Another National Poetry Writing Month is in the books, and so is my Poem-a-day Challenge. I think I've been doing this for at least 15 years! I produced 42 poems in April (52 if you count the ten "warmup" poems I wrote in late March.) My poet friend Kendall Bell, however, eclipsed me with 92 in April. Mine were mostly free verse, as usual, but some were written in form. I wrote no sonnets, strangely enough - it's one of my favorite forms, and I usually write at least one or two in April. I did, however, write four general rhymed verses, a blank verse, a sijo, two haiku, a tanka, a skeltonic, a limerick and a limerick sequence, a fib, a rhymed shadorma and a shadorma sequence, a quatern, a triolet, and two golden shovels. I also wrote four ekphrastic poems, several persona poems, and two song parodies. As always, I'm grateful to Robert Lee Brewer (Write Better Poetry blog on the Writers Digest website) and Maureen Thorson (NaPoWriMo website) for providing daily prompts for inspiration, and special thanks to Maureen for featuring my blog and poem "Laurie" from Day 8.
I regret that I only participated in one (virtual, of course) poetry reading in April. (Shout-out to Cord Moreski and his excellent Couch Poets Collective series.) I hope to be involved in more soon, and who knows, maybe some in-person readings by the end of the year. Another highlight of the month was my poem "Public Apology" featured on Your Daily Poem for April 15. I celebrated a milestone birthday, and received birthday wishes from poet friend Marge Piercy plus a slew of other poet friends and acquaintances. I also got tree care advice from Ted Kooser, and had another pleasant email exchange with friend and mentor Jane Hirshfield. And as usual, my friend Vince Gotera and I dutifully followed each other's blogs and gave each other feedback. (He's working on a "poetry novel" that I can't wait to read.) I want to thank everyone, by the way, who read and responded to my poems in April.
As usual, I've selected a handful of my favorite poems to reprise here, in case you don't want to slog through 30 days or more of blog entries to find the highlights. These favorites may change over time, but they seem to be my darlings right now.
[Day 5 prompts: Write a poem titled "The First _____"; write a poem that uses the "shape" and the first letter of each line of another poem, and write your own poem in that framework.]
The First Year
(after "Today, When I Could Do Nothing" by Jane Hirshfield)
I am still here.
sanity still intact
through this morning, at least.
sensible people will prevail.
take down a robin yesterday morning
then feast in my backyard.
till talons hooked into it.
commerce with the risk -
many want to eat out, exercise, drink.
immunity's the key, shots in arms essential.
Watch the numbers and graphs.
Eventually, nature balances itself.
Where do we fit in, and how much longer?
Will this be our extinction event?
Hubris can be a fatal flaw.
beyond the confines of homes and bubbles,
I tread lightly.
[Day 8 prompts: Write a metaphor poem; write a persona poem in the style of Edgar Lee Masters' Spoon River Anthology.]
we were so full of promise,
we young artists and our teacher,
when our van crashed on the turnpike,
and everything changed in a second.
Some of you were badly hurt,
but it was too much for my fragile frame.
I am sorry, friends, to take such an early exit -
I hope I brought joy in my short time there.
Fifty years on, I see most of you
have led good lives, and that pleases me.
You've navigated the highway well,
that treacherous stretch of road
that can flip us at any moment.
[Day 11 prompts: Write a poem that incorporates one or more prime numbers; write a one-stanza poem that is a "fan letter" to someone famous, and a one-stanza response.
Eratosthenes (er-a-TOS-the-neez) was a 3rd Century Greek polymath who discovered a way to identify prime numbers called "The Sieve of Eratosthenes," but is more famous for being the first person to accurately estimate the circumference of the Earth.]
Fan Letter, 223 B.C.
this letter comes straight from the heart.
It's amazing, I think, that you give
us prime numbers that fall through your sieve.
that your letter'd reach me in Cyrene.
Now excuse me while I prove my worth
by measuring the girth of the Earth.
[Day 12 prompts: Use the following words in a poem: great, play, season, race, convict, voice; review two reference sources - Lempriere's Classical Dictionary and The Historical Dictionary of Science Fiction, then take at least one word, concept or idea from each one and work them into a poem. I used the Greek myth of the war between the Centaurs and the Lapiths, and the science fiction term "space tan."]
Beethoven and Disney in Outer Space
I can't help thinking of the cartoon from Fantasia,
that bucolic romp of mythical characters to the music,
centaurs and unicorns, cherubs and satyrs,
and fat drunken Bacchus, sloshing wine all about,
as they celebrate the spring season, playing and cavorting
till Jupiter crashes the party with a fistful of lightning bolts.
Life wasn't always idyllic for the centaurs, though.
They raised a ruckus after too much wine
at a wedding, which quickly became a small war
with the Lapiths, an altercation they say was incited
by Mars, pissed off that he wasn't invited.
All this rolls around in my head as we pass angry Mars,
racing on our way beyond majestic Jupiter, and from there
heading with conviction toward Alpha Centauri,
our next-nearest star, and its habitable planet.
We are space-tanned and ready to be a new voice
in the universe, challenging the gods.
[Day 13 prompts: Write a "lucky" and/or "unlucky" poem; write a poem in the form of a news article you wish would come out tomorrow.]
In other news, COVID is done,
world peace prevails, we've banned the gun,
all the poor have been fed,
all the despots are dead,
and my lottery ticket just won!
[Day 15 prompts: Write a poem with the title "_______ Story"; think about a small habit you picked up from one of your parents, and then to write a piece that explores an early memory of your parent engaged in that habit, before shifting into writing about yourself engaging in the same habit.]
[Day 24 prompts: [Day 25 prompts:
that the thunder in the sky was God
moving the furniture, or the angels bowling.
She hoped this would assuage my fear,
but I couldn't ignore her body language,
especially during an evening storm,
when she'd pace the halls and rooms of our house
in her nightgown like a restless ghost,
smoke trailing behind her from another cigarette.
a meteorologist. The hows and whys of weather
fascinated me, and I documented their changes
with my amateur weather station. I could estimate
the distance of a lightning bolt by the number
of seconds between its flash and boom.
Still, I inherited my mother's fear of thunderstorms.
whenever thunder crashes overhead.
I can't sleep through storms at night.
And like a dog, I have a kind of sixth sense -
at the slightest distant rumble or faint flash,
I'm awake, turning on the lights and pacing
through the house, just like my mother.
But I've never smoked.
A: Aging (ursus canus) is a large bear
with transparent fur that appears white.
It has three eyelids, four inches of body fat,
and a blue tongue.
A: Aging is one of the largest predators in the world,
reaching a length of 6 to 9 feet and a weight
of up to 1300 pounds. It has 42 razor sharp teeth
and sharp-clawed paws the size of dinner plates.
A: Aging is an apex predator, putting it at the top
of the food chain with no natural enemies.
Aging has been known to hunt humans.
It can stalk them and run up to 40 kilometers per hour.
You can try to outrun aging, and you may succeed
for a while, but eventually it will catch up to you.
It is also an excellent swimmer.
[Day 24 prompts:Write a "question" poem; take an article about an animal, then substitute the name of the animal with another noun, concrete or abstract, or even a descriptive phrase. Then arrange those edited passages into a poem. I substituted "aging" for "polar bear."]
[Day 25 prompts:Write a "thought" poem; write an "occasional" poem; that is, a poem written for a specific or special occasion. April 25 is "National Hug a Plumber Day."]
National Hug a Plumber Day
I know it seems unlikely, but
one day some person thought,
"I hope they don't think I'm a nut
when I say that we ought
those masters of the pipes,
the scrappy gals and hearty lugs
who each day earn their stripes
in water to their knees.
Let's have a day to offer praise
and give them all a squeeze!"
Of course, that's hard to do this year
with viruses about -
perhaps instead, just give a cheer,
a fist bump or a shout
and sundry leaky bummers.
Let's hope in Twenty-Twenty-Two
we all can hug our plumbers!
[Day 27 prompt: Write a "believe"and/or "don't believe" poem. I didn't use a second prompt for this one.]
At Four, She Believes in Unicorns
An invisible one trots about the house
and whinnies when it's hungry.
She loves to draw them with fat oval torsos
and spindly stick legs, pointy ears and horns
and big smiley faces. Even pictures of horses
in her preschool papers and coloring books
become unicorns, thanks to a magic-wand crayon.
This is how a horse can become blue with a pink mane
and a rainbow-colored spike on its head.
Even unsuspecting zebras and cows can be transformed.
Today she drew me a birthday card with backward Ps
and a Technicolor unicorn. If only I could ride it back
to that magical four-year-old's land
where there was still so much more to believe in.
[Day 29 prompts: Write an "evening" poem; write an "in the window" poem. In other words, imagine yourself looking into a window and describe what you see. This is an ekphrastic poem in response to an Edward Hopper painting.]
strolling through fallen darkness
in a city of yellow eyes
that I can gaze into
and find a story inside,
in a third floor walk-up,
getting ready to call it a night.
Her derriere and pink slip flash
in the second of three windows.
a blue curtain billows out
into muggy August air
like a sheer flag or a gesture
of a graceful hand inviting me in.
by a translucent red shade,
so I can't make out all the details,
but I accept the curtain's invitation
and open the brownstone door.
and jiggle the doorknob -
it opens without resistance.
I slink like a cat through the flat
and into the back bedroom.
and her eyes widen in surprise.
"You shouldn't leave the door
unlocked and the shades up,"
"You're home early."
Say Hello to Jazz (Day 1)
Up to Fifty (Day 2)
Baby (Day 3)
again (Day 4)
Bursting (Day 6)
Weekend Warrior (Day 7)
The Answer Squash (Day 18)
Appointments for the Heart (Day 23)
How to Get to Love Park (Day 30)