20 April 2020

It’s Patriots’ Day in Boston, and it’s the second time since I’ve lived here that the marathon has been disrupted. B has been WFH since Friday, March 13th, and I haven’t been to my internship since February. I am supposed to be working on my independent study project, but I am not making any meaningful progress. I’m not quite sure how to jumpstart that process. My interest in the topic hasn’t diminished, but my ability to focus on reading or writing about the topic certainly has. Maybe I will wake up tomorrow with my motivation newly restored. Stranger things have happened.

It’s the twentieth day of NaPoWriMo, and technically, I have already written close to thirty poems, so it seems to be going well. Today’s prompt focuses on gratitude, and I started messing around with a weird, prosey (or perhaps prosy) gratitude list. I don’t think I will finish that today. I did mess around with some gratitude erasures. (Source texts here and here.)

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I had planned to accomplish a lot of other things today, but it looks like I am mostly done doing for the day. This morning I listened to Blind Man’s Zoo by 10,000 Maniacs and remembered how much political music I listened to in college. I also listened to Tigerlily (Natalie Merchant’s first solo album) — a record my friend Katy suggested a few days ago. I am happy with these choices.

Horoscopes (April 17 & April 18)

The writing prompts for the past two days of NaPoWriMo sent me into some sort of nostalgia fever dream, and I lost a whole afternoon to thoughts of the mixtapes I used to record on actual cassette tapes, the slow, careful process of cuing up a song on your dual cassette deck, the search for those short, sweet songs to fill the last few inches of tape, the labor involved in handwritten track lists. The love, the unbearable tenderness we infused into our homemade compilations. The emotions we projected on to them. The hopes they carried.

Obviously, I am in some sort of mood. Yesterday’s prompt, which encouraged us to write about a forgotten technology, obviously made me think of mixtapes, but I couldn’t figure out how to write a poem about them in a world where High Fidelity by Nick Hornby, and the film High Fidelity starring John Cusack, and the television series High Fidelity starring Zoe Kravitz all already exist. Then I read the poem mentioned in the prompt (“Blue Screen of Death” by Adam Clay) and realized no poem I ever wrote about mixtapes would ever be that good. So I decided to sleep on the mixtape idea and see what I could come up with tomorrow (a.k.a. today).

Then, today, the prompt asked us to write an ode to life’s small pleasures. I immediately thought of coffee and the impeccable Greg Brown song “Good Morning Coffee,” which always makes me smile.

Now is the time where I tell you I wrote a poem about coffee. Or a poem about mixtapes. Or both. But I just … couldn’t. I am full of ennui and what I would call existential despair if we didn’t all know it’s actually social distancing despair. I firmly believe we all should be staying home, potentially for much longer than we anticipate, but I am also concerned that I may never see my family (and my sister’s kids in particular) again. I am concerned about not being able to work. I am concerned about my favorite chefs and bartenders and servers and restaurant managers not being able to work. I am concerned about not being able to go to the library. Still, we’re inside. We need to stay inside. So I decided the poems I wrote today should also turn inward. I decided to use the horoscopes Chani Nicholas did for my sign (Taurus) in February, March, and April as source texts, and I turned these into three erasure poems.

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Today I listened to the new Fiona Apple album, which my social networks have been literally raving about, while I wrote. I just don’t know how I feel about it yet. It could be that I just can’t move out of the 90s right now. I can’t forget seeing Fiona Apple at The Boathouse in Norfolk, Virginia during the Tidal tour.

Theft & Influence (April 13 & 14)

I spent more time than usual on the NaPoWriMo prompt for Monday. I did not follow the instructions, which involved writing a non-apology, but I did write a poem that engages with the idea of theft.

More precisely, I wrote a poem that consists solely of sentences and phrases I stole from Gabe’s April project: writing 30 single sitting flash fiction pieces. Sometimes he uses the daily NaPoWriMo prompt as an inspiration; sometimes he finds inspiration from conversations we’ve been having. Sometimes he just pulls something small and devastating from the depths of his mind. Then he posts them to the internet, for anyone to see or, in my case, steal.

To write the following poem, I took at least one line or phrase from every story he had posted by the end of the day on April 13th. He has kept the pace so far, so I had 13 flash fictions to plunder. And I am not going to apologize, so in a way I did follow the instructions for yesterday’s prompt after all.

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Today’s NaPoWriMo prompt challenged us to reflect on our poetic influences, and I got really caught up in the idea of mapping out my influences, and then I got really caught up in the idea of making a really beautiful map, and the next thing I knew it was 2:45 a.m. The map below does not yet document all my influences and their relationships, but it does capture all the reflection on influence I have done tonight. It also captures my response to this prompt, so feel free to click on the mindmap below. You can use the white (safely) gloved hand to move around the map. That’s it. That’s the poem.

 

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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9 April 2020

I am so intrigued by today’s prompt for NaPoWriMo! It invites us to make our poem more concrete by forming it into a shape that reflects its theme. I spent a lot of time reading Windowboxing by Kirsten Kaschock, the poet mentioned in today’s NaPoWriMo post, and I am now officially obsessed with her/her work and the portmanteau. Sadly, I could not figure out a way to make my poem concrete in the way I wanted to, so instead I made it virtual af by using Canva to form my poem into an Instagram post.

 
That’s the poem I made (for the gram), and it looks nothing like what I pictured when I first read the prompt. I wanted to find a way to create the shape of my poem with its actualy text, the way my friend Jessica does with some of her handwritten poems (example below). But I wanted to this digitally because I don’t have any interesting paper in the house. I played around with a couple different design tools, but this task definitely falls outside my current skill set. Someday, maybe.

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Today I listened to Under the Pink (1994, yo) by Tori Amos while I worked on this poem-post. In college, my favorite song from this album was “Pretty Good Year,” but now I think “Past the Mission” is my favorite.

8 April 2020

I am very excited about the NaPoWriMo prompt for today. It suggests using a line from a poem written by someone else as the seed for your own. If you’re familiar with my work, then you already know my writing practice often involves incorporating material from other texts either through a form like a cento or an erasure or through direct quotation or allusion. I thought I might be able to use today’s prompt to address my (now dreadfully late) homework assignment from my friend’s daughter (that is, the writing assignment in which I must use the words emphasis, sunflower, and scissors), but I lost a lot of my afternoon to the unnecessarily ardurous process of safely and ethically procuring groceries and household essentials without risking too much exposure to the world outside my apartment.

I have a medical condition that compromises my immune system, so we are trying to limit our interactions with others. But we still need to eat and blow our noses and such, so someone still needs to venture into a grocery store/drugstore scenario. It seems to take an unreasonable amount of time to plan for one of these scenarios, and now our town wants people to wear face masks when they go outside, but, of course, we don’t have any face masks and cannot easily obtain any without, you know, going outside. (Even if we were outside, though, where would we get face masks? It’s a quandary.) Suffice it to say, I am saving today’s NaPoWriMo prompt and my assignment from T for a less frustrating day.

Today, I made two more anger erasures, using the Wikipedia entry for “anger, cognitive effects” and “anger, expressive strategies,” respectively. When I read the poems over, they sounded like reports from some type of sinister human trial that violates everything I learned about conducting research with human subjects in my research methods course. So. Fair warning to you.

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Today I listened to Garbage’s self-titled album (circa 1995), but once I started working on these poems, I switched to Plans by Death Cab for Cutie and the relatively halcyon days of 2005, the year Charles, Prince of Wales married his true love Camillia Parker Bowles and the BBC rebooted Dr. Who.* Good times, good times.

*Other stuff also happened in 2005, including Hurricane Katrina, the death of Pope John Paul II, and the launch of YouTube, but I was trying to end on a positive note, y’all.

7 April 2020

I woke up with significantly less anger today. I felt very comforted by today’s writing prompt: write a poem based on a news article. The post even included links to a few news articles which, thankfully, had little to do with the actual news. I am actively avoiding the majority of those reports. I just read my daily Brookline, MA update each night and then check the latest numbers (you know which ones) in The Guardian. I limit the rest of my news consumption to coverage of the Royal family, updates from Shedd Aquarium, and Bon Appétit content.

Thinking about poetry and news at the same time always reminds me of these lines from William Carlos Williams:

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Those lines come from Williams’ long poem “Asphodel, That Greeny Flower,” and you can read an excerpt from it here.

So, as you can see, the news and poems can complement each other, and I liked seeing this juxtaposition in today’s NaPoWriMo prompt. I decided to use the article “Researchers Discover Faraway Planet Where the Rain is Made of Iron” as the source text for an erasure, and I found the process of creating this poem very restful. The poem did not demand anything from me or take anything from me. I just let my mind glide over the words, keeping the ones that struck a chord. Is this the best poem I have ever written? No. Is this worst poem I have ever written? Also no. It’s just a poem I made that has the word pretty in it. And that’s fine.

[Jill Hurst-Wahl uses the phrase “And that’s fine” in almost every one of her collection development lectures, and I find it so soothing.]

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7April2020_CapeCanaveral-2I was listening to Live Through This by Hole while I did this erasure, which does not sound restful or meditative but, oddly enough, was.

6 April 2020

Today, the NaPoWriMo prompt asks us to write an ekphrastic poem that uses Hieronymous Bosch’s triptych The Garden of Earthly Delights as its inspiration. This prompt felt exhausting to me for no apparent reason. I woke up in an extremely foul mood, hating everything and everyone. Moods like this always remind me of Edith Wharton’s novel Summer because in the opening scene the main character steps outside and says, “How I hate everything!”

The first time I read Summer that scene resonated with me on a deep, primal level, and I think of it often.

So, I feel a bit like Charity Royall today, even though she detests working in the library and I adore working in the library, and I did not use today’s prompt. Instead I started working on a little erasure series about anger, using sections from this Wikipedia entry as my source text.

Feels cute. Might delete it later. Might do a hundred more erasures titled anger. Might listen to the Captain Marvel soundtrack a thousand times in a row.

How about you? What emotion are you experiencing today? What are you listening to? What are you writing? What will make you happy tomorrow?

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5 April 2020

Reading today’s NaPoWriMo prompt came with a wave of nostalgia because it uses an exercise taken from The Practice of Poetry, edited by Robin Behn and Chase Twichell. This book collects writing exercises different poets have used with their students, and I had to buy it for my first undergraduate writing course at George Mason University. My teacher was Mark Craver, whom I loved. He did not throw me out of his (crowded adjunct) office when I demanded he tell me “if I am even any good at poetry before it’s too late to drop this class,” and he cured me of my habit of inserting random French words into my poems to demonstrate my sophistication.

We never used the “20 Little Poetry Projects” exercise in Mark’s class, but I used it to write (a bad draft of) a poem during the first semester of my MFA program, when we had to turn in a new poem every Thursday like writing a poem is easy. I always felt very anxious in my grad school poetry workshops, because Jeffrey Pethybridge was always in my workshop, even though he an undergraduate student, and he would critique everyone’s poem very thoroughly and seriously — as if we had any idea what we were doing! As if I had formed all the best bits of my poems on purpose instead of entirely by accident when I wasn’t even paying attention to the process! Later, after we became friends, Jeff would call me on the phone at odd hours of the day to read me something he had just written as if my opinion mattered. Graduate school was weird, though I often miss those long conversations (debates? arguments? hallucinations?) with Jeff and Paul and Jamii and Mark and Melissa and Scott and Janet and Tim et al.

Anyway, this time I used the “20 Little Poetry Projects” to better effect, and I put French in it for an actual reason! You can read my poem below, but also if you have children or teens quarantined in your house, challenge them to write a poem following these instructions. Tell them it doesn’t matter if their poem doesn’t make any sense! Poetry is largely nonsense.

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4 April 2020

Today’s NaPoWriMo prompt asks us to write a poem based on an image from a dream, something I already do quite often since I am one of those people who remembers their dreams in the morning.

I tried to write about a dream I had last night, in which my best friend who used to be my boss observes me teaching and then tells me what a bad job I’m doing. This has never happened in real life! She was (and likely still is) an extremely supportive and empowering supervisor. Except in my dreams, where she’s all criticism and paperwork and long sighs expressing her immense disappointment.

I dream these dreams quite often, and they always involve a bizarre classroom environment or an incredibly long journey to a desk located in a shared office. Sometimes the office is in a strip mall. Once I couldn’t even get to my office on an upper level because the building only had escalators running in the opposite direction.

I dream strange dreams, my friend. You can read my poem for today below. I couldn’t think of the right title, so if you have any ideas, let me know!

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