In addition to the poem-a-day challenge in April, I’ve been writing a poem a month along with a local group of writers. They are ’21 themed for the year. This month’s called for a 21-line or 21-syllable poem that honours someone important to you. Short on time, but no less inspired by my own daughter, I came up with a micro.
When My Daughter Doodles
Hearts where hands and eyes should go
I draw what I feel, she says
What if the world is still good?
This is my first ever try at at a sijo, the traditional Korean form prompted today by NaPoWriMo.net. Like the haiku, it has three lines, but the lines are much longer. Typically, they are 14-16 syllables, and optimally each line will consist of two parts – like two sentences, or a sentence of two clauses divided by a comma. In terms of overall structure, a sijo functions like an abbreviated sonnet, in that the first line sets up an inquiry or discussion, the second line continues the discussion, and the third line resolves it with a “twist” or surprise. For more on the sijo, check out the primer here and a long list of examples in English, here. I am quite sure I didn’t hit all the criteria here to make it a good sijo, but I like trying new forms, so this was pretty cool.
At The Window In This Room
At sunset we stand too close, fingers grazing, I step aside.
It’s old work, watching for sparks, checking for heat, damping down flames.
But still the fire keeps burning, until there is more smoke than air.
I really did write a poem today, but I’m not sure it’s fully dressed to face the world, so instead I will post the prompt I used: a 30/30 call to incorporate “constant / transient / permanent” into a poem.
Using the 30/30 prompt “susurration” to build on a recent moment with my daughter.
There Will Be Gentle Things
I miss normal
she whispered to me
as I rubbed a circle over
her back, some kind of
dial to move her toward
sleep, toward an even quieter
place than this darkened bedroom,
where the hard edges and jagged ridges
of the last year have dissolved into
only soft S sounds, the small swish
of two pages closing against one another.
Today I took inspiration from the Writer’s Digest prompt to write a poem with a “_________ Story” title, and the NaPoWriMo.net prompt from Juan Martinez. It asks you to think about a small habit you picked up from one of your parents, and then to write a piece that explores an early memory of your parent engaged in that habit, before shifting into writing about yourself engaging in the same habit.
She moved through the small space
too quickly for me to keep track of her hands,
mother magician with a whisk for a wand,
tea towel for a cape,
throwing the threadbare plaid cloth
over her shoulder with a flourish
when concentration was at its highest.
I feel it now too, the furrowed expression
of attentiveness on my face, a meditation almost,
kitchen work. Poring over a recipe, looking
for the unwritten instructions that will make
for a close imitation, if never as good as hers.
The way, I too, wipe my hands, then throw
the towel across my left shoulder, as though
the ritual will result in big reveal:
here she is! Again, all along.
Today I used the NaPoWriMo.net prompt calling for a poem that delves into the meaning of your first or last name. The example was this poem by Mark Wunderlich, appropriately titled “Wunderlich.” I went in a different direction, after finding some meanings of my surname, Mannix, here and here.
green field after a rainstorm,
the way the clouds cast shadows
over a treeless meadow.
Call the first blooming daisy
little monk, for the way it lifts its
face to the sky, gathers sun like faith.
Mark your place on a well-worn path
with the letter X, crossed sticks or the stems
of two dandelions, so when the next traveller
comes along, O' Mainichin or MacNeice,
they will see something familiar in the inscription,
knowledge that though the sounds may vary, over the
course of one life or generations, something simple
connects us to this place. Both as important and as plain
as a blue pen, signing us into history.
I am not sure what I wrote today even qualifies as a poem, but it was a fun to write. The NaPoWriMo.net prompt called for a poem in the form of a “to-do list.” The suggestion was to make it a “to-do list” of an unusual person or character. For example, what’s on the Tooth Fairy’s to-do list? Or on the to-do list of Genghis Khan? Of a housefly? The list can be a mix of extremely boring things and wild things. For some reason, the first character I thought of was The Mothman.
Mothman’s Friday To-Dos
Do 50 sit ups
Do 50 wing extensions
Clean coffee pot
Build bridge out of sugar cubes
Knock it down
File & paint claws
Gather doom for later harbingering
Remove thorns from feet
Today my poem took inspiration from the the League of Canadian Poets prompt to write a poem about what happens when you sleep, as well as today’s NaPoWriMo.net prompt modeled on the 1915 book Spoon River Anthologyby Edgar Lee Masters. It asked for a poem in the form of a monologue delivered by someone who is dead. Not a famous person, necessarily – perhaps a remembered acquaintance from your childhood. The monologue doesn’t have to be a recounting of the person’s whole life, but could be a fictional remembering of some important moment, or statement of purpose or philosophy, with any degree of drama thrown in. I chose to write from the perspective of a cousin who contracted encephalitis from a mosquito, and died several years later, long before I was born.
To call is it sleeping sickness implies a certain serenity
but I can tell you, from this side of my closed eyes,
it was never true. Before all that I was praised for my
black curls and round blue eyes, like a doll they’d say,
never getting old enough to be noted for my keen
math skills or the way I could run to the treehouse
faster than my brothers and climb the ladder like
a squirrel. I loved the colour yellow and the way
my mother’s carrot cake tasted ¬ best on my birthday.
I never had time for a real crush, or to really dream
about what I’d do when I finished school, but I do
know it would have been more than house and babies.
I do know I would have danced, even through the
reluctance and bone-ache of old age. I do know I
would have gone to the lake every summer,
stayed up for every sunset, shut my eyes to memorize the
way the crimson and pink, the streaks of orange
reflected on the water. Held the shades and shapes like a favourite
painting, in my heart and behind my eyes, so I’d always have
some place to go to in the dark.
I’m not posting my poem today, but am sharing the prompt because I think it has the potential to bring interesting results. I used the NaPoWriMo.net instruction borrowed from Holly Lyn Walrath to go to a book you love. Then, find a short line that strikes you. Make that line the title of your poem. Write a poem inspired by the line. Then, after you’ve finished, change the title completely.