Monday, April 30, 2007

NaPoWriMo #28

For aeons they vibrated slowly
as neighbours, in the slow flow
from the pole to the sea.
Then with a thunderous crash
(does the iceberg's split
make a noise
if there is no one to hear it?)
they are rent apart.
One molecule still frozen fast
in the edge of the ice shelf.
One floating northwards,
soon to melt and join the ocean currents.
Later, it's one time neighbour
will also join the ocean.
Currents will keep them
far apart. The icebergs
are making their slow trek

For the prompt "split" at Poetry Thursday.

Only one more to go! Yes, it's the last day in April. I started two days late. Despite the heading of this post, I have written 29 poems in 28 days (one post included two poems on the same prompt). I was tempted to try and post my thirtieth poem today, but I am enjoying the prompts, so it looks as if I will have to wait until it's Monday in America, and post my last poem on May 1st. I don't think that's breaking the rules too much (besides, who makes the rules anyway?)

Sunday, April 29, 2007

NaPoWriMo #26 and 27

I was having a lazy day yesterday, and didn't write anything. Acutally, I was planning to try and write a villanelle using a line from my poem from the previous day - "waking from a dream of flight". It seemed like a good idea, until I realised that I didn't really have anything more to say than I'd said in the short poem, and anything I added would be just padding.

I feel that writing metrical rhymed poetry is akin to being able to draw accurately for visual artists. If you choose to write unrhymed, loosely metred verse, or to paint abstract paintings, it should be because you choose to. It's good to know that you have the technical skills in the background if you want them. So from time to time, I try to write rhymed metrical verse - not usually to my satisfaction, but I enjoy the challenge.

So, the first poem today is for the prompt "circle", and the second is another attempt at a villanelle, using an incident from my eldest daughter's childhood. I'm not really satisfied with the last stanza. And it doesn't quite read smoothly in places. Still, it's a lot closer to what I want to be writing than the one I posted on Thursday. I skipped the previous prompt, "improper". On the whole though, I wouldn't have been able to write a poem a day without the help of the prompts which you can find at Poetry Thursday


Nothing is as round as happiness
It is the shape
of a ball, a balloon,
a bubble,
a hula hoop,
a dog chasing its tail
in circles on the sand

Nothing is as round as happiness
except sorrow
the shape
of a stone

Villanelle for Deborah

Deborah has seen a dead bird in the gutter
Its eyes are dull and it is gathering flies
She wants to take it home and put it in water

I have one eye on the time and the other on the weather
and therefore I am trying to hurry her by
when she stops to inspect the dead bird in the gutter

She still thinks a kiss can make a graze better
Daddy mended the moon and set it in the sky
and flowers last forever in water.

When you are three, it's the small things that matter:
blowing bubbles, watching them fly
and stopping to see a dead bird in the gutter

I'm not quite ready to tell my daughter
today's flowers are different from yesterday's
not everything can be cured with water

No manual prepared me for this: I mutter
some excuse to hurry away
She looks over her shoulder at the bird in the gutter
still wanting to save it by giving it water.

Friday, April 27, 2007

NaPoWriMo #25

Today's poem is one in my quest for using rhyme without seeming trivial or humourous. I didn't set out intending to rhyme, but it seemed to want to be that way.


Waking from a dream of flight
you feel the dream was real
that it's the daytime world
that's not quite right
you bend, pick up
a puzzle piece from off the floor
a glimpse of blue
if only you could put it all together,
you might soar.

written for the daily NaPoWriMo prompt "glimpse" at Poetry Thursday

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Poetry Thursday, and NaPoWriMo #24

Today I decided to combine the daily prompt "blaze" with the weekly prompt which was to write a villanelle - OK, the daily prompt is for Wednesday but it is Thursday already in this neck of the woods.

When I try and rhyme, it tends to come out not too serious. And I am just about poemed out with NaPoWriMo, so I decided to stick my tongue firmly in my cheek and have some fun. Jessica suggested that villanelles tend to be about obsession. This one certainly is - and the narrator is definitely not me, I'm not that shallow (I hope!). I've been a bit free with the rules about repeating whole lines, and instead have varied them a bit while keeping the ending of the repeating lines the same.

A Villanelle

I don't ask much, just set my heart ablaze
send flowers, chocolates, tell me you'll be mine
for all of time, oh, shower me with praise

My heart beat faster when I caught your gaze
Your rugged looks, your nose so aquiline,
your sculptured muscles set my heart ablaze.

I've waited by the phone for days and days
I think, although I've lost my sense of time
I long to hear your voice, your showers of praise

I lie about the house in fevered haze
can't eat or sleep, can only write bad rhymes
Surely you know you've set my heart ablaze

She's wrong for you in oh so many ways
You have my number, leave her now, be mine
for what you said I'm sure was full of praise

I'm waiting for the phone to ring, the door to chime
I know you want me, tell me you'll be mine
for all of time, oh shower me with praise
Is it too much to set my heart ablaze?


For more villanelles and other poems, visit Poetry Thursday

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

NaPoWriMo #23

Today's prompt at Poetry Thursday is "sheen"

I find myself thinking of Byron:

and the sheen on their spears was like stars on the sea
when the blue wave rolls nightly on deep Galilee

- a favourite poem when I was younger.

Not being Byron, I had to come up with something else. In the end I settled on the following, as it is Anzac Day in New Zealand:

He talked real fancy, our sergeant,
never told us to polish our boots
like the others -
"burnish them to a sheen, boys"
he said, "I want to see the sheen".
So we polished the boots and the buckles
and the buttons to a sheen, and drilled
with our wooden bayonets,
till we got off the ships
and they gave us real ones
and we burnished them to a sheen, too.
Then we marched through the dust
of the country roads, and the villagers cheered
then we marched through the rain and the mud
and we sat in the trenches, till the order came
to go over the top. Our boots were caked
and heavy with mud, the bullets were flying,
the men were falling all round,
and I caught one through the leg
and lay in the mud and the blood and the stench
waiting, hoping, to be rescued
before they finished me off
and the only sheen I seen anywhere
was an oil slick on a puddle
and the wings of the flies.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

NaPoWriMo #22

I suspect this one is fundamentally flawed because of my tenuous knowledge of Greek mythology - never mind, I want it out of the way so I can get onto the next one.

The prompt for the day is "pluck"

High School Reunion

Three of the Sirens
are propping up the bar
After high school they left the band,
gave up singing. Not such a pretty sight
drunk like that, one of them
staggering off to the bathroom.
Icarus is telling a rambling story -
how he didn't die, as everyone thought,
but was rescued by a passing fishing boat.
Spent three years in physical therapy,
but now you hardly notice the limp.
He told his old man to rack off,
no way was he going to be an engineer.
Now he drives a truck, has three days
growth of stubble. Medusa now
- still formidable, you have to be
to run a top company, but what's with the story
about the snakes? No one can quite recall
who it was she was supposed to have turned to stone.
Now she goes to the best hairstylist in town.
Arachne is a minor fashion designer,
but doesn't wear her own label
- too dumpy to fit into clothes
designed to flatter a size 8.
Jupiter looks sallow. His liver is failing -
too many steroids, and Apollo looks like
an ageing Elvis. There are success stories,
of course, but they are not always
the ones you would expect. Somebody
nobody remembers - sidekick to some hero
or other, and now here they are
all filled out, and looking stunning.
Only Oedipus is missing.
Someone should have made him come,
so he would have known,
no need to pluck his eyes out.
Time will do it for you -
Jocasta will grow old, fat, unattractive,
while other beauties draw his gaze.
Now,sightless and mad,
he sees his mother as eternally
beautiful, while blind to what the others
have become.

Get the prompt for the day at Poetry Thursday

NaPoWriMo #21

On the home straight now - I think I'm ready to be done with NaPoWriMo. Of course, if one of the coming prompts inspires me again, I'll get excited about it for another day. I can never tell which prompt that is going to be. (For a list of the daily prompts, see Poetry Thursday)

This is post number 21, but I wrote two poems for one of the prompts, so that's 22 poems all up - eight to go. (Yes, it's the 24th. But I am one behind, and we are a day ahead of the US here, so I think I have it right).


How could summer have slipped away
in all its burgeoning, blossoming splendour?
The garden a blaze of colour,
then some day while you are inside,
not looking, sweeping the floor
or intent on a computer monitor,
it’s gone. You didn’t notice
that petal by fading petal,
one darkening evening minute
at a time, it was leaving.
The skies are grey now, the wind cool,
the leaves falling. But some days
the sun shines brightly, as if to say,
“not lost, just misplaced”.
You in the north, do you have
our summer? Please take care of it
for us, send it back when you are done with it
in six months time.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Where Did it Go?

The next prompt for NaPoWriMo over at Poetry Thursday is "misplaced". There are a couple of things I seem to have misplaced. Firstly, I seem to ahve misplaced the weekend. Only a moment ago it was just starting and now it's Sunday night already.

Actually, I know where most of Sunday went. Which brings me to the second thing I misplaced. I seem to have misplaced my brain. Today I went orienteering. It didn't start too well when I took a wrong turn on the way to the event. I stopped to check my street map, which I couldn't find. That did lead to some good when I looked under the seat and instead of the map found a pair of sunglasses belonging to another orienteer, who I had given a lift to a previous event. At least I was able to return them. The reason I couldn't find the street map, I found later on, was because it was on the floor of the car beneath my gear bag. Why I didn't look there I'm not quite sure.

When I got to the event I purchased a map, chose a course, signed up for a start time and headed for the start. My time was called, I went to copy the controls from the master map and realised I had forgotten to collect a set of control descriptions. So I had to go back to get them, and choose another start time. That led to a half hour delay because there were a lot of competitors queuing up.

Eventually I got out on the course, and I didn't do very well. I won't describe all the mistakes I made. I wasn't very pleased though after a long struggle up a hill covered with very long grass between the fifth and the sixth control, to realise that if I had chosen a different route I could have had a very easy run most of the way over a neatly mowed field. Then there were the controls where I was confused, looking for controls with letters on them instead of numbers. Actually, the letters were on the map but the numbers were on the controls. So I found the right control but went right past it thinking it was the wrong one.

All in all, once I had actually started, after all the delays, it took me nearly two hours to finish a 3.5 km course. Given that it was physically difficult, with a lot of ups and downs and some very tangly vegetation, that's still a long time even for me. I almost decided not to finish, but I'm glad that I continued. A year ago I would have been exhausted after being out for that length of time, now at least I was not too stiff at the end, and even managed to run on the flat part between the last few controls.

Still, if anyone knows where my brain went, I'd like it back.

After the orienteering I dropped in at my daughter's for a while as she keeps "open house" on a Sunday afternoon. Then later on she came around for dinner. I posted my poem for the previous prompt, and that was about it. I haven't even done the dishes yet. (I guess they will still be there in the morning).

NaPoWriMo has been eating my spare time. There are a couple of things I wanted to post about. Firstly, Deb at Red Shoe Ramblings (see the side bar, my brain is too fried to do many linky things tonight) nominated me for a Thinking Blogger Award. Thanks, Deb! I meant to spend part of the weekend putting the button in the side bar, and choosing five more blogs to pass the honour on to (since that's the way it works). It will have to wait. Wednesday is a public holiday here, so maybe I'll manage it then.

The other thing I wanted to write about was the Ten Zen Seconds blog tour. I'm going to be a host in early May. Eric Maisel has come up with this very interesting idea to promote his book - he is visiting a different blog every day for about seven weeks, and answering questions about the book and the concept of Ten Zen Seconds. I'll write more about it later in the week, for now, you can visit his site and learn more here. (The first link is to the front page of the site, and the second link is to the dates for the blog tour). I've nearly finished the book and it seems like a very useful technique for centering yourself when doing creative work, or any work for that matter.

Now, I'm off to bed. Maybe my brain will pop back in my head while I sleep.

NaPoWriMo #20

What She Left Behind

Elizabeth Robertson 1674

Item: ane oak standing bed
but no man to share it with her,
grandsons, but no sons
Item: ane old plough
and the plough graithe,
a horse to pull it
a mare to ride.
Item: four kine
Item: eight bolls of corne,
one boll of bere,
three firlots of wheat
sufficient for the winter,
and to plant for the next.
Item: the utensils and domicils
of her household and body
Item: three fir kists,
to store the above.
Having gathered these goods,
she recommends her soul
to the Lord almightie
hoping and trusting to be saved,
and passes from life with a small sigh
having walked lightly on the earth
and lightly left it.


For the prompt "ten items or less" at Poetry Thursday

Elizabeth Robertson was my ancestor.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

NaPoWriMo #18 and 19

Last night was Friday, and though I wrote my rough drafts, I blobbed out instead of posting, knowing the weekend was coming.

The prompt "root" made me think of the roots of trees in cemeteries, growing through concrete slabs and prising bones apart. Probably because I've written on the subject before - but I needed something new. So instead of writing about that, I started thinking about the roots of my poetry. Where does it come from? It seems that whenever I am where poets gather, there are people talking about their Irish Catholic childhood and the language of the liturgy, and how their poetry is nurtured in that language. It makes me feel a little lacking. Whatever another poet claims as the root of their love of language, seems to be something specific that I don't share:

Because I am neither Irish nor Catholic
I lack the language of liturgy.
Because I do not live in the country
I lack the language of nature.
Because we have different birds here
I lack the language of crows.
Because my city is a very small one,
I lack the language of the urban metropolis.
Because I am not indigenous
I lack the language of the land.
Because my people have been here
for only a few generations
I lack the language of history.
Because my family was happy
I lack the language of suffering
Because I spend my days with numbers
I lack language.
Where then will I find my poems?
I search the silence
and the spaces between.

The next prompt at Poetry Thursday was "fishing hole". For a moment, I was stumped. There are fishing holes in New Zealand, I suppose, but most of us grew up near the sea, so it's not a term that resonates. You don't refer to a "fishing hole" when that fishing hole is a large harbour. But then I just forgot about the "hole" part and wrote about "fishing", and what resulted took a turn that surprised me.


Moki Mick knew where to find fish
when everyone esle was coming ashore
empty-handed. At least,
that's what my mother said.
But what did we know?
The nearest we came to moki,
or anything else big enough to be edible
was the fish and chip shop on a Friday night,
carrying home newspaper wrapped parcels
of battered fillets. We spent our days
paddling in rock pools,
trying to catch cockabullies with our bare hands,
or fishing from the jetty where shoals of small fish
played around the wooden posts. The rough planks
were strewn with the crushed shells
of the mussels we pried off the rocks
to use for bait. Fish guts and blood
mingled with the red pools
of pohutukawa blossom.

But we weren't fishing that day,
Anne and I, when we went to the beach
full of bluster and bravado
for an early winter swim. And later
in the deserted changing sheds,
the stranger came in, older than my father,
younger than my grandfather, a little pudgy,
and he dropped his trousers to reveal it,
pale and flopping like the spotties we caught
from the jetty, and then he did himself up
and went away again,
and later when I went home and told my mum,
I wondered what all the fuss was about.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

NaPoWriMo #17

Today is Poetry Thursday. I didn't follow the suggestion to print out the template and leave poems in various places, guerilla style. I may try it in the future - if I do, I am thinking that I may print out this poem and leave it at various spots around the airport near where I work - on the magazine racks in the bookstore, among the tourist brochures. Another day, when I have more time.

I did get home though, and find a set of these poetry postcards in my mail. They come from the Scottish Poetry Library by way of my friend M at Creative Voyage. Thanks M!

As it is NaPoWriMo, and I am following the daily prompts, here is my poem using the prompt "tick tock"

The Waiting Room

tick tock
the clock
on the wall
sweeps the seconds
as he flicks
through the pages
of a magazine

tick tock
doesn't see
the words
a child pushes
a toy car
back and forth
back and forth

tick tock
door opens
door closes
people walk
in and out

tick tock
looks up
looks away
looks up
the doctor
in a white coat
stethoscope swinging
like the pendulum
of a clock
tick tock

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

NaPoWriMo #16

Today, I'm grateful for an accommodating boss. I wanted very much to go and hear Jeanette de Nicolis Meyer speak at our city Art Gallery. She is spending a month in Christchurch as artist in residence at the Arts Centre, and was speaking as the Friends of the Art Gallery speaker of the month, on "The Narrative Thread".

The Friends of the Art Gallery tend to be of a certain generation - or at least the ones who attend "Speaker of the Month" are. The generation of "Ladies who Lunch". Consequently the events are on a Wednesday morning. Some of us have to work. Not today. I told my boss I had things I needed to do, and could I come in late? Fortunately he said yes. I'll make up the time in a week or two when my second, temporary, job comes to an end. Leaving me less tired and with less money. You can't have it all!

Jeanette is an abstract art quilter, and yet her quilts tell stories. It was fascinating to hear her speak and to come to understand more of the symbolism behind her quilts. And I was pleased to hear that an exhibition of six Pacific Northwest quilters, of which she is one, will be coming to Christchurch later in the year. And also that she is having an open studio in a week's time (at the weekend, so I won't have to figure out how to take more time off work).

In the evening I attended another in the local Poets' Collective autumn series of poetry readings. Bring your own poetry in the first half, and guest readers in the second half. It was an interesting evening, because each of the four guest readers presented poetry from a different European country, both in the original and in their own translations - poetry from Germany, France, Russia and Italy.

All this led to a rather full day, and inspiration for my own poetry was a little lacking. However, I'm beginning to see my series of daily poems as a sort of poetry sketchbook. I'm not trying to do huge landscapes or fully developed portraits here. Some sketches may be more detailed than others, but on some days, perhaps a quick sketch will suffice.

The Narrative Thread
In the darkened auditorium
she speaks of the softness of cloth,
of the threads which stitch our lives.

We emerge to a river of glass.
Its panes fracture the brittle sky
into a thousand pieces.

(I included a photo of the art gallery windows in this post)

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

NaPoWriMo #15

Don't think that the following in any way comes from my personal experience:

The Long Winter

First, we ate the grain we had stored for seed.
We ate the livestock. When the hens stopped laying,
we ate the hens. Then, we dug beneath the snow
for the stubble of last autumn's harvest. We ate
the small birds that fell frozen from the branches.
Once, we found a fish frozen solid into the ice of the creek.
When the snow became too deep, we ate the bark
from the logs that we cut for the fire. We melted the snow
and dissolved the glue from the spines of books.
We drank the liquid. When the snow started to melt,
and the first wagons came through, they brought us flour
and meat. We stared at it, dull-eyed. We did not want
to eat. Our hunger was the only thing
we knew could fill us up.

For the prompt "hunger" at Poetry Thursday

Monday, April 16, 2007

NaPoWriMo #14

Today's prompt at Poetry Thursday is "pearl". I thought about a number of possibilities for the word, but hadn't decided on which to use. In fact, I thought I was going to write something about the possibilities I came up with, and then write a different poem instead. Until I realised that my list of possibilites made a sort of prose poem in itself:

This is the poem I am not writing. This poem contains a large family of sisters with names like Pearl., Ruby, Opal and Garnet. Each sister wears a brooch that matches her name. This poem references a famous painting by Vermeer. This poem wakes early in the morning. It picks roses in the garden where dew sits like strings of pearls on spiderwebs. The sisters have flaming red hair and many suitors. This poem references a well-known story about Cleopatra. Scientists cast doubt on the story about the pearl. They say it would have taken many hours to dissolve in the wine glass. This poem strolls in the garden in the afternoon when clouds light up like mother of pearl in the pale sky. The eldest sister dresses in an ivory satin ballgown and places a string of pearls around her neck. Each pearl contains the reflection of the crowds of whirling dancers, the gallery of paintings on the wall, the crystal chandeliers. Each pearl contains a small world, like this poem.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

NaPoWriMo #13

Today's prompt at Poetry Thursday is "plunge"

This poem has been waiting to be written for a while, but I resisted, as it felt influenced by Mary Oliver, and who wants to compete with Mary Oliver? The word "plunge" was just the nudge I needed to try and set it down.

Let me tell you about shags,
how they sit for hours on the branches of trees
above the river, wings outstretched
like laundry on a line.
They are entirely unsuited
to an aqueous life, lacking oil
in their feathers. Hour after hour
they sit, waiting for the sun
to relieve them of their burden,
for the water to rise in a mist.
And then, one sudden,
fierce plunge.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Rabbits, Pincushions and the Daily Poem

Yesterday I left work early for the first time in weeks. My desk was clear. I could have found some work to do but chose not to. This is my main job where I'm paid for a fixed number of hours. It is assumed that if I work a few less hours when it is less busy, I'll work more when it is busier. (In my other job, I'm only paid for the hours I do, so less hours means less money).

I had magazines to deliver to bookshops in town (that's my third job which is totally unpaid). I used this as an excuse to browse in the bookshops. I went first to the shop near the river:

It won't be long before these trees have completely changed to their autumn colours.

Then I strolled down to the art gallery:

Yes, that is a giant inflatable rabbit in the foyer. Part of one of the current exhibitions. They have a very nice shop at the art gallery. It has books, cards, stationery, children's games etc mostly with an art connection. But it does have some rather odd things as well. What I noticed on this occasion was a St Sebastian pincushion. I guess with a giant inflatable rabbit in the foyer, it's a good idea to have something for people who like to stick pins in things!

There was a cold wind blowing outside, so I didn't linger too long. But I did stop to take photos of the ripples in the shallow pools surrounding the building. It was fairly late in the afternoon so the shutter speed was a little long, and the images aren't as sharp as I would like. But I thought the reflections made an interesting pattern.

I haven't used the daily prompt for NaPoWriMo today (it was "bluff"). Nothing came to mind, so instead I played with an idea I had a while back, when Poetry Thursday had a food theme:

The True Story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden

She brings him apples.
She bites one, shows him how crisp it is,
how neat. He is not tempted.

She brings him bananas.
She peels one, bites into its soft flesh,
shows him how easy it is.
He is not tempted.

She brings him peaches.
She shows him the blush of its skin,
its juicy flesh. He sees its hairiness,
and finds it distasteful.

She brings him pears, broad-hipped,
lightly freckled, glowing golden
in the afternoon sun. He takes one,
bites into it, lets the juice dribble down his chin.
Leaving Eden, he has no regrets.


(Can you tell I like pears?)

Friday, April 13, 2007

NaPoWriMo #11

I am really beginning to enjoy this process. I've realised that it doesn't take very long to produce a first draft. I'm not actually taking any less time on the writing process than I used to. It's just that when I have an idea, I know I have to set pen to paper within a day, whereas previously I'd let it roll around in my head for days and conjure up all kinds of resistance to actually writing something down. Probably because I wanted it to be really good on the first try, so that I didn't spoil my bright shiny idea.

Having the prompts is great. Each time I see one I think I can't possibly come up with anything using that word. And then my brain cells have a secret meeting somewhere, and pretty soon the ideas are coming. Or at least one idea which is all I need. Because they are words I might not think of using, left to myself, I find myself remembering things or exploring things that I wouldn't have done on my own.

Editing of course, is another matter. There will have to be a lot of that in the coming months.


Saturday afternoon at the Kinema.
It is somebody's birthday,
or we wouldn't be here.
Ninepence for the stalls, or sixpence
for the cheap seats at the front
if you don't mind a crick in your neck.
The rich kids in the dress circle come every week.
They send a rain of lollies
down from the balcony.
We are not sure what rich is,
having no television to tell us
what we are missing.
Perhaps they are not rich after all,
merely the children of parents more indulgent
than ours, or more desparate. Anyway,
they are initiates in the mystery
of the weekly serial, which for us is a story
without beginning or end. The cartoons
and the main feature are what we are there for.
And yet now, we remember nothing
of these celluloid stories - only the accent
of the reporter on the Movietone News
and the sound of jaffas
rolling down the aisles.

(Jaffas are a round sweet found in New Zealand, with a chocolate centre and a bright orange outside. As far as I can tell, no one ever bought Jaffas at the movies to eat, only to make noise with).

Now, I'm off to Poetry Thursday to check out the next prompt.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

NaPoWriMo #10 (and Poetry Thursday)

For today's poem, I have managed to use the daily prompt "breathless", along with a line left by a Poetry Thursday participant, Megan for the weekly prompt ("but we're used to it"), and then for good measure, I added an ending that uses one of my favourite words, "meniscus".

I had planned to ignore the daily prompt in favour of doing the weekly prompt to use someone else's line, but when I saw Megan's line and started figuring out how to use it, I realised that "breathless" fitted right in. Thanks Megan!


There isn't much romance here
but we're used to it. We have settled
into the packets of our lives,
space at the top showing how there used to be
more air. But the weight is the same.
I do his banking, fetch the drycleaning,
post his letters. He knows what to do
when a child wakes in the night
breathless and wheezing. You can't eat kisses.
We are practical people. We may not be sure
whether the glass is half full
or half empty, but we do know
how to read the water level
from the bottom of the meniscus.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

NaPoWriMo #9

After yesterday's whiny post, I find I actually managed to come up with two today. Setting the words down on paper during a coffee break at work helped (instead of waiting until I got home).

I'm hoping to play catch up this weekend, and visit all the other participants to see what they are doing with the prompts. I've only had time for a few so far.

One of these results from my musings on the possibilities of today's prompt at Poetry Thursday - "hollow" (yesterday's prompt, by the time I post the results). The other is a description of a scene near my work, into which I drop the word - whether it belongs there or not, I haven't quite decided.

Hollow (1)

You keep on rewriting
the book of your life. At each retelling
you become more tragic.
The cover bears illustrations
of delicate colours and haunting beauty.
Do not read it any longer. Keep it in the background
to enhance your decor, hollow out its pages,
use it as a hiding place
for your most secret key.

Hollow (2)

The leaves are falling from the trees
and all the colour has fallen out of the sky.
It is a landscape in black and white,
but the fields are from the studio
of another photographer - a study in sepia.
Tall seedheads scattered among the grasses
flocks of brown birds fly up and perch
on the backs of the sheep, brown with dust.

Over beyond the plains
the inky blue mountains
scroll across the horizon
like a painted backdrop. A hollow wind blows
from the proscenium arch.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

NaPoWriMo #8

Today's prompt: "at first blush".
It wasn't until I did a search at that I found this phrase had a meaning I wasn't familiar with: "without previous knowledge or adequate consideration". I don't think it is used in New Zealand English. I was thinking more of the "first blush of dawn" and wondering how to avoid sentimentality.

I'm getting to the point of wondering why on earth I set out to do this. A poem a day? When I get up, go to work, come home, do housework and collapse tired into bed? I must be nuts! I couldn't possibly keep going if I worried about whether what I am writing is any good or not. I may or may not cringe when I come back to it after the month is over. Much of my working out is done in the car, or similar places. What seems like a good idea then tends to feel really stupid when I come to write it down. There's nothing to be done about that but to carry on regardless, I don't have time to stress about quality. Thank goodness for the prompts - even if I think I have nothing to say on a subject, it stops me dithering and changing my mind all day. The prompt is the prompt and that is that. (But I'm thinking of resorting to a few days of haiku, just to keep the count up).

At First Blush

1. The dawn, the rose bud,
the baby's chek.

2. The man who gives you this card
is an air raid warden. Lie down
on the floor and do exactly
as he tells you.

3. At first, blush. Later,
learn to join in.

4. She draws an "f" from the bag of tiles.
She changes "blush" to "flush"
From innocence to guilt. Or rage.

5. After the petals fall
the thorns, the blood.

Monday, April 09, 2007

NaPoWriMo #7

Today's prompt: "leather"

(I have been reading Miroslav Holub's wonderful series of poems "The Minotaur")

The Minotaur to Theseus

Never trust a woman.
You don't need her magic
ball of thread. She wants it to entangle you,
not to guide you. Just keep your head,
and your left hand on the wall,
or your right, it doesn't matter,
as long as you're consistent.
Reverse hands, and you'll find your way
back out. I don't know why
I'm telling you this, since it will lead
to my death, most likely.
I'm not the monster they make me out
to be. No danger to anyone
bold enough to do anything
but cower in a trembling heap.
Just because I'm big and ugly, doesn't mean
I wouldn't be kind to old women
and small children, given half a chance.
The roaring? In another century
it will be motor bikes. I'm just another boy
trying to be a man, wearing a leather jacket
and trying to look tough.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

NaPoWriMo #6

Today's prompt at Poetry Thursday is "kneel"

The wave runs at the shore,
falls on its knees to kiss the sand
The sea brings offerings
a seaweed necklace, driftwood, shells
The land buries them deep
The sea erodes her boundaries,
grain by grain. The land
heaves herself up from the sea's depths.
What the sea once covered
becomes a mountain.
It is the age-old tussle of the littoral zone
but still the sea
writes love letters on the sand.

(I think maybe I am being a bit indulgent sneaking the worl "littoral" in there. It's a word I love, but I'm not sure that it makes the poem any better).

Only 24 days to go!

Saturday, April 07, 2007

NaPoWriMo #5

"Don't mess with the muse"! - Feeling edgy yesterday, I headed off for a walk up the hill. As I walked, I calmed down and found myself composing in my head about half of the poem I had been trying to write based on the first daily prompt at Poetry Thursday - "absolve". As I joined in on these prompts a bit late, I had missed this one out earlier.

When I got back home I found dinner was nearly ready. I had gone over the lines so many times that I thought I would remember them, but of course when I came to put them down on paper later in the evening, I didn't remember them so well after all. I think I have just about recreated what I came up with. But it is a reminder to me, that the poetry muse demands that her ideas be paid attention - they should be noted down straight away.

"Absolve" to me is quite a formal word. I fell in love with the sound, and wanted to work in all of its rhymes. I didn't, quite, but I used a fair few of them. Of course formal rhyming poetry is really hard to do well, but I wanted to try. Trying to use the word at the end of a line, without changing it to "absolution", made it even harder. Despite the religious use of the word "absolution", I see "absolve" as being different to "forgive". "Absolve" to me means a declaration that there was no fault in the first place. Forgiveness is an acknowledgment of a fault before a release from the longterm effects of that fault.

(I really should come up with better titles than the word which is the prompt. But a poem a day is hard enough without worrying about titles).

Low tide. Mudflats pockmarked by breathing holes
of hidden clams. A heron stalks. The slow revolve
of leaf fall, joining others to turn to silt
where tree trunks join reflected trees. They shatter and dissolve
as the wading heron lifts in flight, pissing as it goes.
This mud and shit is necessary beauty
- part of life - it's how all things evolve.
Whatever I have done, or failed to do
that lies between us unresolved
is as it is. I will not whine "it's not my fault",
may ask you to forgive me, but never to absolve.

(The photo is of the "Sugarloaf" - taken on my walk yesterday. Low cloud wreathes around the television transmitter tower while sunset streaks across the sky in the background).

Friday, April 06, 2007

NaPoWriMo #4

I've been looking forward to Easter, because it means four whole days of not going to work. What I still don't have, that I had before I was working fulltime, is great stretches of time when I'm in the house alone (or at least, alone except for one or two very quiet people). This weekend we have visitors. And we went over to my daughter's house for hot cross buns at lunchtime, and then everyone came back here for more hot cross buns for afternoon tea. Somehow I seem to have less poetry writing time than on those days when I know I have to get my daily poem posted before I leave for work in the morning.

The latest NaPoWriMo prompt at Poetry Thursday is "broken thread". This one has such obvious metaphorical connotations, that I wanted to see what else I can do with it. I came up with the following, that as far as I can see doesn't have a single metaphor anywhere. Everything is exactly what it is. Sometime, when I'm not pushing myself to produce a new poem every day, I'd like to push this one around some more and see if I can shape it into a rhyming (or almost rhyming) sonnet. I think it has that potential.

Broken Thread

Because he was born in poorer times, he saves
everything that can be mended. And because
he lives in richer times (time poor),
he hasn't mended any of it. A burnt-out
electric kettle, a toy truck with one wheel missing
(the children long since grown, and in no hurry
to produce children of their own). In the garden shed
lies timber, wire, electric plugs, old tins
of paint - one day he'll use these things
to fix something, he's sure of that. Meanwhile
in a chest in a corner of the spare room, there's more
- old letters tied with string, a child's shoe,
a necklace of pearls on a broken thread
less valued for what they are
than what once (long ago) they meant.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Poetry Thursday: Interview with a Poet

In Bernadette Hall's book, "The Ponies", I came across a poem with the following lines:

Did I tell you that since her death the only people
I can bear to read are the beautiful Czechs?

It must be their weight and their sardonic wit

This led me to seek out the Czechs. I am currently reading a book of poems by Miroslav Holub, "Notes of a Clay Pigeon". In it I found the following poem. This is not quite what Dana and Liz had in mind, no doubt, when they asked us to write a letter to a poet, but it seemed similar to me. I had plans originally to write a poem of my own on the theme, but I have been busy with the daily prompts for NaPoWriMo. So if you would like to read some of my own poetry (rough first drafts anyway - one a day is hard), just check out my other daily posts.

Interview with a Poet

You are a poet? Yes, I am.
How do you know?
I have written a poem.
When you wrote the poem, it means you were a poet. But now?
I shall write another poem some day.
Then you may again be a poet. But how will you know that it
really is a poem?
It will be just like the last one.

In that case it will certainly not be a poem. A poem exists
only once - it cannot be the same again.
I mean it will be just as good.

But you cannot mean that. The goodness of a poem exists only
once and does not depend on you but on circumstances.
I imagine the circumstances will be the same.

If that is your opinion, you never were a poet and never will
be. Why then do you think you are a poet?
Well, I really don't know...
But who are you?

- Miroslav Holub

More Poetry Thursday here

NaPoWriMo #3

The fourth NaPoWriMo prompt at Poetry Thursday: yield


The rock to the water
the cement to the grass
the shell to the insistent beak
the carcass to the maggott
the bridge to the storm

the rose to the aphid
the aphid to the ladybug
the ladybug to the first frost of autumn
the frost to the noon sun
everything yields

if it were not so
we should all be stopped
in a single frame of a movie,
so let us sit a while and listen,
let us yield
to the soft flow of the air
filling our lungs, to our bodies
turning to dust,
to the approaching dark.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

NaPoWriMo #2

From the third prompt at Poetry Thursday : perennial


You have planted a garden
of bitter herbs, of everything
that has spines and thorns.

You are bored even with the colours
of your happiness. You want flowers
of different hues. You are moving

to another part of town. Do not expect
things to be different there. You carry
your seeds with you: in your hair,

under your fingernails, caught in the folds
of your desires. With every exhalation
they shower onto the earth.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

NaPoWriMo #1

I'm running a little late to get started on this. And what I thought was going to work out while I was driving in my car has fled my brain now that I've found time to sit with a pen and paper. The idea of NaPoWriMo is to write a poem a day during April - I feel that if I can write thirty poems, whether one a day, or none some days with a catch-up at the weekends, that will be good enough for me. And that establishing a regular writing habit will be far more valuable than actually producing something I like.

Here is the first very rough draft based on the second of the daily prompts at Poetry Thursday : "spiral"

A Spiral is the Shortest Distance Between Two Points

How efficient you have become, rising
in the dark and leaving early to avoid
traffic. You have searched out
the most direct route, studied intersections
to find the easiest turns. All day
you will add numbers, balance the books.
You have calculated the easiest curve
around the park. The joggers are always there,
but this is unexpected, beyond the trees
and their long shadows, a flock of white gulls
wheeling and looping in the early light.