It’s almost over! Do I write this with happiness or regret? Maybe both. Certainly finding the motivation to write some days this month has been a challenge, but it’s also been a kind of comfort to have a routine, and so many other new poems from others to inspire me.
The final NaPoWriMo.net prompt challenges you to write a poem in the form of a series of directions describing how a person should get to a particular place. It could be a real place, like your local park, or an imaginary or unreal place, like “the bottom of your heart,” or “where missing socks go.” Fill your poem with sensory details, and make them as wild or intimate as you like.
How to Get to the Back Deck to Drink Your Coffee
Never assume a short journey is an easy one.
Begin by preparing for diversions — a phone call you
don’t want to answer; the broken glass you’ll have to carefully
pick up, when a too-quick pivot to answer a child calling
from another room results in an elbow knocking last night’s
wine glass from the counter. Allow time for a loud expletive,
then a sigh. Embrace exasperations that end in small relief.
When it seems there is quiet — a gifted moment when no one
remembers you’re there — pour coffee into your favourite mug,
or your favourite right now, one that knows the shape of your hand.
Take soft steps toward your destination. Watch out for
the squeaky spot between the kitchen and the dining room.
Keep your hip clear of the metal chair, pushed back from the table
after someone’s hurried breakfast, now collecting sun
from the bare window. Casting shadow on an unswept floor.
Turn the lock on the deck door cautiously, with one foot out to
the side, that experienced stance to block escape artist cats.
Open only as wide as is needed for you to slip through. Don’t
pause at the threshold, overcome with birdsong or
the welcome wash of cool air. Just get out there. Sit.
And stay. Even after you’re needed on the inside again.
Stay, sipping hot coffee and staring at clouds.
Let a part of you remain.
I’m happy to have one of my 100-word stories featured today at Microfiction Monday Magazine. I’ve pasted my story below, but if you love microfiction as much as I do, please check out the entire issue here.
As he boarded the train, she drew a tissue from her pocket, thinking the tears would come any second. They didn’t.
Numb. I’m just numb now, she thought, dabbing at the corner of her eye anyway. In case he was watching.
“Last trip for the year,” he said on the drive to the station. “Then it’ll be just us together for months.”
“I can’t wait,” she said, grateful he was looking at the road instead of her face.
After his train pulled away, she stepped up to the ticket booth.
“One way for whatever gets me the farthest,” she said.
I decided to take stock this morning and look back at what I wrote this month. 36 poems and 7 starts (that may turn into poems at some point). I even like 4 of them! Most of the poems I’ve gone on to publish in journals or anthologies have started from seeds planted during these poem-a-day challenges.
I recently submitted a revised version of my poetry manuscript, and the majority of poems in it also started from the monthly challenges I’ve completed in previous years. I realize prompts don’t work for every writer, but they have been an amazing motivator for me, and also help me explore writing in new forms or about different topics than I’m normally drawn to.
All of this to say, even in the midst of one of the most stressful and disorienting months I’ve ever experienced, poetry has been a respite. I know it always will be.
To anyone who has read or commented on my work this month, thank you! I am grateful. I always write for myself first, but it’s encouraging to know something I’ve created and shared resonates in some small way with someone else.
Next comes editing and revising. A different kind of fun! But not until June. The words need time to age and settle a bit. First I plan to read more of the poems others have created this month, and dig in to the MANY poetry books I’ve purchased in the last several weeks. I firmly believe every day is better with poetry, but never has that seemed truer than now.
One week into Poetry Month and I’ve written a poem (sometimes more than one) each day! Considering how creatively stunted and numb I’ve felt lately, I’m happy that any words are rising to the surface. Thinking about how to revise them into good words is a May problem.
Today’s NaPoWriMo prompt asked for a poem based on a news article. It was a bit of a chore to find a story that wasn’t about the pandemic, but then I hit upon this interesting one about discovering the age of whale sharks. But, true to my nature, I ended up turning it into something with an undertone of doom.
This one is an erasure poem taken directly from the text of the article. I don’t do those often, because I find them extremely challenging, but this month is all about experimentation and breaking out of comfort zones (without leaving your house), right?
Whale sharks swim in mystery.
Count lines in the vertebrae
like rings in a tree trunk.
Reasons behind age, what persists —
every living thing decays
the older the creature, the less you find
The hard part is these intensely vulnerable humans.
I am super excited to be reading at the Edmonton Poetry Festival today for Poetry Central 1 at City Hall, and honoured to be on the bill with four other poets I admire. The theme of this year’s fest is HomeWord, and I have tried to keep that in mind when I chose the pieces I want to share.
The fest actually kicked off yesterday morning with a BYOV (local poets organizing their own events at various city venues) called Poetry and Stillness. It was meditative and beautiful. The words were enriching. It gave me the focus and energy I need for the rest of the busy week.
Hoping to catch as many events as I can, and then finish with a workshop by Arleen Pare on Saturday. The Fest always puts on spectacular workshops.
Still plan to post the Poem-A-Day to finish out the month. If you’ve been reading any of my posts, thank you so much. And hopefully you’re poeming along too. The world needs your words. Poetry can be the force that makes us protect what’s important, and fight for the world we want. But Alice Walker said it better, with one of my favourite quotes about poetry:
“Poetry is the lifeblood of rebellion, revolution, and the raising of consciousness.”
Today is the first day of National Poetry Month and the FIFTH consecutive year that I’ll be participating in the poem-a-day-challenge! I have been madly writing dark short fiction for the last few months, as part of a mentorship program with the Writers’ Guild of Alberta (how lucky am I?!?!), but I decided to dust off the blog with some poetic blab too.
This year I’m aiming to write a poem every day in a local, closed group with other adventurous Stroll of Poets members, but when I can I will try to post here as well. I will also try to respond to the Poetic Asides prompt, or a combination if it works. Today’s prompts matched perfectly, with my local group suggesting “the streets at dawn” as a prompt and Poetic Asides asking for a “morning” poem. Clearly the darkness of all that horror fiction I’ve been writing and reading bled into today’s poem:
Morning Before Anyone Else
a kind of hollowness, the streets at dawn
apocalypse now — concrete world without people
rubble from winter melt desecrating this suburban crescent
windows of each house black and vacant, pupils of the dead
Super pleased to say that my strange little piece, Dead Sky Man, was awarded 2nd place in Kathryn Mockler‘s Flash Fiction contest! It’s posted in Issue 13 of The Rusty Toque. It’s an amazing issue, featuring some of my favourite Canadian writers, which is extra sweet icing on any publication cake.
Today’s prompt asked for a ____ Day poem. All I could think of was “A Day”, and what a day it was, it was.
A day seems so long when the sun’s still on its way, the coffee is hot, and you can almost see the blank hours ahead, like a long country road in summer. I was travel ready this morning, prepared and packed, motivation easy to reach in a mental carry on. How quick it all runs off course, when the phone rings, and crisis, small but real, is on the line. A different city, too far away to help, but close enough to think I should be helping. Somehow. The day is no longer enlarged by possibility, but crushed by those pointless words — wish and worry.
Today’s prompt asked for a “What I learned” poem. I suppose what I wrote is almost a found poem, discovered in dire tids and interesting bits on my morning email check and headline browse.
The morning has barely broken, and already the internet enlightens me. Word of the day, ballooning, not blowing air and twisting latex into animal shapes, but the work of a spider, when it throws out lines of gossamer, snags the breeze and sails on silk strands. Is there a name for the spot a spider lands? I try to invent one while I read more headlines: These popular toys could be putting your child in danger. Maybe the spot is called a cushion. Hate crimes in the United States have increased to a point not seen in recent history. Or the target. Charles Manson, murderous cult leader, dead at 83. Perhaps it’s just called safety. Impact of Arctic climate change being felt farther south, scientists say. It’s surely not Arcadia, but I’ll call it that anyway.
Five days in already! Time flies when you’re working words. Today’s prompt was to write a “self-destruct” poem. Hard not to go to the big picture of humanity place with the state of things, so I rolled with it.
There are reasons to be hopeful. At this exact moment, a man in California is hearing his child laugh for the first time. Better, he’s the one making the child laugh. A woman is being pulled from the Mediterranean Sea, and will live. People are dancing in Helsinki. Imagination burns. Someone is inventing new ways to be or not to be at all. Lighting the slow burning match that sets off the self-destruct. The end of everything — except. Radioactivity subsides. Fauna revives. Flora grows. Winds blow. It lightens the heart, really, this universal resilience. Take a sip of tea. Dip your cookie. It all goes on just fine without us.
In other poetry news, I am so excited that my first ever haiga has been chosen as an honorable mention in the Second Annual Jane Reichhold Haiga Competition, photography category. I took this photo at the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village just outside Edmonton, Alberta. The poem didn’t come immediately, but I could tell those old gloves had a story or two. Please take a moment to read all the winning entries in this issue of Failed Haiku magazine, and see my haiga, as well as the judge’s comments below.
Comments from contest judge Linda Papanicolaou:
“If senryu is about the human condition, old age can be an endless source of humor. This is a warm poem in the way it depicts an old man who retains the charisma of his younger days despite decrepitude. The image reinforces the poem nicely, illustrating line two with an image of boxing gloves. Its pale coloration evokes elderly skin while the empty space between the hanging gloves evokes missing teeth.”