I’d like you to try your hand at a minimalist poem. What’s that? Well, a poem that is quite short, and that doesn’t really try to tell a story, but to quickly and simply capture an image or emotion. Haiku are probably the most familiar and traditional form of minimalist poetry, but there are plenty of very short poems out there that do not use the haiku form.
Day 30 prompt from napowrimo.net
The link above is fascinating! I learned a lot about micro-level word play and have given it a try in the poem below. Minimalism is not exactly my middle name, so I have tried to squeeze a lot of meanings into a few garbled words.
Today’s prompt from napowrimo.net is to write “a poem that meditates, from a position of tranquility, on an emotion you have felt powerfully.”
I’m not sure how tranquil a meditation this is, but it’s certainly about emotional dynamics I have experienced myself.
My presence has been pastel at most. Not white, not quite pearl, but tinted with some quiet colour. Yellow, likely, or a seeping peach-rose subtle enough to be imagination.
I’ve been hotel wallpaper of this shade. People around and inside me have trashed the place, stained me with splashed blue shooters, not tipped the woman who breaks her back to maintain the space. Looked straight through her. The way they treat her is not right yet it is not my place, as wallpaper, to say something. This place is truly not mine.
When they stay up late, I glow as cozy as I can and hum imperceptible. They drift off in the wee hours not knowing they are hearing
Hush you know no better hush you were raised this way hush it’ll change when you’re older hush you only long to impress and belong hush I get it I get it I get it hush never said I was angry hush it’s okay it’s okay it’s okay
I get less sleep than they do and dream that I am shaking glass-framed prints from my pastel skin and propelling shards into feather pillows and pouring screams from my every not-pearl pore.
In that dream, which is recurring and mysterious, my foundations are unstable and my skin rips away and is gunmetal grey concrete underneath. It scrapes and soon gives way in slabs. I am collapsing inward and if anyone is in the way, it is not my place or capability to not collapse for their sake.
In the soft morning light, my off-pearl cross-hatching looks part-golden.
When I see the maid rummaging through trash on the nightstand hoping for a tip for half a lunch for her kid, I
I was wrong about that. I latched onto a weird idea late last night and barely slept as a result. Here is what I came up with:
The longer I spend in poetry— the reading and the writing— the more the rest of time strikes me as water seeming stone, from speed.
What I mean is, have you ever sat at the back of a motorboat and skidded your fingers over water gone solid as the shore? Watched your fingers strobe over lake like the white line of a highway lane dashed under your wrist, out the window?
Treating water as a freeway is just one skim of what water can do.
Poetry is slow, more like steering a canoe through the symmetry and asymmetry of whirlpools. You drag water towards its inner self on either side with biceps getting stronger from resistance of other water. Sunlight scribbles its fibs on waves too fast to be read. A solar language spills its code over the surface like a film reel’s 3, 2, 1. The flashes jostle fast, but poetry itself is slow.
Poetry is slow, more like diving off the edge of the canoe, fully clothed. Poetry is kelp and grit lodged in waterlogged wool—and the pull, the pull, the pull, the pull. Gradually you will smell the brine in your bloodline. If you widen your throat by gliding increments, you will survive. You will breathe out upward-fleeting crystal balls. Peer into them now. Soon they will burst gasping at the surface. Crystals shatter fast, but poetry itself is slow.
Poetry is slow, more like the ages of open-palmed patience it takes to gain intimacy with water. Molecules are skittish, so handle them only softly, and show up when you say you will each day. Wait. When you see your fingers wrinkle with old age and oversoak, that’s a sign you are doing it right. Water has ventured into you at your very tips. Suddenly you start to wonder who is waiting for whom: are you the water part, greeting your land companion? You have always been mainly water, and now you feel it, and now you greet with patience and knowing the water in others. And they in you. The wondering dawns fast, but poetry itself is slow.
Poetry is slow, so if you sink for a time into its underwater/one-with-water realm, you may need to sprint for the bus under stones of speeding rain, 40 minutes late for some land thing. When you collapse into your seat, be slow enough to notice any riders with eyes rising from books, inner fish splashing languid light from their irises into yours.
I’d like to challenge you to “remix” a Shakespearean sonnet. Here’s all of Shakespeare’s sonnets. You can pick a line you like and use it as the genesis for a new poem. Or make a “word bank” out of a sonnet, and try to build a new poem using the same words (or mostly the same words) as are in the poem. Or you could try to write a new poem that expresses the same idea as one of Shakespeare’s sonnets, like “hey baby, this poem will make you immortal” (Sonnet XVIII) or “I’m really bad at saying I love you but maybe if I look at you adoringly, you’ll understand what I mean” (Sonnet XXIII).
My love is as a fever, longing still for that which keeps reloading the disease. The flame of Tinder o’erpowers my will; I scroll, re-read your profile with unease. I scrutinize your smile for any sign of your ambivalence about our split. You’ve listed dealbreakers. These cross the line: possessive, needy, jealous. Am I it? To check, I open Instagram, review our short romance’s poignant gallery. Was my devotion so unkind to you that you saw fit, on Facebook, to block me? I Google Image Search you, and screenshot more fuel to keep my five-year fever hot.
Today, I’d like to challenge you to write a poem that uses repetition. You can repeat a word, or phrase. You can even repeat an image, perhaps slightly changing or enlarging it from stanza to stanza, to alter its meaning. There are (perhaps paradoxically) infinite possibilities in repetition.
Day 26 prompt from napowrimo.net
At Fitness World, the free weights space sprawls,
beats and ripples like heat on the highway.
Reps to gain. Reps to make pain not pain. Reps to face a threshold. Reps to grow some skin. Reps to grow a pair. Reps to grow one body part. Reps to shrink another part. Reps to pay penance. Reps to look in the mirror and smile. Reps to like it. Reps to stand it. Reps to not smash it. Reps to keep shards at bay. Reps to smash the patriarchy. Reps to catcall convincingly. Reps to win against the state. Reps to walk home late. Reps to bash back. Reps to bash harder. Reps to recover. Reps to rewind. Reps to relax. Reps to go elsewhere. Reps to go numb to the touch. Reps to rumble like a machine gun. Reps to go numb like a machine gun. Reps to struggle up from rock bottom. Reps to make a comeback. Reps to have your back. Reps to make you mine. Reps to turn back time. Reps to leave childhood behind. Reps to prove them wrong. Reps to be better. Reps to belong. Reps to fortify the ribs. Reps to build a dam. Reps to turn liquid into power.
I’d like to challenge you to write a poem that is specific to a season, uses imagery that relates to all five senses (sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell), and includes a rhetorical question (like Keats’ “where are the songs of spring?”).
Day 25 prompt from napowrimo.net
Between any two days in April hangs just the finest film of sunshine.
A backlit bedsheet flaps light-damp on the line,
its long-bleached rosebuds seeming sun-kissed and revived.
A moth with membraned petal wings pursues the sun, too white.
I keep awakening far too early. Is this why?
My cocoon cracks green over daybreak’s squinting divide.
One leg stays larval, straining against its sheet.
Through blackout drapes, a dew-crushed smell shakes morning into me.
Between any two months of April hangs a familiar angle of light.
In another April, we sweetened and stained our sheets with berry wine.
Now I stare through cotton into sun and still spot violet flaring in the sky.
I still hear Ella on repeat. I used to loop her voice low and wise
about spring and sonnets and a kiss that can wake flowers and trees,
not hearing her sing love is just a ghost. Now translucent April visits me.
Today’s (optional) prompt is to write a poem that [. . .] is inspired by a reference book. Locate a dictionary, thesaurus, or encyclopedia, open it at random, and consider the two pages in front of you to be your inspirational playground for the day.
Day 24 prompt from napowrimo.net
Fun exercise! I got into playing with formatting so am posting the poem as a series of three images. This should help me rein in my editing compulsion.
The dictionary content is from pages 876 and 877 of The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 2011.