Category Archives: Poetry

April

Today is the last day of National Poetry Month (in the US, at least, though enough others seem to have taken part to rename it International Poetry Month). One challenge for the month, raised on several sites (the one I followed at NotWithoutPoetry and another at NaPoWriMo, among others) was to write a poem a day for the whole month. I took up this challenge. I did miss a couple of days but made them up so that, by today, I have at least 30 poems written. Click the Poems menu item above to work back through them.

I can say with all honesty that it has been the most productive artistic month of my life. It has made me eager to get out of bed and check what prompts have been issued on each site and see what I might make of them. I’m proud of some of the poems and will likely blush when I reread others. But, I am certainly pleased that I undertook and met the challenge.

My challenge for the rest of the year is to try and keep up the momentum, not to writing a poem a day, but to be able to follow through on the poems I do write and make them as good as they can be. For this, I’ll need to work even harder and in a different way but I am looking forward to that challenge. I’ll likely not post much more poetry since, as my friend Kona has discovered, posting poems excludes them from magazine publication and competition entry. But I may be back next year. By then I may need the challenge to refresh or restart my poetic voice.

For the last poem of the month, I’ve ignored all prompts and written a short, quick paean to National Poetry Month.


April

April is the lyric month.
For thirty days and thirty nights,
the words came, mine amongst them.
Long and short, rhyming and not,
of recognised form and all their own.
Amongst the tumult, I caught my
voice, now and then. If it will speak
in silence, I’ll soon discover.
But, to be a part of that
mellifluous chorus gladdened me.

Fenceline

The prompt for today was simply to ‘write that poem that’s been lying in wait. Or use one of the prompts that you had to skip previously. Or just start something deliciously, gloriously new!’ So, I did.

I took my lead from a passage in the book I was reading last night, After the Fire, A Still Small Voice by Evie Wyld.


Fenceline

A feller stood on his patch
and shouted “Mine” so the sound
would carry to the boundary
and beyond. To any bugger
who might question the right of it.

I walked my Dad’s fence, it took
all day. The scrub on both sides
was the same, burned by the same sun.

We’ve lost the idea of land,
the feeling of what it is to
have land, to be that feller.
Beyond possession and ownership
is the rootedness of land,
the sense it gives of being
supported, held close and nourished.

They retired to a city flat, held
leasehold, and flourished. Gained, they joked,
a new lease on life. A long term one,
it turned out.

Too close a hold can
suffocate, escape can mean
breathing free again. Fences work
both ways. I never took root, took
off instead. Still, I miss the
completedness of that fenceline.

Unformed

This is pretty much the antithesis of the prompt for today, a bit of a rant against the imposition of form. I’m sure there are poets who can use the constraints of form creatively and I have read plenty of contemporary poems where the form works without being obvious. For me though, trying to write to a form means I think too much about that and not enough about getting words that work, and the words are all that matter to me.

What the heck: put it down to my inability to think of rhymes!


Unformed

Rearranging a verse to fit some form seems
like writing the news to suit the sentiment
of your class of reader. Leave restraints to
the sadomasochists in our midst. Write
what is right. Whatever a word’s colour
or origins, if it can play the role,
employ it. End rhymed lines can produce
a fine effect but repetition dulls.
Use rhyme as a tool to hone your sense
not as a weapon of blunt trauma.
And if you find that thirteen lines contain
your thought, then leave it there, don’t add one more.
Let your poem speak with its own voice.

Old shed

This second poem uses the other photograph in the prompt:

old shed

I tried to relate a number of concepts here but after a couple of hours of struggle and my pencil reducing considerably in length, I have to admit failure. There is the germ of an idea but it’ll need more time than I had today to get it in shape. Still, this will serve as a reminder.


untitled

There, a shelf of jars before a window.

Good glass aspires to erasure, it
signifies nothing. This glass, however,
asserts its existence. The jars enclose,
the window warps the world beyond.

Just-in-case jars, dusty and forgotten.
Screw-topped, flip-topped, cork and glass-stoppered,
wide and narrow mouthed, long and squat, all
contents long gone. Like words holding their shape
when the meaning has fled.

That thin pane conjures a filmic dreamscape,
a Gaudian geography of stretch
and snap progression.

Don’t look for meaning here. Only disuse
is significant.

Still life

The prompt today is to take one of two photographs, still lifes, and compose a poem from them. This photograph,

red bicycle

brought to mind Williams’ poem and I came up with:

who might depend
upon

a red bi-
cycle

sunk in wood
chips

against the white
boarding.

Couldn’t resist it :). Will try a proper poem later.

Night, looking out

Another prompt-based poem. A little less stream of consciousness than the last. Perhaps a little less sensible but, then, it is later now. This one is more me. That is, rambling, convoluted and invoking Spinoza :).

May not get anything written tomorrow as I’ll be out for most of the morning so this one is in reserve.


Night, looking out

Mostly darkness, the odd lighted window.
Empty living room, kitchen with a shadow.
Lives hovering over chaos. Quantum
substrate for a badly etched reality.
Realign the design, retool the
manufactory. Refashion Spinoza’s
substance. That which is and not god but
of which all is. Start with the Ethics.
Near mathematical rules for sensemaking.
Realign with Physics for a retooled
enlightenment. Not to conquer darkness
but comprehend it. Thrill to the chaos.

Stream

Well, that was the quickest I’ve responded to any prompt. This one was to ‘Turn off the noise. Go to a window. Write what you see, feel and/or want in a stream-of-consciousness form.’ I suppose that ought to have come out as a stream about myself but this turned into another character. Strange.


Stream

This stream is stuck at the window,
one way glazing, reflecting me
and the room I’m in. A room
of my own, sadly. Single bed,
desk, bookshelves. Books might
furnish a room but cosy they’re not.
You are out there, too far away
to be looking in. Could I scrape
a hole in the half silvered layer: no
going back from that. To see
what watches me, look into
another’s eyes. Scary.
Perhaps there is another room
there, someone thinking as I do.
Or, just a mirror and eyes
I’d rather not gaze into.

Ism

I’ve followed the prompt to write about memetics. Not especially happy with this one: rather contrived. I tend to write this sort of poem when I am struggling with an idea or am trying too hard to force it into a poem. I’ll see if I can come up with something better in the next couple of hours, and replace this one.


Ism

Take this brain and pry it open. Here where
the matter’s densest, is the meme bank, source
of knowledge and ideas. Tease out
this one strand. See its thickness and multiple
connections. That shows it’s an ism.
They are easily caught and hard to dislodge
so ensure your mask is tight. Outreaching
links will fire with the least stimulus: fear
always works. See how it links to home, here,
family, there, and this, the idea of self
receives the most connections. It — seems — we —
cannot prise it out. This could only be
the ism of terror. No need to worry then,
we all have that one well embedded.

Ambiguous precision

That article in Turps Banana (see previous posting) has prompted another poem. This one is inspired by other aspects of the article. Holden describes Root as ‘a painter who’s work, which although at times very precise, thrives on an ambiguity of subject matter’. I’ve taken this opposition between precision and ambiguity and spun it into a poem, using, as an anchor, the painting Interior With Stick (2010).

Interior with Stick, Phil Root, 2010

(click image to link to painting on artnet)


Ambiguous precision

Reason clings to cause and effect
but the sum of wherefores is unequal
to the end result. A painting
of a painted owl looking
longingly at a stick, indoor.
Every stroke is just so, adds
to the whole, precisely. The owl
lives — alongside the stick. The stick,
however, is unsupported. No reason.

Put the painting into words. De-
scribe all the artist’s oeuvre.
Here is the gap between paint
and bird. Nature and culture made
orthogonal, like floor and wall.
That stick stands, manifestly.

Yet, ambiguity gives us
reason to see. Come and behold.
We are creatures who conjure meaning
and meanings here are manifold.

Egg within a Ball

Ignoring any external prompts, again. This poem derives from reading an article in the latest Turps Banana (best magazine about the art of art). It is by Andy Holden (front page of site seems duff: try Google search) about his friend Phil Root and his exhibition, A Still Life With Lemons (pdf of catalogue) at the Hidde van Seggelen Gallery, London. As it happens, the article is available as a sample download (pdf).

Talking specifically about the painting, Egg within a Ball (2010), Holden makes a stab at interpreting the work, then, after talking to Root says, ‘The painting was the product of a painting of a birds’ egg that whilst thinking about Breugel, mutated into a ball.’ There are so many ways to work on this statement, and the other ideas in the article, but the poem that eventuated spins off from the idea that there is supposed to be an egg within the ball.

(click image to link to artnet)


Egg within a Ball

but the ball is all we see.
The egg must be taken on faith
though we might use x-rays to
verify that it lay beneath. Behind?
Beyond, perhaps.

So, the point of the egg is – what,
exactly? Just so.

The ball, though, is another matter.
Or a different matter. Unless,
the ball, too, does not exist.
Like the egg, it doesn’t bounce.
Gah! You’ll question the paint next.

At least it is dry, now, and
neatly framed. We can hang it
where its questions are rendered
proverbial.

No rest on the flight

This poem does not follow any prompt. I was reading an article in the Millions, yesterday, about Peter Porter and had got down his The Rest on the Flight: Selected Poems to look up a couple of the poems referenced. The title had been staring at me for a while. I assumed ‘The Rest on the Flight’ referred to the rest that the holy family took on their flight into Egypt and away from Herod the Great (see this Wikipedia article)(yes, I am a militant atheist, but the myths of Christianity fascinate me).

Before looking up Porter’s poem, the title sparked an idea for one of my own, about being unable to rest on the flights to and from Australia that I’ve made in the past. On reading the poem, it turns out Porter had much the same idea, but I had already started mine and it was fairly different so I finished it.

It struck me that Porter might have made the same flight as me, perhaps even sat in the same seat as me, and felt the same boredom and fear. I think he made a lot better use of the experience, though. But the connection still made me shiver.


No rest on the flight

Mid flight, mid sky, constrained by all the
customs of dark but sleep. Fruit and water
are proffered by soft footed stewards sliding by,
lesser angels of a common god.
In that dank cave of animal instinct
we surrender to the roar without
and the awe within. This stanza of our
voyage is the one with hopes and dreams.
Prayer-like, we posit a future this
pale projectile will deliver us unto
and buttress a mechanistic faith with
animistic devotions. The sound subsumes
thought, slows it to a mach fraction — lulls
and gentles fear. Others will write the
final lines; we can but affirm them.

Iphis and Ianthe

According to today’s Recycle, Reuse, Rewrite prompt, we are to ‘Find an old poem or two that you’ve abandoned and find a line, a title or a concept that really grabs you. Now use those to start a new poem, going in a direction entirely different than the original.’ I have written two or three different poems on the story of Iphis and Ianthe from Ovid’s Metamorphoses (English translation of the story) and decided to write another one, in a new direction, for this challenge.


Iphis and Ianthe: the end

There’s no transforming a girl to a boy,
this Iphis knows, but pretends the goddess
has answered her mother’s prayers and leaves
the temple with a testicular stride.
Ianthe knows (how could she not) and trembles
as the ceremony pledges her her mate.

But soon the judgement begins. Grow out your
beard, Iphis is told; Ianthe is said
to be barren; their home is not home to
accustomed discord. They’re letting both sides

down. They leave. And, as the past and the village
dwindles behind, Iphis grows to a woman.
They invent a tale of sisters betrothed
to a god and settle to faithful lives.