National Poetry Writing Month – Third Poem

As mentioned in my previous posts, I am not aiming to write a piece of poetry each day for NaPoWriMo 2016, but instead pick the occasional prompt that catches my eye and see what I can do with it. The first prompt I opted for was the Tritina, which you can view HERE, and the second was using an abstract line to finish, which you can view HERE.

The third prompt I have used was from Day 28, and was as follows:

And now, for our prompt (optional, as always). Today I’d like to challenge you to write a poem that tells a story. But here’s the twist – the story should be told backwards. The first line should say what happened last, and work its way through the past until you get to the beginning. Now, the story doesn’t have to be complicated (it’s probably better if it isn’t)! Here’s a little example I just made up:

The Story of a Day

She lay her head down on the table.
She climbed the stairs to her room and sat down.
The afternoon of the boarding house was cool and dusty.
She walked home slowly, watching the sun settle on brick walls and half-kept gardens.
Work lasted many hours. Office lights buzzing with a faint, mad hum.
Breakfast was a small miracle.
She thought it a wonder, as always, that she’d woken up at all.

Well, that’s kind of unsettling! But I think it works as a poem. Maybe you’ll have better luck working backwards toward a happy beginning. Happy writing!

I liked the idea of writing something resembling more of a story, with a chronological order, but once I finished my poem ready to rejig and flip it backwards I had already become too attached to its current form! I also decided that, with it being a time-related prompt, the focus should be something time-related too – hence the number of Yesterdays, Todays and Tomorrows.

Here goes.

The Today People, by Martin Pryce

In her youth, she belonged to the Today People.
Every choice she made decided by which way the wind blew,
faces of coins,
the taste of immediacy in the air.
The Tomorrow People remembered her as Happiness,
but they were mistaken.
The years between had fooled them,
the translucency of time magnifying and blurring the truths.

Through adolescence, she learned the ways of the Tomorrow People.
Now she wrestled with consideration, continuity and community,
her mind so restless with every Tomorrow
that she forgot the beauty of Today.
Before she knew it, endless Tomorrows had come and gone,
hemmed at both ends in worry
and frayed in the middle by her own Today People.
Her knees were weak with the weight of it all.

Finally, she emerged with the Yesterday People.
She reminisced over what she had missed
living for Tomorrow.
She saw the stress etched on the faces of Tomorrow People
and the temporary extremes of Joy and Sadness
colliding in every Today.
Now she saw her childhood memories as they were;
discoloured, altered and romanticised
during the darker moments of her Tomorrow years.
Now she knew Happiness.

Let me know your thoughts – comment below or post on the Facebook site!

National Poetry Writing Month 2016 – Second Poem

As mentioned in my previous post, I am not aiming to write a piece of poetry each day for NaPoWriMo 2016, but instead pick the occasional prompt that catches my eye and see what I can do with it. The first prompt I opted for was the Tritina, which you can view HERE.

The second prompt I have used was from Day 11, and was as follows:

And now for today’s (optional) prompt! Today, I challenge you to write a poem in which you closely describe an object or place, and then end with a much more abstract line that doesn’t seemingly have anything to do with that object or place, but which, of course, really does. I think of the “surprise” ending to this James Wright Poem as a model for the effect I’m hoping you’ll achieve.

Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy’s Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota

Asleep on the black trunk,
Blowing like a leaf in green shadow.
Down the ravine behind the empty house,
The cowbells follow one another
Into the distances of the afternoon.
To my right,
In a field of sunlight between two pines,
The droppings of last year’s horses
Blaze up into golden stones.
I lean back, as the evening darkens and comes on.
A chicken hawk floats over, looking for home.
I have wasted my life.

An abstract, philosophical kind of statement closing out a poem that is otherwise intensely focused on physical, sensory details. Happy writing!

I loved the idea of such a descriptive and sensory poem being brought back to reality with a thump of a final line, so I started backwards and settled on how it would end first.

I have always loved the lyrics of Ben Gibbard, frontman of Death Cab for Cutie and The Postal Service, and a line in the latter band’s song The District Sleeps Alone Tonight has always been one of my favourites – “I am a visitor here; I am not permanent.”

I thought I would use a slightly tweaked version of that as my final line, and then decided that – if this line was going to bring the reader ‘back to Earth’ – the rest of the poem should allow us to leave the Earth in the first place.

Here goes.

Philosophy from the Firmament

Beyond the shadows of clouds, I watch the cold night sky,
Frozen on a black canvas,
Still like the icy moon.
Through a gap in the stars on the western horizon,
A meteoroid hurtles through space,
Turning to fire in the atmosphere.
Looking east,
Across a barley field and a well-worn footpath,
The light of past centuries above us
Shines a spotlight on our surroundings.
I feel the warmth of your cheek on my shoulder, as the night turns colder.
You let out a sigh that sits on the night-air.
We are not permanent here.

Let me know your thoughts – comment below or post on the Facebook site!

National Poetry Writing Month 2016 – First Poem

So, as some of you may be aware, April is National Poetry Writing Month – the month where poets challenge themselves to write a piece of poetry every day for 30 days.

Now that you know this, you may now also be aware that I have not posted a single piece of poetry in all this time.

I have been keeping an eye on the writing prompts, and have been giving it a go whenever one grabs my attention. Hopefully this will not only mean I write fewer pieces but – fingers crossed – better pieces than I would otherwise have written. You can be the judge.

The first prompt that took my fancy was on Day 7, and was as follows:

“Our (optional) prompt for Day Seven comes to us from Gloria Gonsalves, who challenges us all to write a tritina. The tritina is a shorter cousin to the sestina, involving three, three-line stanzas, and a final concluding line. Three “end words” are used to conclude the lines of each stanza, in a set pattern of ABC, CAB, BCA, and all three end words appear together in the final line. Confused? No problem — here’s an example!

Tritina for Susannah

The water off these rocks is green and cold.
The sandless coast takes the tide in its mouth,
as a wolf brings down a deer or lifts its child.

I walked this bay before you were my child.
Your fingers stinging brightly in the cold,
I take each one and warm it in my mouth.

Though I’ve known this shore for years, my mouth
holds no charms of use to you, my child.
You will have to learn the words to ward off cold

and know them cold, child, in your open mouth.

–David Yezzi

The form is a little complicated, but fun (and less complicated than a sestina, for sure!)
Happy writing!”

I decided to create my own poetic loophole here, and chose three ‘end-words’ that had at least two other homonyms – settling eventually on Air/Heir/E’er, Bye/By/Buy (not quite the N*Sync song!) and Write/Right/Rite. Clever, eh?! This meant that I could write a poem that still followed the rules of the Tritina, but had more flexibility regarding the content.

As the example given was a Tritina for Susannah, I thought I would write my own to someone, and – as the word Heir was included – I thought who better to write one to than my eight-week-old son! Here goes.

Tritina for Edward

One day I’ll take my final breath of air.
The time will come for us to say goodbye,
And all that’s left will be the words I write.

This exit letter is my final rite
And all I have to leave to you, my heir –
The final words to remember me by.

And these mean more than things we sell and buy.
For I am sure – if I have raised you right –
Through these and more, you’ll keep me close fore’er.

Now write fore’er the words you’ll be known by.

Bit gloomy, but hopefully with a positive twist.

Let me know your thoughts – comment below or post on the Facebook site!

 

On Performing Poetry to People That Don’t Want to Hear It

Another poem inspired by the poems of Martin Stannard, but this time focusing on performing poetry to the public. Absolutely not based on my experience. Absolutely not.

On Performing Poetry to People That Don’t Want to Hear It

The performance poet stumbles on stage at the Comedy night
And mumbles that he is a performance poet
Wild applause in appreciation of this news
Does not occur
Instead an awkward glance is exchanged
Between friends in the front row and one man
A little louder than intended
Declares his need to urinate

The poet introduces his first poem
Performing one he is sure is most likely to get a laugh
It ends with a clever rhyming couplet
That turns the whole poem on its head
And even now draws a smile from the writer
Years after he penned it
He pauses for effect
He raises his head from the pages
And the audience
Realising that this must be the end
Shuffle a half-hearted clap
In his direction

Undaunted the poet flicks a few pages forward
Skipping the two he had set aside
To calm the standing ovation
And refocus the attention of the audience
On his clever wordplay

This next one is about Growing Old
He says
Something some of us know more about than others
He quips
Shooting a confident wink in the direction of a large white-haired male
Who looks like a Vernon
And now
Looks like a Threat

Silence

Vernon shuffles uncomfortably in his seat
The poet shuffles uncomfortably on his feet
And
Just as the first line begins
The man who needed to urinate
Bursts back through the door

This isn’t going well
The poet concedes
And proceeds
To read
His poem

He settles into the familiar first verse and
Midway through the second
Feeling a little more confident
He braves another glimpse at his crowd
He sees one person in the fifth row by the door
Genuinely looking inspired
And draws comfort from the possibility
That all is not lost
That poetry is not dead
And that even in this modern world
The spoken word
Can still be heard
And read
With power

A few unappreciated poems later
He brings his set to a close
With a quiet reminder that he is selling some booklets
If anyone is interested in those

He takes his seat by the side of the stage
As the MC tries to work the audience out of their stupor
One person seemed to get it
The poet thinks to himself
That’s one victory
And he refocuses as the host introduces the next comedian

Emerging from the back of the stage
With a cocky smile and a twinkle in his eye
Is the inspired member of the audience
And he proceeds to deliver twenty of his finest minutes
On the stupidity and self-importance of poetry
And poets

The comedian is loving it
Vernon is loving it
And everyone else feeds off their excitement
Everyone except the poet

He sinks in his seat
He stares at his feet
And he wishes away the minutes to the interval
And his escape

On Comparing Yourself to Others

Another poem inspired by the style of Martin Stannard, called ‘On Comparing Yourself to Others’.

On Comparing Yourself to Others

I find it staggering how often people
Compare themselves to others
People who in my eyes are already pretty fantastic
Looking at other pretty fantastic people and
Seeing all the types of fantastic that they are not
Or at least are not yet

Sometimes I find myself daydreaming about corrective eye surgery
Not because I am a corrective eye surgeon
But because too many people have warped vision
That clarifies the fantastic in the people around them
And blurs the fantastic in themselves
A bit like being long-sighted
But not a lot

Of course people are different
Some are really funny and some are really handsome
And some are really clever and some are really friendly
And some are really lucky in that they tick multiple boxes
But I think the really lucky ones are the content ones
That may not tick any box but also don’t mind being average
Because that’s all anyone is in comparison to everyone else
That’s how averages work

I once heard someone say that
The only time you should compare yourself to others
Is to make sure that they have enough
But I put it in Google and I can’t find who said it
So either I should write down quotes and sources more often
Or my friends understand the world on a much deeper level
Or I understand the world on a much deeper level
But I think it is the first of those three options

You have to remember that if everyone compared themselves to others too much
Then nobody would do anything because
They would all think somebody else could do it better or quicker or sexier
So nobody after Oscar Peterson would play piano
Nobody after Timothy Dalton would play James Bond
And nobody after Michael Johnson would run 400 metres or the
200 metres or the 4×400 metres
Apart from the other three people on his team

On Other People’s Thoughts

I have been inspired recently by reading Poems on Various Subjects by Martin Stannard. I love the way he writes poetry – it is very fluid and often contains no punctuation, making a sort of rambling stream of thoughts and ideas that, at first, seems like a messy clump of nonsense but once you train your eyes to find a rhythm and begin to imagine the missing full stops, commas and hyphens, it turns into something wonderful.

This is very different to any poetry I have written before, and if you are looking for nice comfortable rhyming couplets I am afraid you will be disappointed. Maybe save yourself the hassle and skip it.

On Other People’s Thoughts

I find other people’s thoughts so interesting
That sometimes I beat my brain and ask it why
It is being so lazy if you want to be a poet surely you should
Be able to come up with good ideas more often and bad ideas
Either less often or not at all I could set up a recycling business
With the amount of wasted paper I produce or could have better spent
My time writing Christmas cards throughout the year so I don’t lose patience on the
23rd December and neglect anyone after
About forty cards have been written and even some of those are
Brief at the best of times and
Lacking in festive spirit

Some people’s thoughts are not interesting because of the content in fact
Some people’s thoughts don’t really have any content but the way
They come gushing out like river water and no sooner are they ending one point
Than they meander round a corner and shoot off down a distributary that has little to
Do with their last point and nothing to do with their first point
And then they have the audacity to ask me what they were talking about and
All I can think of is the story of Hansel and Gretel because I feel they
Have left a breadcrumb trail of their thoughts and they have been
Pecked away by birds in their imagination
And now we are lost

Sometimes I am just as impressed by people that have no thoughts
Of their own and are quite happy wandering through life
Thinking of nothing more than putting one foot in front of the other
Both physically and metaphorically and not really caring about
More than what they are having for dinner and who their football team is
Playing next it tends to be men who have such simple lives and basic thought patterns
But I don’t want to discriminate so I also acknowledge that many women
Share this mundane existence and enjoy football matches

Sometimes my wife asks me what I am thinking and it is like my head takes a laxative
And every single thought I have ever had is evacuated so I just end up saying nothing
So she probably thinks I am like the people I described in the previous verse
Maybe I am or maybe there are actually no people truly like that and we
All just suffer from the same problem

I think my problem is that sometimes I think and I can hear my voice
Saying things in my head which makes it easier to vocalise but
Sometimes I am thinking of things so abstract or insignificant that even
My brain says this is nonsense Martin
I am not going to let you share this with the world