Thursday, April 30, 2009

NaPoWriMo #30

At Readwritepoem, Carolee asked us to write a list in which each line started "I don't think I can". The idea was to do it very quickly, without thinking too much. I found myself slipping into word association, rhyme, assonance and so on. I still didn't know what to do with my list, until suddenly over a coffee break at work something jumped into my mind, sparking the idea for the following piece of doggerel. (As for the refrain, it's a New Zealand thing. Speight's is a brand of beer, and the line comes from an advertisement for the beer. Southern men in New Zealand are macho sheep farming country blokes.)

The Almost Perfect Southern Woman

She can yarn and crack a joke
just as well as any bloke.
When it comes to shearing sheep
she can do it in her sleep
      she doesn't drink Speight's, but.

She can swing an axe and fell a poplar
down the pub she's always popular
and if it's food you want to have
she can bake a perfect pav
      she doesn't drink Speight's, but.

On her mountain bike she'll pedal
fast enough to win a medal
and she can dazzle all
at the blokes and sheilas ball
She can ride and shoot a gun,
never whines, she's always fun
      -pity about the Speight's, but.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

NaPoWriMo #29: Red

For the prompt "seeing red" at Readwritepoem

An Absence of Red

Autumn is the season for it,
the crabapple tree laden with ripe fruit,
the maple leaves ablaze, melting
into the sunset. It will end soon.
The leaves will fall and wither to sepia,
like the flowers hung in the attic
to dry and forgotten,
now yellowed and brittle as old paper.
On my windowsill a once bright collection
- old gum leaves, a crabshell bleached in the sun
a sparrow’s wing torn off and discarded
by a marauding feline,
brown and bloodless.
It sits there as if it might come to life
and teach me the secret of flight.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

NaPoWriMo #28

Yesterday the poem a day from arrivd in my inbox, and on reading the poem I found a link to the term anaphora
This fancy term basically means the repetition of a word or phrase, for instance a list poem in which all the lines start with "I remember".
At readwritepoem the prompt for the day was a list of words, some of which reminded me of science, so I decided to try and fit all of them into a poem in which many of the lines started "the scientists". I'm not sure that the result makes much sense, but I did manage to use all of the supplied words. No, I'm not anti-science. But it's nearly the end of the month, and I'm feeling desperate for a bit of variety in what I've been writing.

These are the words supplied:
leaking, hardscrabble, lunacy, veins, nascent, backwards, specimens, cadence, wicked, crystalline, piggybanks, impossible

(Poem has now been removed)

Monday, April 27, 2009

NaPoWriMo #27

Today's prompt at readwritepoem was "let's get metaphysical" - be inspired by the poems of Rumi.

Actually, I think what was intended was "mystical" rather than "metaphysical" which is something quite different. And my feeling about this prompt was well, no. It's akin to saying "let's get Christian" or "let's get Jewish". Spirituality of any sort comes from deep within and not from surface imitation.

Nevertheless I did read some Rumi poems, and the word that came to mind was "aflame". And since it is autumn here, this is what I came up with:

First frost of autumn
Fallen leaves rimmed with ice
Branches aflame

Yes, it's my shortest yet. The month is nearly over, I'm itching to do some deep concentrated editing on various poems, both written and yet to be written, and for today, since it's a work day, that's all I've got.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

NaPoWriMo #26

Following on from the previous poem, I used the reference to a "rope of sand" to spark the next poem.
Strictly speaking this is not a "how to" poem, which was the prompt, but the idea to brainstorm a list of impossible things and describe how to do them reminded me of folk lore - songs like "Scarborough Fare" with its lines "tell him to plough me an acre of land/between the salt water and the sea strand" - impossible tasks.

This is just a short piece but I wanted it to have that fariy, folky sort of atmosphere. It's something that I suspect is more likely to turn up as a lyric in a folk tale than as a stand alone piece.


Take a swan to be your boat
tie it with a rope of sand
let a feather be your anchor
gather crew from all the land

weave a sail of spider silk
cast off with a mournful tune
guided by a falling star
boatman fly me to the moon

NaPoWriMo #25: Listen Up

Although the prompt at readwritepoem was to listen up, and write a poem about sounds, I started with an image. A few months ago I put a collection of photos from our UK trip into a folder to use as my desktop images. They change every 30 minutes and by having them in front of me so often, they are engraving themselves on my mind far more than when I just had some printed and stored in an album.

One of them was my prompt for yesterday's poem, and another sparked the idea for today's. This is Inchamahome Priory on an island on the Lake of Menteith in Scotland. The young Mary Queen of Scots was taken here for a few weeks as a four year old, for her safety. It is now largely in ruins, and is a very peaceful, beautiful place.

I think this poem needs quite a lot more work, but I do like the basic structure I used which was to alternate the sounds that might have been heard when the young queen was there, with the sounds that we heard when we visited.

The reference to the fair folk comes from here.


The child queen chases a butterfly
her laughter rings out
safe here on the island
from the Rough Wooing

a bird in the forest
the slow drip of water through stone

The voices of the canons at prayer
in nomine patris et filii et spiritus sancti
hush, says the child queen’s mother
remember your duty

the chatter of day trippers
and the clicking of cameras

The child queen looks for the fair folk
and their rope of sand
sees only the rope that fastens the boat
that brought her here

soft chug of a motor
a boat appears to take us home

Friday, April 24, 2009

NaPoWriMo #23 and 24

Today I'm posting a couple of poems not written to any prompt, so I am all caught up. That give me a couple of extra prompts to play with, if I can't think of anything for one or two of them. For more NaPoWriMo madness (whether using or not using their prompts) visit Readwritepoem here.

The usual disclaimer ie these are both very rough first drafts. Next month will be editing month.

Sloe Gin

Maggie offers us sloe gin.
It warms my throat, rises quickly
through my head as I sip,
and I wonder what's slow about it.
It's hard to find sloes these days
she says, you have to keep your sources secret,
and the penny drops. It's the small farms,
they're all being bought up, they're pulling out
the hedgerows where the sloes are found

like the farm we visited last week
where our greatgreatgrandfathers, brothers, were born,
the old farm house turned into fine accommodation
for ducks. For dinner there's meat and a big pot
of potatoes, plenty left over to fry for breakfast,
You're nae a Miller if you don't love
sautie tatties
, says Robert.

Boat Houses, Loch Ard

From the road through a tangle of branches
we see the boat sheds, right way up
and upside down in the water.
Half the planks have fallen off the sides
and the reeds are growing up around them
- no boats have been here in years.
Behind them is a fine stone house.
Parked out of sight perhaps a Renault
or a BMW ready to take the motorway
to Glasgow. The sheds slant roofed
- isosceles triangle within scalene
- built by a geometer. Time has its geometry too,
they slant into the past,
when boats were easy transport,
up the loch to the village for supplies maybe,
or fishing to fill the dinner table,
or maybe just recreation for country gentlemen.
They slant away into the future,
where the reeds keep on growing up,
and who knows what form of transport
we'll be using?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Thematic Photographic: Round

Two photos, one natural and one man-made.

The first is a boulder at Moeraki. These natural concretions erode out of the cliffs onto the beach and gradually wash away, but there are always more to replace them. They are much visited by tourists.

The second photo is a sculpture that is suspended in the air above Wellington's Civic Square. It was taken at my daughter's graduation ceremony. All the graduates had paraded through the city and released balloons in the air. In the background you can just see two of the last of the balloons flying away.

For more round photos, visit Thematic Photographic here

NaPoWriMo #22

The prompt was to take five books of poetry, open them at random and note down from each the first word or phrase that struck the eye - easier said than done. I'm sure that the first word choice was influenced by what might have been on my mind at the time, and that the first word had a hand in selecting the others, so this is hardly a random selection. In fact, clearly what resulted was very much influenced by things I had already decided I wanted to include in future poems.

The words and phrases used were "moire shimmer" (it should have an accent but I'm not sure how to do it) from Vincent O'Sullivan's Blame Vermeer, "sing" from the wonderful Sarah Lindsay's new book Twigs and Knucklebones, "moth" from And Her Soul Out of Nothing by Olena Kalytiak Davis, "lichen" and "mute" from Kathleen Jamie's Waterlight and "fish" and "untranslated" from The Temperature of This Water by Ishle Yi Park.

These are all wonderful poetry books and I highly recommend them.

The poem itself was much more influenced by Sarah Lindsay than the single word "sing" might indicate.

It's not quite there yet, but I'd like to imagine this one might be a keeper.

(Poem now removed for revision and possible submission)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

NaPoWriMo #21: Rites of Passage

Dear Poet,
thank you for your submission.
We regret your work does not meed our needs
at this time.

We regret your work does not meet our needs now
or at any time in the future. Please
do not send more. Your work has too much nostalgia.
It is too full of cicadas and chickens. We receive
many fine poems every day, far more than we can use.
Yours are not among them.

We suggest you study examples of futurism,
post-modernism and semiotics. Do not rely
too heavily on metaphor. Study the work
in our very fine journal. Then you will understand
what kind of work we can use. Nevertheless,

if you send more we will still sent them back.
Bake a cake, invite your friends and family,
have a party. Do not read your poetry.
Read them your rejection letters. Since we wrote them,
we know that they are very fine and well worth reading.
Now you are a real poet.

For readwritepoem, where we were asked to consider little celebrated rites of passage. I believe rejection letters, particularly first rejection letters, should definitely be celebrated. (Yes, this sort of poem has been done before. When you only have a day, you do what you can).

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

NaPoWriMo #20: Image Prompt

The Bride Wore Red

The Bride Wore Red

The image is from Flickr, posted by pareerica

The Bride in Red

She runs from the church. Overhead,
the birds gather. Through a break in the clouds
planes of light
play on her satin dress, her cloak.
There is a scent of poppies.
Somewhere the wedding party is waiting.
Does she run from the church?
We cannot see, the frame
zoomed in, cropped close.
She is running, or she has a strong green stem
in place of legs, rooted in the dark earth.
She is blooming. One red petal
slips from her shoulder like satin sheets
At her feet, fields of poppies
lie opened to the gathering black birds.

For more poetry relating to the image, visit readwritepoem here

Monday, April 20, 2009

NaPoWriMo #19: Friends

Dashed off in my usual last minute rush...
this one also fits an earlier prompt, "road trip"

For more poems about friendship, visit Readwritepoem here

The Blonde Ambassador’s Daughter

Forty miles or so a day,
even on our basic bikes
was not a world shattering feat.
We left town on the old main road,
(no cycles on the motorway),
-me, Linda, and the blonde
ambassador’s daughter -
rode north around the coast
and over undulating hills.
The others had three speeds.
I had one. Had to get off and push,
while they waited for me to catch up.
At Paekakariki Maria’s chain broke.
We sat on the footpath and ate ice cream,
legs dusty from the road
wrists sticky where we licked up the drips.

We talked about matters too inconsequential
to remember. Maria thought New Zealand
was backward, because she couldn’t
buy dye for her eyebrows.
It was Sunday. All the shops were shut.
She called to a passing boy (ten years old or so)
“Do you have a spare bicycle chain?”
and miraculously he did.

Foxton on the second night
it’s biggest landmark the water tower.
The youth hostel by the deserted racecourse
and the sand dunes covered in lupins
down by the beach.
Hamburgers at the Big Tex
the height of sophistication.

Coming back, we battled a head wind.
Gave up at Paraparaumu
and put our bikes on the train.

Linda and I
exchange cards every Christmas.
She has three boys, I have three girls
and a couple of boys as well.
Maria went back to Europe.
Sometimes I wonder
what she is doing now
and what colour are her eyebrows.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

NaPoWriMo #18: Word Salad

Earlier in the month we asked for fifty words from a friend, some of which were used for an earlier prompt. Today we were asked to return to those words, cut them up and move them around for a "word salad". So - I thought I would do two poems, one using all the words with as few others as possible, say, less than a hundred in total, and one of fifty couplets with one of the words in each line. The best laid plans...

I abandoned both ideas. After all the best salads have a few ingredients and a fabulous dressing. Too many ingredients just confuse the palate.

I thought I had the beginnings of an interesting piece, but I have been wrestling with it all day and can't get it into the shape I want. I think it needs a snappy ending and I don't have one. I moved a line or two from the end to the middle so it is not quite as open-ended as it was, but I still don't like it the way it is.

For more word salad visit Readwritepoem here

My words were fifty, kettle, weather, rhinestone and queen.

Fifty Kettle Weather

In a ramshackle hut with a leaking roof
Ted sits and strums his guitar
Every kettle and bucket and saucepan
catching the drips on the floor.
Sally dances and twirls for her sweetheart
as he plinks and plunks with the rain.
"It's fifty kettle weather" he yodels
"I'm a rhinestone cowboy
and you're my dancing queen."

Thematic Photographic: Floral 2

Here's another one for Carmi's Thematic Photographic.
The sunflower was photographed at Avebury in England (near the better-known Stonehenge, but there is a wonderful stone circle at Avebury, too, much more accessible with sheep grazing among the stones). There is also an old manor house and interesting small museum there.

Sunflowers always cheer me up.

Now, back to the poem-a-day challenge.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

NaPoWriMo #17: Something's Missing

Another rushed effort. Although it's Saturday, I have been up to my eyeballs in magazines, renewal notices, invoices, competition entry forms etc. Now most of the magazines are in the mail and I have only annual accounts and an AGM left to deal with. Why did I think I'd have time to write poems this month, too?

For this prompt at Readwritepoem I decided to base my poem on my grandfather. Some of what I wrote is quite true and some is entirely made up. It's another one that I'd like to develop further, somehow, when I have a little more time. (Is the title too obvious?)


He always paused a moment
before going through doorways,
a moment more, looking over his shoulder,
before shutting doors behind him.
On sunny days he would gaze
at his shadow, brow furrowed.
He had an air of listening
for something that wasn’t there.
He was a twin they said,
the weaker of the two. They were all
so busy saving him, his brother died.

At his funeral, eighty years on,
the pallbearers stumble,
for one brief moment feeling the weight
of two. His single grave
at the end of the last row
by a bush-filled gully. A breeze
ruffles the leaves, then dies away.

Friday, April 17, 2009

NaPoWriMo #16: Taking a Word for a Walk

This prompt at Readwritepoem asked us to take a single word and then consider its synonyms, antonyms and associations and see where it led us. I started with the word moth and took the idea of "association" rather loosely, associating by sound, meaning or just for no apparent reason, whatever popped up in my head. I filled about a page and a half and at first I thought I knew where I was heading, then all of a sudden the phrase "moth mannequin" (don't ask me where that came from!) took me in a totally unexpected direction.

This is really just a start but for almost the first time this month I have something that intrigues me enough to want to follow the idea further. (Not that I think this is better than my other efforts, just that it intrigues me more). And I found some very odd facts when checking out moth species in my insect book. For instance, the bag of the New Zealand native bag moth was used as a plectrum for playing the auto harp by early settlers. Who'd have thought it?

They are drawn like
B list movie stars
to gather under bright lights
where they swirl and flutter
waft softly in the evening mist
parading their new seasons dress
as they circulate on the night air's
imaginary catwalk
around the porch light.
This year brown is the new brown
but oh how many
subtle variations
-feathered, spotted, striped
-emperor moth, plume moth,
hawk moth, porina moth, bag moth,
they do not eat
they circle to the night's
slow tune, mistake the porch light
for the moon, and always there are two
or three who come too close
who crash and burn

Thematic Photographic: Floral

The difficulty with this week's theme at Carmi's Thematic Photographic is choosing. I have more floral photographs than I care to count. Here is a windowsill in the town (village?) of Elie in Fife, Scotland. I may post more floral photographs over the coming week, if I find time in between writing daily poems.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

NaPoWriMo #15: Procrastination

This prompt asked us to consider the ways we procrastinate, and write a poem about it. I have to admit to having many not very commendable ways to procrastinate, such as playing too many computer games, endless web surfing, tidying my desk and so on. What I have also heard described as "cat vacuuming". Another way in which I procrastinate is to get too bogged down in research. So I decided to make the latter tendency the focus of my poem.

How to Write a Poem about a Dandelion

First study your dandelion.
Wonder how it gets from spiky sun
to perfect seed head, while
your back is turned. Mark a spot
on the ground for your camera,
so that you can take a series
of time lapse photographs. After two weeks,
you forget for three days in a row,
and start all over again.
Then, make lists of yellow spiky things
(sun, fireworks, cheerleaders tinselled pompoms)
and of pale white things
(daytime moon, parasitic cysts,
communion wafers). Unsatisfied, spend several weeks
searching the internet for more.
Research further round things
such as: gears, cogs, wheels,
bubbles and balloons. Find out
exactly how they work. (This may take
several years of the physics
that you never took in high school).
Then, consider the air,
how the plant breathes it in and out.
And the water cycle, how it rises up
through the roots and stem,
is transpired through the leaves
becomes clouds, rain, rives, before
reaching the plants again. You will need to have
the life history of each insect found
on the dandelion's leaves, or among its roots.
And of each plant that grows
in the same field. Not to mention
the dog that pisses there. Then,
lie down in the grass, and think low, low
and slow, slow until you feel
the world as if you were a dandelion
Then you will be ready
to write a poem about it.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

NaPoWriMo #13 and 14

Catching up, because I have been unwell for a couple of days and distinctly fuzzy headed.

I have missed out one prompt, "Where I Come From", I will catch up on that later.

The first of these two pieces was in response to a Readwritepoem prompt to use the following ten words in a poem: room, pool, hotel, acute, green, briny, changeling, singularity, jubilant, impugn. I have managed to fit in eight of them

Evening laughter in the bar, champagne
sipped from plastic glasses by the pool.
Lobby lush with potted palms, but
all the green here is fake. In the day
the corridors are deserted, except for
trolleys full of folded linen, tiny cakes
of soap. The maid vacuums rooms,
restocks the minibar, clears bottles,
stained sheets, used condoms. The maid
thinks she is a changeling, a water nymph,
she is only doing this job until her real family
claim her back, in a singularity in time,
when in one jubilant moment she will return
to her clean, briny home.

The second is for the prompt "Road trip" - write something about cars

Road Trip UK
You could stay on the motorways forever,
pull over each night at a service area
for fuel and a bed in a generic motel,
never see the countryside. Or choose
country lanes, surrounded by beauty,
but nowhere to stop and take it in.
Hedges and stone walls press in on us
- we fold in the side mirrors. Each night
we arrive at a small town after dark,
find somewhere to stay. The morning's for
seeing the sights, then move on. Ancient and modern
tumbled together - Stonehenge is owned by crows.
We file meekly round the guard wire, while the birds
regard us from the top of megaliths. On either side
there is a motorway, cars speeding by without stopping.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

NaPoWriMo #12

For the prompt "Old Movies" at Readwritepoem

The movie, for those of those not familiar with it, is Dr Zhivago - click on the link for a plot summary.

Lara’s Theme

Snow never feels cold
on the big screen in the warm,
darkened theatre. Its whiteness
dazzles. He is so handsome,
the dashing young doctor.
Even through the gunshots, deaths,
partings, I want to believe in happy endings
somewhere, my love
- grasp at small servings of hope.
Fields of Russian corn
golden in the sunshine,
the brightness my raincoat
as I emerge into grey, drizzly twilight
to catch the bus home. Dinner,
piano practice, my mind still filled
with the image of the young doctor,
his brother’s last question –
Do you play the balalaika?

Saturday, April 11, 2009

NaPoWriMo #11: A Found Poem

Today's prompt at readwritepoem was to write (or at least gather?) a "found poem". In the poetry circles I move in, this term is sometimes used rather loosely to refer to a poem that is collaged from fragments of various other texts. As I understand it, however, the strictly correct use of the term refers to a single piece of text, unarranged except for line breaks, culled from a piece of text that would not be normally considered poetry. The latter point is critical, of course, because otherwise it is simply plagiarism.

There have been a few highly successful pieces of found poetry taken from newspaper articles. On the whole, though, I believe it is the most difficult form of poetry. Easy on the surface, because all you have to do is arrange a piece of text. Difficult, because you can only use texts that aren't intended to be poetry, and it takes a very experienced eye to spot something that can be made into poetry just by arranging the line breaks.

To me, it has a lot in common with the type of art that says a urinal on display in an art gallery becomes art. The more loose sort, of course, has a lot in common with collage - making something new from a collection of different texts - and on the whole, I find it a lot more compelling and fun.

My effort for today is closer to the pure form in that I took only one text, and didn't rearrange the order of the words. I did, however, leave some out. It comes from an article on manta rays from The Press, Friday July 13, 2007, which was in turn reprinted from the Washington Post.

Manta Ray

So you’re a pregnant manta ray,
about to give birth to a baby with
a two-metre wingspan. How on earth
will you manage that?
You gently flap your glorious wings
to swim to the bottom. You rub
your swollen belly on the ground
for a while. Then you gain a little
altitude and, with a forceful push,
eject your precious bundle
as a rolled-up burrito, which unfurls
to begin its new life.

Friday, April 10, 2009

NaPoWriMo #9 and 10

I'm far from satisfied with the first of these two poems - however, NaPoWriMo is definitely not about ego so I figured it was time to post it anyway. The prompt was "old flames" and since I married young and don't really have any "old flames" I thought about flames in a more literal sense, and remembered this poem I have been trying to write for quite a while.

At Halswell Quarry

Clear sky now – once a mountain towered here
three times as high as the crater’s rim.
Upwelling magma, turmoil and heat.
These slabs of basalt are frozen fire
silent for centuries. Then men came
with dynamite, the clangour of hammers,
quarried the stone to build a city.
They too have gone. Only picnickers
come here now. Piwakawaka flits
from tree to tree. And in the night sky
a star. It was fiery too, when flames raged here
- who knows if it is now alive or dead?
It’s light has travelled to reach us
for millions of years, a reflection
of what once was here.

The next prompt was "Paradise". I have always thought it would be really interesting to meet my greatgrandmother, so I imagined myself meeting her, and I also wanted to give her a better life than the rather hard one that she had in reality.

I Take Tea with my Greatgrandmother in Paradise

“Your greatgrandfather? He’s around here somewhere
probably in the library. All the books that were ever written
or ever will be. If he’s not there, he’s in the pub.
Drunkenness is so much more attractive
without the unpleasant consequences.
Oh yes, I loved him, still do, but there is so much more here.
Signora Gentileschi is painting my portrait. She is teaching me
the fundamentals of painting in oils. My lack of Italian
was a difficulty at first, but I am learning quickly.
I always had a passion for languages, you know
- we had such a dashing French master at high school,
and then I taught myself to read Gaelic, but my opportunities
were limited then. My French is progressing fast.
I have been conversing with M Voltaire, and his amour,
Mme du Chatelet. Such an intelligent woman. We have been discussing
the incredible lightness of light. Of course, we are all light here.
Miss Tinsley has been teaching me about the stars. We met
at last week’s dinner party – oh yes, we get hungry here,
just enough to give an edge to the appetite, but never overwhelming.
The meats and fruits are magnificent. And the aroma of fresh bread
is so much more appealing when one doesn’t have to rise
at three to start the ovens. Your dress, my dear –
how like a man’s. I think I should have liked
to dress like that. My brothers were always in the fields,
while I was in the kitchen. No matter. I am used to this attire now,
and since nothing here is of substance,
it no longer interferes with anything I might wish to do.
We have a wonderful choir here. My girls sang beautifully,
but I was too busy raising children to join the church choir
until my voice was quite faded. Here, it is completely restored.
Well now, it has been wonderful meeting you. But now,
I must be going. I have so much to learn
and I don’t have all the time in the world.”

For more poems on the same themes and others, visit Readwritepoem

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

NaPoWriMo #8: Nicknames

When I was at primary school I had several nicknames, none of them meant in the least kindly. I don't intend to immortalise any of them in poetry. At high school, on the other hand, I was never known by anything but my unabbreviated given name. So when I saw the prompt for the day at Readwritepoem was "nicknames", I wondered what to write about - until I remembered an article in my family history files concerning the coal mining cousins of my greatgrandmother. In Scotland the eldest son was almost always named for his paternal grandfather, second son for his maternal grandfather, third son for his father and later sons for various uncles - this inevitably led in large families to numbers of cousins all with the same names.

The Nicknames

At the pithead all the cousins line up
to collect their pay. They share
the family names and faces.
There’s Robert’s Bob and Hugh’s Bob,
Robert’s Hugh and James’s Hugh,
three Williams, Andrew, Charles.
“Whose son are you?” asks the colliery clerk
before he’ll pass over the silver. Bynames,
then, to untangle the knots – the Bum,
the Pig, the Fudder, Dandy Jim,
Swearing Hughie, Gurning Wullie.
On Sunday come to kirk they fill
three long rows. Outside in the kirkyard
the graves of those who died too small
to wwear a nickname, buried with no covering
except a simple shroud.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

NaPoWriMo #7: Image Prompt

I am flat out busy for the next couple of days, but it is amazing how a firm commitment to write a poem a day works out. Check for the new prompt in the evening - I think those in the US see it first thing in the morning, but it's wonderfully useful having it the evening before - go to bed thinking about it, think about it some more over breakfast and on the way to work, and write a poem in my coffee break. The only downside to the time difference is that I never get to post until after work, and I think the day has actually finished for many in the US by then, so you can take your pick as to whether I am almost a day early or several hours late.

Next Destination, pensiero

Next Destination, pensiero

The image prompt at readwritepoem is the above flickr photo by Pensiero

Not Yet Angels

We built our houses on hilltops,
climbed trees, trekked up mountains
strung single wire bridges across deep gorges
walked on tightropes, slid down zip wires
from tree top to tree top.
We jumped on trampolines,
harnessed ourselves to parachutes,
dangled under hang gliders
fixed balloons to baskets. We built
roller coasters, ferris wheels,
octopus rides, drove from fairground
to fairground. We sit in canvas seats
suspended in the sky, facing
the sun as it filters through clouds.
We are waiting to grow wings.

Monday, April 06, 2009

NaPoWriMo #6: Words from a Friend

Daylight saving has ended. It was wonderful to wake up in daylight this morning, with plenty of time spare to walk to work, instead of dragging myself reluctantly out of bed in the half dark. I had considered the prompt for the day when it appeared at Readwritepoem yesterday evening, and during my half hour walk to work, the poem formed itself in my head, and I was then able to jot it down at morning tea time. It will no doubt be subjected to later editing, but I think I am getting into the swing of things.

We were asked to gather fifty words from a friend. I asked Kay, which was taking the easy route I suspect, as I knew I was likely to get words I was comfortable with using from a fellow New Zealander of similar sensibilities. Of course, we didn't have to use all fifty - just to pick the ten or fifteen that were most resonant. When I saw "dentist" I remembered the bumble bee that was buzzing like a dentist's drill behind our bedroom curtain on Sunday morning, and I wanted to use it, so summer seemed to be the theme to run with.

The words I used from Kay were rain, mouldy, dentist, weather, apple, summer, red, and Dad. Three more transmuted into other words - "mountain" changed to "Orongorongos", "chicken" was replaced by "chook" and "China" made me think of Anne Tyler's book "Digging to China" (which turned out to be "Digging to America" when I did a google search for it) which transformed itself into Spain, which is on the opposite side of the world from New Zealand. I also encountered the word "ramshackle" in the introduction to a section of a poetry book I was reading last night, and it gave me such a tingle I had to include it as well.

If anyone needs a translation of any of the New Zealand words and phrases, ask nicely and you might just be lucky!

Digging for Spain

Did it ever rain? We don’t remember any
the weather always perfect.
Sun sparkle on water, the blue
of the distant Orongorongos
across the harbour, pohutukawa dripping red puddles,
the daily trek down the zigzag
with togs and towels, buckets and spades.
“If you dig far enough,
you’ll get to Spain” Dad said
but we knew about the earth’s fiery heart,
we weren’t stupid, not like the boy
down the road who took his sister
and his pocket money to buy a tram.

In the garden we threw mouldy windfalls
that piled up beneath the apple tree,
built ramshackle huts, climbed the pines
with basket and hammer to gather cones
for winter. Once, we watched when Dad took the axe
to the sick chook’s neck.

Flopped on the bed with books borrowed
from the library three at a time,
peeled sunburnt skin in strips, listened
to the fat bumble bee caught behind
the curtain, buzzing like the dentist.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

NaPoWriMo #5: True Colours

The prompt for the day at Readwritepoem was to take a paint chart and use the names of colours to inspire a poem. At first I thought an autumn poem would be appropriate for this part of the world, but strangely, very few of the golds, oranges and reds on my paint chart seemed to have autumnal names. And after studying the names, I realised that I could write a poem that wouldn't be about colour at all.

When I saw "Rob Roy" and "Lochinvar" an idea started forming. And when I looked up Sir Walter Scott's poem Lochinvar on the internet I found I couldn't get its rhythm and rhyme out of my head. Rhyme is hard to do well and clumsy when it's not done well, but for once I decided to try it.

All the words and phrases in bold are from the paint chart, with the occasional "s" added as the poem demanded it.

The village is empty, its roads dusty grey
Its young men and women have all gone away
some to the cities and some to the war
and some sail on the tide to follow a star

The sandstone is crumbling, the broom rises high
a lone eagle flies across the pale sky
Scotch mist makes a mantle to cover the hill
and on gorse and on hemlock there falls a blue chill

The mine shaft’s deserted, no sound but spring rain
some fell among gunsmoke on Waterloo’s plain,
and some travel further on surf crest and spray
to follow a golden dream in lands far away

In a tumbledown barn on an old rusty nail
there hangs a worn saddle, its leather cracked and pale
but there’s none to bring apples or stroke horse’s neck
for they’ve all left the village and will not come back

A bitter crabapple grows twisted and gnarled
in the village forgot by the rest of the world
and the figures that swirl in the fog surely are
the ghosts of Rob Roy and of young Lochinvar

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Green Reflections

An old photo from my files. After a day at Warwick Castle, we came back to the car park and I spotted these reflections of foliage on our cobalt blue rental car - I just loved the colour combination

For Thematic Photographic - reflective

NaPoWriMo #4

Saturday, so I am able to spend a little more time on my NaPoWriMo efforts, though I still consider them very much rough drafts. The prompt for the day, over at Readwritepoem, was "three in a row". I was looking through old photos for another purpose altogether, when I spotted these three stone fish which adorn the fountain in the pump room in Bath. Actually, there are four stone fish - one is on the other side of the fountain, almost out of sight. That seems appropriate, because it is the third day of NaPoWriMo in the United States, but it's the fourth day of April here. It really doesn't matter too much in this poem whether you read "four stone fish" or "three stone fish". Consider them interchangeable.

Three stone fish out of water
adorn the flaking fountain's rim
around the urn. Caught forever
gape mouthed, mineral encrusted
they catch the flow from gushing spigots.
"The King's Spring". Many have come
besides the royal retinue to take the waters
"for health's sake". Cuprous waters,
ferrous waters, warm and brackish,
unpalatable, water through fish.

Quicken, fish, flip away,
spurn the long-dead king
claim the river, nearby Avon,
slip into its fresh waters
fish through water, fish made flesh.

Friday, April 03, 2009

NaPoWriMo #3 : Stretchy Metaphors

Foreign Exchange

You invested in me and I
invested heavily in you. I believed
the exchange rate would always stay
steady. But lately the currency
of love has plummeted, has not yet found
new levels of support. We are caught out
without forward cover. Where is the banker who
will raise the interest rates
and return confidence
to our markets?


The prompt at readwritepoem was to take language from one field and use it to write about something else. My first thoughts were to use language related to traditional trades and crafts such as sewing or farming, but there are many poems full of such terms - weave, needle, thread, pin, dig, grow, harvest

Although this effort is really just a bit of silliness, it's the beginning of a quest to get some of the financial language that I am immersed in every day into poetry. It's not quite a first effort as I have a favourite poem that starts "the city is a spreadsheet" which I won't reprint here, as it has been accepted for an online publication. I have a feeling that some of the terms I've used above might make it into a more serious poem, given a chance to turn themselves around in my head for a while.

For more stretchy metaphors, visit readwritepoem here

Thursday, April 02, 2009

NaPoWriMo #2

On My Desk

there is a camera
which contains
a family picnic in the shade of trees
gravestones in an old cemetery
surrounded by pines
kelp on a windswept beach
a child swinging from a rope
over a rippling river
carved furniture in a country mansion
a single raindrop on a backlit rose

on my desk
there is a pinecone
which contains many trees
which may one day grow
to a forest where families picnic
may provide timber for craftsmen
may shade a cemetery
shelter a rose garden
may one day hold a rope
for children to swing on
laughter rippling


The prompt for this one over at ReadWritePoem was to note five objects that were close at hand, note two that were most dissimilar, and link them in a metaphor. I chose to juxtapose the two objects rather loosely rather than making the metaphor explicit by saying "A is B"

For more metaphorical poems visit ReadWritePoem at this post

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

NaPoWriMo #1

It's Bad Poetry Month! Thirty poems in thirty days is the aim, a slightly crazy one since I have to fit it in round full time work, meals, dishes, ironing and all the other stuff.

Still, last time I did this, in amongst the totally forgettable poems were a handful that surprised me, that made it all worthwhile.

The folks over at ReadWritePoem are offering a prompt for each day of the month. Since we are almost twentyfour hours ahead of the USA here in New Zealand, April 1st was almost over before their first prompt went up. So I have used one of their other prompts from earlier in the week - I may declare April to be a 31 day month so that I can use all of their thirty prompts.

Here, brought to you by the words mingle and multitudinous is my first rough effort. (No, the words don't actually appear in the poem. They helped to inspire it, just the same).

Escher at the Salmon Ponds

Above the salmon ponds a multitude of swallows dart
in jagged tessellations. They dive and swerve in pursuit
of invisible insects. Beneath them, a river of fish
flows from one end of the pond to the other.
As fish leap at the instant of turning, birds swoop
to meet them. Boundaries dissolve. He feels himself
melt into their seamless motion. For a moment
he becomes bird, becomes fish, then reaches
into his pocket for a pencil stub, a scrap of paper
to capture the vision before it fades.