Tag Archives: National Poetry Month

#NAPOWRIMO: The Last Week

I’ll tell you what. I’ll post a picture of my dearest love from this week, and you can guess what’s been going on.

That’s right: I’ve been sick for a week! Allergy season is horrific in Arizona right now what with the palo verdes in full bloom, so when the illness began I thought it was the allergy symptoms I had already been having. But NO. Turns out allergy morphed right into virus.

I am proud to say that I turned out some sort of poem draft every day, but I am pretty sure they are mainly crap. I didn’t try to clean them up because I knew that was the best way to kill them. If I leave them in this half-awake state, maybe I can do something with them later.

Yesterday, NaPoWriMo.net posted notes from Wesley McNair: On Craft. There’s some excellent ones in there. If you write or want to write poetry, I would recommend reading this short piece. The very last line applies to workshopping poetry, but you can apply it to writing fiction or creative nonfiction, too. He says, “No good poem was ever written by a committee.”  Haha, I take it to mean to get advice from others as needed, but don’t let their voices take over the poem.

Another note refers to something I mentioned above.

Contrary to the notion of the schoolroom, your slow-witted self is your smart self because true intelligence is not in quickness. Work slowly as you make your poem, so as not to give in to the quick self.

If I rushed to finish up those poems in my ill state, they would be ruined. I will let them slowly work their way into life.

If you are not a poet and do not write poetry, but are a prose writer, I have a way for you to honor poetry month, if you’re game. Try a prose poem. If it makes you happy, think of it as a form of flash nonfiction. Actually, prose poems are claimed by both genres, so there ya go. When you write a prose poem, format it in a block so that both left and right are justified (although you can’t keep that format on WordPress). Just write your prose in this block shape and then to revise get rid of things that sound too prosaic–too much explanation, too many extra words, and try to heighten the images and the language a bit. Try it without dialogue. And try it in present tense. Read the sample prose poem first. OK, ready, set, GO.

Sample Prose Poem

Gary Young 

I discovered a journal in the children’s ward, and read, I’m a mother, my little boy has cancer. Further on, a girl has written, this is my nineteenth operation. She says, sometimes it’s easier to write than to talk, and I’m so afraid. She’s offered me a page in the book. My son is sleeping in the room next door. This afternoon, I held my whole weight to his body while a doctor drove needles deep into his leg. My son screamed, Daddy, they’re hurting me, don’t let them hurt me, make them stop. I want to write, how brave you are, but I need a little courage of my own, so I write, forgive me, I know I let them hurt you, please don’t worry. If I have to, I can do it again.


The cats are well. Perry was actually quiet and rested for much of the week. It’s as if he knew Mommy didn’t feel well enough for his usual antics.

Stay well!

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Reporting in at Half Time #NAPOWRIMO

I guess there is no half time, no break, just keep going through the whole 30 days without drawing a deep breath. Shallow rapid breathing. I’ve written 15 poems in 15 days (actually in 16 days because I started a day early, but somehow I lost a day–or maybe lost a poem–and am now where I am supposed to be: 15 for 15). Can’t write long here as I have another to write today!

This month has been much sloppier than when I did the Tupelo 30/30. I am happy just to get a crummy rough draft done and move on to the rest of my day. I don’t have time to take a break and revise, not to mention that daily blog posting I did in September 2015!

So I don’t really know what I will end up with. More than zero, I guess. Some days have been awful. I had to travel to California for work last week, so there were 2.5 days of hours and hours of travel (not just the getting there and back, but the travel within California for work). Do you know how hard it is to find that poetry zone in my head when the gardener is playing oldies (loud) and chomping gum (even louder)? He also keeps up a running commentary on every driver, every traffic jam, every building site, in short, whatever passes by on the road. I can only tell him to shut up so much as he is the one who is driving in the hideous traffic. I can no longer tolerate the sound of the traffic whooshing around me either. It’s gotten so bad that it permeates my innards all way to the tips of my soul.

Still, I came up with something. One day I was “blessed” with seeing two different birds of prey at different points in the trip, each carrying its squirming meal. That was a poetic coincidence. One morning I woke up dreaming about poetry.

I’m getting tired pushing myself this hard to crank out the poems, but in two weeks it will end, and I can go back to being regular-tired instead of super-tired.

Thought I’d mention that I’ve mainly been using the NaPoWriMo.net prompts. And that anthology I am creating over at poets.org? I am still working on it, but am pretty frustrated because a lot of my favorite poems are not on their site and you have to use the poems on their site. They don’t have some of the best poems of the poets writing past 1970.

Have you written daily poems? Any poems? Prose? Blog posts? Writing for work?

If you have, go pet a cat or dog as a reward. That’s what I plan to do!

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When Did You First Feel Different? Multiple Answer Version

Was it when you ate dinner at a friend’s house and saw their family structure and customs were completely different from your own? Was it when you noticed that all the other kids in your kindergarten class were drawing pictures with light hands and you looked down at your own dark ones? Was it when you realized that was lust you felt for another kid of your own gender? Maybe it was when you realized you couldn’t squeeze into your older sister’s jeans.

I have a theory that a lot of children and teens feel “different” from other kids. I am not talking about something that makes them different—just that they feel different.

I’d already started notes for this blog post when I read a poem called “My Barbie Dated George Harrison” in Karen Paul Holmes’ new collection No Such Thing as Distance. In the poem, the speaker’s Barbie (and it quickly becomes clear that Barbie is really the speaker hiding behind her doll to mask her emotions) has a crush on George of the Beatles, instead of Paul as the other girls do.

I kid you not, but the first note on my list was “George not Paul.” You see, that’s how I first felt different. All, and I mean ALL, my friends loved Paul with his big doe eyes and his cute young-looking face. He wrote love songs. Of course he did!

But I preferred George. Did I have a picture-kissing crush on him? No, but I knew I would prefer his company and that there was more to him than met the eye. And that meant something to me, even at age 12. When the Beatles hung with the Maharishi, I knew George took it seriously. I doubted that the others did.

Just for the record, I never contemplated the truth that if I had really been different I would have selected John or Ringo as my Beatle. But no girl in her right mind would choose one of them.

George was the alternative Beatle. He had a handsome face, but not too handsome. Not a movie star face. He seemed gentle and deep.

Hahaha.

If I had been more perceptive, I might have come to this feeling earlier. For instance, my epiphany could have arrived when I was the only girl who couldn’t do cartwheels, either because I had no upper body muscles or because I was too terrified. But I never had that feeling of “knowing” until everyone turned to stare at me when George flew out of my mouth.

But this train of thought led me to seeing that I remember in strands, like add-a-pearl necklaces where first one memory is added to strand A and then one is added to strand C and another onto A and so forth.These strands accumulate simultaneously.

When a memory comes to mind now, and it is at the beginning of a strand I think, “Oh, this is the first time this happened. There George is at the beginning of this strand so knowing I liked the ‘other Beatle’ was the first time I felt different.”

I have to remember that there are other strands. I found one of them in my memoir draft. Have you ever heard of the old movie The Boy with Green Hair? One day the boy dries off after a bath and discovers that his hair has turned green. In those days, long before the brilliant hair dyes of today, green hair was apt to set someone apart from everyone else.

I wrote in my draft that at age 11 I felt like the boy with green hair because of my father’s strict rules and loud yelling. The kids in my neighborhood would comment to me that they could hear his yelling down the street and sometimes, on summer evenings, even in their own homes.

So where is the truth in all this? When did I first feel different? Was it when George, rather than Paul, called to me? Was it when I learned to be angry and embarrassed about my father’s actions? And when would that have been? When I was three? Six? Nine? Eleven?

Sometimes someone will ask me something, and the answer I give makes sense at the time. For my favorite food I might say pumpkin pie. Later, I might think that it’s not really pumpkin pie. It’s fried squash. Or baklava. I wonder if these foods are part of different strands of memory. Maybe the fried squash goes with my teen summer days living at our lake cottage, and baklava goes with my first experience at the Omar Khayyam restaurant in Pittsburgh that I loved so much that my father drove us all back to Pittsburgh from Kalamazoo so I could eat there a second time. So you see my father wasn’t all yelling and rules, but goodness too, and he hides in various pearls on the strands of my memory.

What about you? Do you remember in strands? Do you remember when you first felt different?

NATIONAL POETRY MONTH AND #NAPOWRIMO UPDATE: So far so good!

Pauline‘s prism rainbow with plant shadow

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Welcome, National Poetry Month and #NaPoWriMo!

April is National Poetry Month, and it is also #NaPoWriMo, meaning you and I should be writing a poem a day for the entire month. I’ve done this before when I participated in the Tupelo Press 30/30.

Many thanks go to the Tupelo 30/30 for getting me started on what became Kin Types.

This month I plan to go it alone because I am not sure I can really handle a full dose this time–and tax month yet (I don’t think T.S. Eliot was thinking of that when he called April the cruelest month, but that is why I think of it that way).

I read through some articles like the following links and made a list for myself of goals for April.

So here is my list. It’s what works for me this year. Your list will be different (so go ahead and make one!).

  • Create a personal poetry anthology on poets.org (I’ve already titled my anthology: THE MOST BESTEST POEMS IN THE UNIVERSE)
  • Learn more about poets and poetry events in Arizona (poets.org list)
  • Read Edward Hirsch’s essay (poets.org list)
  • Recreate a poet’s favorite food or drink (poets.org list)  I struck out this item because there wasn’t enough choice on the website, so I’ll make my own kimchi fried rice
  • Read the first chapter of Muriel Rukeyser’s book The Life of Poetry (this will be a reread, but I can’t remember it as it’s been so long) (poets.org list)
  • Search Twitter through #NationalPoetryMonth and #NaPoWriMo and #TMMPoetry (partially from Make Use Of)
  • Write a poem a day (from Make Use Of and at least 3 magazines/presses that offer programs for April) But see below for some free daily prompts!!!

To find your free daily prompts try these sources:

They both can be followed on Twitter and/or Facebook, as well as their websites.

If you are more interested in PROSE writing prompts, here are a full month’s worth from Toasted Cheese.

I won’t be posting my daily poems here, but I will give you updates if I am doing ok at it. If I am not writing, you might hear radio silence.

Are you going to join me in celebrating poetry this month? In trying out #NaPoWriMo?

I hope nobody who ever has anything to do with the poster designs for National Poetry Month reads this, but I think they suck every year. Or maybe I should say they are not my idea of good poster art. Why oh why can’t they find something that knocks my socks off, or as Emily D. might say, that takes off the top of my head? The posters need to be WORTHY of poetry.

 

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What in the World is a Chapbook?

Sometimes we get so used to the jargon of the field we’re in that we forget it’s a specialized language. And that others don’t always  know what in the heck we’re talking about when we use it.

I was thinking the other day that when I say that I wonder if Perry is a feral cat or a stray cat that the nuance between those two types of cats could be lost. A feral cat is so wild that he is not used to humans or civilization and oftentimes cannot be persuaded that we are ok. Unless quite young when the socialization begins, it might not be possible to ever get a feral cat to accept human touch. But I say that with a caveat: every cat must be treated as an individual because you just never know which feral cats can be socialized and which socialized cats will never be lapcats–based on temperament, environment, and so on.

Speaking of Perry, I have been reading him Cindy Rinne’s story in verse Quiet Lantern about a Vietnamese girl named Mai Ly who is on a spiritual quest. The farther I go into the story and the more poetic prowess I discover, the more impressed I am with the book.

Another word I’ve flung around the blog lately is chapbook. Kin Types is a chapbook, rather than a full-length poetry collection like Doll God or like Rinne’s book (which is over 100 pages). But what is a chapbook? Historically, a chapbook was a small pamphlet that was truly around before books as we know them today were invented. The first written fairy tales were chapbooks. They were small. They were a few pages. And they were really roughly printed.

Chapbooks today, though, usually meet these qualifications:

  • Generally poetry, but not always
  • Less than 48 pages in length, generally around 25-30, but even as short as 15 pages (full-length collection is around 55-75)
  • Generally has a sharper focus than a full-length collection
  • Some of the most famous poems were first published in chapbooks–poems by T.S. Eliot, William Blake, Philip Larkin, and Allen Ginsberg
  • Poems can be used in a full-length collection later (or not)
  • There are many chapbook contests and small presses publishing chapbooks
  • There is only one after-publication prize open to chapbooks in the U.S., whereas there are many for full-length books
  • Poets are encouraged to publish chapbooks, as well as full-length books, and many poets first publish a chapbook rather than a book
  • Sometimes the binding is more beautiful than that of a book
  • Sometimes the artistic quality of the binding is poor and the pages look typewritten
  • Sometimes the book is stapled or bound by cord
  • Although modestly expensive, chapbooks are not meant to make money (yup, that’s a fact and probably true of all)
  • Chapbooks are a way to take a risk and strive for art for art’s sake

I did enter Kin Types in a few contests, but they are expensive (entry around $15-25 each) and when the manuscript was accepted by Finishing Line Press for publication, I decided to go with them, rather than spend more money on contests. Still, Kin Types was a semi-finalist in the Concrete Wolf chapbook contest and a Highly Commended title in The Fool for Poetry International Chapbook Competition.

The only writing I’ve been able to do lately is a poem for my son’s wedding. It’s being framed and will be on a table with photographs of the grandparents (of the bride and groom) who have passed on.

Today is the anniversary of my maternal grandmother’s birth in 1912, two days after the Titanic sank. Her birthday was two weeks after that of my paternal grandmother (though they were born 19 years apart). They were both Aries, as is the Gardener.  It’s hard to think of anything that is similar about the three of them, except that they have all been count-on-able.

My maternal grandmother’s name was Lucille Edna, although she was known as Edna. (Luanne is created from Lucille and my mother’s middle name Ann). Edna was Class Historian at graduation (her older sister was Salutatorian the same year) and  always wanted to be a writer. She thought of herself as the “Jo March” of her family (like in Little Women).

When she was elderly and ill, she made me promise I would never give up writing. That comment from Grandma found its way into a Kin Types poem.

from Grandma’s graduation scrapbook

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National Poetry Month: Make a Commitment

National Poetry Month begins today! You can make a commitment to learning more poetry by deciding to read, write, or contemplate poetry every day in April.   The Academy of American Poets asks us to kick off the celebration by reading these poems about the art of poetry:

 

  Tweet me here which one you like best and why!
Desert Botanical Gardens butterfly exhibit

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April is the Humane-est (sic) Month, Breeding Thoughtfulness

T.S. Eliot’s epic poem “The Waste Land” famously begins:

 

April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
So it’s quite ironic that April is National Poetry Month. If anything, since poetry makes the world more thoughtful and compassionate, I think April might now be the most humane month.
*
Poet Yehuda Amichai wrote: “Compassion is what we need.” Ain’t that the truth!
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Of course, one of the greatest mysteries is how a scumbag can write a compassionate, sensitive poem. Case in point: Ezra Nazi-collaborator Pound. He wrote this gorgeous poem/translation:
 *

THE RIVER-MERCHANT’S WIFE: A LETTER

 

by Ezra Pound 1915 (adapted from Rihaku or Li Po 701-762)

 

While my hair was still cut straight across my forehead

I played about the front gate, pulling flowers.

You came by on bamboo stilts, playing horse,

You walked about my seat, playing with blue plums.

And we went on living in the village Chokan:

Two small people, without dislike or suspicion.

 

At fourteen I married My Lord you.

I never laughed, being bashful.

Lowering my head, I looked at the wall.

Called to, a thousand times, I never looked back.

 

At fifteen I stopped scowling,

I desired my dust to be mingled with yours

Forever and forever and forever.

Why should I climb the look out?

 

At sixteen you departed,

You went into far Ku-to-en, by the river of swirling eddies,

And you have been gone five months.

The monkeys make sorrowful noise overhead.

 

You dragged your feet when you went out.

By the gate now, the moss is grown, the different mosses,

Too deep to clear them away!

The leaves fall early this autumn, in wind.

The paired butterflies are already yellow with August

Over the grass in the West garden;

They hurt me.  I grow older.

If you are coming down through the narrows of the river kiang,

Please let me know beforehand,

And I will come out to meet you

As far as Cho-fu-Sa.

 

Frustrating that it was Pound who wrote these beautiful lines. Do you love a work of art by a creep? (Hint: you do if you like James and the Giant Peach or Matilda)

Happy National Poetry Month!!!

I plan to celebrate poetry this month, and am going to try to overlook the little detail above: that I don’t care for this year’s poster. Check out previous year’s posters here.

 

What do you think about this year’s poster? Does it make you want to go read a poem?

 

By the way: #amwriting

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Doll God Makes an Appearance on AZTV

I’m still trying to crank out a revision for Stanford, but I thought I’d give you a snicker of enjoyment today. I want to remind you that the night before my TV interview I did not sleep AT ALL. Therefore, I don’t feel I should be responsible for the baggy, wrinkled state of affairs in this video. I’ll be back Monday!

***

castle promotional cover

 

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Remembering National Poetry Month

HAPPY POETRY MONTH. I can’t let the opening of this month go by without mentioning this happy month (although T.S. Eliot did call it the cruellest month).

The Academy of American Poets partnered with award-winning designer Chip Kidd to commission this poster to celebrate National Poetry Month.  This year’s poster was designed by National Book Award finalist Roz Chast and inspired by Mark Strand. Even Pear Blossom likes it (or is it the crinkle sound?).

With so much on my mind lately, I haven’t organized a list of what I wanted to do for poetry month this year, so for now I think I will read at least one new poem every day. If you like that idea, here is an easy way to do it. Sign up for Poem-A-Day through Poets.org here.

Here is a new one for me by “America’s favorite poet”:

Billy Collins history of weather

I love that this poem begins with spring since spring is breaking open the ground now. I love how the poem goes back farther and farther in time and ends with a realization that the speaker who is trying to get his mind around all this is lying outside with “his jacket bunched into a pillow, an open book on his chest.”

What do you plan to do for National Poetry Month?

 

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Have You Read the Poetry of Linda Hogan?

Do you know the work of poet Linda Hogan?  I love her poetry.  With only two days left of National Poetry Month, I thought I’d share one of my favorite poems, written by Hogan.  The poem is from the “Hunger” section of The Book of Medicines. 

CROSSINGS

by Linda Hogan

There is a place at the center of earth

where one ocean dissolves inside the other

in a black and holy love;

It’s why the whales of one sea

know songs of the other,

why one things becomes something else

and sand falls down the hourglass

into another time.

Once I saw a fetal whale

on a black of shining ice.

Not yet whale, it still wore the shadow

of a human face, and fingers that had grown before the taking

back and turning into fin.

It was a child from the curving world of water turned square,

cold, small.

Sometimes the longing in me

comes from when I remember

the terrain of crossed beginnings

when whales lived on land

and we stepped out of water

to enter our lives in air.

Sometimes it’s from the spilled cup of a child

who passed through all the elements

into the human fold,

but when I turned him over

I saw that he did not want to live

in air.  He’d barely lost

the trace of gill slits

and already he was a member of the clan of crossings.

Like tides of water,

he wanted to turn back.

I spoke across elements

as he was leaving

and told him, Go.

I was like the wild horses

that night when fog lifted.

They were swimming across the river.

Dark was that water,

darker still the horses,

and then they were gone.

###

Poetry Prompt:

Write about the origins of life as you believe, imagine, or create them.  Don’t use Biblical language.  Find a fresh way to describe the beginning.

Here is Hogan reading from “The History of Red”:

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