2021 NaPoWriMo April 30 Spring facial, after friend’s directions

Today’s (optional) prompt challenges you to write a poem in the form of a series of directions describing how a person should get to a particular place.

Spring facial, after friend’s directions

“You’ll love the beautician’s new center,” she said.

Striking, brand new, at the end of town, right where the cobblestones stop,
after roundabout, crossroads, traffic lights,

block of buildings, mushroomed overnight,
where caramel-colored cows once grazed
and plum trees quietly bloomed,

erasure made way for macadam boom,
relentless advance, no chance of respite,
busy barricades across no-name street.

Straight thru, she said, then sharp right,
can’t miss, grey cement, clear glass face,
center at number 4, Orchid the name.

Where to park? Trapped by roadwork, dazed by intrepid renewal game, or
head into setting sun, eyes blind,

when center gleams. Owner unfazed,
had sensed mainstream dream,
moved, modernized, determined to find

radical remake, fancy inventories,
for tweaking selves into shining shape,
no lurching back to plum memories.

* * *

And now for our final (still optional!) prompt. Today’s prompt is based on a prompt written by Jacqueline Saphra, and featured in this group of prompts published back in 2015 by The Poetry Society of the U.K. This prompt challenges you to write a poem in the form of a series of directions describing how a person should get to a particular place. It could be a real place, like your local park, or an imaginary or unreal place, like “the bottom of your heart,” or “where missing socks go.” Fill your poem with sensory details, and make them as wild or intimate as you like.

Happy writing!

2021 NaPoWriMo April 28 When the whys get in your eyes

Our prompt today (optional, as always), is to write a poem that poses a series of questions. (For detailed prompt, see below.)
When the whys
get in your eyes

Why are you holding a knife
in your hand? Portends no good. Looks life-threatening.

To make an incision!

Why? To make a decision, you need a knife? There’s no strife.

Your question is rife with misunderstanding. I said: incision, to do some grafting.

Why a decision to do drafting? I do a lot of that. It’s a craft. Why…

You’re daft. It’s simple: I’m going to make a cut.

Why cut? What? Whom? Up or off? We’re here by a tree. Do the bees bother you? Follow them to their hive, find sweet honey and we’ll thrive.

You’re way off. Well, not quite. Because, right, it’s about the tree.

Why do you want to cut the tree down? I see you frown. That, clown, will be rough: your knife isn’t big enough!

Enough! Enough. You’re making it tough.

Why? You make me laugh. What is it that you want to cut? Or is it all nothing more than a bluff?

Enough! Cut it out! I can take no more! For heaven’s sake, shut up!

* * *

Our prompt today (optional, as always), is to write a poem that poses a series of questions. The questions could be a mix of the serious (“What is the meaning of life?”) and humorous (“What’s the deal with cats knocking things off tables?”), the interruptive (“Could you repeat that?”) and the conversational (“Are those peanuts? Can I have some?”). You can choose to answer them – or just let the questions keep building up, creating a poem that asks the reader to come up with their own answer(s).

Happy writing!

2021 NaPoWriMo April 29 See-Through Musings

And now, for our prompt (optional, as always). This one is called “in the window.” (For detailed prompt, see below.)

See-Through Musings


who en earth am I
a multiple no one


I seem no thing yet
I can be a killer wall


I am the intermediary
let you sell yourself

ever ready

warning I may switch
mirror you

* * *

And now, for our prompt (optional, as always). This one is called “in the window.” Imagine a window looking into a place or onto a particular scene. It could be your childhood neighbor’s workshop, or a window looking into an alien spaceship. Maybe a window looking into a witch’s gingerbread cottage, or Lord Nelson’s cabin aboard the H.M.S. Victory. What do you see? What’s going on?

Happy writing!

2021 NaPoWriMo April 27 A Cocktail

Prompt: Write a poem inspired by an entry from the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows. Describe a haunting feeling that you have. (Agnostesia) (Detailed prompt below.)

A cocktail

A cocktail
of cacophonous feelings
not in concert

what am I doing here
like a brick lost by
the wayside

in search of light
like a fluttering moth

like dandelion after a
spring shower

like a keychain
thrown thru the window
to let friend in

like weed sprouting
between flagstones

like a painting of
valley and mountains

like a wingless bird
fallen from its nest

at peace
like a lit Japanese
paper lamp

like fragrance of

feeling all of this I
wonder what holds it

* * *
In today’s (optional) prompt, I’d like to challenge you to write a poem inspired by an entry from the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows. The entries are very vivid – maybe too vivid! But perhaps one of the sorrows will strike a chord with you, or even get you thinking about defining an in-between, minor, haunting feeling that you have, and that does not yet have a name.

2021 NaPoWriMo April 25 Flash of Light I, II

Our prompt for today (optional, as always) is to write an “occasional” poem. What’s that? Well, it’s a poem suited to, or written for, a particular occasion. Maybe a discovery. A Eureka moment.

(Detailed prompt below.)

Flash of Light I

books tell you
things you can’t

such as there’s a
source of light
a tall tale you
don’t take in

if you did, you’d feel
like a thief
a silver spoon
not yours

yet leave a desire
to explore enquire
by a dreamlike

on a grey day
minding no one
no thoughts

you sit
on a weather-
smoothed rock
soft breeze
soothing scent
of rosemary

soles sense
soft ground
eyes closed
nothing no one
you sit breathe

your lids
your forehead
feel the touch
of light
the sun’s out!
you open
your eyes

grey sky
nothing no one
no sun

your senses
never mind
who cares

this time
so bright
it’s true
sun’s breaking

grey day
nothing no one
no sun

third time round
calls back
what sometime
you read


* * *

Flash Of Light II

So what’s the light
you tout

The new sheen
does it mean

Less fumbling
and stumbling
no more

Zest to share
a happy

A vow to be
no strife
no regret?

A reset
an upgrade
a bigger bet?

renewed romance
dance with life?

Ok then.
Sit down.

* * *

Our prompt for today (optional, as always) is to write an “occasional” poem. What’s that? Well, it’s a poem suited to, or written for, a particular occasion. This past January, lots of people who usually don’t encounter poetry got a dose when Amanda Gorman read a poem at President Biden’s inauguration. And then she followed it up with a poem at the Superbowl (not traditionally an event associated with verse!) The poem you write can be for an occasion in the past or the future, one important to you and your family (a wedding, a birth) or for an occasion in the public eye (the Olympics, perhaps?).

Or a moment of discovery. Eureka!

Happy writing!

2021 NaPoWriMo April 24 Guugu Yimithirr, Understood

Today’s (optional) prompt is a fun one. Find a factual article about an animal. Replace the name of the animal with something else. Rearrange and edit into a poem. (See detailed prompt below.)

Article: Wikipedia. Freely adapted.(Animal, see below.)

Guugu Yimithirr, Understood

Commandeered by James Cook,
the Endeavour was beached 7 weeks due to heavy leaks,
shook by a collision
with an off-course “understanding”, reports Cook, agog,
in his onboard log.

The word “understanding”,
in Guugu Yimithirr, depicts
an “understanding”, eastern grey, recorded in 1770, strictly in May, centuries ago, thanks
to a diary of Sir Joseph Banks, delivered, as he lay low,
on the banks of the River Endeavour.

As Cook and Banks
explored surroundings
they happened, confounded,
on their first “understanding”.

A native, not to blame,
asked for the creature’s name,
replied “understanding”,
the local Guugu Yimithirr phrase
meaning “I don’t understand”,
(which was the case),
which Cook understood
and sensibly took
to be the name.

The story makes plain,
why “understanding”, not in vain,
is a distinct, sought-after pet,
though some, reluctant to bet,
think the creature’s on the brink
of becoming extinct.

(You guessed it: a kangaroo.)

* * *

A Wikipedia article or something from National Geographic would do nicely – just make sure it repeats the name of the animal a lot. Now, go back through the text and replace the name of the animal with something else – it could be something very abstract, like “sadness” or “my heart,” or something more concrete, like “the streetlight outside my window that won’t stop blinking.” You should wind up with some very funny and even touching combinations, which you can then rearrange and edit into a poem.

Happy writing!

2021 NaPoWriMo April 23 Daring Damselfly

Prompt: Today, I’d like to challenge you to write a poem that responds, in some way, to another. (For details, see below.)

Chosen line:
“The damselflies pass as they would over water” from Aubade: Some Peaches, After Storm,” by Carl Phillips.

Daring Damselfly

Damselfly, graceful, dainty,
iridescent, silvery green,

miniature mirage,
ephemeral dream, yet

you’re ancient, damselfly,
roamed the skies in the Permian age,

a predator, boasted an eagle’s
size, taunted dinosaurs.

You’ve survived, reinvented yourself,
a slimmed-down elf, you rise

above brook, pond, morning dew,
morphed from a nymph, you grew

savor life with humongous eyes,
surf on transparent wings.

Why of all things did you pass thru
the open window, mistaking glass

for watery sheen,
lured by a curious, fateful gleam,

fancy, neither sun nor moon,
till entranced beyond reprieve,

trapped in a luminous orb,
you lay dead among house flies,

intrepid wings no more to unfold.
I grieve, yet wanted the ending bold,

believing it’s ours to choose
invincible when we lose.

* * *

Now for today’s prompt (optional, as always). One thing that makes me want to write poetry is reading poetry. Sometimes, reading another poet’s work gives me an idea or image. And sometimes I read a poem that I want to formally respond to – whether because I agree with it, or disagree with it, or just because it starts a conversation in my head that I want to continue on the page.

Today, I’d like to challenge you to write a poem that responds, in some way, to another. This could be as simple as using a line or image from another poem as a jumping-off point, or it could be a more formal poetic response to the argument or ideas raised in another poem. You might use a favorite (or least favorite poem) as the source for your response. And if you’re having trouble finding a poem to respond to, here are a few that might help you generate ideas: “This World is Not Conclusion,” by Peter Gizzi, “In That Other Fantasy Where We Live Forever,” by Wanda Coleman, “La Chalupa, the Boat,” by Jean Valentine, or “Aubade: Some Peaches, After Storm,” by Carl Phillips.

Happy writing!

2021 NaPoWriMo April 22 Inside Out

* *. *

In a prompt originally posted this past February, Poets & Writers directs us to an essay by Urvi Kumbhat on the use of mangoes in diasporic literature. As she discusses in her essay, mangoes have become a sort of shorthand or symbol that writers use to invoke an entire culture, country, or way of life. This has the beauty of simplicity – but also the problems of simplicity, in that you really can’t sum up a culture in a single image or item, and you risk cliché if you try.

But at the same time, the “staying power” of the mango underscores the strength of metonymy in poetry.

Today’s prompt involves metonymy in poetry. I’d like to challenge you to write a poem that invokes a specific object as a symbol of a particular time, era, or place. (For detailed prompt, see below.)

Happy writing!

Inside Out

They wave their flag,
let it flutter, swirl,
a square piece of cloth
that resembles them,

square like law and order,
structure, grounding,
sense of security, home,

a flag, its color red like
a startled robin’s breast?
poppies at the edge of a field?

A mix, magenta and yellow,
to recall blood shed
serving in foreign armies
in medieval times.

The flag’s center linen-white,
shaped like a cross,
sewn on soldiers’ armor to
tell them apart from the enemy,

white, signifying
faith in the invisible,
belief in peace and purity.

In time the flag
spawned, in reverse, a twin,
a white square
bearing a red cross,

heralding an outgoing, caring, impartial compassion for the suffering,
relief for victims of disasters,
help for prisoners of war.

A symbol, turning itself inside out,
ushered in a new time,
changed the world.

2021 NaPoWriMo April 21 Mask-Over-Mouth Questions and Freshly-Laid Egg

2021 NaPoWriMo April 21

Two versions:

Mask-Over-Mouth Questions

And now for our (optional) prompt. Have you ever heard or read the nursery rhyme, “There was a man of double deed?”

Today, I’d like to challenge you to write a poem that like this one, uses lines that have a repetitive set-up. (See detailed prompt below)

Mask-Over-Mouth Questions

Why is it I, human, must wear a mask to constantly cover my mouth?

Is it that I devour life, hour after hour, never content, hungry for more? Sounds uncouth.

Is it that space isn’t enough to make room for all, black and white, prose and poetry, hawk and dove?

Is it that I need what’s distant, superfluous, absurd? Exotic food, extras galore? Is that right?

Is it that my greed got EverGiven squeezed stuck in the Suez canal? Far away, why give a fuck? Shrug shoulders, like it’s banal.

Is it that I forgot to be gracious, say grace for what nature will endlessly grow, ripen and lavish?

Is it that, grinning, I brandish whitened, capped teeth, signal rapacious aggression?

Is it that I moodily purse my lips, wonder about botox and repulping tips, a modish obsession?

Is it that I tell lies (all white, of course) without so much as a swallow, a gulp?

Is it that, irreverent, I yawn and gape, flout my ignorance like a zoo-weary ape?

Is it that words flowing from my mouth have lost meaning and depth, can’t tell north from south?

Is it that what I exhale is sick and putrid, a stale, old tale?

Is it that a gale must prevail to free me from hiding behind a tiresome mask?

Is it that a Herculean task of stable-clearing awaits that leaves me aghast?

Is it that I forgot the meaning of breath, the command switch between life and death, once equal to soul?

Is it that I must repent, remedy, amend? Perhaps cajole? Once more walk barefoot on glowing coal?

Is it that there’s at least one consolation: I’m not alone?

Is it that we’re all, humans, in this together? That we’ve zoomed our way out of exasperation, that together we struggle for liberation?

Is it that a flash of understanding prompts a feeling of relief, elation?

Is it that I, we all, need to assume our power? Like emerging umbrellaless, drenched, refreshed, from a crazy April shower?

Is it that this is a beginning?
Life’s new, fragrant, surprise flower?

* * *

and: Freshly-Laid Egg

Thought there’s a mouse
In the henhouse off course
Thought that would be fun
The chickens on the run
Thought mouse would take off
To the full moon over Rangoon
Thought of settling on a star
Some near-by, some far
Thought of hens far away
Of return to earth any day
Thought first tank up on light
Travel through cosmic night
Thought of hens’ welcome back
Found all well on track
Thought became a freshly-laid egg

* * *

Here is the detailed prompt. Have you ever heard or read the nursery rhyme, “There was a man of double deed?” It’s quite creepy! A lot of its effectiveness can be traced back to how, after the first couplet, the lines all begin with the same two phrases (either “When the . . .” or “Twas like,”). The way that these phrases resolve gets more and more bizarre over the course of the poem, giving it a headlong, inevitable feeling.

Today, I’d like to challenge you to write a poem that, like this one, uses lines that have a repetitive set-up. Here’s an example I came up with after seeing this video of . . . a bucket of owls.

Bucket List

Several owls can fill a bucket.

Several buckets can fill a wheelbarrow.

Several wheelbarrows can fill a truckbed.

Several truckbeds can fill a song.

Several songs can fill a head.

Several heads can fill a bucket.

Several buckets filled with heads and owls

Sing plaintive verse all night long.

Happy writing!

Day Twenty