PAD 2017 – Day 23

Part of the fun of the poem-a-day challenge has been trying out new forms. Today’s NaPoWriMo prompt called for a “double elevenie,” a form I’d never heard of before. I’m often drawn to the sparseness of micropoems, haiku & senryu, so I enjoyed trying to make something work within the form. I used the Writer’s Digest prompt of  writing a poem with a “Last ____” title as my starting point.


last call



beer drinker

grimy dive joint

swallowing all his loneliness




serving drinks

eyeing the boy

a bad idea, but



After my amazing day yesterday learning and writing with so many energetic poets at the Jane Munro workshop, I got to spend my evening listening to readings by current Edmonton Poet Laureate Pierrette Requier, Marilyn Dumont, and several great local poets who took part in the open-mic portion. Ms. Dumont is not just one of my favourite Alberta poets, she’s one of my favourite poets period. To see her read live is a huge treat, and she’ll be doing it again tonight with many other talented Indigenous writers as part of the final Edmonton Poetry Festival event, Beyond Reconciliation. Take a listen to her reading of “A Letter To Sir John A. McDonald” from her first book A Really Good Brown Girl.

But before that, local poets and poet fans get a chance to wrap-up the PoFest17 with the always delightful Cafe Readings. I’m so excited to be hosting one of the sessions at L’Espresso Cafe this year. If you’re in town, don’t let the snow win! Come downtown to take some poetry in!

PAD 2017 – Day 22

Happy Earth Day! Obviously every day should be Earth Day, but I think the planet deserves a special holiday too. Especially since humanity seems so determined to do harm. Today’s NaPoWriMo prompt is to write a Georgic poem about agricultural and using the land responsibly. I’ve tried to blend it with the Writer’s Digest prompt to write an animal fable poem.

Earthworm Offers Farming Advice


When you dig, do it with purpose.

Keep soil aerated, filtrated.

Soft brown dirt you can hold

in your hand, raise to your nose

to catch a whiff of genesis.

Give back to the earth

more than she gives you.


It’s a short poem today because I’m about to leave for a writing workshop with Griffin award-winning poet Jane Munro. Lucky me! It was at one of these fine Edmonton Poetry Festival workshops two years ago that I had the pleasure of meeting poet Naomi McIlwraith. Her poems incorporate beautiful tributes to family and to her Métis ancestry, and are always conveyed with such rich detail. But perhaps the most wonderful thing about much of her writing is that she incorporates English with Cree. Check out a few here, including one of my favourites, “nôhtâwiy opîkiskwêwin – Father Tongue”

PAD 2017 – Day 21

Today’s Writer’s Digest prompt asked poets to pick an object and use that as the title of the poem. The NaPoWriMo prompt asked for recollections of things overheard, a snippet of speech or a phrase remembered from childhood. While I didn’t come up with one specific saying, I was reminded of all the things I overheard when I visited my Dad while he recovered in hospital last summer.


Privacy Curtain


They call it that,

but it offers none. Worse,

an illusion that what happens

behind it, what’s said,

has no will to wander

through the gap.


Third day at the hospital, watching Dad sleep.

I make guesses about the other three patients in

this room by the sound of the people who visit them.

Learn by what’s said and what isn’t.

Overhear the doctors, who rarely lower their volume,

even for the worst news.


I can see feet under the curtains, swollen and bare

or cloaked in blue paper slippers, hospital issue.

So slippery that even a younger woman mimics

the mumble step of an old man on old legs.


How often do they wash these curtains?

When someone goes, before someone comes,

I’ve seen the efficient mop of floors, swabbed mattress,

every knob and rail on the bed wiped clean.

But the curtains left untouched. Germs lurking,

a bit like me, but more at home.


A pregnant nurse peeks through Dad’s curtain,

belly first, then smile, nodding to me as she

attends to him while he sleeps.  Checks the IV line,

his catheter bag, the incision on his stomach,

the one he proudly showed me.

Like he needed a witness

to his own survival.


He’s so still now, really resting. Reprieve

from the fitful tossing, twitching of yesterday.

That moment when his eyes fluttered open,

and neither of us recognized each other.

I started to sing a lullaby then,

something Mom used to sing to me.

Didn’t even care who might be on the other side

of the curtain, listening to each exposed note.


Today’s Alberta poet is Shawna Lemay from Edmonton. I have had the pleasure of reading several (though not all) of Ms. Lemay’s books, and look forward to her frequent blog postings, which always seem to contain such wisdom, and inspire a sense of serenity. Her poems often evoke the same feelings, though there is humour, and truth and fragility in them too. One of my favourites is “Skinned“,  from the book Blue Feast.

PAD 2017 – Day 20

Some days prompts push me into unexplored places, and sometimes they just inspire something easy and fun. Today the Writer’s Digest assignment called for a “task” poem, while the NaPoWriMo prompt suggested using the vocabulary of a particular game or sport. The first thing I thought of was Monopoly, a game I’ve always loved, even though I’m not much of a capitalist.

Building a Monopoly

Always be the banker
because she who controls her money gets ahead.
Resist the temptation to race straight to Boardwalk.
Build your empire, but know that sometimes
the biggest payoff is the one earned gradually.
Ride the rails, find adventure. Pass go, but go slow.
Look out the window and breathe.
Imagine your first house, the land its staked on,
what kind of flowers you’ll plant in your yard.
You can do it alone, virtue and vision,
but two to six players make it fun.
Shut your eyes and see the people
inside your little green house, the ones
who make this repeat trip around,
around the square worthwhile.
Imagine the hotel upgrade
when you’ve cornered the market
on your Lovopoly. Happiness,
a get-out-of-jail-free card
that never expires.

Yesterday I gave the Alberta Poet shout-out to Calgary’s first Poet Laureate. Today I point to the immensely talented Micheline Maylor, Calgary’s current Poet Laureate.  Whenever possible I think it’s great to hear a poet reading her own words. I’m sure that on the page, Ms. Maylor’s “Mercury” would still be stunning, but there’s so much power conveyed in the pace and tone she reads it with here, and the images that accompany it.

The Edmonton Poetry Festival hosts Ms. Maylor today, along with Gisèle Villeneuve, Kimmy Beach, Lisa Martin and Douglas Barbour for Literary CocktailsI am sad that I can’t attend this, but if you’re in YEG and free, you most definitely should.

PAD 2017 – Day 19

The Writer’s Digest prompt today asked for a poem based on a memory. I think memory has a huge part to play in many poems, but my specific stroll was influenced today by the NaPoWriMo prompt to write a creation myth poem. While not a creation myth, the idea did help me recall a specific moment in the creation of my family.



At the hospital so many nurses telling us

to keep her warm on our naked chests.

It’s important for Dad too, the older nurse

said, unwrapping her from her swaddle,

and setting her in your arms.

Sapped of energy, bleary-eyed

you somehow pulled off your yellow t-shirt

with one hand, held our daughter tight

with the other. I shifted over in my bed,

making room for the two of you.

You  touched her downy head

then whispered in my ear

Where else could she possibly fit,

except right up here by our hearts?


Today’s Alberta poet is Kris Demeanor, Calgary’s first Poet Laureate. Here he is performing an electric spoken word piece from a a few years ago.

PAD 2017 – Day 18

The peeps at NaPoWriMo central are trying to spark invention today with a prompt to write a poem that incorporates neologisms. Seemed a good fit with the Writer’s Digest two-for-Tuesday prompt to write a poem about either life or death, or both. My mind went to creation thoughts, of love and words.

Tip of the Tongue

To beatify is to make blessed. I, ungodly, search for it in you. Exalted. Blissful. Words as comely as their meaning. Feathery sounds, like your eyelashes brushing against my thigh. Our names together, sapid on tip of the tongue. Utter the euphonious and climb closer to harmony. Say something into being. Create a word like a life. Melodianic. Symphonosis. Ecstoxication. How many words get us higher in languages we don’t know? In tonguepaths we haven’t traced yet?


Apparently it’s spring, but today’s looking pretty darn wintry in my parts. Thinking about an Alberta writer to highlight today, and wishing for warmth, I thought of this poem, “First Hot Day” by Edmonton-based poet Claire Kelly.

PAD 2017 – Day 17

Today is Haiku Day, planted on the 17th day of National Poetry Month to note the (traditional) 17 syllables in a haiku. The Writer’s Digest prompt today called for a dancing poem, and the NaPoWriMo site suggested writing a nocturne. My micro poem today is neither haiku nor a nocturne, but maybe reminiscent of both. I did get the dancing in there.



Clear August night

dancing under the stars

by himself.


Because it’s Haiku Day, it seems a like a good time to mention the wonderful online journal Daily Haiku. Though the site is currently closed to submissions, the archives are a treasure trove of some of the best haiku from contributors around the world. The journal was created and edited by Edmonton poets Patrick M. Pilarski and Nicole Pakan.

PAD 2017 – Day 16

I woke up to snow where I am this supposedly spring morning. It made me a little grumpy at first, as I’m ready for spring, but it also seemed like good inspiration for the Writer’s Digest  prompt to write a poem with the title “______ System.” I decided to try to combine it with the NaPoWriMo letter-poem prompt.

Replying to a Note From a Weather System

Dear Keeper of the Clouds,
You’ve been busy this morning.
Busy making rain and snow,
reminding us that as much
as we wish for change — a slow
smile of green taking over the
trees, a peak of purple crocus
pushing through the grey dirt
— you are in charge. You set
the tone. I wonder, Keeper,
if you’re sending us a message.
Writing as clear as the crystalline
flakes falling. A raised eyebrow in
our direction. We’ve been
shirking our jobs as stewards
of this land, we know, Keeper.
We’ve been chasing more dollars
than dreams, stuck ourselves in the
dirty mud of the past, instead of
looking ahead — up, to you — to
see that we can be more, for
each other and for the earth
we share. I wonder, Dear Keeper,
if we’ll catch a whispering snowflake,
quiet our simmering voices,
and listen?

Today is also a beautiful day in Edmonton because it’s the start of the Edmonton Poetry Festival! The line-up of featured local and Canadian poets is as amazing as ever. I thought I would mark the day by linking to a great poem from current Edmonton Youth Poet Laureate Nasra Adem. Please take a minute to watch, listen and enjoy “Blush.”

PAD 2017 – Day 15

Today marks the halfway point, and the NaPoWriMo site called for participating poets to celebrate by writing a halfway poem. I took inspiration from the Writer’s Digest prompt to write a “one time” poem, and meshed them to write a small something about gratitude.

More Than One Time

Halfway through
an average life,
I’ve spent many moments
eyeing those who have
more than I ever will,
but more than one time
I’ve looked with eyes
less green and seen
many more
who will never have
nearly as much.


Sometimes I’m a little envious of, but mostly impressed by, the talents of prolific poet and spoken word artist Sheri-D Wilson. As wonderful as her writing is, her performance is even better. I’ve always loved the vibe in this video for “Spinsters Hanging In Trees.”



PAD 2017 – Day 14

Today’s Writer’s Digest prompt called for poems inspired by popular sayings. I’m feeling a little “under the weather” and couldn’t muster more than a few micros today. I think the idea of taking an old saying some place new certainly has potential for fun and interesting wordplay, on a day when I have a little more “get up and go.”


tug of war

the news pulls

my heartstrings


Mom’s recipes

everything’s easier

than pie


air grows thin

with time

on cloud nine


editing the poem

I become a woman

of few(er) words

I’ve admired the writing of Alberta poet, and former Edmonton Poet Laureate, Anna Marie Sewell for a long time, but I just discovered today that she’s doing wonderful things on her website for National Poetry Month. I’ve enjoyed all her daily offerings so far, but especially her poem for April 4, which begins with the line: “it reeks a hirsute, ursine pong.” Awesome.  Check out the 30/30 2017 poems here.