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
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.
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).
And now, for our prompt (optional, as always). This one is called “in the window.” (For detailed prompt, see below.)
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
warning I may switch
* * *
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?
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.
Prompt: Today, I’d like to challenge you to write a poem that responds, in some way, to another. (For details, see below.)
“The damselflies pass as they would over water” from Aubade: Some Peaches, After Storm,” by Carl Phillips.
Damselfly, graceful, dainty,
iridescent, silvery green,
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.