Happy Wednesday, everyone! Today we are two-thirds done with April, and entering the home stretch of NaPoWriMo/GloPoWriMo.
Today, our featured participant is Vijaya Sundaram, whose didactic poem for Day 19 will teach you how to clean your house!
Our featured poet in translation is Denmark’s Inger Christensen. Christensen was an experimentalist, but that doesn’t mean her poems don’t have heart. Her book-length litany, Alphabet, for example, seems at first to be an odd, mathematically-circumscribed work, but builds gradually and through repetition into an emotionally complex reflection on the horrors of atomic warfare. Three of her poems, translated into English, can be found here, another here, and an excerpt of the first sections of Alphabet here.
And finally, our prompt (optional, as always)! Today’s prompt comes to us from Vince Gotera, who suggests a prompt very much in keeping with our poet in translation, a “kenning” poem. Kennings were riddle-like metaphors used in the Norse sagas. Basically, they are ways of calling something not by its actual name, but by a sort of clever, off-kilter description — for example, the sea would be called the “whale road.” Today, I challenge you to think of a single thing or person (a house, your grandmother, etc), and then write a poem that consists of kenning-like descriptions of that thing or person. For example, you might call a cat a mouse-stalker, quiet-walker, bird-warner, purr-former, etc. If you’re looking for examples, you can find one that Vince wrote here and a different example here. Happy writing!
Hello, everyone, and welcome back for the nineteenth day of NaPoWriMo/GloPoWriMo!
Today’s featured participant is angieinspired, where the “sound of home” poem for Day 18 evokes the speech of Kansas.
Our featured poet in translation today is South Africa’s Isabella Motadinyane. Writing in Sotho, English, and other languages, Motadinyane was a member of the poetry performance group the Botsotho Jesters. Five of her poems can be found at the link above, and two more can be found here.
And now for our prompt (optional, as always)! Many years ago, “didactic” poetry was very common – in other words, poetry that explicitly sought to instruct the reader in some kind of skill or knowledge, whether moral, philosophical, or practical. Today, I’d like to challenge you to write the latter kind of “how to” poem – a didactic poem that focuses on a practical skill. Hopefully, you’ll be able to weave the concrete details of the action into a compelling verse. Also, your “practical” skill could be somewhat mythological, imaginary, or funny, like “How to Capture a Mermaid” or “How to Get Your Teenager to Take Out the Garbage When He Is Supposed To.” Happy writing!
Happy third Monday in NaPoWriMo/GloPoWriMo, all!
Today’s featured participant is Whimsy Gizmo, where the dictionary poem for Day 17 relied on a poetry dictionary!
Our poet in translation today is Cote d’Ivoire’s Tanella Boni. Boni is a poet, novelist, and essayist, Boni is also a professor of philosophy. You can find two of her poems translated into English here, and a lengthy article about translating Ivorian poetry, including Boni’s, into English, here.
And now for our prompt (optional, as always)! Today, I’d like to challenge you to write a poem that incorporates “the sound of home.” Think back to your childhood, and the figures of speech and particular ways of talking that the people around you used, and which you may not hear anymore. My grandfather and mother, in particular, used several phrases I’ve rarely heard any others say, and I also absorbed certain ways of talking living in Charleston, South Carolina that I don’t hear on a daily basis in Washington, DC. Coax your ear and your voice backwards, and write a poem that speaks the language of home, and not the language of adulthood, office, or work. Happy writing!
Happy Sunday, everyone, and welcome back for Day Seventeen!
Today, our featured participant is unassorted stories, where the almanac poem for Day Sixteen takes the form of a saucy exchange of letters.
Our poet in translation today is Morocco’s Fatiha Morchid. Morchid came to poetry from a scientific background (she is a practicing doctor), and her short, spare poems reflect both precision of speech and an unconcern with poetic convention. You can find eleven of her poems translated into English at the link above, and a number of others at her website.
And now for our prompt (optional, as always). Today, I challenge you to find, either on your shelves or online, a specialized dictionary. This could be, for example, a dictionary of nautical terms, or woodworking terms, or geology terms. Anything, really, so long as it’s not a standard dictionary! Now write a poem that incorporates at least ten words from your specialized source. Happy writing!
Hello, all, and welcome back for the sixteenth day of NaPoWriMo/GloPoWriMo. We’re past the half-way mark now, and hopefully you are feeling good about your writing so far!
Our featured participant for today is Jane Dougherty Writes, where the doubles prompt for Day 15 resulted in a poem that can be read on the left, on the right, or altogether!
Today’s poet in translation is Somalia’s Maxamed Ibraaahim Warsame Hadraawi, a longtime advocate for Somalian independence and peace. In addition to poems, he has also written many plays, and collaborated with musicians, penning lyrics for dozens of songs. You can find six of his poems translated into English at the link above, and another, in both Somali and English translation, can be found here.
And now for our (optional) prompt. Today, I challenge you to fill out, in no more than five minutes, the following “Almanac Questionnaire,” which solicits concrete details about a specific place (real or imagined). Then write a poem incorporating or based on one or more of your answers. Happy writing!
Found on the Street:
Outside your window, you find:
Today’s news headline:
Scrap from a letter:
Animal from a myth:
Story read to children at night:
You walk three minutes down an alley and you find:
You walk to the border and hear:
What you fear:
Picture on your city’s postcard:
Happy Friday to all of you! And a very happy half-way point in NaPoWriMo/GloPoWriMo!
Today’s featured participant is Flutterby’s NaPoWriMo, where the san san for Day Fourteen has a surrealist, quasi-mythical tone.
Our poet in translation today is Tanzania’s Euphrase Kezilahabi. Kezilahabi was instrumental in the development of free verse poetry in Swahili. You can find six of his poems at the link above, as well as four additional poems here.
And now for our prompt (optional, as always). Because today marks the halfway point in our 30-day sprint, today I’d like to challenge you to write a poem that incorporates the idea of doubles. You could incorporate doubling into the form, for example, by writing a poem in couplets. Or you could make doubles the theme of the poem, by writing, for example, about mirrors or twins, or simply things that come in pairs. Or you could double your doublings by incorporating things-that-come-in-twos into both your subject and form. Happy writing!
Wow! I can’t believe we’re now two weeks into NaPoWriMo!
Today’s featured participant is Judy Dykstra-Brown, who wrote thirteen unfortunate fortunes (plus one fortunate one), for Day 13’s fortune cookie prompt.
Our poet in translation for Day 14 is Egypt’s Mohamed Metwalli. The Brooklyn Rail has published a number of his poems in English translation: see here and here. Further poems are available from Jacket Magazine. You can also check out a recording of Metwalli in conversation with the poets Maged Zaher and Zhang Er, discussing their work and the problems of censorship.
And last but not least, our (optional) prompt! Today’s prompt comes to us from TJ Kearney, who invites us to try a seven-line poem called a san san, which means “three three” in Chinese (It’s also a term of art in the game Go). The san san has some things in common with the tritina, including repetition and rhyme. In particular, the san san repeats, three times, each of three terms or images. The seven lines rhyme in the pattern a-b-c-a-b-d-c-d.
Here’s an example san san from TJ’s blog, Bag of Anything:
Drinking the driven storm, the sturdy apple
Dances, between sky and earth, her spring-young leaves.
Knowing no purpose, knowing only season,
Her spring-young leaves, storm-driven, dapple
Earth and sky; all that my eye perceives
Dances. My eye drinks in the apple’s spring-
Young leaves, her dance that has no reason:
Only the storm, driving each dappled thing.
As you can see, three images or terms are repeated: the driven storm; the spring-young leaves; the dance, and the seven lines rhyme per the pattern given above. I hope you have fun giving the san san a try.
P.S. — Some of you have pointed out that the san san has eight lines. Yes, you are right! And now you know one of the reasons I became a poet . . . because I am terrible at math!
Happy thirteenth day of NaPoWriMo, everyone!
Our featured participant today is Room for Rafflesia, where the index poem for Day Twelve took its inspiration from an algebra textbook! I know some of the prompts have been a little wacky, but I’ve been very gratified to see how much fun participants have had with them — and this one was no exception.
Today’s poet in translation is Alexis Stamatis of Greece. Stamatis is a prolific poet, playwright, and novelist. While a few of his novels have been translated into English, very little of his poetry has been. But you can find two of his poems, translated into English here, and a third poem, along with a short story, here.
And now for today’s (optional) prompt! The number 13 is often considered unlucky, so today I’d like to challenge you to beat the bad luck away with a poem inspired by fortune cookies. You could write a poem made up entirely of statements that predict the future (“You will meet a handsome stranger”), aphoristic statements (“The secret to getting ahead is getting started)” or just silly questions (“How much deeper would the ocean be without sponges?”) Or you could use a phrase you’ve actually received in a real fortune cookie as a title or first line. However you proceed, I hope you will feel fortunate in the results (do you get it? Do you get it? Rimshot, please). Happy writing!
Happy Day 12 of NaPoWriMo and GloPoWriMo, all!
Our featured participant today is Purple Mountain Poetry, where the poem for Day 11’s blend of small, accretive details with a seemingly unconnected end results in an unsettling juxtaposition. It’s not a “happy” poem, but it is one that makes you think of both the distance and the connections between us all.
Today’s poet in translation is Turkey’s Sureyya Aantmen. A fairly young poet, her work has an almost mystical flavor to it, as though you were hearing snatches of fairy tales pulled together into a message of longing and urgency. You’ll find five of her poems translated into English at the link above.
Finally, our prompt for the day (optional, as always). Have you ever flipped to the index of a book and found it super interesting? Well, I have (yes, I live an exciting life!) For example, the other day I pulled from my shelf a copy of on old book that excerpts parts of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s journals. I took a look at the index, and found the following entry under “Man”:
fails to attain perfection, 46; can take advantage of any quality within him, 46; his plot of ground, 46; his use, 52, 56; not to be trusted with too much power, 55; should not be too conscientious, 58; occult relationship between animals and, 75; God in, 79, 86; not looked upon as an animal, 80; gains courage by going much alone, 81; the finished, 89; and woman, distinctive marks of, 109; reliance in the moral constitution of, 124; the infinitude of the private, 151; and men, 217; should compare advantageously with a river, 258.
That’s a poem, right there!
Today, I challenge you to write your own index poem. You could start with found language from an actual index, or you could invent an index, somewhat in the style of this poem by Thomas Brendler. Happy writing!
Happy Monday, everyone! Welcome back for Day 11 of NaPoWriMo.
Today’s featured participant is Poems and Drawings, where the book spine poem for Day Ten is cool and mysterious. I’m glad so many of you had fun with this prompt!
Our poet in translation for today is Afghanistan’s Shakila Azizzada. She’s known for her delicate and at the same time passionate love poems – check out the not-exactly-racy-but-still-sizzling poem “Cat Lying in Wait,” along with several others, at the link above.
And now for today’s (optional) prompt! Today, I challenge you to write a poem in which you closely describe an object or place, and then end with a much more abstract line that doesn’t seemingly have anything to do with that object or place, but which, of course, really does. I think of the “surprise” ending to this James Wright Poem as a model for the effect I’m hoping you’ll achieve. An abstract, philosophical kind of statement closing out a poem that is otherwise intensely focused on physical, sensory details. Happy writing!