1 April 2019

For the ninth(!) year in a row, I’m participating in NaPoWriMo (or GloPoWriMo if you’re free from these United States). Writing 30 poems in 30 days sounds daunting, but trying to achieve that goal has always been an extremely generative process for me. My first attempt at #NaPoWriMo involved a secret pact — and a secret password-protected blog! — with a poet whose poetry and practice I admire. She taught me a lot about writing within a compressed time frame and suppressing my editorial impulses when creating a first draft of a poem. These lessons capture the core mission of National/Global Poetry Writing Month (or any other 30/30 writing challenge). All too many poets, regardless of their level of experience, get blocked in their writing because they start editing even before they have written anything at all. NaPoWriMo invites me to limit the demands I put on each poem by demanding that I limit the amount of time I spend bringing that poem into the world. I write as many poems as I can each April and then edit them at my leisure.

The poems I write during April often figure into other poetry projects I pursue throughout the year, so I rarely follow the daily prompts although I highly recommend using prompts, especially with writing groups or creative writing students. I am still centering my #writeeveryday efforts on using the predictive text algorithm in my phone’s memo application to write poetry. (I (still) have a Samsung Galaxy S7.) So far, the algorithm and I have produced some solid work. Most people remain skeptical of the poetic potential of their predictive text function, but I encourage you to explore ways to disrupt the algorithm’s rhythm. You’d be surprised at the results.

Today’s #NaPoWriMo prompt is to write a poem that provides the reader with instructions on how to do something, which is a classic. I have used it myself and with students many, many times. I didn’t even read the prompt until after I wrote my poem for today, but I think I might come back to it later in the month.

I usually keep the majority of my #NaPoWriMo posts private or remove the poem after a few days in case I want to submit it for publication in the future, but I’ve posted a screenshot of my April 1 poem below. Did you know about my obsession with Alexander the Great? And my further obsession with Mary Renault‘s novels about Alexander the Great? Now you do.

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“untouched and still possible”

To the New Year

With what stillness at last
you appear in the valley
your first sunlight reaching down
to touch the tips of a few
high leaves that do not stir
as though they had not noticed
and did not know you at all
then the voice of a dove calls
from far away in itself

to the hush of the morning
so this is the sound of you
here and now whether or not
anyone hears it this is
where we have come with our age
our knowledge such as it is
and our hopes such as they are
invisible before us
untouched and still possible

W. S. Merwin

used for fortune telling and in certain games

I’m participating in a resident reading tonight, and a lot of people asked if I would be projecting images of the visual poetry I’ve been working on here. I immediately thought of pictures I’ve seen of Jessica reading her poems as they’re projected on a big screen behind her. I would like to be like Jessica.

But, since no other readers will be using a projector tonight, I decided to wait until the final Open Studios of the month to try and share some of my visual work. In the meantime, I promised to post some pictures of my daily Tarot card erasures here. (As always, you can click on a picture to enlarge it.)

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I am less interested in the fortune telling properties of Tarot cards than I am in their origin. I like the idea that a rich Italian aristocrat might have commissioned a hand-painted set of playing cards that included extra allegorical trump cards on a whim. tarot_noun I like to imagine a world where people play ordinary card games with Tarot decks. I also love seeing depictions/interpretations of Tarot cards in popular culture. For instance, a particular Tarot card plays a major role in the film The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones. You might not know this, because you are possibly an adult person who does not read large quantities of YA fiction and/or watch a lot of television and films whose target audiences are adolescent girls. But I watched City of Bones while I was knitting the other night, so I know all about it. Those cards were hand-painted, too. Everything comes full circle.

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Not the scene with the Tarot card.

Forecasting the Future

Tonight Leonid Lerman, a visiting sculptor here at VSC this week, gave a slide talk about his work and life. I am a little in love with him. I found his talk/work so inspiring that I went back to my studio around 9 p.m. and wrote a long (7 page) erasure about prophecy and the future and my obsession with apocalyptic visions.

You can see the first page/section of the poem, titled “Forecasting the Future” below. (Click the picture to enlarge the screenshot.)

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My source text for this erasure is What Is Coming: A Forecast of Things After the War, written by H.G. Wells in 1916.

 

your little month

The title of this blog comes from the following sonnet by Edna St. Vincent Millay, one of my poetic kindred souls. I love the line so make the most of this, your little day and often recite it to myself as a reminder to focus on the present moment while remaining bold enough to embrace the vastness of long creative projects.

Edna St. Vincent Millay
IV
I shall forget you presently, my dear,
So make the most of this, your little day,
Your little month, your little half a year,
Ere I forget, or die, or move away,
And we are done forever; by and by
I shall forget you, as I said, but now,
If you entreat me with your loveliest lie
I will protest you with my favorite vow.
I would indeed that love were longer-lived,
And vows were not so brittle as they are,
But so it is, and nature has contrived
To struggle on without a break thus far, —
Whether or not we find what we are seeking
Is idle, biologically speaking.