PAD Challenge 2020 – Recap

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.

green leafed plant on sand

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PAD 2020 – Day 30

For the final day (woohoo!) of Poetry Month, I followed the NaPoWriMo prompt asking for a poem about something that returns.

 

What Comes Back

 

Some returns require nothing  —

geese, poplar leaves, sunrise —

but our attention.

 

Other returns demand such faith:

 

phone call from a doctor

child taking their first solo bike ride

teenager late home from a party

lover gone away on business, mid-winter

cat, escaped out the door left carelessly open

 

A sense of safety,

normalcy,

oblivion to danger.

 

A feeling, warm in the chest,

that just as the grass greens,

the apple trees blossom

 

happiness will come home to its heart.

 

silhouette of flying birds

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PAD 2020 – Day 29

Today’s NaPoWriMo prompt called for a paean to the stalwart hero of the household: your pet. I know there are people out there who write meaningful poetry about their cat, dog, or goldfish, but I am clearly not one of them. I adore my cats (Isaac, today’s poem star, and Jean-Guy, the shy guy of my house) and probably take more photos of them than I do of my kids. Yet it was difficult to put that affection into words.

 

Isaac

 

We worried

that your penchant for hissing

when you’re touched not just so,

that your sharp claws

which you refuse to have trimmed,

that your insistence on jumping

up and on anything,

that your preference for being

on a lap, no matter the welcome,

would cause lashing out of

a bruised cat-ego

once the baby arrived.

What a happy surprise

when you jumped into the crib

to nap with the newest member

of the family you believe you lead,

purrs audible over the baby monitor.

What a beautiful gift

to see you still take every chance

to cuddle next to that child,

ten years later.

 

IsaacBlanket

 

PAD 2020 – Day 28

Today’s NaPoWriMo prompt asked poets to describe a bedroom from their past. It served as a good prompt to combine with the Poetic Asides call for a “look back or don’t look back” poem.  The first place my mind looked back to was the room I slept in when I visited my grandparents as a child.

 

Visiting

 

Four of us

crammed in the small bedroom at the Cook Street house,

afterthought lined with wood paneling.

Adjunct to the crowded porch where Grandpa kept his freezer full of meat

and Grandma kept her boxes of unused Avon products,

bought to appease her persistent neighbour.

My brother, notorious snorer, got the living room couch,

but Grandpa and Grandma thought they were treating my sister and me

to the thin mattress on the floor, giving Mom and Dad the luxury

of the spare double bed in the very same room. A small window

that opened halfway, only deliverance from the stale space.

I couldn’t stay on my side of the mattress, so my sister kicked. We both yelled.

Mom scolding us to be quiet, while Dad slept on. Oblivious.

They lived too far away to make quick trips,

so we’d spend a week of nights in that tiny space, darker than my dark

at home, I was even a little grateful for my sister’s closeness.

In the morning, awoken by chickadees in the caragana shrub,

the scent of Grandpa frying last night’s ham, I liked being the first

one to open my eyes. To sneak off the mattress, navigate the

tiny path, strewn with off-cast blankets, my Dad’s slippers,

to make it to the door. Opened it slow as syrup, to quiet the creak.

 

 

Door Knob

 

 

 

 

PAD 2020 – Day 27

Today’s Stroll of Poets prompt asked for an “altered state” poem. Not surprisingly, my busier-than-usual mind went to a place of questioning and worry.

 

BrainWhys

 

Therapist says

You rely too heavily on the ordinary mind.

 

As though I possess a back-up, extraordinary mind,

tucked in my purse, or hidden somewhere inside me.

Leftover brain of a vanishing twin.

 

But I curb that bit of sarcasm.

I’m paying to listen, receive, as well as talk.

In the ordinary mind, she continues, we can become stuck,

ignoring the usefulness of

           altered states, like mindfulness.

 

A non-verbal mode. Just here.

 

Leaving the present

at that very moment,

against all advice, I wonder

 

why we’ve become hard-wired to think

in ways that so often erode our happiness?

Why just being is something we need to be taught,

prodded into practicing?

Why does “consciousness” sound like

“constant mess”?

Why does my ordinary mind

have so many damn questions?

 

brain

 

 

 

 

PAD 2020 – Day 26

Today’s NaPoWriMo prompt was an interesting one, and could prove fruitful on days when I have more time. Still working on my draft for the CV2 2-Day poem contest, so the daily April poem is taking a bit of a backseat. But I did a little experimenting with the prompt, which asks writers to fill out an almanac entry for the day, then use it as a springboard for the poem. The almanac questions are listed above the poem, with my responses. Then the short poem I wrote below. Obviously I didn’t put all the responses in there, but it still ended up a little everything-but-the-kitchen-sinky.

Almanac Questionnaire

Weather: Crazy wind

Flora: tulips braving spring; blowing trees

Architecture: Bungalows

Customs: coffee; toast; news; try to write; more coffee

Mammals/reptiles/fish: 2 cats, 4 humans; a hurried house spider I met in the laundry room

Childhood dream: to be a teacher

Found on the Street: winter’s leftover grime

Export: grief – get it outta here

Graffiti: my daughters’ sidewalk chalk drawings

Lover: Thankfully, yes

Conspiracy: only my own self-sabotaging procrastination

Dress: black leggings and a Fight Evil With Poetry tee

Hometown memory: walking by the weir

Notable person: Justin Trudeau

Outside your window, you find: kids’ toys tossed about

Today’s news headline: Don’t rely on herd immunity to reopen economy: Tam

Scrap from a letter:doing better than expected…

Animal from a myth: unicorn

Story read to children at night: Charlotte’s Web

You walk three minutes down an alley and you find: a broken wine bottle; daffodils sneaking through fence boards

You walk to the border and hear: silence

What you fear: something happening to my kids

Picture on your city’s postcard: Broadmoor Lake

 

 

Whether Outside

 

Steady roar of wind, like the din of a moving ocean.

Out the window I see trees arced like waves, a loose strand

of Christmas lights left on the neighbour’s bungalow flapping against the roof.

I’d like to ask this belligerent wind whether it could carry my grief and anxiety away

with the clouds of street dust. Toss it around like my daughter’s pail of sidewalk chalk.

Clear my brain of all this worry rubble, thoughts mulled and twisted so often they’ve turned

to pebbles. The kind that find their way into your sandals when you walk down the alley,

searching for defiant tulips and daffodils who’ve snuck through fence boards. The kind that

distract you so much, you wonder whether you’ll ever see those flowers blooming again.

 

abstract background close up construction

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PAD 2020 – Day 25

This weekend I’m participating in CV2‘s 2-Day poem contest, where poets have 48 hours to compose a poem using 10 given, and often challenging words. It’s the fifth time I’ve participated, and it never gets old. But it does mean I have a bit less time to devote to the regular poem-a-day challenge. So, today’s poem is a quickie inspired by the Stroll of Poets prompt to write about something “in the margins.”

 

The Wizardry of Some Poems

searching the margins

for the invisible ink

that makes them magic

 

black twist pen on notebook

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PAD 2020 – Day 24

I used my local Stroll of Poets prompt today to come up with a poem that contains anaphora (deliberate repetition in the first part of the sentence), and combined it with the Poetic Asides prompt calling for a poem that includes nature.

 

Almost Normal

 

Normal, daily walk to check the mail,

the reluctant groan of the hinge on my front door,

the neighbour’s dog alert-barking at my movement.

Normal, the steady trickle of melt water,

crows cawing and soaring in a clear sky,

the shhhhhhh of leftover leaves rustling in a tree.

Normal, the teenager slapping a puck against his garage,

an older man raking his newly exposed lawn,

two small girls happy-screeching in a backyard.

Not normal, arriving at the mailbox,

staying two metres back while another woman collects her envelopes

fearing what else she, or the postal worker who delivered this, carry.

 

Canada-Post-Community-Mailboxes-493x300

 

 

PAD 2020 – Day 23

Did two micropoems from two prompts today. Poetic Asides asked for a “Social _______ ” poem.

 

social butterfly

wings clipped by isolation

learns to zoom instead

 

NaPoWriMo challenged poets to write a poem about a particular letter of the alphabet, taking inspiration from the actual the shape of the letter.

 

A Beginning

 

A tip of a pencil

A top of a castle

A hat for a dunce

A tent for us

A ladder to somewhere

A letter to start

the alphabet, arithmetic, and the day we said always.

 

A image

 

 

 

PAD 2020 – Day 22

Tried out today’s NaPoWriMo prompt asking for a poem that engages with different languages and cultures through the lens of proverbs and idiomatic phrases. Because one of my jobs is teaching English to adult Japanese learners, I chose a Japanese phrase, and its opposite: kuchi ga omoi (one’s mouth is heavy) and kuchi ga kurui (one’s mouth is light).

 

Heavy Mouth

 

Katsuya explains that when it comes to talking politics

he’s been taught to keep a heavy mouth: kuchi ga omoi.

In English, we say tight-lipped I explain,

internally thinking how today’s lesson is really for me.

A chance to weigh the things I’m prone to say.

How often do my heavy thoughts

slip from a mouth that’s too light?

 

Closeup of woman's mouth