Happy Monday, everyone, and happy 22nd day of Na/GloPoWriMo.
Today’s featured participant is What Rhymes With Stanza?, where the surrealist prompt for Day 21 led to a strange tale in the key of C Sharp Major.
Our video resource for the day is this short film that features the poet and artist Kate Greenstreet reading an autobiographical piece, juxtaposed with images of Greenstreet at work on both her art and her poetry, which intermix with one another, as you’ll see.
And now for our daily (optional) prompt. As our film for the day shows, art and poetry can richly affect one another. Frank O’Hara’s poem, “Why I am Not a Painter,” speaks to this mutual engagement, as do explicitly ekphrastic poems (i.e., poems that are about a specific work of art), like Thom Gunn’s “In Santa Maria del Popolo.” Today, I’d like to challenge you to write a poem that engages with another art form – it might be about a friend of yours who paints or sculpts, your high school struggles with learning to play the French horn, or a wonderful painting, film, or piece of music you’ve experienced – anything is in bounds here, so long as it uses the poem to express something about another form of art.
Happy Sunday, everyone! I hope you are feeling good about all the work you’ve done this month as we close out the third week of Na/GloPoWriMo.
We have two featured participants for today, because I just couldn’t choose! First up is Wind Rush, where the spoken language prompt for Day Twenty resulted in an ode to a family vacation. Next up is Xanku, where the same prompt led to a familiar, yet ethereal, set of directions.
Today’s video resource is a full-length movie, called The Color of Pomegranates. It was made in Armenia in 1969, and is a lengthy, surrealist mediation on the life of Sayat Nova, an Armenian poet who lived in the 1700s. Frankly, I’d encourage you just to flip around in the video, as it has lots of extremely arresting imagery, the very oddness of which you may find inspiring. Like poems themselves, this film juxtaposes things that one might not usually find together. There’s a church full of sheep! There’s women wearing crowns of oak leaves and roses while children dressed as odd, one-winged angels run around! There’s a roof filled with books, the pages of which flap in the wind!
And now for our (optional) prompt, which takes its inspiration from another surrealist work, Federico Garcia Lorca’s poem “City that Does Not Sleep.” Lorca took much of his inspiration from Spanish folklore, but also wrote a group of harrowing poems based on time he spent in New York. (Lorca was not a fan of the Big Apple). “City That Does Not Sleep” is from that collection. Subtitled “Brooklyn Bridge Nocturne” in the original Spanish, it presents a kaleidoscopic, hallucinatory vision of the city as a wild countryside roamed by animals. Today, I’d like to challenge you to write a poem that, like The Color of Pomegranates and “City That Does Not Sleep,” incorporates wild, surreal images. Try to play around with writing that doesn’t make formal sense, but which engages all the senses and involves dream-logic.
Happy (and perhaps weird) writing!
Welcome back, everyone, for Day Twenty of Na/GloPoWriMo! We’re now 2/3 of the way through – really on the downhill slope, coasting into the end of April.
Our featured participant for the day is heartinthematter, where the abecedarian poem for Day 19 is a jaunty whirlwind of words that are fun to say.
Today’s video resource is this short movie from the National Film Board of Canada, presenting animated interpretations of four poems by Canadian poets.
And now for our optional prompt! Today, I’d like to challenge you to write a poem that “talks.” What does that mean? Well, take a look at this poem by Diane Seuss. While it isn’t a monologue, it’s largely based in spoken language, interspersed with the speaker/narrator’s own responses and thoughts. Try to write a poem grounded in language as it is spoken – not necessarily the grand, dramatic speech of a monologue or play, but the messy, fractured, slangy way people speak in real life. You might incorporate overheard speech or a turn of phrase you heard once that stood out to you – the idea here is to get away from formally “poetic” speech and into the way language tends to work out loud.
Happy Friday, everyone, and happy 19th day of Na/GloPoWriMo.
Our featured participant for the day is Experience Writing, where the elegy prompt for Day Eighteen gave rise to a poem in which a chance encounter with a bee turns into the sudden recollection of recent grief.
As we wind up the work-week, our featured video resource for the day is this short interview with the poet Ada Limón, discussing poetry’s ability to offer us “radical hope.” That sounds like a good note on which to start a weekend!
And now for our (optional) prompt! Today, I’d like to challenge you to write an abecedarian poem – a poem in which the word choice follows the words/order of the alphabet. You could write a very strict abecedarian poem, in which there are twenty-six words in alphabetical order, or you could write one in which each line begins with a word that follows the order of the alphabet. This is a prompt that lends itself well to a certain playfulness. Need some examples? Try this poem by Jessica Greenbaum, this one by Howard Nemerov or this one by John Bosworth.
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.