Happy NaPoWriMo Eve!

I have barely written a single creative word since last April. Yet here I am, on the eve of National Poetry Month, feeling something like…enthusiasm?…to tackle another poem-a-day challenge. As in previous years, I plan to use prompts from both NaPoWriMo.net and my local poetry group’s 30/30 challenge in order to generate the poems. I aim to write something every day, though not necessarily post here every day. If pandemic life has taught me one thing, it’s the importance of embracing both uncertainty and flexibility.

The prompts traditionally begin on March 31st in preparation for a productive April. Today’s “early-bird prompt” asked writers to spend a few minutes looking for a piece of art in the online galleries of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. After finding something that piques interest, study the photographs and the accompanying text to inspire your poem.

I chose this photo, more for the title of the piece and the description than the actual image. Then a draft came out. Whether or not I will ever shape the poem into something more is a six-months-from-now decision, after the words have settled.

Cosmetic Vessel in the Shape of a Cat ca. 1990–1900 B.C.
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 111
Cosmetic Vessel in the Shape of a Cat 
 
Where cosmetic implies to beautify
 
        	improve the face       	not just of the body
                                	but of things as they seem
                                	impress with transformation
                                	superficial dusting that somehow
                                	makes me feel more here
 
        	the shape of a cat      	is some classic ideal
                                	grace unmatched but mystery too
                                	the way the lithe muscles of a back
                                	in motion, toward prey or affection
                                	convey a power I have yet to hold
 
        	how a vessel             	is a place to contain
                                	something utilitarian, necessary
                                	or simply coveted and kept
                                	a swift vowel switch and
                                	vassal I become to perfection

PAD 2020 – Day 6

Today’s poem is a short one, but blends a couple prompts and bits of inspiration. The NaPoWriMo prompt called for a poem written from the point of view of one person/animal/thing from Hieronymous Bosch’s famous (and fantastically weird) triptych The Garden of Earthly DelightsI chose the naked man carrying the lovers in a mussel shell (image below), and added in the Poetic Asides call for a “trap” poem. The image immediately made me think of the 1980 Squeeze song “Pulling Mussels (From the Shell)” — which also happens to be a euphemism for sex — so, naturally, that made it into the poem too.

Under the Black Shell

 

Love is a trap, snapped

and those ensnared in its teeth

abandon all care for freedom.

I’ve carried lovers on my back,

felt the burden of the heart

when pearls of wisdom

are traded for beads of sweat.

Judgement lost in passioned frenzy.

How much innovation

has been wasted

by those who’d spend all

their waking days and wanton nights

pulling mussels from the shell?

 

download

PAD 2019 – Day 4

Today I combined the Poetic Asides prompt to use an artist’s name as a title, with my local Stroll of Poets prompt to make a “10 Things” poem. I’ve always been inspired by Monet’s art, and especially love the “Camille Monet et un enfant au jardin” painting (image below). As I’ve aged, I have come to see the painting differently than I once did.

10 things about Monet’s “Mother and Child”

 

It’s the flowers I always remember.

The beauty in shades of red, and all the white that suggests an ideal day.

The mother is Monet’s wife, Camille.

No one else appears in his paintings as often as Camille.

The Child is only identified as “Child.”

I imagine the texture of the grass, the feel of Camille’s dress, the softness of the child’s hair.

I wish I knew what book the child looks at.

I see my  own mother in Camille, never attending to just one thing.

I stare at the faces of mother and child, obscured in indistinct brushstrokes.

I wonder why it’s the flowers I always remember.

NaPoWriMo – Day 5

I love today’s prompt. The challenge put for at NaPoWriMo.net was to write a poem that reacts both to photography and to words in a language not your own. Begin with a photograph and then find a poem in another language, ignoring any accompanying English translation. Write with the idea that the poem is actually “about” your photograph. Use the look and feel of the words in the original to guide you along as you write, while trying to describe your photograph.

I picked an untitled, Dutch poem with no author (that I could find) and used the photo of the cat below. I noticed some words seemed to suggest an English counterpart, while other times it was the rhythm or look of a line that caused me to “translate”. A cool experiment, and one I would definitely try again with a longer piece.

 

Natuurlijk moest je nog lang niet

dood, dat wist ik best, maar hijdiede liedjes

zingt voor de hazen en beren waarin hij vertelt

hoe hij ze heft geschoten, was juist begonnen

het jouwe te maken, ik kon het

horen in mijn hoof, pieng

pong¸ de eerste,

voor zichtige tonen.

 

Cat Work

Nature made cats so the dead can

speak, messages sent through a thrum in the chest,

the glint of a green eye catching moonlight

like a hurried mouse, the faint paw print

marking fresh snow, the quick flick

of impatient tails, meow,

yowl,  they say, meaning,

we never left.

 

November PAD – Day 29

Today’s prompt asked for a response poem, perhaps to something in the news, or a previously penned poem from this month. So many of my poems have already been responses to headlines, but today I saw a photo of a sand sculpture from the Karavali Utsav sand sculpture exhibition (link here) that inspired something. Maybe a response poem, maybe an ekphrastic piece.

29.

World Peace is carved into the sand, with Gandhi’s hooded, hopeful eyes, looking out through his round frames. An award-winning sculpture, as much for the craft as the idea. Care and detail evident in each clean cut and smooth line. I’ve never built more than simple castles, from blunt pail shapes. Never etched more than imperfect square windows, or added detail beyond a flag made from a stick and a leaf. I’ve never considered the message of the medium, tenuous sand. Moved with the whim of water or wind. Or done in by a heavy foot, tired of the display. Threatened by the allure. I’ve focused too long on the fragility. Overlooked the composition, a billion tiny rocks as old as the world. Each grain a small word in a developing story.

PAD Challenge – Day 9

I’m a little pressed for time today, so I’m posting my first thoughts without a lot of polish. But in the case of today’s prompts, maybe the raw attempt works well. I combined the Poetic Asides prompt to write a hide-out poem with the NaPoWriMo prompt to write a line you’re afraid to write.

 

Honestly,

 

I ask a lot of questions

so you won’t ask them of me.

 

I cover worry with practiced smiles

and have gone pro in play pretend.

 

I write make-believe women

and hide out in their cracks.

 

The prompt over at This Is Not A Literary Journal is right up my alley: look at three photographs and write a poem combining your ideas from the images. Poems about or after photographs make up a big chunk of my book-in-progress, and I love reading other people’s photo poems for inspiration. Rattle magazine runs a monthly Ekphrastic challenge online, and I was quite taken with both the photo and the winning poem last month. You can see it, and read it, here.

PAD Challenge – Day 6

I heart ekphrastic prompts, so I was pleased to see the Poetic Asides prompt today was to write  a poem inspired by one of three images, or one of your own choosing. I picked Michelangelo’s First Painting (The Torment of Saint Anthony). Apparently he painted this when he was 12, which is pretty darn cool. It was also his own interpretation of a similar engraving by artist Martin Schongauer, so kind of ekphrastic in its own right. Lots of amazing imagery in here, but it was something about a boy painting a “good guy” battling all those fierce “bad guys” that got me thinking this way:

Superhero Sketch

 

Picture Michelangelo at 12, on the cusp of manhood,

bored with school and daydreaming in doodles.

Sketching superheroes in beards and robes,

not steel-jawed or muscle bound,

but mighty all the same.

Ordinary men doing extraordinary things.

And he, learning the world like we all do.

Drawing the lines between right and wrong.

Struggling to stand tall,

even with all those demons on his back.

 

michelangelo_first_painting-221x300

The NaPoWriMo prompt is also one of my favourites…poetry about food! I’ve written a few of my own in the past, but none as wonderful as “Peas & Barbies” by Catherine Graham, presented here by poet Lisa de Nikolits.

Monet poems featured on Ekphrastic

I’m thrilled that the online literary and art journal Ekphrastic will feature two of my Monet poems this week, “Camille, at the end” and “Monet, in colour”.

Ekphrastic is an interesting new venture from Canadian writer and visual artist Lorette C. Luzajic. Take some time to check it out, and consider contributing. Great art breeds more great art!