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Posts tagged: endogenous

To anyone seeking NaPoWriMo writing…

Due to formatting problems with the theme here, and the lack of comment integration, I’m now posting new poems for National Poetry Writing Month over here.

Are all suburbs as moldy as Portland’s?

Are all suburbs as moldy as Portland’s?

What Keeps the Lights ON

Why do they call a
coal deposit a seam?
What separate things
are joined there?

A sweat-soaked collar,
a too-small cup of coffee,
a weary, determined face:
he’s going back in.

A flimsy wooden door
can’t contain hell.
He thinks of the doors
to the room between

the world and his home,
where he tries to shake
the dust off each morning,
and be asleep by 8.

What was left unsaid —
ham, eggs, toast and a
boilermaker at 6 am —
will never be said.

Whatever the nature
of what these seams
join, we know one thing:
it burns.


Based on this prompt:

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!

Notes: Hearing about the Upper Big Branch mine explosion this morning reminded me of a photo of a photo I took a few years back. My photo is blurry, taken indoors with a crappy camera, but that doesn’t matter. The original photo shows my maternal grandmother’s sister’s husband (there must be a name for that relation, but I don’t know it) on April 11, 1977, during the Vesta 5 Mine Fire. Like many on that side of the family, he spent his life in the mines of western Pennsylvania. He died of lung disease.


Goya's Flight of the Witches

One cowers,
clutching his ears:
he can’t bear
their silence.

Another shrouds
his eyes from
the sight of that
flopping head.

A mule looks on,
ears half-pricked,



Based on this prompt:

Today is the first Tuesday of April, which means it is also the first “Two for Tuesday” prompt of the month. Poets can choose to write one of the prompts, or they can write both. Personally, I usually just choose one.

For this prompt, write an ekphrastic poem. According to John Drury’s The Poetry Dictionary, ekphrastic poetry is “Poetry that imitates, describes, critiques, dramatizes, reflects upon, or otherwise responds to a work of nonliterary art, especially the visual.” So, I’ve provided links to two pieces of art, and I want you to pick one (or both) to write an ekphrastic poem. (It would be helpful for you to mention which art you picked.)

Pocahontas, by Annie Leibovitz
Flight of the Witches, by Francisco de Goya
You (in the plural)
You’ve never even told me your name,
though we’re too intimate
now for that to matter much.

I’ve seen you enchant a whole
room without effort, and I’ve
seen you stumble home, your
lips quivering, full of words unsaid,
thoughts unheard.

Did I say stumble home? I meant
back. Where do you live?
Where is it you wander? Where
is your home?

Do you rest amidst the olive-oil
smog of Córdoba, dreaming of
old Andalusian friends? Lurk in
the shadows of Persepolis?

Stand amid the stellae in Xi’an on
nights when you can’t quite sleep?
Curl up on a couch once owned by
a blind porteño librarian? Brood
beneath a fern outside Redding?

Or slink back into an ice cave
one of your benefactors acquired in a
foreclosure sale?

I don’t mean to insult you, but
we all know you’re skint.

We’ve all seen you excuse yourself
from the table early in the evening.
We’ve all been left with your bill.
But we’ve gladly paid it, and will 
do again.

You’ve sent us all on such mad errands —
everyone I know who knows you —
yet we’re all still so devoted.
How have you gathered so many
who can’t say no?

We fail over and over, but we’re
still at it, waiting for that gleam
in your eye that might precede
a smile.

Those whom you beguile when
speaking plainly are left aghast
at your more guttural states.
Yet they hang on, patiently, for a
rare vowel.

"Is she Welsh?" they whisper,
seeking some higher cause
for your inscrutable gravitas.

It’s in this cunning trick of density
your brilliance shines through:
We are all in your orbit,
and don’t resist it, knowing that

each new circuit presents a
distinct view, illuminated by the
reflections of all the others
encircling you.

No, I won’t ask your name.
Any simple string of characters
would be a disappointment,
as useless as an argument
over the status of Pluto.

It is enough for me
that you are.


Base on this prompt:

We’ve been in the trenches for a few days, and so Mark Stratton says it’s time to get personal! Here’s Mark’s prompt for Day #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.

Note: This is my fourth draft since this morning, and I’m really not happy with the ‘home’ section, from “olive-oil smog” to “ice cave”. I nearly killed it, because I think it is distracting from themes emerging in later drafts, but decided to leave it in. The whole thing needs to be re-lined and rhymed, or de-rhymed. Right now, the scattered internal rhymes bug me. And the font for this theme doesn’t seem to have any accented letters?! Oh well, this whole process is about experimentation anyway.

Bearing Witness
You outlined every facet of your creed,
So over-keen to have your words believed.
Your audience? How were your thoughts received?
Her eyelids? Closed. You’ve said too much, indeed!


From this prompt:

For today’s prompt, write a TMI poem (or too much information poem). As with all prompts, there are a number of ways to come at this one. You can make it about gossip or revealing too much personal information. You could write an information overload poem. Or…well, I’m interested to see what everyone produces.
I didn’t know what to make of it.
I waited for connections to form
between this outside notion

and the unsorted accumulations
in the attic of my mind.
I thought of Cage’s question:
Is the sound of a loud truck
more musical when passing by
a piano factory?

I thought of ambient music, and
one of the ways Eno defined it:
that unlike the symphonic,
which precludes nearly everything
in pursuit of only the notes
on each page,

Ambient was meant to be inclusive:
the sounds on the record, yes,
but also the notes coming from
birds you can’t see, phones
ringing, the murmur of your
neighbors’ TV.

I thought of the old mayor in
Shortbus, the origins of our
boundaries, how we each, at
our own speed, learn to let
what’s inside out, outside in:

Then Kyoto, that most
alluring, impermeable city.
Windows and doors in just
the right spot, so when the
shoji slide open, that distant
hill joins the room.

What’s presumed about a
poem’s edges? They’re neat
on a page, absent in our minds.

This play on space, including
something remote and indefinite,
that the artist didn’t create:

A poet constructs a portable room,
with no way of knowing what its
sliding doors will frame.

Pronouns, the skeleton keys
of poetry’s reuse, like variables
in an unproven equation.

Our object: the myths themselves
which surround each thing, some
thing. That thing itself?

Each reader decides:
It could be a plate of cheese,
a committee meeting, or the air

of a lover’s last breathe,
transiting the lips
to rejoin the skies.


From this prompt:

Nelle Lytle encourages you to keep going with your NaPoWriMo poems by writing inside-out or outside-in. She says:

I watch too much HGTV, so I have learned (very well) about bringing the outdoors inside and also turning outside spaces into rooms (which is, apparently, more than putting the old sofa out on the front porch).

In our case, writing inside out (or outside in) means setting your physical or metaphorical inner bits out of doors,  to be walked around and looked at from odd angles, as if they were monuments or mailboxes (as an example).  Or it could be transforming your internal organs into flowers or letting a pack of four-year-old’s (human or otherwise) loose in your attic.

Write a poem today that illustrates your idea of what is inside-out.
What scares me the most?
Whatever it is

that supports entrenched

This subterranean
view of history,

shivering beneath smoke,
hindered by helmets,

fearing what’s unseen
up top.

Maybe we’re misreading
all the fragments,

fleeting sensations, mere
theatrics of threat?

We’re so close to the
erratics of now

that history’s slope
seems flat

or pointing slightly

Step back, and back again.
No, further back.

Until the points and curves
of each human life

blend to form a single
suggestive line.

Do you see it? That
gentle rise of

History’s Arrow as it
was borne on the

bleeding backs of all
our ancestors?

Now, from this distance,
who steps forward

to articulate a defense
of indifference?

Progress can never
be assumed.

With no new energy,
incumbent forces

slow it to
a stop.


Based on this prompt:

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’m undecided about several major changes and minor edits, but I’ve got to go, so this is the current draft.]

Partly Optimistic

(With a chance of scattered grumpy late in the day)


Ben Franklin-types have
often passed their time
on nauseating ocean

or endured hermit winters
by noting the changes
in pressure, winds and 

Centuries of data, thrown
at supercomputers, now
tell us when to bundle

We also have millennia
of journals and literature,
all our minds’ recorded

Yet who would forecast
our mood, in aggregate?
Which demeanor to pull

over our disposition, or
when the mood of the
room will be so warm at

that we should be
prepared to strip off
all our layers by the

Or that the hailstorm
of frustration that slows
us on our commute

will give way to “partly
contented with a light
breeze by early

Can we measure our
mutual barometries?
Are they rising or

Aren’t they, as in
Earth’s atmosphere,
the indicator of


Based on this prompt:

For today’s prompt, I want you to take the phrase “Partly (blank),” replace the blank with a word or phrase, make that the title of your poem, and then write the poem. For instance, your poem might be titled “Partly Cloudy,” “Partly Crazy,” “Partly Out of Touch,” or whatever.