Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Day 29 ... NaPoWriMo / Poem-a-Day 2020


Robert Lee Brewer’s Poem-a-Day prompt: “For today’s prompt, take the phrase ‘Total (blank),’ replace the blank with a word or phrase, make the new phrase the title of your poem, and then, write your poem. Possible titles could include: ‘Total Madness,’ ‘Total Victory,’ ‘Totally Awesome,’ and/or ‘Total Cereal.’”

Maureen Thorson’s NaPoWriMo prompt: “Today, I challenge you to write a paean to the stalwart hero of your household: your pet. . . . If you don’t have a pet, perhaps you know one or remember one who deserves to be immortalized in verse.


When I read the NaPoWriMo prompt, I gotta tell ya I was dismayed. I wanted to write another poem for my aswang novella, but I couldn't imagine my two aswang characters having pets. To up the difficulty factor, as I said yesterday, I wanted to write a Pushkin sonnet this month. And also, I have wanted to write a fun, lighthearted aswang poem, which is complicated by the fact that my characters are fearsome, man-eating monsters. Besides, I had killed one of them off a few days ago! Well, despite all these difficulties, I got it done. In under an hour!

Total Surprise on Halloween

Clara lay in bed recalling
Tiyago in much happier times,
memories that had her smiling,
pranks and little harmless crimes.

One Halloween when she was pregnant
the two imagined themselves as parents
taking their little one on the streets
of San Francisco: trick or treat.

Tiyago shifted into his canine
form, as big as a Great Dane,
and out they went, dog and dame,
taking a stroll in the moonshine.

Laughing children gathered around
in costume and petted her lovely hound.

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

Yesterday, I wrote a Pushkin sonnet (or Onegin Stanza) but it was in pentameter; the original form is in tetrameter. Here is the rhyme scheme and metric pattern: aBaBccDDeFFeGG, where the lower-case letters end in an unstressed syllable and the upper case letters indicate a stressed ending. Quite a challenge, but I think I was able to carry it off.

When I wrote "Great Dane" above, I was thinking generically. Then I googled. I didn't realize what the biggest Great Dane ever, Little George, looks like! Crazy! It's partly the angle and the woman is back a bit, but still that's one big dog.



Alan got his poem done early today; he got it to me by 9:00am! Congrats, Alan. And thanks . . . you inspired me to complete my poem early too. Good job with the total title and also getting a pet-of-sorts in there!

Total Immersion

What thoughts I have of you this morning, Jack, as the crow caws in the black locust
                near the back of the lot,
the black locust that turns on itself knotting, seeming to break itself over years in its
                refusal to yield to its own worst growths,
a malignancy surfaced on the smooth round overturned bowl of a hillside back there,
                covering instead something rising and nourishing dough, the ground fertile even
                for the unwelcome,
like the black locust, which can send runners for yards across yards and can force
                constant attention on our part,
like the cawing crow that takes that high perch for the perspective and warns of dangers
                to come
in a familiar call.
I have left Mardi Gras beads looping over loose nails in the side fence, offering them to
                the crows of our neighborhood,
welcoming them to take what treasures might catch their eyes
because I want them to perch and call to each other in their crow inflection, the corvid
                cadence, the rising and falling raucous musical caw,
their commentary from on high
although they seem ordinary enough close by, they share a community, fuss at each
                other sometimes, and learn
like colleagues,
like us in our working group as we had it,
and as much as I miss you, I am relieved that you do not see the mess that mires us
                survivors now.

I wrote a poem about you years ago without naming you, Jack, and it got published in a
                regional journal,
and, without my knowing it beforehand, the poet laureate of an Appalachian state read
                it aloud to an audience at an Appalachian regional conference,
and some listeners recognized you in my completely fabricated story
that I wove from your voice
and what I knew of your breadth of learning
and from an earthy joke my father would tell in my presence only once I was an older
                teenager,
because I never heard you tell such stories, but I always thought that if you were ever to
                tell one, everyone would ache with laughter afterwards and feel grateful that such
                a broad and generous mind would make room for consideration of all human
                foibles and vulnerabilities,
but I am projecting, of course, because putting my father in a poem about you also
                suggests that I have over the years shifted paths, learning to walk one and then
                finding a corollary path with another, sometimes following but often, when
                fortunate, blazing,
because you knew what you loved about this place, and you could encourage other
                people to value it and love it, too, even the parts of it in themselves they were not
                certain what to do with—
you were creating in the classroom what our great authors make in their tradition, what
                I hope to make, in my modest way, Jack,
sometimes, like so many of us, to expand ourselves from what we have thought we are
                into what we learn we can be.

This morning I see myself weatherbeaten and resist the idea that somehow I have
                purchased some high perspective
and hope only that I can preserve an expanding mind wedged open by consideration of
                many well-expressed ideas
even in rough music, Jack, and you have taught me that.


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

Last day tomorrow. Thanks for coming by to read, everyone! Stay safe out there, especially if you are in a location where authorities are lifting COVID-19 restrictions.


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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3 comments:

Bruce Niedt said...

Cool poem, Vince - I like the form.

Vince Gotera said...

Bruce, thanks. Check out Vikram Seth's novel-in-verse GOLDEN GATE, which is made up of 500+ sonnets in this form. The table of contents is in that form, the acknowledgements, the dedication, and maybe some other things. It's really fun from a poetics point of view.

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