Tag Archives: National Poetry Month

#282: On the Last Day of National Poetry Writing Month, The Poet Speaks of Things that Happen Over and Over Again

Days go by,
and they keep going by
constantly pulling you
into the future.

–Laurie Anderson.

 


For starters,
days go by
one right after
another, but today,
during meditation,
I held my father’s
hand one last
time before they
wheeled him
into surgery
on the eve of
his last day
on the planet
7 years ago
last October.
That was unusual.
And while I
was momentarily
overwhelmed,
it was not with
sadness, but with
gratitude for fathers
and sons, for my
father, and my son,
and as I walked
through the construction
site across the way
and saw my home
from some distance,
intact, old, encircled
by gigantic oak trees,
another wave
of thankfulness
came over me as
I realized how
truly lucky I am
to be who I am
and to love who
I love and to have
what I have.
The future tugs.
The past sometimes hugs
perhaps too tightly.
Even the present,
with it’s absurdities
and rank abuses,
so much like the past
and yet so much more
absurd and abusive,
for now, I hold it
at bay. I will fight
that in my way,
but for now,
walking the dog
again, seeing this house
again, and anew,
and finding myself
inexplicably happy
and sober, I praise
this day, this Sunday,
with a kind of reverence
no number of churches
could fathom or contain.

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#245: The First Poem Written at the End of Spring Break

napofeature2

Here we go, full steam ahead, into my fourth consecutive year of celebrating National Poetry Month by writing a poem on every single day of April. If you are new to these parts, you might be wondering about the number in the title, in this particular case, #245. I’ve participated so far in three years of napowrimo in a row, but I’ve been known on many occasions to write a poem outside of April, and early on I decided to number all my poems, mostly, to distinguish them on the blogsite from other kinds of writing, but at first, initially, to indicate a number for each day of my first month. In three years time, yup, I have written 245 poems. Are they any good? Who knows. I do what I do and napowrimo provides the yearly inspiration to do more of what I do. That’s all.

I have a great fondness for the organizational hub of the National Poetry Writing Month website, curated by Maureen Thorson. During the month of April I visit it religiously every day. I find there wonderful links to poets and their poems, interviews with poets about their poems, cool international poems or poems in translation, but most instructively, I find there a prompt for every day’s writing. Sometimes I follow the prompt, sometimes I don’t. I always feel free to do whatever I want; there is no rule that prompts must be followed. They are there just in case I need assistance, and sometimes I need assistance.

Today, for example. Assistance, please. Our very first prompt is to write a poem in the manner or style of Kay Ryan, former poet laureate of the United States of America, known for her tight, skinny lines, a penchant for humor, malapropism, a touch of surrealism, philosophy, and a curious use of internal rhyme, that is, a rhyme that doesn’t fall at the end of a line where one might expect to find it. If you’d like to see an example, here’s the link that Maureen provided on the napowrimo website: “All Your Horses” by Kay Ryan.

As I write this sentence, I haven’t even begun to write my first poem, so I don’t have a clue about what will follow.

The First Poem Written at the End of Spring Break

Say you hate
the phone
but brought
the phone home
or you found
good reason
to buy a new
truck. You worry
about desire,
a fire that’s
difficult to douse,
never seems
to go out. All
right, put the dogs
in the yard
and hope
they come back.
The fact: you burned
through a tank
of gas but didn’t
go anywhere.

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#221: Some Silly Translations for the 30th Day of the Month of April

I’m not really proud of my efforts here, only because it seems rather slight for a culminating poem.  I don’t speak Spanish, but my son and his school buddy Gracie are 4th graders in a bi-lingual immersion program, and they’re hanging out together on this last day of the month of April, so I enlisted their help for today’s napowrimo assignment: Write a poem in translation.  So, here’s a thing by Pablo Neruda, translated by 4th graders, and then translated again from the fourth grade into adult English using the google translator.

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4th Graders:
Love is a trip with water and stars
and air and drowning
and _______ sand storms
love is a battle with
lightning bolts
umbrellas
two bodies for one dead skin

Mine:
Oh, love is a journey on water
and through stars; we drown in
its air and other rough weather.
Love is as fierce as lightning
upon two defeated bodies in honey.

Oh, jesus. That was terrible. I feel the need to redeem myself.  The other idea from napowrimo would be to take a foreign language poem for which you know absolutely nothing and to write a poem in English using words that approximate in sound the corresponding foreign words.  Let’s try that.  Here’s one from Tomas Transtromer:

Den halvfärdiga himlen

Modlösheten avbryter sitt lopp.
Ångesten avbryter sitt lopp.
Gamen avbryter sin flykt.

Det ivriga ljuset rinner fram,
även spökena tar sig en klunk.

Och våra målningar kommer i dagen,
våra istidsateljéers röda djur.

Allting börjar se sig omkring.
Vi går i solen hundratals.

Var människa en halvöppen dörr
som leder till ett rum för alla.

Den oändliga marken under oss.

Vattnet lyser mellan träden.

Insjön är ett fönster mot jorden.

Then Half For Dingo Henning on a Mottled Garden

More shame on you as you sit off,
angsty arbiter sitting off,
a gamey arbiter in flight.

That every jesuit in the frame
has spoken of this sickening junk.

Oh, very malnutrition common in dingos,
very astute satellite ears rotor router.

All things border on sick onions.
Vulgar stolen, a hundred tails.

Varmint ska in half open doors
some leader tilleth and runs for Allah.

Then, O Dingo, marks under floss.

That way lies the mellow trade-in.

Insomuch as it fosters a mottled garden.

 

 

 

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#216: This is just to say

Question-mark

This is just to say
I came home from work today
and had nowhere else to go.
No rehearsal, no show.
I moved straight into relaxation,
writing a poem my only obligation
and even that, I put off until now;
just goes to show you how:
having time now for almost anything I’d like to do,
I choose instead next to nothing, and wouldn’t you?

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#172: A Backwards Poem

Welcome to the very last day of Michael Jarmer’s contribution to National Poetry Writing Month. The optional assignment for this last day of these poetic festivities from the napowrimo website reads like this: “Today, I challenge you to write a poem backwards. Start with the last line and work your way up the page to the beginning. Another way to go about this might be to take a poem you’ve already written, and flip the order of the lines and from there, edit it so the poem now works with its new order.”  I chose the latter option, but to provide a kind of perfect bookend for my 30 poems in April, I have used the very first poem I wrote this month, a little thing called “Teaching Without A Voice,” and I have included it here in exact reverse without any editing whatsoever.  And for additional fun, I have recorded the thing for your entertainment pleasure. I kind of like this poem better than the original.  And the ending of this video, I think, is worth waiting for.

to it’s rightful owner
and for a voice to return
complete disaster
something somewhat less than a
crossing my fingers for a minor train wreck
I leave the building

many of whom wish me better health
to the students already there,
and walk out of the room waving goodbye
I go over the plans, point to the piles of handouts
In a whisper, because it’s all I can do
somewhat miraculously.
in the room, a substitute arrives
ten minutes before kids walk
in a whisper, when less than
and the Holocaust to 9th graders,
introduce Neruda to 11th graders,
to figure out how I can
stand in my classroom trying
I, the teacher without a voice,
sleepless night of coughing,
to stand upright after a
lunch unpacked, barely able
Unfed, unwashed.

shows up.
in the morning) and no substitute,
filing on-line for a sub at three o’clock
in the process (something about
but something goes wrong
teach without a voice,
there’s no chance I can
calls in sick, thinking,
the voiceless teacher
voice not yet functioning,
It hurt.  And early this morning,

sexy or anything like that.
do was whisper and it wasn’t
the end of the day all I could
of their talking so that at
to make me talk over the top
They then proceeded

over the top of your talking.
don’t make me have to talk
I’m losing my voice so please
and I told my 9th graders
I was losing my voice

instrument
might do without his
more apt, what a musician
do without nets, or
what circus performers
almost as difficult as
is difficult.

Teaching Without A Voice

To those of you who have visited during Napowrimo, and to all of you who have visited before, I thank you!  It’s been my best April ever thanks to you!

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#171: Penultimate Poem for April: A Review of Last Night’s Tantrum

Yikes.

Yikes.

Last night’s temper tantrum
was a resounding success.
Let us consider the salient
features of the tantrum and
see to what heights of glory
were reached by last night’s
specimen. Usually, a tantrum
begins with some struggle
right before bedtime, typically
involving the cessation of play
and the transition upstairs.
This was most clearly evident.
Ad electronics.
There must be yelling.
There was a veritable smorgasbord
of yelling, reaching  in several key
moments to the pitch of screaming.
Very nice. Tears are good during
a tantrum, if you can manage them,
and last night’s tantrum produced
puddles of the stuff. Perhaps
one of the most exquisite and
simultaneously painful aspects
of the tantrum is an apparent
absence of anything like squaring
with reality. Last night’s tantrum
included several resounding examples
of this: Why are you being so mean?
Why are you screaming?  Why don’t
you love me? Nobody listens to me
around here!  You get the picture.
Out of a whole season of tantrums
this was one of the most effective and
sustained.  The conclusion, though,
I have to say, was most satisfying,
as the struggle reached a decrescendo
into something like quiet, peace was
achieved, and finally, everybody
went to sleep.

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#170: Bridges

PortlandOR

My mother hated bridges.
She hated driving; she would do it
if she absolutely had to, but
she would never drive across a bridge.
She did not trust them to support her
or she did not trust herself to drive straight across,
afraid of a fatal tack to the left or to the right,
into oncoming traffic or into the river,
both terrifying possibilities.
She no longer drives, period, so
avoiding bridges is no longer an issue.
I don’t care much for driving either
but I am not afraid of bridges.
We have about as many types of bridges
as the Eskimos are purported to have
words for snow.  Our friends, the bridges,
we cannot, must not fear them.
Bridges must be crossed and we must cross them.
Who could stand to be forever stuck
on one side of the river or the bay?
Who could stand never to cross over?
Who could possibly stomach all that swimming?
Who else but my mother could afford the
steep fees of the ferryman only to avoid bridges?

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