PAD 2017 – Day 27

Today’s NaPoWriMo prompt asked for poems that incorporated the sense of taste. I decided to mix that with the Writer’s Digest prompt to use the words pest, crack, ramble, hiccup, wince & festoon in a poem. I had a small hiccup in that I couldn’t find a way to include “hiccup” at all, but I did use the others — or versions of them.

Picking Saskatoons

 

We leave as soon as there’s a crack in the cloud cover.

I don’t have a rain jacket, but Auntie’s offered me

an old windbreaker, bright orange and smeared with

mud on the front. It hangs loose on my ten-year-old

frame, and I push the baggy sleeves up past my elbows,

exposing summer tanned skin to the ravenous pest

mosquitoes. We ramble up the hill behind the house,

Auntie and Mom walking side-by-side through

ankle-high grass and scrubby weeds. I watch

small splashes of mud dot the backs of their bare

calves with each step. Oh! A deer! Mom says, voice

excited but quiet, as she points to a doe, munching

clover by a barbed wire fence.  Every lean muscle

on the animal goes stiff and Auntie says, Better not tell

the boys or they’ll run right out here with the rifle.

I wince, thinking of this reticent creature, turned into

the red, meaty cubes I’ve seen Uncle press into

the sausage grinder. The doe jolts across the field,

into a thicket of trees, and I exhale loudly.

Just a half a click more, Kimmy, Auntie says and smiles,

because she knows I don’t mind when she calls me that.

I knock the empty ice cream pail against my thigh

as we walk, and think of how the thin metal handle

will cut into my palm on the way back, when the pail’s

heavy with berries. The grass is a little taller here.

We  high-step our way up to the saskatoon bushes,

their short branches festooned with lush,

purple-blue berries. Auntie and Mom chatter about

some cousin’s husband’s accident, He’ll be better in time

for harvest, thankfully as their quick hands pluck-pluck

and plop-plop the berries into their buckets. I pull two

matching clumps off the bush, five-berries on each,

dangling like jewels and hold them up to my ears

when Mom looks over, trying to get a laugh. But she

only smiles and says Get busy, young lady, and don’t

eat more than you keep. I like them better in pie anyway,

or in sweet purple-black jam I can spread on my buttery toast

on cold November mornings. But there’s always something

tempting about the fat, ripe ones, when all the green’s gone

from the skin, and you know if you pull too hard, the juicy berry

will squish between your fingers. Those ones I pop into my

mouth, pressing them between my tongue and the back of

my front teeth. Savouring the tangy taste of right now.

 

 

My Alberta poem today is by Edmonton writer and editor Peter Midgley. His poetry collection, Unquiet Bones, dazzled me when I read it last year, and the cover art is nearly as gorgeous as the writing inside. All Lit Up recently published his poem “nongqawuse (it is tasteless, this meat)” as part of the Poets Resist series, and you can read it here.

PAD 2017 – Day 26

I regret to say that I didn’t have much time today to thoughtfully consider a poem about “regret”, which is the Writer’s Digest prompt. But, this micro did spring pretty quickly to mind.

Worst Words

Pointless but potent
heart sting of
If only

 

A few nights ago I had the pleasure of attending a Edmonton Poetry Festival reading, and discovering that poet Angela Kublik is a staff member at my own, beloved local library. I have read some of Ms. Kublik’s work in the past, and adore the anthologies she’s co-edited: Home and Away: Alberta’s Finest Poets Muse on the Meaning of Home and Writing the Land: Alberta through its Poets. Being a huge fan of haibun, I particularly enjoyed Ms. Kublik’s “An Unsuspecting Lump of Clay” series which was published on DailyHaiku.org.

 

PAD 2017 – Day 25

Today’s Writer’s Digest two-for-Tuesday prompt called for writing a love or anti-love poem. Perhaps this snippet I’ve written in response could be interpreted as a bit of both?

That Time Looking at the Moon From the Balcony

I’ve led us here, under the stars,
so when you ask me
to tell you a secret, I can
hide my eyes in shadows and
take a sip of lemon gin.
Liquid courage helps some
say what needs to be said, but
tonight it’s a tonic
to keep the truth
from slipping through my lips.

My Alberta poet today is Edmonton writer Gail Sidone Sobat. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Gail on several occasions, but the first was when she was working as writer-in-residence at my local library. I had recently read her poetry collection How the Light is Spent, which I connected with very much, and hoped she might be able to give me some feedback on my own writing. She not only gave me great advice on how to polish my poems, but also reminded me that it’s ok to create — and succeed — as a writer in many different genres. I must also add that she’s helped to hone the skills and spark the imagination of so many writers, young and old(er) as founder of the amazing YouthWrite and JustWrite camps. Scroll down at this link to read Gail’s wonderful poem “Red Sweater.”

PAD 2017 – Day 24

Today’s Writer’s Digest prompt asked for a poem about “faith.” The NaPoWriMo site suggested writing an ekphrasis poem about a very specific kind of art – the marginalia of medieval manuscripts. Included was a link to a variety of weird, wonderful and interesting images to draw from. Since many of the texts, and some of the references in the drawings, would’ve been religious in nature, and many of the doodles done by students of religion, the two prompts seem like a natural fit. Using the image below, and thinking about “faith” I wrote this short ekphrastic poem:

 

Trust Exercise

If I let my mind wander

into unknown margins

will I find that

which holds me up

will not let me down?

Thinking about poetic interpretations of faith reminded me of one of my favourite Edmonton poets, Stephen T. Berg. Stephen posts thoughtful poems and meditations on faith and the world on his site Grow Mercy. By most definitions I suppose I would personally be classified as an atheist, yet I do see so much of the numinous in nature, and often find myself thinking of — and sometimes writing about — the big spiritual questions. To me these can simultaneously stand inside and outside of any particular religion. Stephen’s poems often lead me to think deeper about the world, and also inspire a sense of hope. I encourage you to browse his blog, but one of my favourite recent poems is this one, “We need a different kind of flesh“.

PAD 2017 – Day 22

Happy Earth Day! Obviously every day should be Earth Day, but I think the planet deserves a special holiday too. Especially since humanity seems so determined to do harm. Today’s NaPoWriMo prompt is to write a Georgic poem about agricultural and using the land responsibly. I’ve tried to blend it with the Writer’s Digest prompt to write an animal fable poem.

Earthworm Offers Farming Advice

 

When you dig, do it with purpose.

Keep soil aerated, filtrated.

Soft brown dirt you can hold

in your hand, raise to your nose

to catch a whiff of genesis.

Give back to the earth

more than she gives you.

 

It’s a short poem today because I’m about to leave for a writing workshop with Griffin award-winning poet Jane Munro. Lucky me! It was at one of these fine Edmonton Poetry Festival workshops two years ago that I had the pleasure of meeting poet Naomi McIlwraith. Her poems incorporate beautiful tributes to family and to her Métis ancestry, and are always conveyed with such rich detail. But perhaps the most wonderful thing about much of her writing is that she incorporates English with Cree. Check out a few here, including one of my favourites, “nôhtâwiy opîkiskwêwin – Father Tongue”

PAD 2017 – Day 21

Today’s Writer’s Digest prompt asked poets to pick an object and use that as the title of the poem. The NaPoWriMo prompt asked for recollections of things overheard, a snippet of speech or a phrase remembered from childhood. While I didn’t come up with one specific saying, I was reminded of all the things I overheard when I visited my Dad while he recovered in hospital last summer.

 

Privacy Curtain

 

They call it that,

but it offers none. Worse,

an illusion that what happens

behind it, what’s said,

has no will to wander

through the gap.

 

Third day at the hospital, watching Dad sleep.

I make guesses about the other three patients in

this room by the sound of the people who visit them.

Learn by what’s said and what isn’t.

Overhear the doctors, who rarely lower their volume,

even for the worst news.

 

I can see feet under the curtains, swollen and bare

or cloaked in blue paper slippers, hospital issue.

So slippery that even a younger woman mimics

the mumble step of an old man on old legs.

 

How often do they wash these curtains?

When someone goes, before someone comes,

I’ve seen the efficient mop of floors, swabbed mattress,

every knob and rail on the bed wiped clean.

But the curtains left untouched. Germs lurking,

a bit like me, but more at home.

 

A pregnant nurse peeks through Dad’s curtain,

belly first, then smile, nodding to me as she

attends to him while he sleeps.  Checks the IV line,

his catheter bag, the incision on his stomach,

the one he proudly showed me.

Like he needed a witness

to his own survival.

 

He’s so still now, really resting. Reprieve

from the fitful tossing, twitching of yesterday.

That moment when his eyes fluttered open,

and neither of us recognized each other.

I started to sing a lullaby then,

something Mom used to sing to me.

Didn’t even care who might be on the other side

of the curtain, listening to each exposed note.

 

Today’s Alberta poet is Shawna Lemay from Edmonton. I have had the pleasure of reading several (though not all) of Ms. Lemay’s books, and look forward to her frequent blog postings, which always seem to contain such wisdom, and inspire a sense of serenity. Her poems often evoke the same feelings, though there is humour, and truth and fragility in them too. One of my favourites is “Skinned“,  from the book Blue Feast.

PAD 2017 – Day 20

Some days prompts push me into unexplored places, and sometimes they just inspire something easy and fun. Today the Writer’s Digest assignment called for a “task” poem, while the NaPoWriMo prompt suggested using the vocabulary of a particular game or sport. The first thing I thought of was Monopoly, a game I’ve always loved, even though I’m not much of a capitalist.

Building a Monopoly

Always be the banker
because she who controls her money gets ahead.
Resist the temptation to race straight to Boardwalk.
Build your empire, but know that sometimes
the biggest payoff is the one earned gradually.
Ride the rails, find adventure. Pass go, but go slow.
Look out the window and breathe.
Imagine your first house, the land its staked on,
what kind of flowers you’ll plant in your yard.
You can do it alone, virtue and vision,
but two to six players make it fun.
Shut your eyes and see the people
inside your little green house, the ones
who make this repeat trip around,
around the square worthwhile.
Imagine the hotel upgrade
when you’ve cornered the market
on your Lovopoly. Happiness,
a get-out-of-jail-free card
that never expires.

Yesterday I gave the Alberta Poet shout-out to Calgary’s first Poet Laureate. Today I point to the immensely talented Micheline Maylor, Calgary’s current Poet Laureate.  Whenever possible I think it’s great to hear a poet reading her own words. I’m sure that on the page, Ms. Maylor’s “Mercury” would still be stunning, but there’s so much power conveyed in the pace and tone she reads it with here, and the images that accompany it.

The Edmonton Poetry Festival hosts Ms. Maylor today, along with Gisèle Villeneuve, Kimmy Beach, Lisa Martin and Douglas Barbour for Literary CocktailsI am sad that I can’t attend this, but if you’re in YEG and free, you most definitely should.

PAD 2017 – Day 19

The Writer’s Digest prompt today asked for a poem based on a memory. I think memory has a huge part to play in many poems, but my specific stroll was influenced today by the NaPoWriMo prompt to write a creation myth poem. While not a creation myth, the idea did help me recall a specific moment in the creation of my family.

Skin-to-Skin

 

At the hospital so many nurses telling us

to keep her warm on our naked chests.

It’s important for Dad too, the older nurse

said, unwrapping her from her swaddle,

and setting her in your arms.

Sapped of energy, bleary-eyed

you somehow pulled off your yellow t-shirt

with one hand, held our daughter tight

with the other. I shifted over in my bed,

making room for the two of you.

You  touched her downy head

then whispered in my ear

Where else could she possibly fit,

except right up here by our hearts?

 

Today’s Alberta poet is Kris Demeanor, Calgary’s first Poet Laureate. Here he is performing an electric spoken word piece from a a few years ago.

PAD 2017 – Day 17

Today is Haiku Day, planted on the 17th day of National Poetry Month to note the (traditional) 17 syllables in a haiku. The Writer’s Digest prompt today called for a dancing poem, and the NaPoWriMo site suggested writing a nocturne. My micro poem today is neither haiku nor a nocturne, but maybe reminiscent of both. I did get the dancing in there.

Anniversary

 

Clear August night

dancing under the stars

by himself.

 

Because it’s Haiku Day, it seems a like a good time to mention the wonderful online journal Daily Haiku. Though the site is currently closed to submissions, the archives are a treasure trove of some of the best haiku from contributors around the world. The journal was created and edited by Edmonton poets Patrick M. Pilarski and Nicole Pakan.

PAD 2017 – Day 16

I woke up to snow where I am this supposedly spring morning. It made me a little grumpy at first, as I’m ready for spring, but it also seemed like good inspiration for the Writer’s Digest  prompt to write a poem with the title “______ System.” I decided to try to combine it with the NaPoWriMo letter-poem prompt.

Replying to a Note From a Weather System

Dear Keeper of the Clouds,
You’ve been busy this morning.
Busy making rain and snow,
reminding us that as much
as we wish for change — a slow
smile of green taking over the
trees, a peak of purple crocus
pushing through the grey dirt
— you are in charge. You set
the tone. I wonder, Keeper,
if you’re sending us a message.
Writing as clear as the crystalline
flakes falling. A raised eyebrow in
our direction. We’ve been
shirking our jobs as stewards
of this land, we know, Keeper.
We’ve been chasing more dollars
than dreams, stuck ourselves in the
dirty mud of the past, instead of
looking ahead — up, to you — to
see that we can be more, for
each other and for the earth
we share. I wonder, Dear Keeper,
if we’ll catch a whispering snowflake,
quiet our simmering voices,
and listen?

Today is also a beautiful day in Edmonton because it’s the start of the Edmonton Poetry Festival! The line-up of featured local and Canadian poets is as amazing as ever. I thought I would mark the day by linking to a great poem from current Edmonton Youth Poet Laureate Nasra Adem. Please take a minute to watch, listen and enjoy “Blush.”