I’ve never eaten a blueberry. I confess I didn’t follow my grandma’s golden rule; don’t knock it till you’ve tried it. They look vile and undignified; like grapes that didn’t quite grape correctly. But my grandbaby is housing those things like they’re nature’s candy, leaving blue and violet streaks everywhere; a little Rembrandt. Every so often, she offers me one with compelling questions of “Uhn? Uhn?” hanging beneath our sun-streaked skylit afternoon. I politely sing, “No thank you!” which always gets a giggle from her before she crams nature’s mess artlessly into her tiny face. She’s more blueberry than toddler now. Maybe I should try one next time she offers.
sea of blue and green bird chatter and child’s laughter we breathe together ***
And now for our prompt (optional, as always). This is one that we’ve used before, but one test of a good prompt is that you can come back to it! For this prompt, you will need to fill out, in five minutes or less, the following “Almanac Questionnaire.” Then, use your responses as to basis for a poem.
I tinkered with this prompt for about thirty minutes after answering the questionnaire (My answers listed below) before completely abandoning the prompt. The prompt itself is fine, but I began to experience Deja-vu, as if I were just retreading old thoughts, writing the same themes, and feeling rather stagnant and unoriginal.
At that point, I stopped, and gave myself permission to start again, independent of the prompt. The result still feels like themes I’ve covered before, but it also gave me an unbound sense of expression, so I went with it.
Maybe I’ll return another day to tinker with my answers to the Almanac Questionnaire.
Weather: overcast, calm Flora: evergreen, fir, new green, apple blossoms Architecture: twenty-first century modern residence Customs: America first, hoard the most nuts Mammals/reptiles/fish: deer, bunnies, coyotes Childhood dream: play halfback for the Bears Found on the Street: nothing substantial Export: thoughts, prayers, comedy Graffiti: none Lover: strong, confident, vulnerable Conspiracy: only a genius could fake such stupidity Dress: aggressively casual Hometown memory: Bulls winning the 91 NBA Championship Notable person: Kendrick Lamar Outside your window, you find: air and water Today’s news headline: tedious and depressing, as usual Scrap from a letter: “You will not have this day…” (Seriously, Who has written a letter recently? I went with Chancellor Gowron’s last words after Worf, son of Mogh killed him in one-on-one armed combat during the penultimate episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Yes, I’m a nerd.) Animal from a myth: Pegasus Story read to children at night: Go the Fuck to Sleep You walk three minutes down an alley and you find: the scene of my mugging You walk to the border and hear: slander, hearsay, and tribalism What you fear: spiders, exotic insects, tribalism Picture on your city’s postcard: A curtain being drawn beyond the Magnificent Mile, revealing the quiet suffering of its forgotten citizens.
Today’s prompt is a fairly simple one: to write about a particular fruit – your choice. But I’d like you to describe this fruit as closely as possible. Perhaps your poem could attempt to tell the reader some (or all!) of the following about your chosen fruit: What does it look like, how does it feel, how does it smell, what does it taste like, where did you find it, do you need to thump it to know if it’s ripe, how do you get into it (peeling, a knife, your teeth), do you need to spit out the seeds, should you bake it, can you make jam with it, do you have to fight the birds for it, when is it available, do you need a ladder to pick it, what is your favorite memory of eating it, if you threw it at someone’s head would it splatter them or knock them out, is it expensive . . . As you may have realized from this list, there’s honestly an awful lot you can write about a fruit!
In the beginning, there was a woman. There’s always a woman, or so it seems. One gave me life, light, and all her knowledge. Some other unlocked the madness within.
In the beginning, I had cracked the code. Deconstruction, reassembly of phrase. Dominion over syntax, noun, and verb. Standard structure had yielded to my will.
Then some woman asked what it meant to me. Encouraging thought towards deeper meaning. I couldn’t find the right answer for her. Smiling, she said there wasn’t such a thing.
Next, she introduced me to Robert Frost. Suddenly, English and I were strangers. The path not taken cracked a small fissure. Slowly, over time that sliver split me.
I filled it with poet after poet. Each time the fracture eagerly widened. Langston Hughes led to a Gwendolyn Brooks. The woman grinned as I re-learned to speak.
I gobbled up the greats, never filling. Plath. Poe. Epics. Death poems. Always Hip-Hop. The more I consumed, the greater my thirst. “Now find your voice,” she said, always smiling.
I can see beyond sight; touch with feeling; Taste, smell, and hear in all four dimensions. In the beginning, there was a woman. There’s always a woman, or so it seems.
My wholeness was splintered by a woman. I was birthed by one and broken by one. Poetry; born to me poetically; Filling my mind with how little I knew.
It flashes from unfiltered nothingness. It throbs when clawed at from outside the lines. An entrenched urge to impress a woman. A cliché-riddled love note to woo one.
Heartbroken angsty teardrop journaling. Overzealous declarations of love. Bleak brooding over unrequited love. Self-flagellation over star-crossed love.
All of it ignited over women. The ones who brought chaos to my order. And then one day when I least expected, It transcended, ending the beginning. ***
NaPoWriMo Day 14: Today’s prompt:
Today’s optional prompt asks you, like Alice Notley, to think about your own inspirations and forebears (whether literary or otherwise). Specifically, I challenge you today to write a poem that deals with the poems, poets, and other people who inspired you to write poems. These could be poems/poets/poepl that you strive to be like, or even poems, poets, and people that you strive not to be like. There are as many ways to go with this prompt as there are ways to be inspired.
When I was in Junior High, my normal English teacher had to take a leave of absence near the end of the school year. The substitute English teacher was much younger, and – stop me if you’ve heard this from me before – yeah, I had a HUGE crush on her.
But initially, her curriculum baffled me. I was all set to flex my mastery of breaking down and diagraming sentences for her, but she never asked for any of that. Instead, she had us read “The Road Not Taken”, by Robert Frost, asking us to interpret it and find our own meaning within it.
I scoffed at first, but eventually, very subtly, something shifted within me. Prior to that, I had already weaponized the written word via love notes to girls I liked, but her classes encouraged me to try poetry in earnest, for better or worse.
I’m still pretty much a one-trick pony, but I’m at peace with it.
There’s a pithy phrase attributed to T.S. Eliot: “Good poets borrow; great poets steal.” (He actually said something a bit different, and phrased it a bit more pompously – after all, this is T.S. Eliot we’re talking about). Nonetheless, our optional prompt for today (developed by Rachel McKibbens, who is well-known for her imaginative and inspiring prompts) plays on the idea of stealing. Today, I challenge you to write a non-apology for the things you’ve stolen. Maybe it’s something as small as your sister’s hairbrush (or maybe it was your sister’s boyfriend!) Regardless, I hope this sly prompt generates some provocative verse for you.
Oh, thank God! I was afraid that this might be one of those Erasure – found poetry prompts that I suck at find so frustrating. Thank goodness it’s just a prompt about good-old stealing! Yay for stealing!
Our optional prompt for the day is based on the concept of the language of flowers. Have you ever heard, for example, that yellow roses stand for friendship, white roses for innocence, and red roses for love? Well, there are as many potential meanings for flowers as there are flowers. The Victorians were particularly ga-ga for giving each other bouquets that were essentially decoder-rings of meaning. For today, I challenge you to write a poem in which one or more flowers take on specific meanings. And if you’re having trouble getting started, why not take a gander at this glossary of flower meanings? (You can find a plain-text version here). Feel free to make use of these existing meanings, or make up your own.
I found out retroactively that the white lily is associated with purity and is often used as a funeral flower. Also, in Buddhism, tiger lilies represent the virtues of mercy and compassion. Make of that what you will.
Stargazers symbolize lots of stuff. Google it for yourself. This blog poem about flowers is over!
Musky as a lovebed the morning after. As blue a sky vintage toxins could allow. Remnants of when playing it cool was disrobed. Careful not to drop breadcrumbs, out slipped the tongue, afraid of what could be left unexplored, lost. What was said, now muddled; tangled, dangled sheets. Secrets spilled upon linen, taunts veiled in smiles. Favors returned in earth-suckles and shudders. Reflections! How urgent! Come through! Come, midnight! Fat and black, moonless regrets are swallowed whole. At sunrise, only faint aroma lingers, pushed aside by a faint whiff of breakfast as only briefly, hunger displaces hunger. It all makes sense when thinking of that first kiss. Still don’t know of the why, but glad of the how. ***
NaPoWriMo Day 8: “…peruse the work of one or more of these twitter bots, and use a line or two, or a phrase or even a word that stands out to you, as the seed for your own poem. Need an example? Well, there’s actually quite a respectable lineage of poems that start with a line by another poet, such as this poem by Robert Duncan, or this one by Lisa Robertson.”
NaPoWriMo nailed it with this one. They even provided me with a Sylvia Plath Twitter Bot, and anyone who reads me probably had an inkling that it was either going to be Plath or Poe.