National Poetry Month: April 30, 2015

Prompt: Today, I challenge you to write a poem backwards. Start with the last line and work your way up the page to the beginning. Another way to go about this might be to take a poem you’ve already written, and flip the order of the lines and from there, edit it so the poem now works with its new order. This will probably feel a bit strange (and really, it is a bit strange), but it just may help you see the formal “opening” and “closing” strategies of your poems in a new way!

I decided to go the revision route. Here is the revised poem. The original draft is below.  

Which one do you like better? I'd love to hear. 
Happy National Poetry Month!

Green (2)

down the river
a leaf
I will float
into the green
green world
I will bend
my body
into the wild
under shadows
of tree canopy
mown grass
corn stalks
I will wear
tree frog
chartreuse aspen
just before fall
soft underside
of mallow leaves
pea shoot
spring leaf
I will robe myself

Green (1)

I robe myself                                                
in sagebrush
spring leaf
pea shoot
chartreuse aspen
just before fall.
I wear
tree frog
soft underside
of mallow leaves.
I grace my self
with corn stalks
mown grass
shadows under
tree canopy.
When I walk out
into the wild
no one will see me.
I will blend my body,
fold myself
into the green,
green world.
I will float,
myself a leaf
down the river

National Poetry Month: April 29, 2015

Prompt: Today, I challenge you to write a poem in the form of a review. You can review either animate or inanimate things, real places or imaginary places. You can write in the style of an online review (think Yelp) or something more formal that you might find in a newspaper or magazine. (I imagine that bad reviews of past boyfriends/girlfriends might be an easy way to get into this prompt, though really, you can “review” anything in your poem, from summer reading lists for third graders to the idea of the fourth dimension).

Day 29: This started as a review poem, but turned into more of a rant. 

             -- The Washington Post

Like God, poetry is said to be dying.
Proclaimed by an article
from the Washington Post
using statistics, 
America’s favorite weapon.
Readers decline in number,
poetry only slightly more popular
than opera, less desirable 
than knitting or jazz.
I bet the guy who wrote this 
doesn’t read poetry 
or go to poetry readings,
has never been to a slam.
Maybe he still resents memorizing
“Annabelle Lee” in fourth grade.
What should I tell that sixth grader
who told me she is a poet,
who sat scribbling lines in class yesterday?
Stop, don't bother, 
only 6.7% of all Americans
will care about your words?

No, I will say, "Let me read your poem."

National Poetry Month: April 28, 2015

Another combo today.

NaPoWriMo Prompt: Today, I’d like to challenge you to write a poem about bridges. A bridge is a powerful metaphor, and when you start looking for bridges in poems, you find them everywhere. Your poem could be about a real bridge or an imaginary or ideal bridge. It could be one you cross every day, or one that simply seems to stand for something larger – for the idea of connection or distance, for the idea of movement and travel and new horizons.

My good friend Barbara Yoder taught me the technique of rolling a die whenever I become stuck in my writing.  Each number represents a word you can add to your writing to take it further or in a different direction:

1 = But -- add an obstacle
2 = So -- you make a decision
3 = If -- gives you more options/establishes stakes
4 = Or -- gives you options or alternatives
5 = As -- saying more
6= And -- generative/helps create scenes

For some reason, I thought about this today when I began to write about bridges.
Here’s what I came up with:


a bridge can add and to our lives
but only when we let it take us farther
if we cross to the other side
so we find what is there
there or we can stay where
we are as we figure out this what

National Poetry Month: April 27, 2015

I combined two prompts for today:

#1 NaPoWriMo Prompt: And today’s prompt – optional, as always — comes to us from Vince Gotera. It’s the hay(na)ku). Created by the poet Eileen Tabios and named by Vince, the hay(na)ku is a variant on the haiku. A hay(na)ku consists of a three-line stanza, where the first line has one word, the second line has two words, and the third line has three words. You can write just one, or chain several together into a longer poem.

#2  Prompt from Julie Bruck’s Poetry Workshop through the SF Writing Salon: Have you ever been seized by the strangeness of a particular but common word--be it a noun,  a proper name, a verb, a personal pronoun, or even an article--and rolled it around in your own internal soundbox until it started to break loose of its original meaning?
When you get down in the sandbox with those words, you begin to discover all the surprising things that repetition can create, or the ways in which a proper name makes a great verb (see below), or how juxtaposition of the word in question with other words  can tease out multiple meanings from what might have seemed a self-limiting word.

Find a word and s-t-r-e-t-c-h  it.  Don't know where to start? Pick your word and riff on it--do a free-write and repeat your word every time you get stuck. Just keep going. Once you have a draft of something, you can go back and expand the possibilities your word presents. Bat your word around. Tease it. Fluff up its hair.

Day 27:

scurries past
carnelian her tail

spins carnelian
sun glistened web

I carnelian
her deft composition

the flower
of carnelian desire

National Poetry Month: April 26, 2015

Today's Prompt:  Our last two prompts have been squarely in the silly zone – this one should give some scope to both the serious-minded and the silly among you. Today, I challenge you to write a persona poem – a poem in the voice of someone else. Your persona could be a mythological or fictional character, a historical figure, or even an inanimate object. Need some examples? Check out this persona-poem-themed issue of Poemeleon from a few years back.

Day 26:

“This is my letter to the world
That never wrote to me”

From Emily

Everyone believes my domain is simple.
Here in my white dress,
pen in hand, cool and unhurried.
What fire swells up inside,
words that shout to be set free.
No one understands.
Do they think I don’t desire
the world beyond these four walls,
yearn for a greater journey?
I open my father’s green atlas
tracing map lines.
I would wend my way
far from home,
but bird wings beating
in my chest won’t let me be.
Instead I write
my heart’s flight, trailing  
a silken thread.

National Poetry Month: April 25, 2015

Today's Prompt: It’s the weekend, so I’d thought we might go with something short and just a bit (or a lot) silly – the Clerihew. These are rhymed, humorous quatrains involving a specific person’s name. You can write about celebrities, famous people from history, even your mom (hopefully she’s got a good name for rhyming with).

I seem to be on a math kick...

Day 25:

Leonardo Bonacci or Fibonacci
Would have loved sunflower seeds in Karachi
He swooned over numbers so many
he would have munched much more than twenty

National Poetry Month: April 24, 2015

Day 24:  It seemed that every prompt I tried today did nothing for me, so I decided to go back to my current favorite writing trick: Haikubes. I chose 5 words to use in a poem.

Here is what I came up with: 


Before you arrived,
competition had no name,
the world all mine.
You quickly clapped
illusion away.
I learned the taste
of jealousy
in the salty folds
of your baby legs
as you chased
after my assurance
to catch as your own.
I learned the word rival.
Ever after would I check
over my shoulder
for your reflection,
but never did I think ask,
which of us started this?

National Poetry Month: April 23, 2015

Prompt: Today, I challenge you to take a chance, literally. Find a deck of cards (regular playing cards, tarot cards, uno cards, cards from your “Cards Against Humanity” deck – whatever), shuffle it, and take a card – any card! Now, begin free-writing based on the card you’ve chosen. Keep going without stopping for five minutes. Then take what you’ve written and make a poem from it. (Hat tip to Amy McDaniel for the idea!)

From Inner Child Cards: A Fairy-Tale Tarot

Little Red Cap

You with your long innocent hair
under that little red cap,
knitted by someone who loves you,
the tassel floating like flame behind.
Why have you paused on your way,
ignoring your mother’s warning?

I know the woods are tempting.
I could stop you if I wanted.
But maybe I’ll wait to see
if you take the wise path,
if you notice the birds
have to fallen silent
before that dark presence.

National Poetry Month: April 22, 2015

Prompt: Today is Earth Day, so I would like to challenge you to write a “pastoral” poem. Traditionally, pastoral poems involved various shepherdesses and shepherds talking about love and fields, but yours can really just be a poem that engages with nature. One great way of going about this is simply to take a look outside your window, or take a walk around a local park. What’s happening in the yard and the trees? What’s blooming and what’s taking flight?

Day 22:

Suburban Aviary

Bird poop on the back stoop means
the doves are back loving and laying,
so I look to find their twiggy nest
peeking from the eaves,
safe from the tabby cat
who uses our fence for her highway,
far from the raccoons who sleep
in the oak tree next door,
those raccoons who once visited us
while we sat outside eating sandwiches,
watching with their little flashlight eyes.
Now that I think about it
I haven’t heard much cooing
in the early morning lately.
Maybe this means the doves
are exhausted new parents.
All the birds are pretty quiet right now,
the juncos, sparrows and chickadees
must be building and nesting,
which makes the bluebird
I saw twice last week
an even more astonishing sight,
bright with rust collar and buff belly,
a true bluebird of happiness
because seeing him hop in the grass
that is exactly what I felt.

National Poetry Month: April 21, 2015

Our prompt for today (optional, as always) is an old favorite – the erasure! This involves taking a pre-existing text and blacking out or erasing words, while leaving the placement of the remaining words intact… Erasures can feel almost like a game – carving new poems out of old texts like carving statues from blocks of marble — and so they take some of the anxiety out of writing. They can also lead to surprising new ideas, as the words of the original text are given new contexts.

Day 21:
This erasure poetry is dedicated to my sister Lana who told me last weekend her favorite number is e.

National Poetry Month: April 20, 2015

Today, I challenge to write a poem that states the things you know. For example, “The sky is blue” or “Pizza is my favorite food” or “The world’s smallest squid is Parateuthis tunicata. Each line can be a separate statement, or you can run them together. The things you “know,” of course, might be facts, or they might be a little bit more like beliefs. Hopefully, this prompt will let your poem be grounded in specific facts, while also providing room for more abstract themes and ideas.

Day 20:

What I know

Like trees,
we should root ourselves
into the earth, snuggling deep,
but not forgetting to reach
our limbs high into the air,
stepping on tiptoe if need be,
but stretching up, up
to reach clouds water-laden,
then cradling them
with abundant love
so rain washes down upon us,
wetting our hair and skin,
nourishing our bodies,
filling us
until that clean fire
comes to burn
us away to ash.

National Poetry Month: April 13, 2015

In keeping with the mysterious quality of the number 13, today I challenge you to write a riddle poem. This poem should describe something without ever naming it. Perhaps each line could be a different metaphor for the same object? Maybe the title of the poem can be the “answer” to the riddle. The result could be a bit like our Day One poems of negation, but the lines don’t need to be expressed in negatives.


Running from my capture machine
of paper cup and envelope,
she scuttled under the bed skirt.
Now she lies in wait for that first opportunity,
to scurry back up the white sail of sheet
flapping over my huge body.
Covered up to my chin, I dread she will pounce.
Both of us wrapped in our own fears.
I know she just wants somewhere
to light, to spin, to grow fat and contented.
She has made a bad choice, the wrong turn.
I’ve done it myself many times.
Trapped in a tomb of her own making,
dust-covered carpet and shadows,
she won’t come out.
Soon she’ll molder to dust herself.
I could try to find her, but know I won’t.

National Poetry Month: April 12, 2015

NaPoWriMo Day 12 Prompt: It comes to us from Dr. Cynthia A. Cochran of Illinois College:
Here is a great prompt for anyone who likes to write descriptive prose but shudders at writing poetry–and it really works:
Describe in great detail your favorite room, place, meal, day, or person. You can do this in paragraph form.  Now cut unnecessary words like articles and determiners (a, the, that) and anything that isn’t really necessary for content; leave mainly nouns, verbs, a few adjectives.

Cut the lines where you see fit and, VOILA! A poem!

Utica Street

white clapboard house
green shutters
upstairs downstairs kind
fence gate overlooked alley
backyard bursting
apple tree purple Concord grapes
garden patch tomatoes
green beans corn
humid air laden
wasps bees hovering
fruit sticky split by summer rain

cherry tree my cherry tree
so old most grew
far from reach bird nibbled
pink spring blossoms
then sweet tartness
rosy hearts picked sun warm

over chain link fence
rows of other yards
rows of houses marching
front porches shaded
by white-blossomed bridal bush
swing sets squatted
in patchy grass rough-mown
dogs barked we romped
slid down slides
legs pumping
we flew through air

National Poetry Day: April 11, 2015

NaPoWriMo Prompt: Today, rather than being casual, I challenge you to get rather classically formal, and compose a poem in Sapphics. These are quatrains whose first three lines have eleven syllables, and the fourth, just five. There is also a very strict meter that alternates trochees (a two-syllable foot, with the first syllable stressed, and the second unstressed) and dactyls (a three-syllable foot, with the first syllable stressed and the remainder unstressed). The first three lines consist of two trochees, a dactyl, and two more trochees. The fourth line is a dactyl, followed by a trochee.

Well, I certainly can count syllables, so my poem qualifies on that count (pun intended). However, as for the trochees and dactyls, I gave up. Lazy modern poet...


That day I first saw Sappho’s island of birth, 
Greek sun rose hot even at dawn’s blue hour.
Scrub covered hills rolled

outside the dust caked car window. I drove on,
clutch crabby and grumbling like an old woman
stumbling on gravel.

To the sea I sped, past signs I couldn’t read.
On to the Aegean where Sappho had first
penned poems of love.

I should have studied some verses to recite,
but my throat ran dry. Words flew away, cinders
orange against blue.

National Poetry Month: April 9, 2015

NaPoWriMo Day 9: Our prompt for the day (optional, as always) plays of our resources. Today, I challenge you to write a visual poem. If that’s not specific enough, perhaps you can try your hand at a calligram? That’s a poem or other text in which the words are arranged into a specific shape or image. You might find inspiration in the famous calligrams written by Guillaume Apollinaire. And a word to the wise — the best way to cope with today’s exercise may well be to abandon your keyboard, and sit down with paper and pen (and maybe crayons or colored pencils or markers!)

This form made me think of writing concrete poetry with my middle school students, so I tried to channel that energy.  Since I'm no visual artist, be kind to my awkward swirl. Ironically, attending the first meeting of a poetry class kept me from posting earlier!

National Poetry Month: April 8, 2015

Today is the eighth day of the  NaPoWriMo challenge, and that is truly what it is for me today.  Here it is Wednesday of the first week back after my Spring Break, and tonight I have to go to a school board meeting. I've stayed up too late every night since I got back from my vacation, so I am already tired and cranky.  
Obviously these are not the ideal conditions to write a poem, so at the moment I feel myself dried up. However, when in doubt haiku can come to the rescue! I'm still writing one a day (462 so far since 1/1/14) so this will be my poem of the day:

Day 8:

milky way streaking
through star dotted sky swept clean
then the moon rises

National Poetry Month: April 7, 2015

NaPoWriMo Prompt: So today, I challenge you to write about money! It could be about not having enough, having too much (a nice kind of problem to have), the smell, or feel, or sensory aspects of money. It could also just be a poem about how we decide what has value or worth.

Day 7


At home she sees kids on the street everyday,
but here in Paris, with the Eiffel Tower
shining over her shoulder,
she can’t watch them sitting, hands outstretched.
She asks for a euro, thinking perhaps, it equals a quarter.
I don’t tell her it’s more than a dollar.
 “Tonight is too cold for someone to sleep hungry,” she says,
and I am filled with the light of her
as she bends, dark hair swooping over her face,
dropping the coin into his waiting palm.

National Poetry Month: April 6, 2015

NaPoWriMo Day 6: Today’s prompt springs from the form known as the aubade. These are morning poems, about dawn and daybreak. Many aubades take the form of lovers’ morning farewells, but . . . today is Monday. So why not try a particularly Mondayish aubade…

Monday Aubade

Four of us to get to school, four bowls of cereal or scrambled eggs,
Mom from table to stove, from one need to the next.

Dad long gone, having drunk his coffee and climbed into his truck
driving off into pre-dawn darkness.

Monday when beds stripped of weekend lay empty,
school books gathered and sneakers lost, then found.

Dawn peered over the trees across the farm field,
birds chattered in the oak outside the kitchen window.

Four squabbles, milk spilled on the plastic tablecloth,
dog under our feet searching for scraps.

My mother’s face grim-set.

Soon the fat yellow bus would arrive for my brother and me,
soon my sisters would make their way to school down the street.

Soon the house would fall hushed except for clicking
of doggy nails across the kitchen floor.

Now I wonder what my mother did.

Would she sit and watch the day come awake,
just sit with coffee cup nested in her hands?

Completely still,  gazing out at her garden before she shook herself out
and cleared the plates to set in soapy water.

National Poetry Month: April 5, 2015

Today's NaPoWriMo Prompt: Find an Emily Dickinson poem - preferably one you've never previously read  - and take out all the dashes and line breaks. Make it just one big block of prose. Now, rebreak the lines. Add words where you want. Take out some words. Make your own poem out of it!

Gulp! Who am I to tamper with the great Emily's words? I didn't follow the directions completely...

Day 5: 

Before I got my eye put out – (336)

Before I got my eye put out –
I liked as well to see
As other creatures, that have eyes –
And know no other way –

But were it told to me, Today,
That I might have the Sky
For mine, I tell you that my Heart
Would split, for size of me –

The Meadows – mine –
The Mountains – mine –
All Forests – Stintless stars –
As much of noon, as I could take –
Between my finite eyes –

The Motions of the Dipping Birds –
The Morning’s Amber Road –
For mine – to look at when I liked,
The news would strike me dead –

So safer – guess – with just my soul
Upon the window pane
Where other creatures put their eyes –
Incautious – of the Sun –

Dear Emily #33

the sun
comes up
fueling morning’s
amber road
it is mine
to look at when
I like
it is mine
to share
with dipping birds
or other
are mine
the sky
of stintless stars
has split
my heart in two