Easter Weekend (April 11 & 12)

Although I have been keeping up with the daily NaPoWriMo prompts, I decided not to write any blog posts over Easter Weekend. Easter celebrates a resurrection (Roman Catholics would say the resurrection), but we cannot rise from the dead without first experiencing grief and loss. The pope spoke about resisting regret and sorrow during his Easter Vigil sermon, and I have also been reflecting on mourning over the past few days. My close friend’s elderly mother died early Saturday morning; L’s mother was 92 and living in an assisted care facility, far away and under quarantine. They tried to say goodbye over FaceTime. I cannot even imagine.

Later on Saturday, I learned that my mom, stepdad, and (favorite) aunt all contracted COVID-19 on a trip they took together in early March. My mom lives on the other side of the country, and my siblings and I quickly realized how difficult it has become to care for someone remotely. Even a simple gesture like having groceries delivered has become nearly impossible. Our family is lucky in that our loved ones seem to be moving toward recovery, but in reality, no one can say for certain what recovery looks like. We can only hope it looks like what we see.

Anyway, thoughts were somber on Saturday, and I decided to interpret the prompt for Day 11 in a very literal way. I used the language of flowers to write a condolence letter for L. You can read it below and try to translate it yourself using this glossary. Or you can read my translation here.

11April2020_CondolencesThe NaPoWriMo prompt for Sunday allowed me to experiment with a poetic form I had never encountered before: the triolet. It felt like something invented by rich people with too much time on their hands, but it appears to have been invented in medieval times, so probably an ambitious (and impoverished) artist came up with the idea. I don’t really know what to say about the poem I wrote other than I read a lot of science fiction and fairy tales. Also, like, be careful where you keep your baby. Goblins will switch places with it in a heartbeat.

12April2020_TrioletToday’s weather is dark and stormy, and I have been listening to the playlist I made during Hurricane Sandy. It would be perfect if the song “Sandy” from Grease was still available on Spotify.

10 April 2020

We’ve made it through the first third of April, and so far, I have managed to write a NaPoWriMo poem every day. Knowing my (socially distant) friends are also working on their own April projects has helped me stay on track, and I look forward to seeing Gabe’s flash fiction, Melissa’s poetry, Jojo’s collages, and Vané’s (offline) erasures throughout the week. I’ve also enjoyed looking at the work of other NaPoWriMo/GloPoWriMo participants each night.

It’s also nice to hear about everyone’s adventures in baking, meditation, home schooling, Zoom conferencing, and social distancing. What are you reading and watching? What music are you listening to? How are you sleeping? What local businesses are you supporting? What comfy clothes are you wearing? What special events are you missing? My partner and I had to postpone our June wedding until next year, but honestly, that’s fine. We’ve only been dating for ten years.

I am all about today’s poetry prompt, which invites us to experiment with the hay(na)ku, a poetry form invented by Eileen R. Tabios. I love reading both traditional and contemporary Japanese haiku, and I love facilitating haiku workshops. My former creative writing students may remember fondly my Wheel of Haiku exercise, which requires you to spin a wheel to select a season, a kigo, and a surprise word for each haiku you write. (Or they may remember that exercise as a source of immense distress. It’s not that easy to work the word elevator into a haiku!) I, however, always found these workshops to be delightful. If you have children or teens languishing in your living space during these days of quarantine, I would be happy to teach them about haiku. Just say the word.

I have been using Duolingo to practice my French during my stay-at-home hours, and in yesterday’s lesson everyone you could imagine — il, elle, nous, je, tu, Paul, Alice, ma sœur, ta sœur, tout le monde — was opening the window. The window very clearly needed to be opened, early and often. La porte, not so much.

The lesson left an impression on me, and so today I wrote 10 tiny poems entreating you to open the window. (You can read them below. The final poem is dedicated to my sister Rose, which is also the title of a very catchy 10,000 Maniacs song.) While I wrote, I listened to 10,000 Maniacs, a band my siblings and I played incessantly during my adolescence.

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2 April 2020

Today’s NaPoWriMo prompt was inspired by James Schuyler and involves using concrete details to write about one particular place. I really like poems that rely on specific nouns and cultural references. “Homage to Sharon Stone” by Lynn Emanuel is one of my favorite examples of this type of writing. I am so curious to read the poems that emerged from this prompt. If you have written one, please share!

My poem for the day attempts to address a different prompt, created by the teenage daughter of one of my best friends and favorite writing partners. T (her daughter) actually gave us this assignment on Monday, and I just finished it, which suggests I may not be the ideal candidate for homeschooling. In my defense, I initially found the assignment to be slightly off-putting since it required us to write a piece that must include the words ooze, palpable, chicken. I immediately came up with the phrase “the palpable ooze of chicken” and then required a palate cleanser of immense proportions. Thanks, Elisa Gabbert for introducing me to negronis in 2009. I would not have survived this assignment without them. If reading about T’s prompt has put a bad taste in your mouth, you might also need a negroni. Don’t know the recipe? Watch this video of Geoffrey Zakarian making one during his self-quarantine.

Anyway, I accepted this writing assignment from T and then, for no good reason, decided to make it more difficult by using her required words in a cento. If you know me in real life, then you already know how much I seem to enjoy complicating an already complicated task. Make it harder, that’s what I always say (to myself and literally no one else). I had planned to inventory my fridge and pantry this afternoon so I could make a meal plan and limit our outside interactions to one local grocery shop every ten days, but instead I spent about four hours reading poems on the Poetry Foundation website. A search for the word chicken returned 317 poems, in case you were wondering. But I also had to do a separate search for poems containing the word palpable (197 results). Fortunately, the word ooze just turned up organically, as it does.

Like an erasure, a cento requires you to use source texts, and I have listed the ones I used to write “Shell, Cage, Bone” at the end of the post. (A lot of them use the word chicken in the title, a fact that may surprise only myself. Before today, my knowledge of poems that contain the word chicken consisted of “The Red Wheelbarrow” and nothing else.) I encourage you read these poems; a cento is designed to introduce you to the work of many different writers.

In addition, if you live or are quarantined with children and teens, I encourage you to encourage them to 1) participate in National/Global Poetry Writing Month or 2) write a cento of their own. The second option should occupy them for 1 to 5 hours!

You can read my “ooze, palpable, chicken” cento below. I hope T likes it. She has already given us a new assignment, so I am behind on my homework again (required words: emphasis, sunflower, scissors). Why am I doing homework assigned by other people’s children? Is this going to become a trend? What madness has social distancing wrought?

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Source texts (in order used):