Catching Up on the Postacrds

Finally, the inevitable happened: I skipped a day. Which, considering it was the first time in 39 days consecutive days of writing a poem on a postcard a day, it’s not too bad. I am, however, making up for the blip today, with both a calligram for day nine of NaPoWriMo, and an abecedarian poem for day ten. Unfortunately, due to the fact that I’ll be on the road tomorrow with probably no access to the internet, I’ll have to skip another day. But I will make up for it on Sunday!

So, then. For yesterday’s “visual poem” prompt I decided to make a little butterfly calligram. Unfortunately, however, it appears that the original doesn’t look much like the butterfly poem I had in mind (more like a misshaped fly, perhaps). Ooops!

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So I tried to recreate it with the Word Art function of Word, to make it more legible, and also to give you a better idea of what I actually intended to make:

calligram

I have a special obsession for lepidoptera, and it so happens that Vladimir Nabokov also had a soft spot for the little fluttering creatures. As I was thinking about how best to make the calligram, I was reminded of his poem “In Paradise”, which, although not of the visual kind, features some really striking imagery (I mean, come on, his angel is “a semi-pavonian creature”!) which I adore.

And today’s prompt – to write an “abecedarian poem” – reminded me of Edward Gorey’s emblematic “The Gashlycrumb Tinies”, which is possibly the best alphabet poem I’ve ever read. Here’s my own (and I have to apologise again for the fact that the scanner decide to cut out some of my handwriting):

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The Writer’s Primer

A is the steeple of the church where my thoughts enter unarmed
B is the shape of your lips, wordless and unguarded
C is retreating in the shell of my dilated nights
D is a convex mirror wherein my selves are reassembled
E is the rack upon which destines lie embalmed
F is reaching for hope when no one is around
G is the chair that rocks me to silence
H is the step just one foot too high
I is the wicker man too heavy to carry
J is the tail shed before I was born
K is the shadow I often recede in
L is the seat with a view to the sea
M is my name when I exit pursued by a bear
N is the bend of my knee
O is the shape of a breath drawn in winter
P is the white flag whenever I falter
Q is the trace of my lingering doubts
R is a kick in the sand
S is the body twisted in languor
T is the gate between worlds
U is the fosse where Atlantis is hidden
V is the base of your throat
W is the knot of illicit hands under tables
X is the rage to be deeply alive
Y is the spin of the phrase
Z is the roundabout journey of lies

A Postcard for the Greedy

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Buy and Sell

Gold trappings
to keep the congress
of our masks in place –
one only puts so much
wealth into heartbreak
as one can afford to lose.
Behind the treasure,
little dark slits
mark the uselessness
of looking, and noticing.
Like indigenous puppets,
whose bare eye sockets
exorcise misfortune,
so we place our bets
on hollow icons,
and lock our chests
to spare the nothing we own.

A Postcard for the Flighty Ones

For day six of NaPoWriMo, of course.

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Morning Birds

I could have chosen to close my eyes
against the budding sun,
to plunge back into the sedate
chaos of improbabilities fuelled
by your nest-like warmth.
But I could not ignore the expectant
taps if your heart, so clearly audible
with only the thin calls of
morning birds in a moderate climate
to outweigh them. The fluctuations
of your sleep intimated my intrusion:
I had to check out before breakfast, or else
pay for another night (and you always claim
the blood and the bone with the flesh).
So adieu, my love, I am not fond of debts.

Postcarding Emily Dickinson

Now, today’s NaPoWriMo prompt was fun:

Today’s prompt (optional, as always) is a variation on a teaching exercise that the poet Anne Boyer uses with students studying the work of Emily Dickinson. As you may know, although Dickinson is now considered one of the most original and finest poets the United States has produced, she was not recognized in her own time. One reason her poems took a while to gain a favorable reception is their slippery, dash-filled lines. Those dashes baffled her readers so much that the 1924 edition of her complete poems replaced some with commas, and did away with others completely. Today’s exercise asks you to do something similar, but in the interests of creativity, rather than ill-conceived “correction.” Find an Emily Dickinson poem – preferably one you’ve never previously read – and take out all the dashes and line breaks. Make it just one big block of prose. Now, rebreak the lines. Add words where you want. Take out some words. Make your own poem out of it!

And then I definitely made it my own… I chose this Dickinson poem to rework.

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And I, a Silence

I felt a funeral in my brain, where mourners made their nest
from twigs of sense, thought breaking through, all seated to be blessed.
A service, like a drum of lead, beat for this congregation –
I thought my mind was going numb, compressed into stagnation.
But then I heard them lift a box and creak across my soul
in unison, with boots of dread, that shook my spirit whole.
Again the Space began to toll, and all the bells an Ear,
and I, a Silence, shrunk within my own poor skull in fear.
Some stranger race, whose solitary calibre made it strong,
might now emerge from this stale mouth in waves of reasoned song.
My hope dropped down, a shift of worlds, and plunged me in the Knowing,
I walked the Plank, and then I thought in truth my mind was going –

A Postcard for Unusual Loves

And now for today’s prompt (optional, as always). Love poems are a staple of the poetry scene. It’s pretty hard to be a poet and not write a few – or a dozen – or maybe six books’ worth. But because so many love poems have been written, there are lots of clichés. Fill your poems with robins and hearts and flowers, and you’ll sound more like a greeting card than a bard. So today, I challenge you to write a “loveless” love poem. Don’t use the word love! And avoid the flowers and rainbows. And if you’re not in the mood for love? Well, the flip-side of the love poem – the break-up poem – is another staple of the poet’s repertoire. If that’s more your speed at present, try writing one of those, but again, avoid thunder, rain, and lines beginning with a plaintive “why”? Try to write a poem that expresses the feeling of love or lovelorn-ness without the traditional trappings you associate with the subject matter.

When I saw today’s NaPoWriMo prompt, I knew exactly what poem I needed to write. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a postcard featuring a snail, so I had to make do with something more suggestive than explicit.

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Kiss of a Snail

as it approaches your finger,
as its lips suck down on it
tentatively – because what is
this hard, immobile, warm
mass? it does not taste
of death
– its tentacles quiver,
dodging airborne dust.
when it comes, though cold,
it is the closest you’ve
ever felt to a solution,
invisible teeth bite down
with all-conquering acceptance.
your skin will blunt them,
they will be shed by morning.
in slow ascent of kisses,
it takes hours for you
to be surmounted as an obstacle.
you sink within patience –
this must be the peak
of meditation: you are
the mountain, and the path,
and the home.

A Memory-Postcard

And so I work my way into (or around) the fourteener.

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The Great Flood

This is from the day when I knew the coin had two faces,
both the same, both yours. On that day, my final doubts shattered:
unhinged, my heart slipped out of its cave and, hitting the bridge,
became a river which became a flood. Pillars went down.
Had I not had newly-forged memories, I would have drowned,
so strong was the current of your answers which I didn’t want.