair has a terminal prognosis.

Connect. Try the trees before the woodland,

Or take up colour, bold instead of bland.

Persist.  Surprise yourself.  And focus.

Again I say, Focus! Be here and now.

There is plenty enough to keep afloat.

The scientific hope to share around:

Connection is the cure.