Saturday, July 03, 2010

On Kathe Kollwitz

I have been taking full advantage of all the art in the city and find myself madly running around just to catch exhibits before they close. One of my favorites so far have been the Kathe Kollwitz exhibit, now closed, which was going on the the Galerie St. Etienne in midtown. I've always loved her work from the very first time I saw them. I have never seen any in person, so this was a special treat for me. I found myself loving the work she completed earlier in her career, especially of when she was still training.

They are quite different from the drawings that she is more known for. These were more academic and meticulous, but not overworked. I found her linework so delicate and skillful and studied the confident stroke in each mark. Confidence and boldness rings through all of her drawings, but the earlier ones held a quiet confidence. The compositions were compelling and none were executed in an overly fastidious manner. Unfortunately I couldn't take pictures of the work and could only find one image online.

Some of her more complicated themes depicting war, death, loss and suffering are reminiscent of a modern Goya near the end of the 19th century and at the turn of the 20th. She certainly had her obsessions. She explored these themes, along with the theme of self-portrait extensively throughout her career.

I learned that her father had recognized her great talent and excellent skills in draughtsmanship thus arranged for private instruction at a young age. How progressive. He believed in her exceptional skill so much that he did not want her to marry. He was afraid that marriage and the role of a woman in those times as a wife would demolish any hopes of her daughter's career. He was ahead of his time. Yet, despite marriage, she forged on.

I wonder if she is an influence on Kiki Smith? Some of her charcoal drawings remind me of Smith's own drawings (the feeling of the drawings, not the execution). Her images are fresh in my mind. I think about them extensively and carry them with me. I wonder how they will arise in the exploration of my own work and development.

Friday, April 30, 2010

NaPoWriMo #30 - free day

30/30 = mission accomplished!


Silence stuck like a bad reputation.
Like a felony,
Like forefinger and thumb with superglue,
Like sap,
Like Catholic guilt,
Like a moment you can never take
back but only regret during your
morning shower the next day.
Your anger builds empires out of molehills.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

NaPoWriMo #29 - front page news


You’re almost there, and inspiration for your next to the last NaPoWriMo poem is at your fingertips! D.S. Apfelbaum recalls what William Carlos Williams once wrote, “It is difficult/ to get the news from poems,” but asks, “Who says you can’t get poems from the news?”

For this prompt, choose your favorite newspaper or online news provider. Jot down five to ten headlines that jump out at you and without reading the articles, select elements from each headline to create a new event about which your poem reports.

Alternately, let short-format sections inspire you. Write a poem in the form of an obituary, a personal ad, a classified ad, etc. (Bonus points if you can pull off a poem in the form of a crossword puzzle.)
This is technicolor yawn but it's 29/30 and I'm running on fumes!

Read between the lines

Looking for someone that will
screw me over, instead of promises
of taking long walks on the beach.
Adhere to the seven-year itch (if it lasts
that long) and continues to facebook-stalk
their ex’s profile. Must be hot; great personalities
are a maybe – we’ll play it by ear.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

NaPoWriMo #28 - Intuition


Today’s prompt is provided by member, Julie Jordan Scott.

Arthur Koestler wrote: “The moment of truth, the sudden emergence of a new insight, is an act of intuition.” Akin to a “sixth sense,” intuition brings pieces together. It gives the gift of heightened awareness.

One single, specific memory I have from a math class comes from the first day of geometry class. I was 15 years old.

The teacher asked “What is intuition?”

I raised my hand — an unusual act for me when math was involved. “Intuition is having a hunch,” I said, “sort of knowing or having an idea of something out of the blue, like without really knowing you somehow know.”

What does this have to do with your life and your poetry?

Take a moment to remember a breakthrough moment in your life or a “freeze-frame” moment from long, long ago. An “a-ha” or an “epiphany” moment or a moment that has a story yet to tell.

Let’s prepare to write a poem using our intuition intentionally today. Write this prompt on your page: “When I remember my “a-ha moment” from my past, I understand the place I am meant to go with my words and poetry today is … ”

Restate the prompt as you free-write and don’t write a poem yet. Instead, go about your business of the day purposefully not writing a poem.

Notice surprising turns of phrases you hear. Listen to people who say things to you that seem especially surprising, lyrics to songs. Eavesdrop intentionally. Wait for at least 2 hours and then write your poem from the words your intuition and your free-writing gave you.
Come Hither Pretty

I want to go to the barbecue blowout someday
I want to be a prison guard in the movies
where Disneyland is Hell and God
is a squirrel stuck in an oak tree.

$.31 cent scoop day at Baskin Robbins today

And here's a poem by Charles Bukowski, for you to enjoy while you eat your three scoops.

The Ice cream People
Charles Bukowski

the lady has me temporarily off the bottle
and now the pecker stands up
however, things change overnight--
instead of listening to Shostakovich and
Mozart through a smeared haze of smoke
the nights change, new
we drive to Baskin-Robbins,
31 flavors:
Rocky Road, Bubble Gum, Apricot Ice, Strawberry
Cheesecake, Chocolate Mint...

we park outside and look at icecream
a very healthy and satisfied people,
nary a potential suicide in sight
(they probably even vote)
and I tell her
"what if the boys saw me go in there? suppose they
find out I'm going in for a walnut peach sundae?"
"come on, chicken," she laughs and we go in
and stand with the icecream people.
none of them are cursing or threatening
the clerks.
there seem to be no hangovers or
I am alarmed at the placid and calm wave
that flows about. I feel like a leper in a
beauty contest. we finally get our sundaes and
sit in the car and eat them.

I must admit they are quite good. a curious new
world. (all my friends tell me I am looking
better. "you're looking good, man, we thought you
were going to die there for a while...")
--those 4,500 dark nights, the jails, the

and later that night
there is use for the pecker, use for
love, and it is glorious,
long and true,
and afterwards we speak of easy things;
our heads by the open window with the moonlight
looking through, we sleep in each other's

the ice cream people make me feel good,
inside and out.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

NaPoWriMo #27 - Acrostic Poem

Carolee Sherwood wonders if you’re running on fumes like she is. She hopes her prompt takes some of the heat off and points your exhausted brain down the path where your 27th poem lies. Take a word that’s part of you — your name, your birth month, your favorite animal, your guiding principle. Write that word vertically down a page and use the letters to start the lines of a poem. When you’re done, you’ll have an acrostic poem. (Though the prompt could be as simple as “write an acrostic poem,” the word sounds scary this late in the month. This prompt is designed to ease you into the final stretch. Don’t stress too much about the word you choose. NaPoWriMo is just for fun. Are you having fun?)

Morning comes
And the first sounds of dawn
Reaches for my
Cowering conscience
Hoping for dream-land again.

Monday, April 26, 2010

NaPoWriMo #26 - get scrappy

It’s getting late in the month, and finishing NaPoWriMo is going to take every bit of resourcefulness you have. Jill Crammond Wickham reminds us about the bits and pieces of poems we may be carrying around.

Today, before you start writing, you need to do some digging. Dig through your backpack, purse or desk drawer and find a scrap of poem written on an old envelope or bank deposit slip. Unearth an old journal or notebook.

Find a poem that you started, or perhaps one you abandoned. Read it through. Highlight the lines or phrases that please you. Do not cross anything out (yet)! You now have two choices: finish the poem or take the parts you like and begin a brand new piece.

If NaPoWriMo has you a little crazy, there is a third option: take the parts you don’t like and use them to inspire a new poem.
By Any Other Name

We can call it love
So we know
It will end
As the summer
Wanes into a
Color-filled sidewalk
With leaves
Wet and freshly dead.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

NaPoWriMo #25 - First Things First

It’s Day #25, and you may be getting tired. In Joseph Harker’s prompt today, let others do the heavy lifting of inspiration. Keep an ear out for the first sentence (or even word) that is said to you after you read this prompt. (Poetic license: If the first few words are exceptionally boring, wait for the first uncommon or peculiar one.) Take that word/sentence — it could be “mango” or “exemplar” or “have you ever been to this Ethiopian restaurant?” — and build a poem around it. Maybe you have deep thoughts on mangoes or a narrative of heartbreak and spicy injera from the restaurant mentioned. Trust in fate.

I am tired of you
yelling at me. And she takes
herself in the bedroom, packs her most precious
items while in the background the weatherman
yells out from the box. They are always wrong,
aren’t they? Taking the words out of her mouth,
she says, here, take them. Love. You. I.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

NaPoWriMo #24 - find a phrase


With words like codswallop, it’s clear that Read Write Poem member Marie Gauthier means business! Now is not the time to let your NaPoWriMo work ethic slack.

Clichés, idioms, what-have-you. As points of inspiration, you might think they’re dead in the water, but that’s a load of codswallop. Time spent investigating word origins is never time wasted. “Left in the lurch” is one example. Here’s what The Phrase Finder says about it:

There are suggestions that lurch is a noun originating from lych – the Old English word for corpse, which gives the name to the covered lych-gates that adjoin many English churches. The theory goes that jilted brides would be ‘left in the lych (or lurch)’ when the errant bridegroom failed to appear. The lych-gate is where coffins are left when waiting for the clergyman to arrive to conduct a funeral service. Both theories are plausible but there’s no evidence to support either and in fact lych and lurch are unrelated.

For our purposes, it doesn’t matter whether the derivation pans out as true or not. Your inquiries are meant to be catalytic crackers. Surely “lych-gate” stirs an idea or two!

So for today’s prompt, travel a while on The Phrase Finder website until you find the phrase or phrase origin that most interests you.

There are no hard and fast rules. The Phrase Finder has phrases from the Bible, from Shakespeare, phrases coined at sea, something for every taste. Take some notes, do a free-write or three, and see where a little word exploration takes you.

But there is
nothing romantic about a starving artist
The mason jar glassware, the oven for a heater
slash cabinet and an amateur opera singer
as your neighbor. Every day he sings while
you scrape peanut butter jars with your finger,
a soap-dodger hoping for something more promising
than dreams.

Friday, April 23, 2010

NaPoWriMo #23 - Unlikely Couples

Read Write Poem member Sage Cohen has a terrific suggestion for today’s poems: Write a poem in which you combine a speaker and an event that normally don’t go together (such as sports broadcasters and poetry writing), as Jay Leeming does in his poem, “Man Writes Poem.”
Vegetarian at a Pig Roast

Like a child lost at a department
store, the servers whiz around, over
and past your hopeful glaze which waters
and flavors your plate full of sides.

BBC Series 'Modern Masters'

Here's a great article on Picasso and his women/art. The Telegraph article is mostly based on three women who "survived" him. My favorite line is,

“Painting is not meant to be understood. My painting is not mathematics. Do you 'understand’ the songs of birds? Do you 'understand’ pommes de terre?”

That says it all.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

NaPoWriMo #22 - Chimera


Today’s prompt is from Read Write Poem member Catherine who provided the contents for today’s prompt, a Wordle.

Use one, or use them, all in the poem you write today.

My brain has turned into rust-saffron dust, dizzy from
this pipe dream love. Each thought, a tendril of
imagination that matches the slender curl of your
impossible hair.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

NaPoWriMo #21

What a lovely prompt:

Today’s prompt is from Read Write Poem member Kristen McHenry:

“In ancient times, Persian rug makers were deeply religious and believed that only God could make something perfect. They would deliberately drop in a small faulty stitch, a flaw, into each Persian rug. In doing so, a ‘Persian Flaw’ revealed the rug maker’s devotion to God.” — Karel Weijand

Like many of us, I often struggle with the gremlin of perfectionism. The above quote reminds me that achieving perfection is not my prime directive in life, and that in fact, striving for perfection can be a form of hubris.

Write a poem about flaws and perfection in yourself or in nature or write about how you feel about being imperfect or perfect.

Here are some things you may want to reflect on as you write: Do flaws add beauty to the world? What does it feel like to experience perfection? What is it like to encounter flaws — in our selves, in others, in systems or in objects? As imperfect beings, are we able to adequately judge perfection?

If you’d like, you can try contrasting these both concepts in one poem or just choose the one that you feel most drawn to. There is potential for both perfection and flaws in everything on earth, so there’s no limit to to subject you use to frame your poems.
Dear Reader,

Your convivial attitude, in my half-sleep stupor,
is unacceptable, contrived (as the) heterogenous

chunks of found junk in modern art.  Fragmentation
is no longer a risk, no longer new or shocking. 

Civilizations were born from your introspective
thoughts. And your existence breeds

existence breeds existence. Stop.
Grow another heart, reader, I wasn’t quite

ready for this. You can’t write a love story
unless you throw your heart over the cliff.

At least a few hundred times, they say.
But I maunder. Shall I manicure your delicate paws?

Pause for thought, now. Somewhere there is an illiterate
child walking the streets with nothing on but a long white shirt,

thin as tracing paper, revealing his ribs
which protrude like rising manhood with each breath.

Smile, reader. I am fragile as clothing.
No luxury of mothballs and spent

from the years of communion and repentance,
communion and repentance. Now we might have a chance

at tip toeing past the Beaujolais grapes of your imagination. Now
let’s return.  Conviviality is a goal for some of us.

Let me hold my pencil up, stand
still, don’t move, right    there.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

NaPoWriMo #20 - Hero Poem

As a child, Jessica GC says she had two heroes: Wonder Woman and her mother. “To me, they were one and the same,” says Jessica. “Both had long dark hair. Both were strikingly beautiful, and both had incredible strength.”

Write a poem in which you to pay tribute to your hero, past or present.

Here are few possibilities for inspiration:
• What made your childhood hero so special? What traits did you envy? Are super powers involved?
• Do you have more than one hero? Consider drawing a comparison between them.
• Honor the everyday heroes among us — the policemen, the fire fighters, the troops — risking their lives everyday.
• Did your hero ever fall from the pedestal you put him or her on?
• Maybe you’re the hero you want to write about! Have you ever had a moment when someone has made you feel like a hero? Did you ever save a cat from a burning building? Or maybe it was something as simple as staying up all night with a friend who needed you.
In any case, share with us in your poem what made or makes your hero so deserving of admiration.
I wanted this to be something different so I tried an instructional poem. I like the idea but it's so rough that I don't have time to really re-write a post-able draft. So I will put this up to revise since it contains the idea/mood I would like the poem to have. 6 minutes to spare....

How to be a hero

Speak up and be charming. Ask
for other people’s opinion as if
you were interested in what they had
to say. If you agree, let them know that
they’re “totally, right!” and name off a story
or two to prove your alliances. Laugh wholeheartedly
at their stories.

Never let them see you sweat.

Tell them about you adore your grandmother, how
you took her in with care. Do not mention
your impatience with her memory. Use words like
sweet and tough and old-school and love.

Let them see you sweat, then pull through just in time.

Save someone from a burning building.
If not, save a cat.

Get in a street brawl or a bar fight.

Tell ‘em about the fight.

Monday, April 19, 2010

NaPoWriMo #19 - Play

For today’s NaPoWriMo prompt, Read Write Poem member Rallentanda introduces a word that’s new to many of us: éclat. Online dictionaries (like this one) list several definitions, but it is the etymology that inspires the meaning chosen for today’s prompt. The word éclat is French, and we’re paying attention to its root éclater, “to burst (out), shine.”

For Rallentanda, and us, this means a flash or light bulb moment. Everyone has had one. Things suddenly fall into place (a realization of the truth of the matter).

Often the situation is too painful to address, so you hide it. For example, you suspect your husband is having an affair with your best friend or you suddenly realize where the missing cash went from your wallet all those years ago.

It can even be humorous. You usually wear your best under garments for a visit to the gynecologist, but as you’re ready to strip off you suddenly realize you are wearing your old gardening knickers with all the broken elastic. Try to describe the ensuing feelings of embarrassment and desperate attempts to rectify this situation.

I actually know of someone who tripped and fell on stage at a gala performance. She was so humiliated that she pretended she was having a heart attack (which seemed, to her at the time, the better option).

Your poem should express the emotions that grip you as you experience your “shock” moment.
I never write like this. Perhaps it's too late, it's Monday, there's too much to be done and yet I wanted to squeeze 19/30 in! With something this playful I wish it could be something more geared toward children as audience.


It was too late
to tell my mate
about my affair during my lunch date.
To my dismay I found a number
and a motel bill during her slumber!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

NaPoWriMo #18 - Dwelling


“I’m cursed. I’m a tiger,” says Read Write Poem member Irene. She’s talking about the Year of the Tiger, and it’s the inspiration for her NaPoWriMo prompt:

The tiger is a creature known to create wildness and tumult. In Chinese superstition, it is not a year to marry or have children. The tiger is too aggressive. It stalks and preys.

Write a poem featuring the cat family, whether big or small.

There are many cat poems that may inspire you. The first poem that comes to mind, William Blake’s “The Tyger,” wonders why such a creature is created in the first place. Did such a creation come from the Devil himself? God will only create a lamb, right?

Ted Hughes wrote about the jaguar, a not-so-distant cousin. I think a jaguar looks even more fearsome. There’s a playful feline quality about the tiger. Not so with a jaguar! It is like black rage. I’ve seen a jaguar in a zoo, pacing endlessly in its cage. Here’s how Hughes wrote it, in “The Jaguar,” “He spins from the bars, but there’s no cage to him” and “his stride is wildernesses of freedom.”

Then there’s the pussy cat. In “Esther’s Tomcat,” also by Hughes, the cat becomes, in a figurative sense, the protagonist, the beleaguered husband. Hughes describes him as “an old rough mat” and reveals, “Continual wars and wives are what/ Have tattered his ears and battered his head.”

Is that enough to go on? Roar! Purr! (You choose.)

I imagine your despondent gaze
looking past the rough flatness of the land

below you, an impressionist's palette
serene and lit by blinding fluorescents. Next door

gazelles portray their flirtation with your
death snarl. You are demonized as witches

with their daily routine, cooking Sunday dinner and
rearing their young ones. Behind prophylactic glass

your horror is a glass slipper, never
fitting the fantasy that you wish to escape.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

New Materials for a New Kind of Art

Notice a theme here? Check out the works of "pin-up" artist Eric Daigh

and brick artist Nathan Sawyer.

The Deitch Regime

Jeffrey Deitch announces his first show at the MOCA. Though Deitch claims having zero commercial involvement, the LA Times raises a great question, "Is Hopper's art worth all this attention?" Dennis Hopper doesn't care about the artist's intention, and his wish is to see his collection in museums. You can listen for yourself here.

Friday, April 16, 2010

NaPoWriMo #16 - Haiku

Read Write Poem member Julie Jordan Scott launches her NaPoWriMo prompt with a quote from Diane Ackerman: “Smells detonate softly in our memory like poignant land mines hidden under the weedy mass of years.” Julie reports having discovered in her own notes 17 pages on the subject! Here’s the prompt she culled from material she’s collected:

Practicing the art of writing from the sense of smell will open language in a different way than writing from a more “language friendly” sense, like the sense of sight or sound. Because of this, writing that uses a scent prompt evokes visceral, richly experienced poetry.

Scientific fact: Salmon smell their stream of birth from hundreds of miles away. The scent of this particular stream weaves its way to the salmon like a love-call. It rises and falls with the water, its essence calling the ancient connection. The salmon respond to this invitation and make their way back to their spawning ground.

Humans have primitive connections to the sense of smell, as well. It is our most primal sense, especially since the connections between the language centers and smell sensory centers are so few. Our sense of smell is tied to our most ancient selves. Another intriguing fact? Smell is connected closely to our memory centers even though it is distant from our language centers.

Somewhere near where you are sitting is something with a specific smell that will conjure a memory rich with images. Take a moment to find any such object and breathe the scent of it, deeply. It may be as simple as a strand of your hair, a ketchup bottle from the refrigerator, a potholder or a bottle of lotion.

Add to your breath the simple phrase, “I remember” and breathe the scent in again. “I remember.” Free write from “I remember” for at least five minutes, repeating the prompt “I remember” if your writing slows.

Use the seeds from your free writing to write today’s poem.

The air crisp and clean.

People scuttle and huddle,

while ice skaters glide.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

NaPoWriMo #15 - I could never be a songwriter

Do you have the courage to attempt today’s prompt, written by Read Write Poem member Dale? If you haven’t practiced being silly in a while, this is the perfect assignment for you:
In a nice private place, pick out a stanza, or a few lines, that you like from a poem that you don’t otherwise feel was very successful. Say them over to yourself.
Now hum them. See if you can find the tune.
And now sing them aloud. (Who cares if you can sing? You’re in private. And this is poetry!)
Throwing away the rest of the poem, write two more stanzas (stand-alone or connected) that go to the same tune.
No fair doing it silently!
Just one night
I want to be
with you.
No promises made,
no obligations to meet
standards obliterated
by caresses of flesh,
highlights by moonlight.

No sounds except for crickets
making love
to the slow rhythm
of pulsing hunger.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Movie Poster Mash-Ups: Artist Rock Stars

This post was brought to you by Flavorwire.

Now this is really funny! I got a great laugh here especially with the tagline, "You don't have to be a hero to do this job. But it helps." Tim McCool did a great job with these movie poster mash-ups! Check em' out when you have a chance.

Some artists have achieved rock star status and to prove it just go to their openings where you'll see actual rock stars and some well-known Hollywood faces cruising the joint, looking at the art and getting their pictures taken by the papa-paparazzi. Art appreciation or star appreciation?

NaPoWriMo #14 - #fail

What in the world is a Cleave Poem?


Nicole Nicholson has a big challenge for us on Day 14: Write a cleave poem. What’s a cleave poem, you ask? It’s three poems in one.

The whole idea works something like this (quoting the creator of the form, Dr. Phuoc-Tan Diep): “In its most basic form it is three poems: two parallel ‘vertical’ poems (left and right)…[with] a third ‘horizontal’ poem being the fusion of the vertical poems read together.” He goes on to say, “One of my aims was to examine how something can be more than the sum of its parts and can be 3 in 1: synergy, fusion, co-operation, dialectics, marriage, interdependence, teamwork and The Trinity.”

More info can be found at The Cleave (including samples) and at the “cleave” entry at

Happy writing! (Editor’s note: A good idea, for those who fear the cleave is too challenging: Try a short one or simply try a form you have never tried before.)
I know that I don't have any excuses here since I don't really have to follow the prompt if I don't want to. But that's the name of the game for me this year: follow the daily prompt. This time, the editor gave me an out and it was my choice not to take it. But exercises like these make me not ever want to write poems as exercises again. (ugh!)

This writing exercise felt like something between Mad Libs and the NY Times Sunday crossword puzzle. #fail

In a nearby village       the soldiers gather, hopeful to find food or water while

a young girl listens to   their hushed groans grow roots. A discarded shoe sits in

a jewelry box               the residue of life once joyful like a

tune, a little bird’s        delicate carcass whispering a

monologue, a              deathwish. Perhaps a

telegram announcing   something better than purgatory, hell with

a mother’s hopeful       prayer


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

NaPoWriMo #13 - Thanks to Norman Dubie


Today is Day 13, also known as your lucky day. Sarah J. Sloat has a wonderful prompt for you; it’s bound to get you going! She says:

I’m partial to the tried-and-true prompt that calls for starting a poem with a line written by another poet. For this go-round, it would be interesting to see what poets can launch using a line from Norman Dubie.

In his poems, Norman Dubie tells stories, sets scenes and paints landscape, sometimes lush and sometimes wretched. His writing is sure and vivid, and his language is beautiful. As you’ll see below, his similes are incomparable. If forced to compare him with anyone, I’d be more likely to pick a painter than another writer.

For this prompt, take a Dubie line to jumpstart a poem of your own. Your poem should be titled “Poem Starting with a Line from Norman Dubie.”

I offer a menu of possible first lines below:

  1. The lights of the galaxies are strung out over a dipper of gin.
  2. His chapel fell into flowers long ago.
  3. A kiss is like a dress falling off a tall building.
  4. Two houseflies are like two fiddles drying.
  5. My favorite pastime has become the imaginary destruction of flowers.
  6. In triplicate, he’s sent an application, listing grievances, to the stars.
  7. You wondered about skin wrinkled by looking at jewels.
  8. Her breasts filled the windows like a mouth.
  9. In the near field an idle, stylish horse raised one leg.
  10. Worlds are being told like beads.
  11. The pearl slapdash of the moon is on the water.
Be sure to use the title suggested and credit Norman Dubie in your post!
This feels like cheating since the lines are so beautiful and already poems within themselves. Anyway, here's the poem. (And I think I have a new favorite poet to add to the list!)

Poem Starting with a Line from Norman Dubie

A kiss is like a dress falling off a tall building.
You skip a breath, hold it for a second or two,

And revel in the floating dance followed

To the music of whimsical winds.

Monday, April 12, 2010

NaPoWriMo #12 - Bloom

We are more than one-third through NaPoWriMo. If you feel like you’ve started to make things up (two parts desperation, one part coffee grinds), then Carolee Sherwood’s prompt for Day 12 will play into your hand.

Make up a secret code. Begin by writing a few nonsense sentences, like “The raindrops tap out a cry for help” or “The dandelions are saying all at once, ‘You are overwhelmed.’” The formula is easy: come up with a message and assign it to something unlikely. Remember, of course, that inanimate objects can speak and that signs and symbols may be nonverbal.

Once you have a few sentences, select the one that is most intriguing to you and use it to start a poem.

The dead flowers are humming a prison song
and all you can do is peel potatoes, carefully,
as if in search for something more malleable than
a little girl’s desire for what can pass as joy.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

NaPoWriMo #11 - Silver

RWP member Angie Werren invites us to write about the choice we didn’t make:

Everyday we make choices. Some are small: English breakfast or Lipton? the highway or back roads? Some are more significant: convertible or mini-van? farmhouse or condo?

Some choices lead us straight into the life we’re living, but for this poem, think about one of the things in your life you didn’t choose.

Be concrete. Pick an object — something tangible* — and write your poem directly to it, as if you were writing it a personal letter. Explain why you didn’t choose it. What could things have been like if you had? Talk about what your life has become without it. See where the “confession” takes you.

*As an alternative, dig a little deeper and write your poem to a person you left behind.
The man on the bench stared at the
toddler screaming with impish glee
chasing pigeons, hands full of bread crumbs
which she threw gracelessly
at the heedless birds
like fairy dust, airy and
delicate like the child’s own fingers
which were really fat and round sausage stumps,
Picasso’s baguette digits posing in a black
and white facsimile of some
thing from the artist’s own oeuvre.

In this city, it’s a bad habit not to be able to sleep
without the windows open. The traffic is a mere hindrance,
more like an urging than a lullaby, the hum of fluorescents
in an office floor packed with cubicles reminding you
of your slow transformation to stone.

Behind her the birds continue to follow
pecking at the bread crumbs she throws
over her shoulder, like trading coins for wishes.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

NaPoWriMo #10 - 180 degrees

This took a turn of its own. Sometimes the poem just goes a different direction, I think it still ties to the prompt but it would need more work to make the metaphors clear and not so jumpy. It's difficult to spend tons of time when you write a poem a day. However the exciting part is after being a third through the challenge, I feel like I have 10 solid poems to work on and keep me busy for next month!

RWP member Pamela Sayers says, “I live in Mexico, and one of the things I love most about this country is that people here celebrate their family and friends to the utmost.” And it is in that spirit that Pamela asks us to write about any celebration we have been to recently.

Write about a birthday party, a wedding, a baptism — any kind of celebration where you were with family or friends or both. Write about the colors you remember, the sounds (and how they made you feel) and the tastes you remember from any of those events. Did these things make you feel good? Did you experience any new foods? Did you meet any new people?

Sometimes, beyond our control, festivities can take a turn for the worse. Maybe that happened to you or someone you know. Whatever happened, be it great or not so great, let’s write about it!
The sweet smell of bacon fills pockets of discussions,
frying away to a crispness requested between toddlers
playful screams. Eggs and flavored flapjacks settle on
the dining table as husbands sit in the other room
transfixed by a sports play in the middle of a strategic
array. There are no women in the huts the warrior huts.
Instead they converge daily for the making of things.
Outside the birds flower hop looking for sweet nectar,
hoping this season promises more food than the last. They
migrate for nutrition while killer bees fly thousands of miles
to other regions to invade hives and replace its honey queen
with one of their own. The drones are clueless and suckle on
the honey of another, clueless to the work involved.

Friday, April 09, 2010

NaPoWriMo #9 - A Mission

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to:

    * Use at least twelve words from this list: flap, winter, torch, pail, jug, strum, lever, massage, octopus, marionette, stow, pumice, rug, jam, limp, campfire, startle, wattle, bruise, chimney, tome, talon, fringe, walker;
    * Include something that tastes terrible;
    * Include some part (from a few words to several lines) of a previous poem that didn’t quite pan out; and
    * Include a sound that makes you happy.

I am unfair. The winter flaps my patience
and the hunched back of the man who lives
 on the seventeenth floor screams
a delicate tribute to dust. His diapers
sag like a willow begging for torches,
a pail–anything–to stow away the weight.
But enough of that. My thoughts, rambunctious with
Friday limps on the fringes. They wattle my bruised
ego, saving it for an outburst like a puppeteer savors
its marionettes. It is meant for children, like cough syrup.
Through the chimney the strum of a harpsichord
lullabies me to hibernation or something near to it.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

NaPoWriMo #8 - Unusual Love Connections


Valentine’s Day is long past, says RWP member Jill Crammond Wickham, but we poets must keep up our reputation as the world’s foremost experts on writing about love!

Today, think of your current love, your current obsession or the one who got away. Now come up with five or more unusual metaphors for the object of your affection/obsession: wool scarf, cough drop, puddle, half-empty bottle of red wine… Choose your favorite of the bunch and write a poem celebrating (or trashing) your love.


Like an old leather shoe
Like the transparency of skin
Like your favorite jeans
Like the neighbor who we see countless times down the hall
Our love is like a treasure map, wrinkled, colorful and
Marks the “x” on a spot in the world that doesn’t exist.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

NaPoWriMo #7 - Tanka

Today, Alan Summers wants us to write poems about “humor in love,” and he has a specific form in mind!

Write and capture humorous incidents related to love in a 5-line love poem called a tanka. (You may even decide to create your own tanka journal for love poems!) Here’s how to write one:

   1. Describe in concrete terms one or two simple images (two or three lines) from your humorous love encounter, not just what you saw but also what you tasted, touched, smelled or heard.
   2. What were you were thinking at the time this love encounter happened? Write that down, too, as two or three lines, so you have five lines in total for the poem.
   3. Think about making the third line of your poem into a pivot line, so that it links to both the previous two lines and to the final two lines.
   4. Test the tanka by dividing it into two parts so the third line acts both as the last line of the first part and as the first line of the second part. Does each section make sense separately, and then together?
   5. Think about reducing — and even avoiding — capitalization and punctuation because a tanka needn’t be like a sentence or merely a flat statement.
House Party

Three’s a crowd in this musical chair game.
Outside the room, the music was muffled like
A party held underwater or below a train.
Is this really going to happen? Only if the other
leaves to let us be and relive.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

NaPoWriMo #6 - Still Frame

Does the intensity of NaPoWriMo have you talking to yourself yet? Almost? Perfect! Rhiannon’s prompt gives you something else on which to focus these conversations: pictures.

Many people collect favourite images, whether as memories or posters, sketches or computer files. Pick one such collection of yours – a stamp collection, a postcard book, a file of photos – and rifle through it until something catches your eye. (If you don’t have such a collection, try putting a word – any word – into Google image search or flick through the website of an art gallery.)

Once you have an image, begin to interrogate it for poems. Ask: Who or what in this picture could speak? What would they say? Why is this image meaningful to me? When I look at it, what am I remembering? How does this image make me feel? Which of my moods is easiest to find in it? Where would I want to display picture? Who do I want to see it?

Collect the answers to your questions as a hoard of words or phrases. Scatter them across a blank sheet of paper, then check for patterns. What rhymes? Where is there alliteration? Is any rhythm apparent? Patterns might suggest a form for the poem.

If there aren’t enough patterns, you have two choices: either write your poem as free verse or go back to the images and generate more words. Have fun!
I don't know why I always end up trying to write in the form of a villanelle every time I attempt a family poem. I know it has something to do with the personal. It's very personal. And form and structure propel me forward. Helps me get unstuck in the muck of material. This is the second time I've attempted this, both are a #fail. But I will post it anyway because time is ticking and there is too much pressure to edit. The important thing I must do is go back and we re-write this.

I have been wanting to write a mother poem. I have also been wanting to write about this class picture I found of my mother when she was 12. There is so much there, but it is one of the most difficult poems I can tackle right now. It feels like I have multiple entry points, but each one is a dead end. Or at least feels like one.

So this "villanelle" does not flow as it should. It's disjointed, a mass of lines forced to conform and play nice with each other when really it needs more time in the pot. But no more excuses. I will post it and let it fester for the rest of April.
Still Frame

There is nothing more to say to you
If I could go back in time to warn you about my coming, but
What ceremony of words can patch the havoc?

Wrinkled paper. You score a path through her womb
The feeling of bones, a coup
There is nothing more to say to you

But you sit unexplored, awkward and subdue
a half-smile, ignorant to my knock, knock, knock
What ceremony of words can patch havoc?

They have all left, no one to answer the door. Taboo
has betrayed you once again. All its freedoms merely a sour dock.
There is nothing more to say to you.

“X” marks the spot, among a slew
of students, shut and still, a sedimentary rock.
What ceremony of words can patch the havoc?

No amount of regret will undue the stew
Someday you’ll think this a stumbling block
There is nothing more to say to you.
What ceremony of words can patch the havoc?

Monday, April 05, 2010

NaPoWriMo #5


Make your poetry personal. I mean, it already is, right? It’s thoughts, observations, deep, dark, personal feelings and stories dressed up in pretty words and oblique descriptions. You get it, and some others get it.

Still others see it as something else entirely, which is great, honestly. We have our own set of filters our lives go through, and this influences how we interpret things. It is part of what makes reading poetry fun and interesting for me.

Today, let’s make poetry really personal. Give poetry, as you write it, a name. Possibly a gender. And a personality. A poet I know has written (and continues to write) a series of poems based on this principle, and I shamelessly ripped it off (with permission, of course) and made a poem I called “Sasha.” Sasha is many things, all at the same time, yet all are Sasha/poetry to me.

So it’s your turn. Give poetry — how you view poetry, what poetry means to you, your poetry — a name. Now write a poem suits your view or vision.


The thrill of wordsounds
playfully sliding down and swirling
like the cream in my morning coffee–sometimes
it clumps on the surface
of the warm elixir–enticing me to stir and sip
and emerge. Yet, they mostly tease at the tip
of mindtongue and keep me awake at night
drip, drip, drip.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

NaPoWriMo #3 - Confession


Write about something that scares you. It could be tarantulas or your significant other cheating on you or an existential fear of the unknown so long as it unsettles you. Describe it in the most vivid language possible! Sometimes by articulating our fears, we strip them of their power. (But don’t go too far! A little fear is good to have.)

I made it.
The red light bulb cueing my approach
like a lighthouse reeling in a tugboat to the rough and rocky shore.

Faith involves more practice than trust, and I murmur your Name
by habit or reaction or desire for a formulaic bond. But
I have forgotten how to do this.

The sweetness of confession lies
in my left palm, gripping at nothing but air and
the candied fibs deposited on demand.

Today's prompt was brought to you by Read Write Poem.

Friday, April 02, 2010

NaPoWriMo #2 - Right Wing Porn?

Today's prompt from the Read Write Poem Staff:

If you love acronyms as I do, your mind has already shortened “Read Write Poem” into “RWP.” But the three letters RWP form known acronyms for at least 31 other phrases, including “Random Weird Person” and “Right Wing Pundits.”

Today’s writing prompt is to type the letters RWP into the abbreviation search field at Acronym Attic and write a poem inspired in any way by one or more of the resulting phrases. You don’t have to use the words from the phrase in your poem, but you can if they fit.

Right Wing Porn?

Pushing papers through
doorslots. Rubbing away at
names, wishing for more.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

NaPoWriMo #1

Here's the prompt for day 1 of the challenge:

Donna says she uses this idea all the time for both herself and her students to force new language and connections into drafts.

  1. Put your iPod or iTunes (or other mp3 player) on shuffle. (If you don’t have a music player that shuffles, you can choose CD or album titles at random from your collection by writing several titles down on little slips of paper … works the same way.)
  2. Write down the first five titles that come up. No cheating allowed!
  3. Use all five titles to draft a new poem. They have to be used intact — you can interrupt them with punctuation, but you may not remove or change words.
Shuffle away — the more eclectic your music collection, the better!

In childhood, humans have no use for memory
the architecture of friendships relies on geography

and the delicate balance of knee scrapes, cherry trees,
slices of watermelon and bee

stings during a hot summer baseball game. If we’re lucky we find
someone to pick on. We pretend to be others en plus, fight crime

and solve mysteries, decode languages, prance like an elegant dame, admired and courted by princes from faraway lands. I

hadn’t anyone ‘til you. We depended on each other as crutches,
limping through the wonder years until we could no longer resist

the sirens, more independent than a scorpio. I heard
it through the grapevine, the rumors of adulthood.

How the mind remembers these sweet times.
And they don’t stop, ‘til you get enough of the daily toil.

Click here for a link to the prompt and to check out what others wrote!

The prompt helps get the ball rolling as always but in trying to avoid cheating, some transitions and words were a little unnatural. Well, they still fit, but they're a little awkward.

Time is medicine for perfectionism. I had to let it go and keep writing the draft; save editing for another time. (gulp!) All in all it was a great exercise/prompt! (This is a bit painful yet still an adrenaline-filled process! But a draft is something.) See you tomorrow!

Oh yeah, my songs were:

Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough
En Plus
I Heard it Through the Grapevine
I Hadn’t Anyone ‘Til You

And yes, my library is a hodge podge of different kinds of music. I'm going to use this prompt again in the future -- and have some fun with my shuffle!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Antony Gormley and Event Horizon

I can't wait to see Antony Gormley's installation of nude figures around the Madison Square Park vicinity. This is one of the contemporary art/installation pieces that really excite me at this day and age. The concept and execution (even though I have yet to see them) sound very successful to me.

This is what installation art is about. I know what I'll be doing on Friday and Saturday!

Here's the article/write up in Art in America and there's also a great article explaining more about Event Horizon in the New York Times.

The first time I heard about it, it made sense to me that a passerby would interpret figures on a building as a possible suicide attempter (is that a word). Gormley hadn't considered this association, and though I question that. Really? Especially in the post-9/11 trauma state New Yorkers will always be in to some degree.

“I never wanted to freak anyone out. If people think of death and suicide, it’s a sad reflection on evolution. This is meant to be an amazing celebration of New York.”

I am sure he meant it to be a celebration of the city (London in 2007, New York 2010), but how can you not associate suicide with figure on the edge of a rooftop? Is it a sad reflection on evolution or is it simply human? Any way, if you're in the area take a look and you decide.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


This year, I'll be attempting the Napowrimo challenge. A writing prompt every day for the entire month of April.

The only other time that I really challenged myself in this way was when I participated in the Squaw Valley Writers poetry workshop week. 7 days, 7 poems. Each day our poems were critiqued by a random rotation of poets and writers who were also accepted into the program. The "workshop" crit was led by one of the following: Robert Hass, Sharon Olds, Dean Young, Cornelius Eady and C.D. Wright. We also had a one-to-one session and crit with Galway Kinnell.

The poems we turned in the next morning had to be newly written from the day before (or that week). The point was, that with this much pressure, a break through can happen. It was a wonderful experience and the best thing was that there was no turning back. You didn't have a back door. Not when you had one of these prominent poets giving you a crit the next day. The worse you could do was show up without a poem.

In return, they too, had to write a new poem every day. We listened to their first drafts!

It was based on an honor system though I suspect there were 1 or 2 people who turned in a previously written poem. You could tell who they were. Their poems were too refined, and clumsy in all the wrong places. They weren't chain smoking from their cabin's balcony, or locking themselves in their rooms when dusk triggered panic with the fact of having no poem after 10 hours of trying to do nothing else but write.

This challenge will not be the same because you can cheat, skip a day and make it up another day, make excuses. Blogging about it won't help either. The added pressure to blog a response to a writing prompt can help, but I suppose one could recycle an old piece. It is too easy to give up because no one is really watching. Life can get in the way and "save us".

You don't have the luxury of peace and quiet. Food is not made for you; work and chores won't do themselves. The phone will continue to ring, deadlines will loom and the bill collectors will continue to hassle you. Even if you do write every day, the idea of writing for a prompt seems like you are setting yourself up for failure. It reminds me of New Year's resolutions. We'll see how it goes starting April 1st. After all, I'd only be cheating myself. So I'll hope for a break-through and plan, at the very least, to fullfil the writing prompt on a daily basis.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Damien Hirst Opening, "End of an Era"

The exhibit is basically a retrospective of sorts featuring his most iconic pieces since he hit it big with Sensation. Of course the artist, formerly and still currently known as, Damien Hirst was present at the opening (1/30/2010) which was at the Gagosian Gallery along with a few other icons.

Other icons and A-listers included John McEnroe, Mick Jagger, Takashi Murakami, Jeffrey Dietch and others. I'll say this, Hirst definitely has a playful sense of humor and didn't seem to take anything too seriously as he played the role. He walked in with a Diet Coke and let the paparazzi snap away while he doodled images of sharks and butterflies as his autograph.

I know many people who love to hate, and hate to love this guy but he just doesn't take himself too seriously. The joke is on them because he doesn't seem to care about the critics. It's about having fun and putting innovative work out there to test the non-existent boundaries of this thing called art that we are incessantly trying to pin down and (re)define.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Something Funny and Conan

There's a book titled, Stuff White People Like which I ran into at Urban Outfitters (which should be in the book's list by the way). I found it very entertaining, and Lo and Behold there's a blog dedicated to the premise of the book! Oh Joy. (really, I mean it this time.)

Looking through the list, I find many things on there that I like. I wonder what the threshold of items you have to have checked off on the list before you are considered a twinkie, chocolate twinkie or oreo? Is there a sociological paper on this?

Here's their post on Conan O'Brien.