Sunday, April 3, 2016

National Poetry Month: The Garden of Helpful Advisories

It may not be dinner table talk in most of America, but the poetry community gets its knickers in a twist this time of year over the official designation of April as Poetry Month. April is no doubt officially other things too, such as "Back to the Backyard Garden Month" (depending on your latitude), but now that the digital world connects all lives, those who write poetry feel not only encouraged, but positively peer-pressured to step up their game when April rolls around. The drumbeat begins in March, with exclamatory announcements such as "It’s not too late to make a plan for poetry month!" from (I never realized that poets are such planners.) This advisory continues:
         "Whether you want to sign up to write a poem a day or unofficially just plan to crank out some poetry in April, there are plenty of prompts and resources to keep you going strong all month. And that’s not all that’s going on either....
         “National Poetry Month is the largest literary celebration in the world, with tens of millions of readers, students, K-12 teachers, librarians, booksellers, literary events curators, publishers, bloggers, and, of course, poets marking poetry’s important place in our culture and our lives.” 
            Among the many things you can do in April is find daily stimulus by checking into the "prompts" offered by seemingly countless sources. A "prompt" says either 'write a poem about such-and-such' or 'write a poem in such-a-such a way, or from such and such a source, or inspiration,' some of them completely and wholly random. 
            New to the online poetry world, it took me up to last year to learn that almost everybody (at least occasionally) was working from prompts. Just a couple of examples. Here's a prompt from a mainstream publication WRITERS DIGEST, which (like so many other sources) promises to give you a new one every day for the 30 days of officially poetic April:  
            "4/1.  For today’s prompt, write a foolish poem. It’s April Fool’s Day, after all. Let’s loosen up today with a poem in which we’re fools, others are fools, or there’s some kind of prank or tomfoolery happening. Fool around with it a while."
            And here, a different sort of approach to the prompt,is the offering from the high official body for National Poetry Month, . The first day's instruction was:
            "Today, I challenge you to write a lune. This is a sort of English-language haiku. While the haiku is a three-line poem with a 5-7-5 syllable count, the lune is a three-line poem with a 5-3-5 syllable count. There’s also a variant based on word-count, instead of syllable count, where the poem still has three lines, but the first line has five words, the second line has three words, and the third line has five words again. Either kind will do, and you can write a one-lune poem, or write a poem consisting of multiple stanzas of lunes. Happy writing!"
          They're starting us out with an easy one here. Haikus, for example, are popular because it is not difficult to find enough English words to produce three lines with a 5-7-5 syllable count, e.g.:
          The challenge lies less
           in counting nature's wonders 
           than ready fingers

So a 5-3-5 "lune" is a relatively quick launch. Working a poem "with multiple stanzas" proves more of a challenge. I began with:
        Visiting roses

            You always

            Give a little blood 

I'm still not satisfied with my progress through the next four stanzas, especially as I bent the rules by, on occasion, continuing the syntax of my line-three offerings into the following stanza. So I'll call this a work-in-progress, yet another "form" of poetry practitioners are all too familiar with. 

When I looked for April 2 prompts I was offered "write a he-said, she-said poem" -- nah, too likely to fall into stereotypes (though, I suppose, if you made it really funny...) -- or "write a family portrait" working from an actual family photograph. Again, this seemed like something that's done all the time. So, I tried a family portrait that compares each family member to some kind of plant or plants. A family garden? Once again, I'm not ready to share the results. 

This brings us to April 3, when, wakened at 6 a.m. by the rather substantial rattle of over-sized snow "flakes" on the window panes, not a sound I'm eager to hear when my hyacinths are blooming and the cherry tree is pushing out its white buds... I am suddenly sent back to the previously encountered (and rejected) prompt for April 1. Since it's April Fools Day (the source suggested), write a poem about fools or foolishness. 
               Foolish weather! = Foolish me! 
               Here's the result:

          The Foolish Month  

And the snow came down
like laughing madness,
some kind of joke
worked up by the season, this 
heavy-handed season,
too warm to snow (seventies last week)
yet here it is, 
in April,
foolish April,
the month for fools

Snow falls upon 
the new green growth,
sodding green leaves up like sopping paper bags, 
twists of litter blown from trash day, 
like remainders
of a life that one could sleep through,
and usually did,
but lately can not 

April, foolish April,
taking handfuls of the sky,
wadding them up like cotton balls, 
making a light-show behind the blindered window,
an electrical storm of shiny, furry particles,
white goat's hair torn from a cotton plant,
laundry fuzz,
shooting your ammunition sideways, laser-like, 
the wind driven foolish
by a foolish month 

Once I slept these sparkled hours
Now they root in my 
foolish mind

[Some links, for those who are interested, or dare:]