Monday, April 27, 2015

PAD Day 27: Powers of Two

Today's prompts from Poetic Asides and NaPoWriMo:
(1) Write a "looking back" poem, and
(2) Write a "hay(na)ku" (more on that below).
Since it's my birthday today :) , it's easy to "look back". In keeping with my tradition from most recent years, I wrote a birthday poem:


I don’t remember much about 21 or 22,
but by 23 I was a precocious second-grader
with three little sisters.  At 24,
I was a geeky sophomore in high school
who was into Dylan Thomas
and thought Jefferson Airplane was groovy.
By 25 I was married, well into my career,
and already raising 21 boys.
Now I’m 26, the last time I will be
a power-of-two years old.
Unlike the Beatles’ prediction,
I don’t rent a summer cottage
in the Isle of Wight. I have 20 grandchild,
but her name isn’t Vera, Chuck or Dave.
I’m proud of my 22 grown-up sons,
and I still have all 25 of my teeth.
I could make it to 34, but for now,
I’m just counting on the power of two,
and you’re the best part of that power.

Now for poem #2. The "hay(na)ku" was a form invented by poet Eileen Tabios, and named and popularized by my poet buddy Vince Gotera.  The form is simple: one word in the first line, two in the second, three in the third. You can string them together in inventive ways too. This one is in a form that Vince calls the "hay(na)ku sonnet". Pardon the reference to the same Beatles song:

What to Do on This Birthday 

like it’s
any other day 

take it
a little easier 

good wishes
gracefully, and smile 

a small
celebration at home 

listen to Beatles’
“When I’m Sixty-four”

Sunday, April 26, 2015

PAD Day 26: A Shakespearean Climber

Today's guest judge at Poetic Asides is Hélène Cardona, a French poet, actress, and Facebook friend, who also acted in one of my favorite movies, Chocolat. She is, I daresay, perhaps the prettiest judge of the month. 

Today's prompts from Poetic Asides and NaPoWriMo:
(1) Make a title out of one or more words from a list of Shakespeare "coinages", and
(2) Write a "persona"poem.

William Shakespeare is credited with inventing more than 1700 words and phrases in English, but that number is probably inflated. While a man of his creative genius probably did coin many words and phrases, it's also likely that he may have been just the first to publish some of them in English. He may not have even the first to commit some of them to print, as there were many publications by other authors of the time that were not preserved over the years.  In any event, we have him to thank for at least introducing them to us.  The list that Robert Brewer provided as a link, which is just a partial list of Shakespearean "inventions", can be found here.  I challenged myself to include as many of these words in a poem as I could, so it was my "word bank" for the day. I got 17 of them into my poem.

As to the "persona" poem, it's a favorite device of mine, and I've written a number of them over the years, some from unusual points of view, like a conjoined twin, the planet Mars, and a middle-aged female crossing guard. But when someone tells me "write a persona poem", I get somewhat stumped, like today.  It took a while to come up with this, which really feels more like an exercise to me than a good poem.  Here it is, for what it's worth. (I underlined the "Shakespearean" words.)


You may watch in amazement
as I free-climb the sheer face
of this wall, feeling invulnerable.
Nothing will impede my progress
to the summit. I am dauntless -
nothing will dishearten me
from achieving this monumental feat.
I will be the unequivocal champion
when I reach the top and peer out
on a majestic Olympian view.
I know what seems like a mountain
to me is just a bump to you,
and as I am vaulting to my goal,
your single finger flick
dashes my aspirations.
As I fall to the lower depths,
all my efforts seem worthless,
and the savagery of your foot
crushes my hopes into the floor.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

PAD Day 25: Over the Ocean, Then and Now

Busy day today, but I still managed to crank out three short poems and a "regular-sized" one, that last one just under the wire. Today's prompts from Poetic Asides and NaPoWriMo:
(1) Write an "across the sea" poem, and
(2) Write a "clerihew".

A "clerihew" is a light verse of four lines with an AABB rhyme scheme. The first line is the name of a famous person, and the other lines describe something about him/her. Meter and syllable count are not important; some clerihews even have run-on lines for comic effect.  So I wrote some "across the sea" clerihews:

Thor Heyerdahl
had us all in thrall
with his journey in a leaky
boat called the Kon-Tiki.

Captain John Smith
made landfall with
some doubts: "This will daunt us..."
till he met Pocahontas.

Mr. Charles Lindbergh
was no August Strindberg -
wrote no plays, but flew solo,
so low he could play water polo.

And here's a more serious one, based just on the Poetic Asides prompt:

Transatlantic Crossings

Many of us have ancestors
who came across the ocean
in a rickety wood boat
or a rusty steamer,
some of us of our own volition,
some in chains against their will.
It was risky, downright deadly
at times, with all the storms
and disease. So I shouldn't complain
that I will be over water
for the next six or seven hours.
I know about odds and statistics -
"You're safer than you are in a car."
But I also know if we fell in
from forty thousand feet,
it would make no difference
if it was water or concrete,
and even if we did survive
there would be no one around
for many miles to pluck us out.
So I pull down the window shade,
stick in my ear buds and watch
some movie I wanted to see
three months ago, maybe doze
for a little while, but not before
thinking of those immigrants
putting their lives on the line
to get to the promised land,
or the others who had no idea
what they would be subjected to
once the manacles came off,
while all I will probably encounter
tonight is a little turbulence.

Friday, April 24, 2015

PAD Day 24: From Poignant to Silly

Today's prompts from Poetic Asides and NaPoWriMo:
(1) Write a "moment" poem, and
(2) Write a parody of a famous poem or poet.

I probably could have combined these prompts fairly easily if I could find a famous poem about a "moment" to parody.  However, I responded to the Poetic Asides prompt rather quickly and forgot about NaPoWriMo till later in the day. I'd been thinking of writing about the Oklahoma City bombing  (whose anniversary was on April 19th) for a few days now, and thought I might do it yesterday for the "history" poem, but didn't. Then when the "moment" presented itself, so to speak, I knew I had to write about that terrible moment twenty years ago. This one got a lot of emotional response from poets on the Poetic Asides blog today, and some even wondered if it was autobiographical - it's not.

Empty Chair
Sometimes I wonder what he would be doing today –
would he be working on his doctorate
or expecting his first child, driving a semi
or digging for fossils? He liked trucks and dinosaurs.
The gate to the field is etched with the moment
it happened, 9:02, when that coward
parked a rented van in front of the building
and blew it up, tearing off the whole façade,
ripping into offices and my son’s day care center.
In the field, one-hundred and sixty-eight stone chairs,
Including nineteen smaller ones,
arrayed in the pattern of where each victim fell.
That one has my child’s name. Twenty years ago,
a single flash took them all away, a heinous crime,
eclipsed only six years later.
I’m not a devout man, but I hope there is a Heaven
where he still plays with his little friends,
because it would also mean
that McVeigh burns in Hell.

One of the perks of not combining the prompts, of course, is that if you still use them both, you get two poems. Technically, as you'll see below, I got three.  My inspiration here is a favorite book, The Holy Tango of Literature, by Francis Heaney, which I've mentioned on this blog on prior occasions. Heaney took the names of famous poets and playwrights, anagrammed them, and made that the title of a poem or theater piece that lampooned the author.  Thus, T.S. Eliot becomes "Toilets", and Emily Dickinson becomes "Skinny Domicile". You can actually find a free text of the book here, but I still recommend you buy it to support the author - the illustrations are funny too. And by the way, "Holy Tango" is an anagram of "Anthology".  

I have written a series of poems using Heaney's premise, like a parody of Robert Hayden's "Those Winter Sundays" ("The Errand Boy") one in the style of Gertrude Stein ("Registered Nut"), and a satire of W.B. Yeats' "The Second Coming" called "Stay, Web" ("And what rough virus, its hour come round at last,/Slouches towards Microsoft to be born?" )  However, I never did a "holy tango" poem in the style of my favorite poet, William Carlos Williams - until now. Here are two that parody two of Williams' most famous short poems, "This is Just to Say" and "The Red Wheelbarrow". (P.S.: After writing these, I remembered that Heaney did a parody of  "This is Just to Say" in his book, called "I Will Alarm Islamic Owls". I trumped him, however, on "The Red Wheelbarrow", and I daresay I had the better anagram.)

I'm Ill; Mail is a Slow Crawl
by William Carlos Williams

I have not delivered
the girlie magazines
that should be in
your mailbox

and which
you will probably
not get till

Forgive me
I feel lousy
I have a fever
and a cold

or :

so much depends 

a sick mail

glazed with yellow 
beside the white 

Thursday, April 23, 2015

PAD Day 23: A Very Trivial Poem

I was disappointed that for the second year in a row I couldn't attend the launch party for US 1 Worksheets, that great, long-running journal out of Princeton NJ.  However, I did get my contributor's copy in the mail yesterday, which includes my poem "Señor Morning" (written during last year's PAD challenge). Thanks as always to Nancy Scott and all the fine folks as US1.

Today's prompts from Poetic Asides and NaPoWriMo:
(1) Write a "history" poem, and
(2) Take a deck of cards - any kind of cards - shuffle it, and pick a card at random. Use that card as a starting point for five minutes of free-writing and make a poem out of it.

Since I had to write about something historical, I thought using the History question on a Trivial Pursuit card would be a good idea. I took it a step further, though, and tried to incorporate elements of the other five questions on the card into the poem. As I was working on this, my son pointed out that Dorianne Laux has written a poem about London Bridge in Arizona. I read hers after writing mine, and I think mine is quite different, so "not to worry".

My Fair Lady

When I was sixteen, London Bridge was literally
falling down. So they sold it to an American oil man,
took it apart, stone by stone, and shipped it to the States.
It boggled the mind. U.S. customs classified it as a “large antique.”  
(“Anything to declare?”  “Just this 930-foot bridge.”)
I wonder what kind of appraisal it would fetch on Antiques Roadshow.
Mr. McCulloch bought it for $2.4 million, more than Dumbo’s ears
or an original Calder mobile. He re-assembled it in Arizona
like a big Lego project, sunk it in the sand, then cut a channel
across the peninsula which he filled with the waters of Lake Havasu,
as blue as a painted bunting’s head. Now it’s the only thoroughfare
to that man-made island. But why Arizona? Why not North Carolina,
“First in Freedom”, or even New Hampshire,”The Granite State”?
It still looks a bit incongruous, a bridge built in 1830, plunked into
a planned community more than a hundred years younger
that’s irrigated against the natural order of things. 
It would be like hanging the Mona Lisa in an Apple store,
or taping the Declaration of Independence like a concert poster
to that big glass pyramid at the Louvre.

[Source facts from the Trivial Pursuit card that I used as material for the poem:
1. North Carolina puts "First in Freedom" on their license plates.
2. Dumbo's ears were insured for $1 million (in the movie).
3. U.S. Customs classified London Bridge as a "large antique" when it was shipped here.
4. Artist Alexander Calder invented the mobile.
5. The painted bunting (bird) has a blue head.
6. A Boggle game has 16 letter cubes.]

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

PAD Day 22: Happy Earth Day!

It's hard to believe it's been 45 years since the very first Earth Day, which I am old enough to have celebrated.  We planted trees on the quad that day, and I started to hang out with my first college girlfriend.  I wonder how big those trees are now.

Today I'm giving a poetic shout-out to my friend Kendall Bell, who has been over-achieving for the last couple of NaPoWriMo's.  Dude has probably written between 50 and 60 poems so far this month. I'll make it to 30 today - what a slacker I am. Anyway, Kendall is editor of Maverick Duck Press and the poetry journal Chantarelle's Notebook.  He has a carload of chapbooks out (one of the perks of having your own small press).  You can read some of his stuff here.

Today's prompts from Poetic Asides and NaPoWriMo are very similar and in honor of Earth Day, I presume:
(1) Write a nature poem, and 
(2) Write a "pastoral" poem.

I actually relieved some of the pressure of producing a poem by writing a haiku first thing this morning (more of a senryu, really):

cherry trees in bloom
his only daughter tries on
a prom dress

Later on, though , I wrote this one, After hearing today's weather forecast, I actually did start to hear this classical work in my head:

Suburban Pastorale
The forecast for this spring day sounds like
Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony, his paean
to nature – seductively sunny and warm
until late afternoon, when thunderstorms will roll in.
Out the door this morning in a light jacket,
I see that all my trees are flowering –
the apple, the dogwood, the weeping cherry.
If there was a brook in my yard,
it would be babbling –
Herr Ludwig’s strings would see to that.
I drive to work allegro ma non troppo,
plod through my day until release, and
back into a glorious afternoon, heading home
with flute-and-clarinet birdsong in my head.
Kids play hockey and ride bikes in the street,
a scherzo of activity. Almost in unison,
we look up at the dimming sun,
as dark clouds build in the west.
The low strings begin to rumble,
the tympani stands ready.
Here comes the crescendo.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

PAD Day 21: Erasing and Defining

Today's prompts from Poetic Asides and NaPoWriMo:

(1) Write a "what you are" poem and/or a "what you're not" poem, and 
(2) Write an "erasure" poem.

The erasure poem is a found poem of sorts, where the poet takes an existing text and cuts it down so there are many fewer words that create something quite different from the source. The words are often left in the position they occur on the paper originally, giving the poem a sort of "concrete" feel. I once did an erasure of Billy Collins' "Victoria's Secret" that I think came out pretty good, but I haven't really many others till now. This is actually an erasure of my Day 17 blog entry, including the two poems I posted that day. Actually, this would have fit well with NaPoWriMo's earlier prompt to write a "social media" poem.  I don't know if this one is totally coherent, but see what you think. (I did compress the layout of some of the lines for aesthetics' sake.) The title is a partial "erasure" of the letters in the title of the blog entry - otherwise, it doesn't mean much.

Pay Another

I'm not entirely happy
I don't th but I guess I'm more satisfied with this one, which
                             the Poetic 
They dedicated it today on Capitol Hill
the kids of senators and congresspersons
can learn
what their mommies and daddies do.
Here, they can seesaw up and down on the issues,
slide down
from integrity to scandal and shame,
spin on the merry-go-round without getting anywhere,
sit in a seat on a chain and kick their feet Into the air,
and depending on which way the wind blo right.  
 second one was an interesting exercise if not wholly successful.  I decided to take every tenth word that I've posted I'm not the mos Facebook, it wasn't a
ridiculously longmore common, throwaway words like "the", "in" and "for" as well as                                                        repeated words (though I kept "try" and "pot:
And here's the poem, using and so is my persona
, to a

n I unfriended you yesterday
In the beginning, we were soulmates,
sharing our poetry and offering critique -
I liked your honesty. We also had a mutual love
for music - we discussed favorite CD's and great albums,
even reminisced about our first stereo.
We both liked a Billy Collins' poems,
Roseanne Cash's songs,Sporcle quizzes and Candy Crush.

Then you started to swing to the Right.
I may never know why you
That was my warning bell -
maybe we weren't so alike after all.

I'm just an average 

I can't stay           with you 
grab me 
We can post and exhibit anything, we want
but even when we take down our notes,
remove the tacks from the surface,
the afterimage 
We need to think of     repercussions;
we're neither blameless nor anonymous anymore.
Online friendships are tricky 

can bring it all crashing

And here's a "bonus" poem written just for Robert's prompt:


I am not your best day ever
or your worst nightmare.

I am not climbing the corporate ladder,
nor am I heading down a slippery slope.

I am not Spartacus or Legend, the Walrus or Groot.
I am not Tinker, Evers or Chance,
nor am I Dewey, Cheatem, or Howe.

I am not Who's on First,
but I am Who Wanted to Be a Millionaire.
I don't have all the answers
because I don't know all the questions.

 I am not Iron Man, but I am a Pepper.

I am not Walt Whitman, W.C. Williams, or Billy Collins,
nor will I ever be. There is no way I will be
Elizabeth Bishop or Mary Oliver, either.
Maybe Ogden Nash, if I could come up with more clever rhymes.

I am not an animal;
I am a human being.

I am not the first to ever,
nor will I be the last.

I am not the world's foremost authority,
or its last hope.

I'm not the best or worst.
I'm somewhere in the teeming hordes of the middle,
and though I would prefer more privacy,
I like it just fine.