Monday, April 30, 2012

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

Okay, everyone, we made it! Woot woot! Happy Last Day of National Poetry Month.

The final prompts of National Poetry Month 2012 . . . Robert Lee Brewer recommends "a fade away poem"; Maureen Thorson suggests a poem with several statements (at least three) beginning "I remember"; and Andrea Boltwood says: "Write a new-perspective poem. Take something big and make it small, take something ugly and make it pretty, take something happy and make it sad — any new perspective will do."

Thanks to all three of you for providing prompts all month. Many, MANY poems got written across the world because of your suggestions. Brava and bravo!

Below is an "I remember" poem á là Maureen. Not remembrances from everyday life, however, but recollections from the myriad lives we spend behind our closed eyelids.

I Remember Dreams

I remember dreams, like old friends. Not old friends exactly but ones who come around again and again. Often firing up old, now familiar, fears from childhood to the present.

I remember a dream. Mama and Papa and I are strolling through a park. It's green and well-cared for. The lawns are bordered by flower beds: red, yellow, white blossoms. There are large metal statues of human figures, probably bronze, green that's almost black, with a patina that roughens their exteriors. It is quiet. Then the statues begin to move, creakily and with jerky sidewise movements. Papa and Mama don't notice. The statues descend from their stone pedestals. They move slowly towards us. I tell my parents that we must run, but they laugh and converse, ignoring me. I run and leave them. The statues move quicker, close in.

I remember a dream. I'm probably twelve or thirteen. I'm with one of my friends; who it is changes from one time to the next. Sometimes it's Jimmy or Joe; other times it's Ronny or Mike. We wield toy machine guns with olive drab bandoliers. We come upon a submarine, moored to the earth, half submerged in dark gray water. We board the craft, descend from the conning tower into a control room. There are twinkly colored lights in banks and arrays on the bulkheads. The control room is empty. Somehow my friend and I realize there's a war, and it's up to us to win the day. Absolutely crucial in order to save not only the country but our friends and families. But none of the controls work. I climb up to the top of the conning tower, poke my head and shoulder up through the hatch. The submarine is in a small lake, perhaps a pond. We are completely surrounded by land.

I remember a dream. I'm in college. I live in a dorm. It's gigantic with banks of elevators and long hallways. There are passageways to an equally gigantic mall, with stores displaying all sorts of colorful products though I can never quite see what they are. Just that it's all glitzy and space-opera like. Somewhat like the Jetsons but with a lot more gloss and dazzle, shimmer and coruscation. Detail upon detail pack all surfaces in all directions, like a Steven Spielberg movie gone wild and renegade, out of any conceivable control. I'm lost. I can't find my way back to the dorm. There are hordes of people but I don't know anyone. In fact, they don't seem to notice me. I just wander and wander, as if in an episode of Twilight Zone. Some nights I find my way back to the college campus but not the dorm and am lost among institution-like buildings. Whenever I do get back to the dorm, I get trapped on elevators or can't negotiate the Byzantine elevator system. Other nights, I'm still at the mall though it's as large as a city, and I take monorail trains that get me more and more lost.

I remember a dream. Not one I've had but one I'd like to have. It's a dream like Mary Ann has told me that she has often. It's in a rural landscape. I'm on a farm but not one I've ever been to in real life. It's like a farm in a reading primer. Like Dick and Jane would visit with their dog Spot. There's no one around. There are rail fences, lots of greenery. Planted acres in the distance. Haystacks. Chickens. Other livestock I can't ever see or pinpoint but I hear them nearby. I stand with my arms down by my side, hands against my thighs. I lean forward, point my chin toward a fluffy cloud up in beautiful blue sky, and I start to lift off the earth. I soar and pivot in air.

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

That's really more like a notebook freewrite than a completed poem. This is a meditation I've wanted to commit to paper for a long time. It's because of being in the daily poem-writing mode that is NaPoWriMo that I've finally been able to get this down. It will surely go through many versions before it's done. At the moment, I still have no idea where it will go. Or what it's about.

To move to the next item on today's agenda, let me give you some background on how Catherine and I know each other. On May 28 of last year, I wrote in the blog about an in-class poetry-writing exercise that had worked particularly well in my Beginning Poetry Writing class. I posted the instructions for the exercise as well as some examples of what my students and I had written during a fifteen-minute period. This exercise was based on borrowing words from a single paragraph from the story "VIVA!" by Erin McReynolds, which appeared in the Winter 2011 issue of the North American Review, where I serve as Editor.

In the comments to that blog post, someone I didn't know responded with this: "I am a graduate student in literature and creative writing. I have been looking for things to pull me out of my comfort zone, so to speak. This is a great exercise. Although I wouldn't hold my effort up against the ones posted above, I thought I would share what your exact exercise and 10 or fifteen minutes yielded for me." The poem she shared from having tried my exercise was very good.

That graduate student was Catherine Pritchard Childress from East Tennessee State University. We came to be facebook friends and in December 2011, I posted a reprise of the writing exercise with several more poems Catherine had written from that same exercise. Eventually, I accepted a later version of one of these poems to publish in the North American Review.

Thinking about doing NaPoWriMo this year, I realized that I had never finished it before because I wasn't accountable to anyone besides myself; so easy to say, "oh well, can't do it." Since I have gained great admiration for Catherine's poetry, I asked her to do the Poem-a-Day Challenge with me. We would keep each other honest and provide motivation to get a poem done each day. As you have seen if you've been keeping up with our work this month, it's been a marvelous buddy system for us.

Anyway, I suggested to Catherine that we take the entire column from Erin McReynolds's story from which the original exercise was mined and see if we could each discover or uncover a visual found poem in it, what people also call an altered-page poem or an erasure poem. Below are our resulting poems.

These poems might easily fit under Andrea's prompt above to find a "new perspective." In this case, this would refer to a new perspective on text that both of us had worked with before. A lot of fun, actually. Especially the making of the visual artifact.

Our featured blog today is The Found Poetry Review. Not actually a NaPoWriMo site though FPR did run a National Poetry Month found-poetry program throughout the US, called The Found Poetry Project, in which "found poetry kits" were seeded in many locations across the country to teach people about found poetry and encourage them to find found poems and submit them to be published on the project's website. Fun. Take a look at the found poems that have been coming in from people who are probably not usually connected to poetry.

Well, friends. That's it for this year's NaPoWriMo and Poem-a-Day Challenge. It's been a tremendous lot of fun. First time I've ever made it all the way through (in the past, I would consider myself lucky if I finished with more than three or four poems); sincerest thanks to Catherine Pritchard Childress for being my writing NaPoWriMo buddy and being someone I would be accountable to if I didn't write a poem a day. I enjoyed your poems very much, especially the ones spoken by and about women from the Bible. Good luck with your poems; you and they will go far.

I hope you enjoyed reading poems here during National Poetry Month. I also hope you will continue to read poems all year. And then write a poem a day next April, 2013. Please leave a comment below, okay? Thanks. Ingat.

POEM-A-DAY 2012 • 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

Sunday, April 29, 2012

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

Hello, everyone. It's the eve of the last day of National Poetry Month and NaPoWriMo and the Poem-a-Day challenge. Ain't it grand?

Okay, penultimate prompts! Maureen Thorson suggests a clerihew or a double dactyl. Andrea Boltwood says, lune! — either the Collom or Kelly types. Robert Lee Brewer tells us: "Take a favorite line or image from an earlier poem this month and re-work it into a new poem." That's a marvelous idea, Robert; I might not do that today but I'll certainly try it later.

I recently wrote clerihews for an office reception for a colleague who's stepping down from his current position, so I was primed for Maureen's prompt. Here are a couple of new clerihews on Presidential politics.

Two Clerihews

President Barack Obama . . .
Bet you thought I would rhyme with yo mama,
But there's also hosanna and flora or fauna,
There are more rhymes with Romney — don't wanna.

Governor Willard "Mitt" Romney
Would give all of us imsomni—
If Mitt became President or even just veep,
None of us would ever get any sleep.

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

I also started to work on a clerihew that rhymed Gingrich with getting rich; I envisioned third and fourth lines that would rhyme getting paid with getting lei'd but decided maybe it would insult the state of Hawai'i, and so I abandoned it.

Catherine wrote clerihews on Presidential politics as well. When she sent them to me, she wrote they were "really fun and really pathetic." But that's the point with clerihews: they should be over the top, irreverent, slapstick, even silly. All in good fun, right?

Two Clerihews

Senator Rick Santorum
says we aren't allowed to abort 'em
but we can't take pills to prevent 'em
So I guess we will all be called Mum.

Secretary of State Hill Clinton
I sure wish you won, but you didn't
Here's hoping that twenty-sixteen
will bring the US its first queen.

—Draft by Catherine Pritchard Childress     [do not copy or quote ... thanks]

Our featured NaPoWriMo site today is where the poet has been posting her NaPoWriMo poems, (How many times can I say "NaPoWriMo" in one sentence?) When you get to her homepage, click on "Blog" near bottom right.

Perhaps I should have featured her website earlier since her poem-a-day pieces go "poof" after 24 hours. The one for Day 29 is up right now; click above and look at it — remember, select "blog." Here today, gone tomorrow!

Well, that's it for today. And almost it for National Poetry Month 2012. Just one glorious day left. See you at the "Last Day" festivities, then? Please write a comment below. Thanks! Ingat.

POEM-A-DAY 2012 • 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

Saturday, April 28, 2012

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

Twenty-seven poems done. (Actually, since I doubled up one day, twenty-eight.) How did the month go by so quickly?

Well, poem-a-day and NaPoWriMo (the challenges) wait for no one, so, prompts! Maureen @ "poem of space" / Robert @ Poetic Asides: "problem poem" / Andrea @ Circle the Block: "favorite place" poem. Ready, set, go!

Here's what Catherine wrote when she emailed me her piece for today: Here's a "poem" about a space — a garden. Well, Catherine, no need for quote marks around the p-word. This is a real poem. And, it seems, about a "favorite place." So you've mixed up two prompts!

Jackson Square After Beignets

Am I the flaming azalea, singing
In the garden by the crosswalk
Sweetness still on my lips?

—Draft by Catherine Pritchard Childress     [do not copy or quote ... thanks]

My poem today — linked hay(na)ku — mixes Maureen's and Robert's prompts: "space" and "problem." Andrea's prompt is in the mix too but in terms of a "favorite activity" more than a "favorite place." Also, there is a bit of back story below the poem.

Miracle Woman

Blue sky
all around me.

Hurricane wind.
Chute wouldn't pop.

opened but
failed. Oh shit.

the ground
at 80 mph.

out, dead.
But not dead.

Coma two weeks.
Left the

on my own
two feet.

Call me Ishmael.
Call me

Those fire ants
were my

Still skydiving. Wanna
come join

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

Here's the promised back story, incredible but true . . .
Charlotte, North Carolina: In September of 1999, Joan Murray's main parachute failed during a jump from 14,500 feet. Her reserve opened at around 700 feet, but then deflated. She landed in a mound of fire ants, whose stinging may have helped keep her heart beating. In a coma for two weeks, she was well enough to head home six weeks later. She returned to jumping in July of 2001.     (Unlucky Skydivers, The Free Fall Research Page)
May we all be so lucky. Live long and prosper, Joan Murray.

Our featured NaPoWriMo blog today was created specifically for this season: A Poem a Day with the motto "Rejecting Perfectionism and Cultivating Awareness." In a self-interview on the first of April, the blog's proprietor Megan Hippler said she is rejecting perfectionism because her "goal is not to publish perfect poems every time, but rather to create something and continue to practice." And why cultivate awareness? Because "the best poems start with honesty and grow from that kernel of truth into powerful works."

Megan's poems are sharp, precisely observed, and to the point, with beautiful, precisely rendered imagery. Look for example at "The Burrup Flares" on Day 21: a small seven-liner that makes a trenchant anti-pollution comment. You'll see what I mean if you google pics of "Burrup flares," for example this Getty image. Excellent work, Megan. Thanks for your keen vision and voice.

Okay, friends, two NaPoWriMo days to go. I hope you'll leave a comment below. Let's talk. Ingat.

POEM-A-DAY 2012 • 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

Friday, April 27, 2012

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

Day 33 — 3·3·3 — THREE CUBED. Prompts — Maureen Thorson: "nursery rhyme or clapping rhyme" — Robert Lee Brewer: "The Trouble Is ________" as a title — Andrea Boltwood: pantoum. Too bad each of them didn't give three prompts; then I could have said "THREE POETS CUBED."

Today, I'm taking on Andrea's suggestion of a pantoum. But first, some back story. Twenty days ago, I posted a poem titled "Black Encounter on the Eve of Easter" which deals with aswang, those Philippine monsters who have so many avatars: vampire, ghoul, shapeshifter, and more. Those of you familiar with my aswang work (both in poems and in illustration) know that my favorite is the manananggal, a woman who breaks herself apart at the waist and whose top half then grows wings to fly. The following poem is a response to that earlier NaPoWriMo poem . . . you might want to take a look at that one before reading this. In the comments to that Day 7 post, I had bantered with readers about the possibility this might be a love story in the offing, and perhaps today's poem below may be the start of that story. We'll see.

How the Aswang met Jesús on the Eve of Easter
— in Cutud Village, north of Manila, 1921
(a reply to "Black Encounter on the Eve of Easter")
So there's Jesús de los Santos in his bedroom, sleeping.
I've been watching Jesús from a distance for many days,
so handsome, his black hair glowing in the sunlight
when I would see him at market selling his vegetables.

I've been watching Jesús from a distance for many days,
and tonight I decided I would visit him, see him at home,
and not just when he's at market selling his vegetables.
So I split my body, breaking in half as usual at the waist,

since tonight I decided I would visit him, see him at home.
I stood in my bedroom, slowly unfurling wet black wings
as I split my body, ripping in half painfully at the waist.
Then I looked towards the wide beautiful moon, so free

after long minutes in my room, unfurling my wet wings.
I launched myself into night air and headed into the sky,
then flew towards Jesús’s house, so beautiful, so free.
The village was lovely, candle lamps glowing in windows.

I turned down toward the earth, falling out of the sky
and alighted gently, so gently, on his woven thatch roof.
His house was lovely, a lamp gleaming in his window.
I took care not to upset even the flame as I entered

and floated gently, so gently, up near the woven roof.
Now I watch Jesús, his sweat glistening as he lies in bed.
I took care not to awaken or disturb him as I entered,
but now his eyes open, dark brown irises glowing.

I watch Jesús, keeping very still, as he stirs in bed.
I stay as still as I can, my wings softly fluttering.
His eyes are open and staring, brown irises growing.
And then I see he has spotted me. He can see me.

I stay as still as I can, slow my wings' fluttering.
From the way Jesús's brows knit, his arms tensed,
I know he has definitely spotted me. Can he see me
trying to blend into dark ceiling, blend into black?

Then his brows grow more black, his arms tensed
with spreading darkening fur, his teeth growing long.
I try to hide in the ceiling. His body grows black
and blacker — his body distorts into a giant wolf

with black fur, feet and hands clawed, his fangs long.
And then I realize the truth: we're both aswang!
We both start to laugh and laugh, this huge wolf
and I. Waving blithely to him, I turn to fly away.

This truth will open up our lives: we're both aswang.
He's so handsome, black fur glowing in the moonlight.
Knowing I will see him again, I turn to fly away.
And there's my Jesús, head up to the sky, howling.

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

By the way, if you're interested in learning more about the pantoum, you might consult my article on pantoum form and history in the book An Exaltation of Forms: Contemporary Poets Celebrate the Diversity of Their Art, edited by Annie Finch and Kathrine Varnes (Michigan, 2002). This is available at Google Books, but my article (page 254) is not displayed, alas.

No poem from Catherine yet. I'll post her poem for Day 27 when it's ready.

Our featured poem-a-day blog today is Susan's Poetry where Susan L. Chast has been very faithfully producing more than a poem a day during the month. This April is a crossroads for Susan who very recently retired and whose NaPoWriMo poems are the start of a new life in art and performance. I particularly like Susan's "Nursery Medley" for today: a light-hearted "zombies and vampires" reboot of classic nursery rhymes. Take a peek . . . you'll be charmed.

Okay, three days to go, friends. Please leave a comment below. Also, do go back a day to see the sixth-graders' NaPoWriMo site I featured yesterday. Ingat.

Added 4/30/12: Everyone, here's Catherine's poem for Day 27. She'd like the sixth graders of Griffin Lit to know that she was inspired by them and their Day 30 prompt to imitate George Ella Lyon's "Where I'm From" poem to write this one. Wonderful, Catherine! And great for you, Griffin Lit kids, you inspired another poet!

Where I’m From
— after George Ella Lyon
I am from the red dirt seat of cut-off jeans,
from Hostess Ham on weeknights
always served with quarts of green beans,
mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese.

I am from an out of plumb, white house,
birthplace of my daddy and his,
where falling rain on rusted tin
serenaded my crowded sleep.

I am from a creek full of salamanders,
almost climbed maple tree, sweet peas
picked while I dawdled to church,
wild violets gathered in tiny bunches.

I'm from guilt trips and tenacity,
from Lela's eyes and Philo's brains,
Pritchards I didn't meet.
I'm from old money and clogged arteries,

from don't slay the King's English,
hair like a stump full of Grandaddy's,
Hellfire and brimstone, Walking through
the valley of the shadow of death.

I am from The Queen City and Curtis's Creek,
egg sandwiches and thickened potatoes,
from my grandfather's crooked pinky
I tried to straighten and my father's lazy eye.

I am from the empty pages
of a third child's baby book,
hidden pictures of kinfolk in caskets,
from the milk table and milk glass
that survived the faces in page after page
of my black and white reflection.

—Draft by Catherine Pritchard Childress     [do not copy or quote ... thanks]

POEM-A-DAY 2012 • 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 26, 2012

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

Welcome to Day 26, everyone. Amazing how April seems to be moving so quickly, don't you think?

Today's first prompt comes from Maureen Thorson: an elegy or anti-elegy. Catherine's poem for Day 26, while not strictly an elegy, certainly leans toward the elegiac.


Sitting on a yellow polka-dot cushion
I listen as the pit in my heart unfolds
to the surface like an accordion,
bellowing out a blue tune,
in and out of itself
like a well-traveled road map.

—Draft by Catherine Pritchard Childress     [do not copy or quote ... thanks]

Wonderful small poem, like a jewel — I particularly like the accordion image, Catherine, how the wants and lacks of our lives enlarge and diminish, ebb and flow. So true to the experiences of many, I would suggest.

Getting back to prompts, Robert Lee Brewer suggests an animal poem. And Andrea Boltwood says: "Write a pocket poem to carry in your pocket today." I like that last prompt quite a lot. According to the Academy of American Poets, today is "national poem in your pocket" day.

For a moment, though, let's depart from our usual order and announce our featured NaPoWriMo site for Day 26 now: Griffin Lit. This wiki is a NaPoWriMo project by sixth graders: Ms. Danielle Filas's Language Art 6 class in Village Academy Schools in Powell, Ohio. Ms. Filas told me via e-mail: "I am so excited for them. They have been absolutely fearless in their poetry making!" Yes, indeed they are, and they have been staying on schedule. Check out their lovely poems, friends.
If you'd like to say something to the Griffin Lit sixth graders and Ms. Filas about their poems, please leave a comment to this blog post below; they will be checking back here to see if anyone has responded. There is NO way to leave a comment on their site unless you join their wiki. So comment away here, gentle readers!

In honor of their brave venture, I've written the following "pocket poem" for the Griffin Lit kids. This poem is in the hay(na)ku form, which we've seen quite a lot this month: first line, one word — second line, two words — third line, three words.

Blue Bravura
— for the Griffin Lit sixth graders and Ms. Filas
like gems
in my pocket

and glisten
in the dark

always with
their blue light

hey you
pay close attention

blueberries sky
blue blue blue

egyptian jewels
sapphire tanzanite turquoise

lapis lazuli
azurite aquamarine topaz

jade dragon
breathing carnelian flames

steel blades
crocodile kampilan swords

blazing rock
guitar bass timbales

prophecies ballads
in yours mine

blue pockets
brilliant breathtaking words

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

Okay, that's it for today. Go write a poem. Or carry a poem in your pocket, not just today, but till the end of April. And beyond, even. Leave me a comment below, all right? Especially, a shout-out to the Griffin Lit sixth graders? Ingat.

Added 4/27/12: For people who are posting comments to the Village Academy Schools sixth graders: you can address the students and Ms. Filas directly here. No need to filter your comments through me. Thanks!

POEM-A-DAY 2012 • 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 25, 2012

Day 25 ... NaPoWriMo / Poem-a-Day

Hello, everyone! Day five squared, with a square five left to go. As far as prompts go, Maureen Thorson suggests a cento. Robert Lee Brewer says, "write a poem about a sport." And Andrea Boltwood recommends a "questioning poem."

I'm afraid none of those prompts worked for me today. So, no prompt at all. Just winging it. Here's an idea from my early undergraduate courses in astronomy, when I was virtually an astronomy major, though I never ended up declared it. Tried to write this very poem 30+ years ago, but I didn't yet have the skill or the mileage to pull it off.


in a binary star
two stellar bodies
of similar mass


she with her etsy shop
her handmade knickknacks
her gardening and cooking blogs


never in the same place
never at the same time

their barycenter

not the dodge caravan minivan
that sat interminably in the garage
because neither of them drove it

where neither of them ever were
where nothing is


their children

amy and sam

in the snow globe
of their frozen lives

girdled by



revolve around
a common center

he with his job as a loan officer
his maserati
his fender stratocaster


coming and going
going and coming

orbiting each other

not the house in the suburbs
not the vacation home in the poconos

their barycenter
an invisible point


their children

sam and amy


where not even snow fell
where not even their breaths steamed
where the kids stood forever



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

No poem yet from Catherine. I'll post that here when I get it. Looking forward to her poem!

Today's featured blog is MiskMask: Alphabet Soup de Jour. Head chef Misky is plating for us, with lovely presentation, sparkling and sprightly Poem-a-Day and NaPoWriMo sweets. Check out, for example, today's fun cento, channeling Lewis Carroll and Edward Lear, among others: "Onward the Noseybum." Also take a peek at Misky's other blogs on gardening, cooking, and more.

That's the end of TWO-FIVE. Doesn't that sound like CB slang? "TEN-FOUR, good buddy." Or police radio lingo: "My TWO-FIVE is in ten minutes." Anyway, you know what to do below in the comment section below . . . thanks. Ingat.

Added 4/30/12: Friends, here's Catherine's poem for Day 25. It's viciously delicious. Or deliciously vicious. Or something like that!

After School Snack

Barrel pressed cool
against her pulsing
throat, haute couture,
leather-gloved, slender
fingers demurely
caressed the trigger
before she kissed
the shell loaded just
for the occasion,
Greeted her children
with crimson mud
clotted in vacant eyes,
sharp slag barbed
in skull splinters,
empty fifth of gin,
warm milk, cookies,
red mess to clean.

—Draft by Catherine Pritchard Childress     [do not copy or quote ... thanks]

POEM-A-DAY 2012 • 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

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Day 24 ... NaPoWriMo / Poem-a-Day

Hey hey hey, poets and readers. Happy 2·12, 3·8, 4·6, 2·3·4, 2·2·2·3, and (in deference to our favorite, the word problem) two cubed times three and of course one times twenty-four. Math, math, math. Now I can say 4/5 of National Poetry Month 2012 is gone. Hail and farewell. Ave atque vale. Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres. Semper ubi sub ubi.

Back to the work of the day: prompts, prompts, prompts. Maureen Thorson says, "Today’s challenge is a lipogram/Beautiful Outlaw/Beautiful In-Law." Robert Lee Brewer tells us his "final Two-for-Tuesday prompt" is a love poem or an anti-love poem. Andrea Boltwood suggests "an exaggerated or fictional autobiography."

Okay, here is a little ditty from me that responds to only one prompt (finally) with a pair of linked hay(na)ku that invoke Robert's love and anti-love.

Falling Petals

loves me.
She loves me

Oh damn.
Damn damn damn.

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

Earlier in the day, I was saying to myself that that's not really going to be my Day 24 poem. But, as the day went on — it's now 8 p.m. — I've thought more and more that the little ditty is my Day 24 poem. I originally wrote this poem in, really, just a couple of minutes and thought of it as a lark. A joke. But as my various daily activities unfolded and the poem resonated and echoed in the back of my mind, I slowly began to realize that it actually is much more than a joke.

The flexibility of the hay(na)ku to express strong emotions and ideas in such a small space, in so few words, is incredible. Although we all know the formula that's spoken by the speaker pulling off flower petals is an alternation of "yes" and "no," the one word / two word / three word structure allows the phrase she loves me to repeat twice in the first stanza, as if to expand and magnify its power and significance. The word NOT, since it is forced into the second stanza by the hay(na)ku format, is separated from the positivity of that double she loves me. But then that same word demolishes the house of cards that is the opening stanza, in a much more devastating fashion than the simplistic alternation of the childish back-and-forth formula she loves me / she loves me not would seem to allow. The second stanza then becomes a repository for negativity with almost all six words forming the speaker's knell of increasing sorrow and loss.

If the poem were not in the hay(na)ku structure, I think this probably would be just a small farce. But the rigidity of the form's architecture underlines how the speaker is limited and constrained by the situation, by the unmitigated and unrelenting circumstances of this love or anti-love.

Moving on . . . no poem from Catherine tonight. I'll post it later on when she finishes it.

Our featured NaPoWriMoblog today is Jennifer Bullis: Poetry at the Intersection of Mythology and Hiking. Isn't that the most glorious subtitle ever? I'm imagining Loki and Thor in matching Gravity Defyer sneaks speedwalking up a mountain trail. They'd be movin! I know, right?

I really appreciate Jennifer's attitude to the whole NaPoWriMo/poem-a-day busyness; her current post's title is "NaPoWriMo Day 16 (Day 23 for Everybody Else)." She's not scrambling like many &mdash I'm guilty too — to write 7 more poems to get that 16 up to 23. No fuss. And that poem for Jennifer's individual Day 16 has the funniest lines I've seen all NPM: "I can hardly hear the chickadees / screaming Cheeseburger! Cheeseburger!"

When I read that, man, I fell out! I could hear Belushi (John, that is) and Ackroyd yelling, back in SNL's salad days, "CHEEbooguh CHEEbooguh, CHEEP CHEEP!" Ha! Sorry, kids, ya had ta be there.

Anyway, back to Jennifer's lovely poem . . . that loud chickadee moment is followed by this whispered sentiment, "I seek and find silence / in the alder leaves' / slowly / opening / eyes," accompanied by a photo of alder leaves that indeed look like little half-opened eyes. Such a sweet moment.

Take note also of Jennifer's poem for her day 11 (18 for others), titled "Lullaby for the Obsessive-Compulsive." Make sure you're not drinking something while you read it . . . if you don't want to make a mess, that is.

Enjoy Jennifer's mixology of mythology and hikingology! (Loki insisted it was "Vikingology" . . . imagine the nerve of that guy!)

Okay, done for the day. Exhausted from hiking with Loki and Thor, those @%¿#& show-offs! While we rest and recover, the world of poetry will be winching towards 5x5, with 5 left. Comment below, 'k? Ingat.

Added 4/25/12: Here's Catherine's poem for yesterday. Brava, Catherine!


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                        Poem removed for
publication purposes.
Sorry. It may return
at some point. Thanks.

—Draft by Catherine Pritchard Childress     [do not copy or quote ... thanks]

POEM-A-DAY 2012 • 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 23, 2012

Day 23 ... NaPoWriMo / Poem-a-Day

Happy Day 23, everyone! I'm going to start off differently today by giving you a poem before reporting on prompts. Here are a pair of linked haiku from Catherine. Pay close attention, now.


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                        Poem removed for
publication purposes.
Sorry. It may return
at some point. Thanks.

—Draft by Catherine Pritchard Childress     [do not copy or quote ... thanks]

That one bears some thinking. And rethinking. Quite a bit of wisdom there. Sneaks up on you.

Okay. Prompts, PDQ. Maureen Thorson: ekphrastic poem — Robert Lee Brewer: morning poem — Andrea Boltwood: "noise-y" poem. Once again, I've decided to mash up all three prompts, though I said I wouldn't. I'm an inveterate masher, I guess. Or masher-upper.

Anyway, to do Maureen's ekphrasis, I needed an image to work with. When in doubt, make your own. So I took a photo today of one of my vintage electrics, a guitar I played in bands during grade school and high school. A Sears Silvertone. A lot of parents in those days (mid- to late '60s) bought their kids guitars from Sears. This is called a Silhouette, modeled loosely after the Fender Jaguar. Ironically, I eventually gravitated toward Gibson guitars, Fender's main competitor. My main six-string now is a Gibson SG. Anyway, held the Silhouette up to the sky and snapped this shot with my phone.

Head to the Sky
— after Elizabeth Bishop
The sun, a ruddy egg poised on the pale wavery horizon, rose like a shimmery balloon into a bright robin's egg cumulus-clustered sky. Trees whispered their breezy sussurus into the thin violet haze of early morning. redburst
On the spaceport’s wide, white concrete, cracked and overgrown with green, the vast ship stood warming, its mirror-like engine housing thrumming and steaming with liquid oxygen. A single chrome fin arced upward like a pointing arm. whammy
On the side of the spaceship, its massive magenta hull plated with cardinal and amber ceramic armor, the shiny bubbles of the bridge and engine room lit up like angular bars of silver soap, chrome lozenges flashing morning sunlight back to the heavens. silverfoil
The sleek thin parallel armatures of the faster-than-light drive streamed from the black base of the ship’s tail, laddering up to its stiletto nose, high in azure air, pointing like a slim spike, a bright arrow, set to needle into the bleak vacuum of interstellar space. slinky
With the blaring clamor of a thousand thunderstorms, a million Jimi Hendrix feedback howls, his Woodstock “Star Spangled Banner” magnified a billionfold, the gigantic space ark Silhouette, a handmade Titan larger than a city, rose like a majestic frigate into the air, poised like a resplendent phoenix on its column of fire, this final vessel of humankind, leaving behind a ruined, exhausted Earth, this last sliver of Homo sapiens flinging itself outward into the obsidian brightness of the universe. rock

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

So there you go: an ekphrastic poem, set in the morning, with over-the-top soundplay. Whaddayathink?

Today we feature poem-a-day blog Marilyn Cavicchia, Editor and Poet. Marilyn has been writing marvelous April poems — I particularly like her parody on Day 15 of William Blake's "The Tyger" (with its own humorous "y" misspelling). This blog is also somewhat of a business venture for Marilyn . . . so if you need an editor, etc., dig deeper into this blog and what Marilyn has to offer.

Okay, that's it for today. As usual, please leave a comment below. See you tomorrow! Ingat.

P.S. Catherine's poem for Day 19 is up at the post for that day. Take a look!

P.P.S. I added another morel mushroom photo to yesterday's post. Check it out. Yum!

POEM-A-DAY 2012 • 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

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Day 22 ... NaPoWriMo / Poem-a-Day

Twenty-second day of the cruelest month. Well, so said Mr. Eliot. But actually, here in Iowa, it's a wonderful sunny day. This morning I got to ride my Yamaha Zuma to church to play bass. So not at all the cruelest day. Or month, for that matter.

How ya doin', everyone?

Day 22's prompts: (1) Maureen Thorson says, "In honor of Earth Day, today I'd like you to write a poem about a plant. Flowers, . . . a tree, or a shrub, or grass. Maybe even a fictional or mythological plant" ( (2) Robert Lee Brewer tells us, "For today's prompt, write a judging poem. This is a poem that could be judging others, or it is a poem [of] being judged" (Poetic Asides). (3) Andrea Boltwood suggests "a didactic cinquain" (Circle the Block).

I know I said yesterday I was gonna get off prompt, but these prompts seem tailor-made for mashing up! In fact, I'm thinking I could write a didactic cinquain that's also a tanka. So the lines would, in order, contain one word, two words, three words, four words, then one word, while at the same time having this syllable pattern: 5-7-5-7-7. That would be deliciously difficult, wouldn't it? The first word would have to be a five-syllable word . . . wow. The third line would have to be three words that add up to only five syllables . . . double wow. Furthermore, you'd have to follow the thematic rules for each line: (1) a subject, (2) a description of the subject, and so on. I think that might be too much to carry off. Okay, swearing off that. But I will mash up all three prompts above. Wait! Should I also include the Haiku Heights prompt for today: "Still"? Okay, okay, stop, Vince . . . you just haveta stop, buddy.

Judge Venus D. M. Flytrap, Esq.

Ruthless executioner.
Judgmental toward flies?
Suppose it was gy FREAKIN normous . . .

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

Here's Catherine's poem, prompted by Robert's "judging" idea.

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                        Poem removed for
publication purposes.
Sorry. It may return
at some point. Thanks.
—Draft by Catherine Pritchard Childress     [do not copy or quote ... thanks]

This afternoon, my wife Mary Ann and I went mushroom hunting with our teenage son Gabe in some nearby woods. And we came home with two and a quarter pounds of morels! Mostly found by Mary Ann (I think I found just one).

Mary Ann and Gabe with morels
Two and a quarter pounds of heaven

And now, in honor of our morel take of the day, here's another didactic cinquain on the flora theme. (Can't quite get "judging" in there.)

Mushroom Hunting in Iowa Woods

Morels . . .
Brainlike, spongelike.
$34.95/lb. commercially.
Flour, sauté in butter.

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

Our featured PAD / NaPoWriMo blog today is Through the Eyes of Meena Rose. I used both "PAD" and "NaPoWriMo" in that last sentence on purpose. Meena is producing (at least) two poems a day: one responding to Robert Lee Brewer's poem-a-day prompt at Poetic Asides and another from Maureen Thorson's daily prompt at . . . that's amazing! Even more amazing is that Meena is also taking part in NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month), which this April is focused on poetry; so every day Meena's additionally writing a prose meditation on poetry. Two poems and a prose piece each day. And they're consistently good! Brava, Meena.

Well, people. The morels are soaking in salt water right now (to get rid of any little bugs). They're waiting to be dredged in butter and fried delicately. Hope you won't mind excusing me now to help with this very important task. Please leave a comment below, okay? Thanks. Ingat.

Added 23 April 2012: Here's another picture of the morels we got . . the biggest one here is 9 inches long (the bent one on the right side). They're odd-looking little beasties, aren't they? But SO tasty!

POEM-A-DAY 2012 • 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

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Day 21 ... NaPoWriMo / Poem-a-Day

Day 7 x 3. Or, applying the commutative property of multiplication, 3 x 7. See? Never let anybody tell you all that math you learned won't be useful someday! I've always been enchanted by 21 and its factors 3 and 7, always thought those three numbers were magical somehow. As long as I can remember. Or at least since I learned multiplication in school.

Much gratitude today to Maureen Thorson, whose prompt at NaPoWriMo suggests trying the hay(na)ku. She mentions Eileen Tabios as inventor and me as namer . . . thanks for the shout-out, Maureen.

At the always stalwart Poetic Asides Robert Lee Brewer suggests an "under the microscope" poem, literally or metaphorically. At Circle the Block Andrea Boltwood suggests a palindrome poem, which mirrors itself, beginning to middle with middle to end, forward then reverse.

Again, I've mashed up all three prompts along with one of Maureen's previous prompts from Day 12: the homophonic translation or, as some call it, the translitic.

Under the Microscope
auto-translitic palindrome
opening with a hay(na)ku
Paramecium. Spirochetes.
Algae. Planarian eyespots.

Oh, gee. Plan your own ice pets.
Pair of mice, yum. Spiral cats.
I'm over.

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

Boy, these mashing-ups of daily prompts — four today, more than my usual two or three — are making for silly and sillier poems. Fun, though. I should really try for something more straightforward tomorrow. Just having trouble resisting those mash-ups!

Catherine sent me this poem, but said, "I can't seem to settle on a title," so I've come up with this great gem of a title:


You told me once you were going to paint a coffin,
brush it with bones and flames, like the lizard-skinned
race-cars and motorcycles that speed away
from your garage, emblazoned with your name.

Asked me if I would place you in it, put you on display,
bury you in your own creation. So claustrophobic
I can’t even be comforted by a down-coat on a cold day,
I agreed, only if you promised I would have no coffin at all.

Instead, split the wood, prepare the pyre, wrap me in red,
lay me on a bed of oak, throw the first torch,
kindle the consuming fire, dance in my smoky haze,
wail your grief, then surrender my body to the blaze.

—Draft by Catherine Pritchard Childress     [do not copy or quote ... thanks]

I love that phrase, "dance in my smoky haze," Catherine; I also like the occasional end rhyme. Brava!

Our featured NaPoWriMo blog today is Moon Junkee where Leslie LaChance is writing weird, wild, surreal poems. My fave is Leslie's parody of the divine Miss Em on Day 15. Enjoy!

Okay, done with 3, 7, and 21. Blackjack! Hope you've had a wonderful poetry day. See you back here for Double 11? Please take a moment to leave a comment below. We'd love you to hear what you're thinking here at Blue Guitar Man (that's what my wife Mary Ann calls the blog). Ingat.

POEM-A-DAY 2012 • 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

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