Thursday, April 30, 2015

Day 30 ... NaPoWriMo / Poem-a-Day 2015

Day Thirty. Another National Poetry Month for the history books. I hope, if you were writing a poem a day, that you succeeded. If you didn't, that's perfectly all right. You'll be able to do it next time!

Maureen Thorson's NaPoWriMo prompt: "I’d like you to try an odd little exercise that I have had good results with. Today, I challenge you to write a poem backwards. Start with the last line and work your way up the page to the beginning."

Robert Lee Brewer's PAD prompt: "take the phrase 'Bury the (blank),' replace the blank with a word or phrase, make the new phrase the title of your poem, and then, write your poem. Some possible titles include: 'Bury the Hatchet,' 'Bury the Body,' 'Bury the Past,' 'Bury the Hate,' and 'Bury the Acorns.'"

I made my Thorson upside-down poem an abecedarian to keep control of the composition. I would know that the first line would start with a Z and then I would have to lead somehow to a Y and then to an X, etc. For some reason, I decided to up the ante by making each line only one word long. I started writing the ZYX words at the bottom, working backward, but then simultaneously worked on the ABC words to make sure it made sense going down the page. I found myself essentially writing two poems that would meet in the middle (around M and N), even though they were the same poem, the same column of words. So I had inadvertently doubled Maureen's prompt. Turned out I had upped the ante a bit.

The Brewer prompt entered in with the poem's sense-making. I'm a fan of The Walking Dead show and comics, and Brewer's word "bury" somehow brought "zombies" into the poem, even if the word doesn't appear. I didn't plan to do that; it just somehow happened. Fun, I hope.

Bury the Zombies
— a somersault abecedarian
    read first down left column
    and then down right column
    same words, new punctuation


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

At first I typed the draft poem out A-Z, with instructions to the reader to also read the poem from bottom to top. I left off punctuation so as not to limit sense-making in the two directions. Then I decided to make it easier on the reader by also typing out the word list flip-flopped (Z-A, in a second column). But then I noticed that the lack of punctuation made the meaning ambiguous in places. Eventually, I realized that punctuation had to be inserted and different in both columns in order to guide flow and meaning.

I call the form a somersault abecedarian because of how the A-Z sequence is turned over in the second column. You should try to write one. They're fun but also the devil to carry off.

Okay, on to Alan's last poem for National Poetry Month. "I went a bit rogue with this one. Brewer's prompt about burial suggests that a literal burial was not necessary; I was thinking about what gets revealed when cleaning out a drawer. Why this poem turned out a sonnet, I don't know."


A bottle smaller than my thumb, tucked back
behind the various home cures, old gauze
unwound and yellowed, lozenges of Halls
Mentho-Lyptus, Band-Aids, liquorish Black
Draught, and, just hidden in a paper sack,
some “rooster pills,” four rolling loose moth balls,
dull dried-up Paregoric, Dr. Scholl’s
bunion cushions, liniment, half-smoked pack
of Salems, picture of my infant wife
still swaddled, in her sleepy mother’s arms,
the last of five, who spent her childhood life
among Republicans, scared false alarms
from Birchers, Auburn fans, Braves’ twisted knife
of fandom, what we hope will cure still harms.

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

These details bring me back, Alan. Mercurochrome was the first-aid wound treatment I preferred because the other option, Merthiolate, stung. A lot. A LOT. I also remember Paregoric, for gastric distress and other ailments. Another item I could imagine in this drawer is Vicks VapoRub, though Mentho-Lyptus is reminiscent of it. Also, at the dinner table sometimes, my dad, a devoted Democrat, would rail against John Birchers. I used to think when I was little that Birchers had something to do with tree branches.   

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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Day 29 ... NaPoWriMo / Poem-a-Day 2015

Day Twenty-Nine. Looking online for something to say about the number 29, I found these interesting facts: According to USA Today, 29% of married couples share a toothbrush. It would take 29 million years for a car traveling 100 miles per hour to reach the nearest star. And April 29 — today — is International Dance Day!

Maureen Thorson's NaPoWriMo prompt: "write a poem in the form of a review. You can review either animate or inanimate things, real places or imaginary places. You can write in the style of an online review (think Yelp) or something more formal that you might find in a newspaper or magazine. (I imagine that bad reviews of past boyfriends/girlfriends might be an easy way to get into this prompt, though really, you can 'review' anything in your poem, from summer reading lists for third graders to the idea of the fourth dimension)."

Robert Lee Brewer's PAD prompt: "write a what nobody knows poem. It’s easy to write a poem about what everybody already knows, though it may be difficult to write an interesting poem about such things. Still, use today’s prompt to explore things people may not know — secret stories, locations, and so on."

Since Kathy and I live 1000 miles apart, I occasionally take a selfie to show her my look for the day. This afternoon's selfie was from the side and in it I found something to write about.
I hope I've been successful today in combining the "official" prompts for a review and the topic what nobody knows.

My Father Reviews My Hair Style

                        —a hay(na)ku sonnet

nobody knows
looking straight on

I’ve got
a baby ponytail

bantam swashbuckle
serpentine of black,

how iconoclastic —
rebellious! — I am.

Papa, long dead,
shakes his head.

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

Here's Alan's segue into his poem. "Today, I attempt to blend the Thorson prompt of a review with the Brewer prompt of what nobody knows. I spend a great deal of time writing about literature, of course, but I also write about music — I co-edited with Roxanne Harde a collection of essays about country music, Walking the Line: Country Music Lyricists and American Culture — so I was at one time drawing some distinctions between AM pop and contemporary music. I sort of put myself to the challenge of getting copies of some of the most sickening pop of the era, and I discovered this album on one of the online retailers. The problem was that it was listed by the wrong title. If you get a copy of the CD, the title on the spine is ’70s Party Classics, but the title on the cover is ’70s Party Classics with the word Killers written over the last word of the title. That made finding the album a bit more complicated."

’70s Party Classics

You may not realize it, but the spine
on this CD is full of lies — it’s meant
to drive adults away though treacly hits
they might remember from the seventies,
when AM pop began to eat itself.
I swear a deli down in Knoxville played
this disc to drive its customers to gulp
food down and clear the seats for turnaround.
I will not mention songs — this festered nest
of earworms almost breaks a man like me,
who built his tolerance bits at a time,
but I will name the culprits: Dawn, Clint Holmes,
Bo Donaldson, Dan Hill, and Paper Lace.
If Terry Jacks were on this disc,
the ATF would confiscate it, but
Paul Anka’s here, the Captain & Tennille, and Rupert Holmes
(no relative to Clint that I can tell),
Sammy Davis, Jr., Morris Albert,
the Starland Vocal Band, a dirty joke
sung straight by someone named MacGregor — how
I wound up with this disc I cannot say.
I’m shamed to see my surname shared
with two offenders on this ugly thing.

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

Alan tells us, "As indicated in the poem, the worst of the '70s earworms, 'Seasons in the Sun,' is not on the CD, but this one disc is a useful tool to create a noxious pop mix to clear rooms, void appetites, and extinguish all romance in any group. It's the saltpeter of albums, I assure you. If you are so unfortunate as to have a frat house next door to you, get some amps, some mighty speakers, and let loose."

Alan also says, "There's a trick in this poem. I made the two worst songs not fit in the rest — the line that mentions Sammy Davis, Jr., and Morris Albert is trochaic instead of iambic."

If you're not familiar with poetic meter, what Alan means is this: the poem is made up mainly of iambs (dah-DUM). So the preceding line — "no relative to Clint that I can tell" — has an iambic pattern (i.e., made up of iambs): "no REL- | a-TIVE | to CLINT | that I | can TELL" . This iambic pattern is predominantly used throughout the poem.

But the line about the worst songs and singers on the CD — "Sammy Davis, Jr., Morris Albert" — uses not iambs but rather trochees (DUM-dah): SAM-my | DAV-is | JUN-ior | MOR-ris | AL-bert | (a trochaic pattern). So essentially that line is upside-down from the rest, if you will, calling attention to itself by its opposite rhythm, and thus calling attention to the worst singers. Clever, huh?

Thanks so much, Alan. Very entertaining poem, especially that bit of metric magic. Friends, here's the cover of this invaluable CD, showing the title "full of lies."
Hang on to that one, Alan. If it becomes a collector's item, you could retire in comfort! At present, though, you can buy it from Amazon for $1.46.

Incidentally, Alan, one of the unforgettable earworms on this CD, "Escape (The Piña Colada Song)," by your "cousin" Rupert Holmes, hit number 1 in the 1979 Billboard Hot 100. Bet he made a pretty penny with that song and still gets royalties every time it's played on the radio. Maybe Rupert's the one retiring in comfort.

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Ingat, everyone.   

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Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Day 28 ... NaPoWriMo / Poem-a-Day 2015

Day Twenty-Eight. At the end of this day, exactly four weeks — 7 x 4 — of National Poetry Month will have passed. And two days left in which to write poems for NaPoWriMo or PAD.

Maureen Thorson's NaPoWriMo prompt: "write a poem about bridges. A bridge is a powerful metaphor, and when you start looking for bridges in poems, you find them everywhere. Your poem could be about a real bridge or an imaginary or ideal bridge. It could be one you cross every day, or one that simply seems to stand for something larger — for the idea of connection or distance, for the idea of movement and travel and new horizons."

Robert Lee Brewer's PAD prompt: the last "Two for Tuesday" Poem-a-Day prompt till next year: "(1) Write a matter poem" and/or "(2) Write an anti-matter poem."

Probably no surprise I'm attempting to meld all three prompts: bridge, matter, anti-matter.

                          — for Kathleen Ann Lawrence

Kathy, you are my bridge between what matters
and what doesn't matter. My very own
Golden Gate Bridge. What matters: flesh and bone.
What doesn’t . . . well, wait. Everything matters.
Spring blossoms. Alices and Mad Hatters.
Octopi. A fallen ice cream cone.
The child crying from dropping that ice cream cone.
Flags of countries, brand new or in tatters.

Kathy, you are my bridge . . . let me start over.
You connect me to the finest version
of myself. You are my moonbow, my sun
dogs. You are the cloud of quicksilver shooting stars.
You are the rhyme with orange. Lawrence. See?
You are the whole poem. A to Z. Infinity.

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

Friends, I've always kinda thought it was silly of poets to title a poem "Poem" but I find myself in that very situation. And it's not silly — it's frustrating. Any help you can provide with this quandary I'd appreciate very much.

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!


Great job with the blank verse, Alan. Also I love the specifics of the fish fry, especially the "grease [that] traces shiny spots / where we have touched the tablecloth to wipe / our hands just clean enough." Well-lived, well-observed details.
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Monday, April 27, 2015

Day 27 ... NaPoWriMo / Poem-a-Day 2015

Day Twenty-Seven. As a child, I found 27 enchanting, as I said about 24 recently. The number 27 is equal to 9 x 3, and the digits 2 and 7 in 27 add up to the 9 that's a factor of 27. I'm sure there's something about the number 9 and base 10 that makes 9 so interesting: 9 x 2 = 18 and the digits 1 and 8 add up to 9;  9 x 4 = 36 and the digits 3 and 6 add up to 9;  9 x 859,472 = 7,735,248 and the digits 7, 7, 3, 5, 2, 4, and 8 add up to 36, and then the digits 3 and 6 add up to 9. So 27 is not alone in that adding-up-to-9 thing. I'm sure a mathematician could explain those cool 9-effects clearly. To me it's all glorious mathematical magic.

Maureen Thorson's NaPoWriMo prompt: Write a "hay(na)ku [which] consists of a three-line stanza, where the first line has one word, the second line has two words, and the third line has three words. You can write just one, or chain several together into a longer poem. For example, you could write a hay(na)ku sonnet." Thanks so much for suggesting the hay(na)ku today, Maureen, and also for the shout-out to me. I appreciate it!

Robert Lee Brewer's PAD prompt: "write a looking back poem. Of course, some people just glance over their shoulders, and others stop and turn all the way around. Some look back in time and weigh their successes and failures, evaluate things they could do better. Some claim they never look back. Whatever your stance on looking back, capture it in a poem today."

Since I wrote a hay(na)ku sonnet on Day 15, I'll write a longer hay(na)ku poem today, of course looking back to combine the two "official" prompts.

Looking Back to the Stars

child eyes
adored starships, SF,

Mercury, Gemini, Apollo.

Neil Armstrong’s
astounding moon landing.

Rice Burroughs’
visionary Barsoom novels.

Space Odyssey.
Flash Gordon

utopias, dystopias:
Magnus, Robot Fighter,

Marvel debut
battling space aliens.

Duck Dodgers
in the 24½th

The Jetsons,
Termites from Mars.

always nonpareil,
matchless . . . Star Trek.

grown up,
I ask you,

my jetpack?
My commuter spaceship?

Penny Robinson,
my spacegirl crush?

were promised
a space future.

we got
runaway climate change.

fighting Demos,
progress always retrograde.

Dale Arden,
Princess Dejah Thoris,

Janice Rand,
let’s fly away.

eerily undulating,
let’s fly away.

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

I realize it's overly sentimental, even mawkish. But where are our Jetson flying cars? To my girlfriend Kathy . . . they're all fictional women!   

Marvin the Martian and Duck Dodgers
in Duck Dodgers in the 24½th Century.
Okay, on to Alan's offering for the day. "I have written a hay(na)ku 'looking back' poem," Alan tells us, "matching both prompts and finally writing one of Vince's favorite forms."

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!


That's both haunting and lovely, Alan. Since it's a sonnet — a hay(na)ku sonnet — the connections to love and human desire are unavoidable, simultaneously sweet and sad.

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Sunday, April 26, 2015

Day 26 ... NaPoWriMo / Poem-a-Day 2015

Day Twenty-Six. Is today an especially unlucky day? Maybe even doubly unlucky? The numeral for today's date, 26, is 13 x 2, after all. Are there still people who believe the number 13 is unlucky? In my hometown, San Francisco, what would be Thirteenth Avenue is instead named Funston Avenue. That probably changed, or began to change, around the time of my birth; one of the bands that had a hit when I was 13 was called The 13th Floor Elevators, one of the earliest psychedelic bands. That hit song was "You're Gonna Miss Me." I wonder if one were to send a letter to, say, 1313 Funston Avenue but addressed it to 1313 Thirteenth Avenue, if it would arrive. Or maybe, you're gonna miss me, baby.

Maureen Thorson's NaPoWriMo prompt: "Our last two prompts have been squarely in the silly zone — this one should give some scope to both the serious-minded and the silly among you. Today, I challenge you to write a persona poem — a poem in the voice of someone else. Your persona could be a mythological or fictional character, a historical figure, or even an inanimate object."

Robert Lee Brewer's PAD prompt: "take a word or two invented by William Shakespeare, make it the title of your poem, and write your poem. Click here for a link to some words coined by Shakespeare, who was baptized on this date in 1564. If the link doesn’t work, here are a few: advertising, bloodstained, critic, dwindle, eyeball, hobnob, luggage, radiance, and zany. He invented more than 1,700!"

I was a teenager during the old psychedelic hippie days. Living in San Francisco, I was right there when it was happening. I was 15 years old during the Summer of Love in 1967. In fact, my family happened to live in the Haight-Ashbury district, just 5 or 6 blocks from Haight St. Something I remember very clearly from those days was the artwork of hippie rock concert posters, which would be stapled on light poles and taped onto walls in the street. One of the most memorable hippie artists was Rick Griffin.

Here's one of Griffin's posters, perhaps the most famous and iconic one, showing a flying eyeball with reptilian tail and claws holding a skull, advertising a February 1968 series of concerts starring Jimi Hendrix, John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers, and Albert King. According to collector Eric King, "This image has been found painted on tribal buffalo skulls in the jungles of Thailand, printed on T-shirts in the Chilean desert and tattooed on Japanese punks in Osaka" and "is Rick[ Griffin]'s vision of the all-seeing eye of God the father, the Old Testament 'jealous and angry God' before whom Rick felt we are all wanting, all guilty, all unworthy sinners doomed to burn forever on a lake of fire."
Rick Griffin, Bill Graham Poster, 1968
I am melding today's two "official prompts," the NaPoWriMo persona poem and the PAD poem with a title made from two words Shakespeare coined. The persona speaking is the flying eyeball from the Griffin poster.

Bloodstained Eyeball

You see me every single day
on your dollar bills, eyeing
you from the highest point
of the Illuminati pyramid.

But this is how I truly look,
children, with my tentacle tail
and claws. Alas, poor Yorick
with sunglasses, this is you.

All of you, this is YOUR head.
You cannot escape me. I shall
break through sky with flames
and angel wings to find you.

Bloody veins may stain me but
I see you. I see you. I see you.

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

Wow, a complete surprise how that poem turned out. I thought it was going to be a light-hearted poem but it asserted itself in a totally different way.

Here's Alan's poem for today. "Shakespeare coined pedant," Alan tells us, "and I am a happy reader of Robert Browning. Combining the two prompts seems to work all right today."


That’s my last project, lying on the desk,
looking as if it still matters. I risk
debasing my work now; two dozen chairs
of various departments spent long hours
to fill these forms to suit my tastes. I said
“my tastes” by my design, for none have read
these papers through, administrative stance
reminding them of my significance
when funding issues rise and I am asked
to offer what I’d recommend. I’m tasked
to make these leaders fall in line, who’d teach
as if they have some mastery to reach
their students, having researched, studied years
while holding classes. “Interference” wears
upon them, they complain, as if some words,
a lab, a lecture moves this school towards
desired political expedience.
Of course, we do not sell degrees. Why chance,
however, inciting alumni who
suspect progressiveness is working through
the lectures? Legislators read the news
and ask in public forums what’s the use
of languages, art history, or art
itself, and should their criticism start
on women’s studies and diversity,
then I’d find life more difficult for me.
You don’t think I’d be some officious fool
who’d try to kill these programs through a rule?
Why should I make my motivation clear
when I can make my troubles disappear
by claiming viability’s at stake
and draining their resources? I can make
departments spend uncompensated time
in drafting papers, ream by ream by ream,
and find some point that still will need revised.
Ironically, the more I am despised
by lower ranks, the more I grow endeared
to regents, boards, alumni, too, prepared
to quantify the universities
and measure their success through earned degrees
with standards rooted in the politics
of prejudice and fear. There’s no quick fix
when something sinks, especially when one
who sees the breach controls how something’s done
to mend or mitigate when we’ve begun
to head for shore. Assure the governor
the labor leader’s speech will not occur
because accreditation work is due
too close to any open date. As you
can see, the stadium has broken ground,
and we are certain he will be around
to dedicate it on its opening day.
Our provost’s health is good. I’ll let him know
that you were kind enough to ask. Please go
through here and see the model of the bust
commissioned by the man we’ve just discussed!

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

Ah yes, the Duke of Ferrara is indeed a fascinating role model. Bravo, Alan!

Friends, won't you comment, please? Love to know what you're thinking. To comment, look for a red line below that starts Posted by, then click once on the word comments in that line. If you don't find the word "comments" in that line, then look for a blue link below that says Post a comment and click it once. Thanks!

Ingat, everyone.   

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Saturday, April 25, 2015

Day 25 ... NaPoWriMo / Poem-a-Day 2015

Day Twenty-Five. Today is the end of the fifth group of five, with one more group of five to go. Five more days. Five more poems. Though today, both Alan and I really up the ante and the numbers.

Maureen Thorson's NaPoWriMo prompt: "It’s the weekend, so I thought we might go with something short and just a bit (or a lot) silly – the Clerihew. These are rhymed, humorous quatrains involving a specific person’s name."

Robert Lee Brewer's PAD prompt: write an across the sea poem. This could be a love letter, an electronic submission through cyber space and time, or a travel poem (by air or sea, though probably not car). Modern travel or back in the days of rugged explorers. Wandering or wondering, your choice.

Combining Robert's "across the sea" prompt with's clerihew prompt. Here goes.

Clerihews for a Famous Literary Sailor

Herman Melville
Was into whale kill,
So he wrote the famous Moby-Dick
Although harpooning was not his schtick.

Herman Melville
Couldn't spell well.
The real guy's name was Israel,
But Herman misspelled it as Ishmael.

Herman Melville
Didn't sell well.
Thousands of Moby-Dick copies left over,
In his attic, his basement, and his mom's, moreover.

Herman Melville
Fished for bluegill.
He said it was almost as fun as whale,
If you don't consider matters of scale.

Herman Melville
Visited Nashville.
Where Moby-Dick didn't get him too far
'Cause he couldn't sing or play guitar.

Herman Melville
Scared a Paris demoiselle.
She said, "Mon cheri, with you it's wrong.
Your Moby-Dick is just too long."

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

If you've been following Alan's bravura poeming all month, the cornucopia of clerihews below probably won't surprise you. Alan says, "The first two fulfill the two prompts. The rest are extra."

Crossing the Sea Clerihews

Annabelle Ridgeway
began her day
by taking a lone three a.m. bus trip for a Slushie
and thereby became (albeit briefly) more well-known than Salman Rushdie.

Vince Gotera
wished to emulate Peter Cetera,
and single-handedly brought about a Midwest embargo
on touring bar bands who cover Chicago.

Billy Collins
is no Henry Rollins,
but he’s sold a zillion
volumes at Books-a-Million.

John Boehner,
the Orange Complainer,
has proven himself no smartier
than the average Tea Partier.

John McCain,
what your next war
is for.

Dick Cheney
belongs in American political miscellany
for being calculating though artless
and for living while being literally heartless.

Mitt Romney,
in spite of his bum knee,
ran for months
just like a dunce.

Rafael Edward “Ted” Cruz
is bound to lose
if he runs out of wingnut sloganeering ammunition
and contributes to GOP voter attrition.

Scott Kevin Walker,
the Koch brothers’ stalker,
has moved from their position on immigration
and compromised his bid for the GOP nomination.

Marco Antonio Rubio
screwed up in the studio
by lunging for water while delivering a GOP response
like a kindergartener who discovers his pants are unzipped during the Pledge of Allegiance.

Mike Huckabee,
is the most effective thing you can say
is that folks should eat at Chik-fil-A?

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

Some of those are really quite hilarious, Alan. Depending on which side of the aisle you're on, so to speak, I guess. Well, since you wrote a clerihew for me, I am only too glad to reciprocate.

Associate Dean Thomas Alan Holmes,
of ETSU’s administrative catacombs,
got royally — as the British say — pissed
with his buddy Thomas Crofts, medievalist.

Thomas Alan Holmes,
associate dean, writes poems
that rhyme and scan and chiefly consist
of the exploits of Thomas Crofts, medievalist.

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

Thomas Crofts,
If you're not familiar with Alan's poems about Thomas Crofts, medievalist, click here. There are quite a few of them here on the blog as well as out in the world, both online and in print. At right is Thomas Crofts, medievalist, himself, brandishing his favorite blade, with which he doth smite all miscreants. Click on the image to see it lo! full magnified.

I got a bit of help with these two clerihews from my girlfriend Kathy. She came up with "catacombs" to rhyme with "Holmes" — a brilliant word given what Alan often says about administration. Wait, did I say that? And also "exploits" for the storied derring-do of Thomas Crofts, medievalist. We both hope to "goon on pilgrimages" to Tennessee — mayhaps this summer? — to finally meet in person Thomas Alan Holmes, associate dean, and his estoc-wielding sometimes-accomplice sometimes-literary-character Thomas Crofts, medievalist.   

Friends, won't you comment, please? Love to know what you're thinking. To comment, look for a red line below that starts Posted by, then click once on the word comments in that line. If you don't find the word "comments" in that line, then look for a blue link below that says Post a comment and click it once. Thanks!

Ingat, everyone.   

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Friday, April 24, 2015

Day 24 ... NaPoWriMo / Poem-a-Day 2015

Day Twenty-Four. Today is the first day, not of the rest of your life, as some say (though I suppose that's true enough), but rather the first day of the last week of National Poetry Month. Counting today, you could write seven poems more.

As a kid, I was enchanted by 24: the numbers 6 and 4 can be multiplied to make 24, and the number 4 is not only one of those two factors but also one of the digits in 24 . . . plus the other factor, 6, could be parsed into 2+4, the very digits in 24. Fun, eh? Yeah, I was a weird kid.

Maureen Thorson's NaPoWriMo prompt: "I challenge you to write a parody or satire based on a famous poem. It can be long or short, rhymed or not. But take a favorite (or unfavorite) poem of the past, and see if you can’t re-write it on humorous, mocking, or sharp-witted lines. You can use your poem to make fun of the original (in the vein of a parody), or turn the form and manner of the original into a vehicle for making points about something else (more of a satire — though the dividing lines get rather confused and thin at times)."

Robert Lee Brewer's PAD prompt: "write a moment poem. The moment can be a big moment or small moment; it can be a good moment or horrible moment; it can affect thousands or matter to just one person. Some moments happen in crowded rooms; some happen in the most quiet of spaces. Find yours and write a poem."

I'm combining the NaPoWriMo parody prompt with Robert Lee Brewer's PAD prompt for a moment poem. Playing around with Dickinson's "Wild nights - Wild nights!" (shown below on the right).

Mild moments - Mild moments!
— with apologies to
Emily Dickinson
Mild moments - Mild moments!
Were I eating mushroom soup
Mild moments would be
A whoop.

Mushrooms - in cream -
Could play the part -
Of poor man’s Alfredo -
And later a f— . . . fiddle!

So boil up some Pasta -
Ah - Fetuccine!
Might I but mushroom - tonight -
In thee!
                      Wild nights - Wild nights!
by Emily Dickinson
(Franklin 269)
Wild nights - Wild nights!
Were I with thee
Wild nights should be
Our luxury!

Futile - the winds -
To a Heart in port -
Done with the Compass -
Done with the Chart!

Rowing in Eden -
Ah - the Sea!
Might I but moor - tonight -
In thee!

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

Click on the image for more information.
Here, on the right, is a photograph of the original manuscript of this Dickinson poem in her own handwriting.

You probably know that in the early book publications of Dickinson's work, which appeared after her death, editors removed the dashes she used in most of her poems. To the readers of her own time, the dashes could have been too unusual and even shocking. When I first encountered Dickinson's poems in school as a child, there were no dashes, I'm pretty sure. It was not until quite some time after those early books that scholarly editors editing the poems to be studied re-inserted the dashes.

An interesting fact about Dickinson's dashes is that they are not uniform. She used several different kinds of dashes, if that's indeed what they are. In this single handwritten manuscript, we can see at least two distinctly varying kinds. Most resemble hyphens, though they are different lengths. The marks after "Futile" and "winds" in line 5 are shorter than the ones in the middle of line 1 and the end of line 9. Notice, though, that the mark after "Ah" in line 10 is more vertical and not dash- or hyphen-like at all to my eye. It's more like an apostrophe, don't you think? But the various scholarly editors have all rendered that mark as a dash. It's a tough call. The dash has become the consensus among Dickinson experts, but really we don't know with certainty how she herself might have had those marks rendered in print as opposed to handwriting.

Okay, on to our good friend Alan. "The combined prompts call for a parody and an important moment," he says. "I have been working with both Flannery O'Connor and Gerard Manley Hopkins lately (there's a project I'm perhaps participating in), and it just struck me that there is a moment in 'Good Country People' that could fit the dual prompts. One character in the story is named 'Manley Pointer.' I think you have an idea of where I am going."

The Wooden Leg
— Gerard Manley Pointer
              To Joy Hopewell

I’d brought along this morning my valise
because you just can’t tell what you might need
when courting. So, I let you take the lead,
and you believed you’d use me for release,
but you are all the same, as dumb as geese;
you think my ignorance is guaranteed,
but my fake name’s protection. Beg and plead —
there’ll be no point in calling the police.

And, all this time, I thought you were some girl
with no beliefs in anything. You beg
and whimper, helpless, skittish as a squirrel,
because your learning’s weaker than your leg,
my trophy I’ll keep precious as a pearl
beside a glass eye smooth as a boiled egg.

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

Again a Petrarchan sonnet. Bravo, Alan. I'm impressed at how you can spin out these rhymed and metered forms so easily and gracefully. And I love the Gerard Manley ____  jest, as you surely knew I would, right? You capture well Flannery O'Connor's signature weird humor.

Friends, won't you comment, please? Love to know what you're thinking. To comment, look for a red line below that starts Posted by, then click once on the word comments in that line. If you don't find the word "comments" in that line, then look for a blue link below that says Post a comment and click it once. Thanks!

Ingat, everyone.   

NAPOWRIMO / PAD 2015 • 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 23, 2015

Day 23 ... NaPoWriMo / Poem-a-Day 2015

Day Twenty-Three. I don't know what to say about 23. I think last year I pointed to that surreal Jim Carrey movie, The Number 23. Year before that, I pointed out that 4/23 is Shakespeare's birthday . . . that's pretty cool. Okay, on to the prompts.

Robert Lee Brewer's PAD prompt: "write a historic poem. It could be a poem about a landmark event, specific battle, an era in time, or whatever you consider a historic happening."

Maureen Thorson's NaPoWriMo prompt: "Today, I challenge you to take a chance, literally. Find a deck of cards (regular playing cards, tarot cards, uno cards, cards from your Cards Against Humanity deck – whatever), shuffle it, and take a card — any card! Now, begin free-writing based on the card you’ve chosen. Keep going without stopping for five minutes. Then take what you’ve written and make a poem from it."

A couple of years ago, Kathy gave me an "Authors Card Game," which you can see in the photo below. The card I happened to choose at random was Washington Irving, author of "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" and "Rip Van Winkle" — two of my most beloved stories as a child.

I gotta say, though, I had hoped for Nathaniel Hawthorne (really, I wanted Herman Melville but he's not one of the authors sanctified by this deck). I thought I could write a historic poem about the moment when Hawthorne and Melville first met. Hawthorne wrote his wife that Melville was "rather heterodox by way of linen"; I’ve never forgotten that phrasing, which meant, I'm pretty sure, that Melville could have changed his underwear more often. Of course Hawthorne could only have known that by sense of smell, I would guess, so Melville’s underwear must have been pretty ripe.

I also wished I had drawn Louisa May Alcott, the only woman in the deck, pretty surprising for a game from the late 1980s. Did we learn nothing from the Equal Rights movement? I also kinda hoped for Shakespeare, simply because it's his birthday today, and he would be a half millennium old if he were still kicking. Well, I’m not sure he’s not kicking, though he’s probably nothing but bone fragments by now, if that. Sir Walter Scott would have been a good draw too because as a child I loved Ivanhoe almost as much as "Sleepy Hollow." Well, maybe more, actually. You gotta love good swordplay in a story. There’s only bowling — nine-pins — in "Rip Van Winkle" and crazy horse riding in "Sleepy Hollow."

There would have been plenty of possibilities for a historic poem with those writers, other than Irving. (By the way, those author cards are depicted in the photo . . . from left to right, Irving, Scott, Shakespeare, Hawthorne, and Alcott. Still annoyed at no Melville.)

Anyhow, Washington Irving was the card I drew and so Washington Irving it is. Here we go.

The Birth of the American Short Story
Washington Irving inspected an artillery
battery in 1814 when he was serving as
aide-de-camp to the Governor of New York.

Walking behind the line of cannon pointed
through gaps in the heavy earth fortifications,
Irving flinched each time the cannons fired.
He fought the strong urge to duck his head.
The army captain in command of the battery
took Irving’s elbow, smiling. “Come closer
to this piece, sir,” he said. “Nothing to fear.”
As they came up behind the 6-pounder brass
howitzer, artillerymen swarmed around it,
ramming gunpowder and a 6-inch ball
into the muzzle, then touching off the fuse.
Again, Irving ducked and then looked over
at his companion to see if his momentary
weakness had been noticed. The soldier’s face
was surrounded and obscured by smoke,
his blonde hair lit red by the setting sun.
For a moment, Irving thought the man’s head
was gone, supplanted by a nimbus of fire.
Then the moment passed. Irving asked him,
“Please tell me your name again, sir?”
His blue eyes glowing in the brassy light,
the officer said, “Ichabod Crane, sir,
at your service. Captain Ichabod Crane.”

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

Irving never admitted that Captain Ichabod Crane was the namesake for his hero in "Sleepy Hollow." An anti-hero, actually, because Irving's character was no soldier. The real-life Ichabod Crane served almost 50 years in the American military, both the Marines and the Army, and died while still on active duty as a Colonel. I surmise that while the bookish schoolteacher inherited the Captain's name, perhaps the Captain's personality might have been the model for the schoolteacher's rowdy competitor for Katrina Van Tassel's hand. That's the premise for my poem, anyway.

Incidentally, Colonel Ichabod Crane was the great-uncle of Stephen Crane, author of The Red Badge of Courage. Since his great-uncle would have been well-known as a soldier in the Crane family, the younger Crane's novel was surely influenced in some way — even if negatively — by the storied military career of his great-uncle. The protagonist of Red Badge is himself also an anti-hero, not at all like the Colonel, who served and fought in four wars.

Moving on to Alan's poem for today . . . he tells us, "I'm attempting to combine the card prompt with the history prompt."

Four of Cups

In August, 1996, I sat
among my unpacked books and pulled a card
from some tarot deck given me by friends
I’d left to take this job; this card, the four
of cups, was drawn in such a way that it
alluded to Manet, a lunch where men
in gentlemen’s fine clothes are served
by women dishabille, the foreground one,
leg curled in such a way that we can see
her bare instep, as intimate as eyes
as she is turning to our gaze. The card
suggests a restlessness, that one engaged
in contemplation might dismiss what joy
or temporary respite from the world
might lie so close at hand. And while I know
Manet’s men have the women there, I think
the foreground woman’s gaze invites the thought
that she wants more and dares us all to want
much more as well, not sit and wait for some
to get some appetite for what we have
but make them yearn for what we will not give.

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

Here's that very card. Alan, I like how you drew the card not today but almost 20 years ago. Good play with the prompt.
And the matching Edouard Manet painting, Le Déjeuner sur l'Herbe (The Picnic). No Speedo for the guy on the right.   

Friends, won't you comment, please? Love to know what you're thinking. To comment, look for a red line below that starts Posted by, then click once on the word comments in that line. If you don't find the word "comments" in that line, then look for a blue link below that says Post a comment and click it once. Thanks!

Ingat, everyone.   

NAPOWRIMO / PAD 2015 • 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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