Friday, April 18, 2014

Day 18 ... NaPoWriMo / Poem-a-Day 2014

Day 18. We are 3/5 of the way through National Poetry Month.

Today was a special poetry day for me: I had the privilege and pleasure of reading some of my poems in a panel of poets at the Popular Culture Association / American Culture Association annual conference in Chicago. The panel was titled Where in the World: A Reading of Place and Culture, chaired by poet Teresa Schartel Narey; the other poets were Pramila Venkateswaran and Shaun Perkins. Unfortunately, I got stuck in a traffic jam on the Dan Ryan Expressway on my way to the conference this morning and got to the panel late. But it was fun nonetheless and I was honored and humbled to be with such fine poets.

Maureen Thorson says, "Today I challenge you to write a ruba’i. What’s that? Well, it’s a Persian form — multipe stanzas in the ruba’i form are a rubaiyat, as in 'The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.' Basically, a ruba’i is a four-line stanza, with a rhyme scheme of AABA" (NaPoWriMo). There's a little more to it than that, at least in the English tradition: not just aaba but also iambic pentameter. Though maybe Maureen didn't want to scare off some NaPoWriMo folks with the dreaded "iambic pentameter" phrase.

Robert Lee Brewer suggests today: "write a weather poem. A weather poem can be a poem about a hurricane or tornado; it can be a poem about the weatherperson; it can be a poem about forgetting an umbrella on a rainy day; it can be big; it can be small; etc." (Poetic Asides).

Okay, you know how I love to make this poem-a-day thing tougher than Maureen and Robert set it up to be. Instead of one ruba'i or a group of rubaiyat, I'm writing a rubaiyat sonnet vis-à-vis weather. Wish me luck!

Creation, DisCreation

When Gaia was young the gods bombarded her
with iron boulders, raining metal meteors
that melted into a subterranean ocean,
which now our scientists call Earth's iron core.

This planet's molten blood boiled, bubbled, and
blew into volcanoes, archipelagoes, new land.
Plants, trees, one-celled animals, the dinosaur.
Hummingbirds, muskrats, mammoths, then Eve and Adam.

And what have we done with Eden? We've ruined weather:
acid rain, runaway greenhouse, monster
hurricanes, super-typhoons, holes in the ozone,
smog and toxic chemicals in dead air.

When the gods finally come home  from their long deep space roam,
if they lift their eyebrows in anger  what miracle can we show 'em?

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

Primeval Earth pummeled by meteors and asteroids.

I'm really upping the ante here. Generally rubaiyat sonnets have this rhyme scheme: aaba bbcb ccdc aa (interlocked rhymes). Mine only uses two rhymes, so a and b all the way: aaba bbab aaba [bb][ab] (also interlocked). The bracketed bits show internal rhyme within the ending couplet. In other words, I use the rubaiyat rhyming pattern but split into two lines: in this case, bb in the first line of the couplet and ab in the second line of the couplet. The poem is also metric: pentameter in the first three stanzas then alexandrine (hexameter) in the couplet. This allows me to have a caesura or sense break in the middle of each of the lines: three feet + break + three feet.

"Folks, I would have written a ruba'i," Alan says today, "but I had another idea instead. However, I have written that form before, mainly to vent while grading a batch of essays. It would have been dishonest to offer it as if I had written it today, however. I just want you to know that I have attempted the form. (That poem is in the P.S. below.) My offering today is a sonnet instead.

God of Kudzu

Dear God of Kudzu, God of twisted vine,
of curling tendril, creeper, blade entwined
with chain-link, batten, mortar, slat, aligned
with jamb, foundation, lintel, power line,
loose chimney stone, pried nail, enamel sign,
house numbers, horse shoes, Christmas lights designed
to look like icicles, the other kind,
the broken spokes of bikes, should I decline
to nod, acknowledging a friend in sight,
to bend to look a small child in the eye,
to acquiesce, convinced of greater right
or, worse, convinced from my own certainty,
draw me to curve, insinuate me tight
between, throughout this world where you’ve put me.

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

Kudzu "eating" a car.
Alan, what a wonderful sonnet. Makes me think of Gerard Manley Hopkins. Especially in the phrase "the broken spokes of bikes," which exhibits a refreshingly braided sound play: the consonance of /b/ and /k/ in broken and bike; the nicely mangled rhyme of broken and spokes; and then the sibilant echoes of "s" throughout the phrase. Brilliant.

Speaking of "brilliant" . . . cool that we both had sonnet on the mind, though we approached them differently today. I like how your first quatrain is Petrarchan, then in the second quatrain you go all John Clare, then in the closing sestet, you're normative. Beautifully written. And your metrics are especially fine and tight today. Congrats.

Won't you comment, please, friends? To make a comment, look for a blue link below that says Post a comment; if you don't see that, look in the red line that starts Posted by Vince and click on the word comments.

Ingat, everyone.  

P.S. Here's the previously written rubaiyat Alan referred to above.

Mopping Up Words as the Day Is Dawning

Whose words these are, I think I know.
Here’s plagiarism’s pillage, though;
the well-turned phrase that’s dropped in here
lacks all citation it should show.

I’ve seen these same miscues all year:
the prose that pains my reader’s ear,
the more than commonplace mistake,
each praised when read by clueless peer.

I raise my arm so I can shake
my hand until numb fingers wake.
I feel renewed suspicion creep:
here’s essay for mere essay’s sake.

My books are lovely, dark, and deep,
but I have syllabi to keep,
and piles to grade before I sleep.
and piles to grade before I sleep.

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

Alan, this reminds me of a parody an old friend from grad school, Keith Welsh, wrote back in the day. I can't remember it all, but it begins something like this: "Whose shoes these are, I think I know. / His feet are in the village, though. / He will not mind me stopping here / To watch his shoes fill up with snow."  

POEM-A-DAY 2014 • Pick a day in April: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Day 17 ... NaPoWriMo / Poem-a-Day 2014

Day 17. Less than two weeks to go before the end of National Poetry Month. What do you think, friends? Should we keep writing a poem a day after the end of April?

Robert Lee Brewer's prompt for today is "write a pop culture poem" (Poetic Asides). Maureen Thorson prompts us to "write a poem in which you very specifically describe something in terms of at least three of the five senses" (NaPoWriMo).

Here's my best shot at combining these two prompts. I'd be interested to know what you think, because it's part art history, part art performance. I think. (An "acrostic," by the way, is a poem where the first letters of each line spell out something, reading downward.)

Sixties Art Acrostic Haiku

Pop Art exploded
Out of the bourgeois banal.
Painter Andy Warhol’s

Campbell’s soup cans
Upstaged commercial “fine” art.
Lichtenstein’s dot-scapes

Transformed comic strips
Uniquely into huge lives.
Roy, Andy . . . to them

Everything was pop.
Blue storm clouds scudding across
Evening, sharp lightning

Arcing in bright forks.
Thunder rumbling loud like rock
Slides on distant cliffs.

As rain falls hard, your
Lips open, your outstretched tongue
Licks air, sweet. Silver

Dulcet chimes sound. Did
Oldenburg’s pop happenings
Ever duplicate

Such simple beauty?
I know I’m being unfair
To Pop Art. So what?

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

The movement of this poem pretty clearly reveals what happened as I wrote. I originally wanted to spell out "pop culture" á là Brewer but after I wrote "Everything was pop" (a line I like quite a lot), I realized I hadn't fulfilled the Thorson prompt. So I had to extend what I was spelling out and the poem took on a little confrontational edge while simultaneously becoming more lyrical, strangely enough. Does it work, do you think? Comment below, maybe?

Andy Warhol, "Campbell's
Tomato Juice Box" (1964)
Roy Lichtenstein,
"Drowning Girl" (1963)
Alan's intro for his poem today is short but eloquent: "A baby embodies hope."

  for Virgil Wren

“Love conquers all things, so we,
  too, shall yield to love.”   —Virgil
You won the first minute,
the first peep you made,
and you’re lucky to have
such a poetic name,
so I hope that you take
full advantage of it
and laugh off the joke
when you learn that “VW”
is a popular brand.

I’d appropriate that coincidence
as soon as possible.
I’d learn to draw the logo
and make it my standby signature.
I’d tuck a towel into the back
of my t-shirt collar, like a cape,
strip down to my Underoos,
strike my hero’s stance, hands on hips,
and proclaim myself “Captain Fahrvergnügen.”
When other people caught on
and started calling me “Beetle” and “Bug,”
I’d laugh along with them.

Later, when you’re older and edgy,
think about “Verge,” how your friends
will clip your name and make you sound
as if you are always on the cusp of change,
keeping folks in constant anticipation.

What a gift!

And when you’re a man
and people say “Virgil”
while looking you straight in the eye,
there will be some,
maybe just one,
who will know when it’s welcome
to say “Wren” instead.

Of all your gifts to come, listen
to how people offer again
this name in all its permutations,
and receive it, again,
with love from its first givers.
Yield to that love, little conqueror.
It’s no surrender.

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

Lovely poem, Alan. I'm sure little Baby Fahrvergnügen will treasure it in future years when it will make more and more sense to him.

Won't you comment, please, friends? To make a comment, look for a blue link below that says Post a comment; if you don't see that, look in the red line that starts Posted by Vince and click on the word comments.

Ingat, everyone. Go check out some pop art. Or test drive a VW.  

POEM-A-DAY 2014 • Pick a day in April: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Day 16 ... NaPoWriMo / Poem-a-Day 2014

Day 16. Today is the first day of the rest of your . . . well, not your life, maybe, but the rest of your National Poetry Month. Over the hump. Easy sailing from here.

Today, Maureen Thorson suggests writing "a ten-line poem in which each line is a lie. Your lies could be silly, complicated, tricky, or obvious" (NaPoWriMo). Robert Lee Brewer suggests an elegy: "a poem for someone who has died. . . . defined as 'love poems for the dead' in John Drury's The Poetry Dictionary." (Poetic Asides).

Here we go, written in twenty minutes, mash-up of both prompts.

Elegy for Rotary Dialing: Ten Lies

My right index finger misses first joint pain.

My ears miss the lovely whir of the rotary phone dial.

My nose misses the subtle aroma of oiled gears spinning inside the phone.

My eyes miss watching the dial return to start, like an exercise in futility.

My tongue misses the taste of ozone in the air around the phone.

My sleeping self misses the bright glow of the Princess phone dial at night.

My waking self misses the huge round eye of the phone staring by day.

My brain misses the phone dial flying like a UFO in the living room.

My body misses riding the magically expanded phone dial like a flying carpet.

My heart misses rotary dialing like my teeth miss root canals.

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

And now on to Alan's poem today. Alan says, "'There is a taint of death, a flavour of mortality in lies — which is exactly what I hate and detest in the world — what I want to forget,' says Marlow in Conrad's Heart of Darkness, so as I combine the prompts (mashing up the elegy requirement with the requirement to write a ten-line poem with a lie in each line), I instead intend to equivocate. Here I offer an all-purpose elegy for somebody you don't like; feel free to take any of the lines and use them during uncomfortable conversation lulls during the associated events."

All-Purpose Elegy for Somebody You Don’t Like

I can't think up enough good things to say.
I always laugh whenever you're in mind.
I can't imagine how you could improve.
I'd never match your best accomplishments.
You had a smile that no one could forget.
I don't meet people like you every day.
Not everyone can claim your fashion sense.
I always thought your best years were ahead.
How could a person ever plumb your soul?
You've left behind a space we'll never fill.

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

That's hilarious, Alan! I know your best years are still ahead.  

Won't you comment, please, friends? To make a comment, look for a blue link below that says Post a comment; if you don't see that, look in the red line that starts Posted by Vince and click on the word comments.

Ingat, everyone.  

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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Day 15 ... NaPoWriMo / Poem-a-Day 2014

Day 15. The halfway point. What can I say. Sad if we think about National Poetry Month as ending. But it's also got 15 good days to go yet, right? Bravo! Keep writing a poem a day, friends. And keep coming back here to check out ours.

Robert Lee Brewer has a "two-for-Tuesday" prompt today: love poem and/or anti-love poem (Poetic Asides). Maureen Thorson suggests using terza rima (NaPoWriMo).

"I hope," Alan says, "I hope Vince will recover from the shock that I combined the two poetry prompts today. If his mustache suddenly turns white, it's my fault."

My Undergraduates Don’t Get Toni Morrison

In Morrison’s Beloved, Sixo walks
past thirty miles between two suns to see
the woman that he loves. In classroom talks

I learn priorities. “Is it just me,”
one asks, “or is it nuts to go so far?”
“It’s fifteen miles a night,” I say, “to be

with one he loves more than his life.” Their car-
eased lives make them mismeasure miles. “We all
should walk it in two long nights, tops, North Star

for bearings should we miss the path.” “I’d call
that reckless,” someone says, “the chance he took
that he’d get caught.” There’s coughing in the hall,

and I dismiss them for the day. They look
at me as lost; they click online and get
delivered their desires. “This stupid book,”

one says, who might feel love but hasn’t yet.

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

Book Cover, Beloved by Toni Morrison

Oh . . . so that's what happened to my mustache. I was wondering. Good job mashing up the two prompts, Alan!

From me today, a musical collage, or maybe a montage. Or whatever, whatsit. You decide.


matrix of metal
cross-pieces and sharp steel shine
vibrate musical

wood shaved into fine
curves curlicues channeling
bronze shimmery line

waves downbeat upswing
staccato fingertip jive
hard plectrum bee-sting

swift sustain alive
vermillion green bruise echoes
rise purple sheer dive

ultramarine lava flows
love love muse almost so close

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

It's got the word "love" in it for Brewer's prompt, or half of it anyway, 'cause I couldn't work in "anti-love" without getting clunky. Seems to me pretty clearly on love, though. Thorson's terza rima is there, in a haiku sonnet shape. And here's a little visual noodle doodle too.  

Won't you comment, please, friends? To make a comment, look for a blue link below that says Post a comment; if you don't see that, look in the red line that starts Posted by Vince and click on the word comments.

Ingat, everyone.  

POEM-A-DAY 2014 • Pick a day in April: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30

Monday, April 14, 2014

Day 14 ... NaPoWriMo / Poem-a-Day 2014

Hello, everyone. Day 14. A fortnight in. I've always found it interesting that "fortnight" and "fourteen" share the same opening sounds. Is there a connection there, do you think? A shared root sometime in the past, perhaps. If you know, would you share in a comment, please? Thanks. And now, as always, the "official" prompts.

"For today's prompt," Robert Lee Brewer says, "take the phrase 'If I Were (blank),' replace the blank with a word or phrase, make the new phrase the title of your poem, and then, write the poem. Possible titles might include: 'If I Were President,' 'If I Were Smarter,' 'If I Were a Little More Sensitive,' or 'If I Were Born on April 14.' If I were you, I'd get poeming about now." (Poetic Asides).

"Today's prompt (optional, as always)," Maureen Thorson begins, "is a little something I'm calling 'Twenty Questions.' The idea is to write a poem in which every sentence, except for the last one, is in the form of a question. That's it! It can be as long or short as you like. The questions can be deep and philosophical ('what is the meaning of life') or routine and practical ('are you going to eat that?'). Or both!" (NaPoWriMo).

Okay, mixing the prompts, as usual. And lowering the number of questions from Maureen's 20 to 14. Why? Because it's April 14, and because the poem I'm presenting below is a sonnet, at least in shape if not in argument. Here we go.

If I Were a Sonnet, I Would Ask 14 Questions

How do I love thee? Or should that really be "you"?
And of course, I would ask how do you love me?
Or should that be "I"? Does linguistics figure into
How one asks questions of lovers? Should we

Even care about linguistics at a time
Like this, when one is writing a love poem?
Should we rhyme? Full rhyme or slant rhyme?
Capitalize each line? One could write a tome

Or at least a monograph about whether
Or not grammar — or spelling, for that matter —
Should even, in a romantic sonnet, matter?
Shall we count the ways? For example, whether

We should be like Bill Clinton? Debate what is, is?
Is there no answer? If there be, the answer simply is . . .

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

Just for fun, here's Bill Clinton. Let's imagine that he's pondering the questions in the poem. Or maybe he's actually laughing at how ludicrous the whole thing is. Or was.

Speaking of "ludicrous," I'm pretty ludicrously proud of using identical rhyme in the last six lines: rhyming a word with itself. You gots to take your humor where you finds it.      I used full rhyme throughout the poem because the other day my girlfriend Kathy (lucky Kathy from a couple of days ago) asked me why I use so much slant rhyme. I just want to prove, ha ha, that I can do full rhyme. But slant rhyme, I think, is harder to do and less chime-like.

All right, on to Alan's poem for Day 14. Here is Alan's set up: "After noting that Vince did not allude to the Stevie Nicks/Tom Petty collaboration 'Stop Draggin' My Heart Around' in his 'Dragon Sestina' yesterday (April 13), I joked that I would write a Stevie Nicks poem for today. I'm bringing in an old friend to help."

The old friend to whom Alan is referring is his real-life colleague Thomas Crofts, medievalist, who appeared as a character in several of Alan's NaPoWriMo poems last year. Alan, I'm glad to "see" Thomas Crofts, medievalist; I was starting to despair that he wouldn't make an appearance this April.

Thomas Crofts and I Encounter
a Cosplayer Dressed as Stevie Nicks

I like the subtle ones the best:
the preppie in the suit with tie
askew, his open collar just
revealing blue beneath, a red
line of a symbol scarce in sight;
the Goth girl, Horus sigil black
mascaraed right eye, silver ankh
around her neck, and startled I,
of anyone, would recognize
the Endless Death; that quiet guy
who never spoke in class and wore
a power ring, symbolic strength
through will. These plain-sight, camouflaged
creative ones who soon will see
how many of us cycle through
identities throughout our days,
relying on acknowledgment
of mere allusion, grateful seen,
not wanting to attract. And so
it was that colleague Thomas Crofts,
medievalist, and I first saw
Rhiannon in the flesh, her hair
in ringlets, doleful eyes, her lips
bee-stung and full, her macramé
handmade hemp vest and silken blouse,
her matching scarf a band tied loose
around her top hat’s crown, our nod,
and Thomas, “Taken by the sky?”
She smiled and twirled and kept in step.

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

Fun poem, Alan. Thanks for taking on yourself your own challenge to me to slip Stevie Nicks into my "Dragon Sestina." You saved me a lot of trouble and heartache. Wink wink. 

Stevie Nicks in a top hat (2011)
Hey, let's watch YouTube videos of Stevie Nicks and Tom Petty singing "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around," shall we? Here's a reunion version of the two of them reprising the song in 2006. And from just last week, here's a re-creation with Stevie Nicks doing the song on the Tonight show and Jimmy Fallon cosplaying Tom Petty. Actually, Jimmy does a spot-on impression of Petty. And, you Nirvana fans, look who introduces them. Fun, huh?

Won't you comment, please, friends? To make a comment, look for a blue link below that says Post a comment; if you don't see that, look in the red line that starts Posted by Vince and click on the word comments.

Ingat, everyone.  

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