Hello, everybody, and welcome back for the 18th day of Na/GloPoWriMo.
Our featured participant today is Gloria D. Gonsalves, whose charming poem for Day Seventeen presents a rather common weather phenomenon from a quirky and graceful point of view.
Today’s video resource for the day is a short documentary, filmed as part of the The Favorite Poem Project. This project was started by Robert Pinsky, the 39th Poet Laureate of the United States, and resulted in fifty short films in which American citizens read their favorite poems and explain why they find those poems meaningful. In this particular iteration, a Miami Beach marketer named Jessica Cotzin reads James Tate’s “The Lost Pilot,” and explains her connection with and attachment to it, including how it helped her to feel and express her own grief for the loss of a loved one.
Our optional prompt for the day takes its cue from how poetry can help us to make concrete the wild abstraction of a feeling like grief. “The Lost Pilot” does this, as does this poem by Victoria Chang, called “Obit.” In both poems, loss is made tangible. They take elusive, overwhelming feelings, and place them into the physical world, in part through their focus on things we can see and hear and touch. Today, I’d like to challenge you to write an elegy of your own, one in which the abstraction of sadness is communicated not through abstract words, but physical detail. This may not be a “fun” prompt, but loss is one of the most universal and human experiences, and some of the world’s most moving art is an effort to understand and deal with it.
I wish you, if not happy, then meaningful, writing!
Happy Wednesday, all, and happy 17th day of Na/GloPoWriMo!
Today’s featured participant is Unassorted stories, where the list poem for Day Sixteen doubles back on itself in intriguing ways.
Our featured video resource for Day 17 is this recording of the poet Lily Myers reciting/performing her poem “Shrinking Women.” As you’ll see, this recording has been viewed more than 5 million times. Wow! One thing that the popularity of this video underscores, given the subject matter of the poem, is that poetry can help us to talk about uncomfortable aspects of our lives. In writing poems, we can examine these aspects of our lives and feelings, and in sharing our poems, we can realize that we are not alone in feeling them.
And now for our prompt (optional, as always). As long as we are on uncovering or embodying feelings that may not be commonly presented, I’d like to share this poem by Sharon Olds, who I think of as sort of a Master (or Mistress, I suppose) of discomfiting the reader. This poem is beautiful in its focus on detail, its word choice, and it has an earthy, witchy slyness to it. It reverses what we might think of as the “usual” relationship between the sexes in a disorienting way, with the woman as the appraising watcher, and the man as the vulnerable and innocent party.
Today, I’d like you to challenge you to write a poem that similarly presents a scene from an unusual point of view. Perhaps you could write a poem that presents Sir Isaac Newton’s discovery from the perspective of the apple. Or the shootout at the OK Corral from the viewpoint of a passing vulture. Or maybe it could be something as everyday as a rainstorm, as experienced by a raindrop.
Welcome back, everyone, for Day 16 of Na/GloPoWriMo.
Today’s featured participant is Katie Staten, who turned our dramatic prompt for Day Fifteen into an afterlife dialogue between Georgia O’Keefe and Sigmund Freud!
Our video resource for the day is this lovely animation of Lucy English’s poem, “Things I Found in the Hedge.” One wonderful thing I’ve learned in researching our videos for the month is that poetry seems very often to inspire filmmakers, painters, and musicians, just as movies, art, and music inspire poets. Art likes to make more of itself!
And now for our daily prompt (optional, as always). Today’s prompt takes its inspirations from Christopher Smart’s “Jubilate Agno.” Fundamentally, this is a poem about a cat. It’s also a structurally very straightforward poem – every line begins the same way, and is about some aspect of the cat at issue. But from these seemingly simple ingredients, Smart constructs a poem that is luminously, joyously weird. Just as English’s poem listing things found in a hedge renders the familiar strange by making us focus on each, individual item in the hedge, Smart makes a humble housecat seem like the most wondrous thing in the world. Today, I challenge you to write a poem that uses the form of a list to defamiliarize the mundane.
Wow, everyone! It’s April 15 already? It’s hard to believe, but we’re halfway through Na/GloPoWriMo.
Our featured participant today is like mercury colliding, where the homophone/homonym/homograph prompt resulted in a rollicking adventure in doubled spellings, meanings and sounds. You really do have to read it out loud to make sense of it! And the play between the sound and the spelling means that many of the phrases seem to say one thing while undermining or complicating that meaning at the same time.
Today’s video poetry resource is this tutorial on how to read a poem out loud – really, how to perform it, as if it were a monologue in a play. Lots of people have bad memories of being forced to memorize and recite poems in school. Me? I was the nerd who volunteered to do it for extra credit. Alas, my subsequent dramatic recitation of “Paul Revere’s Ride” to my fellow seventh graders did nothing to improve my social standing. Seventh graders are a tough crowd!
Our prompt for today (optional, as always), takes its inspiration from the idea of a poem as a sort of tiny play, which can be performed dramatically. In the 1800s, there was quite a fad for monologue-style poems that lend themselves extremely well to dramatic interpretations (this kind of work was basically Robert Browning’s jam). And Shakespeare’s plays are chock-a-block with them. Today, I’d like to challenge you to write your own dramatic monologue. It doesn’t have to be quite as serious as Browning or Shakespeare, of course, but try to create a sort of specific voice or character that can act as the “speaker” of your poem, and that could be acted by someone reciting the poem.
Today marks the two-week point of Na/GloPoWriMo. We hope you are all feeling the power of poetry!
Today’s featured participant is ARHtistic License, where the “spooky” prompt for Day Thirteen resulted in a poem that revels in the magic of the imagination.
Our video resource for the day is this recording of Taylor Mali reciting/performing his poem “The The Impotence of Proofreading.” We’ve saved this video for a weekend day because while it is quite funny, well, it’s not entirely safe for work.
Our prompt for the day (optional as always) takes its inspiration from Mali’s poem. As he shows us, there many words in English that sound like other words. For that matter, English has lots of words that look like other words, Today, we’d like to challenge you to write a poem that incorporates homophones, homographs, and homonyms, or otherwise makes productive use of English’s ridiculously complex spelling rules and opportunities for mis-hearings and mis-readings.
Welcome back, everyone, for the thirteenth day of Na/GloPoWriMo.
Our featured participant today is Manja Mexi Moving, where the dull/precious thing prompt for Day Twelve gave rise to a sly and supple poem.
Today’s poetry-related video, in honor of the supposed unluckiness and general spookiness of the number 13, features Jack Prelutsky’s poem “The Witch,” as read by a woman who is really getting into it! Cackling, shrieking, the works.
Our optional prompt for the day takes its cue from Prelutsky’s poem, as well as this poem by Dean Young, called “Belief in Magic.” Today, we’d like to challenge you to write a poem about something mysterious and spooky! Your poem could be about something that is mysterious and spooky in a bad way (like a witch), or mysterious and spooky in a good way (possibly also like a witch? It depends on the witch, I guess!) Or just the everyday, mysterious, spooky quality of being alive.
Happy Friday, everyone, and happy twelfth day of Na/GloPoWriMo.
Our featured participant today is Napowrimo ’19, where the origin poem for Day Eleven is a moving ode to horses, and to the power of reading.
Today’s video resource is this short film called What Makes a Poem a Poem? That’s a difficult question for even poets to answer! Is it rhyme? Is it imagery? Is it line breaks? None of the above? All of the above? Well, if nothing else, this film assures us that whatever poetry may be, writing a poem is an essentially human act.
And last but not least, here’s our daily (optional) prompt! This one is based on a dream that the poet Natalie Eilbert had. In the dream, she was taking a poetry workshop in which each student had to bring in two objects from home – one significant and one dull. The students then had to give away or destroy the significant object, and write a poem about loving the dull thing. Today, we’d like to challenge you to write a poem about a dull thing that you own, and why (and how) you love it. Alternatively, what would it mean to you to give away or destroy a significant object?
Hello, all, and happy second Thursday of Na/GloPoWriMo 2019!
Today, our featured participant is sandee woodside, where the regional weather is . . . menacing.
Our video resource for today is this animated version of Safia Elhillo’s “To Make Use of Water,” a poem intimately concerned with translation, both in the sense of moving between languages, but also in the sense of moving between places and feelings, of having two homes and none.
Our optional prompt for today is based on another poem of Elhillo’s, called “Origin Stories.” Like “To Make Use of Water,” this poem struggles to make sense of the distance between the poet’s beginnings, her point of origin, and her present self. Have you ever heard the phrase, “you can’t go home again?” This poem is about that.
Today, taking a leaf from Elhillo’s work, we’d like to challenge you to write a poem of origin. Where are you from? Not just geographically, but emotionally, physically, spiritually? Maybe you are from Vikings and the sea and diet coke and angry gulls in parking lots. Maybe you are from gentle hills and angry mothers and dust disappearing down an unpaved road. And having come from there, where are you now?
Happy (or at the very least, emotionally engaged) writing!
How about that, everyone? Today we are one-third of the way through Na/GloPoWriMo 2019!
Today’s featured participant is Small Burdens, where Day Nine’s Sei Shonagons-style prompt resulted in two lovely lists of “Things That Pull Asunder” and Things That Bind.”
Our video resource for today is this recording of Randy Rieman reading a poem at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. Perhaps you did not know that cowboy poetry exists, much less that there is a big conference for it each year? Well, hang on to your six-gallon hats, because Mr. Rieman is about to blow you away with his rendition of this S. Omar Barker poem, which is awash in regional and dialect phrasing.
Our prompt for the day (optional, as always), is also rooted in dialect and regional phrasing. In her poem “Sunshower,” Natalie Shapero finds inspiration in a rather colorful phrase used in Mississippi and Alabama to describe the situation in which it rains while the sun is shining.
Today, I’d like to challenge you to write a poem that starts from a regional phrase, particularly one to describe a weather phenomenon. You may remember one from growing up, bu if you’re having trouble getting started, perhaps one of these regional U.S. phrases used to describe warm weather will inspire you. Or you might enjoy these French terms for cold weather, or even these expressions from the British Isles that are mostly for the very British phenomenon of rain.
Hello, all, and happy ninth day of Na/GloPoWriMo.
Today, our featured participant is MD Kerr, where the business jargon for Day Eight produced a hallucinatory excursion into the language of companies advertising specialty tile. We know how exciting that sounds, but trust us.
Our video for the day is this BBC film of a poem called “The British.” When the sun never sets on your empire, you wind up with a lot of varied cuisine! Keep your eyes peeled for the cameo by a Roman centurion. Perhaps he’s going to check on Hadrian’s Wall?
Our (optional) prompt for the day asks you to engage in another kind of cross-cultural exercise, as it is inspired by the work of Sei Shonagon, a Japanese writer who lived more than 1000 years ago. She wrote a journal that came to be known as The Pillow Book. In it she recorded daily observations, court gossip, poems, aphorisms, and musings, including lists with titles like “Things That Have Lost Their Power,” “Adorable Things,” and “Things That Make Your Heart Beat Faster.” Today, I’d like to challenge you to write your own Sei Shonagon-style list of “things.” What things? Well, that’s for you to decide!