Sunday, October 9, 2016

More on the Cleave Hay(na)ku

In my previous post, I proposed a new form: the cleave hay(na)ku. The example I gave in that post worked like this, using letters to stand for words in this illustration.
D E F    
b c
d e f
In my Craft of Poetry class, we have been talking about tercets, or three-line stanzas, and of course the hay(na)ku is a tercet form. Last week, in that context, I brought up Eileen Tabios's new rippled mirror hay(na)ku and also the cleave hay(na)ku. After class, my student Jed Kurth pointed out that the hay(na)ku on the right could be a reverse hay(na)ku, like this.
D E F    
a b c
d e
Thanks, Jed. In looking at how such a format would be understood, the left hay(na)ku would read A B C D E F ; the right one would be a b c d e f ; and the combined poem (paying attention to line breaks) would say A a b c / B C d e / D E F f . There's a really cool symmetry in this set-up having four words per line, overall.

Since that class three days ago, Jed has emailed me three cleave hay(na)ku with a reverse hay(na)ku on the right side. Three! So cool. (Friends, I'll let you work out the three readings of each cleave: left, right, and combined.)

Will You?

not say
you love me
you want to
(or) maybe


that you
I searched for
no one aware
did know

So Sue Me, Disney

you wish
upon a star
you are hungry
to dine

—Drafts by Jedediah Kurth    [Do not copy or quote . . . thanks.]

Jed, these are very good. I particularly like how the combined poem reads in your last cleave hay(na)ku: "when you are hungry / you wish to dine / upon a star fish." How witty and fun!

I've also written a cleave hay(na)ku with a reverse hay(na)ku on the right. Thanks for the inspiration, Jed.


and ever
amen, but then  
a long time
after saying

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

I'm particularly proud of the combined poem in my cleave: "forever a long time / and ever after saying / amen, but then what?"

Thanks again, Jed, for giving us a wider window into the possibilities of the cleave hay(na)ku. I hope, poet friends, you will give this new form a try. As I said last time, it's quite an interesting and fun challenge.

Everyone, 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!

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Friday, October 7, 2016

The Cleave Hay(na)ku

I was talking via email recently with Eileen Tabios, inventor of the hay(na)ku form, about her new variation, the Rippled Mirror Hay(na)ku, and I wrote one in honor (or maybe in dishonor?) of our current presidential election.


Donald Trump.
Best president ever.

Bust. President never.
Donald Trump.
Um . . .

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

As you can see, in the rippled mirror hay(na)ku, the reflection is vertical. The word "best" in line 3 is reflected in line 4 (in rippled fashion) by "bust." The word "I'm" in line 1 is ripple-reflected in line 6 by "Um." See here for more on this new variation.

Well, I wondered, could the reflection be horizontal rather than vertical? I was reminded of the Cleave poetic form. Basically, the cleave features a left side poem, a right side poem, and then a combined poem. This is most easily explained in columns:
A     a
B     b
C     c
If we imagine the letters above are lines in a cleave poem, the left side poem would be read down as A B C, the right side poem would be a b c, and then the combined poem would be read across as A a B b C c.

I'd like to propose a new variation then: the Cleave Hay(na)ku. I'll give you an example first; it might be clearer than a definition at this point. Please note: this is more of a demo than an actual poem.


live forever
like strange ghosts
you know
that people eat

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

Here are the three different poems that we can read:
left side
right side
mushrooms live forever like strange ghosts
do you know that people eat
mushrooms do live forever you know like strange ghosts that people eat
So there you go. The Cleave Hay(na)ku . . . two hay(na)ku side-by-side, where the hay(na)ku on the left is read as one poem, the hay(na)ku on the right is read as a second poem, and then both hay(na)ku are read as a third, combined poem, both first lines together, then the second lines, and finally both third lines.

I hope you'll give these two new forms a try. They're quite the poetic challenges. In fact, Eileen has issued a call for rippled mirror hay(na)ku and cleave hay(na)ku here, with a deadline of 15 November 2016.

In Eileen's hay(na)ku blog, there's a page documenting all the known variations of hay(na)ku. Check it out . . . there might be a form there you'd like to give a whirl.

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!

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Saturday, April 30, 2016

Day 30 ... NaPoWriMo / Poem-a-Day 2016

Last day of National Poetry Month. Sad. But also glad about all the poems. The full complement of 30 for me!

Here's a little meme to post in your social media sites to celebrate. You can see this image larger by clicking on it, but unfortunately you won't be able to share from there. However, you can find a share-able version in my facebook from three years ago.

Robert Lee Brewer’s PAD prompt: "For today’s prompt, write a dead end poem. Of course, I was thinking in terms of the challenge, but a dead end can literally mean the end of a person’s life, a dead end road, a dead end job, dead end mortgage, and so on. Take the phrase 'dead end' and apply it to a noun, and the possibilities are nearly endless (except, well, there’s the whole 'dead end' finality to it, I suppose)."

Maureen Thorson’s NaPoWriMo prompt: "Because we’ve spent our month looking at poets in English translation, today I’d like you to try your hand at a translation of your own. If you know a foreign language, you could take a crack at translating a poem by a poet writing in that language. If you don’t know a foreign language, or are up for a different kind of challenge, you could try a homophonic translation. Simply find a poem (or other text) in a language you don’t know, and then 'translate' it based on the look or sound of the words." This "translation" poem form is also called a translitic.

Thank you VERY much to Maureen Thorson and to Robert Lee Brewer for a great NaPoWriMo and Poem-a-Day once again!

Here is Jed's "translation" poem. See if you can figure out what he's doing rhyme- and meter-wise.

Lost In . . .

Human behavior is a poetry
Of sorts, packed with hidden implication;
A delicate dance, gradually evolved
Over each life, and all of history.
Her forlorn sigh can be inspiration
Enough to tell him he’ll never be loved
By her. Learn to hear the message wrapped in
Silences. The science of emotion
Is really art. The meaning of a pause
Had better be received, though. It’s a sin
If you make a faulty calculation;
If you don’t match the rhyme, it’s defiance.

Humans know you understand, even when
You don’t. Ignorance will never excuse
Not knowing the rules laid down by their hand.
Well, madmen and children are forgiven
By some. But you have everything to lose
If you show that you sometimes understand.
They’ll think your mistakes were calculated
To throw them in disarray. All you say
Wrong will be taken not as error but
As anger, mockery; they’ll think you led
The dance astray through malice. “You can play
The game. Why won’t you?”
And then you’re shut out.

—Draft by Jedediah Kurth    [Do not copy or quote . . . thanks.]

Here's what Jed wrote me about the poem: "So it's more metaphorically about translation than a literal attempt at translating something. My ASL isn't really fluent enough for me to do a good interpretation of ASL poetry . . . And I really wanted to do a fun, 10-syllable, ABC-ABC rhyming poem for the last day, not an approximation of something that wouldn't fit well into English."

Did you get all that? The poem's in pentameter, first of all. And Jed's using normative rhyme: each set of three lines rhymes with the next set of three lines . . .
line 1 - poetry
line 2 - implication       
line 3 - evolved
line 4 - history
line 5 - inspiration
line 6 - loved
. . . and so on, all the way down the poem, to the drop-line at the end, where the last word out rhymes with but three lines before. A jaunty, loose slant rhyme. Fun indeed. Bravo, Jed!

Sarah's contribution today ia a haiku that hearkens to today's NaPoWriMo prompt.


Fingers tangle and
weave in intricate dance, but
not a sound flies forth

—Draft by Sarah Smith    [Do not copy or quote . . . thanks.]

Above Jed mentioned wanting to interpret a poem in ASL (American sign language) and here is Sarah writing about ASL. Brava, Sarah!

Here's the story of my poetic adventure today. Along with her prompt above, Thorson provided links to a couple of poems one could use for a homophonic translation or translitic. One of these poems was "Den halvfärdiga himlen" by the Nobel laureate Tomas Tranströmer; I tried for quite a while to write a translitic from this text but it just wasn't happenin'. I also attempted to find other texts to work with but to no avail. I've successfully pulled off translitics in other Aprils, but not this time.

So I turned instead to erasure. Wave Books has a website, Erasures, that offers up brief texts one can partially erase, leaving visible a found poem. The text I chose was "The Authoritative Life of General William Booth" by G. S. Railton. Here is that text as it appeared, before erasure, in the website.

And here is my found text, after partial erasure.

Then I finished the poem with my own "dead-end" conclusion. So, unlike Jed and Sarah, I have followed Brewer's prompt.

3-Point Turn

men and women
bring up
forces vast
and difficult
passed through

instead we
treat them like
a dead end
we slam into
back out
and go another

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

Between and among the three of us, Jed, Sarah, and I covered the two "official" prompts.

"Going rogue for the last day because the prompts are meh," Ven says, "and I feel this poem should live on somewhere. I've fiddled with it somewhat to make it have a story sort of." What Ven is talking about needs a bit of backstory.

Thursday being the last day of class for my Poetry Workshop class, we sat in a circle and played Exquisite Corpse. In this version of the old surrealist game, everyone writes down a line of verse on a piece of paper and passes it to the left. Then each person writes another line of verse based on the first line already on the paper. You fold the paper back so only one line (yours) is showing and pass again. Then everyone writes another line responding to the one line showing, and so on, until you get your own sheet back, after it's gone completely around the circle. You then write a closing line to finish off the poem. Afterward, everyone takes turns reading the poems out loud. It's an incredibly fun game, which can sometimes be raucous and even inappropriate.

Ven's contribution for today, then, is not his alone. It's the Exquisite Corpse poem Ven ended up with. The title as well as the opening and closing lines are his, but the rest were written by members of the class. I should warn you the poem will be NSFW for some, and others may be offended by the last line, but I'm not going to censor.

Disco Queen

          (by Vince's spring 2016 class, not just me)

I made her cum like a train
in the back of the car.
While stars and condolences
and the moon's kisses tangled in her hair.
Her skin had the sweet perfume of jasmine
flowers, and her eyes an opalescent moonstone
glow like the soul's disco balls.
But disco got old fast and she did too.
And I remember now how much I abhor ABBA.
Fuck ABBA in their stupid Swedish faces.

—Draft by Ven Batista and others    [Do not copy or quote . . . thanks.]

Alan also went rogue today. He pointed out to me that he worked with the prompts almost every day in the month but he happens at the moment to be on the road. Now that is devotion. Alan wrote and posted this poem while away visiting family! Thanks so much, Alan.

In Memoriam

In my widowed mother’s living room,
in front of the window facing south, on a pecan-stained dropleaf table decades old,
in a silver-colored metallic frame,
in a photograph taken on the occasion of my maternal aunt’s fiftieth wedding anniversary,
in a gray suit I brought just for the occasion, a suit almost identical to another gray suit I own
in a size that would have fit me far better than the one I brought with me by accident,
in a distracted mood when selecting the suit and in another distracted mood as captured in the
          photograph, self-conscious, uncomfortable, bursting at the seams, almost aware of my size and
          wrestling with my awareness as I realize I should be celebrating
in a nevertheless at that moment happy posture, standing with my brother behind the couch where my
          parents sit, my brother with an expression of good-spirited dignity, my mother beaming, my
          father with that expression so often easy to mistake for reserve when in fact he feels
          disorientation from middle stages of dementia, capable to pass among many as if he is well or
          only slightly confused, a small American flag pin mounted on the left lapel of his dark jacket,
in a pensive posture, I, standing, humbled by my waistline, my cutting belt, my yet-to-be overcome
in a pensive posture, he, seated, face raised and not with his yet-to-be persistent smile masking his
          deepening confusion to come,
in a family portrait, the last of us all together,
in an artificial pose,
in uncertainty of times to come,
in commemoration of a relationship older than my memory.

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

Such a self-aware confessional poem about family and the fears of potential parental inheritances. Thank you, Alan.

Alan, Jed, Sarah, and Ven . . . many, MANY thanks for your poetic contributions to the blog this month. Wonderful work! For the last time this year, Happy National Poetry Month!

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 29, 2016

Day 29 ... NaPoWriMo / Poem-a-Day 2016

Day 29 . . . counting today, two National Poetry Month days left.

Maureen Thorson’s NaPoWriMo prompt: "Today, I’d like to challenge you to write a poem based on things you remember. Try to focus on specific details, and don’t worry about whether the memories are of important events, or are connected to each other. You could start by adopting [artist/poet Joe] Brainard’s uniform habit of starting every line with 'I remember,' and then you could either cut out all the instances of 'I remember,' or leave them all in, or leave just a few in. At any rate, hopefully you’ll wind up with a poem that is heavy on concrete detail, and which uses that detail as its connective tissue."

Robert Lee Brewer’s PAD prompt: "For today’s prompt, write a haphazard poem. The poem itself could be haphazardly put together, I suppose. But it could also be about a haphazard situation. Or whatever haphazard thing you can bend the poem into."

First one done today was Jed. He worked with just the NaPoWriMo prompt on memories. The Poetics Aside blog was apparently down for several hours and so the "haphazard" prompt was not available until late afternoon.

Two Memories

I remember wetting my pants,
The only time I ever did.
I was four, I think. I’m not sure.
I hurried out of the chapel.
There was a sort of metal clasp
On the pants, easier than snaps.
Because snaps and buttons are hard.
The bathroom by the baptistery
Was all hard tiles, nothing soft.

I don’t remember what comes next.
Did I have to stay there at church,
With my pants all wet and itchy?

I remember mother asking
If I would move on to cub scouts,
Or just remain a tiger cub.
The plastic baby-bath baskets
In the laundry room were arrayed
For sorting our clean clothes into
Before we put those clothes away.
My basket on a metal shelf,
And in my mind I’m mentoring
The younger, newer tiger cubs.
“I’ll stay a tiger cub,” I said.

I was so literal-minded,
I didn’t understand the choice.
The choice was cub scouts or nothing.
I think a whole year passed before
Anybody asked me again.

I always used to just wait for
Life and choices to come to me.
But I only wet my pants once.

—Draft by Jedediah Kurth    [Do not copy or quote . . . thanks.]

Second one done today was Alan, with a really gorgeous memory poem.


My large, red ball rolls into the packed car bay of our gray, weathered garage, its shed closed and packed
            with its own mystery.
I crouch, trying to catch it before it rolls in.
I miss it, picking it up only once it rolls to a stop.
I hold it, facing the interior of the garage as I stand in the cool spot, the heat making the roof’s tin pop.
I turn.
Covering the upper half of the bay’s opening, a large orb web shifts in the breeze, lit by the sunlight,
            hundreds of articulated interstices, larger than me.
At its hub, at my eye level, waits the largest spider I remember having ever seen up until that time, its
            abdomen large, round, and orange, positioned between my ball and the sun, magnified by my
            silent, frozen surprise.
I stoop and slip under, into the grass.

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

Third one done today was me, after the Poetics Aside blog came back up, so I was able to incorporate haphazardness into my catalogue of memories.

Haphazard Childhood Memories

tin robot, yellow
and blue, ’50s style, playing
on stone steps, bright sun

in mountain forest
we hike to a waterfall
all green, green, splash hum

alone in a park
I see statues creak to life,
chase me . . . I wake up

huge orange tabby
follows Dad around the house
like a shepherd dog

I’m four, my parents’
closet, Mom rubbing lotion
on Dad, nude, can’t move

a tall 50-foot
robot decked in red and green
lights, Christmas road trip

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

Fourth up is Ven's bravura list of inner mementos.

I Remember

Awkward silences and clumsy lyrics.
Short drives and meandering conversations.
Smoke lazily spiraling to the ceiling.
Never ever cleaning.
Mean tongues and soft fists.
Procrastinating on demand.
Fucked up colors and fuzzy lips.
Gas station improv and fake accents.
Scrabble bukkake and lists of philias.
Acting weird to hide our weirdness.
Cherry tobacco OD and Rizla runs.
Windshield wiper beat downs.
2am Ludacris in car parks.
Greasy DVDs that somehow never skipped.
Music, so much music, always to everything.
The Velvet Sky and the Silver Soldier.
Riven and Cloven and Back to One.
When London in Love felt big and the sky felt small.
Thinking we had forever.

—Draft by Ven Batista    [Do not copy or quote . . . thanks.]

Thanks for the poems again, all. And you readers, thanks for visiting. Last time tomorrow?

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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Thursday, April 28, 2016

Day 28 ... NaPoWriMo / Poem-a-Day 2016

Day 28 . . . the end of four full weeks. And now just the small tail left of National Poetry Month.

Maureen Thorson’s NaPoWriMo prompt: "Today I’d like to challenge you to write a poem that tells a story. But here’s the twist – the story should be told backwards. The first line should say what happened last, and work its way through the past until you get to the beginning."

Robert Lee Brewer’s PAD prompt: "For today’s prompt, take the phrase 'Important (blank),' replace the blank with a word or phrase, make the new phrase the title of your poem, and then, write the poem. Possible titles could include: 'Important Documents,' 'Important: Read Before Assembling,' 'Important People,' and so on. I hope everyone finds something important to write about today."

Okay, mixing both prompts. Here's a poem about today, an important day all of us — students and faculty alike — have been anticipating.

Important Rewind: Last Day of Class

After holding office hours, where no one came,
I stride backwards an hour and a half ago
to my last class, never looking back once.
In Poetry
Workshop, we swallow peals of laughter while
playing Exquisite Corps, and then swallow more
laughter, sharing our imitations of each other’s
Then I walk backwards to my office again
where I wolf down a personal pizza (three meats)
and a bottle of green tea.
Amble backwards once
more to my elements of creative writing class where
we swallow laughs again and again. Don’t you love
the last day of class?
And walk, always backwards,
to my multicultural literature class to finish discussing
Barbara Jane Reyes’s poetry.
Then hurry backwards
to my car parked on 23rd Street and drive in reverse
to my apartment, where I get into bed and read
my eyelids until last night, knowing I have fifteen
more weeks to the start of the semester. Hallelujah.

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

Jed tells me that when he saw the Brewer prompt, he thought, "Well, I already know my title will be Not Important. Now I just have to think of what the poem is about."

Not Important

And then he died. It always ends that way.

        What ends?

Old age. Lay down those weary bones.

        But how does old age come?

Through middle age. The pillar.
Hard work to hold the whole tent up.

        When did he learn to work?

Why, in his youth. That’s always the best time,
For youth contains such boundless energy.

        Where did he get that boundless energy?

In childish play, and wonder at the world;
The time to learn adventure’s everywhere
Is childhood, for everything is new.

        And children come from . . . ?

Babies. Lumps of flesh
With hungry minds.
Nourish them with patience, mind and flesh both.

        That’s the whole story, then?

Of course. Unless.
Who were they?

        That’s not important.
        Is it?

—Draft by Jedediah Kurth    [Do not copy or quote . . . thanks.]

Ven's "Important _____" poem interestingly turns time around but also sets up a diminishing-line structure, reducing by a word per line.

Important but boring backstory to everything else.

Inevitably he wrote many fucking poems about it.
Everything fell apart, there were many tears.
Everyone aged, some better than others.
Obviously some babies were made.
Then there was marriage.
There was love.
They met.

—Draft by Ven Batista    [Do not copy or quote . . . thanks.]

Here's Alan's mash-up of the backwards-time/important prompts.

Important Clause

I own an empty church that’s falling down;
its deed requires it always stay a church.
Some people would have changed it to a home.
He lost himself inside his mind. We lost.
Somebody stole the HVAC from the church.
Alzheimer’s escalated. He got lost.
High, rough winds blew the steeple from the roof,
his friends stole all the furniture it held.
He couldn’t keep the building up. He let
his friends hold services for months rent free.
The church’s deed requires it stay a church.
He bought a church for gospel singings. His
dementia started sometime years ago.
He drove some gospel singing friends for free,
from church to church, befriending local groups
of amateurs in hopes of making big.
He bought a bus and had it customized.
He crisscrossed Southern states from week to week;
At last he drove for tour companies.
He crisscrossed Alabama every day.
Installing home improvements, he could drive
to different places, job to job to job.
His service in the Guard taught him his tools.
The football coach insisted he would play
and stay each afternoon throughout the week,
and so he left before his senior year.
He and some friends began a gospel group,
and crossed some county lines to sing in praise.
Only the hymns relieved him from the God
of Judgment preachers shouted to the pews,
and from the farm, he heard the whining wheels
of trucks and buses on the distant road.

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

Thanks for the poems, guys! Two days to go. Thanks for checking out our poems, everyone!

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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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Day 27 ... NaPoWriMo / Poem-a-Day 2016

Day 27 . . . 3³ with 3 days left. Lots of 3s!

Maureen Thorson’s NaPoWriMo prompt: "Today’s prompt comes to us from Megan Pattie, who points us to the work of the Irish poet Ciaran Carson, who increasingly writes using very long lines. Carson has stated that his lines are (partly) based on the seventeen syllables of the haiku, and that he strives to achieve the clarity of the haiku in each line. So today, Megan and I collectively challenge you to write a poem with very long lines. You can aim for seventeen syllables, but that’s just a rough guide. If you’re having trouble buying into the concept of long lines, maybe this essay on Whitman’s infamously leggy verse will convince you of their merits. Happy writing!"

Robert Lee Brewer’s PAD prompt: "For today’s prompt, write a take off poem. Take off work for you admin assistants out there (and any other workers). Take off a runway – for those of you who like to fly. Take off from a dangerous or weird situation – or maybe even a comfortable one. Or maybe you have a completely different take off of a 'take off' poem. Go on and take off on your poetic paths."

Well, all right. Here's yer seventeen syllables, every line. And "take off" too, x 3.

Rest in Purple

Prince took off from Paisley Park on Thursday, the 21st of April,
In a little red Corvette or maybe a pink Cadillac, flying
headlong into magenta clouds, needled by electric purple rain,

radio blasting Parliament Dr. Funkenstein slap-and-pop grooves.
Took off to jam with Janis, Jimi, and James, the Godfather of Soul,
his symbol axe with its Salvador Dali mustache riding shotgun.

But that’s all smoke. The man just broke. Just taking off some time in the sun.
His third eye staring straight into the liquid light-blaring furnace of God.
Prince of Purple finally with his Prince of Peace, trading dazzling smiles.

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

I've been wanting to write an elegy for Prince for several days now. And this may not be it yet, but it's a try. I wanted to get a sense in there of Prince's deep, Christian, Jehovah's Witness faith.
Jed worked with the 17-syllable line today. Well, sort of . . . 17 syllables, for sure, just not how you'd expect.

Lonely Visitor

Her breath blows cold on my face,
        A ghost of memories from times long past.
        My superstitious heart begins to throb
As I shiver with the draft.
My back should not be chilled so.
        Warm covers are in place and I should rest.
        Easier than this, for time does not press
To rob me of peaceful sleep.
The phantom draft that chills me,
        From whence, I wonder, groggy, can it blow?
        But I already named a ghostly source
As sleep refused to settle.
Shade! Do as you fancy, then;
        Whisper not on my cheek but in my ear,
        If you wish to by the living be heard.
I’ll faithfully write your words.
Or if, in restless wanderings,
        Jealousy moves you, and you wish to take
        The slumber you eternally forsook
From my eyes, and share your curse,
Show yourself; test my mettle.
        Your forlorn visage I would gaze upon.

—Draft by Jedediah Kurth    [Do not copy or quote . . . thanks.]

Jed says, "I thought to myself, '17-syllable lines? You've got to be kidding. It wouldn't sound like poetry anymore.' So I settled for alternating 7- and 10-syllable lines in a 7-10, 10-7 pattern. It gives the poem a very weird rhythm." Weird, yes, but perfectly matching Jed's eldritch theme.

Alan gets some long lines in today, perhaps more than 17 syllables here and there, but also some short ones, as short as 5 syllables, in keeping with his title and theme.


Oh Jesse, last night I dreamed we were presenting papers
at a literary conference in Atlanta,
and we attended a posh reception in the hotel’s scenic ballroom,
each with only the one drink ticket
covered by the conference registration fee,
and we encountered Jim Kenney,
a classmate of mine in the Alabama English Graduate Program,
and I expressed my surprise at seeing him
but did not tell you that even in the 1980s
when he and I were in our 20s,
he looked to me as portentous as Samuel Johnson,
all jowl and beard and round head
above an even rounder belly,
with long, spindly legs and long, narrow feet,
in beetle proportion,
and a voice all attitude,
and, when I introduced you as a poet,
Jim began to hold forth on Whitman,
a favorite of yours,
and he started talking about “the meandering verse of Whitman,”
the type of phrase one finds readily on Internet sites,
and I saw your eyes dart, Jesse,
and you were starting to cover your mouth with your hand,
a sure sign that you are about to say something good,
and then I woke up before you said it.

So, Jesse, we’re going to Atlanta in November
to a literary conference in a fancy hotel,
and we are likely to encounter
some old classmate of mine,
and, because as I have grown older
I have come to associate dreams with subconscious interpretation of pattern,
I will not be surprised if that person,
in, perhaps, a misguided attempt to engage you,
makes an Internet-sanctioned comment about meandering Whitman,
so be ready, Jesse,
feel free to tell my old friend that meandering water
always seeks the lowest level,
but water with purpose drives and courses,
eroding the weak,
exposing the strength of the supporting strata
beneath the loose, the fragmented, the temporary,
while shaping the land, sustaining the deeply rooted, and sweeping the debris away,
and, although you will cover your mouth,
my old friend will read your laugh lines
and understand my smile.

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

Ven blends both prompts in a refreshing romp of a poem.

Take Off

Take off all your clothes, feel the sun hit your bare skin. You’re an animal
after all. Just meat — and blood, and hair, and cum. You are bestial.
So swing your thick limbs, shake your wet, shimmering tongue. You are just a man.
Clothes do not make you. So take ‘em off, all the way. You’re not a slave, right?

—Draft by Ven Batista    [Do not copy or quote . . . thanks.]

As always, many thanks for the poems, Alan, Jed, and Ven.

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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Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Day 26 ... NaPoWriMo / Poem-a-Day 2016

Day 26 . . . we are creeping up — no, we're racing up — to the end of National Poetry Month!

Maureen Thorson’s NaPoWriMo prompt: "I’d like to challenge you to write a poem that incorporates a call and response. Calls-and-responses are used in many sermons and hymns (and also in sea chanties!), in which the preacher or singer asks a question or makes an exclamation, and the audience responds with a specific, pre-determined response. (Think: Can I get an amen? to which the response is AMEN!) You might think of the response as a sort of refrain or chorus that comes up repeatedly, while the call can vary slightly each time it is used. . . . The call can be longer than the response, or vice versa. But think of your poem as an interactive exchange between one main speaker and an audience."

Robert Lee Brewer’s PAD prompt: "For today’s Two-for-Tuesday prompt: (1) Write a love poem. Or . . . (2) Write an anti-love poem."

Got my poem done early today, merging all three prompts. Not even 6:00 A.M. yet!

Scene: young man plucking daisy petals
and calling out across an echoing ravine.
She loves me!
She loves me!

She loves me not!
She loves me not!

She loves me!
She loves me!

She loves me not!
She loves me not!

She loves me!
She loves you NOT!

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

Jed also merged all three prompts today.


You made me breakfast?
That’s so sweet.
I love you.

    I love you, too.

And folded laundry?
Ooh, so neat.
Why, thank you.

    I love you, too.

And look, the bathroom . . .
It’s so clean
It sparkles!

    I love you, too.

And there’s no cobwebs

    I love you, too.

Wait, you ate the last
Piece of cake?
I hate you.

—Draft by Jedediah Kurth    [Do not copy or quote . . . thanks.]

In Alan's poem, the call and response is between Prince onscreen in his 1984 movie and Alan's speaker's 2016 self commenting on the action. As for "love" and "anti-love," read on . . . it's complicated.

I Watch Purple Rain for the First Time in Twenty-Six Years

Dearly beloved
(I know this part with the organ music, I have heard it so many times),
We are gathered here today
(and it sounds as if a wedding ceremony is about to start, when later The Kid’s father warns him, “Don’t get married”)
To get through this thing called life
(and now we are off the rails, because this thing is no wedding in a conventional sense) —
Electric word, “life”:
(as in “I Sing the Body Electric,” because you hope that your man Prince has read a lot of Walt Whitman and knows those lines, “O my body! I dare not desert the likes of you in other men and women, nor the likes of the parts of you, / I believe the likes of you are to stand or fall with the likes of the soul [and that they are the soul] . . .”)
It means forever and that's a mighty long time
(Sometimes it has seemed long, Prince, and sometimes it doesn’t, so do not think linearly).
But I'm here to tell you
(all of us)
There's something else:
(wait for it)
The afterworld,
(ah, man, if you thought that the Boss was the first to offer sermons during such concerts, then now you know better — get out that Live in New York City album and listen to Springsteen preach his version of this bit during “The River”),
A world of neverending happiness
(so that you never know that you are happy, being in an eternal, unchanging state — if only Prince had read Blake, too).
You can always see the sun, day or night
(which means that you don’t know when night is, either).
So when you call up that shrink in Beverly Hills
(he’s supposedly performing this song in Minneapolis)
You know the one, Dr. Everything'll Be Allright
(I preferred Dr. Roberts from the Beatles’ song myself),
Instead of asking him how much of your time is left
(because a doctor will tell you how soon you are going to die),
Ask him how much of your mind, baby
(if you trust someone whose mantra, “Everything’ll Be Allright” will tell you the dead truth about your mind),
'Cause in this life
(as opposed to the Afterworld, one assumes),
Things are much harder than in the Afterworld
(I knew it).
In this life
You're on your own
(which is what the doctor will not tell you),
And if the elevator tries to bring you down,
Go crazy, punch a higher floor
(which we hope the Kid will do, by finally playing the song by Wendy and Lisa onstage, which will symbolize his coming to terms with the overwhelming misogyny of this movie, where there is the persistent risk of date rape, where a woman gets thrown into the trash, where we see two different men strike two different women, where a cut-music impresario tells his women’s group to wiggle “their asses,” and where, between musical numbers, I could not keep from wondering how an audience was primed to accept the interstitial material linking the musical numbers together. Go crazy).
—Draft by Thomas Alan Holmes    [Do not copy or quote . . . thanks.]

Here is Ven's call-and-response poem for the day. Several telling calls-and-responses.

Coupling (in honor of the TV show that I am flat out stealing this idea from)

“Where are you going?”
“I’m just off out the pub for a bit.”
“Oh ok. You want me to come?”
“It’s up to you.”

“Which one of these chairs should we get?”
“It’s up to you I don’t mind.”
“Where are you going?”

“It’s up to you, honestly, I don’t care.”
“You must have an opinion,
it’s important. Where are you going now?”
“I’m just gonna lie down for a bit.”

“We both chose this. We decided together.”
“Yeah, but it was always up to you really wasn’t it?”
“So what do we do now?”
“I guess I’ll leave for a few days you know. Think things over.”

She finally doesn’t ask “where are you going?”
He finally doesn’t say “It’s up to you.”

—Draft by Ven Batista    [Do not copy or quote . . . thanks.]

Thanks for the wonderful poems, Ven, Jed, and Alan.

A friend posted this meme on my Facebook yesterday. This has been making the online rounds for some time now, but it continues to be one of my favorites. Never fails to crack me up. “Rhyming is a gateway to sonnets”!   
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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Monday, April 25, 2016

Day 25 ... NaPoWriMo / Poem-a-Day 2016

Day 25 . . . 5 x 5 days gone by, 5 days left, 5 poems.

Maureen Thorson’s NaPoWriMo prompt: "[W]rite a poem that begins with a line from a another poem (not necessarily the first one), but then goes elsewhere with it. This will work best if you just start with a line of poetry you remember, but without looking up the whole original poem. (Or, find a poem that you haven’t read before and then use a line that interests you). The idea is for the original to furnish a sort of backdrop for your work, but without influencing you so much that you feel stuck just rewriting the original! For example, you could begin, 'Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day,' or 'I have measured out my life with coffee spoons,' or 'I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster,' or 'they persevere in swimming where they like.' Really, any poem will do to provide your starter line – just so long as it gives you the scope to explore."

Robert Lee Brewer’s PAD prompt: "For today’s prompt, write an exercise poem. The poem could be about a specific exercise, or it could just incorporate exercising into the poem. Or it could be dedicated to a piece of exercise equipment–so an ode to an elliptical machine or those hand grippers or something. Of course, not every exercise is physical; there are military exercises, mental exercises, and so on."

Today, I'm mashing up the prompts with a light ottava rima.

Other Ways to Exercise
(opening with a line excerpted from
“Little Exercise” by Elizabeth Bishop)
“Think of someone sleeping in the bottom
of a rowboat.” Not getting much exercise
that way, probably. But really it’s no problem
because the stars are dancing in his eyes
and in an agile aerobic dream he’s caught him
a gigantic fish, not with a rod and flies
but by swimming after it, chasing it down.
Now that’s exercise, in Dreamland’s playground.

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

Jed's poem is mythic today. And he got the word "exercise" in too!

(with the first line the same as the first line of the fifth stanza
of “The Mutability Cantos,” canto vi, by Edmund Spenser)
“For she the face of earthly things so changed”
By mere presence from nature most mundane
To wondrous, foreign shapes so passing strange
That men no more could see themselves as men
Before her, but did bleat and bark and howl
Like beasts, and like beasts did comport themselves
To violence, from Reason’s throne they fell,
And tare each other sore. Even myself,
Bathed in the light of her strange countenance,
Was not myself, though not as other men
Dragged down to bestial rage or fear, reduced,
But rather raised above my former ken.

Such powers exercised I on that day,
Great glories which I now can scarce recall,
And pride filling my heart did pave the way
For my as rapid and as distant fall.

I hungered for dominion and I strayed
From her embrace and favor. Had I known
Before her only could I be arrayed
With power, I should not have stayed behind
When she departed this base, lesser sphere.
But I thought to rule, solitary, here.
Circe Offering the Cup to Ulysses
John William Waterhouse (1892)
—Draft by Jedediah Kurth    [Do not copy or quote . . . thanks.]

That's brilliant, Jed! Great voice . . . you capture the mood well.

Alan's poem today melds the prompts to talk about collegiate football.


“From fields where glory does not stay”
return the disappointed fans
in T-shirts bought for Saturday
and celebrating in the stands

a resurrected football team.
We paid for coaches and a band.
We’re building a new stadium
on property with too much sand.

We got a logo with the State
of Tennessee as middle bar.
We got a mascot (faux pirate),
with model’s hands and not one scar.

To keep our health insurance low,
we force adjuncts to work part-time,
but not administrators, though
their benefits are rated prime.

But someone wanted football here,
and publicly, they say it’s fine
that we’ll play conference games this year
with last year’s record 2 and 9.

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

The borrowed line is from "To An Athlete Dying Young" by A. E. Housman (1896). Witty title, Alan!

Here is Ven's mashup of the prompts: an imitation of his model poet.


"For each ecstatic instant"
we pay a price in sweat.
Love as a competition —
foreplay turned into bets.

It’s not about who comes first
but who can finish first most times.
It’s not about comfort or words
Just instants of rising climbs.

So schedule in a session.
Close the blinds and block your calls.
Ignore that sense of doubt
you feel about being able to feel at all.

—Draft by Ven Batista    [Do not copy or quote . . . thanks.]

Did you figure out who the source poet is? The borrowed line is the opening of an Emily Dickinson poem, Johnson no. 125. Bravo, Ven!

Thanks for reading! Come back for more poetry tomorrow. Five more days in National Poetry Month!   

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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Sunday, April 24, 2016

Day 24 ... NaPoWriMo / Poem-a-Day 2016

Day 24 . . . including today, we have exactly a week left. Seven days, seven poems.

Maureen Thorson’s NaPoWriMo prompt: "Today I challenge you to write a 'mix-and-match' poem in which you mingle fancy vocabulary with distinctly un-fancy words. First, spend five minutes writing a list of overly poetic words – words that you think just sound too high-flown to really be used by anyone in everyday speech. Examples might be vesper, heliotrope, or excelsior. Now spend five minutes writing words that you might use or hear every day, but which seem too boring or quotidian to be in a poem. Examples might be garbage disposal, doggy bag, bathroom. Now mix and match examples from both of your lists into a single poem. Hopefully you’ll end up with a poem that makes the everyday seem poetic, and which keeps your poetic language grounded."

Robert Lee Brewer’s PAD prompt: "For today’s prompt, write a poem in which something is lost and then regained. Maybe a relationship is lost and then regained, or a special keepsake. Maybe it was stolen and won back. Or maybe it was in your possession the whole time, but you just didn’t know it."

Today I mashed up the two prompts but did not make up lists of fancy and un-fancy words, as Maureen recommended. I simply used her example words: vesper, heliotrope, excelsior, and garbage disposal, doggy bag, bathroom.

Paradise Regained

All day, things just got worse and worse.
First, the bathroom sprung a water leak
and then worse yet, the toilet backed up.
At lunch, I discovered that last night's
doggy bag from the new Thai restaurant
had soaked through with Tom Kha Gai soup
and the spill had run all over the fridge.
Shortly after that, the garbage disposal
locked up and the greasy water in the sink
wouldn't drain. Could it get any worse?
Finally, feeling defeated, I made myself
a Vesper cocktail (gin, vodka, Lillet blanc)
and put on Heliotrope's new CD. I lay back
in the recliner, put my feet up, and let
the music wash over me, circling in lovely
ambient waves of purple around the room.
Excelsior, nirvana, bliss — a perfect day.

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

Here is Jed's fancy/un-fancy poem. Maureen used the word "quotidian" in her prompt, and Jed says that since it was the only word in the prompt he had to look up, he had to use it in his poem!


Aforetimes, I was exuberant
About elaborate language,
Abstruse verbiage.

I reveled in the opportunity
To display my intricate cerebration
And innate superiority.

Then I asked myself if
I would rather use big words
Or be understood?
Would I rather write to be read?
Or to sneer at the world?

Now, with quotidian diligence
I strive to minimize
The indications of
My arrogant pretensions of

“I possess the capacity to
Ring upon each ear
In like plebeian tones
As the common man.”

Is it working?

—Draft by Jedediah Kurth    [Do not copy or quote . . . thanks.]

Alan's intro today: "There's something to be said about the purity of early rock lyrics, such as those written by Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, Carole King, and the Beatles. There's also a bad way to say those same things. Here's an example."

She Loves You

She loves you (yeah, yeah, yeah)!
She loves you (yeah, yeah, yeah)!
She loves you (yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah)!

You opine that you have irreversibly damaged your romantic relationship;
However, I encountered the object of your affection yesterday,
And I can evince that your erstwhile paramour dwells on you,
And she persuaded me to enunciate

That she loves you, and you know that can’t be bad.
She loves you, and you know you should be glad.

Having apprised her recent harmful interactions with you,
She has determined that her grasp on sanity became compromised;
Nevertheless, in reflection, she asserts her determination
That, in essence, she finds a contradistinction and has concluded that your character belies any core

And she loves you, and you know that can’t be bad.
She loves you, and you know you should be glad (whoo)!
She loves you (yeah, yeah, yeah)!
She loves you (yeah, yeah, yeah)!
She loves you (yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah)!

I have reached the conclusion, therefore, that you must take the initiative to effect an immediate
            reconciliation to eventuate,
Which is, if I may opine, the remaining just and rational action.
One finds in pride a contraindication to happiness.
Accept the consequences and responsibility of your rash actions, and prostrate yourself in hopes of her

Because she loves you, and you know that can’t be bad.
She loves you, and you know you should be glad (whoo)!
She loves you (yeah, yeah, yeah)!
She loves you (yeah, yeah, yeah)!
She loves you (yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah)!

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

Alan, what a refreshing and entertaining way to meld the two prompts — fancy/un-fancy over-the-top diction along with the loss and regain within the song's narrative — while also evoking your childhood and mine vis-à-vis the Fab Four.

Sleeve of 45-rpm record "She Loves You" by the Beatles
It's really fun to compare the "fancy" parts of Alan's poem with the original Beatles lyrics.
"You think you lost your love.
  Well, I saw her yesterday.
  It's you she's thinking of
  And she told me what to say. . . .

"She said you hurt her so,
  She almost lost her mind,
  But now she says she knows
  You're not the hurting kind. . . .

"You know it's up to you.
  I think it's only fair.
  Pride can hurt you too.
  Apologize to her. . . ."
Brilliant! Alan's "translations" of the actual lyrics, I mean.

If you don't know the song, listen to "She Loves You" here. This video really highlights what a great '50s-style lead guitarist George Harrison is. There are sections of the song where they don't sing the "yeah yeah yeah" part as expected and instead George plays it as a chordal melody. Very sweet. You can hear this on the video at 0:28, 0:53, and pretty well at 1:29. You'll see also at 1:36 that the audience is throwing jelly babies onstage at their feet. A few seconds later, you can also see Ringo dodging something thrown on stage, maybe a flower but at pretty high velocity.

Ven's poem is a fib, a poetic form that uses the Fibonacci sequence: 1 1 2 3 5 8 ... (where each number is the sum of the previous two). He "fibs" with regard to numbers of lines in a stanza, numbers of words in a line, and also numbers of syllables in a word or hyphenated phrase, starting from 1 up to 8 and then back down. Hope that made sense. And of course "fancy" and "un-fancy" words.




open. Inviting:
procrastination; indecipherability; misunderstanding;

suffering; bleeding. All of these—
tepid excuses self-multiplying parthenogenitcally. Ever-expanding simplistic answers. This
shit we swallow. Everything accelerating,

post-phenomenological authenticity. Separate.
Distant from

abandoned. Sexualizing.
Vesiculopustular. Vituperative. Schematics
hiding the hive mind’s unity.
Supercilious institutionalization, inexplicable reasoning. Rhyming is for the
losers— beautiful sadomasochists. Para-sympathomimetic ejaculations—
poetry air-born
as tear

indoctrinated individualization.
Real-time holocaust.
Revile the one thing holding

everything harmoniously: humanitarianism. Mutability didactic, static, numbs us.
God reborn— apathy. Theological interoperability.
Exogenesis. Freudian slippage.

Cry or



—Draft by Ven Batista    [Do not copy or quote . . . thanks.]

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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