Tuesday, April 1, 2014

National Poetry Month / NaPoWriMo / Poem-a-Day 2014


Did you hear the terrible news? The title of this blog post is, alas, misleading. National Poetry Month has been cancelled. Forever. Never to return again. It's over, friends.

APRIL FOOL'S!    You didn't believe me, did you? Just kidding.

Getting to the poeming . . . as I try to do every April, I hope to combine the Poem-a-Day and NaPoWriMo prompts whenever possible in my single poem of the day. Just my way of having fun with the whole enterprise. Okay, so here we go with today's "official" prompts.

Robert Lee Brewer, in his Poetic Asides blog, gives us his first Poem-a-Day challenge prompt, a "Two-for-Tuesday" one (customary for him with Tuesdays in April). Robert says, "For folks new to the challenge, you can choose one prompt, write to both, or try to mix them together in one poem. . . . 1. Write a beginning poem. [and] 2. Write an ending poem."

Maureen Thorson, in her initial prompt from NaPoWriMo HQ, says, "Today, I'd like you to go to Reb Livingston's Bibliomancy Oracle. Clear your mind, push the button, and then write a poem based on the quotation that the oracle provides." I did that — actually, more than once, I'll admit — and came up with this interesting quotation: "Take notice of your marks and bearings" from "When You See with Not Through the Eye" by Jane Wong.

I think I can combine Robert's two-for-Tuesday prompts . . . that is, I'll write a poem that's both a beginning poem and an ending poem. For theme, I'll work from the Wong quotation the Bibliomancy Oracle gave me. It will also be a list poem; in my poetry workshop we're currently studying list poems and I want to show my students I can practice what I preach, if you will. Here goes!

Things We Navigate By
"Take notice of your marks and bearings"
            — Jane Wong, "When You See
            — with Not Through the Eye"
Downhill.
Birth canal.
Light. Air. Milk.

Daisies.
Sun. Moon.
Stars. Mom. Dad.

Arrowhead:
Canada Geese
pointing to summer.

Bible.
Phone directory.
World history textbooks.

Volkswagen
repair manual:
plugs and points.

Google.
Information superhighway.
World Wide Web.

GPS
satellite net.
Street view. Recalculating.

Sextant.
Ship’s compass.
Old sailor’s nose.

Cancer.
Heart disease.
High blood pressure.

Suit,
slit back,
polyester. The End.

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

This fun little poem is in hay(na)ku stanzas (HIGH-nuh-coo) . . . the form invented by Eileen Tabios, with one word in line 1, two in line 2, and three in line 3. Always a fun yet difficult form, especially when you try, as much as possible, to use productive line breaks and not just take prose and cut it up into one-word, two-word, three-word chunks. Also addictive, the hay(na)ku has become my go-to form lately.

I do find sometimes people ask me, "Why limit yourself to such a small space?" Well, why do anything? That's the thing about forms, right? You try to write the best poem you can within given rules and restrictions. The beauty of writing in forms is that sometimes — one hopes, always — the requirements of the form will push you in directions that allow you to say things you had no idea you were going to say and that produce a much better poem than if you had written in free verse. That can be an extremely rewarding moment, almost as if the poetry gods have given you a most amazing gift.


Speaking of "most amazing gifts," I have the great privilege and pleasure today to present, all month, the daily poems of my writing buddy Thomas Alan Holmes. Alan is a professor in the Literature and Language department of East Tennessee State University in Johnson City. Alan and I are in a facebook NaPoWriMo / Poem-a-Day writing group with my colleague Rachel Morgan and his colleague Catherine Pritchard Childress, who was my April blogging buddy two National Poetry Months back.

Here is Alan's poem for Day One. He struck out on his own, since he is an early-morning writer and started this poem before the prompts had even surfaced!

On Planning to Be Photographed Naked on My Fifty-fifth Birthday

The first time was conventional, newborn
and naked on a faux lambskin, my stare
unfocussed, not a gaze. At five, I’m grim,
chest high above the bathtub rim, the last
I would permit my mom to help me bathe.
My brother took a Polaroid; my ass
displayed beside my birthday cake. A girl,
another Polaroid at Bible camp,
caught some of us out skinny dipping; I’m
full frontal at fifteen. Engaged, you joined
my blurred allusion, our Two Virgins, nude.

Coincidence at first, then every five—
those other shots you took these years, contrived
and precious, out of habit, comic, bland—

suppose I hire the portraitist we know,
and we head out to some scarred earth nearby,
and we ask him to catch what truth I clothe
and let my body have its silent say.

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

I love the freshness and humor of Alan's poems and of the voice in this one particularly. I really appreciate how this is, finally, a subtle and quiet love poem for the "you" who has been the fun accomplice in these semi-decade revisitings of the body's "silent say."


We'd really like to hear what you have to say about our poems. Or anything else in this post. Won't you comment below, please? 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" and click on the word "comments." Alan and I are looking forward to your comments.

And thanks, as always, to Maureen Thorson and Robert Lee Brewer. 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


2 comments:

meenarose said...

Awesome day 1 ! April sure is an addictive poetry month.

Meena

Vince Gotera said...

Thanks, Meena! Good luck with your poem-a-day month!

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