Tag Archives: John Ashbery

NaPoWriMo 2021 Day 25

Day Twenty-Five Click here to read the full post.

Our featured participants for the day are Sunra Rainz, who gives us a poem in which sorrow and other minor-key feelings become flying insects, and Paula Aamli, who has turned rage into a strange, burrowing parrot.

Today’s featured reading is a pre-recorded one, a video showing selections from two poetry readings given by John Ashbery and Barbara Guest, both associated with the “New York School” of poetry, in the mid-1990s.

Our prompt is to write an “occasional” poem, 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.

Happy writing!


I was delighted to see someone I know had their poem featured today, I met N. Nazir at poetry events over Lockdown 1 and spent a large time this morning and afternoon reading through her blog.

Today I had an off-screen-almost-day. I had a festival event, meeting and Book Launch. I have fallen behind with Napo a little over the past few days. But wasn’t worried as I had some time carved out today (Monday 26th) to play catch up.

I started over with the featured poems, starting on Sunra Rainz with Luminous Diptera. I loved the opening stanzas:

Sorrow is the most efficient light-producing entity in the world. 
Its luciferous quality communicates with other woes
and their similar dance steps attract each other.

Despair flies around with its unique firework display 
while calculation sits perched on a branch waiting 
for its own particular brand of ache to arrive.

and these lines, which rest, settle and linger:

Some despairs synchronise their flashing patterns to attract more calculations 

Each sorrow has its own particular colour. 

The fascinating thing is that sorrows have their own language. 

The base text/ information (from several sources David Attenborough, Planet Earth, BBC, National Geographic and Ecowatch.com) is cleverly weaved into this poem.

I listened again to the second feature poem Rage is the thing with wings by Paula Aamli, which also cleverly reimagines the original text and I realise both poets have exchanged concrete for emotion, whereas I chose concrete for a different noun. This does effect the outcome or effectiveness of the prompt and is one I shall maybe revisit.

Again, this poem has a striking opening:

Rage is a real oddity.
Rage is nocturnal and solitary.

Rage often leaps from trees
And flaps its wings,
But at best can only manage
A controlled plummet.

and the ending… omph!

Rage has no close relatives.

Grief and anger are the only species
With which rage might be confused.

I know a little about the New York School of poets. I listened to today’s reading as I found watching old video footage from the mid-90s a bit of a strain (although I appreciated the jazzy intro music and the work videographer Mitch Corber put in).

I hadn’t read any of Barbara Guest‘s work before and thoroughly enjoyed her reading.

Poets John Ashbery and Barbara Guest recite in New York City in the mid-’90s, captured by videographer/poet Mitch Corber. Ashbery performs in the intimacy of Chelsea bookstore Verso Books, while Guest entertains us at the St. Marks Poetry Project.

Find out more on the New York School of Poets – First generation poets / Second generation poets.

I had already enjoyed Amanda Gorman’s reading many times in January, when it was made, but I watched her again.

Amanda Gorman, a 22-year-old poet, read an original work at President Joe Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20. After Biden was sworn in as the nation’s 46th president, Gorman read “The Hill We Climb,” building on a tradition of poets — including Robert Frost, Maya Angelou, Elizabeth Alexander and Richard Blanco — who have read for incoming Democratic presidents. Gorman is the youngest of these inaugural poets to offer her verse.

I knew she had read at the Superbowl but hadn’t seen it.

And a day late, I wrote my own occasion poem.

And it almost feels

you could be the answer

to all of this.

NaPoWriMo 2019 Day 1



Visit the official site http://www.napowrimo.net/ Read today’s post in full It begins!

I have included the full introduction in case you are new to NaPoWriMo.

napofeature4 (1)

If you’re just joining us, Na/GloPoWriMo is an annual challenge in which participants write a poem a day during the month of April. What do you need to do to participate? Just write a poem each day! If you fall behind, try to catch up, but don’t be too hard on yourself – the idea here is to expand your writing practice and engage with new ideas, not to stress yourself out. All too many poets, regardless of their level of experience, get blocked in their writing because they start editing even before they have written anything at all. Let’s leave the editing, criticizing, and stressing out for May and beyond! This month, the idea is just to get something on the page.

If you’ll be posting your efforts to a blog or other website, you can provide us with the link using our “Submit Your Site” form, and it will show up on our “Participants’ Sites” page. But if you’re not going to be posting your work, no worries! It’s not a requirement at all – again, all we’re really trying to do is encourage people to write.

To help with that, we’ll be providing some daily inspiration. Each day, we’ll be featuring a participant, providing you with an optional prompt, and giving you an extra poetry resource. This year, those resources will take the form of poetry-related videos.



  • I have completed NaPoWriMo for several years and the most important point is to ENJOY it. Sometimes life is busy and you will miss a day or fall behind. Do not battle against yourselves over this, accept it and move on. Either write extra or save the prompt for a time when you have more time to write.


the idea here is to expand your writing practice and engage with new ideas, not to stress yourself out.

  • Accept that sometimes what you write will feel like rubbish. This is okay too. Those words you find not working for you will help create the steps to the ones that will.


  • Keep going.

I am particularly excited by the poetry videos being incorporated this year. Even if you decide your 30+ poems are utter drivel you will have built up a fine range of prompts and resources by the end of April.


Our first featured participant is Miss Ella’s House of Sleep, whose poem “Annie Edson Taylor’s Birthday Plunge,” used our early-bird prompt to explore a fascinating and little-known historical figure.

This is funny because I wrote about Annie Edson for Women’s Day in 2016. I will be posting the early-bird material later this week. Due to a vast number of medical appointments last week I didn’t make it onto the site to read them.

Our resource for the day is a short film of January Gill O’Neil reading (and acting out!) her poem “How to Make a Crab Cake.”

If you’d like to read the poem itself as you follow along, you can find it here.

For our first prompt, let’s take our cue from O’Neil’s poem, and write poems that provide the reader with instructions on how to do something. It can be a sort of recipe, like O’Neil’s poem. Or you could try to play on the notorious unreliability of instructional manuals (if you’ve ever tried to put IKEA furniture together, you know what I mean). You could even write a dis-instruction poem, that tells the reader how not to do something. This well-known poem by John Ashbery may provide you with some additional inspiration.

Happy writing!

NaPo Process Notes

information sign on paper

Photo by Lukas on Pexels.com

After I watched the daily resource/video – I went to explore Gill O’Neil’s website, I read a few of her poems as well as her bio and book blurbs.
Then I re-read the prompt –  write poems that provide the reader with instructions on how to do something. It can be a sort of recipe, like O’Neil’s poem. Or you could try to play on the notorious unreliability of instructional manuals (if you’ve ever tried to put IKEA furniture together, you know what I mean). You could even write a dis-instruction poem, that tells the reader how not to do something.

Over the years I have written lots of instructional poetry so I knew I wanted to do something different. I then remembered Mr G. has a unique way of interpreting IKEA instructions so I fancied writing a poem about that. I also liked the idea of a dis-instruction poem.

As it was very late when I tackled this prompt these are stream of conscious ideas at this stage, but as always with NaPo – will be worth a re-visit later because your inner editor has gone away this month!

(Note to my publisher, the inner editor will be back at the desk to work on my m/s, fear not!)

On Writing

woman using laptop

Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

So the Mr.G inspired poem which is a play on the notorious unreliability of instructional manuals is called ‘We Only Go There for the Meatballs’, which of course is not true. It is a 4 stanza poem. I am sharing just a couple of lines, as I do.

Language is a jelly-bean cartoon man,

who he instantly creates a story for –


I then played with the dis-instruction idea. For this I started with typing ‘instructions’ into a search engine and allowing the cells to appear with suggestions. The one which caught my eye was – instructions for sellers initially on cheese – brilliant! Unfortunately for me and my late night brain this turned out  to be a cryptic crossword clue. I am banking it for future writing,

My next search gifted a PDF on ‘Instructions for Conducting Examinations 2018-2019’ which was my speed-read starting point and as someone who once was a full-time teacher, I thoroughly enjoyed turning the restrictions/instructions/government guidance upside down. Although I wouldn’t fancy being an invigilator in the exam room I created!

This 9 stanza poem became an almost narrative poem, it could adopt the layout of a prose poem and certainly reads like one in places. It possibly doesn’t have a genre identity just yet.

I called it A Box Within a Box – which is the security surrounded by exam materials once they are on site. This is a working title and is likely to be replaced. Here are a few lines.


At the end of the exam let the students mount the tables

and take a run for the door, only collect in the papers

without tread marks,



Let us know how NaPoWriMo is going for you and feel free to share links back to your blogs/websites throughout April.

Have Fun!