Thursday, November 23, 2017

Poem-a-Day November and Favorite Christmas Music

Scrape off the mold, dust the cobwebs, oil the rusty gears - it's blog time! Other than the April Poem-a-Day challenge, I've been very inactive here lately (not that anyone really missed me). It's been a busy, crazy year, with a lot happening, mainly our move to a newer home - downsizing for the retirement years. Also I am still watching my two young and active granddaughters as a full-time volunteer position. Poetry has had to take a back seat most days, but I am participating in Robert Lee Brewer's Poem-a-Day Chapbook Challenge this month over at the Poetic Asides blog. So far I've written 31 poems in 23 days. I don't really have a theme in mind to produce a chapbook, but at least I'll have a pile of new poems - I've already more than tripled my production of poetry this month compared to the previous six months. I haven't been sharing them here like I do in April (when I also do a poem a day), but here is a sample of one I wrote, appropriate for the approaching holidays. The prompt was to write a poem about "good for nothing".

My Wife is Good for Nothing

Every year from her church's wishing tree
she plucks the tag of a family in need,
usually one with several children.

Then she buys presents, not one for each of them,
but several  - nice things like dolls, pajamas,
coats, toy trucks, an electronic game,
enough to fill the floor beneath their tree.
Imagine Christmas morning, and the joy of these kids
who otherwise might have got little or nothing.

She remains anonymous, a secret Santa.
For all that goodness, she expects nothing in return,
not even a thank you, although sometimes
she does receive one through the church.

We should all have this huge a heart.
We should all be so good for nothing.


And since it's the holiday season again, I've trucked out my Christmas CD collection to put such music in heavy rotation (though these days I seem to rely more and more on Spotify and my Amazon music files). Anyway, here are 50 of my all-time favorite Christmas albums, roughly in order, representing a range of pop, rock, classical, jazz and traditional music. Some of these may now be out of print or hard to find, but they are worth seeking.

1. A Charlie Brown Christmas - Vince Guaraldi
2. December - George Winston
3. Noël - Joan Baez
4. The New Possibility - John Fahey
5. A Festival of Carols in Brass - Philadelphia Brass Ensemble
6. We Three Kings - The Roches
7. On Yoolis Night - Anonymous 4
8. The Bells of Dublin - The Chieftains
9.  A Christmas Gift for You - Phil Spector et al.
10.The Jethro Tull Christmas Album - Jethro Tull
11. Handel: Messiah - Toronto Symphony Orch./Toronto Mendelssohn Choir/Andrew Davis
12. Tchaikovsky: The Nutcracker (Complete Ballet) - London Symphony Orchestra/Charles Mackerras
13. Noël: Christmas at King's - King's College Choir, Cambridge
14. A Winter's Solstice - Various Artists (Windham Hill)
15. The Peace Album - Paul Horn
16. Celtic Christmas - Various Artists (Windham Hill)
17. In Dulci Jubilo - James Galway
18. Ultimate Christmas - The Beach Boys
19. Holiday Spirits - Straight No Chaser
20. The Spirit of Christmas - Mormon Tabernacle Choir
21. Christmas with Robert Shaw - Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus/Robert Shaw, cond.
22. It's a Holiday Soul Party! - Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings
23. Daquin: 12 Noëls - Christopher Herrick, organ
24. Sounds of the Season - Maggie Sansome
25. To Drive the Cold Winter Away - Loreena McKennitt
26. A Canadian Brass Christmas - The Canadian Brass
27. Acoustic Christmas - Various Artists (CBS Records)
28. Christmas with the Puppini Sisters - The Puppini Sisters
29. Strange Communion - Thea Gilmore
30. James Taylor at Christmas - James Taylor
31. Christmas - Bruce Cockburn
32. The Best of B.B. King Christmas Collection/20th Century Masters - B.B. King
33. Light of the Stable - Emmylou Harris
34. A Tapestry of Carols - Maddy Prior and the Carnival Band
35. Winter - Steeleye Span
36. Songs for Christmas - Sufjan Stevens
37. Tinsel and Lights - Tracey Thorn
38. A Very Special Christmas 1 and 2 - Various Artists
39. Christmas with the Smithereens - The Smithereens
40. On Christmas Night - Cherish the Ladies
41. My Holiday - Mindy Smith
42. Snow Angels - Over the Rhine
43. 12 Songs of Christmas - Etta James
44. Wintersong - Sarah McLachlan
45. Christmas Songs - Diana Krall
46. Come Darkness, Come Light: Twelve Songs of Christmas - Mary Chapin Carpenter
47. A Holiday Carole - Carole King
48. The McGarrigle Christmas Hour - Kate and Anna McGarrigle, et al.
49. Christmas Time Again - The dB's et al.
50. Christmas Means Love - Joan Osborne

Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Holidays!

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Reviewing April PAD: Best of the Month?

As I mentioned, I was very pleased to be able to write 54 poems during National Poetry Month. I found that starting my writing time first thing in the morning was the best strategy, before the drudge of chores and the (demanding) blessing of caring for young granddaughters began. There's also a lot to be said for writing while you're still fresh and rested. Most days I had something at least started by 8:30 a.m. (Maybe I should continue that strategy.) I also found that I was leaning heavily toward humorous poetry and light verse throughout the month. I think it's because of the dire political events of the last 6 months or so - I feel a need to laugh to keep from crying.  When I wrote "Trumpericks", a batch of half a dozen satirical limericks about Donald Trump, a Facebook poet friend said, "Didn't that feel therapeutic?" Yes, it did.

I presume Robert Lee Brewer of Poetic Asides will once again ask participants in his PAD challenge to submit up to five of the best poems they wrote in April, so he can announce his picks for the best of the year. (Once again, I regret having so little time to read other poets' work, but there was some really good poetry to be found in connection with both blogs, so maybe i can spend more time now to discover it.)  Last year I made his top 21, and I would love to be a finalist again this year.

So to help you out a little, so you don't have to slog through 30 days of blog posts, here are what I consider my best five poems of this April:


[two poems deleted]

April 28:
Ode-iferous

Now what the hell?
What is that smell?
We know it well.
It’s really vile
and gross as bile,
and lasts a while
and spreads a mile.

You stripy ghost,
unwilling host
who reeks the most,
you lift your trunk
and spray your junk
at any punk
who gives you bunk,

then we must dunk
ourselves and sluice
tomato juice,
head to caboose,
to try and loose
the stink that’s in
our hair and skin.

You black-and-white
child of the night,
we will not fight
lest we lose sight
of your foul might,
and your alacrity
with unsatisfactory
things olfactory.

Pepé Le Pew,
we don’t hate you,
but for now, adieu.
You do have spunk –
don’t  be in a funk,
or we’ll be sunk
and get a chunk
of eau de skunk.


April 29:
A Metric Poem

We sometimes run kilometers
(5K is popular here).
We drink our Coke in liters,
and water, but not beer.

We briefly employed Celsius
(also known as Centigrade)
to tell just how hot we were,
but that trend began to fade.

We are a land of miles and feet,
and we're mostly metric-free.
If you're looking for a meter,
you'll still find it in poetry.

And yet, that's not quite true of Frost,
who talked of promises kept,
but not kilometers he must go
before he finally slept.


April 20:
Romance, Anyone? (Formerly titled "Tennis, Anyone?")
My task is to court you.
I’m serving you compliments
but you just lob them back.
This back-and-forth doesn’t seem
to net me anything so far.
Maybe I need more topspin.
We’re playing singles now,
not mixed doubles.
This game seems to go on
forever. You’re set in your ways,
and I seem no match for you.
What’s your racket?
I’m already past thirty, love,
but I’ll keep smashing away.
Maybe I’ll ace it,
maybe I ‘ll double-fault,
but you are worth the effort.
It should be no surprise
that “volley” is an anagram

for “lovely." 

Rounding out my top 10:
War of Words (Apr. 4)
Once in the Middle of a Time (Apr.15)
Marginalia (Apr. 24)
The Agnostic's Sunday (Apr. 30) 
10 Ways of Hearing a Thunderstorm (Apr. 6)

Anyway, those are my picks. As most poets and writers know, your favorites are usually the ones you just wrote, so my opinions of these will undoubtedly change over time. If you wish, you may scan my daily blogs from April to see if there are any you like better,or maybe you already read some you like better. In either case (or even if you just like these), thanks for reading!





PAD Day 30: Finish Line!

Wow, I made it again! This is the 10th year I've followed Robert Lee Brewer's Poetic Asides blog for the Poem-a-day Challenge, and the fifth year I've followed Maureen Thorson's NaPoWriMo blog. The two together make for intriguing double prompts, and I want to thank them both for providing inspiration once again throughout the month of April. 

Taking a final count, I find it has been a pretty productive April. Counting today, I have written:
20 free verse poems
7 clerihews
6 haiku
6 limericks
4 general rhymed verse poems
3 sonnets
3 "elevenies"
1 ghazal
1 "skeltonic" verse
1 blank verse (a "bop")
1 prose poem (a fable)
1 "trijan refrain"
That's a grand total of 54 poems in one month. Granted, about 40% of them were "short form", but still, not too shabby, On the other hand, I have a friend who was on a pace to write about 90 this month.

Today's prompts from Poetic Asides and NaPoWriMo are: (1) write a poem with the title "The _______", and (2) write about something that happens “again and again”, with regularity or predictability. Robert's prompt today was a little disappointing, so for additional inspiration, I used the “Wordle” (a word bank of about a dozen words, graphically presented) from this week’s Sunday Whirl blog. The words this week are: run, itch, lace, spiral, chip, settle, sum, life, sing, saints, list, prayer. I managed to weave them all into this poem.
[poem deleted]

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Mini-bonus: More Clerihews!

In reviewing my poetry files for this month, I found two politically-themed clerihews that I forgot to post. So here you go:

Sean Spicer
could be nicer
and show a bit more tact
when he spews each "alternative fact.".


Steve Bannon,
that loose cannon,
got cut from National Security
and it had nothing to do with racial purity.

Bonus: The Annotated Birthday Poem

As promised, here is the annotated version of the second poem I posted on Day 27, showing references to the celebrities who share my birthday.

For Birth Sakes (April 27)

Mother of Frankenstein! I'm all for women's rights,[1]
but I don't often telegraph [2] my opinions.
God grant me the right to speak generally [3],
and talk of trivial things like my love for three oranges [4].
Don't let my horns be [5] too loud when I blow them -
I'm not in the Hall of Fame [5,6], and I would never go
to the country and slaughter [6] a calf.
I might draw cartoons of woodpeckers [7] though,
and I might be half of an odd couple, but I'm no medical examiner [8],
and I'm certainly not the wife of a king  [9].
I'm a fan of the love of a man and a woman [10],
and like my football coach, I'm from the college of Hard Knox [11].
I listen to the American Top 40 [12] constantly,
but sometimes it distracts me - once I went up the down staircase,
but I'm not afraid of Virginia Woolf  [13].
You can sock it to me  [14], you can show me the money  [15],
you can give me piano lessons or build fences [16] around me,
but if you want it, here it is - come and get it [17].
I'll roam if I want to, even to the love shack [18]
or Detroit Rock City, where I can rock and roll all nite [19].
Then I'll take the morning train, and be for your eyes only [20],
I'll look as distinguished as a senator, or a booker [21] of getaways
even if I'm still in my morning jacket [22].

Key to clues:
[1]: Mary Wollstonecraft, early women's rights advocate and mother of Frankenstein author Mary Shelley
[2]: Samuel Morse, inventor of the telegraph
[3]: US Civil War general and President Ulysses S. Grant
[4]: Sergei Prokoviev, Russian classical composer (the opera Love for Three  Oranges)
[5]: Rogers Hornsby (Hall of Fame baseball player)
[6]: "Country" Enos Slaughter (another baseball Hall of Famer)
[7]: Walter Lantz (animator, creator of Woody Woodpecker)
[8]: Jack Klugman (star of  the TV series The Odd Couple and Quincy: M.E.)
[9]: Coretta Scott King (wife of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.)
[10]: Anouk Aimee (French actress, nominated for an Academy Award for best actress for A Man and a Woman)
[11]: Chuck Knox (former NFL football coach)
[12]: Casey Kasem (announcer, DJ, voice actor, host of American Top 40 radio series)
[13]: Sandy Dennis (actress, Up the Down Staircase and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?)
[14]: Judy Carne (actress/comedienne, Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In; known as the "Sock It to Me!" girl)
[15]: Cuba Gooding Jr. (actor, Jerry Maguire)
[16]: August Wilson (playwright, The Piano Lesson, Fences)
[17]: Pete Ham (member of British pop group Badfinger)
[18]: Kate Pierson (member of The B-52's)
[19]: Ace Frehley (member of KISS)
[20]: Sheena Easton (singer)
[21]: Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ)
[22]: Jim James (leader of the alt-rock band My Morning Jacket)]


PAD Day 29: A "Metric Poem" and an Ode to My Wheelbarrow

Before I start, I just want to thank Maureen Thorson for featuring my blog on her NaPoWriMo site. I guess she really enjoyed my silly skeltonic verse about skunks. Thanks, Maureen!

Today's dual prompts from Poetic Asides and NaPoWriMo: (1) write a poem about "metrics" (or, I presume, a poem in metrics), and (2) take a favorite poem, pick out one concrete noun from it, do five minutes of free writing from it, then make a new poem from the result.

For the first time all month, I wasn't able to combine both prompts into one poem. But that means  I have two new poems for today.  Here's the first:

A Metric Poem

We sometimes run kilometers
(5K is popular here).
We drink our Coke in liters,
and water, but not beer.

We briefly employed Celsius
(also known as Centigrade)
to tell just how hot we were,
but that trend began to fade.

We are a land of miles and feet,
and we're mostly metric-free.
If you're looking for a meter,
you'll still find it in poetry.

And yet, that's not quite true of Frost,
who talked of promises kept,
but not kilometers he must go
before he finally slept.


And here's my response to the NaPoWriMo prompt:

No White Chickens

wheelbarrow
you sat inverted, forlorn
in the garage all winter

until now,
hauled out for spring
and you have seen many -

chipped red paint
one screw lost from the frame
a  handle grip gone

when I push you empty
your bed bounces up and down
with a metal clatter

your wheel
slightly bent
has a slight wobble

you are rusting because
like Dr. Bill's wheelbarrow
you were left in the rain

but you still can haul
soil, or mulch, or plants
into the garden

you carry
that musty fresh earth smell
back and forth

unlike your famous cousin
you don't sit beside
the white chickens

but you are more alike
because so much does depend
on you


Friday, April 28, 2017

PAD Day 28: This Poem Stinks!

Today's dual prompts from Poetic Asides and NaPoWriMo: (1) write a poem that uses the sense of smell, and (2) write a poem in "skeltonic" verse. (Interesting that yesterday's NaPoWriMo poem prompt was to employ the sense of taste.) Basically, skeltonic verse is written in short lines (usually 3-6 words) with no more than two stressed beats per line. (It doesn't really matter what type of meter you use - iambic, trochaic, etc.) Also, it must be rhymed, but there is no set rhyme scheme, except you make each line rhyme with the previous line until you get tired of that rhyme and want to change it.  This form seems to lend itself very well to light verse, so here is my "stinky skeltonic". (I took a little liberty with the rules on stresses or syllables later in the poem.)


Ode-iferous

Now what the hell?
What is that smell?
We know it well.
It’s really vile
and gross as bile,
and lasts a while
and spreads a mile.

You stripy ghost,
unwilling host
who reeks the most,
you lift your trunk
and spray your junk
at any punk
who gives you bunk,

then we must dunk
ourselves and sluice
tomato juice,
head to caboose,
to try and loose
the stink that’s in
our hair and skin.

You black-and-white
child of the night,
we will not fight
lest we lose sight
of your foul might,
and your alacrity
with unsatisfactory
things olfactory.

Pepé Le Pew,
we don’t hate you,
but for now, adieu.
You do have spunk –
don’t  be in a funk,
or we’ll be sunk
and get a chunk
of eau de skunk.