Tag Archives: National Poetry Writing 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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April’s Greatest Hits: Audio Poems

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So it was that during all of April I wrote poems, 32 of them to be precise, in celebration of National Poetry Writing Month. And they all, or most of them, turned out to be about this guy, or at least inspired by this guy, the Bard from Stratford Upon Avon, because, as you may or may not know, I had Shakespeare on the brain again as I was deeply embroiled in a performance of Romeo and Juliet as Lord Capulet.

For a friend who is making a film, I recorded audio performances of seven of my favorites.  For your listening pleasure, here they are:

Curtains

Lord Capulet Speaks the Unspeakable

A Poem from Director’s Notes

Capulet Speaks of His Daughters Grief

During Act II, Capulet Writes a Poem

The Actor Attempts to Meditate in the House During Fight Call

Lord Capulet Interrogates Michael Jarmer in a Closing Night Sonnet

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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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#220: A Poem for Janine on the 29th Day of the Month of April

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Do you remember, Janine,
when we were not yet
out of grade school,
how we used to play
at movie-making?
We had no cameras
or camcorders or iphones,
only our minds to record
the scenes conjured from
unbound imagination,
uninhibited and improvised,
film stars in a film no one
was watching nor would ever.
Sometimes we made your
sister be the monster and
we’d run away, but
other times, we took
ourselves and our project
very seriously.
I remember one scene
in particular. You played the
role of a mother and I was your son.
The context, the backstory,
the exposition is fuzzy, but I
remember that someone had
died, or there was some other kind
of absence, or an anticipation
of an absence: I remember now.
For some reason, I was leaving home.
There was no silliness or
childish theatrics; our intentions
were fierce and authentic
and whatever the words were,
the words we said to each other,
we believed them and allowed
ourselves to be moved.
I was saying goodbye to
my mother and we embraced
and we wept as if our lives
depended on it.
Maybe they did.

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#219: A Backwards Story Framed as a Lesson on Fiction Writing for the 28th of the Month of April

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The resolution might be that there is no resolution.
Let’s say for example that she can never be reconciled with her sister.
In the crisis moment we reach a turning point,
a confrontation, perhaps, or a situation from which there
is no turning around or escape and must ultimately change
things forever. Let’s say that as the woman challenges
her sister for allowing her daughter, the woman’s niece,
to borrow excessive amounts of money from her mother
and is met with denial and anger and abuse, the woman understands
that she must disown and disconnect this sibling
from her life entirely, and this is a choice she must
make for her own happiness and well-being and to protect
her 85 year old mother, susceptible to all kinds of manipulation.
A series of complications rachet up the drama of the central
conflict: secret meetings, lies from the grandmother
to her own daughter, insistences that everything is on the up and up
and lots of evidence to the contrary, unexplainable bills
paid for by the 85 year old, for example. First, one must
introduce a conflict, such as a situation in which a sister
who refuses to be involved in her mother’s life still
nevertheless wants to benefit from her mother’s largess
and need for approval from said estranged daughter, while
the responsible child, the woman, the hero of our story
plays interference on behalf of her mother and out of a sense
of familial justice. What follows may sound kind of formulaic,
but as you will see, for fiction writers looking for a sure-fire
framework on which to hang a story, it proves to be
quite serviceable most of the time.

 

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#218: Long Lines for the 27th of the Month of April

England - English Summer Woods

Because the spring beats its rhythm in the head of the school kids anxious for the arrival of Summer break,

because teachers are either counting the days or trying to hold them back, having way too much shit to do and not nearly enough time to do it,

because there’s the promise of music blaring from the stereo inside so that it can be felt outside in the yard while the kids play frisbee,

because we can bring beach chairs to the zoo for outdoor concerts and fireworks displays that sound like warfare even though we’ve been trained not to think of it that way,

because the bbq comes out of its detention in the garage and will live on the front porch for the next five months where it will be fired up every other day,

because the mowers will be out polluting the neighborhood with their beautiful ugliness, the smell of gasoline mixed with cut grass in the air like a rose,

because the trailers will be hitched and pulled to their idyllic destinations on the coast or in the woods where the campfires burn and campers sip bourbon from plastic cups,

because all camp is in session, horse camp, trackers camp, sports camp, band camp and camp of all camp for you, Mr. Jarmer: writers camp,

because the bugs will be out in force having skated through a stupidly mild winter completely unscathed and ready to rock and roll,

because we welcome the heat even while it frightens us and kills our grass and burns our skin,

because we can see the stars, we say welcome summer, come summer, bring it on, baby.

 

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#217: Poem on the 26th of the Month of April

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My head is empty of poems;
instead it’s full
of Shakespeare,
trying to hold on to
my lines even though
the run is over.
I found myself
running some of
them today for
no other reason
than to see if I
could do it. My mind
is full of The Flaming Lips
because I’ve been
listening to them again
almost non-stop
and that’s why I’ve
made no progress
toward the G section
of the collection.
My head is full of
excitement about
drumming again.
And it’s full of dread,
too, because of
how behind I am
in my grading
as a result of that show
that sucked up
all my spare time
and for which I
have no regrets
because I am sure
that the sacrifices
I made in teaching
to make room to do
a Shakespeare play
more likely than not
made me a better teacher.
Sometimes I believe
(or know) that grading
is the least important
part of what I do and
that acting, drumming
and writing poems, all
those things that are
best for me, are also
the best things I could
be doing for my students.

 

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