Category Archives: Napo Prompt

NaPoWriMo 2023 – Highlights & Final Feature

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I think I may have realised why I enjoyed this year’s NaPo so much, other than 20 years of rich resource pickings… it was the luxury of writing. All previous NaPoWriMo experiences were during my freelance years, where I may not have paid the mortgage with poetry funds but I was free to write. Now in this economic downturn I am working full time and writing/desk time is golden (and rare). 30 days of prompts gave me a chance to re-invest. It has spurred me on to balancing/ managing to keep the words coming!

I am going to share the final featured poem and Maureen’s message at the end of this post – but first let me share some highlights from this fabulous poetry month!


Favourite Poetry Resource or Prompt Based Websites:

Mental Floss’s Amazing Fact Generator

 What Sparks Poetry, a regular feature of Poetry Daily

Jacket2 online magazine.

Dodge Poetry Program

Craft Capsules

Poetry Northwest’s online collection of essays

Jordan Stempleman’s A Common Sense Reading Series

Behind the Name

Brevity Magazine Craft Essays

and finally – Wacky Poem Life

Poems:

Perfect for Any Occasion by Alberto Rios

Index by Kell Connor

The Lobelias of Fear by Bernadette Mayer

A Boy Can Wear a Dress by John Bosworth

© Kyla Harrison

In the Season of Pink Ladies by Sayuri Ayers

One Boy Told Me by Naomi Shihab Nye

The List of Famous Hats by James Tate

The Melon by Charles Simic

Favourite Research Findings/ Discoveries

From rabbit holes of joy to first click treasures, I’ve listed my favourite from NaPo 2023 here:

Overheard lines – sources were several different sites, but final starting point for my poem was this one.

The BIG read – when my indecisiveness led to reading many poems by; John Donne, Carol Ann Duffy, Rita Dove, Dorothy Parker, Sylvia Plath, Jericho Brown, Pascale Petit, Philip Larkin and Caroline Bird.

Spending an hour reading jokes!

This wondrous collection from the Digital Photography School.

A delve into plants which led me to discover;

Banana Legs (Tomato), Sea Beet and Honesty.

Reading at least 20 Emily Dickinson poems in one sitting.

Creating my nerdy table of animal/plant and abstract nouns to play with after NaPo.

Another place I have found joy this month was in the posts of people discovering NaPoWriMo for the first time. This is my 8th (or possibly 9th year) – it was one of the few things I could do in my postoperative year of hell, (2019) when I was on so much medication I didn’t feel human. A big year which resulted in the diagnosis of several chronic (lifelong) illnesses and my entire life changed. I was able to do just 3 or 4 poetry projects (as opposed to 100s) and NaPo was one of them.

How Maureen Thorson manages to do it every year! Kudos!

There were also some stunning featured poems written this month – I’m hesitant to include a list as I know it may cause offense to those not on it – all the work is linked up in napowrimo.net and in the NaPo posts here on AWF. Poetry is subjective, tastes vary, readers bring different lives to our poems, that’s why our poems are rejected by editors and publishers sometimes. And they are NaPo poems, not yet edited and polished and sometimes the prompts led us to rather strange little poems. It was a lovely exercise reading all the featured poems again. Here is the list of poems which spoke to me:

Featured Poems by Participants

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Let me Dream Please from Words With Ruth (Triolets are hard).

Keep Dancing from Lyndyh

An Incomplete List of Places I Have Cried from Poems by Sidra

Prismojen from To Create…

Untitled (My Grandmother Would Tell Me) from Words & Words

A Lecture at the Cephalopod Academy from Clayandbranches (scroll down to Day 20)

And huge thanks again to Maureen for featuring my chapbook as a Day 28 Poetry Resource.


Here is the final post and featured poem.

Until We Meet Again

We made it, everyone! Na/GloPoWriMo has come and gone – for the twentieth time! I hope you had fun.

My gratitude goes out to you for joining us, and my special thanks to everyone who has commented on other participants’ work. Your kindness, care, and enthusiasm mean the world.

Our final daily participant is A Rhyme a Day, where the palinode prompt for Day 30 resulted in a lovely and bittersweet rumination on trains.

We’ll be back next year with more prompts and resources. Until then, happy writing!  

An emotive poem to end on.

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

NaPoWriMo 2023 Day 30

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Day Thirty

Well, we knew it would come to this, what with the inexorable march of time and all. Today is the final day of Na/GloPoWriMo. Thank you all for joining the challenge during this, its twentieth year! We’ll be back tomorrow with our final featured participant and some housekeeping information, as we prepare to go back into our long sleep (like Robert Frost’s woodchuck) until next spring.

But for now, here’s our daily featured participant is Farah Lawal Harris, who responded to Day 29’s food-based prompt with a paean to Nigerian cooking.

Our final daily resource is a pair of podcasts: Wacky Poem Life, sponsored by the Rural Oklahoma Museum of Poetry (yes, there is a Rural Oklahoma Museum of Poetry!), and Haiku Chronicles, a podcast focused on haiku and related poetic forms.

PROMPT:

Today, I’d like to challenge you to write a palinode – a poem in which you retract a view or sentiment expressed in an earlier poem. For example, you might pick a poem you drafted earlier in the month and write a poem that contradicts or troubles it. This could be an interesting way to start working on a series of related poems. Alternatively, you could play around with the idea of a palinode by writing a poem in which the speaker says something like “I take it back” or otherwise abandons a prior position within the single poem.

Happy writing!

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

PROCESS NOTES:

Well, we made it – another wonderful NaPoWriMo is nearly over! I have really enjoyed this year, I loved revisiting some archive prompts and resources as well as discovering new ones and spending 4 weeks immersed in reading poetry. It seems to have flown this year!

And next month we can continue to edit, write and read the 30+ poems you will have created.

I started with After Apple-Picking by Robert Frost before reading the featured poem, JOY PASSED DOWN

by Farah Lawal Harris was a great tribute to a familial recipe for egusi .

This meal has passed down bloodlines.

Good food is joy passed down.

I really liked the comparison between the past and present, the changes and likening the food to an ex.

Egusi has become the ex who texts,

“Hey, big head”

at 9 pm on a Saturday night.


Next I checked out today’s poetry resources. I read the menu of podcasts over on Wacky Poem Life and decided on listening to episode 60, pulled by the portrait of Emily Dickinson. I love how relaxed the hosts were and the bottle of Italian wine, which may or may not have been consumed during this recording at the museum. The Rural Oklahoma Museum of Poetry sounds fantastic. I had a good wander around the website.

‘being a nobody can be really beautiful…’

Then I moved onto the second resource.

This looks like another great resource and I look forward to listening to more. I picked just one to listen to.

I then moved onto today’s prompt. First job was to find one of my poems to paraody. I decided on Day 10, my sea shanty. I’m not sure I have written a palinode before and after re-reading the constraint I decided to change the initial poem. I decided to twist my Day 12 poem – write a poem that addresses itself.

I really enjoyed the process of undoing and am fairly happy with the resulting poem.

NaPoWriMo 2023 Day 29

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Day Twenty-Nine

Our featured daily participant is A Writer Without Words, where the “index” poem for Day 28 doesn’t just give us index entries for something delicious, but does so in abecedarian fashion.

Today’s featured resource is Brevity Magazine’s archive of craft essays.

Prompt:

Start by reading Alberto Rios’s poem “Perfect for Any Occasion.” Now, write your own two-part poem that focuses on a food or type of meal. At some point in the poem, describe the food or meal as if it were a specific kind of person. Give the food/meal at least one line of spoken dialogue.

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

PROCESS NOTES:

After work today I didn’t get to desk. I am just in time to complete the challenge.

I started with the featured poem and I thought chocolate was a much better choice than medical. The success of and index poem very much depends on the index source you start with. Candace Shultz’s poem used a made up index, because none of the found indexes inspired her. I enjoyed the journey through someone else’s chocolate bests.

Then I looked at today’s resource Brevity Magazine’s archive. I have added it to the list for more reading later and just chose the first essay, not because it was the first one but because I thought it might be about editing.

Revising with Lenses

by BRYAN FURUNESS & SARAH LAYDEN • January 16, 2023

This layering editing technique was something I came across whilst attending readings/Q&As during Lockdown. I tend to mend everything all at once (an approach used in Education/my background training), I don’t find it an arduous task – I have grown to respect editing skills (like writing skills), grow with practise and although it can be a frustrating part of the process (I recently spent 53 minutes making an editing decision over ‘the’ for a poem soon to be published) it is necessary. I usually enjoy the editing process (unless there are deadlines attached).

It’s a good technique.

Then I moved onto the prompt. Starting with the Alberto Rios’s poem. I loved this poem.

But the unchosen pies have a long history, too.
They have plenty of good stories, places they’ve been—

A pie is a pie for one great day.  Last week,
It was Jell-O.  Tomorrow, it’ll be cake.

Then I looked at the prompt. My first choice was what food or meal. I had the underlayer idea to write into. I enjoyed the dialogue in Perfect for Any Occasion but it is something I struggle to include in poems. Let’s see how this goes… I think I was influenced by the subject of the featured poem. Chocolate gets you like that – it stays attached to the back of your mind and does its best not to melt!

Photo by Thuanny Gantuss on Pexels.com

NaPoWriMo 2023 Day 28 … and a little bit of me

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Day Twenty-Eight

Today’s featured participant is Jacquelyn Markham, who brings us a bouquet of yellow celosias in response to Day 27’s “Blank of Blank” prompt.

And for today’s resource, we have another book and two chapbooks published by Na/GloPoWriMoers, featuring poems written during the challenge. For our book, we have Bruce Niedt‘s collection, In the Bungalow of Colorful Aging. And for our chapbooks, here’s Lorraine Whelan’s Home Sweet Home Goodbye and Nina Lewis’s Fragile Houses.

PROMPT:

Have you ever flipped to the index of a book and found it super interesting? Well, I have (yes, I live an exciting life!) For example, the other day I pulled from my shelf a copy of on old book that excerpts parts of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s journals. I took a look at the index, and found the following entry under “Man”:

fails to attain perfection, 46; can take advantage of any quality within him, 46; his plot of ground, 46; his use, 52, 56; not to be trusted with too much power, 55; should not be too conscientious, 58; occult relationship between animals and, 75; God in, 79, 86; not looked upon as an animal, 80; gains courage by going much alone, 81; the finished, 89; and woman, distinctive marks of, 109; reliance in the moral constitution of, 124; the infinitude of the private, 151; and men, 217; should compare advantageously with a river, 258.

That’s a poem, right there!

Today, I challenge you to write your own index poem. You could start with found language from an actual index, or you could invent an index, somewhat in the style of this poem by Kell Connor. Happy writing!

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PROCESS NOTES:

I am delighted to be part of today’s featured Poetry Resource! Thanks to Maureen Thorson for including my debut chapbook (2016). After a sit-down-happy-dance I went to read the featured poem Yellow Celosia of Hope by Jacquelyn Markham.

when I lose myself or

a belief in the invisible.

I look for pinpoints of light

This poem left me in hope.

And then the featured poetry resource – chapbooks and collections. Starting with one which is familiar to me. Bruce Niedt‘s collection, In the Bungalow of Colorful Aging.

And for our chapbooks, Lorraine Whelan’s Home Sweet Home Goodbye where I read about Precariat Press. And of course I know about my own chapbook – Nina Lewis’s Fragile Houses.

This was my debut collection published back in 2016. It includes several NaPoWriMo poems, as I suspect every publication will. Patience (2019) also includes some NaPo poems.

I then moved onto the prompt. I think I have attempted this prompt before. I started by reading the Kell Connor poem Index.

It gave me pleasure to read the feature date – my birthday! The poem gave me more emotion though!

It’s as fragile as foam. 

and that ending… WOW!

I am inside my arrival, she writes. And here the phrases begin to fall apart at all points, too tender for our grammar.

© 2021 by Kell Connor

I chose a medical book (and swiftly regretted it). I messed around with part of the index, a quarter of the A entries < which might be the title this poem is searching for. The poem needs work but I like the concept.

From abandonment to absent pulse.

NaPoWriMo 2023 Day 27

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Day Twenty-Seven

Today, our featured participant is Veruugal, who brings us a moving elegy. For a little more context, see the comment here.

As today’s featured resource, we have another duo of books written by Na/GloPoWriMoers, and featuring work first drafted during Na/GloPoWriMo. First, here’s Victoria Doerper’s What if We All Bloomed?: Poems of Nature, Love, and Aging, and next, Mirjana M’s Colour Me in Cayenne & Chlorine.

PROMPT:

Today, begin by reading Bernadette Mayer’s poem “The Lobelias of Fear.” Now write your own poem titled “The ________ of ________,” where the first blank is a very particular kind of plant or animal, and the second blank is an abstract noun. The poem should contain at least one simile that plays on double meanings or otherwise doesn’t quite make “sense,” and describe things or beings from very different times or places as co-existing in the same space.

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

PROCESS NOTES:

Today has been a really bad day medically so I am keeping this brief and also looking forward to the escape. I enjoyed the escape of today so much that I actually spent a couple of hours on this in the end.

I started with the featured poem, Chandanapottu. I love the feel of the sound of this word in my mouth. I loved working through and working out today’s poem. I thought it was rain and was delighted when realisation came.

I catch him

In glimpses and slivers

I read the Wiki page on Bindi – I knew a fair bit about them and the placement over the 6th Chakra. I knew third eye – but had not come across this reference before; ‘the seat of concealed wisdom’ — and I love that – it is held in my head for some future writing.

The poet’s explanation is a beautiful comment to read. Go and read it fully;

I was named after my father. His name means ‘the moon,’

And just like that I can feel the weight of the day drip away, because I am here. I am alive.

Photo by James Lee on Pexels.com

I didn’t want to move on, I needed to stay in this moment of lightness and connection.

I checked out the poetry resources, the featured NaPoWriMo poems poetry books. Starting with Victoria Doerper’s debut volume of poems What If We All Bloomed?: Poems of Nature, Love, and Aging.

Then I checked Colour Me in Cayenne & Chlorine Mirjana M.


I then read/ listened to The Lobelias of Fear by Bernadette Mayer.

“Eating ‘The Lobelias of Fear’ is an image of the desperation that people feel or felt about Covid. There’s so much beauty in the names of growing things, like lobelias, like marsh mallow; and that’s what we do—we try to eat them, or ingest them.”
Bernadette Mayer

© Academy of American Poets

It is a wondrous poem. It is strange that 2020/21 feels so far away, so far back in time. And yet it was the year that closed our world.

Then I read the prompt – which feels like a hefty ask right now.

I already plan to repeat the last 5 prompts of NaPo when I have revived my energy later in the year, so I am not worried – I will see what happens.

I started with the title… The _____ of ______ (animal/plant + abstract noun)… so many possibilities I just listed a load from both sides and paired the unexpected ones and in the end chose. I even created a table, <nerd>

and then added to my list with a sprinkle of research. I looked up popular plants and mammals. I thought my 1st list would remain longer than the 2nd – but I actually thought of more abstract nouns. I have a lovely, nerdy, prompt generating table to use in future writing now too.

I had my title and instructions/ double meaning simile and /things/beings from different times/ places co-existing.

Photo by Tobias Bju00f8rkli on Pexels.com

What I thought was a tall ask wrote itself this evening. Which was fabulous as it was gone 6 PM before I was home from work. It came out in as a prose poem, I am not sure it will stay this way.

There is always something to be grateful for.

NaPoWriMo 2023 Day 26

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Day Twenty-Six

Our featured participant for the day is Joe Hesch, where the love poem for Day 25 is full of dreamy, surreal similes.

And now, here’s a new pair of books published by Na/GloPoWriMoers, featuring poems written during the yearly challenge. First up, we have longtime participant Gloria D. Gonsalves’ book Let’s Go Walking in the Storm, and next, Dawn Anderson’s book World Stamp-Poems. Both Gloria and Dawn actually have several poetry collections featuring work first written during Na/GloPoWriMo. Check out their websites to see more!

PROMPT:

Write a portrait poem that focuses on or plays with the meaning of the subject’s name. This could be a self-portrait, a portrait of a family member or close friend, or even a portrait of a famous or historical person. If you need help delving into the meaning of your poem-subject’s name, this website may help.

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

PROCESS NOTES:

Another brief one today as I had work followed by mentoring.

The featured poem was packed with emotion. I checked out Gloria’s site. She is familiar to me as a NaPo poet. The publication – Let’s go Walking in the Storm was next. I also know Dawn’s website for NaPo. I used to have 33 international pen-pals (aged 13), way before the heady days of the internet! So the subject matter of her collection is joyous to me. I remember being fascinated by the envelope markings and stamps.

PROMPT:

I checked out the website. I have written on names before. I will enjoy coming back to this prompt later.

Initially I thought I would perhaps write about a famous person’s name and tie it into some current work I am writing. But as I scrolled through Behind the Name, I decided to find a name as my starting point. I plumped for P. And then I became a hunter gatherer – collecting names and meanings and saving them all in today’s document. I am very taken with this site.

I decided to start with the first name I chose:

Pachakutiq 

I read up on Inca Mythology and Nightclubs in Ibiza! And finally wrote a short thin poem about connections from Inca Mythology. I was also inspired by a historic sketch I saw during my research.

Photo by Trace Hudson on Pexels.com

NaPoWriMo 2023 Day 25

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Day Twenty-Five

Today’s featured participant is Anna Enbom.

As we close out our twentieth year, the featured resources for the next few days will take the form of books and chapbooks published by Na/GloPoWriMoers, featuring work first drafted as part of the Na/GloPoWriMo challenge. First, up, we have Vince Gotera’s book The Coolest Month and Elizabeth Boquet’s collection of new and selected poems, Galoshes.

Prompt:

Begin by reading e e cummings’ poem [somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond]. This is a pretty classic love poem, so well-known that it has spawned at least one silly meme. Today’s prompt challenges you to also write a love poem, one that names at least one flower, contains one parenthetical statement, and in which at least some lines break in unusual places.

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

Really limited on time this evening. Great to see the chapbooks getting featured. I started with the featured poem. At the Museum by Anna Enbom.I then checked out poets and Chapbooks.

I remember this one being published/launched in 2019. Rather excitingly over at the other site …

U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins reading from GALOSHES on The Poetry Broadcast.

Then I read the e.e.cummings poem and moved onto the prompt. I chose my flower first and wrote from there.

NaPoWriMo 2023 Day 24

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Day Twenty-Four

Wow! I’m finding it hard to believe this, but as of today, there’s just a week left in Na/GloPoWriMo 2023.

Our featured participant today is Quest for Whirled Peas, where the response to Day 23’s multi-part poem prompt has a lovely, haiku-like sense of present-ness.

Today, our daily resource is this very strange website that will write you a haiku based on your location.

Archived Prompt:

Today, I’d like to challenge you to write a poem in the form of a review. But not a review of a book or a movie of a restaurant. Instead, I challenge you to write a poetic review of something that isn’t normally reviewed. For example, your mother-in-law, the moon, or the year you were ten years old.


Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

I started with the featured poem, MEMORIES OF A BIKE TRIP I TOOK IN MY YOUTH. Then checked out the resource. I had a good play – getting the map from the US to Europe was fun, I generated several Haikus – although (as is often the case with randomisers) there was a level of repetition. This one is my favourite:

I liked the idea of the prompt today and I don’t think it’s archived from a NaPo I have done before. I had several ideas, usually the poetry rule is not to run with the 1st idea, but as it’s NaPo and a work night, time is of the essence – so I ran with the 1st thoughts… taken from the prompt – a review of the year I was 10.

I started by researching the year. I noted several points of interest and then started weaving my story in. It is the longest poem I have written for NaPo ’23 so far. 52 lines – and I promise that’s not a line for every week of the year – that would take a lot longer and I have already spent my evening on this construction.

NaPoWriMo 2023 Day 23

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Day Twenty-Three

Our featured participant for the day is Moment of November, which inverts Emily Dickinson’s “My Nosegays are for Captives” into a lovely verse that takes roses as its starting point.

Our daily resource is African Poems, a website devoted to presenting poetry from Africa, with an emphasis on making oral poetry available to a wide audience through recordings.

PROMPT:

Start off by reading Arvind Krishna Mehrotra’s “Lockdown Garden.” Now, try to write a poem of your own that has multiple numbered sections. Attempt to have each section be in dialogue with the others, like a song where a different person sings each verse, giving a different point of view. Set the poem in a specific place that you used to spend a lot of time in, but don’t spend time in anymore.


Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

I can’t believe there is only 1 week left in April…. which means just 7 more NaPo prompts/poems.

I have a long list of To Do on my only day off so thought I would welcome the day with NaPo and a coffee! I really enjoyed yesterday’s Emily Dickinson prompt and wish I had more time to explore other poems created on Day 22. It was a pleasure to read today’s featured poem, My Roses Are For Seekers I was taken with ‘expectant constellations’.

When I was a student I bought a book of African Praise Poems which I still have decades later. It was my introduction to poems from this continent. Leaf & Bone by Judith I. Gleason.

My next time spent with poems from Africa was during Lockdown, there were many readings and events featuring African poets.

I enjoyed looking around today’s resource African Poems. I started with The Call by Adjei Agyei-Baah.

When the old priest had joined the sleepers;

Crossed my path where the rival streams paired up
And ferried me across in their boat of whirlwinds

They fed me on sisal leaves and made me sleep on grating boughs
Till my tongue found a new song in the bitterness of their potion

Powerful work exploring the initiation rituals followed by traditional priests among the Akan and Guan peoples in Ghana. This poem brings it to life, I felt I was there on that brutal calling journey.

I then read the poem which partly inspired this work: Adjei Agyei-Baah also mentions that he was partly inspired by the poem A Call by fellow compatriot, Kofi Awoonor. (2)* and Adjei Agyei-Baah’s Bio.

*This is how you acknowledge the work of other poets in the making of your art, sometimes poets claim you have been inspired by their work when in honesty it hadn’t even touched your mind (as in my experience of false accusations), but if you had a genuine starting point there should be a epigraph present.

KOFI AWOONOR

1935-2013 / Wheta, Gold Coast / Ghana


A Call

this was an intriguing poem and I can see where the inspiration lies.

I read To Palm Wine (A Response)by Adjei Agyei-Baah. Written in response to a Yorùbá song previously published here To Palm Wine.

I was struck by the opening lines:

Let me pour you
in the bustle of late bees

By reading the song I learn; palm wine is an alcoholic beverage created from the sap of various species of palm tree.

Mistress of tuppence only, yet
Chased the millionaire into the forest.

Next I looked at Ogbomoshoby Ogundare Foyanmu (I could spend all day on this site – definitely added to the list). There was a ot of information on this page and a link to more poems on the site about Ògún.

I learned about the city of Ògbómọ̀ṣọ́, Ògún festivals, Ògún, the Yorùbá god of iron, blacksmithing, tool making, hunting and warfare and Ìjálá poetry which was historically composed by hunters to describe the characteristics of the animals they hunt and to eulogise hunters and warriors at their funerals.

I listened to the record / video as I read the translation.

If a child does not know history, he would surely learn from tales.

At this point I realised there are 63 pages of choices and I had to stop and move on!


I read Arvind Krishna Mehrotra’s Lockdown Garden.

A subject of many pandemic poems including this one I got published in 2021 on IS&T (Ink Sweat & Tears), Where We Begin.

Prompt:

I have written poems with numbered sections (in fact there’s one in Patience). I didn’t have any initial ideas so I tided up the NaPo files from the last few days – then… set the poem in a specific place that you used to spend a lot of time in, but don’t spend time in anymore – it came to me.

My first apartment, specifically the master bedroom – so I started with my feature wall (a beautiful plum pink – although I chose Rosewood for poetic license) and let the poem grow from there. Currently Mr. G is washing up – I usually find it very distracting to have such commotion happening while I try to write – but today – it too became part of the poem. It became a love poem, it has legs.

1.

The rosewood wall, my first mark towards home.

NaPoWriMo 2023 Day 22

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Day Twenty-Two

I just couldn’t choose one featured participant for the day, so we have two, both providing responses to Day 20’s “abstraction” prompt. First up is Salovie, with a mysterious meditation on the desert, and second, Christine Smart, with a brief lyric centered on spring blooms.

Today’s featured resource is the Open House poetry radio program. On each program, hosts Cornelius Eady and Patricia Spears Jones interview poets about their new and recent work. You can listen online, or live every Friday on NYC’s WBAI.

Today’s prompt is a variation on a teaching exercise that the poet Anne Boyer uses with students studying the work of Emily Dickinson. As you may know, although Dickinson is now considered one of the most original and finest poets the United States has produced, she was not recognized in her own time. One reason her poems took a while to gain a favorable reception is their slippery, dash-filled lines. Those dashes baffled her readers so much that the 1924 edition of her complete poems replaced some with commas, and did away with others completely.

Today’s exercise asks you to do something similar, but in the interests of creativity, rather than ill-conceived “correction.” Find an Emily Dickinson poem – preferably one you’ve never previously read – and take out all the dashes and line breaks. Make it just one big block of prose. Now, rebreak the lines. Add words where you want. Take out some words. Make your own poem out of it! (Not sure where to find some Dickinson poems? You’ll find oodles at the bottom of this page).


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Process Notes:

I read the NaPo page before work this morning. I was looking forward to the prompt as I love Emily Dickinson. During Lockdown I discovered the Emily Dickinson Museum and spent a lot of time at events and workshops as well as making future plans to visit (once I have earned back the wages I lost during my ill-health year and then the Pandemic).

So I have quite a few Emily Dickinson inspired poems I’ve written but I have never started with her work.

I started with the featured poems. The first poem, Belief by Salovie was incredible. Such a huge world inside such a thin poem. I read it over and over and loved the ending, the feeling of this poem and the created word! I haven’t got a tumblr account but am enjoying seeing through NaPo that people are still using that platform.

After being blown away by the first featured poem, I read the next one. Calm by Christine Smart – which was the same word I chose for mine. I love a plum tree and found this considered thought to be meditative. I also liked the use of blending words into one word to create the invented word.

I know today’s resource and listened to one of the programmes as I got ready this morning.

I look forward to listening to more soon and have added it to the list.

I read Anne Boyer’s bio and the page about Emily.

I have several tomes of Dickinson’s poems but unable to resist a link I checked out the Poetry Foundation page and chose from there. There are obstacles between the desk and the bookcase – so it was easier too.

I read about twenty poems and eventually chose Wild nights – Wild nights! (269) and settled down to pen today’s poem. Shifting the poem into a block of prose makes it feel different immediately, although reading it I hold Dickinson’s rhythm. I already had my idea in mind when I read the poem and that’s why I chose it – but I have no idea how I am going to write that into it – I am just going to do it and see what happens.

I ended up writing an extremely personal poem which I may never share. Apt in a way. Because it was from a Dickinson poem the voice and structure feels like something I may not have arrived at without that frame being the starting point.

muscle memory, now our luxury.

I really enjoyed today’s NaPo – maybe it was the relief of time after a working week of squeezing NaPo in. I also managed to get to the A Common Sense Reading series this evening, there was a great Q&A/ discussion afterwards and lots of links shared.

It was lovely being on the call in real-time. I feel I may have found this resource too late as the next part f the programme restarts in Autumn and like most events is back to LIVE. However, Jordan Stempleman is planning to keep some readings online and I do have the archives to look forward to.