2021 is my 10th completion of Robert Lee Brewer’s Poem A Day (PAD) challenge. That’s 300 poems written. I also do most of Robert’s weekly prompts, most of his November PADs, and I write poems on my own, occasionally. A conservative estimate is maybe 80 poems a year (30+30+20) over ten years or 800 poems.
800 poems in a life is a lot of poems. 800 in a decade may seem excessive. Really though, it’s hardly enough. I do not call myself a poet. I write poetry to learn about writing, about poetry but also prose. To me, poetry is focused wording, focused imagery, condensed lyricism. I consider myself a prose writer, and I want to have lyrical elements in my stories, I want strong imagery, I want to tell stories without telling them, all things poetry does.
Usually I am happy with something like a dozen of my 30 poems during these events. This month I was happy with two. Here is one of them.
All Our Futures
It’s not so much he only cared for himself
some of the greatest leaders, inventors, and innovators were narcissists
it’s not so much his morality was lacking
even the holiest can have their bad days
it’s not so much he stole all their money
they would have just wasted it anyway
it’s not so much he lied through his teeth
who hasn’t told a fib now and then?
it’s not so bad he cheats at golf
really, who hasn’t kicked his own ball back in the fairway?
what’s so bad is he stole so many minds
when truth is denied, the future is lost
The prompt for the day was Villain. It employs the rhetorical device called Anaphora which is the repetition of words at the begging of each phrase or sentence. Anaphora emphasizes each phrase and adds effective rhythm. The poem is a commentary on the present day political divide. Of course it’s aimed at #45, but he is such an easy target. Most of the literary world is against him, most who read widely are against him, so of course people liked this poem. I am not happy with the last line as it’s a retelling of the 4th line. But even if I change it, this is still a rather trite poem. I feel no inclination to expand or polish it. It was fun to write, but it will likely die in my cloud.
Most of my poems this month were rather prosaic. I’ve been reading Billy Collins’ poetry and he has a rather conversational narrative style. If you’ve never read him, please do so. He’s inspired my month of bad poems. I am afraid I fail at emulating his style.
I don’t yet know if I am happy with the following poem, but I had fun writing it. I won’t know if I’m happy with most of my poems until I put them to bed and wake them up some months later. Maybe in late summer I’ll discover a line or phrase, maybe a whole stanza, maybe a whole poem or even a series of poems that demand further work. But that time is not yet here. So just read it and feel my brain churn as I wrote this mess. It is an untitled Ekphrastic poem
There is a woman in it
that much I am sure of
the rest of it is, well
a mess is the easy euphemism.
She might be holding a vase
A rat gaping at cherries — or is that a fish?
Or an English hedgehog —
and leaping from the white glass.
Only the woman and the vase,
the hedgehog, a rose, something
that looks like an otter’s head
and cherries are white, all else is blue
With bits of green, yellow,
and blobs of red. The tall stalagmite —
or maybe it’s a cactus or a stalk —
has two giant strawberries
Not dangling like normal strawberries
but embedded like stained glass
you can’t even see through, any of it
all of it, abstract and senseless.
That otter sniffing the rose
which is held by the red stumpy
watermelon man with no rind
and drips down on two men
Yellow, watching a backwards elephant
sneeze laundry and kites, and a green
elephant at the bottom sniffing Australia
which is also green so you know it has to be not real, But it’s the giant cargo ship
thrusting out of a map Puget Sound
like an alien from a belly that the girls attention.
You know it has to mean something.
The painting I wrote to is by Chelle Stein and can be found at her blog,
There is one poem I am quite pleased with. I am so happy with it, I already submitted it to the 2021 Canada Writes Poetry Contest. When I don’t win that, I will submit it somewhere for publication. Rattle Maybe. I did not post any of it at the PAD site, and I am not posting any of it here. It needs to remain unpublished. It is my practice to not publish my good poems online. It’s immediate disqualification for most literary considerations. Sorry.
I wrote this fantabulous poem to the prompt Waiting. It was April 17th so about ten days after the completion of The Masters golf tournament. I immediately pictured the pro golfers standing on Augusta’s 12th tee looking up at the tree tops and waiting for the wind to let up long enough to put their ball on the green instead of into Ray’s Creek. Oh the drama! The night before I had watched PBS’s Poetry In America episode on Elizabeth Bishop’s poem One Art. I fell in love with this poem, and I had the Villanelle form firmly implanted in my head. I wrote a first stanza, said “Dang, this is strong,” and I quickly opened Rhyme Zone. It then sucked five days out of my life, I quickly sought and found some feedback from the Seaside Scribes writing group I belong to, and I zipped it up tight and sent it off. I think it is a solid poem, a real solid poem, but it’s about golf and it’s about the esoteric struggles a golfer faces on the course with his friends in the wind. A golfer will love it. A poetry judge may just say, “Huh?”
I did not so much have fun this month as push through with my head down. I wrote a poem or two every day, I posted most, and I filled 37 pages of my current poetry journal. As I work away at my novel, I feel myself trying to write richer prose, so in that regard it’s a success.