Day 30: The Last Day

“Considering the ways in which so many of us waste our time, what would be wrong with a world in which everybody were writing poems? After all, there’s a significant service to humanity in spending time doing no harm. While you’re writing your poem, there’s one less scoundrel in the world. And I’d like a world, wouldn’t you, in which people actually took time to think about what they were saying? It would be, I’m certain, a more peaceful, more reasonable place. I don’t think there could ever be too many poets. By writing poetry, even those poems that fail and fail miserably, we honor and affirm life. We say ‘We loved the earth but could not stay.’” 
― Ted KooserThe Poetry Home Repair Manual: Practical Advice for Beginning Poets

from POETRYisEVERYTHING (abbreviated):

THE PROMPT for Wednesday April 30th, 2014

Prompt 30 – Something old, something borrowed, something blue — Our poem will be 8 to 12 lines. Every other line (lines 2, 4, 6 and 8 and possibly 10 and 12) will be brand new lines that you write. One or more of these lines will include something blue.

For lines 1, 3, 5, 7, and possibly, 9 and 11 use lines from two to three of the poems you have written in the last 30 days.

This is what I came up with (tinkered with it a little, losing the 2, 4, etc. organization):


Emma, Playing the Guitar

As a child I fell in love with words, pleats
and plaits, with words like implicate

which means braided into. Words
unfurling, an ocean that my streams ran to,

or out of, like my parents’ shelves of books,
my logger father reading aloud Emily Dickinson and Rudyard Kipling.

Tonight my youngest daughter practices her guitar,

in love with music, making me listen to a blue e-minor chord,
trellises of music like trellises of wisteria,

a wicker chair under a skylight, a scent
of gardenias and lilacs, the heavy bees thrumming.

Bout, fret, strings, saddle and bridge, soundhole, neck.

And her name, a word I’ve counted on
to make the world make sense.

Day 29: The Remodel

cabin4At POETRYisEVERYTHING, for Day 29 of National Poetry Month, Chris Jarmick assigned a house remodel poem. He also made some lovely, encouraging comments about the challenge to write a poem a day this month, for instance:

“And if you’ve paid a little more attention to poetry during our month long sharing of prompts and writing —thank you… I know good things will come of it.”

Because of Chris, I also have become a subscriber at Elsewhere in the Rain (the link should take you to a post that includes a list of poetic terms),  which I highly recommend.

So here is my poem. Er, draft of a poem. May good things come to you.

I’m not sure why, but I have been thinking
about how death reorganizes us.
I don’t mean anything simple, no cleaning out of closets,

it’s more than donating the old suits
and scuffed shoes to Good Will,
throwing out the years of National Geographics

and Good Housekeeping. Something more primal,
more like remodeling, tearing out closets,
breaking out a window to add a cupola

or a deck, making the kitchen brighter,
expanding the bathroom to make room for a tub.
It isn’t our own death that does all this hammering

at the stays of existence. Other peoples’ deaths,
or whatever that category of event
that wakes us, that insists we see

the necessity of a wicker chair under a skylight.
Don’t wait to call the carpenters until things are dire,
until the time is more expedient–

Your own death will arrive one midnight and then your house
will be a small room, smaller than this one
in which you sit and write.  You can promise

to write, but no letters arrive from the dead.
There’s no desk there and the ink
in your lucky pen dries up after the first millennium.

Day 28: Translation

I found this on The Plot Whisperer’s Facebook page (Martha Alderson)

Here’s a thumbnail portrait of today’s process…

I tried to take seriously Chris Jarmick’s assignment for day 28, to “translate” a poem into English from a language I don’t know. I found a poem by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and printed it out. I carried it around. I don’t know German, but I thought I could make out a few of the words. I opened my poetry book and copied out the poem in longhand. It’s a longish poem (“Erlkoenig” is the title, I think) and I thought I would copy only a stanza or two, but I ended up copying the whole thing. Then…for a long time…I stared at it. Then, I wrote this (please excuse the lack of cool accent marks):

Resisting Translation

The assignment is to translate a poem into English
from a language I don’t know–
and knowing so little of languages other than my own,
it seems an easy enough assignment.

“Translate,” in smart quotes, which must mean,
“not really translate,” though I can guess
that Nacht und Wind 
means Night and Wind. (Is that cheating?)

Assignments, I tell my students, are about
getting out of our accountant, linear left brains
and into our creative, more imaginative
right brains, into what poets count our better half.

But aren’t I beyond assignments, beyond
all that sturm und drang, not to mention the Nacht
und Wind? 
No knave or knabe, not I.
And spat (which I looked up) has nothing to do with spitting,

not even a spitting wind. Mein Vater, my father,
let me off the hook of this difficulty,
let me mutter and growl in my own tongue,
write (whatever it might mean) birgst du so bang. 

day 27: writing on my phone–a first!

day 27: writing on my phone--a first!

Updating this later — but suffice to say, we spent the WHOLE day getting a DOG!!! He is a Tibetan Terrier named Pabu (Tibetan for Puffball, which I understand he was as a puppy; he’s bigger now), completely adorable (and really smart). I wrote the poem after crossing home on the ferry. I’ll have more, no doubt, to tell you.

The assignment for Day 27 was to choose a state, write down some names of towns, and then write a poem using the towns as adjectives, or in other unusual ways.

Set in Massachusetts

It was the Boston of possibilities, the perfect center
Like a pearl set in a necklace
Strung Ipswich to Andover, across
The throbbing pulse point
Of a throat. Warbling Cambridge for culture.
Salem searched for Lenox folds,
A Suffolk lamplight, Bristol
Cheeks stumbling like Chatham.
Taunton’s tightest embrace. East Bedford
Of hearts, Wesford for bedding.
Fall River dropping out of a Harwich sky.

Day 26: Rebellion Cento

image from (I have this poster in my writing cabin)

Yesterday’s assignment at POETRYisEVERYTHING was to write a Cento, a poem consisting solely of lines from other poet’s poems. Today’s assignment is to write an “opposite or oppositional poem” (Chris admits to be deliberately vague). Having missed the Cento assignment, I thought pulling one together today would be a good way to be oppositional. And I think I found the perfect first line.

When I assign centos to students, we physically cut apart lines of poems and then reassemble them (printed out, very large type, taped on the whiteboards of the classroom — great fun).

I thought Emily Dickinson might help me out.  (It’s late, and I refuse to make more sense of this. “My syllable rebelled” is likely to become the start of something else for me.)

My syllable rebelled —
The Dews drew quivering and chill —
Out of the foxglove’s door —
To Stump, and Stack — and Stem —

My river waits reply
As all the Heavens were a Bell
Unmoved — she notes the Chariots — pausing —
The Motion of the Moon

Day 25: Almost There

There’s always a point where you have to let a story go. Art isn’t finished, as many people before me have pointed out, only abandoned. And eventually you abandon your new child and hope that you’ll get it right next time, or the time after that, and you never do. –NEIL GAIMAN

This was the advice today at Jon Winokaur’s blog, Advice to Writers. It was fitting. No, Bethany, you do not need to read the novel one more time.

And, for National Poetry Month…it was a another day in which I didn’t get a chance to look at the poetry assignment. But, somewhere in there, midday (sitting in my car, looking at the water), I wrote this:

Who knew the ocean could be so implacable–
implacable, a word that has nothing

to do with plaits, with implicate, for instance,
with inextricable, with intricate. The ocean

waves are like braids undone, or like pleats
of a skirt unfolded, coming undone, white caps

not like demure Puritan caps with their tucks and embroidery,
but maybe like Victorian petticoats

or knickers…implacable as in constantly assailed,
unassailable if only in the sense

of not caring at all for the assault,
for your fingers tapping along with its pulse.

Day 24: The Clerihew


(image found on the Facebook page of The Plot Whisperer, Martha Alderson)

The clerihew was, as I recall, favored by my mentor, Nelson Bentley, perhaps because the full name of its progenitor was Edmund Clerihew Bentley. It is a four line poem with rhyming couplets, biographical at least in that it begins with someone’s name. The four lines are rhymed AA BB (two couplets) and are of varying lengths and meter (for comic effect). It can contain addition rhymed couplets. This example is said to be Edmund’s first attempt at the form:

Sir Humphrey Davy
Abominated gravy.
He lived in the odium
Of having discovered Sodium.

I resisted this assignment so mightily that I decided there must be a gift for me in doing it. Then, researching this topic, I discovered that July 10 (the birthday of my two older daughters) is National Clerihew Day.

So, a few rhymes from moi:

Alas, said Bethany Reid
I’ve written a terrible screed.
I hoped Poetry Month would make me profound–
Instead it makes my head pound.
I could just refuse,
but now the ink’s–used. 
Consider this my apologia
For my April logorrhoea.