Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Day 30 ... NaPoWriMo / Poem-a-Day 2013

Day 30. One of the hallmarks of my "teenagehood" was the slogan of the youth movement of the '60s: "Don't trust anyone over 30." This turned out to be a severe irony of youth because all those people eventually turned 30 (who'll you trust then, Mac) and surely most of them are now double 30. Mick Jagger, for example, will be turning 70 soon. Who'd a-thunk it? He's still doing live performances with the Rolling Stones but now keeps a tank of oxygen just offstage so he can keep up his energetic on-stage persona.

In today's last NaPoWriMo prompt, Maureen Thorson suggests, "Find a shortish poem that you like, and rewrite each line, replacing each word (or as many words as you can) with words that mean the opposite. . . . Your first draft of this kind of opposite poem will likely need a little polishing" (NaPoWriMo). Robert Lee Brewer's final Poem-a-Day Challenge assignment is the usual "Two-for-Tuesday prompt . . . a finished poem [or] a never finished poem" (Poetic Asides).

I have assigned Maureen's prompt to my poetry students in the past, so I know it works, but I just wasn't in the proper mood for this prompt today. Similarly, Robert's prompt is interesting, and his sample attempt at a poem responding to the prompt cleverly includes both themes of unfinished and never-to-be finished. But his prompt didn't click for me either, so I struck out on my own today.

Epiphany While Laying Out

                                        for Kathy

I can't recall now if I was invited,
or if I just happened to come upon you
catching some rays out front on your new lawn
at the little apartment you'd recently rented
for the summer. Soon I was next to you,
both in swimsuits, while you stifled a yawn.

You were holding a torch for our classmate Red.
I was so dazzled by your plum bikini and the sun.
"I’m gonna take a shower," you said. I asked to
join you and you smiled yes. I knew then you wanted
                much more than a tan.

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

How do you like that? It's been at least 30 years, maybe more, since I've written one of these — a curtal sonnet á là Gerard Manley Hopkins (like his poem "Pied Beauty"). Though I imagine Father Gerard wouldn't much appreciate what I've done with the form he invented to praise the Lord. But love is love, right?

Okay, that's the end of National Poetry Month 2013. Hope you've enjoyed not just my 30 poems but also the others that have appeared all over the blogosphere. Congrats to all my fellow NaPoWriMo poets and Poem-a-Day Challengers. See you all here next April?

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 says "Posted by" and click on the word "comments." Ingat, everyone.   ;-)

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Monday, April 29, 2013

Day 29 ... NaPoWriMo / Poem-a-Day 2013

Day 29. Couldn't find much of interest about the number 29, except to follow up what I said yesterday. 29 is the number of days in the month of February 25% of the time.   ;-)

Moving on to National Poetry Month concerns. Maureen Thorson's prompt today: write a poem that uses "at least five words in other languages" (NaPoWriMo). Robert Lee Brewer's prompt: "take a line from one of your poems (preferably one of your April poems), make it the title of poem today, and then, write the poem" (Poetic Asides).

I tried all day to make these two prompts work, together or apart. Searched my April poems for a suitable line or phrase to make into a title. No luck. The "other languages" notion in Maureen's prompt led me to a vaguely remembered scene in the university dorm where Kathy and I met, but no "five words in other languages" except for place names, at best. No way this poem is done, pretty much an early draft. An unrhymed haiku sonnet. Anyway, here you go.


First time I saw you,
Kath, was at an Eigenmann
tenth floor meet-up thing.

and grad students' dorm "blind date."
Kuwait, Tennessee,

Afghanistan, Rome —
name a place, we were from there.
I glimpsed your brown mane,

your freckles, green eyes
shyly turned when you saw me.
First time our eyes met . . .

turquoise and brown slid apart
then locked: destiny, kismet.

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

Pretty raw. I'd love to hear if you think this sonnet could be a keeper. Let me know in a comment, please? Look for a blue link below that says "Post a comment"; if you don't see that, look in the red line that says "Posted by" and click on the word "comments." Ingat, everyone.   ;-)

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Sunday, April 28, 2013

Day 28 ... NaPoWriMo / Poem-a-Day 2013

Day 28. Four weeks exactly. Two fortnights. 28 is the maximum number of days in February 75% of the time. But let's get back to April . . .

And so the gurus of April today. Robert Lee Brewer says, "write a shadorma. For those new to the shadorma, it’s a fun little 6-line poem that follows this syllable count: 3/5/3/3/7/5." Here's Maureen Thorson's prompt: "Today, I’d like you to pick a color. How many synonyms are there for your color (e.g., green, chartreuse, olive, veridian)? Is your color associated with a specific mood (e.g., red = passion, rage, blue = hope, truth)."

I've written six shadormas today, all on the color blue, specifically blue (or near blue) flowers. Hope you enjoy them!

Morning Glory
(Ipomoea purpurea)

Sky weeps tears,
blue at each new dawn.
Tight spirals
unfurl small
aquamarine nebulas,
bright indigo stars.

Canterbury Bellflowers
(Campanula medium)

Canterbury bells
peal blue songs
from tall stalks,
their campaniles of cobalt:
come, see, sniff, love, dream.

English Iris
(Iris latifolia)

Blue Iris
sticks her yellow-streaked
tongues way out,
plus la belle
clown of the flora circus,
ravishing trickster.
Bitter Nightshade
(Solanum dulcamara)

Star-shaped blooms—
called blue bindweed too
—stay away!
Berries like
soft plump juicy tomatoes
are Snow White apples.

Meadow Sage
(Salvia pratensis)

Latin name suggests
slim towers
of ultramarine reaching
high to blue heavens.

Sky Blue Asters
(Aster oolentangiensis)

Faces turned
skyward, asters seek
bright blue star,
one true ruler, messiah,
lone primeval root.

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

Man, those shadormas are tough. Kinda claustrophobic: those 3-syllable lines are so small. The 7-syllable penultimate line feels like a domed stadium! Anyway, that's the end of Day 28 for me. Two days to go. See you tomorrow?

Won't you comment, please? Look for a blue link below that says "Post a comment"; if you don't see that, look in the red line that says "Posted by" and click on the word "comments." Ingat, everyone.   ;-)

Morning Glory
English Iris

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Saturday, April 27, 2013

Day 27 ... NaPoWriMo / Poem-a-Day 2013

Day 27. Love this number. 27 = 33 = 3 x 3 x 3. 3 3's multiplied together. 3 3's = magical.

27 is an interesting coincidental in rock 'n' roll: "Many talented and famous rock/blues musicians died at age 27. These include Robert Johnson, Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Ron McKernan, Kurt Cobain, and Amy Winehouse. The musicians who died at this age are often referred to as the 27 Club" (Wikipedia).

I knew about Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Cobain being 27 at their deaths but didn't know about the others' 27-ness, especially Ron McKernan, "Pigpen" of the Grateful Dead, the person who first suggested putting together that band. Of the musicians in the 27 Club, Pigpen is the only one I've seen in person. As a kid growing up in San Francisco, I used to see Pigpen now and then in my neighborhood, i.e., the Haight-Ashbury district.

It just occurred to me that I lied, albeit inadvertently. I didn't know about Janis Joplin's 27-ness, though I might have at some point. What I was incorrect about was that Pigpen wasn't the only person I've laid eyes on. I used to see Janis on the streets of the Haight also, perhaps more often even because she was so see-able, so visually striking. And I used to see both of them frequently on stage, on flatbed trucks in Golden Gate Park or The Panhandle.

Okay, on to today's prompts. On the Poetic Asides stage, DJ Robert Lee Brewer says, "write a mechanical poem. Either you’re mechanically-inclined, or you’re like me and hit things to make them work after they break (which, by the way, rarely works)."

At the NaPoWriMo turntables, DJ Maureen Thorson says, "Think of a common proverb or phrase — something like 'All that glitters is not gold,' or 'If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.' Then plug the first three words of the phrase into a search engine. Skim through the first few pages of results, collecting (rather like a poetic magpie) words and phrases that interest you. Then use those words and phrases as the inspirations (and some of the source material) for a new poem."

The phrase I worked with was "take for granted" and I learned a lot from googling that: what (or whom) we take for granted, how we do it, why . . . as well as why and how we are taken for granted. Fascinating. So here's my prose poem á là Maureen, with a little dash of Robert in there, one mechanics-oriented section.

P O E M   R E M O V E D

while being submitted for publication.

Please come back later. The poem may
return at some time in the future.

Thank you!

Okay, just three more NaPoWriMo/PAD days left after midnight. Thanks for hanging in there with me.

Won't you comment, please? Look for a blue link below that says "Post a comment"; if you don't see that, look in the red line that says "Posted by" and click on the word "comments." Ingat, everyone.   ;-)

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Friday, April 26, 2013

Day 26 ... NaPoWriMo / Poem-a-Day 2013

Day 26. Two baker's dozens. 26 is also half a deck of cards, meaning there are 26 red cards and 26 black cards. Finally, as I'm sure we all know, 26 is the "number of spacetime dimensions in bosonic string theory" (Wikipedia).

In today's prompts, Robert Lee Brewer suggests "a casting poem. Casting can take on several meanings, including casting a spell, casting a line (such as in fishing), casting the actors in a play, and I suppose even the act of creating a cast." (Poetic Asides).

Maureen Thorson proposes an erasure poem: making a found poem from someone else's text by "systematically eras[ing] whole words and even lines, while maintaining the relative position of the remaining words" (NaPoWriMo).

There's a website that helps a would-be "erasure poet" by providing texts to erase. You use your mouse to turn words in a text "on or off," that is, visible or erased. This website, "Erasures," is sponsored by Wave Books. Give it a try . . . lots of fun.

Interesting as both Maureen's and Robert's prompts are, I opted for another terzaiku sonnet, a love poem. Once again, haiku stanzas rhymed in terza rima, interlocking aba bcb cdc ded ee. The last stanza is a couplet, 7 syllables in each line. Here we go.

The Summer Before
We Broke Up, 1983

                                              for Kathy

"Lift up your chin, Kath.
Shoulders to the left a bit.
Perfect! One, two —" click.

You gasped. "You promised
you would shoot on three!" We laughed
then tenderly kissed.

Back home in SF,
the photo clerk said, "Just bad
chemicals. We’ll give

you free film." I had
only sun-glint on your face —
mind’s camera — that

lovely chin you shyly raised.
One two click. Soft precious kiss.

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

Okay, friends, four days left in National Poetry Month. Incredible how quickly it's gone by.

Won't you comment, please? Look for a blue link below that says "Post a comment"; if you don't see that, look in the red line that says "Posted by" and click on the word "comments." Ingat, everyone.   ;-)

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Thursday, April 25, 2013

Day 25 ... NaPoWriMo / Poem-a-Day 2013

Day 25. 5/6 of the way through National Poetry Month. 5 squared. 5 times 5. 25 is the first number mentioned in the title of one of my favorite Chicago songs: "25 or 6 to 4." I was 18 when that song came out in 1970 and I learned Terry Kath's bravura guitar solo in it by listening to the record over and over, working out the solo note by note. Even now, 43 years later, Kath's influence on my lead guitar playing continues to be substantial.

Here are today's "official" prompts. Maureen Thorson proposes trying a ballad. She notes "sub-genres . . . including the sentimental ballad (think 'Danny Boy'), the gruesome murder ballad, and of course, the power ballad. The form's come a long way from the folk songs with which it began, but the narrative aspect of the ballad remains intact. . . . If you have any musical talent, it might be fun to try and actually make a tune for your ballad!" (NaPoWriMo).

Robert Lee Brewer suggests an "Everyone . . ." title today. "Possible titles could include: 'Everyone Thinks I'm Crazy,' 'Everyone Knows the World Is Round,' 'Everyone Needs to Leave Me Alone,' or whatever it is that everyone is doing (or not doing)" (Poetic Asides).

My ballad titled "Everyone . . ." today is a parody of a well-known '60s song recorded by Jimi Hendrix, "Hey Joe." This song doesn't follow ballad meter but does feature what Maureen called "the narrative aspect of the ballad." If you don't know the song "Hey Joe," it might be a good idea to listen to it before you read the poem so you can catch on to what I'm lampooning.

Everyone Knows "Hey Joe"

                  —apologies to Jimi

Hey Joe, where you goin'
with that bun in your hand?
Hey Joe, I said where you goin'
with that bun in your hand?

I'm goin' down to the bakery.
The bun is rotten, my friend.
Yeah, I'm goin' down to the bakery.
The damn bun is rotten, my friend.

Hey Joe, I heard you took
that rotten bun back.
Hey Joe, I heard you took
that old rotten bun back.

Yes, I did, went down there,
but they wouldn't give my money back.
I said, Yes, I did, went down there,
but they wouldn't give my money back.

Hey Joe, what you gonna do?
Where are you gonna go?
Hey Joe, what you gonna do now?
Where are you gonna go?

To the Better Business Bureau,
where I'll lodge a formal complaint.
Oh yeah, to the Better Business Bureau,
and I'll lodge me a formal complaint.

Ain't no one gone mess with me there.
Ain't no baker gone dismiss me.
Ain't no one gone mess with me there, no.
Ain't no baker gone dismiss me.

I'll go back to the bakery
where they’ll give me a bun for free.
I'll go back to the bakery, yeah,
and they gone give me a bun for free.

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

Okay, that's it for Day 25. Won't you comment, please? Look for a blue link below that says "Post a comment"; if you don't see that, look in the red line that says "Posted by" and click on the word "comments." Ingat, everyone.   ;-)

P.S.  Remember a few days ago, on Day 19 I showed you the NaPoWriMo cover photo I created for my facebook? I thought I'd show you the current one I put together. Much calmer and more easy-going.

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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Day 24 ... NaPoWriMo / Poem-a-Day 2013

Day Two-Four. Let's see, 24 hours in a day, 24-carat gold. Of course, 24, the TV action series starring Kiefer Sutherland in which each episode comprised the 24 hours of a single day. And from our childhoods, the 24 blackbirds in the nursery-rhyme pie. I remember being freaked out by that as a child. I didn't have trouble with the blackbirds being cooked, but then they would sing. So they were still alive after being baked. Horrifying!

Okay, here are today's prompts. Robert Lee Brewer suggests we "write an auto poem. Auto could mean automobile, automatic, automaton, or any number of possibilities" (Poetic Asides). Maureen Thorson proposes we "think about words buried in words. In particular, think about the words buried in your own name. Plug your name into an anagram generator, like this one, and try writing a self-portrait poem using words that are generated" (NaPoWriMo).


              self-portrait using
              only letters in my name
              without repeating

ace action active
age antic aortic arc
argent avenger

centavo cento
conga creation ego
garnet gear genie

giant gnat granite
grieve grin grit icon iron
native neat nectar

never no novice
o ocean orca ova
overnice rain range

raven reaction
regain reign rent rice riven
rivet taco tag

tang tango tea tear
tiger tinge toga tonic
trace tragic train trance

triage trio vain
vector veering vegan vein
vent verge vertigo

veteran veto
victor vigor vinegar
vino vintage voice

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

I tried to do both prompts, as usual. I used only words that can be made of letters in my name, not probably what Maureen meant quite. So there's no syntax per se, only the overlapping of meaning zones around each word. As each word appears, it adds its aura to that of the others, and they bounce around a bit, like free magnets aligning themselves into force patterns. I also kept them in alphabetical order — my specific alphabet, in a way — which serves as a matrix holding each word in place but floating. That the words are also bound within haiku syllable-count restrictions also affects the overall sense.

Did you notice by the way that there are 24 lines in the poem? Though there are 9 haiku. How was that possible, do you think?

Very interesting to be constrained by using only the letters in one's name. Of course, we are affected every day by the 26 letters in the English alphabet. The Filipino alphabet, in contrast, has an extra letter ng that sounds like the English ng but can be used as an initial consonant; an English speaker learning Filipino would have trouble with a word like "Ingat" that I end my blog posts with. In the Filipino alphabet there is no letter f so a Filipino learning English would have difficulty with a word like "father."

There are fewer consonants and vowels in one's "auto-alphabet"; in mine, there are only 6 consonants c, g, n, r, t, and v. All the vowels except u. So it's an alphabet poem but one that comes from an idiosyncratic alphabet. Fun, hey?

Okay, we're 4/5 done with National Poetry Month. Won't you comment, please? Look for a blue link below that says "Post a comment"; if you don't see that, look in the red line that says "Posted by" and click on the word "comments." Ingat, everyone.   ;-)

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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Day 23 ... NaPoWriMo / Poem-a-Day 2013

Day 23. Today is Shakespeare's birthday, born 1564. Had he been an Old Testament patriarch, he would be turning 449 today. Or maybe if he was Methuselah's lesser-known sibling, then four and a half centuries would be a walk in the park.

Maureen Thorson prompts us today to write a triolet, an old medieval French form that has continued to be written through the centuries, though it's quite rare in our time (NaPoWriMo). Robert Lee Brewer's customary "Two-for-Tuesday prompt" suggests writing "a love poem" and/or "an anti-love poem" (Poetic Asides).

Now you know I tackled both prompts, right? Doing both today was a walk in the park. Out of Robert's two roads diverging in a yellow wood, I chose this path: the love poem road, driving a Chevy Triolet.

Tryst in a Safe Place, 1983
for Kathy
Stealing kisses in the ironing room,
that's when I fell in love with you.
When you and I lived in the dorm,
stealing kisses in a common room
was unheard of. But I knew no one
ironed any more: perfect place to
steal kisses. In that ironing room
we fell in love, just me and you.

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

Kind of a "stretchy" triolet. I took a lot of liberties with the form. Could I get you to comment about that? 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." Ingat, everyone.   ;-)

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Monday, April 22, 2013

Day 22 ... NaPoWriMo / Poem-a-Day 2013

Day 22. What comes to mind immediately is the novel Catch-22 by Joseph Heller; in our everyday language we use the slang "catch-22" to describe a problem that can't be solved because the problem itself prohibits a resolution. A no-win. Kobayashi Maru. And there's also the .22 caliber rifle so often mentioned in literature because it's a well-known weapon. Lots more 22-related trivia, but let's get to the poetry.

Maureen Thorson suggests today we "write a poem in keeping with Earth Day — it could be a reflection on what's growing in your garden, a modern pastoral, or a Marianne-Moore-style poem about an animal. Anything to do with the natural world is fair game" (NaPoWriMo). Robert Lee Brewer's humorous prompt is to "write a complex poem. Complex is a complex word that can refer to mental state, apartments, difficulty of a situation, and so many other complex situations" (Poetic Asides). Love how he uses the word "complex" to define "complex" . . . nicely circular argument.

Once more, I'm attempting to do both prompts, even though I'm not very handy with gardens or pastorals. I've written a close imitation of Marianne Moore's 8-line poem "A Jelly-Fish," trying to stay reasonably close to its sense pattern, its syllabics, rhythm, and rhyme. I'm less sure about achieving Brewer's idea of "a complex poem"; I suppose there's complexity in my poem's imagery being applicable to larger human interactions, especially sexuality. Also any imitation poem will be intrinsically complex because part of its warp and woof is the model on which it was based. Anyway, Moore for sure, Brewer maybe.

Venus Flytrap

Avoidable, unavoidable,
it seems incredibly like
a fuschia-tinged vagina
ringed by stiff green hair, spiked.
Touch inside and it slams shut
to liquefy us like common flies.
Relax, stay still, it releases, as if
its rough cage was a soft embrace.

—Draft by Vince Gotera   [Do not copy or quote . . . thanks.]
I hope you enjoyed the poem. And that understanding it in some way or other wasn't a catch-22.

Won't you please comment below? Look for a blue link below that says "Post a comment"; if you don't see that, look in the red line that says "Posted by" and click on the word "comments." Ingat, everyone.   ;-)

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Sunday, April 21, 2013

Day 21 ... NaPoWriMo / Poem-a-Day 2013

Day 21. The card game Blackjack is sometimes called "21" because that's the score that trumps all others. There's the 21-gun salute in military honors for heads of state. 21 is the title of a recent album by Adele. If we put our minds together we could probably come up with 21 21s, but I bet you'd like to get to the poetry.

Okay, then. Robert Lee Brewer suggests, "write a senryu. A senryu is like a haiku with less restrictions and different subject matter. It's a 3-line poem with a traditional 5/7/5 syllable (or sound) pattern, and the poem typically deals with the human condition" (Poetic Asides). Maureen Thorson challenges us today to "re-write Frank O'Hara’s poem 'Lines for the Fortune Cookies' . . . the ideal fortune is a one-liner, and one-liners thrive on a very poetic compactness of expression." (NaPoWriMo).

I tried to mix the two prompts again, and it was fun to channel Frank O'Hara, but he's hard to top. Hope you enjoy this little ditty: fortune cookie slips that are precise senryu.


You'll win Powerball
but have to share with millions
of perfect strangers.

Each and every time,
your Magic 8 Ball will say

A dark, handsome man
will hook up with you shortly.
He'll be four foot ten.

An uncle will die
and leave you a huge fortune
but the check will bounce.

You will find true love,
then all the leaves on the trees
will fall to the ground.

You'll take a long trip
then come home and discover
it was all a dream.

You will be hungry
again in an hour so
order take-out now.

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

The last one is actually a found poem. I got a fortune cookie fortune in December 2012 that said something pretty close to this. Unfortunately I've misplaced that slip. Once, maybe 21 years ago, I got a fortune that plagiarized an entire Frost poem, "The Secret Sits"! Alas, I've lost that one too.

I started off planning to write 21 senryu here, but the task was harder than I thought it would be. Nevertheless, the poem is 21 lines.

That's enough Day 21 for me. Come on back tomorrow. In the meantime, won't you comment below? Look for a blue link below that says "Post a comment"; if you don't see that, look in the red line that says "Posted by" and click on the word "comments." Ingat, everyone.   ;-)

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Saturday, April 20, 2013

Day 20 ... NaPoWriMo / Poem-a-Day 2013

Day 20. What's our 20? Here's where we are: exactly two-thirds into National Poetry Month. Using all our fingers and toes.

From Poetic Asides today comes Robert Lee Brewer's prompt: "write a beyond poem. The poem could be beyond human comprehension. It could be from the great beyond. It could be from beyond – another city, country, planet, solar system, dimension, etc. Don't be afraid to go above and beyond with it." Sounds promising.

From NaPoWriMo we get Maureen Thorson's challenge: "write a poem that uses at least five of the following words."
I've probably given away that I followed Maureen's prompt today. The words that are dark blue in the list above are the five I chose. More importantly, Robert's "beyond" notion fueled the poem's themes and imagery. So two merged prompts again today.

Magic Carpet

Kath, the strange beyond
enchants. Odysseys await.
Let’s ride, curl upwind

on Solomon’s steed,
woven nonpareil magic,
miraculous weft.

To Shangri-La’s peaks,
Rivendell's pellucid sky,
Barsoom’s svelte epic

towers swirling high
over copper horizon.
To Elfland we’ll fly,

Xanadu, Byzantium.
Narnia, Oz, and Aztlan.

—Draft by Vince Gotera   [Do not copy or quote . . . thanks.]    
Viktor Vasnetsov, "Flying Carpet" (1926)
Public-domain image from Wikimedia.

I'm glad I've succeeded in writing another terza rima haiku sonnet. Or, as I've decided to call this form (my mercurial invention) the terzaiku sonnet. What do you think of that as a form name?

That's it for Day 20, friends. Won't you comment, please? Look for a blue link below that says "Post a comment"; if you don't see that, look in the red line that says "Posted by" and click on the word "comments." Ingat, everyone.   ;-)

POEM-A-DAY 2013 • 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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