Saturday, 25 April 2015

Junk Folder

We need your help.
We look forward to hearing from you.
We understand it may be frustrating.

This is not a dating proposition.
This offer is not retroactive.
This address is not monitored.

Our company wants to congratulate you.
Our company is very interested in your fruit juice.
Our company wants to know more about it.

Please see attachment.
Please order RayBan sunglasses at 90% off.
Please do not reply.

We hope you are doing well.
We want to work with you.
We just need a little more information.

There are women within 13 miles of your location.
There is 720,000 US dollars waiting for you.
There are issues with your account.

Contact Mr Larry Moore to collect your prize.
Contact Mr Lee Jack in Chengdu.
Contact us by clicking on the link.

Your prize is waiting to be collected.
Your fruit juice is highly appreciated.
Your account has been limited.

We want to know more about your fruit juice.
We want to work with you.
We need your help.

Do not miss this opportunity.
Do not worry.
Do not delay.

Today's prompt from The Poetry School/Mslexia: Go into your email spam or junk folder and find an interesting communication to convert into poetry. What is the narrative behind the million dollar bank transfer promise? Who are the hot singles in your area, really? What will that fake degree qualify you for? 

I collected phrases and words from the various emails in my junk folder and combined them to form a poem. I focused on creating a generic junk-mail experience with its bizarre combination of the problem you didn't know you had and the promise you didn't know was yours.

The Bazaars

There were bazaars
laden with enormous bunches
of white grapes,
almost too intensely sweet
for folk of the early centuries,
and so these oases
became sand-buried,
washed down 
from the Kunlun Mountains
by time.

Source text: Silk Road Cooking by Najmieh Batmanglij.

Friday, 24 April 2015

The River of Stars

I lived beside a river of stars.
One day I saw a bird
fly into the water
and thought him dead. 

Then: a knock 
at the door, a place 
by the fire, three days 
without a word.

I fed him porridge oats 
and pumpkin seeds.
He sat by the window, 
looked up at clouds

with his black eyes.
Where are you from?
What can I give you?
No reply.

On the third night he set 
the moon in my hands,
wrapped in a tea-towel 
like a porcelain plate.

He opened his wings
and flew into the sky.
In dreams I followed him
along the blue road.

The stars lit my way,
shone with a gentle light.
I did not feel the cold.
And with me, the moon.

From NaPoWriMo: Today, I challenge you to take a chance, literally. Find a deck of cards (regular playing cards, tarot cards, uno cards, cards from your “Cards Against Humanity” deck – whatever), shuffle it, and take a card – any card! Now, begin free-writing based on the card you’ve chosen. Keep going without stopping for five minutes. Then take what you’ve written and make a poem from it.

Gypsy Wine

Life can be hard. 
We know that more than most.
We live with this
like we live with everything –
You are waiting 
for your troubles to be over
before you dance,
play music and sing.
You have forgotten
the dance is inside.
It's not about how 
you move your feet.
But don't worry.
You can stop 
and find what you need 
right here by the road. 
Even this road
that seems like the wrong one.

There is a bottle of wine
in your hand. It says:
I am the one they drink 
at all the celebrations.
I get up and dance 
no matter what. I am 
that crazy love that dances 
on the tables, I am 
those drunken Cossacks 
at the bar, that spinning 
wild beauty. I am
joy and sorrow 
and a heart bursting
and the violin playing so fast
I have forgotten 
my own name. I am 
what you have been missing. 
I am your own wild heart.

Let's open the bottle.
Let's drink the one we were saving
for the special occasion.
There is no tomorrow.
There is only now.
But we aren't going to give it away.
When you retrieve something 
you have forgotten,
when you purchase something 
you were careless enough to lose,
it is expensive.
There is a price for being alive,
for creating a spark 
in the vast darkness.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

You will remember this night

Driving down a long suburban road,
travelling alone in the blue dusk,
you know you cannot go back.

Every road is leading somewhere,
even this one with its rows of identical boxes,
doors shut to the evening.

Everything that happens is your road:
the houses and the people,
the lights and the dark.

You have no sense of what's inside,
but there is light in the window,
a yellow mist,

like the edge of a flame,
that does not change,
that cannot go out.

You will remember this moment 
when you stopped your car
and stood alone in the road.

You will remember this night,
this street, as beautiful,
the houses like lanterns.

Containers of light, it is right 
that the doors are closed.
In the morning they will open once again.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

On The Mat

Today's NaPoWriMo prompt: an old favorite – the erasure! This involves taking a pre-existing text and blacking out or erasing words, while leaving the placement of the remaining words intact … One easy way to get started is just to photocopy a page from a book or magazine, and black out words. Or you can copy a text into Microsoft Word, and turn the words you don’t want white. Erasures can feel almost like a game – carving new poems out of old texts like carving statues from blocks of marble — and so they take some of the anxiety out of writing. They can also lead to surprising new ideas, as the words of the original text are given new contexts.

If I had to take one type of poem away with me to a desert island it would be the blackout/erasure poem. (Although I wouldn't be travelling light. I'd also have to pack a stack of newspapers, magazines and books to use as my source material!) I have "written" several erasure poems already this month, including yesterday's poem. Thinking this was a bit naughty, I resolved that today's poem would not be an erasure poem. So, I had to laugh when I saw the NaPoWriMo prompt! Today's poem is meant to be an erasure poem. Hurrah!

Monday, 20 April 2015

The World I Know

Today's NaPoWriMo prompt: Today, I challenge to write a poem that states the things you know. For example, “The sky is blue” or “Pizza is my favorite food” or “The world’s smallest squid is Parateuthis tunicata. Each line can be a separate statement, or you can run them together. The things you “know” of course, might be facts, or they might be a little bit more like beliefs. Hopefully, this prompt will let your poem be grounded in specific facts, while also providing room for more abstract themes and ideas.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Love's Memory

At night, in the old graveyard, we kissed.
By daylight, I looked for your face but found only ghosts.

Today's NaPoWriMo prompt: I’d like to challenge you to write a landay. Landays are 22-syllable couplets, generally rhyming. The form comes from Afghanistan, where women often use it in verses that range from the sly and humorous to the deeply sardonic and melancholy. Check out this long investigative article on landays for a fascinating look into a form of poetry often composed in secret, and rarely written down. You could try to write a single landay – a hard-hitting couplet that shares some secret (or unspoken) truth, or you could try to write a poem that strings multiple landays together like stanzas (maybe something akin to a syllabic ghazal?)

Saturday, 18 April 2015



Shining and sticky, they sit on the tray, won't be there forever, I know, so they tempt,
embarrassed I even want one, me, I am so, can't bring myself to take one, no
one wants items such as these anymore, say “items” to distance, hope it will cure 
the trauma of longing, “item” sounds tasteless, generic, but we know they are cakes, 
luscious, sugar filled, raisins bursting, covered with cinnamon and deepest darkest 
chocolate. I will have to act soon. Life is slipping from under my fingers. 
And they stretch. They want.

Today's poem is inspired by an exercise from 'The Music of the Line', a chapter in The Poet's Companion by Kim Addonizio and Dorianne Laux: Take a draft of a poem and rewrite it in the following ways:
very short lines
very long lines
some length in between
in three-line stanzas
in five-line stanzas
You will probably find yourself changing some of the words as you try out the various versions, adding and deleting material.

My favourite version was the one with longer lines. I tend towards shorter lines in my poems, so it was great to break out!

Thursday, 16 April 2015

My Body and Me

It seems there are two: my body and me.
Without her sweet nose I would not smell the flowers.
She is my teacup and I am her tea.

Together we walk, we eat, and take showers.
She’s sometimes asleep when I want to go dancing,
Yet without her sweet nose I would not smell the flowers.

With her, each new day becomes a romancing.
We splash in the puddles outside when it's raining.
Though she's sometimes asleep when I want to go dancing,

And when her bones ache, it’s me that’s complaining.
But this is my place to experience life;
We splash in the puddles outside when it's raining. 

We’ve been married since birth; she’s like my wife.
I do the looking but she has the eyes.
This is my place to experience life.

We sit on the sand dunes and watch the sun rise.
I do the looking but she has the eyes.
It seems there are two: my body and me.
She is my teacup and I am her tea.

Today's NaPoWriMo prompt: I challenge you to write in the form known as the terzanelle. A hybrid of the villanelle and terza rima, terzanelles consist of five three-line stanzas and a concluding quatrain. Lines and rhymes are chained throughout the poem, so that the middle line of each triplet is repeated as the last line of the following triplet (or, for the last triplet, in the concluding quatrain). The pattern goes like this:
fAFA or fFAA.
You can use any meter or line length, though you may want to try to have all of your lines in the same meter! (And you can always fall back on that old favorite, iambic pentameter). 
So far I have shied away from the prompts that encourage a specific metre or rhyme pattern. But today I surrendered! I'm so glad I did. Without the structure of the terzanelle, this poem would not have emerged in the way that it did. I also surprised myself by having a really good time.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

The Suitcases

All the baggage, 
all the carefully selected 
valuables and practicals, 
packed in a rush, 
hardly breathing.
Our lives 
might depend on it later.
Then we are gone 
and the suitcases 
left in the square,
packed full of stories 
that won't be told.
But don't think about it.
Don't think
about the separation 
from the suitcase.
Soon, a deeper cut. 
No goodbye is possible.
The next time I see you, 
you will be smoke. 

The Brothers

The brothers bomb 
each other to bits
out in the wilderness.
They dig their holes
and make their plans,
knowing full well
there is no escape,

knowing full well it is miles 
to the nearest river.
They call up to the eagle,
each from their own holes,
and beg him: 
Tell us, what is it like
by the water?

Monday, 13 April 2015

Ode to My Ten Toes

One-eyed owls 
perched on a branch,
all with turquoise faces,
sisters singing a cappella,
a band of brothers, pacing.

Dancing partners,
long-time companions,
known since I was born,
smooth keys of a piano
on which I play my favourite song.

The end of the old road,
beginning of the new,
a landscape of mountains and valleys,
arrows pointing to the future,
I will travel with you always.

Secret agents
tracking every move,
in love with your disguises,
but when I find you naked,
you are full of strange surprises.

An illegal box 
of Cuban cigars, 
saved for a special occasion,
for that crazy party on the roof,
I won't need much persuasion.

Today's NaPoWriMo prompt: In keeping with the mysterious quality of the number 13, today I challenge you to write a riddle poem. This poem should describe something without ever naming it. Perhaps each line could be a different metaphor for the same object? Maybe the title of the poem can be the “answer” to the riddle. 
My feet seem to be the inspiration for today!