[This article is now taught in universities, and I’ve had many many messages to tell me that people have increased their publication record, sometimes by 200% in a year. It’s included (with much other useful advice) in our new book from Nine Arches Press, How to Be a Poet]
I’ve spent some time lately with poetry journal editors – and also with the poor beggars who, like me, send off work to them. It’s struck me anew that many people, especially those at the beginning of their writing career, don’t have much idea of how submission works and what time span is realistic for an editor to consider a poem. Also, they’re wondering how to keep tabs on the seventeen different pieces that they’ve sent out, in order to avoid the no-no of simultaneous submission.
What follows is the Jo Bell Method; the method of an immensely, award-winningly disorganised poet who nonetheless…
Last summer I was incredibly lucky to fly to Western Australia as one of the International Guest Poets at Perth Poetry Festival and I will be blogging about some of the adventure over the coming months. I didn’t have much time once I was back on UK soil as I had bookings and the tail-end of a summer to spend with Mr. G, as well as going back to work. Just as I was making videos and writing a review, I ended up in hospital with an unexpected operation. So nearly 12 months later… better late than never. Many people believe the myth that the problems I have suffered were as a result of this travel and the phenomenally long trip I had on my return to save some pennies! It was not the cause of my problems. My time in Perth was a joy and I can’t wait to share it with you!
September was fairly packed – you can read the review here
My last performance was National Poetry Day, my health was already crooked, but I had been booked and didn’t want to miss NPD. Cut from the same cloth as my dad, do not miss a gig.
It was a wonderful evening spent with fellow Poets Laureate Tim Cranmore, Heather Wastie, Suz Winspear and Betti Moretti and I had a lot of fun.
I also particularly enjoyed going out for a meal beforehand and how much the audience enjoyed the show. Tim was a trouper for organising the event and it was pleasure to attend, despite being tanked up on antibiotics and painkillers!
Then came a whole series of things I had to miss. I missed so months of events, book launches, stanza meetings and editing groups. I had to pull all my Autumn/Winter bookings and by the time 2019 happened I had come off social media as I couldn’t deal with everything I was missing. I had a booking I made in June 2018 and a m/s accepted in July 2018 to edit and I couldn’t even manage to start working on these until March! I basically ceased to exist for a 1/4 of a year!
I missed Swindon Poetry Festival as I was in hospital the day I was due to travel down, I had to pull out of a Guest Reading and Workshop for Brum Stanza, I missed the WLF Mental Health Event and a Reading for one in Malvern, I missed the DAN exhibition at Hanbury Hall which I was organising poets ekphrastic writing opportunities and performances for. I had to write my poems this year from photos sent to me by organisers and friends, this was the only writing I did and I didn’t manage that until December.
My poem Wild Lilies and the Beauty of Abandoned Milk Bottles placed 1st in The Ring 21 Miles Poetry Competition and there was a digital exhibition 15th-28th Oct. at The Hive and a reading. I had only been out of hospital a week and was only really awake to take the daily dose of 27 tablets!
The only event I managed thanks to the kindness of a lift and gentle persuasion from friends was Roy McFarlane’s Book Launch in Birmingham. I had to take 4 tablets during the course of it (and it wasn’t a long night) and the worst thing for me was I couldn’t hug anyone. Unbeknown to me at the time, it was a sort of swansong as that was pretty much the last thing I managed. Fortunately it was before I slipped discs in my back so I could still walk and sit! I held myself the whole time – but also didn’t want to miss it.
It was an incredible night which lifted my spirits. The room was full of creativity and love.
I missed Remembrance events, a reading before the silence in a local town’s ceremony, organised by the Rotary and an evening in Worcester, Beacon Lighting. This is the first year I have been asked to participate in such events and it would have been an honour.
I missed the Verve Festival Pre-Launch Party and attempted and failed to edit my manuscript.
I missed deadlines on exhibition poetry and publishing the 4th issue of Contour (still outstanding), I missed performing at the newly opened Sandon Hall for Ben Parker’s event and sadly I missed out on a trip to Voiron for the Festival. I had flights booked and everything! I couldn’t get a refund, but if I am well enough I can use the cost to cover a ticket somewhere European this summer.
I was also unable to take a booking for a special Poetry Night Roy McFarlane organised, a Q&A chat show style poetry panel.
By this time I had stopped taking any new bookings and resigned myself to life on the sofa, for a long while I had to live downstairs because I couldn’t make it upstairs! I still had to pull bookings for Guest Poet at Jennie Farley’s Book Launch for Hex.
I had to cancel Meet the Authors, an event organised by Sue Johnson for Evesham Festival of Words. I had not been able to write for all this time and the panic set in about whether I would ever again.
I organised one event for the Hanbury Hall Poets to read at Park’s Cafe for the DAN artists. It was a great night and once again the only thing I did in December.
2019 Jan – May
In the new year I decided to go to our local stanza meetings, they are held in homely comfort and do not last as long as event nights. Also I wasn’t writing or able to feel creative so it was necessary support for my soul. I had old poems to take and it was also a good challenge for an idled brain. I joined Worcester Film Poetry Collective, who meet monthly (in the comfort of home) with Elephant’s Footprint – this group led by Helen Dewbery and Chaucer Cameron has been a godsend. I have had lots of free time but have not been able to do much. Creating poetry films and animations takes an incredible amount of time, but currently 4+ hours is not difficult for me to find and it has been a fabulously rewarding way to spend an entire half day at a time.
By March I was able to think straight, off meds and able to tackle work on the now delayed manuscript. I was delighted to be a Guest Reader at Kathy Gee’s Book Launch for checkout (V. Press) and although I needed a special chair it was a thoroughly enjoyable evening and lovely to reconnect with everyone.
So much so that Kathy encouraged me to try Dear Listener the following week – which was when I realised I wasn’t ready. I tried again at the end of the Month with Poetry Bites, but couldn’t manage the 2nd half of the evening. However, listening to poetry enabled me to start writing again.
April was NaPoWriMo and this enabled me to crack that barrier and write freely. I have included some of my NaPo poems in recent sets and ended up with a few good ones.
By April/ May I started working on my festival show for Evesham Festival of Words and this month I have made the decision to try to get to some events every now and then.
I have managed Licensed to Rhyme, which was my first reading since Kathy’s Launch and that itself was my first reading for 6 months! It was a superb night. Great to see/hear everyone again and try out some edited NaPo poetry.
The following night (last night), I read at the Worcestershire Litfest at an event organised by Suz Winspear ‘A Night at the Gallery’… more on that soon!
I had planned on going back this evening for the Anti-Poet, but my body isn’t ready, so I have to be sensible and give it a miss. But I am no longer absent from the scene and shall continue to strive for strength, mobility and pain management.
It leaves me with a very happy feeling to be back amongst poets, nestled in words.
Like many adults the values instilled in us as youngsters steer the way we manage life. I was brought up to believe in working hard and only as an adult has my mum passed on the wisdom that all areas of life need or deserve 100%. Work, work has never been one of them and I am proud of my work ethic. Guilt is something I have not managed to shirk off from my informative years, so for me if you are off sick from work, that is that – you stay in bed and get better. However, when your post op body is weakened and you slip two discs in your back, staying in bed is not the thing to do and no one can expect you to put your entire life on hold whilst you recover!
I was still on medication in the Spring which dictated what and how much I could do, (I have sciatica and my left leg/foot has been numb since November), I have been in Physio since November and my weeks have been filled with medical appointments, novels, trash TV, pyjamas & general convalescence. I have experienced the depression of long term sickness and the frustration of not being able to do much. I have advanced from not being able to bear any weight on my left leg to walking with a stick and nowadays, often without. I have a lot more mobility in my left foot thanks to Chair Pilates and a mum who encouraged me to do it. The Specialists I have seen all expect 9-12 months recovery time. I have been off work since the operation (which healed in March). I went to get the results of my MRI scan in May, which is when we discovered it was 2 slipped discs prolapsed on top of each other and the Advanced Physio talked to me about going back to work in the Autumn, but encouraged me to start back with Poeting (my term not his) as soon as possible. Mental Wellbeing and good for the soul.
It is with slightly less guilt that I have started to take his advice. I have a lot more spare time now I am down to 2 appointments a week and my brain works again now I am off medication. I am even having to renew my library books nowadays, I was devouring a novel every few days.
In March I returned to my desk to work through the edits for my next pamphlet (sent when I was in hospital in October). By the beginning of June that was all ready for the next exciting stage of endorsement/cover design. I have managed to forget about the fact that it was scheduled for release earlier this year and accept the delay caused by ill health. I am truly grateful for the understanding and compassion of my publisher, V. Press. It will happen later this year and I will enjoy it more as I will be able to manage better physically!
Back in March, I found I could write again and attempted some poetry events (which I discovered I wasn’t quite ready for). I had to pull out of Festival bookings, performances, Guest Readings at Book Launches, talks and a trip to a Literature Festival in France this Winter and it has been really hard disconnecting from the poetry scene.
In March I managed to read at Kathy Gee’s Book Launch for ‘checkout’ published by V. Press. I was super nervous as I hadn’t read in public since National Poetry Day (September)! It was a superb night.
I did a workshop, then I got an almighty case of hives and had a weekend where an ambulance was called and I ended up in A&E with breathing difficulties – although the ECG had shown there was no problem with my heart. I’d had a double mammogram a few days earlier and although it felt as if my sternum was inflamed it was more likely pulled chest muscles.
A week later, I attempted my first event, Dear Listener, featuring the current Birmingham Poet Laureate Richard O’Brien. I went as audience and was not performing, it was hard (physically) and by the 2nd half I was stretched out at the back on a sofa. I tried again at the end of the month at Poetry Bites, this time I did an Open Mic slot, which I managed by leaning up against the radiator (which was on and very hot)! By the interval I was stretched out in the adjoining room on the sofa, where I listened to most of the 2nd half before hobbling back in to watch. After this I decided to call it quits and wait for my body to catch up with my mind.
Since January 2019 I have attended Stanza meetings, Worcester Film Poetry Collective meetings and a few workshops thanks to friends who were kind enough to give me lifts, (the equivalent of about 12/163 days) although even these can be physically uncomfortable they’re based in people’s homes which tend to have more accommodating furniture than venues.
Fast forward to June with another wave of Festivals, a medical specialist giving me permission to get back into it and the ability to write again, I was keen to get back on the circuit. Plus I’d already committed to several Festival Events (one pre-op). And so far, I am managing… which is a huge relief!
So welcome back to the blogging, I am reactivated. It is currently Worcestershire LitFest and I am working on a project show for Evesham Festival of Words at the end of June. I may have to miss Stratford Poetry Festival next week and Ledbury at the start of July. But I am doing what I can. One day I will be ready to take bookings again and in the meantime I give myself permission to enjoy a soft re-entry into the world I love and miss so much!
Today was a day filled with the anxiety of a hospital appointment I have had to wait 6 weeks for, so I read the prompt and checked out the resources but did not have time to complete any writing. (I did spend 3 hours making new animation!) My head was not in the right frame of mind for poetry. By 10:30 PM when I came to post, our internet was down and all I could do was copy and paste on my very old mobile phone, so wasn’t sure if the links were active.
On waking (1st May) I had a little sinking feeling (like post-Christmas blues), NaPo was over and then I remembered I still had to complete yesterday’s write – and this made me happy. Then I thought about all the things I should have time to do now NaPo is over and how proud I am for having completed the challenge. This year has been easier in a way (I have done it since 2013 when I embarked on my writing life), because I am off from work and have more time than ever before, I cannot do much and it is frustrating to be so restricted. However, I can now manage desk time and no longer take the medication which drained me of creativity and consciousness… ! so, I have time to write and NaPo has eaten up daylight hours for me. It has also gifted me the opportunity of writing again, I feel well and truly quenched.
Our featured participant for the day is Summer Blues, where the meditative prompt for Day Twenty-Nine gave rise to not one, but two, wry and poignant poems.
Today’s video resource is this short film in which the artist Iris Colomb “translates” the minimalist poems of the Russian poet Eta Dahlia into gesture drawings. This is another great illustration of the way that poetry and other art forms can intersect and inspire one another. This video also shows that the rhythms and sounds of poetry can cross language boundaries, allowing a form of communication beyond the merely literal.
And last but not least, now for our final prompt for this year! Taking a leaf from our video resource, I’d like you to try your hand at a minimalist poem. A poem that is quite short, quickly/ simply capture an image or emotion. Haiku are probably the most familiar and traditional form of minimalist poetry, but there are plenty of very short poems out there that do not use the haiku form. There’s even an extreme style of minimalism in the form of one-word and other “highly compressed” poems. Think of your own poem for the day as a form of gesture drawing. Perhaps you might start from a concrete noun with a lot of sensory connotations, like “Butter” or “Sandpaper,” or “Raindrop” and – quickly, lightly – go from there.
I started by reading the poems on Summer Blues , I read them over and over. I fell in love with Natasa Bozic Grojic’s blog and had a good read around. Her featured poems are beautiful and caught my breath as I read, of course I have saved her featured poems to the resource file for today – because I don’t want to lose those words.
I was also delighted to hear how happy this year’s challenge had made her feel and how a one word poem, created a while ago, had now found that it could be credited as a poem and displayed. Poignant.
When I did NaNoWriMo – both camp and full on November challenge (back in 2013), there were these small buttons you could display (see Homepage) and despite people creating jpegs for NaPo I have never found such a thing. Here on Natasa’s website, I found she had used the annual banners to create ‘I have completed…’ buttons which is an idea I am going to Magpie, AWF needs some updating. We have both been participants since 2013.
I love her joy, reflecting on being a featured participant. Natasa’s poems were a wonderful way to step into today. It was hard to tear myself away from her website!
Before I watched the video. I played in a different (hidden) window, listening only to the language. The metre/rhythm/voice of the poem. You almost begin to understand, the repetition of the line helps and the similarity between some words.
Then I watched it properly.
Semechki (Семечки) is a series of experimental translations of Eta Dahlia’s minimalist Russian poems into gestural drawings by Iris Colomb.
The closest attempt I have made at this genre has been through teaching Wordplay in schools and back in 2015, where as part of a workshop we looked at the work of e.e cummings and emulated it. Although not strictly minimalist, my poems were by comparison to what I was writing at the time.
The article was full of great examples, I enjoyed the typography. I felt like I was back in the world of study again.
I started with a quick skip around the internet to discover minimalist poetry – examples and the history of it – although the referenced articles covered it well. I then started to think about words which have other words in them.
What I like about today’s prompt is I get to share entire poems with you. I started with highly compressed/ one word poems.
This is dark, I wrote it and then used Special Characters to change the typography (and I hope) portray the vileness/threat of the statement. Apologies for the content. Try thinking of the Wicked Witch of the West and it won’t seem so violent!
I thought smot was a made-up word which I was using like swot – (swat), I was a little horrified when I identified the Urban dictionary definition. I guess it changes the context to smoke her… which still mirrors the violence.
I don’t really like what this poem has become or the connotation of it all – but it is part of the writing process and as a starting point, I am sharing.
After this initial write, I discovered this list of words which is a good source of words inhabited in other words. So I wanted to try again and create a more suitable/shareable/less horrible poem!
Next I created this –
Which I was more happy with. I thought of Small age – as being a toddler, a youngster. I then discovered it was a plant, celery – so that is why I chose to display it vertically like a stalk.
I think the one word poems have to come to you, rather than seeking them. So I left it there to move on to composing a short form poem.
I took the concrete noun prompt ‘butter’ and wrote:
Which is satisfying. But then I got enticed by butte… which aside from being a county in Montana is also an isolated hill/mountain. So I extended the minimal and wrote these poems.
But… butter melts not like Butte, a county will not fit in my frying pan.
And then I wrote this one, which has my favourite play-on-words title of the day!
butter melts but… not butte which rises
I could play like this all day, but have spent nearly two hours online and have lots to do. I will have another play around another day.
I hope you have enjoyed NaPoWriMo as much as I have, see you next year!
Today’s featured participant is Voyage des Mots, where the meta-poem for Day Twenty-Eight called forth a lovely ode on a teacher.
Today’s video resource is this short reflection by the poet Lucille Clifton on “Where Ideas Come From.” This video really speaks to me because I have often found myself feeling short of ideas, or that the ideas that I have aren’t “good enough” to become a poem. One of the goals of Na/GloPoWriMo is to help poets push past all these inner voices and editors, and just get words on the page, without worrying too much about whether they’re good, bad, or indifferent. When you stop trying to assign a value to things that haven’t even been written yet, you find ideas everywhere!
Prompt: The poet William Wordsworth once said that “Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility.” For Wordsworth, a poem was the calm after the storm – an opportunity to remember and summon up emotion, but at a time and place that allowed the poet to calmly review, direct and control those feelings. A somewhat similar concept is expressed through the tradition of philosophically-inclined poems explicitly labeled as “meditations,” – like Robert Hass’s “Meditation at Lagunitas,” the charming Frank O’Hara prose poem, “Meditations in an Emergency,” or Charles Baudelaire’s “Meditation.”
Today, I’d like to challenge you to blend these concepts into your own work, by producing a poem that meditates, from a position of tranquility, on an emotion you have felt powerfully. You might try including a dramatic, declarative statement, like Hass’s “All the new thinking is about loss,” or O’Hara’s “It is easy to be beautiful; it is difficult to appear so.” Or, like, Baudelaire, you might try addressing your feeling directly, as if it were a person you could talk to. There are as many approaches to this as there are poets, and poems.
What a week it has been. Let’s get growing – for sure!
This week NaPoWriMo has helped me discover new artists, poets and forms. I have written poems, created poetry film animations and read widely. This is when NaPo works best, I feel inspired and fulfilled.
I always enjoy research and many of my poems call for a lot of it. This week has been no exception to that, I spent the first part of it almost glued to the National Geographic. It was quite an animal filled week.
This week I discovered the incredible art of body painter Gesine Marwedel and the intriguing manipulation of artist Laura Christensen. I researched Seahorses, Whooping Cranes and the Smalltooth Swordfish. I discovered the latter was an endangered species and only 5 species of Swordfish still exist! I created a poetry film animation called Looking for Swordfish in Costa Rica, which I showed over the weekend at our Worcester Film Poetry Collective meeting. There may be a series of Eco Animations created on the back of this and none of it would have happened without NaPoWriMo.
I revisited the wonderful work of Marie Craven in Dictionary Illustrations, one of my favourite pieces to be shared at the Worcester Film Poetry Collective. I wrote a poem involving both a Whooping Crane and a Buick Engine Manual.
I wrote about spring and discovered the work of Jericho Brown, tried a new form of poetry, the Duplex, tore my hair out over Shakespearean sonnets and read lots of poems, articles and interviews. I feel like I have completed a study week!
This week’s poems:
Seahorse After German artist Gesine Marwedel
Looking for Swordfish in Costa Rica
North of the Equator – which I edited and then took to Stanza.
Remains – my first Duplex
There are only 2 days of NaPo left, which I cannot believe! This month of writing has passed quickly. It has been a joy to write again, my 6 months of illness has resulted in very little creativity. I am becoming again, which is good and fills me with relief.
And the two remaining days of April brought riches, on Day 29 I indulged in the referenced Meditation poetry and wrote another poem about illness.
On the final day of NaPo I had great fun with wordplay and minimalist poetry.
*Celery (which is the same poem as Cultivated with different Typography)
It has been a good year!
I have thoroughly enjoyed most days and have managed to write 40 poems, created two animated poetry films, added several blogs to my Reader and discovered lots of new-to-me poets, artists and resources.
The glory of a Sunday, a day that stretches before me filled with the possibility of new words. It feels good.
I wanted to start with a tip on frustration. Which is the opposite of how I feel today but was very much how I felt last night after attempting the Shakespearean Sonnet prompt. Sometimes Art is frustrating, it is part of the creative path and something we learn to overcome/live with/abide.
I know that my forte is not rhyme, which is one reason I find writing sonnets hard. I know that I have a blinker when it comes to sonnets, if you said Wankel rotary engine, my reaction would be the same, although I could probably explain the engine more efficiently! Despite all this I tried to open my mind to the prompt and although I had the freedom to dismiss it, I wanted to give it a go. This is my attitude to NaPo and Poetry, always learning, staying open. But it hurts a bit when you fall flat on your face and that is how I felt by the end of my creation. I liked the story behind it and when I read it over next week, maybe I will like the poem… what I didn’t want was the residue of negative feeling, especially before bed. (A bed that was still covered in props from earlier animation making.)
So I set off to find another prompt and that is what you can do. So in actual fact last night I had practice with rhyme, meter, structure, metaphor, and argument and attempted one of the oldest traditions in English poetry and also wrote an extra poem about illness called Vertical. Looking back at yesterday’s prompt I could have done a number of things other than try to write my own sonnet, I may revisit it.
Frustration – accept it, deal with it, do not break things – write more poems!
With this in mind, let’s get stuck into Day 28! Can you believe you have written 4 weeks of poems?
There are only three days left now in Na/GloPoWriMo 2019. I hope you’ve been enjoying the month so far, and are ready for the home stretch.
Our featured participant for the day is paeansunpluggedblog, where the Shakesepeare-inspired prompt for Day Twenty-Seven gave rise to a bard-inspired cento.
Our video resource today was suggested by Elizabeth Boquet, she and a fellow group of poets in Lausanne, Switzerland, have been engaging with the concept of meta-poems – which are poems about poems! In this video, the poets Al Fireis, Lily Applebaum, Dave Poplar, and Camara Brown discuss Emily Dickinson’s “We learned the Whole of Love.” Find additional background and video discussions of other meta-poems here.
As you may have guessed, today I’d like to challenge you to try your hand at a meta-poem of your own. You might check out the Wallace Stevens and Harryette Mullens poems featured in the article about metapoetry linked above, or perhaps Archibald MacLeish’s “Ars Poetica” or Kendel Hippolyte’s “Advice to a Young Poet.”
Our featured participant for the day is Put Out To Pasture, where the “repetition” poem for Day Twenty-Six leans in, hard.
Today’s video resource is this droll tutorial that promises to teach you poetry techniques in 30 minutes. It may seem a bit silly, but there’s a lot of technical detail packed into that half hour! If you’ve always had trouble distinguishing alliteration from assonance, or understanding how the heck to “scan” a poem for metrical stress, this may help clear things up. At they very least, it will make you smile.
And now for our prompt. Our video resource for the day promises to teach you everything you need to know to write a Shakespearean sonnet, but I’m not going to ask you to do that, exactly. Instead, I’d like to challenge you to “remix” a Shakespearean sonnet. Here’s all of Shakespeare’s sonnets. You can pick a line you like and use it as the genesis for a new poem. Or make a “word bank” out of a sonnet, and try to build a new poem using the same words (or mostly the same words) as are in the poem. Or you could try to write a new poem that expresses the same idea as one of Shakespeare’s sonnets, like “hey baby, this poem will make you immortal” (Sonnet XVIII) or “I’m really bad at saying I love you but maybe if I look at you adoringly, you’ll understand what I mean” (Sonnet XXIII). If you’re feeling both silly and ambitious, you might try writing an anagram-sonnet, like K. Silem Mohammad has done here.
Once again, I read the post from bed this morning on my phone – knowing that I wouldn’t have time to act on it as today was our meeting for Worcester Poetry Film Collective and I was very excited about sharing some of the 12 animations I have made over the past month!
I did manage to read the participant site poem and have a quick panic over Shakespearean sonnets – which are hard enough without the additional challenge of remix/modernisation. I didn’t have time to tackle a half hour video as I only had an hour to get up and out.
Photo by Miguel u00c1. Padriu00f1u00e1n on Pexels.com
This evening I re-read Maxie Jane’s poem She Wore Armor, which was inspired by Joy Harjo’s “She Had Some Horses”, which you can find here. It wasn’t a poem I knew, but as far as repetition goes it was a perfect influence/starting point.
With Maxie’s poem I liked the fact that although this armour could be literal – it isn’t – also the amount of times in life we wear it – and to see all the listed examples and to meet some of them with a knowing hmmm, Thought provoking and intense. It was good to revisit Put Out to Pasture, one of the participating sites I chose to visit and blog about on Day 20 of NaPo.
I then set aside half an hour to watch the video resource. It was good revision and easy to follow. I liked the example villanelle and they clearly showed the rhyming scheme in a colour coded system.
I also watched the following video, which played afterwards. Some good tips – especially for people beginning to write.
Then I took a deep breath and set out to write today’s poem.
This evening, I have spent several hours making a new animation, so I am sitting down (quietly) now with NaPo to meet the challenge. Remember, if you feel this prompt is too tricky – it is optional. I am going to push through it though!
I couldn’t download the free e-book – well I could download, but not read. So I read the html online. I could have spent the night reading. Although the sonnet is not a favourite genre to write, I do enjoy reading Shakespeare. The NaPo prompt gave several ideas for staring points for today’s writing. I decided to scan the sonnets for lines and saved them on a word document. The idea of re-writing using these lines only became appealing.
At the end of 20 minutes, I had read 12 sonnets and collected 6 lines. I scrolled to the end of the book and copied an entire sonnet, Sonnet 109.
Like every sonnet I have ever written *and I can count them on just over 1 hand… I am not entirely happy with the result, although I have mastered the iambic pentameter and even found lines falling out of my head in perfect 10 syllable formation, I am not convinced by the poem. It feels forced.
I took one line from Sonnet 109 as a starting point –
Like him that travels, I return again;
My poem is called Grounded Flight. It explores my love for travel and my love, that wherever I go I cannot escape myself and how it is perhaps best to stay where I’m loved, close to home, sharing the same air.
I found this interesting post on iambic pentameter and am sharing it instead of a line from a poem I am not terribly happy with.
Not to be outdone by a poetic form, I ventured over to PAD (Poem A Day) challenge over on Writer’s Digest, where Robert Lee Brewer set the task of picking a direction as a starting point. I chose vertical and wrote a poem about illness. For now the poem is called Vertical.
Today’s featured participant is Yesterday and Today, where the seasonal/sensual prompt for Day 25 resulted in a summery villanelle.
And now for our video resource! Today, we present this recording of the poet Jericho Brown reading his poem “Duplex (I Begin With Love).” Note how simple the vocabulary of the poem is, and how Brown uses the power of repetition, rewording and building on prior lines and phrases to drive the poem along.
Today’s prompt is centered around repetition. Repetition is at the heart of the rhetorical strategy of “Duplex.” We engage with it daily in the choruses of songs, and it’s long been recognized as one of the ways to keep a listener’s attention and create a sense of satisfaction or closure in spoken or written language, whether that language takes the form of a speech or a poem or even a comedy routine. Many forms of poetry expressly require or rely on repetition – for example, the villanelle or pantoum.Well-handled repetition can give a poem an incantatory effect. Today, I’d like to challenge you to write a poem that uses repetition. You can repeat a word, or phrase. You can even repeat an image, perhaps slightly changing or enlarging it from stanza to stanza, to alter its meaning. There are (perhaps paradoxically) infinite possibilities in repetition. Want to look at some examples? Perhaps you’ll find inspiration in Joanna Klink’s “Some Feel Rain” or John Pluecker’s “So Many.”
NaPo Process Notes
I happily read today’s prompt in bed this morning, welcoming poetry in with the crack of light between my curtains. It was a pleasant waking.
I started by reading I Smell the Salt in Seaside Breeze by Merril D. Smith. This vivid poem evoked the senses of my favourite season, summer. Merril (like me) is steps ahead of the NaPo prompts, producing a villanelle on Day 25. The repetition worked well here and made me think of the pull of the waves on the ocean. I can see this poem. I think it is universally something we have all lived/felt. It is saved to the Poetry Resources file. Fine work.
I then watched Jericho Brown.
I listened to Duplex a few times. Listening to the poem and then to the form, the repetition.
The duplex is a form I invented. It’s a fusion of the sonnet, the ghazal, and the blues. – Jericho Brown
I know how to write a sonnet and a ghazal and have heard the blues. I am hoping to be able to unpick this form.
I then read the poem on The American Poetry Review, saved it to my resource file knowing I would be unpicking it later.
I then read the example poems, as if it wasn’t enough to discover Jericho Brown this morning, I fell in love with Joanna Klink’s Some Feel Rain. I kept reading it over and over.
Do I imagine there is any place so safe it can’t be
WOW. Breath-catching read. Joyfully saved this one to the resource file, which is jam packed for Day 26.
Lastly, (before getting up), I listened to John Pluecker’s So Many, grateful for the audio as I struggle to read a poem which has no punctuation. It was also great to hear it from the voice of the poet. Stunning moments captured in this emotive poem.
Both of these poems were great examples of the use of repetition. They also made me feel ready for writing!
I have already written one villanelle this NaPo and they are hard work, I often write pantoums but had never come across a duplex (other than an architectural term), so I fancied trying to write one and set about finding out more about this form Jericho Brown invented.
…inventing a new poetry form he calls the duplex. The new structure melds the formality of a sonnet, the inline rhyme and repetition of the ghazal, and duality of the American blues, all in nine to eleven syllables per line. It’s also the title of five poems in “The Tradition,” his third collection, published earlier this month.
I also watched Stand.
I found this article in The Rumpus which goes into the form in more detail. It is a great interview, one you should read!
GUTTING THE SONNET: A CONVERSATION WITH JERICHO BROWN
BY CANDACE WILLIAMS
The duplex is a new form that renders the musicality and structure of the ghazal, the sonnet, and the blues on a single plane. The poem starts with a couplet of two distinct lines. The second line is repeated and a new line is added, and then repeated until there are seven couplets of nine to eleven syllables each. Although the poem sounds iambic, it retains its relationship to the metrical tradition of the ghazal. The first line is the fourteenth line. The rhyme (via repetition) and the turn are reminiscent of the sonnet. The duplex holds tradition in its embrace while calling that embrace into question. This tension and release are a means for The Tradition’s speaker to interrogate and transcend their condition.
I also wondered why he had called the form Duplex and an article on Poetry Foundation helped me find the answer:
I decided to call the form a duplex because something about its repetition and its couplets made me feel like it was a house with two addresses. It is, indeed, a mutt of a form as so many of us in this nation are only now empowered to live fully in all of our identities.
I also found out more about the form and read more examples of Duplex poems.
Starting at the fourth line, every other line of the poem aims at “incongruous humor that…becomes ironic laughter mixed with tears.” The blues allowed for a poem that we teachers like to describe as “voice-y,” which is to say that the poems begin to take on more personality in those moments.
The end of the article gifted me the gold dust I had searching for. The form.
Write a ghazal that is also a sonnet that is also a blues poem of 14 lines,
giving each line 9 to 11 syllables.
The first line is echoed in the last line.
The second line of the poem should change our impression of the first line in an unexpected way.
The second line is echoed and becomes the third line.
The fourth line of the poem should change our impression of the third line in an unexpected way.
This continues until the penultimate line becomes the first line of the couplet that leads to the final (and first) line.
For the variations of repeated lines, it is useful to think of the a a’ b scheme of the blues form.
Armed with a little more information I decided to have a go – and if I fail on the form then I have a poem which would not otherwise have existed in a parallel coat. Nothing will be lost. My ego will declare that I have invented a new form, the not-quite-a-duplex-poem. A Du. I am excited to give it a go.
I managed to write a Duplex, unfortunately the battery died on the laptop halfway through the composition, so the 2nd half of the write was harder than it could have been, having lost the flow and the construction of the poem during my time offline.
I don’t think I changed the impression hard enough within the couplets. I got there though. Phew. It is an interesting result and is definitely a form I will attempt again.
I called it Remains which has layered meaning in the poem and think that the sense of the poem overall is beautiful. I think that is down to the Duplex/Blues rhythm and repetition. It is a love poem and this is how it ends…
A new tale on your chest tells of us. Open to love, I’m weightless in my baggage.
The final week of NaPo always feels strange, you have, by now become used to the daily writing and it feels alien that next week you will be released from the bounds. It takes a few weeks for this routine to feel anything other than arduous. I love writing and if I could write every day for the rest of my life, I would. But that doesn’t mean to say this challenge comes easily or feels glorious all of the time. Of course, within the first fortnight there were some incredible prompts, resources and poems and I had fun, but it takes a while to find your rhythm – and just as you do, the month closes.
Our featured participant for the day is Orangepeel, where the reference book poem for Day Twenty-Three is sure to put you in fits (emphasis totally intended).
Today’s featured video resource is this short film featuring a reading of Keats’ “To Autumn,” along with a sumptuously sensuous dessert. This video makes me hungry, and also, weirdly nostalgic for September!
And now for today’s prompt. Taking a cue from our video resource for the day, and from Keat’s poem, I’d like to challenge you to write a poem that:
Is specific to a season
Uses imagery that relates to all five senses
Includes a rhetorical question, (like Keats’ “where are the songs of spring?”)
NaPo Process Notes
I started with the participant’s site. Bruce Niedt’s poem Complete Guide to Page 427 of the Dictionary was a wonderful read, although I baulked a bit when I got as far as flay and flense. The ending held humour and as far as poems go, they need reaction. It worked well. A fairly, fabulous, frolic with F words.
I saved Bruce’s poem to my NaPo resource file. He also inspired me to collect my own list of F words, which I have banked to use post-NaPo.
I then watched the film Honey Pears, and mostly got hungry. I enjoyed To Autumn by John Keats and the soundtrack, which breathed power into the poem.
I also found a copy of To Autumnto read and save to the resource file, it is a beautiful poem, one I know I have in a book somewhere – but in modern times it is good to have it on the laptop. You can listen to the audio on the Poetry Foundation website.
Today’s prompt asks for a lot to be included, it will need some thinking time.
The prompt asks for the poem to refer to:
a specific to a season
use imagery that relates to all five senses
include a rhetorical question, (like Keats’ “where are the songs of spring?”)
So, I go in search of seasons. I knew I wanted to write about Spring – as it is happening at present. The blossom is out in full bloom at the moment in the UK and we are experiencing sunny days and heat waves, followed, of course, by days of rain and thunderstorms. Slightly more than April Showers.
The first thing which came to me was the rhetorical question as my meteorologist search brought up meteorological and astronomical spring. I was happy about that as the rhetorical question was the part of today’s prompt which I was most panicked by.
Following a link at the bottom of the Met Office webpage, I read some spring facts which helped generate ideas for incorporating 5 senses into my poem.
And so today’s poem started in a very fragmented way, answering the call of thoughts in short words and phrases, sometimes stanzas dotted amongst copied facts, ready to be quilted into a rich example to fulfil every sense for the reader. (Or at least, that was my hope.)
By the end of my emptying-of-thoughts, I had sound and taste to fit in, I managed this easily within one verse and as homage to the video resource from today, included pears.
In the end the poem has 12 stanzas (one of the longest I have written this NaPo and the most sensual, thanks to a prompt asking for delivery for all the senses), is titled North of the Equator. I thoroughly enjoyed writing it and it has been hard choosing just one snippet to share.
watched our tulips wilt at the invasion of heat, watered everything back to the glory of green