Happy Easter weekend.
See if you can find a little time/space for your poetry over this weekend.
TOP TIPS: On finding writing time
- Sit down first thing, before your day gets busy, busy and write to the NaPo prompt.
- Give one TV programme up and use that time to write instead.
- If you are in the UK we have a glorious weather day today, so get outside, take a notebook and get your writing done that way.
- Write in 5 minute intervals if you have to, we can always find 5 minutes.
Onto today’s prompt, click on the day for the full post.
Our featured participant for the day is Experience Writing, where the elegy prompt for Day Eighteen gave rise to a poem in which a chance encounter with a bee turns into the sudden recollection of recent grief.
As we wind up the work-week, our featured video resource for the day is this short interview with the poet Ada Limón, discussing poetry’s ability to offer us “radical hope.” That sounds like a good note on which to start a weekend!
Today, I’d like to challenge you to write an abecedarian poem – a poem in which the word choice follows the words/order of the alphabet. You could write a very strict abecedarian poem, in which there are twenty-six words in alphabetical order, or you could write one in which each line begins with a word that follows the order of the alphabet. This is a prompt that lends itself well to a certain playfulness. Need some examples? Try this poem by Jessica Greenbaum, this one by Howard Nemerov or this one by John Bosworth.
NaPo Process Notes
I started with the participant’s site, where the NaPo prompt and WD prompt had been fused. P is for perfidy- Poem: Little Bee a poem by Maria L. Berg. Aside from feeling insanely jealous over a Masterclass with Billy Collins & Marie Howe… I read the poem and explored Maria’s site a little, I added it to my Reader for post NaPo exploration.
Maria’s elegy focuses on the bee, so that when death comes into recall it hits harder. I liked the idea that the subject was not there at the funeral, but in a boat on a lake, using verbs associated with the bee to describe grief was clever. I also admired the incredibly short, clipped lines.
Then I watched the video/interview with Ada Limón. A poet’s take on looking to language for ‘radical hope’. It was a good watch and the PBS link includes a transcript (which of course I have saved in my NaPo document).
Poetry isn’t a place of answers and easy solutions. It’s a place where we can admit to an unknowing, own our private despair, and still, sometimes, practice beauty.
Poetry makes its music from specificity and empathy. It speaks to the whole complex notion of what it means to be human.
In fact I feel some of Ada’s points are so necessary than I encourage you to share this link, widely.
I then looked at the examples for today’s playful challenge of creating an abecedarian poem. Which I also copied into the resource file.
A Poem for S. By Jessica Greenbaum, A Primer of the Daily Round by Howard Nemerov and A Boy Can Wear a Dress by John Bosworth and having filled up on poetry I went off to write.
The thing about spending years writing is that often a prompt will not bring a new discovery, I have already written abecedarian poetry. However, not for a long time and not after feasting on the NaPo resources given to us today and I do like the variations you can try.
The tricky letters are X and Z, so my first step was an online dictionary search to pinpoint two goodies and avoid the use of xylophone, x-ray, zebra, zoo, zero or zealous! Although I did love Jessica Greenbaum’s poem, in which she used x-ray.
There are thousands of words beginning with X, you just need to seek them. In the playfulness of this genre I found myself listening to the sound of words and choosing that way. I had an idea to choose all 26 words first and then write them into a poem, but ideally I want a more organic experience. I liked the use of vocabulary in Maria L. Berg’s poem and I fancy pushing the boat out on this one myself.
Funnily enough my current novel read is set in a Bookshop and the central character has a fascination for language and discovering words.
To begin with I had no idea what I would write about, didn’t consider the subject or worry about not having one, knew it would come from the first word chosen, which was Abandon. I wrote about Australia – the feelings of travelling there alone, it had been 12 years since my previous visit, I didn’t expect to have the opportunity to go again so soon. My passport had been due for renewal for 4 years. I was at origin, quite unprepared.
Revisiting this time felt comfortable, enjoyable. Things started to spark in my mind. I enjoyed considering the alphabetic start words and knowing the order of things to come. Wondering sometimes how I could twist it into the next line. Engineered poetry is fun to play with sometimes. It is a time consuming method of writing though and I wasn’t 100% happy with the result. There are places where the needle sticks on this poem and the reader notices the form. I want to embed the ideas and know that to write a great (or even good) abecedarian poem takes some mastering.
The other thing about NaPoWriMo is NEVER let your inner editor find voice. So on this hot day, I threw ice-cubes down her back and sent her packing!
By the time I had reached M I was tiring from writing lines, so changed tack and collected my start words for each letter, then went back to M and wrote the lines out.
Of course, by the time I reached x, y, z the words I had chosen at the start, no longer fitted.
In the end I enjoyed tackling this prompt (there was mounting frustration between Q – W), now I’m fairly happy with the result. My poem is called True Blue, here is a snippet.
yearning for familiar, you
ziplock your treasures, keep them safe.