Thursday, April 30, 2020

Day 30 ... NaPoWriMo / Poem-a-Day 2020


Maureen Thorson’s NaPoWriMo prompt: “write a poem about something that returns.”

Robert Lee Brewer’s Poem-a-Day prompt: “write a praise poem. Praise your health or the taste of chocolate cake. Pen an ode to normalcy (whatever that is) or expound on the wonders of your favorite pen (for me, it’s either the Pilot G-2 or Pilot Precise V5). Have a favorite song? A favorite saying? Today is a perfect day to sing its praises.”

I'd like to take a moment to thank Maureen Thorson and Robert Lee Brewer for the years they've both provided prompts in April. Here's praise to you both, and of course you and we will all return next April!


Today my last poem is a triolet with the requisite 8-syllable lines. A little cheating with the refrains, though, if I may. Just a hopeful little ditty merging both the prompts. Enjoy!

Looking Forward to
the Good Old Days


O let us praise our previous lives:
everything was sweet and normal.
Endless pizza in lockdown gives
us cause to praise our previous lives
when we could eat in seedy dives!
Shall we meet again, informal?
May we soon praise our future lives
with all again sweet and normal.

—Draft by Vince Gotera    [Do not copy or quote . . . thanks.]

And here is Alan's last poem for the month. It's been glorious, Alan!

Flapper

Who in the night has not heard
the high-pitched whine like sweet strings
backing a Glen Campbell song
about some frozen phone lines
as the lineman makes his run,
especially after one’s
bed companion wakes them up
and makes them check the toilet,
finding in the tank the flapper
off kilter on the flush valve?
Oh, flapper, first of the joys
of home ownership, the first
plumbing job one does oneself,
to replace you by yet one more
in a series of others,
all guaranteed to shut off
the seal, to conserve water,
to keep the toilet silent,
hear my praise! What have you taught
so many like me but to look
in the tank and find plastic
objects: weird toys for STEM kids,
some like Mouse Trap game pieces,
some like junkie cousins’ works,
some like medical gadgets
best left as strange mysteries.
You teach us priorities.
You teach us it is better
to reach into the icy cold
and move a rubbery disc
half a centimeter—so!—
and hope the next flush lands square
than to lie awake and wait
for some silence that may not
happen at all. You teach us
that hard water will make even
a pliable object stiff
and unyielding. You teach us
what the plumber will tell us
when there’s a genuine need
for a plumber: not to put
any chemicals where they
might deteriorate works
in the tank. Only water
in there, guys, and it will last.
The tank, therefore, serves for us
as analogy of mind.
The flapper is the tank’s tongue,
relaying cleansing content
of the mind but shutting up
when it is time to refresh.
Praise to you, Fluidmaster,
Korky, Kohler, and Toto,
praise to the chains you come with,
praise to your universal
fit, no matter your design.

—Draft by Thomas Alan Holmes    [Do not copy or quote . . . thanks.]

Thanks for reading, everyone! I hope it was a great National Poetry Month for you! See you here next year!


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Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Day 29 ... NaPoWriMo / Poem-a-Day 2020


Robert Lee Brewer’s Poem-a-Day prompt: “For today’s prompt, take the phrase ‘Total (blank),’ replace the blank with a word or phrase, make the new phrase the title of your poem, and then, write your poem. Possible titles could include: ‘Total Madness,’ ‘Total Victory,’ ‘Totally Awesome,’ and/or ‘Total Cereal.’”

Maureen Thorson’s NaPoWriMo prompt: “Today, I challenge you to write a paean to the stalwart hero of your household: your pet. . . . If you don’t have a pet, perhaps you know one or remember one who deserves to be immortalized in verse.


When I read the NaPoWriMo prompt, I gotta tell ya I was dismayed. I wanted to write another poem for my aswang novella, but I couldn't imagine my two aswang characters having pets. To up the difficulty factor, as I said yesterday, I wanted to write a Pushkin sonnet this month. And also, I have wanted to write a fun, lighthearted aswang poem, which is complicated by the fact that my characters are fearsome, man-eating monsters. Besides, I had killed one of them off a few days ago! Well, despite all these difficulties, I got it done. In under an hour!

Total Surprise on Halloween

Clara lay in bed recalling
Tiyago in much happier times,
memories that had her smiling,
pranks and little harmless crimes.

One Halloween when she was pregnant
the two imagined themselves as parents
taking their little one on the streets
of San Francisco: trick or treat.

Tiyago shifted into his canine
form, as big as a Great Dane,
and out they went, dog and dame,
taking a stroll in the moonshine.

Laughing children gathered around
in costume and petted her lovely hound.

—Draft by Vince Gotera    [Do not copy or quote . . . thanks.]

Yesterday, I wrote a Pushkin sonnet (or Onegin Stanza) but it was in pentameter; the original form is in tetrameter. Here is the rhyme scheme and metric pattern: aBaBccDDeFFeGG, where the lower-case letters end in an unstressed syllable and the upper case letters indicate a stressed ending. Quite a challenge, but I think I was able to carry it off.

When I wrote "Great Dane" above, I was thinking generically. Then I googled. I didn't realize what the biggest Great Dane ever, Little George, looks like! Crazy! It's partly the angle and the woman is back a bit, but still that's one big dog.



Alan got his poem done early today; he got it to me by 9:00am! Congrats, Alan. And thanks . . . you inspired me to complete my poem early too. Good job with the total title and also getting a pet-of-sorts in there!

Total Immersion

What thoughts I have of you this morning, Jack, as the crow caws in the black locust
                near the back of the lot,
the black locust that turns on itself knotting, seeming to break itself over years in its
                refusal to yield to its own worst growths,
a malignancy surfaced on the smooth round overturned bowl of a hillside back there,
                covering instead something rising and nourishing dough, the ground fertile even
                for the unwelcome,
like the black locust, which can send runners for yards across yards and can force
                constant attention on our part,
like the cawing crow that takes that high perch for the perspective and warns of dangers
                to come
in a familiar call.
I have left Mardi Gras beads looping over loose nails in the side fence, offering them to
                the crows of our neighborhood,
welcoming them to take what treasures might catch their eyes
because I want them to perch and call to each other in their crow inflection, the corvid
                cadence, the rising and falling raucous musical caw,
their commentary from on high
although they seem ordinary enough close by, they share a community, fuss at each
                other sometimes, and learn
like colleagues,
like us in our working group as we had it,
and as much as I miss you, I am relieved that you do not see the mess that mires us
                survivors now.

I wrote a poem about you years ago without naming you, Jack, and it got published in a
                regional journal,
and, without my knowing it beforehand, the poet laureate of an Appalachian state read
                it aloud to an audience at an Appalachian regional conference,
and some listeners recognized you in my completely fabricated story
that I wove from your voice
and what I knew of your breadth of learning
and from an earthy joke my father would tell in my presence only once I was an older
                teenager,
because I never heard you tell such stories, but I always thought that if you were ever to
                tell one, everyone would ache with laughter afterwards and feel grateful that such
                a broad and generous mind would make room for consideration of all human
                foibles and vulnerabilities,
but I am projecting, of course, because putting my father in a poem about you also
                suggests that I have over the years shifted paths, learning to walk one and then
                finding a corollary path with another, sometimes following but often, when
                fortunate, blazing,
because you knew what you loved about this place, and you could encourage other
                people to value it and love it, too, even the parts of it in themselves they were not
                certain what to do with—
you were creating in the classroom what our great authors make in their tradition, what
                I hope to make, in my modest way, Jack,
sometimes, like so many of us, to expand ourselves from what we have thought we are
                into what we learn we can be.

This morning I see myself weatherbeaten and resist the idea that somehow I have
                purchased some high perspective
and hope only that I can preserve an expanding mind wedged open by consideration of
                many well-expressed ideas
even in rough music, Jack, and you have taught me that.


—Draft by Thomas Alan Holmes    [Do not copy or quote . . . thanks.]

Last day tomorrow. Thanks for coming by to read, everyone! Stay safe out there, especially if you are in a location where authorities are lifting COVID-19 restrictions.


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Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Day 28 ... NaPoWriMo / Poem-a-Day 2020


Robert Lee Brewer’s Poem-a-Day prompt is his usual "Two for Tuesday":
1. “Write a look back poem and/or . . .”
2. “Write a don't look back poem. Because some folks just want to keep their eyes on the road ahead.”
Maureen Thorson’s NaPoWriMo prompt comes from the Emily Dickinson Museum, based on a reminiscence by Dickinson's niece Martha: “Describe a bedroom from your past in a series of descriptive paragraphs or a poem. It could be your childhood room, your grandmother’s room, a college dormitory or another significant space from your life.”


Today's curtal sonnet is again an episode in the aswang novella project. This poem mashes up all three prompts, not only showing (and redecorating) Clara's bedroom but also incorporating both of the Brewer look back and don't look back themes.

New Day: Clara's Bedroom

On Sunday morning, I fixed up our bedroom,
taking Tiyago’s clothes out of the closet
finally, boxing them up to give away.
I put vases of lilies and nasturtiums
on the dresser, and laid a new bedspread,
yellow, discarding the old quilt, green and gray.

Holding the photo of Tiyago, uniformed,
I smiled, looking back to our golden days
at home, eating halo-halo at the market.
For Malcolm’s sake, I must now look forward
                to new nights and days.

—Draft by Vince Gotera    [Do not copy or quote . . . thanks.]




Halo-halo, the quintessential
Philippine fruit dessert


And here is Alan's poem today mashing up the bedroom and look back prompts. Bravo, Alan!

My Favorite Bedroom

My favorite bedroom
was in our last home
in Tuscaloosa,
the town house we had
while I was writing
my dissertation,
teaching comp and lit,
and flirting with you.
I don’t remember
anything except
some hot afternoons
when rain broke the heat,
we’d open windows,
lie down together,
and lose long hours.
I could, if you like,
describe every
other bedroom,
mine and ours, I’ve had;
that townhouse bedroom
in Tuscaloosa, though,
is nothing but you
and some thunderstorms,
warm breath and wet heat.

—Draft by Thomas Alan Holmes    [Do not copy or quote . . . thanks.]

I have a second poem today that I actually wrote before the one above. I thought I was going rogue this time with the following COVID-19 poem, but a few hours after finishing it, the aswang poem above using today's prompts started bubbling up.

As Georgia’s Massage Parlors Reopen

Rearranging letters in COVID-NINETEEN
yields INCENTIVE DONE, as in we stayed home,
so we can be out and about now,
but really, can
we? DIE CONVENIENT is another anagram.

Personally, the letters seem vindictive —
I NEED NOT VINCE — and also predictive
in unflattering fashion: VINCE END ON TIE.
Which means, I think, either way I’m going to die.

It would seem there’s no path to domesticate
this pandemic somehow. The word virus
has its roots in “snake venom, slimy juice,
poison,” and so we just have to face it.

Until we have a vaccine, read my lips:
Lockdown is the easy apocalypse.

—Draft by Vince Gotera    [Do not copy or quote . . . thanks.]

This is a Pushkin Sonnet, also called an Onegin Stanza because Alexander Pushkin invented it to be the basic unit of his novel-in-verse Eugene Onegin. This sonnet form begins with a Shakespearean alternating quatrain (abab), followed by a Clarean couplet quatrain (ccdd), and then a Petrarchan envelope quatrain (effe), and finally a closing couplet (gg), which could figure in any of those three sonnet types. I do depart from the Pushkin format, however, because I use pentameter rather than Pushkin's tetrameter, and I also dispense with his pre-ordained pattern of so-called masculine and feminine line endings. It occurs to me now that, since I am writing a novella-in-verse, I should probably write some Pushkin sonnets for that project. Maybe tomorrow!


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Monday, April 27, 2020

Day 27 ... NaPoWriMo / Poem-a-Day 2020


Maureen Thorson’s NaPoWriMo prompt: “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 2020 (I think many of us have some thoughts on that one!)”

Robert Lee Brewer’s Poem-a-Day prompt: “write a massive poem. The poem itself could be massive in size and length. Or it could take on a massive problem, describe a supermassive black hole, or praise a massive bowl of ice cream covered in chocolate syrup and whipped cream. Whatever you write, I hope it’s a massive success.”


My poem today only cursorily arises from the two prompts. The words review and massive just appear in the poem momentarily. This installment in the aswang novella project fills in an earlier gap: how Clara’s villagers begin to think she might be an aswang. Also, a “sari-sari store” in the Philippines is a Mom-and-Pop sundry shop in a rural area; sari-sari is a Filipino phrase that means “variety.” In terms of the story, it’s important that the two men in the poem are at a sari-sari store, which would be a community hangout, so their conversation could fire up the local gossip mill.

Two Men Talk in the Sari-Sari Store

Okay, let’s review the facts, Nestor. You got lost
in the woods last night, and then you came upon
a massive meadow you’d never seen before.

                      That’s right! The moon was shining through the mist,
                      and in the meadow a huge black dog was running,
                      no, prancing. Above, a dark winged shape soared
                      like an eagle wheeling. No, more like a bat.


That would be a manananggal, an aswang.

                      Well, Jojo, I saw her face! It was so clear.

Who was it?
                      That cute girl in the market.

You mean, Clara?

—Draft by Vince Gotera    [Do not copy or quote . . . thanks.]

Form-wise, this is a curtal sonnet in rhyme and meter but takes the shape of a (seemingly) free-verse conversation with two speakers. The tricky section is line 10 (“Who was it? That cute . . .”), where a dropped line indicates a change of speaker in the middle of the line.

Alan’s poem today takes the idea of review in an entertaining direction.

The Sentences I Write When the Person Demanding a Letter
of Recommendation Will Not Take “No” for an Answer


When I consider what ______________ has accomplished in the time of our
                acquaintance, I find myself shaking my head in wonder.

I honestly cannot imagine that ______________ could do a better job than he does.

It amazes me, when I give ______________ training, data, and protocols, what I get
                back.

I have often wondered why ______________ has not moved to another position
                already.

I cannot say enough good things about ______________.

I absolutely can imagine ______________ in a high administrative position.

“Pleasant” does not describe having ______________ as a co-worker.

______________ has made an unforgettable impact on our entire department.

I am confident that the upper administration is aware of ______________’s
                contributions to our university. Some often ask me, “Just what can we do with
                him?”

I know that students have reconsidered their career paths after their meetings with
                ______________.

Should ______________ get a position elsewhere, there will be a major gap to be
                filled.


—Draft by Thomas Alan Holmes    [Do not copy or quote . . . thanks.]



We appreciate your coming by to read our work. Stay safe and be well.

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Sunday, April 26, 2020

Day 26 ... NaPoWriMo / Poem-a-Day 2020


Robert Lee Brewer’s Poem-a-Day prompt: “write a change poem. This could be a poem about something that has changed or something that will change. Changing tires, clothes, or perspectives. Change left over when paying for something with cash. Feel encouraged to change it up today.”

Maureen Thorson’s NaPoWriMo prompt today asks participants to fill out an “Almanac Questionnaire” as a basis for a poem. Example items in the questionnaire ask for answers to “Found on the street: _____”; “Hometown memory: _____”; “You walk to the border and hear: _____”; and the like — some items mundane and others strange.


My poem today is a hybrid sonnet for the aswang novella project. This time the son, nine years old, at the point of change, with a couple questionnaire items sneaking in.

Malcolm and the Bully, Fourth Grade

His ugly mouth, with jagged teeth, it seemed,
sprayed spit on my face as he screamed insults
so close I could bite him if I wanted. My shoulders
itched with the budding of wings. His friends formed

a ring of yells around us: Fight! Fight! Fangs
began to lengthen in my mouth as blows
fell on my face, upraised arms. Only thing
I could see in squinted eyes was a red haze.

In my mind I walked up to the edge but heard
Mama’s calm voice, Resist, Malcolm, hold on.
Knocked down to the street, I saw a blue bird’s
wing on the asphalt, torn, beautiful. And

then it was over, laughter fading as they left.
I whispered. Yes, Mama, resist resist.

—Draft by Vince Gotera    [Do not copy or quote . . . thanks.]




After finishing the poem, I googled “torn bird wing street” to find a possible illustration and found this image, not beautiful exactly but arresting and . . . blue. Someone saw this outside their front door and sent this photo to an Extension “Ask an Expert” website inquiring what predator might have done it. Intriguing.

I wrote another aswang poem today, a curtal sonnet from Clara's perspective, a change á la Brewer, a turnabout from the "dark night" poem yesterday where she is feeling overwhelmed and desperate about the future for her and Malcolm without Santiago.

The Future: Clara's Change

After Tiyago died, I started welding
at Hunters Point Naval Shipyard. Don’t ask
me how I got the job. It was like my man

was guiding my steps from the afterworld.
I love the intense heat and light of the gas
when metals do my bright bidding, melt and

fuse, flow and meld, the acetylene blue
blaze from hearts of stars lighting up the dry dock
where we repair Navy ships. I feel like I’m
a virgin planet in the cosmos, brand-new
                sun, electric aswang.

—Draft by Vince Gotera    [Do not copy or quote . . . thanks.]

Alan says he's going rogue today. Though on second look, this poem seems to me about change. Bravo, friend! Excellent Petrarchan sonnet.

Poplars

Before late April dawn, a storm blew hard
and broke the poplars’ jointed limbs. I find
their impact-shattered branches. How the wind
that flailed them whistled through our eaves! Our yard
has petals dropped from dogwoods, cherries bared
of blossoms, too. The honeysuckle, twined
stems bending, bowing, newly blown, have joined
the English ivy near our fence, prepared
for mutual defense against my saws
and clippers. Though a poplar branch looked dead,
I found some buds at twig ends. O, what draws
life’s urgency, please work through me and spread
renewed creation, what the poplar knows:
let go; preserve the green new life instead.

—Draft by Thomas Alan Holmes    [Do not copy or quote . . . thanks.]





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