when a fruit lets go
it remembers the blossom
of forgotten spring
Congratulations to Yun Wei for moderating “Writing the Unspeakable”, a panel discussion among Asian-American women writers and poets. A timely, profoundly moving and insightful event, erasing taboos and courageously exposing abuse.
As always, Yun Wei brings her brilliant poetry and art of communication to necessary, urgent causes.
An important event with feminine voices celebrating the power of the word to raise awareness and change our world!
Thank you and congratulations to Yun Wei and to IWWG!
“Distinguish between those who think that speech is a mutual exploration to seek truth and those who think speech is a structure of domination to perpetuate systems of privilege.”
NYT April 24/25 2021
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.)
of cacophonous feelings
not in concert
what am I doing here
like a brick lost by
in search of light
like a fluttering moth
like dandelion after a
like a keychain
thrown thru the window
to let friend in
like weed sprouting
like a painting of
valley and mountains
like a wingless bird
fallen from its nest
like a lit Japanese
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.
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
yet leave a desire
to explore enquire
by a dreamlike
on a grey day
minding no one
on a weather-
nothing no one
you sit breathe
feel the touch
the sun’s out!
nothing no one
nothing no one
third time round
* * *
Flash Of Light II
So what’s the light
The new sheen
does it mean
Zest to share
A vow to be
a bigger bet?
dance with life?
* * *
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!
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
they happened, confounded,
on their first “understanding”.
A native, not to blame,
asked for the creature’s name,
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.
* *. *
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.)
They wave their flag,
let it flutter, swirl,
a square piece of cloth
that resembles them,
square like law and order,
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,
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
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)
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.
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.
write a poem based on the title of one of the chpaters from Susan G. Wooldridge’s Poemcrazy: Freeing Your Life with Words. The book’s table of contents can be viewed using Amazon’s “Look inside” feature. Will you choose “the poem squash?” or perhaps “grocery weeping” or “the blue socks”? If none of the 60 rather wonderful chapter titles here inspire you, perhaps a chapter title from a favorite book would do? For example, the photo on my personal twitter account is a shot of a chapter title from a P.G. Wodehouse novel — the chapter title being “Sensational Occurrence at a Poetry Reading.”
“gas, food, longing”
More Jam in Store
should have opted for the blue socks
dangling from the line
in the sunshine, almost dry
or picked “hi there, stars”
taking me into the cosmos, hifi
met the image angel
no wrangling for a heavenly PR gloss
on a tattered not so flattering CV
overgrown with moss like a tree
never reached there, stars take you
elsewhere, keep you on the move
in the groove, movie remakes
food part of recurrent surprises
black current or red, fresh jam flavors
aromas, textures, tastes to savor
save nothing ever satiates
restless remains eager for more
unexpected discoveried in store
in a never ending string of longings
Our (optional) prompt. I’ve seen some fairly funny twitter conversations lately among poets who are coming to terms with the fact that they keep writing poems about the moon. For better or worse, the moon seems to exert a powerful hold on poets, as this large collection of moon-themed poems suggests. Today, I’d like to challenge you to stop fighting the moon. Lean in. Accept the moon. The moon just wants what’s best for you and your poems. So yes – write a poem that is about, or that involves, the moon.
sung in verse
in poets’ saloon
she’ll tersely immerse
in velvety swoon
sweep off the feet
like a typhoon
wherever you meet
born with a wood
or a silver spoon
she’ll surely loot
like a raccoon
hex wished-for rain
cast you as plain
or make you shine
like a Venice lagoon
decypher you fine
she’ll need no platoon
whether you’re titbit
she’ll float your wit
like a balloon
she’s your sweetest boon
none too soon
let midnight loom!