I Will Follow You, Will You Follow Me?: NaPoWriMo is Almost Here!

OK, who gets my musical reference?

Just wanted to do another quick post to encourage everyone to participate in NaPoWriMo. I’m very excited about it because it was such a good time last year. You can read more about it at the site itself, but the basics are that you write a poem each day in April (there’s a daily prompt at the site) and then if you have a website or blog, you post your poem there if you’d like. Also if you’re really into it, there’s a place on the NaPoWriMo site where you can post a link to your own site, to indicate that you’re participating.

Then you hop around to see what everyone else is doing … and sit back in astonishment as the traffic to your site goes through the roof. 

Expect a poem here each day in April, and I hope to see yours, too!

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Maybe the Rosemary

Time to write about religion now,
after buying bananas and escarole,
after passing up a rosemary plant
that was blooming, which I have
never seen, which sent me on a
whole series of associations
(gardens, my mother, whose name
was Rosemary; she was a pilgrim
in the garden, always a transplant
and always seeking something—
blooming vigor, a pleasant surprise
brought about by her own two hands:
Oops! Look at that—this thing I have
tended, not even knowing for sure what
it was, is now exploding in splendor.)
But anyway, I was buying onions
and carrots, basil and bread,
showing Betty, my daughter,
how the eggs we buy are cage free,
certified humane. I was cringing
at my ostentatiousness, how I
justify myself out loud, and my
children were fighting, mainly
Joseph, my son, relentlessly
needling Betty because he is
smaller and knows he is smaller.
They both got cookies anyway,
which I can’t justify except that
being smaller can be difficult,
and sometimes I am too tired
to mete out life lessons, so I
give out cookies freely and
allow cookies to be given.
Now I think maybe I’ll buy
that rosemary plant someday,
for a friend of mine who just
turned 50 and who watched
our goldfish this weekend
so he wouldn’t die, which
he likely wouldn’t have done
in three days’ time, but I felt
better with some eyes on him,
and precise instructions on
when to drop in his shelled peas,
cucumber slices. Maybe the
rosemary would grow on her deck
all summer, and she’d think of me—
perhaps even my mother, whom
she never met—each time she
stepped out to snip a sprig here
and there. Now I have to write
about what it is that I have faith in.
It’s everything I just told you, though
I’d like to add a number of things:
mainly James, my husband, across
from me at the table, and the birds
outside, singing in the gray.

For Open Link Night at dVerse Poets (aka “my Tuesday thing”).

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In the Beginning, There Was

My children talk about what the beginning
of the world looked like. It was pink, says
my son, with total certainty, almost as if
he remembers the beginning of his world,
which was not the beginning of mine,
but close: If we’re talking billions of years,
then what are my 35 before he was born?
Is it possible that at age four, he can
still hold the memory? I’ve heard that
we all retain everything we’ve ever
experienced, that we only forget
because so many things are layered
over, and perhaps because to remember
so much would be unbearable, even
immobilizing. At seven, my daughter
is shedding memory so rapidly that
preschool, which once seemed
indelible—which only ended
three years ago—is now mostly
gone. This is necessary, I know:
new experiences overlapping,
overtaking, replacing the old.
But if my son could remember
far enough, beyond pink beginnings,
further back even than his dividing cells,
those of all his human relatives, past
primates, further back than mammals,
past an egg tooth and a leathery shell,
beyond a pond somewhere—the
simplest beginning of the simplest
creature—beyond all that, back
and back to atoms, and past that,
all the way to nothing, would he have
an answer? Would he see the divine,
the void, the ways in which the two
are one and the same? But this is all
too cosmic. I wanted to say a true thing,
and somehow I ended up at imaginary
space dust. As if flesh is not enough.
Flesh. Sunlight. Water. Love.

Enough.

 

 

For Open Link Night at dVerse Poets. Please check out the many other fine poets who link there every Tuesday p.m.!

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Purpose

Somewhere, there is
a pile of scissors,
all waiting for
a guiding hand.

Safety scissors compare
stubby tips with nail scissors;
surgical scissors and kitchen shears
talk over finer points of tendon, bone.

All have platinum-white blades,
gold handles. All lie jumbled
in a drawer, waiting, hoping
to someday be

useful.

 

 

To be linked later today at Open Link Night at dVerse Poets.

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Very Excited for Next Month

… because April is time for NaPoWriMo, which was so much fun last year. Similar to NaNoWrIMo but geared toward those of us who wri pos rather than nos (when it comes to fiction, I was always pretty good at setting the scene and developing characters—I just couldn’t figure out what should happen to them), NaPoWriMo is a daily writing challenge created by poet Maureen Thorson in 2003.

Each day in April, a prompt is posted, ranging from a general topic to a very specific—and sometimes very unusual—poetic form. You can write based on that prompt or just write any kind of poem. If you don’t have a blog or a website and don’t wish to create one—or if you don’t want to post unpublished poems on it—that’s all there is to it.

But to my mind, the real fun comes if you do have a blog and are willing to post poems there (more on that in a minute). I did NaPoWriMo for the first time last year and was just astounded by how much new traffic I got that way, and by how many outstanding poets I encountered for the first time by bouncing around the page of links to participants’ sites. Some of those connections remain to this day, and I treasure them.

The whole experience was so reinvigorating and enlightening—and fun. I highly recommend it.

A word to those who are new to poetry or who are writing again after a long lapse: Go for it. If you’re thinking you could never post a poem and thus make it available for public comment, please know that there are (in my experience) very few trolls among the writers and readers of poetry blogs.

Members of this loose community all seem to understand how difficult it can be to express so much in such a compressed space. Whatever your style and whatever your level of experience, you are sure to find appreciative readers this way, and any suggestions you might receive will be gentle and constructive. April would be a great time to give it a try!

And, for the more experienced, a word about the relative wisdom/foolhardiness of posting poems that you might want to submit for publication someday: I know the risks, but I go for it anyway—weekly year-round, and daily in April.

Why?

For one thing, there no longer seems to be ironclad consensus that a blog-posted poem counts as a previously published poem (which, as you probably know, is the kiss of death as far as many publications are concerned). Things seem to be easing up a bit, and if you ask around—as I have—you might find—as I have—that editors at some very reputable publications will consider poems that have been posted on your own blog (as opposed to in online literary publications).

Also, the poems I write for challenges of this type don’t tend to be the ones I submit for publication. Sometimes the exercise is enough, and it doesn’t feel as if I need to do anything further with them. Other times, they might be perfect additions to a chapbook manuscript (and for chapbooks, it’s totally fine if individual poems have been published elsewhere) or a springboard for something else.

And it’s just fun (which I think I’ve mentioned). It’s so much fun that I almost don’t mind it if I am “wasting” an entire month of poems. That is, even if they all bear the dreaded PP badge and are banished to the land of wind and ghosts, it would still be worth it. And again, no poem is ever wasted—because one that I post in April might spark an idea for something else entirely a few months down the road.

Also in April (and again in November) is a poem-a-day challenge through Writer’s Digest. I’ve done that one before and have enjoyed it but will not be doing it this time. I feel pretty busy lately and would like to focus on just one daily writing challenge; two felt like a bit much last April.

I chose NaPoWriMo for this year because the action is mainly at the individual participants’ blogs, whereas the Writer’s Digest one lives mainly in the comments section of a particular blog at the WD site. There are workarounds—you can certainly post on your own blog as well as in the comments—but the daily ping ping ping of new visitors and the fun of visiting other poets’ blogs make NaPoWriMo impossible for me to resist.

To each his or her own, though, and that comments section at Poetic Asides—the WD blog that hosts the other challenge I’m talking about—does become its own sort of community, which has its own appeal. It just depends what you’re after, and you should definitely check out both. 

Will I see you in April? Whether you take up a daily challenge or not, I hope it’s a big—and fun—month for you and your writing!

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Passing

God was in the hush under
the soft-needled pine tree that
reaches out over the sidewalk
and is now freighted with snow,
late-winter snow, wet and heavy.
Stop, I told my son. Look up.
Isn’t it quiet? Do you feel it?

But then a man, whose
irritated presence I had not
felt, appeared beside us
and then in front, having seen
that we and our grocery cart
were not going to step aside,
let him pass without

having to step into the street,
or a high drift, spilling snow down
inside his boots. Then I was
a spiritual dilettante, an oblivious
seeker of capital-E Experiences,
and everything was complicated
again, not simple after all.

 

 

For Open Link Night at dVerse Poets.

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