Tag Archives: napowrimo 2013

National Poetry Writing Month Retrospective

4 May

In which I reflect upon my (successful) April endeavor.

I wrote a poem every day during the month of April.  For realsies.  (Except some of them were found poems made out of my spam comments, which doesn’t feel that real, but I count it anyway.)

Of course, because of the time frame, and my sometimes rather limited abilities, some of those poems were less than stellar.  I’d like to use this post to reflect on my better achievements and some of my disappointments, as well.

Let’s start with the bad and move up from there.

Least Favorite:  my favorite thing to lose

Why I Don’t Like It:  I was trying to go for some kind of weighty metaphor yet keep the tone kind of light instead of dropping into melancholic melodrama (as is my way sometimes), but it ended up being kind of stupid and reaching.

Worst Part: The final four stanzas.

and maybe next week it’ll just end up back again

and maybe next month you can make a deposit again

and maybe next year you can start making direct deposits again

and maybe next century you can have enough credit built up to lose it again

I thought this was going to be clever, but the more I look at it, the more cloying, idiotic, and nonsensical it is.

2nd Least Favorite:  Let me call myself

Why I Don’t Like It:  I love found poems of all kinds, and I tried to write one with a literature base, but the thing about them is that they should say something different from the source material.  The parts of this that aren’t nonsense basically just summarize “William Wilson.”

Worst Part: The part where I use the word dismal twice.  If I had used it at least three times, it may have been poetic repetition.  As it is, it’s just sloppy.

The One That Didn’t Turn Out How I Had Intended:  I took Emily Dickinson

What I Had Intended:  A several-stanza poem that’s sorta silly, sorta serious (à la Dickinson) with inventive use of meter and slant rhyme (à la Dickinson) with several Dickinson references thrown in.  Each stanza would be about taking Dickinson to different places (the bar was going to be one, the library another).  The final stanza would be a Dickinsonian rumination on death/the nature of life, in which the narrator takes Dickinson to “the house where I died.”  You know, Dickinson stuff.

Why It’s Not What I Had Intended:  I started writing it pretty early on in the month, but then discarded it for a while.  I picked it up again and wrote a few stanzas and then thought about it all night at work and then came home and wrote (not exactly) what I had been thinking about.  It got to being close to midnight, and my section about the beach had grown too big to fit with the rest of what I was doing, but I decided to roll with it because I didn’t hate it, and it was too late to write another poem before the day ended.

Overall, I’m happy with the poem, but I kind of wonder what it would look like if I could’ve written it the way I’d intended it.

The Ones That Didn’t End Up Being Written

Mirror Universe Poem:  The Daily Prompt one day had to do with meeting an alternate universe version of yourself.  So I wrote half a really crappy poem about meeting my Mirror Universe me, who was a vegan exercise nut who was wearing the Mirror Kira shiny headband.  It was dumb.  Be glad I didn’t finish it.

Jane Eyre/Painting Poem:  I’ve been listening to Jane Eyre, and I was really struck by how she painted a portrait of herself and another of that other chick Rochester was pretending to like just so she could remind herself she was plain, poor, etc.  I loled so much when she puts the two portraits side by side and says:

Whenever, in future, you should chance to fancy Mr. Rochester thinks well of you, take out these two picture and compare them: say, “Mr. Rochester might probably win that noble lady’s love, if he chose to strive for it; is it likely he would waste a serious thought on this indigent and insignificant plebeian?”

Lol!  Jane Eyre is obviously part Borg and part straight up love sick fool.  Efficient and masochistic.

So I was going to write a poem about how if I could paint/draw/whatever, I would use it only as a tool for self-instruction, like Jane Eyre.  It was going to be so maudlin and so flowery.  Be sad I didn’t finish it.

Follow Up to Just Another Song That Nonsensically Quantifies Teardrops:  I got to thinking about how the exponential model of teardrops is true only supposing one does not see one’s lost love ever again; however, when one sees one’s lost love, the tear drops show a sharp incline.  And sometimes hormones or whatever cause tear drops to increase, as well.  Therefore, some kind of waveform graph would more accurately portray a tear drop situation.  I never found the time/energy to research this and write my country-western song.  Be really sad I didn’t write this one.

2nd Favorite: The Eye Witness

Why I Like It:  I find noir fun both to write and to read, so I think this an enjoyable piece from both ends.  I also like the idea of it:  how useless a noir narrator would be as an eyewitness–always waxing gritty and poetic but never really pointing out details that could make an accurate sketch.

Best Part:  The last section, in which I crack myself up every time imagining some five-o-clock-shadowed grubby detective getting super impatient with a disenchanted dame with a long cigarette holder:

–Ma’am. Thank you, but–

I’ve got one more.

He was a man who may have wanted
to be good once,
but a life of neon lovers and gun-metal friends
had persuaded him otherwise
in the dark of some wet, murderous night.

–Are you finished?


Favorite:  The Ice Box of My Heart

Why I Like It:  Oh hi, extended metaphor that doesn’t even seem that forced!  This could’ve turned out a lot worse than it did, and I am so pleasantly surprised by it.  I wrote it in like five minutes, and I still like it very much.

Best Part:  The simple stanza in the middle that sums up the whole thing (and was the inspiration for the entire poem):

It’s mostly leftovers,
to be honest.


And with that, I’ve concluded my self-indulgent analysis of my own writing.  I will probably be back to talking about Captain Janeway and/or classic country any minute now.


Also, to prove I’m not completely self-centered, I also wanted to share these favorite-other-people’s poems (presented in alphabetical order):

Bonsai by grapeling

Why I Like it:  It chronicles an incident in the life of a sassy WAF lieutenant!  And it uses plant imagery!  Also, sassy WWII ladies!!!!

Best Part:  Although the sassy WWII lady stuff happens at the end, the beginning really hooked me.  I know exactly what a bonsai knuckle is (my grandmother has them), and they absolutely are strong and good at cleaning and totally worthy of poetry.

Mom held up bonsai knuckles, each hand
grown gnarled, as we sat sipping red wine
in tumblers perfectly sparkled where she’d gleamed them
with those fingers. Stains have no chance
versus them, index finger angled 30 degrees
permanently crooked the better to clean.

Green-Fingers by Carol J. Forrester

Why I Like it:  I love the house plant/farming dichotomy: how house plants are somehow instinctual and farming is scientific.

Best Part:  Again, we’ve got a great opening with great line breaks.  It also resonates with me because I’ve killed many, many orchids.

My mother and I,

killed the first orchid we were given.

We are not a houseplant

sort of family.

A High of Twenty-Two by TheBookyBunhead

Why I Like It:  I’m a sucker for weather poems and for poems with repeated lines.  This one does both beautifully.

Best Part:  I love this middle stanza that perfectly shows the exhilaration/anticipation/fear in a warm day when you’re used to cold ones.

At day’s end hoped it’d still be a dry, high of twenty-two,
Sigh of relief stepping out into fresh air
Body had been programmed to seize up for winter’s chill.

PS 22 Celsius = 72 Fahrenheit

Regular Poem: Springtime Smell

30 Apr

When your hair feels dirty but it isn’t dirty
or when your hair is dirty but doesn’t feel dirty
or when your hair looks dirty but could be quite dirtier
and you can smell your own strange salty smokey smell
like a small cloud of a warm moist you
that smells like your hair but not exactly
and you wonder if everyone can smell it too and wonder
if everyone can identify the precise dirtiness of your hair

that’s how you know it’s really truly springtime
because it’s a time that is perpetually paradoxically
both wet and dry
dirty and clean
and you feel so moist all the time
but also your hair is dry and gritty feeling
and that smell might not even be you
but a smell in the air
because it’s kind of an outside smell
a dirt smell (not dirty but dirt)
a pollen smell
an earthworms smell
a breeze over a man-made lake smell
a smell that’s a nature smell
but is kind of gross, too
and kind of wet and kind of dry
and clammy
and half-sunburned
and salty and sour
but also fresh and natural.
And it’s springtime.

Regular Poem: I took Emily Dickinson

29 Apr

I took Emily Dickinson
to the movies.

A fly buzzed–blue and benign–
close to her nose
for the duration,
and she looked at it with
such a large, yellow eye
big and open and wondering and glistening
that I suspected
she wasn’t paying attention
to the show.
For my part,
I was absorbed in watching her
watch that fly.
it was not unenjoyable,

So, the next week,
I took Emily Dickinson
to the beach.

We drove there in my convertible,
and she kept calling it
an open carriage,
and she smiled with her eyes closed
and her hair flying out of her prim bun
and into her face.

We passed a cemetery, and I
held my breath–
she did not understand this ritual,
but she complied–
and when we had finished,
and our faces were red,
she murmured something about the
sepulchers laughing at our folly.

When we arrived at the sea,
the salt air melted into our respective skin,
and I felt my pH change,
and she was quiet
for a long time
until she decided to tell a long
story about mermaids
that made her giggle so incessantly
that I understood it only partially.

We got sunburned.
Somehow, she ended up 
more burned than I was.
And we repaired to her house,
but we should have gone to mine:
I always keep aloe vera gel in the fridge.

She does not even have a fridge.

She made a fire
in the cooling night
that had just an hour since been
a stifling day,
and we played games with the leaping
shadows until
all that was left
were embers
and the shadows were too small.

She asked for advice on 
what all-white spinster outfit she should wear

And I said she didn’t have to wear all white
if she didn’t want to.

She did want to.

And she’d prefer not to leave the house again
if that was all right with me.

And I said that it was,
but didn’t she have fun?

Oh yes, but she had a lot of thinking to do
and writing to do
and being a shut-in spinster to do.

And I understood
a little too perfectly.



Found Poem: Really

28 Apr

But, Spambot, what about the part where I don’t understand…?

when someone doesn’t understand

after that its up
to other people that they will assist,

so here it takes


Regular Poem: Bad Investments

27 Apr

The banner on the
in front of the
gas station
on the wrong side of the tracks

free phones
free minutes
sign up now

in garish letters
in a stupid font.

I pass with passing interest
and see three figures
two sitting
one standing with
what appears to be
a contract in his hands.

He’s buying a phone plan
from these jokers.

I shake my head in wonder.
How does one come to a
place in one’s life
in which one
buys a phone plan
from a
in front of a gas station
on the wrong side of the tracks?

I have made some bad investments.
But I’m much older and wiser now

than I was twenty minutes ago
when I bought that
and ate it joylessly.

Regular Poem: Wind

26 Apr

But I’m less
a stranger
to the wind

howling or whispering or whistling
or jarring or scarring or whipping
or crying or gusting or lashing

but most likely
just plain blowing

and blowing hard

across a wet landscape quickly drying
(you can almost see the wetness dissipate, dissolve, go back to the sky)

or across a dry landscape quickly drying more
(you can absolutely see specks of dust fly kamikaze toward your face
and you can absolutely feel them impact your skin, pointy and punchy
on your eyelids
and lips
and hear the pings of the missiles on your jacket
so close together they sound like a shower)

or across a medium-dry landscape
(you can almost see the reverberations of a gale
when you get caught next to a semi
and it’s like you’re in a bubble made up of the gaseous form of anxiety)

or against your window beating loud like the police
the wind always has a warrant
and he’s never afraid of using
excessive force.

Regular Poem: my favorite thing to lose

25 Apr

my favorite thing to lose
is my debit card
it’s easy to find and/or replace
people give it back to the bank or put it
in the lost and found or whatever
and if they don’t you can call the bank and the bank
people will take care of you

it’s much better than losing your keys or sunglasses or phone

it’s a thousand times better than losing
your head or your lunch or your cool or your mind or your marbles

and it’s a million times better than losing your heart

i mean where do you even look for a
heart once you’ve lost it
it didn’t fall out of your pocket in the parking lot and
nobody’s going to give it back to you

somebody might try to use it without
your authorization
take out all your funds
do a lot of online shopping
run you into the red

because you can’t stop payment on a heart

you just have to let it sit in somebody else’s wallet and wait until all the
cash is gone

and maybe next week it’ll just end up back again

and maybe next month you can make a deposit again

and maybe next year you can start making direct deposits again

and maybe next century you can have enough credit built up to lose it again

Regular Poem: blood red

24 Apr

when people say
blood red
they generally refer to
a color
so dark and deep
as to be almost purple

a red
whose texture is deep
as well
gummy even
thick and warm

when people say
blood red
the connotation
is living metallic
something alive and iron
and intimate
and hot but cooling
at the whisperings of air
ineffectual as it leaves
the confines of the body
grotesque as it pools even darker
in a puddle of memory

when people say
blood red
it is a stock phrase
a cliché
with many attached meanings
only some of which
retain any true meaning

for blood
can be
blood red
but it isn’t always

for example
my blood
could not be called
blood red

it is more a
novelty red
so bright
as to be almost orange

i cut myself accidentally
the other day
and my blood danced in the sink
and it startled me

it was not as thick and lumpy as tomato juice
but a similar shade
that orangey red but
a thin and wispy swirling line
writing calligraphically
on the white porcelain

and i thought
of the phrase
blood red
and how it did not apply
to this small and bright sample
of my own blood

even at the red cross
when they’ve taken a pint or liter or gallon
or however much they generally take
my blood
in a greater quantity than i normally see
a clown’s nose red
of some elegant and velveteen

i am not jealous
just curious

even inside my body
i imagine my blood this way
lawn chair red
patent leather shoe red
artificial red

yet it is not artificial
there it is in my own capillaries
trying to peak out
when i exert myself
coming to the surface
to cool itself futilely
at the surface of my face
looking pink in this way
but inside
i know it’s red

but not
blood red
traditional blood red
my own blood red

Found Poem: Never

23 Apr

consult an individual’s

even less happy
when compared with
personally. shoes.

Regular Poem: Accents

22 Apr

when I was in high school
studying French
on the third floor
where the radiators overheated the rooms,
and the sticky closeness of other teen bodies
was not as concentrated as
it was in the chemistry rooms also on the third floor,

we would listen–
for listening practice–
to tapes–
yes, cassettes–

and on these tapes would be
fluid voices talking French at us
in a variety of French accents.

My favorite was always the Belgian dude.

His voice was not melodious and elegant
like the Parisians
or swift and striking like the Swiss
or clanging and clipped like the Quebecois.

He sounded as though he had just eaten
something gigantic
probably full of dairy.

He sounded happy and large,
and his vowels and consonants therefore
sounded happy and large
and quite chewed on.

When I think of him
it is with an irrational affection,
and he also brings to mind

when non-Americans affect an
American accent:

It’s all Rs.

And so I imagine him–
I imagine him
as a big older man with a big older man’s mustache–
somewhere in Belgium–
in a field of Brussels sprouts a lone tape player and mustachioed man–
practicing listening to English,
and he’s frowning as some posh dame
from England talks at him in English.

And suddenly
my voice is there.
And it’s all Rs.

And he smiles and loves me
as I love him.

Book 'Em, Jan O

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