Posted tagged ‘Poetry exercise’

Not Quite National Poetry Month but “Good Enough”

May 3, 2010

Diamond Enough

After yesterday’s post concerning the relatively higher payback for posts about Robert Pattinson, I am returning to poetry.  This is, in part, because the  Academy of American Poets announced that it is extending its April program of daily emailed poems for the entire year.  (I figure if the Academy of American Poets can post a poem a day for longer than a month, I can too.)

So here’s another draft poem  (written on the morning subway).   Any suggestions for improvement that you may send are seriously considered and greatly appreciated.

Good Enough

Why is it that they,
the amorphous they,
can never say
you’re good enough
well enough
for you to feel, in fact,
good (enough);
not perhaps like a
diamond in the rough,
much less a diamond buffed,
just not ‘not good enough’.

What can they say
to allay
that bay of inadequacy,
that convenient, if unsafe, harbor,
built-in, if empty, larder?

It sounds like a game,
but if words can tame pain,
rhyme act as anodyne,
it’s worth a shot,
would mean a lot,
maybe, for a short time, enough.

(PS – note that an earlier version of this post incorrectly named the Academy of American Poets.  Sorry, Poets!  Their emailed poems are a feature called “poem-a-day”. )

16th Day of National Poetry Month – Vacationing Away From New York Limericks

April 16, 2010

New Yorker In a Car (Outside of New York)

Unfortunately, this 16th day of National Poetry Month was so busy I had little time to focus on much poetic.  A good day, in short, for draft limericks!

I’m sorry to say that the limericks I did  (which connect as one longer poem draft) have a fairly limited subject matter;  they describe that feeling of “going to seed” which may descend on vacation, particularly a family vacation, in which normal exercise and eating routines are put to the side; this feeling may be particularly pronounced in the case of the peripatetic New Yorker.

The limerick form is five lines, with a rhyme scheme that is typically: A, A, b, b, A; with the first, second and fifth rhyming lines longer than the truncated couplet of the third and fourth lines.

Traveling New Yorker

There was an old gal from New York
who watched what she put on her fork;
still, outside the confines
of the Four and Five lines,
she felt herself turning to pork.

The thing is that life in the City
made her walk through the nit and the gritty,
while, whenever afar,
she traveled by car,
quite bad for the hips, more’s the pity.

So she worried, this gal from Manhattan,
as she felt herself fatten and fatten–
too many fast treats–
too many cheap eats–
and just about all came au gratin.

Oh, for her home—twenty blocks to a mile;
twenty steps too, till the average turnstile.
Sure, there was soot,
but she’d breathe it on foot.
Once back, she’d stay put for a while.

15th Day of National Poetry Month – “Communion”

April 15, 2010

Ah, Blue!

It’s the 15th day of National Poetry Month  and also you know what.  I started to write my daily draft poem about an idle tax day comment overheard at a Florida Starbucks, but then ended up working on a completely different draft poem, something a little closer to home.


What a gift it is to sit
with someone you love and not hear
about the body/blood, given/shed,
for your or anyone’s salvation,
education, regeneration
in remembrance of.

What sweetness not to discuss
any house in any location,
great aunt or uncle,
small town or large,
teacher or outfit (with
or without peter pan collar,
ruffed cuff),
income or IQ;
patience so much more elusive than gratitude,
love task-like in its minutiae,
the sullenness of childhood a sharp stone
on memory lane.

Ah, the communion of the trivial shared right now,
the small square tile that bears a silent “e”,
the ace on the card table,
the deliciousness of breeze or scone.

I sit with my parents and paint.
Those who do not paint often
focus intently on
a carefully drawn petal or jagged blotch of sea.
Ah, blue; ah, green; ah, yellow.

9th Day of National Poetry Month – Good News, Bad News

April 9, 2010

Good News/Bad News

Good News/Bad News

And then there was the children’s book
about the man–look!–who fell out of
a plane. That was the bad news.
But, phew! he fell onto a hay stack;
this was, apparently, the good news:
that his back was not broken
through the intervention of
dried grass. But hey! there was
a needle in that stack–
which was the bad news.  Except that, wait!
He turned out to have a spare camel
in his pocket which fit exactly through the eye
of that needle–which was the good news!
for it took him straight to, do-not-pass-go to,
the kingdom of heaven, not
so much because he was a rich man
but because the hay stack hadn’t worked that well,
after all, not against a fall from the sky.

Seventh Day of National Poetry Month – New Computer Poem

April 7, 2010

New Computer And Eye Issue

I’m afraid to say this seventh draft poem of National Poetry Month does not bode well.

New Computer

My new computer really hurts my eye.
It swirls, it’s quick, it does
a zillion tricks–sit up, play dead,
if I say “speak”, it speaks;
say “seek”, it finds;  still it puts
me in a very pricey bind–
this new computer really hurts my eye.

But when I try to write things out by hand,
my fingers won’t quite prise
the pen, at least won’t prise
it well; even signing my own name
takes clumsy thought–
which is why I really need this new laptop.

Besides, it beams, how it beams–
which seems to be the problem–all those beams–
like staring at the sun, Louis Quatorze
Medusa, Yoda’s cave that held the Force.
All that glisters is not gold,
but this bright screen has now been sold
to me, oh my, right retina, goodbye,
this lovely new computer hurts my eye.

Fifth Day of National Poetry Month – Engagement (New Baghdad, July 12, 2007)

April 5, 2010

Engagement (New Baghdad, July 12 2007)

Sad and horrifying video posted on about two Reuters employees (a photographer, Namir Noor-Eldeen, and his driver, Saeed Chmagh) killed  in a raid by two Apache helicopters on an Iraqi neighborhood, New Baghdad.   It’s a video that makes one really very very sad for all involved.

In keeping with my National Poetry Month commitment, here’s a poem draft for the day;  sorry that it doesn’t really do justice to its subject.

Engaged (New Baghdad, July 12, 2007)

Static static beep beep.
Cross crosses blurred grey screen.
“There’s more that keep walking by and one of them
has a weapon.” (Camera.)
“Look at all those people.”
“Fucking prick.”
There’s a weapon.”  (Camera)
“Five or six with AK47s.”
The men on the screen, as grainy as the dust at their feet,
walk without concern, awareness,
right through the crossed sight, some together, some not;
two hold dark bags (cameras); two more, it seems, do hold something long,
rifle-like, points down.
“Request permission to engage.”
“Roger that.”
“Keep shoot’n…
keep shoot’n….
keep shoot’n.”
“We’ve just engaged eight individuals.”
“Dead Bastards.”
“Good shoot’n.”
“Thank you.”
“One individual appears to be wounded, crawlin’ away.”
“Come on Buddy.  All you gotta do is pick up a weapon.”

Fourth Day of National Poetry Month – Easter Poem

April 4, 2010

Here’s today’s poem draft, an Easter Poem.   The drawing done during Easter sermon on the Church program;  I hope it’s not impolite, but it helps me to listen.  (Also I  hope some of you guys are also trying some daily poems so that I don’t feel like I’m the only one being silly. )

After Easter Service with Music By Tomas Luis de Victoria, Francisco Guerrerro

One miracle of Easter
is that a stone can actually
be rolled away.  No Sisyphus in
Golgotha;  no Calvaric wheel
of samsara, resurrection not
rebirth so much as return.  (Christ,
unlike the Dali Lama,
was not even asked to pick out
the wire-rimmed glasses of
the prior him.)
But why don’t they recognize him?
Mary Magdalen takes him
for a gardener; at Emmaus, he’s
the only  stranger in Jerusalem.
Though I’m not sure of  what I recognize either
except that when clear single voices chime
together in a Renaissance motet
the soul exists for some while, and any stones
in the heart become simply the stuff that
earth is made of.

Third Day of National Poetry Month – Old Dogs/Sandalwood Tricks

April 3, 2010

Dog Breath With Sandalwood Bracelet

The Way to Hold an Old Dog Close

The way to hold an old dog close is
to wear a sandalwood bracelet,
the beads of unburned incense almost inoculating you
from the yawns of decayed ivory.
You tell yourself, as you carry the dog down
stairs too steep for her to manage
(which means any stairs)
that they do make beef-flavored toothpaste,
but now the dog’s fifteen and you only bought one
tube ever, used once.
The thing is
that dogs are not actually children, and though she never snapped,
she would also not be coerced; your words, your mimed example,
did not influence.  (You’ve never seen, for example, a dog pushing a
toy baby carriage, or even pulling a wooden pup upon a string.)
But a sandalwood bracelet, on the other hand,
on the arm rather, the arm that
that cradles the old dog’s head,
as you make your ways downstairs,
may just do the trick.

Poetry Exercise For Those “At Sea”

October 23, 2009

Yesterday, I set forth the rules for a somewhat reductive poetry exercise for the inspirationally-challenged.   (

The exercise mandates the writing of a poem which is really an extended metaphor;  the tension in the poem comes from using a set of physically- charged, action verbs.  These are verbs which describe tasks performed in a particular occupation or craft (and are listed as Column B) .  The poem is put together from a list of these Column B verbs, and a random list of unrelated nouns  (Column A). The poem is put together by making lines which use a word selected from Column A and a word selected from Column B  (and, of course, other words.)

Here is a a poem (a connected pair of poems) which I did a few years ago using this exercise.   Unfortunately, despite spending some time looking through my very disorganized notebooks, I have not been able to find the full Columns A and B that I used;  however, I know that the chosen occupation was “sailor.”  (I’m not sure of the nouns except to be certain that “gutter”, “mother”, and, I believe, “burlap”, and “brick” were among them.)

The “sailor” words went fairly far afield from those that you might at first associate with sailor–they included words like “weigh”  (as in weigh anchor), “spy”, “navigate,” “haul,” “scrub” (as in scrub the deck), “run” (as in run up a flag), “tack”, “man” (as in man the deck), “cast”, “seek”, “spy”, among others.  (If you are doing this exercise, feel free to be similarly wide-ranging in your choices.)

The poem has been edited since the first iteration.  I’m posting it because I like it even though I’m not sure it’s the best illustration of the exercise.  (Tomorrow, I’ll post a less edited poem, that may be a better illustration.)  Still, I hope it gives a taste of how a “set” of verbs chosen as part of an exercise can direct your ideas if you are someone, like me, who is frequently “at sea.”

At Sea

I.  Brother

The boy hauled the roses like burlap sacking
that scrubbed his arms with prickle.
Navigating the bunch through kitchen door which he kicked
to the side for noise value,
he hated his mother.  What he wanted was to man
the road, casting his day by the side
of the long green wood where he
could lurk and spy and brick up
hideouts with clods of dirt and brush and never lean
to any whim or wish except
of sky and guttering stream
to whose wills he’d willingly tack
his whole young life.

II.  Sister

The girl rigged her skirt to
the base of her hips,
tacking the elastic waist
to her pelvis, a convenient gutter
for fabric that would run its own course.
Bottling lips into an appraising O,
she weighed her chances, spying out
navel and the smooth flat skin of her belly
like the long sought shore, distant
yet within reach.

All rights reserved.  Karin Gustafson