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 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

2021 NaPoWriMo April 18 More Jam in Store

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.”

Happy writing!

“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

2021 NaPoWriMo April 17 Mystery Moon

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.

Happy writing!

Mystery Moon

mystery moon
vital cocoon

sung in verse
in poets’ saloon

she’ll tersely immerse
in velvety swoon

sweep off the feet
like a typhoon

wherever you meet
Milwaukee Cameroon

born with a wood
or a silver spoon

she’ll surely loot
like a raccoon

hex wished-for rain
into monsoon

cast you as plain

or make you shine
like a Venice lagoon

decypher you fine
she’ll need no platoon

whether you’re titbit
or tycoon

she’ll float your wit
like a balloon

surrender, baboon!
she’s your sweetest boon

none too soon
let midnight loom!

2021 NaPoWriMo April 16 There was a gnu

Here’s today’s prompt. Because it’s Friday, today I’d like you to relax with the rather silly form called Skeltonic, or tumbling, verse. In this form, there’s no specific number of syllables per line, but each line should be short, and should aim to have two or three stressed syllables. And the lines should rhyme. You just rhyme the same sound until you get tired of it, and then move on to another sound. Here’s a short example I came up with.

A toad beneath a log

Cares not for storm or fog.

He’s not a bee or frog

Or a naïve polliwog.

No! He’s wise and bumpy.

His skin is thick and lumpy.

He doesn’t work for money.

And his disposition’s sunny.

Happy writing!

2021 NaPoWriMo April 16

There was a gnu
lived in a shoe
friendly and true
but she felt blue
that was taboo
had no luck
got on a truck
full of muck
it ran amok
Oh f…..k!

Girl from Aberdeen
loved glint and sheen
when reached thirteen
followed her spleen
drank a lot of coffee
turned into toffee.

Rupert the kid
from the roof slid
bumped his head
used rear instead
that burst asunder
flash and thunder
it’s still under
what a plunder!

In the road
sat a toad
quite a load
to goad
better jump
o’er this lump
of a dump
undenied ugly
but snuggly.

2021 NaPoWriMo April 15 A Rebel Act

Today’s prompt comes to us from Juan Martinez. It asks you to 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.

You can see the original prompt (in quasi-cartoon form), along with a few other of Martinez’s prompts, here. Happy writing!

A Rebel Act
Doodling before Googling

She sat, head bent down,
her hands moving,
playfully hiding
some tiny treasure,
wriggling, just captured, live,

precious, her own
yet ready to escape,

maybe a minute hamster
snug against her palm
or a slithering
miniature lizard,

or a Japanese paper flower
unfolding its petals,
drawing life from water
yet fearful of drought.

Mom tending her art:
a rebel act.

Disturbed when watched,
she’d look like a girl
pulled from a trance,

she’d run a hand tru her hair,
straighten up,
smile like a rare jewel,
like desert spring bloom.

Marriage put a swift end
to her dream,
fashion design,
too frivolous a pursuit,

instead she sketched
fairytale figures,
pleated-paper princesses
black-on-white poet-pelicans,
and puppet-angels on strings.

Myths sprang to life
from Mom’s hands,
she hummed
‘don’t fence me in’.

I doodled letters,
wove wandering thoughts
around characters
from the alphabet,

fancy initials
for a pretence
illuminated manuscript,

in a sentence divined
a roman-fleuve.

A shared creative habit
cast a gleeful spell
sparking fantasies.

2021 NaPoWriMo April 14 Johanna Vowels Worms Wings

Our (optional) prompt for the day. Today, I’d like to challenge you to write a poem that delves into the meaning of your first or last name. Looking for inspiration? Take a look at this poem by Mark Wunderlich, appropriately titled “Wunderlich.”
Happy writing!


Vowels Worms Wings

A mouthful of a name
three powerful vowels
two beginnings
one end

which as always is
what’s it about

to wit:

for a sacred cause

or a centuries-old
by one of seven
wives of a mystifying

twisted twig
of the family tree

elsewhere tales of
innocence service heroism
fear yet invincible
faith in the invisible

solitary sieges
ahead of the times
necessarily doomed

leagues of meanings away
morphed into mainstream
sturdy pairs of pants

you figure it out
I haven’t

tried anonymous
tried to disown
negate at least truncate
three syllables down to one
means less to live up to

less to run away from
like lineage of
burnings at the stake
way to go
from witch to saint

a switch only
in the eye of the onlooker

though maybe you could unhook
maybe any time
from your name
throw off arcane burdens
spooky loads
leave legends to oblivion

settle into ordinariness
back with legware
a more intimate variant silken
preceded by ‘long’

see the symbolic link
to standing up and out
to striding

taking things in your stride
however heavy or ominous
make them common
wearable bearable
albeit barely able
yet so simple:

from worming dread of death
to winged delight in life
caterpillar to butterfly
via pupa chrysalis

three vowels
forget the omega
go for the double alpha:
For Real New Life

2021 NaPoWriMo April 12 When Daphnis the shepherd met the Alphacentaurian

Our prompt (optional, as always). I’m calling this one “Past and Future.” This prompt challenges you to write a poem using at least one word/concept/idea from each of two specialty dictionaries: Lempriere’s Classical Dictionary and the Historical Dictionary of Science Fiction.

Sicilian shepherd
Son of Mercury and a nymph

“AI sentient computer
Android artificial being of synthetic flesh”

When Daphnis the shepherd
met the Alphacentaurian

Who’s Who For Whom?

For Daphnis the shepherd
in the shade of a laurel tree
the Alphacentaurian
stirred a memory
of centaurs, creatures
half-man, half-horse,
trotting thru myths,
galloping thru dreams,
carved in marble
and twinkling, it seems,
amongt heavenly constellations.

For Xeladon, the Alphacentaurian,
Daphnis the shepherd
seemed no aberration
a star-seeded operator of sheep,
i. e. compacted clouds,
custom-made, self-propelled,
sentient robots,
routinely flown in,
like he himself,
from a far stellar bleep.

Centaur-happy Daphnis
and Xeladon,
the Alphacentaurian,
meet up in Sicily
(it half-rhymes with scifi
and half with mythology),
relax together
on their backs,
gaze at the sky,
and try agree
on who owns which galaxy.