Wednesday, April 30, 2014

PAD Day 30: So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiederseh'n, Goodbye

Wow, I can’t believe another National Poetry Month is over, and so is the poem-a-day challenge. I didn’t write quite as many poems as I usually do in April (counting today, thirty-two) but at least I was conscientious and got at least one out every day. They included a sestina, a villanelle, a terza rima, a lune series, a nursery rhyme, an elegy, a “charm” poem, an Anacreonic poem, a “New York School” poem, and two forms I hadn’t tried before, the curtal sonnet and the rubaiyat. Now I have to wait to see if one of my poems is selected for the Poetic Asides collection – each of Robert’s daily guest judges will select one poem from each day for the anthology. I tried not to worry too much about this, and just offered what I could muster up each day – maybe some of these are worthy of consideration, but I realize that most probably will not be serious contenders. There were many good poets participating there this month.

In the past, Robert has selected a list of what he considered the 25 or 50 best poems of the month – I usually made the cut (until last year) and one year I made it to #2. This list was based on participant’s submitting what they thought were their best five poems of the month. Since it doesn’t look like he will be doing that this year, I thought I’d offer my own list of the five poems I think were my best in April. If you haven’t read them, you can review the blog and consider them highlights, I suppose.

1. The Weird Family’s Kid (Day 13)
2. Aquaphobia (Day 26)
3. Changeable Sky (Day 17)
4. Shelter (Day 9)
5. Romantics (Day 15)

Okay, time for my final poem of the month. Today’s dual prompts from Poetic Asides and NaPoWriMo are very similar: (1) Write a “calling it a day” poem, and (2) write a “farewell” poem. I guess this could run the gamut from “see you tomorrow” to “goodbye forever”. But I thought I’d go out with a flourish and add two additional challenges for today. I will write a “hay(na)ku” which was suggested earlier in the month by Vince Gotera, who is both a NaPoWriMo participant and a guest judge at Poetic Asides. Hay(na)ku is an invented form which is haiku-like but with much simpler structure: 1st line= 1 word, 2nd line = 2 words, 3rd line = 3 words. Also, since I didn’t use the Day 1 prompt from NaPoWriMo, I will use it today: Select a random quote from the website Bibliomancy Oracle and write a poem inspired by it. My epigraph is the quote I got.


a squirrels’ dart
the gravel path
-Lidija Šimkutė

loud goodbye
stirring up stones

my attention
toward the path

to the horizon

I leave
I’ll make noise

remember me
from the ruckus

can follow
the crunchy road

stay there
wishing my return

don’t expect
my dark silhouette

back over
the shouting hills

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

PAD Day 29: The Poet's Obstacle Course

Just a quick mention that I made the top 10 again in the Poetic Asides Poetic Form Challenge.  I wrote a "triversen" (an 18-line poem of tercets inspired by the poetic form of William Carlos Williams) about the ill-fated Flight 370, but also about flight in general and the wish for safe landing. Thanks again to Robert for selecting my poem as one of the finalists.
Today's dual prompts from Poetic Asides and NaPoWriMo: (1) Write a "realist" and/or "magical" poem (in honor of the late Gabriel Garcia Marquez) and (2) this one is a doozy.  I'ts called "Twenty Little Poetry Projects" but I like to call it "The Poet's Obstacle Course".  It instructs you to include very specific elements in your poem, more or less in order too.  I actually did this exercise several years ago when I saw it in the book The Practice of Poetry by Robin Behn and Chase Twitchell.  Here it is:
1. Begin the poem with a metaphor.
2. Say something specific but utterly preposterous.
3. Use at least one image for each of the five senses, either in succession or scattered randomly throughout the poem.
4. Use one example of synesthesia (mixing the senses).
5. Use the proper name of a person and the proper name of a place.
6. Contradict something you said earlier in the poem.
7. Change direction or digress from the last thing you said.
8. Use a word (slang?) you’ve never seen in a poem.
9. Use an example of false cause-effect logic.
10. Use a piece of talk you’ve actually heard (preferably in dialect and/or which you don’t understand).
11. Create a metaphor using the following construction: “The (adjective) (concrete noun) of (abstract noun) . . .”
12. Use an image in such a way as to reverse its usual associative qualities.
13. Make the persona or character in the poem do something he or she could not do in “real life.”
14. Refer to yourself by nickname and in the third person.
15. Write in the future tense, such that part of the poem seems to be a prediction.
16. Modify a noun with an unlikely adjective.
17. Make a declarative assertion that sounds convincing but that finally makes no sense.
18. Use a phrase from a language other than English.
19. Make a non-human object say or do something human (personification).
20. Close the poem with a vivid image that makes no statement, but that “echoes” an image from earlier in the poem.
It's looks pretty daunting, but once you get rolling, it's still challenging, but fun. I find that starting with a really good metaphor gives you a jumping-off point from which to expand and digress.  My previous effort started with "My body is an old car."  So again, I tackled the subject of aging in this one.  See if you can pick out where I included each of the 20 elements. (I think there's a little "magic" in this one to satisfy the Poetic Asides folks too.)

Señor Morning
Age is a noisy leaf-blower at 7 a.m.
It’s shiny red, gas-powered, and speaks in Russian.
When horizontal sun slices through my window
and coffee fumes climb the stairs,
I bury my face in a soft comforter
before I rise and plod to the bathroom.
Headache – I can hear the toothbrush and toothpaste
between my ears. My mouth is a car wreck of mint.
Like Hannibal in the Alps, my elephant-feet
clomp down the slope of the steps.
Really, I like the morning – it validates the fact
that I’m still alive. Who’s making coffee, anyway?
I don’t even like the stuff. Last night I dreamt that
everyone was saying “Twenty-three skidoo”.
I think Roaring 20′s slang gave me this headache.
Each day begins like a can of corn,
and I have to deal with the grumpy pit bull of aging.
Pop-pop can break-dance and do the limbo.
Tomorrow he will free-climb El Capitan.
Is this possible? It won’t matter someday soon,
when we will all clone ourselves at twenty-nine.
We will banish ugly beauty and progressive lenses.
Today, I wrestle with that monster Weltschmerz
while the mirror sticks out its tongue and razzes me.
But I’ll get the last laugh when I blow away
like a leaf in the Russian wind.

Monday, April 28, 2014

PAD Day 28: A Slightly Revised Horoscope

Today's dual prompts from Poetic Asides and NaPoWriMo: (1) Write a "settled" poem (anyting to do with settling - pioneers, tie games, compromises, etc.) and (2) write a "found newspaper" poem - take an article from a newspaper and use the words from that article in any way you want. what I did was to search for the word “settle” on the website of my local paper for today. It came up in the horoscope, so I wrote an “excision” poem (where you use the words from another source in the order they appear, but cut out as many of the other words as you want). I did this once with Billy Collins' poem "Victoria's Secret" and trimmed it down to something about 90% shorter and more surreal - it was fun. Here’s today's result:

Today’s Horoscope

Your imagination will be as you imagine it.
Spoil yourself – you’ll need to make more money.
Much depends on the immobile solar eclipse.
Focus helps immutable circumstances –
boy, do you have it. Several people recognize you.
You’ll be stymied by today’s puzzle –
let it be chaotic. Emotions eventually
will settle themselves. If you kick the problem,
the situation will be lost, a solution never thriving.
Hypotheticals waste the end of the day.
Who could ever be sure of that?
The door isn’t standing wide open, it’s ajar.
Stop thinking big. Create some minor rock songs,
even if it’s a bad one. Be kindly.
Your next idea doesn’t really work,
and it doesn’t look cool.

[Source: Holiday Mathis' syndicated column in the Camden Courier Post, April 28, 2014.]

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Happy Birthday to Me; Not-so-happy Halloween

Yep, it's another birthday, all right, and a pretty quiet one so far.  Lots of birthday wishes from Facebook friends, including Marge Piercy, whose intensive workshop I took a couple of summers ago.

Today's dual prompts from Poetic Asides and NaPoWriMo: (1) Write a "monster" poem, and (2) write an "ekphrastic" poem based on one of four photos provided (or one of your own choosing).  I actually wrote three poems today (the first time all month I wrote more than one in a day), and I'll share two of them here. The first one is in keeping with my personal tradition of writing a poem about my birthday on my birthday. The second is much darker, and was inspired by, not a literal interpretation of, one of the photos on NaPoWriMo, which featured a rather whimsical Halloween decoration in someone's yard.

Birthday Monster

It's cute when it's young
and you look forward to its annual visit,
bringing joy, cake and presents.
But then it matures, gets moodier.
Sometimes it even surprises you
when it shows up at your door:
"Weren't you just here a few months ago?"
As you get older, it becomes more of a nuisance,
and you start to dread when it's due to stop by.
It's grizzled and ugly now, a little grumpy too;
It sings the same song every year
and blows out all your candles.
It makes lame jokes about your age
and reminds you that you're closer
to the end than to the beginning.
And yet, you never lock your door
when you know it's on its way,
because having it call on you again
is much better than the alternative.


In October, they took my neighbor out
in handcuffs. A seventy-ish woman
in a shabby housedress, she didn't
look much like a criminal.  Then guys
in hazmat suits filed into her house,
past all her Halloween decorations
of smiling skeletons and ghosts.

Later I learned that she had smothered
her ninety-three-year old mother
in her sleep and sealed up the room
with duct tape to keep in the smell.
Then she continued to cash her mother's
social security checks until her next-door
neighbors complained about the stench. 
Seems that duct tape works only so long.

Eventually someone put up a for-sale sign
and took down all the Halloween decorations.  
Then all the monsters were gone.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

PAD Day 26: A Sonnet on Fear of Water

Today's dual prompts from Poetic Asides and NaPoWriMo: (1) Write a "water" poem, and (2) write a "curtal sonnet".  The latter was suggested by my new poetry friend Vince Gotera.  It's a shorter sonnet of eleven lines: a sestet with the rhyme scheme ABCABC, followed by a quatrain with the rhyme scheme DCBD or DBCD, and a final line with the C rhyme, which is "curtailed" to a single foot (2 to 4 syllables).  Gerard Manley Hopkins invented this form, and one of his most famous poems, "Pied Beauty" is written as a curtal sonnet.  So here is my semi-autobiographical poem:

Friday, April 25, 2014

PAD Day 25: Anaphora on Pet Peeves

Only six days to go for the poem-a-day challenge! I started to feel like I was running out of steam, and the last couple of days I struggled to write something decent before the day was out. Still, I think I cranked out a half-decent villanelle yesterday. Also, I haven't exceeded the minimum requirement, as I haven't written more than one poem a day - most years I write at least a few extra. One of my poet friends has already written over 70.

Today's dual prompts from Poetic Asides and NaPoWriMo: (1) Write a "last straw" poem, and (2) write a poem with "anaphora" (lines or sentences that start with the same word or phrase). Atleast I was able to get this one out earlier in the day than the last few, although it's rather light and just for fun.

To Whomever Left the Empty Ice Cube Tray in the Freezer

I can think of nothing more useless,
other than you.
Here’s how I will get my revenge:

I will leave an empty box
in the cupboard when I finish
the last piece of your favorite snack.

I will leave all your socks without mates
when they come out of the laundry.

I will leave the toilet seat up
every single time (if you are female).

I will leave all the dirty dishes for you
whether you cooked dinner or not.

I will leave your DVD out of the box
when I take it out of the player
and replace it with the one I want to watch.

I will leave the radio tuned
to your least favorite station
whenever I borrow your car.
I will leave almost no gas in it, too.

I will leave your life in chaos when I –
wait a minute.
Maybe I was the one who left that tray.
I guess we should buy a new fridge
with an ice maker.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

PAD Day 24: A Villanelle on Walls

First of all, I'm pleased that NaPoWriMo, who have been featuring a link to a different poetry journal every day, took my suggestion today and featured my friends at Chantarelle's Notebook.  Thanks again, Maureen!

Today's prompts from Poetic Asides and NaPoWriMo: (1) Write a poem with the title "Tell It to the ______", and (2) write a poem that's "masonry-related"- about walls, bricks or stones, arches, etc. What other title could I pick but this one?  I decided a villanelle would be a good repeating form to feature the phrase, and what came out sounds a bit callous, but I consider it more of a "persona" poem than advice I would really give a friend.

Tell It to the Wall

My friend, why don't you tell it to the wall?
Just vent your wrath, anxieties and fears
against a silent partner, hard and tall.

Berlin, Great China, Hadrian's and all,
The Wailing, and so many through the years
have journeyed just to tell it to the wall.

One Humpty Dumpty, he of the great fall,
as he lay broken, mumbled through his tears
up to his silent partner, hard and tall.

Pink Floyd, bombastic in the music hall,
performed a tale about a man who veers
to madness, and then tells it through The Wall.

Go buy some spray paint for graffiti-scrawl.
No matter where the barrier appears,
make it your writing partner, hard and tall.

 A jail, a padded cell, a bathroom stall -
 I don't care where, just save my bleeding ears,
 my friend.  Why don't you tell it to the wall,
 your cold and silent partner, hard and tall?

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

PAD Day 23: Never Trust a Poet with a Gun

Today's dual prompts from Poetic Asides and NaPoWriMo: (1) Write a "location poem", and (2) write a "homophonic translation" poem.  The latter exercise is one I've done a few times and usually find quite daunting: you take a poem in a language you don't really speak or understand, then "translate" it into English based on the sound and/or look of the words rather than their actual meaning.  The first draft usually comes out as nonsense, but with revision you can get it to sound at least semi-rational.  In my quest for a "location" poem, I found "Bruxelles" (Brussels) by Paul Verlaine, the 19th century French poet. But I also started reading the "back story" of Verlaine's tumultuous relationship with his protégé and sometime-lover, Arthur Rimbaud, which came to a head in Brussels, when in an absinthe-soaked rage, Verlaine shot Rimbaud in the hand, thus landing him in the slammer for a couple of years. This would make a great narrative poem, but that's for another day. Still, I think that reading all that inspired some of my word choices in this poem, which is in its third revision and may still have a way to go.

Here's the original French version:

Bruxelles: Simples Fresques

La fuite est verdâtre et rose
Des collines et des rampes,
Dans un demi-jour de lampes
Qui vient brouiller toute chose.

L’or sur les humbles abîmes,
Tout doucement s’ensanglante,
Des petits arbres sans cimes,
Où quelque oiseau faible chante.

Triste à peine tant s’effacent
Ces apparences d’automne.
Toutes mes langueurs rêvassent,
Que berce l’air monotone.

And here is my "translation":

Verlaine in Brussels (Simple Frescos)
The suite is verdant and rose
The columns and the ramps
Dance and damage all the lamps -
Quite violent brawlers we chose.
Lord, sir, the humble abide
To docile men, sense a glance.
The petty arbors sense crimes
You squelch your so-fabled chant.
Tryst, a penitent, self-effacement,
See appearances of autumn,
To my languorous revision,
Quiet burst, the air monotone.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

PAD Day 22: An Optimistic/Pessimistic Nursery Rhyme

Today's dual prompts from Poetic Asides and NaPoWriMo: (1) Write an optimistic and/or pessimistic poem, and (2) write a nursery rhyme. As I do sometimes with Robert Brewer's "Two for Tuesday" prompts, I combined both options into one poem. As far as the "nursery rhyme" goes, this one owes more to Shel Silverstein than to Mother Goose:

Ursula Upp and Dahlia Downn

This is the story of Ursula Upp,
who always regarded the drink in her cup
and said, “It’s half-full! Oh, can’t you all see?
There’s plenty to drink left in this cup for me!
I look on the bright side, and that’s no baloney!
When I see road apples, I look for the pony!
It’s a wonderful day - I don’t mind the rain –
I’ve got nothing to lose and a whole lot to gain!”

This is the story of Dahlia Downn,
who approached everything in life with a frown.
“My cup is half-empty – it’s never enough.
If you ask how my day was, I’ll say it was rough.
When I get a cold, I think it’s pneumonia;
I have a brown thumb and I killed my begonia.
Each day’s disappointing and life is a drudge –
and don’t try to cheer me, ‘cos I just won’t budge!”

That’s Ursula Upp and Dahlia Downn -
there weren’t two more different girls in our town.
But soon they grew up and they married their misters,
and no one could guess that they really were sisters!

Monday, April 21, 2014

PAD Day 21: Bieber Gets New-York-Schooled

Today's dual prompts from Poetic Asides and NaPoWriMo: (1) Write a "back to basics" poem, and (2) write a "New York School" poem.  The New York School is a particular style of writing among New York poets of which Frank O'Hara was probably the standard bearer. NaPoWriMo has a link to another site that give you a "recipe" for over twenty elements that are characteristic of this type of poem, such as someone to whom you are addressing the poem, specific place names in the New York vicinity, prolific use of proper names, pop culture references, consumer goods and services, slang/colloquialisms/vernacular/ profanity, at least one celebrity, at least one question directed at the addressee, references to sex or sexual innuendo, etc.
I used all the above elements here, but I'm not sure if it's really "New York School" style, a parody of same, or just a "New York poem on steroids".  As far as "back to basics", I guess the contrast between the working class of the poem's persona and the celebrity class has kind of a "basic" theme.  By the way, those of you who know me, know I very rarely drop the "f-bomb" in my poetry.  Here, I use it three times - it was kinda fun.

I Don't Give a Fuck about Justin Bieber

who says he’s retiring from show biz.
You whiny little prick, what do you know
about real work? I put in thirty-eight years
with ConEd, asshole. Every day I do something
you’d never touch, ‘cause it might muss up
that sissy hair of yours. Don’t talk to me
about retirement – I got a toolbelt
that’s older than you – Sears Warehouse, 1989.
I take the L to work every day, not some
fancy-shmancy limo. I eat at McDonald’s,
not the Russian-fucking-Tea Room.
So help me out here – what makes you
deserve to retire before me?
Oh yeah, the money – you make more
in a week than I do in a year.
Let me tell you something, punk –
when I retire, and hand to God,
it’ll be before I die – I’ll still have my
little bungalow in Flatbush with the wife.
Maybe we’ll do it a couple times a week –
I still got something left in the tank.
I’ll drink beer and watch the game at night,
but maybe I’ll buy me a truck, nothing pricey,
maybe an old Ford F-150, 
and I’ll cruise out of town when I feel like it,
head over the GW to see my brother in Fort Lee,
and the windows will be down and the radio
will be blasting Led Zeppelin or Aerosmith
or maybe even Toby Keith,
but never Justin-fucking-Bieber.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

PAD Day 20: A Poem About Family

Happy Easter!  Today's dual prompts from Poetic Asides and NaPoWriMo coincided rather nicely.  Both suggested writing a "family" poem, but NaPoWriMo suggested writing one from the point of view of another family member.  Those of you who know me well can probably figure out who this is about.


I watch my five-year old scurry
around the lawn, basket in hand,
competing with the other kids
to find the most eggs. 

I want to tell him, "Look over here!
By this bush!  By the playground swing!"
because I have the best vantage point.
But I can't intervene.

I lost my chance last year,
because of one too many bad choices. 
If I could only get that day back,
I'd do it differently,  still be here today.

If I could only will myself to be the wind,
I could gently push him in the right direction,
help him take a different path,
help him find everything he wants.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

PAD Day 19: Weird Shells and Colors

Today's prompts from Poetic Asides and NaPoWriMo: (1) Write a "color" poem, with a color as the title, and (2) write a poem that uses at least one name from a list of unusual names for seashells.  (You can see the list here.) As a personal challenge, I tried to cram as many of the phrases from that list as possible and managed to use eleven of them (with some minor variations).  What I ended up with is a rather surreal poem, but here it is - the shell names I used are underlined:


Come walk on the calcified beach with me
tonight. Be sure to wear the resurrected pearls
from your Lazarus jewel box.  Come barefoot
so we might wade in the incidental surf.
After awhile, take off your Peruvian hat,
that heavy bonnet with the Andean peak,
and I will remove my triangular nutmeg
colonial cap, that ghastly miter.
Then pull off your seaweed shift over
your shoulder blades, sea cat, and shake out
your strawberry top of curly red hair, 
while I slip off my shirt of Spanish moss. 
Sparse doves will flash in the periwinkle sky 
as we swim out to the breakers professing love, 
unequal and bittersweet, and drink light from that 
false cup-and-saucer, the bleeding, incised moon

Friday, April 18, 2014

PAD Day 18: Move Over, Omar Khayyam

Today's prompts from Poetic Asides and NaPoWriMo: (1) Write a "weather" poem, and (2) write a "ruba'i". A ruba'i is a Persian form, a quatrain in AABA rhyme scheme. A series of ruba'i is called a "rubaiyat" as in "The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam". Frost's "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" is a kind of rubaiyat. So here is my "weather rubaiyat" - like Frost, I wrote mine in iambic tetrameter:

Changeable Sky

“You’re like the weather”, I agree,
is such a shopworn simile.
Yet like this snow in early spring,
I can’t predict you easily.

I wish I knew what I should bring –
umbrella, shades, or anything.
The possibilities are vast –
from sunburn to a good soaking.

Oh, for reports that could forecast
when you’re in thunder; when it’s past.
or some old saw: “Red sky at morning…”
so I could be prepared at last.

Now I see a cloud-deck forming -
it looks like you will soon be storming.
one thing I know with certainty:
it isn’t caused by global warming.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

PAD Day 17: Love is a Game

Today's prompts from Poetic Asides and NaPoWRiMo: (1) Write a "pop culture" poem, and (2) write a poem that uses at least three of the five senses.  Min uses sight, sound and touch, though not very vividly or memorably. My "pop culture" reference will be obvious to anyone who has experienced this very popular phenomenon.

Love is a Game

I could spend the whole day with you.
I love your colorful personality,
organized yet always in motion,
shapely and glossy in a parade
of red, yellow, green, blue,
orange and more.  Zither music
lopes along as we dance and collapse
a little, only to build up again.
I love to stroke you, cool as glass,
and my fingers rearrange you.
I may have to shatter some pieces,
but you don't seem to mind.
I'll bring down cherries
and apples for you, I'll even
set off a chocolate bomb.
Sometimes  jelly gets in the way,
sometimes more chocolate, but if
I persevere,   little fish may swim by
and help me achieve to my goal,
to score the most points with you.
Oh Candy, you're my addiction.
I have a huge crush on you.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

PAD Day 16: An Elegy of Lies

Today's dual prompts from Poetic Asides and NaPoWriMo: (1) Write an elegy (a poem about someone -or  something - that has died),and (2) write a ten-line poem in which every line is a lie.  For some reason I thought of an infamous person who recently shuffled off this mortal coil:

Elegy for Fred Phelps Consisting Entirely of Lies

O Fred, you were a kind and tolerant man.
Your church welcomed people from all walks of life.
You accepted others' differences, especially their sexuality.
You were grateful for the service of our men and women in uniform.
You were a strong supporter of a woman's right to choose.
You always allowed bereaved families to mourn with dignity.
You  quietly held your beliefs and did not impose them on others.
If you disagreed, you did it in a reasonable, intelligent manner.
You surely are in heaven, Fred, and the world will miss you.
May God rest your soul.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

PAD Day 15: "Pathetic" Poetry and a Terza Rima

I just became aware today that four of my poems appear in a new anthology called The Pathetic Book of Poetry. It's a self-published project of one Jody Pratt, a fellow member of the online poetry community, of which I've been a member for almost fifteen years(!)  Jody recruited about 26 poets from the site to contribute to the anthology, which was a long time in process, but it's finally here. If you are interested, it's available for order on (see link to the title above).

Today's prompts from Poetic Asides and NaPoWriMo: (1) Write a "love" and/or "anti-love" poem, and (2) write a terza rima.  A "terza rima" is an Italian form created by Dante Alighieri in The Divine Comedy: A series of tercets (three-line stanzas), usually in iambic pentameter, with an interlocking rhyme scheme of ABA, BCB, CDC, DED, EFE, etc., and usually ending with a single line that rhymes with the second line of the preceding stanza.  There is no length limit to the terza rima.  My most successful poem in this form was probably "Erosion", which appeared several years ago in the late lamented journal  The Barefoot Muse, edited by my friend Anna Evans.  Today's poem is actually a "terza rima sonnet", used by Shelley in his poem "Ode to the West Wind" - the last two lines (the traditional closing sonnet couplet) rhyme with the second line in the prior stanza.  Got all that?


It's not some gilt-edged bound-in-leather journal
in which I write with fancy flourishes,
my quill pen scratching odes to love eternal.

My Bic pen scrawls, its blue ink nourishes
lined paper bound by wire spiral spine,
torn cardboard covers held against their wishes

by duct tape, just to lend a silver shine.
What matters is what's put between the covers,
not whether your book's prettier than mine.

Let's read our work to our respective lovers
and see who swoons to each impassioned page,
and like the tiny hummingbird who hovers

around the nectar jar, their love will rage.
It's so much better than a living wage.

Monday, April 14, 2014

PAD Day 14: Dubious Questions for Uncle Walt

Today's dual prompts from Poetic Asides and NaPoWriMo: (1) Write a poem with the title "If I Were _______", and (2) write a poem consisting entirely of questions except for one statement at the end.   Once again, I had a hard time coming up with anything for two relatively simple prompts, but here's the result. I was thinking of insipid celebrity interview questions, which led me in this direction. (After two longer poems in the last two days, it's a relief to write a shorter one, too.)

If I Were to Meet Walt Whitman, What I Would Ask

Did you know they named a bridge after you?
What do you think of Camden today?
What was it like being a Civil War nurse?
How did you deal with being gay in the 19th Century?
What was Oscar Wilde like?
Who were your favorite poets?
When did you decide not to rhyme?
What do you think of rap?
Where did you like to go for dinner?
Did your beard get itchy in the summer?
Where did you get that floppy hat?
Why did you only write one book of poetry?
Can I get your autograph?
Then he'd sign my copy of Leaves of Grass,
and show me the door. 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

PAD Day 13: The Weird Family's Kid

Today's dual prompts from Poetic Asides and NaPoWriMo: (1) Write an "animal" poem (and as a suggestion from guest judge Daniel Nester, write a sestina), and (2) write a poem with at least one "kenning".  A kenning is a trope of Norse origin which is a marriage of two words that don't usually go together, to metaphorically describe another word or phrase.  Thus "whale road" could mean the ocean.  One of the most common kennings I can think of in English is "rug rat" to describe a young child, specifically a crawling baby. A sestina - well, all you poets probably know what that is.  For those who don't, the short definition is a poem with six six-line stanzas and a seventh three-line stanza. Six words are selected as end-words and one must be used at the end of each line, in a specific rotating order, with all six used in the three lines of the last stanza (the "envoi"). The poem is usually written in blank verse (ten syllables per line), but doesn't have to be. It's one of the most daunting forms, and hard to write without sounding like little more than an exercise in form. I've only written one or two I consider really successful, one of which was published. I don't know if this one is in the same league, but here it is.  It's a bit of a riff, or an exaggeration, on how my youngest son must feel about not having a pet dog in the house. Oh, and my "kenning" appears in line 5:

The Weird Family's Kid

First warm weekend in spring - people walk dogs
with impunity. In my neighborhood
there is a dog in every family
but mine. They all parade past my window-
furry little leash-puffs the size of bees,
hulking hounds as tall as a sunflower.

I know their names. The pug in the flowered
sweater is Bessie. The big police dog
is Bear. He likes to snap at honeybees.
Fred and Ginger trot through my neighborhood,
two Corgis in tandem. Through my window
it's a kennel show - all the families

strut them proudly - all but my family.
My parents are allergic to flowers,
and anything that floats in the window -
dust, pollen, smoke, and especially dog
and cat hair. I stroll through the neighborhood
petting every dog, avoiding the bees.

My folks are even allergic to bees.
Just how I escaped all these family
traits is a mystery. The neighborhood
is a battleground for them. No flowers
in our yard, and obviously, no dogs
or cats. And we always keep the windows

closed.  Our neighbors see our blinded windows
and shake their heads. But I don't want to be
seen as a weirdo. That label won't dog
me to adulthood. When those families
see me on the street smelling the flowers,
speeding on my bike through the neighborhood,

they will say, "Look, there's that nice neighborhood
kid, the one whose parents keep their windows        
shut - he's not so bad." When my life flowers,
when I've learned all about the birds and bees,
I'll move out from this shut-in family,
and maybe even get myself a dog.

People in this neighborhood buzz like bees.
They want families with open windows,
who plant flowers and like to walk their dogs.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

PAD Day 12: Loneliness and the City

Today's Poetic Asides prompt is to write a "city" poem. NaPoWriMo's prompt is a little more involved: Take a common “concrete” noun, like “dog” or “desk” or “lemon”, and use a search engine or other method to find references to that word, then substitute an abstract noun, like “love” or “sorrow” or “freedom” for that word and base a poem on the results. Per the first prompt, I used “city” as my concrete noun and “loneliness” as the abstract one, and what happened was this slightly strange “found poem” based on a fascinating newspaper article ("A Physicist Solves the City" - Jonah Lehrer, New York Times,Dec. 17, 2010).   I’m still paring it down, but here is what is looks like so far:
A Physicist Solves Loneliness
Arguments over the details of crustaceans
were a sure sign that it was time to move on,
so I began to think seriously about loneliness.
I had this hunch that there was something more,
that loneliness was shaped by a set of hidden laws.
I can take these laws and make precise predictions
about the number of violent crimes
and the surface area of roads to loneliness in Japan.
I bought a thick and expensive almanac
featuring the provincial loneliness of China.
New York isn’t just more loneliness.
It’s a former Dutch fur-trading settlement,
the center of the finance industry,
and home to the Yankees.
After analyzing the first sets of loneliness data —
we began infrastructure and consumption statistics —
we concluded that loneliness looks a lot like an elephant.
Like an elephant, loneliness becomes more efficient
as its gets bigger.
When you look at some of this fast-growing loneliness,
it looks like a tumor on the landscape. The concept
of loneliness spread for an entirely different reason.
Modern loneliness is the real center of sustainability.
Creating a more sustainable society will require
our big loneliness to get even bigger.
Why, then, do we put up with the indignities
of loneliness? If you ask people why they move
to loneliness, they always give the same reasons.
Loneliness is all about the people, not the infrastructure.
All successful loneliness is a little uncomfortable.
Loneliness is one of the single most important inventions
in human history. Loneliness is an unruly place,
largely immune to the desires of politicians and planners.
Loneliness is not as a mass of buildings
but rather a vessel of empty spaces.
Loneliness isn’t a skyline — it is a dance.
Loneliness can’t be managed,
and that’s what keeps it so vibrant.
There are few planned meetings,
just lots of unplanned conversations.
It’s just these insane masses of people,
bumping into each other and maybe
sharing an idea or two. It’s the freedom
of loneliness that keeps them alive.

Friday, April 11, 2014

PAD Day 11: Wine, Women, and... Poetry

Today's dual prompts from Poetic Asides and NaPoWriMo: (1) Write a poem whose title is a statement, then respond to that statement in your poem, and (2) write an "Anacreonic" poem; that is, one about wine and love.  Anacreon was an ancient Greek poet who loved to write about those two subjects, and though prompt #2 doesn't require it, I tried to write my poem more or less in the form he used, or at least, the form of the English translations. ( Fun fact: Did you know that "The Star-Spangled Banner" was based on an old English drinking song called "To Anacreon in Heaven"?)  My "statement title" is a quote from Robert Louis Stevenson.  So here's my light verse for today:

Wine is Bottled Poetry

Wine is bottled poetry
said Stevenson, and now says me.
I can woo you with my rhymes,
but wine assures us both good times.
Join me in the meadow, lass -
We'll read my works and raise a glass.
I think that a rondelet
complements a chardonnay.
Or let's try a villanelle
with a zesty zinfandel.
You might prefer to sip merlot
while I read you my rondeau.
Then I'll share with you a sonnet -
just don't spill your claret on it.
A limerick, my last resort,
will go quite well with tawny port.
I'll read my verse if you will hear it,
but take it with the proper spirit.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

PAD Day 10: The Future is Now!

I'm late today - I don't know why two relatively simple prompts gave me so much trouble, but it's taken all day to come up with something worthy of posting. First, though, a couple of shout-outs to follow bloggers who are participating in daily writing prompt challenges: Vince Gotera's blog  The Man with the Blue Guitar (I especially like his Day 9 poem which used my "playlist" poem prompt that I suggested for NaPoWriMo, to create an entertaining poem in the "hay(na)ku" form), and Joseph Harker's naming constellations, whose link you can find in my sidebar.

Anyway, the dual prompts from Poetic Asides and NaPoWriMo: (1) Write a "future" poem, and (2) write an "advertising" poem.  The latter can be a poem in the form of an advertisement or one about advertising. My reference to that prompt is rather peripheral, and I don't think it's my best poem so far this month, but for what it's worth, here ya go:

The World of Tomorrow

Now that we have arrived in the future,
it doesn't look much like we imagined it
in all those old advertisements
and Popular Science magazine covers.
We have no flying cars. Folks don't zip
around the city in pneumatic tubes.
There are no condos on the moon.
And from here on, the world of tomorrow
may look much like today, depending
on how close your "tomorrow" is.
We can't expect a sea change of technology
overnight.  Yet every day we see ads
that tell us the future is already here:
little robots that clean our floors,
wristwatch-sized smart phones,
and soon, cars that drive themselves.
Moving through it all day by day,
our progress seems incremental,
yet looking back at all those predictions
from decades ago, we got some of it right,
and looking forward, we can only imagine.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

PAD Day 9: Gimme Shelter

I just got the new issue of US 1 Worksheets, an annual poetry journal published by the US 1 Poets Cooperative, a long-running group out of Princeton, NJ. They always have a great launch party in the spring, but unfortunately, other family obigations made it impossible for me to go this year. The journal is great as always, and it contains my poem, "Interview with a Metaphor." I've had several poems pubished there over the years, including "Postcard to the Ex", which they nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2012. Thanks to Nancy Scott and everyone else who do such a swell job on this handsome publication that's always jam-packed with fine poetry.

Today's prompt from Poetic Asides is to write a "shelter" poem. As you'll see, I took that prompt rather literally. NaPoWriMo's prompt is one I suggested the other day to blog-mistress Maureen Thorson, and it's one of my favorites: Take a random song list (from your mp3 player, CD player, favorite radio station, Spotify or Pandora, etc.) and use the titles of the next five songs in a poem, in any way you wish. I find this a great "fall-back" prompt when I'm stuck for something to write. (Thanks, Maureen!) So here's my "shelter-playlist" poem:


It’s to keep our family safe, my dad says.
I don’t understand why we need another basement.
Mom buys 50 cans of vegetables, hoarding it for home.
Every day on TV they talk about the “Cold War”,
and it’s not even wintertime. Dad shows me the new room.
There’s just one door and no windows, and metal shelves
with cans of food, a transistor radio, blankets and flashlights.
There’s powdered milk and bottled water too.
I guess that means the milkman won’t leave bottles
on our porch if there’s a war. Sometimes I dream about war,
sometimes I dream of Willie Mays. Dad says I worry too much
for a little child. Walking home from school, I watch the sky.
Sometimes I wish I was born in a UFO.

[Playlist songs:
"Milkman" by EMA
"Sometimes I Dream of Willie Mays" by the Baseball Project
"Hoarding It for Home" by Mates of State
"Born in a UFO" by David Bowie
"Walking" by The Dodos
"Little Child" by the Beatles
Hmmm, I just realized I used six titles. I think "Hoarding it for Home" is the title that really suggested the fallout shelter theme.]

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

PAD Day 8: A Little Morbidity, Courtesy of Vallejo

Today's dual prompts from Poetic Asides and NaPoWriMo: (1) Write a "violence" and/or "peaceful" poem, and (2) write a poem that is a reworking of a famous poem. The example that NaPoWriMo gave is the same poem I decided to use, just because it spoke to me so strongly. Plus, it already had a little element of violence built into it to satisfy the Poetic Asides prompt. (Here's the original poem.) Don't worry: this one is meant to be more satirical than prophetic.

Papers on Top of More Papers

(after “Black Stone Lying on a White Stone” by César Vallejo)

I will die in a cubicle, on a sunny day,
a day as ordinary as any other, maybe in autumn.
I will die in a cubicle in the middle of a project
probably on a Tuesday, a day much like today.

It might be a Wednesday, come to think of it.
I will think it’s writer’s cramp, but it will spread
up my arm to my brain, the neurons exploding
like fireworks, my tongue lolling in my mouth.

Poor Bruce. Worked all his life. Maybe we shouldn’t
have given him so much to do. Maybe we shouldn’t
have used that cat-o’-nine-tails on him so much.

There are no witnesses, just the vacation posters
tacked to the inside walls of my space. And it’s
a Tuesday or Wednesday, and it’s just begun to cloud up.

Monday, April 7, 2014

PAD Day 7: Self-Portrait by Way of 1973

Today's dual prompts from Poetic Asides and NaPoWriMo: (1) Write a "self-portrait" poem, and (2) write a love poem to an inanimate object. I stretched the second prompt a bit and wrote a love poem, or sorts, to a year:

Love Song to 1973

O, momentous year
when I graduated college and married
the love of my life, entered grad school
and discovered the glories of Boston –
I’m listening to a soundtrack
of all the songs you brought me:
“You’re So Vain”, “Drift Away”,
“Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”.
Watergate and Vietnam were still
on our minds, All in the Family
a Sunday night necessity.
I gaze into the mirror and wonder
what happened to the 22-year-old
who was optimistic, still a little naïve,
on the upslope of his life adventure.
I have to look past the paunch,
the thinning hair and gray beard,
but when I hear Dark Side of the Moon
again, it’s a little easier to find him.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

PAD Day 6 and Publication News

First of all, I just got confirmation that my untitled "somonka", a collaboration with Aussie poet Rosemary Nissen-Wade, is appearing in Robert Brewer's poetry column in the new issue of Writer's Digest (the May/June issue, I presume, because I haven't seen it yet.) This will be the fourth time I've appeared in print in his column.  Pretty cool. (A somonka is a two-verse tanka written in collaboration with another poet, where one writes the first verse and the other writes the second, often on a love-related theme.)

Today's dual prompts: (1) Poetic Asides - write a "night" poem.  (2) NaPoWriMo - the good old "look out your window" prompt: spend a few minutes at your window observing, and make a list of nouns, colors and verbs based on what you see, then make a poem from those lists. My result was a bit looser with the word list and a bit more literal with the observation, but here it is:


spring is late this year
nothing pink or yellow outside
but my neighbor's six-foot
inflatable Easter Bunny

which slowly and eerily
rises and falls from a hatched
and decorated egg

which we cannot even
ignore after dark
as it continues its creepy
slo-mo peek-a-boo
illuminated from within

come on, flowers
please come steal the show

Saturday, April 5, 2014

PAD Day 5: The Golden Shovel

Today’s dual prompts from Poetic Asides and NaPoWriMo: (1) Write a "discovery" poem, and (2) write a “golden shovel” poem. This form was created by Terrance Hayes in his poem "The Golden Shovel": he took Gwendolyn Brooks’ famous short poem “We Real Cool” and made each word of that poem the last word in each consecutive line of his poem. (The title of his poem, and the name of the form, is taken from the subtitle of Brooks' poem - the "Golden Shovel" is the name of the pool hall.) The poem I used here is Margaret Atwood’s “You Fit into Me”:
You fit into me
like a hook into an eye
a fish hook
an open eye
So here’s a poem from the POV of a woman who discovers that her relationship is over. Like with Hayes' poem, I tried to keep some of the spirit of the original in my reworking:

The Hook and Eye Disconnect

(after Margaret Atwood)
Baby, I just discovered that you
and I don’t work anymore. You’re not fit
to hold this heart, to slip it into
your pocket like spare change. Tell me
you care, that you really like
my company, but that’s just a
convenient lie. Don’t think you can hook
me with threats or pleas. I’ve seen into
the future, and it’s filled with an
empty house. We don’t see eye-to-eye,
and I can’t abide your swagger, a
selfish air, a lingering lust for all those “fish
in the sea”. So baby, you’re off the hook –
I release you; I throw you back. Have an
incredible life. The door is open,
the world ready for your unfaithful eye.

Friday, April 4, 2014

PAD Day 4: Lune-y for Spring

Today's dual prompts from Poetic Asides and NaPoWriMo: (1) Write a poem whose title starts with the word "Since", and (2) write a "lune". A lune is a haiku-like form of three short lines - there are varying versions of the form, but today I am using the one created by poet Jack Collum. It's very simple: line 1 = 3 words, line 2 = 5 words, and line 3 = 3 words. So here's my "lune string", as it were:

Since the Last Snow

we’ve put away
the shovels, the rock salt
for another year

we’ve unbundled ourselves,
opened doors, pulled up shades
looking for green

we’ve watched robins
wander in our thawing yard
hunting for breakfast

we’ve driven everywhere
playing our favorite music loud
windows rolled down

we’ve started digging
in the cool loam, planting
for the future