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


Catherine Pritchard Childress said...

I have said this privately (and likely will again), but I want all of our readers to know what a pleasure it has been to work with you this month. I didn't quite make it to 30 poems (though I still have 53 minutes) but you have inspired me, challenged me, and taught me I don't have to be SO SERIOUS all the time. Thanks. Hope this isn't the last time we work together. This has been my most productive, successful NaPoWriMo ever.

Anonymous said...

@Catherine: your poems resonate long after the reading... a single pluck of the harp string in an acoustically balanced room and that is just the "drafts" I have been able to see.
@Vince: I was at the Found Poetry Review not 20 minutes ago admiring the creativity and talent! Serendipity rocks!

On to your poem Vince... our dreams, part of our baggage... bittersweet when they serve their purpose... i promise you this, they too move when the job is done. It was such a personal and powerful contribution. Thank you for sharing.

Vince Gotera said...

Catherine ... many thanks to you. I really enjoyed working with you and am glad that you DID make it to 30 poems last night. Brava! What will we do with our days now? ;-D Keep writing a poem a day, I guess.

Vince Gotera said...

Meena, such lovely comments. Thank you. See you at your blog?

Susan said...

Vince and Catherine, visiting this site has enhanced this month for me so much that I hope to keep visiting. Catherine, Do you have your own site? Vince, thank you for your comments on my poems. It has been so good to have your feedback as I start to think of myself as a writer!

On a side note: I haven't been able to read today's poem, Vince, because of how the right edge is cut off on my server. I've adjusted everything I can but cannot fix the problem. (I had noted this before in your prose, but not in your poetry) Can you see the entire page over there?

De Jackson said...

Happy May Day, Vince! :) I call today Write Because I Wanna Day. ;)
I also submitted 5 Fibs this morning, for possible publication. Yay!
Thanks for your encouragement this month. Look forward to reading more of your stuff.
De Jackson

Susan said...

Something re-adjusted so I could read "I remember dreams"! Very fine, especially how it moves from past to future and this describes the whole:"Detail upon detail pack all surfaces in all directions, like a Steven Spielberg movie gone wild and renegade, out of any conceivable control."
I enjoyed this poem immensely.

Vince Gotera said...

Hi, Susan. Catherine can reply ... I'll let her know you commented. And with regard to my comments on your work, you're welcome, of course.

I've noticed that problem on PCs ... not sure what I can do about it. It doesn't happen on Macs for some reason.

Vince Gotera said...

De, no need ever to identify yourself. I know who you are from the picture and how you spell your name. I only one other person with the name and she uses two e's. You are welcome! Where did you send the poems? Wait, let's talk on fb ... more private. "See" you soon! Thanks for your comment here.

Vince Gotera said...

Thanks again, Susan. Keep in touch. Are you on facebook?

Circletheblock said...

I enjoyed following your dreams this morning! I will miss your daily posts!

I can't wait to try - and assign - the writing exercise. I love what you and Catherine did with it! Catherine, your poems this month were beautiful to read. Thank you!

I plan to revise and address the cruise ship passengers. LOL I felt like they deserved more attention than I could give them in a matter of hours on the last day of our challenge. ;)

Take care, Vince! We'll stay in touch via the magical www!


Vince Gotera said...

Andrea, thanks so much. I can give you Erin McReynolds's email if you want to try her text as a source. Or actually, you can use anything ... well, just about anything as long as it has interesting words in it. Look also at these visual found poems by carrieola: and

Unknown said...

Congrats on finishing the NaPoWriMo challenge, Vince! I got too lazy and busy this year, as always. :)

Circletheblock said...

Thanks! I'll take a look! :) I will probably let the kids search for their own sources and see what they come up with. Great fun! :)

Vince Gotera said...

Marty, the key this year (I've flunked for several years running) was having a buddy to be accountable to! And who is also a kick-ass poet.

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