PAD Challenge – Day 11

Is mashing up three prompts a good recipe for today’s poem? I’m not sure, but I tried it anyway. The NaPoWriMo prompt called for description of an object or place that leads to an unexpected ending. Poetic Asides said “write a defensive poem” and This Is Not A Literary Journal suggests a tribute of sorts to an animal.

Defending the Skunk


I’ve seen him, two early mornings in a row,

his low body pressed lower as he scrunches

into the hole under our white shed, the hole

we mentioned filling last fall, but never did.

It’s the sheen on the black fur that struck me,

he almost looked wet, and the bushiness

of his tail, the way it swayed as he waddled

across the grass, plumage on a prouder creature.

But why do I assume a lack of confidence?

He’s defeated many bigger beasts by TKO,

can use his teeth and claws, when he must,

and his very design bellows, in black and white:

don’t mess with me. I don’t want to do it, but I will.

It could spray the kids, my neighbour says,

you should call someone, trap it.

You don’t have to kill it, just take it to the woods.

My yard. My shed. My world, right?

I’m just lyin’ low here, folding laundry, drinking coffee.

Stinking up the joint with all this entitlement.


The animal connection, and the unexpected ending, made me think of “The Kindness“, a great poem by the skillful Jan Beatty.


PAD Challenge – Day 10

Apologies for the rush job today, but Sundays are one of the busiest days around our place. I tried to cut corners by combining prompts again: the Poetic Asides “emotion” title poem with the NaPoWriMo “book spine” poem. I asked my daughter to help me choose a few books and then build me a tower. I think I lucked out with her picks:




to have so many towers

of perennial favorites,

a jagged skyline of books,

built across my bedroom floor.

A bazaar of dreams, natural and wild,

to discover like a bird, flitting from spine

to spine, or float through slowly, a ride

down a languid river of words.

The undercurrents pushing,

pushing me to find my truth in all that art.


Colour is the word of the day at the This Is Not A Literary Journal site. It reminded me of this excellent Tony Hoagland poem, “A Color of the Sky” which manages to be funny, sexy and serene all at once.

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.




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 8

It’s a triple prompt attempt! Today the prompt at Poetic Asides called for a doodle poem, This is Not A Literary Journal said toss in some words — themed or un-themed — to make a poem salad, and NaPoWriMo central calls for a flower poem.  So, here I tried to mash them all together. Not sure it worked all that well, but it was fun!

Names for Girls


At month four, when it got real,

when we stopped thinking about it

as a maybe and more of a must be;

when those who knew me, but not

well enough to know, thought I’d

just gained a few over Christmas;

when we felt safe enough to

say it out loud, to doodle on scrap

paper  — side silhouettes of me

like a pear, two big hearts and a small,

or pretty names in loopy letters;

when we started to make lists,

compare and overrule, roll

the sounds around our tongues,

that’s when the flowers started.

I was pinned to Daisy for weeks,

the pertness of it, the simplicity,

and had you nearly convinced

until we both thought: Daisy Duck,

Daisy Duke, lazy, crazy, rhymes with

Daisy, and it withered. Rose was too

old-fashioned, Jasmine too Disney,

Dahlia too lah-dee-dah and lately

Lillies were popping up everywhere.

I offered Calla instead, but you wrinkled

your nose, tossed Poppy back at me,

but I saw kind toothless grandpas.

Lotus seemed perfect, for one moment of

Zen, and we both pondered Iris for awhile.

Blossoming names and inked flowers

marking the margins while I sat in meetings,

trying to freewrite the one that would fit.

At month five,  the anatomy check,

two arms, two legs, good heart and big

brain, but  a nudge in my belly still

wouldn’t get it to flip — a modest one

in there. Shrinking violet or a shy little guy.

It was too hard to tell, and I turned to ask,

How about boys named after cities?


Writing a list of flower names made me think of “For the Roses” by Joni Mitchell, which, lyrically, isn’t about flowers at all. What it is, in both melody and verse, is remarkable. Not every songwriter is a poet, but Joni is. Her deftness with the pen as well as the guitar was introduced to me by my high school creative writing teacher, who I might describe as Joni’s number one fan. He worshiped her, and spread the gospel to his students. True fact: Joni actually attended my former high school in Saskatoon, several decades before me of course. But her photo was in our trophy case as tribute, and the art, music and writing teachers all held her up as an example of what we could become…if only.  Read and listen to the 1972 song “For the Roses” here.

PAD Challenge – Day 7

A week into the challenge, and I’m still hanging on. Some days the right  words (or at least the right ones for the moment…) have come easier than others.  Whether they enter the world racing like a hare or plodding like a tortoise, at least there’s something new for me to play with and polish.

Today’s prompt from Poetic Asides was to write an Urban _____ poem. I wouldn’t normally choose a title like this, but I’m sticking to the rules for this one.

Urban Night


2 a.m. —

the last bus

shrieks at the drunk girls.


On 93rd

a woman’s staccato steps

stutter over broken glass.


Quiet alley

two rats make peace

for the pizza crust


Something is always

awake and tossing,

insomniac city.


Over at This Is Not A Literary Journal, the prompt asks poets to go outside, observe and write. I think this is always a great way to get ideas stirring, and I hope I can find a few minutes to do it today.

The NaPoWriMo site suggested trying a Tritina. I wasn’t familiar with this form, which reads like a sestina, only in threes. But after reading a few samples online, including the beautiful example piece by David Yezzi, I am now a fan. I find following a form to be extra challenging, but also rewarding when it works. Bookmarking this to try later. Maybe I can use all those lovely outdoor observations for inspiration.


PAD Challenge – Day 5

I was able to weave two prompts together today: the Poetic Asides two-for-Tuesday assignment to write about experience/inexperience, and the NaPoWriMo prompt to find inspiration in the names of heirloom vegetables. I had tomatoes on the brain, as well as memories of my Mom.

Tomato Aspirations


I dream of a garden of nightshade delights, edible wonders, plump and luscious

painting a triptych of wooden garden boxes every hue of red, orange and yellow.

I dream of my Mom’s tomato plants, wending through the white boards

of our backyard fence, or pressed into their metal cages, like buxom women

chastened by corsets.  In August, they’d lean and bow, ready for the curtain to fall,

ready for rebirth in her crock pot and jars, in salsa and sauce, relish and paste.


I turn to the catalogue for advice. The names alone sow seeds of imagination:

the stately Principe Borghese, at its best basking and baking in the sun.

The mighty Neptune and Martian Giant —tomatoes bold enough to grow

where no tomato’s grown before. There’s the extravagant Marglobe VF,

with a moniker like a sports car and  priced six times higher than every other plant.

Picture it staked  on a plot all its own, Esq. etched at the end of its custom gold nameplate.


But who am I kidding? I’m a greenhorn, not a green thumb. I live on the Prairies.

I need hardy, pragmatic plants, not opulent show-offs. I need the Glacier tomato, cold

weather ready with its thick skin and ruddy face. I need the no-nonsense  Large Red Tomato,

frank but fruitful. Straight shooter of the soil . Give me produce, not pretense, baby.

Give me enough sun, rain and patience to see me through the season.

Give me just one juicy globe, that I can hold up high, as I brag to the sky,

Mom! Look what I made!


I did like the prompt suggested by the folks at This Is Not A Literary Journal to harvest words from the signs you see, and will certainly try that another day. The mention of the word “signs” reminded me of the superb There Were No Signs by Irving Layton, which you can listen to here.

PAD Challenge – Day 3


poplar hoar frost

I’ve got a prompt meld going on today between the Poetic Asides suggestion to write a Three _____ poem, and the This Is Not A Literary Journal challenge to “write what the trees know,”  Here’s what grew:

Three Things Our Poplar Tree Knows


That when hoar frost swaddles

its bald branches, the day will be

defined by silence. Words we’ve used

so often to sting, turn soft and

crystalline on our tongues.


That the damp cloak of decayed leaves

still draped on the grass at the start of

spring, will smell both fetid and fresh.

The contrast and symmetry that used

to define us.


That its softening middle, the spongy

bend of boughs once strong and rigid,

are not reasons to mourn. Heart rot,

a harsh name for the feeling inside:

change. Touch the caramel-coloured

conks embellishing its trunk.

Listen when it tells us

the great  beauty of loss

is clarity.


The tree prompt made me think of Trees by Bliss Carman. I, too, am in praise of “goodly trees in the springing sod.”

Lastly, the NaPoWriMo site suggests a fan letter poem to a celebrity. I’ve composed many gushing letters in my brain to Trent Reznor, but never attempted to put them to paper. Perhaps a project for this afternoon….whilst listening to NIN, of course.


Poem-a-day (PAD) Challenge – Day 2

I’ve got three prompts going for the second day of NaPoWriMo, and all it’s amounted to so far is one micro-poem, but there are other ideas whirring around.

The prompt over at the Poetic Asides blog was to write a “he or she said” poem. There’s a an active community of talented and encouraging poets who frequent this blog, so it always a good destination — especially mid-April when the energy and inspiration reserves maybe getting low.  For this I did complete a micro-something that may grow into something more:


He said there was

a storm in his head

as long as he

could remember, but

the first time

he kissed her

the sky cleared

and stayed that way

as long as she

was his.


I’m hoping something interesting will come of the This Is Not A Literary Journal Prompt to “write the lie you used to believe.” Perhaps something fun, or witty.

Today, April 2, also would’ve been my Mom’s 73rd birthday, so the prompt to write a “family portrait” poem is quite fitting. Before my Mom’s death, and certainly since, I’ve written much about family and her specifically. I don’t know if this is a well that will ever run dry, and for that I’m grateful.

Lastly, I’d like to invite any willing readers to check out this link to one of my favourite poems by one of my favourite poets: Lorna Crozier’s Fear of Snakes. I love everything about this poem, but each time I read it, it’s the opening line that gets me. The imagery and rhythm are just stunning.

April is the poemiest month!

Hooray! It’s April, and the start of National Poetry Month! I love April for many reasons, like more hours of sunshine, the promising sight of tulips pushing out of the brown earth, and the fabulous Edmonton Poetry Festival. While I adore T.S. Eliot **, I just can’t agree that April is the cruelest month…not when so many poets come together to celebrate words.

Last year I approached the April poem-a-day challenge with gusto, and managed to squeak something out every morning. Some of those poems will always remain the unseen wordblurt of a first draft, but several have become poems I’ve felt confident enough to share at readings, or to include in my manuscript-in-progress. What I really took away from last year was a kind of discipline to write every day, and the realization that there are no wasted words. I also learned so much by reading the work of other poets.

This year I’m trying to use the prompts at both the Poetic Asides poem a day challenge, and the NaPoWriMo prompts posted at This Is Not A Literary Journal.  I’m not sure I’ll manage to write two poems every day, but I’ll see where the ideas from each site take me.

Some days I will post my own poems here, and some days I will post a link to beloved poems by others. Whenever possible, I will try to post links to works by Canadian poets.

So hooray for April, the wordiest month!

Oh, and here’s the quick bit I wrote for today’s Poetic Asides prompt to write a “fool” poem:


sheathed in snow

April Fool

** And do click here to read the beautiful poem The Waste Land by T.S. Eliot