April Madness


Poets.0rg April Poster

The Many Ways a Poet Views April

Counting down the days
Anticipation builds
Thirty days of poetry

Day one –
Poets sit down
and furiously type
filled with excitement

Day two –
Excitement does not
wane encouraged by
views and comments

Day three –
Begin to question:
How much longer
must I persist

Day four –
Alas poor poet
has not even progressed
past one week

Day five –
One sixth of the way
to thirty days
boosted by fellow poets

Day six –
I am not alone
one week completion
in sight

Day seven –
One week checked off
Wait, there are still
twenty-three days to go
the madness sets in

NaPoWriMo Prompt Day 6 – Today, I’d like to challenge you to write a poem that looks at the same thing from various points of view. The most famous poem of this type is probably Wallace Stevens’ “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird”. You don’t need to have thirteen ways of looking at something – just a few will do!

Welcome back to the madness otherwise known as NaPoWriMo. Obviously there are several ways to view the month of April. But by May first, I’m usually ready to retire to my padded room safe and snug in my straight jacket. As April progresses this year, I may even build on this little poem. Thank you to everyone who stops by and reads these crazy creations of mine.


NaPoWriMo 2016 Day 27


Poets.0rg April Poster


Cultivating Poetry

The final
Wednesday writing
Long lines. I start slowly building
Syllable count line by line using Fibonacci
Numbers. One repeats becoming two then three to five adds up to eight becomes thirteen.
The sequence can be carried on as far as one wishes to multiply poetic lines; however the lines do grow unwieldy as weeds.
After climbing up to thirty-four, it is time to trim syllable count line by line.
Twenty-one falls to thirteen, then eight is cut to five.
A gardener cultivates crops
As a poet tends
To meter
And rhyme

NaPoWriMo Prompt – Today’s prompt comes to us from Megan Pattie, who points us to the work of the Irish poet Ciaran Carson, who increasingly writes using very long lines. Carson has stated that his lines are (partly) based on the seventeen syllables of the haiku, and that he strives to achieve the clarity of the haiku in each line. So today, Megan and I collectively challenge you to write a poem with very long lines. You can aim for seventeen syllables, but that’s just a rough guide. If you’re having trouble buying into the concept of long lines, maybe this essay on Whitman’s infamously leggy verse will convince you of their merits. Happy writing!

Long lines, ewww. I’m not really a fan. My attempts at prose poetry always seem to fall short. Also I just prefer short poetry. But since we are suppose to write long lines, I thought I would work on a Fibonacci verse and build up to a 34 syllable line.

Interview – Jessica Piazza

As I’m sure readers are aware, I’ve been following the platform challenge at Writer’s Digest. One of the tasks was to interview an expert. Many of the platform building tasks are already part of my routine. I’m on Facebook and twitter. I even participate in live twitter chats. And because of this, I knew of a few published poets I could email about interviewing, but it meant I actually had to come up with questions. Ugh…

Enter Jessica Piazza, I’ve been following her Poetry has Value project all year. Ms. Piazza has decided she wants her poetry to pay off. She’s tired of the starving poet syndrome. At the start of the year, she began submitting poems to paying markets only. She has kept a blog on her poetry has value experience here. Ms. Piazza has also interviewed several poetry editors from different journals, sharing their expertise with her readers. I thought since the year was winding down, I could see how she felt about her poetry has value journey. She was kind enough to answer my questions. Thanks, Jess!

1. When did you start writing?
I won a poetry contest in fourth grade with a poem about the Holocaust.  That probably doesn’t count.  Like so many high school kids, I wrote bad poetry in my teen years, too. I think I actually started getting serious about it through creative writing classes in college. I went to Boston University and had some amazing poetry professors that were passionate about poetry, and it made me realize it could be a real pursuit and not just an angsty source of expression.  I ended up working in the intern office of the U.S. Poet Laureate at the time, Robert Pinsky, who taught at BU.  It was amazing.

2. Why did you begin the poetry has value campaign?
I was actually inspired by a friend, another poet named Dena Rash Guzman. She had been talking to me and some other friends about trying to send poetry to more paying journals in 2015 because she, like so many writers, had to be serious about budgeting and was tired of seeing her hard work published without getting compensated for it.  It really started a fire for me. I’d not really thought about how much work I’d given away to magazines, and in fact how much money I’d spent on submission fees, submitting in general, all that. It didn’t feel fair, really. And it felt radical to propose an experiment in which I’d only send to paying markets for a whole year. I was curious and I was a little exhausted and I wanted to see what would happen if I insisted that others value my work monetarily.

3. What are your writing goals?
My writing goal is writing! Ass in chair. Write like a motherfucker (thanks, Cheryl Strayed!) Just do it. Get it out. Create. Make art. I’ll do that forever and my first and foremost goal is living that life.  My publishing and career goals, of course, are a bit more complex. I have a new collection coming out with Red Hen Press (Obliterations, co-written with Heather Aimee O’Neill) in April, and I’d love to start serious work on my next solo collection. I teach at the university level and would love to continue doing so, particularly in creative writing. I want to write, publish in a lot of magazines, advocate for other writers and teach. A full writing life: that’s the goal.

4. What kind of feedback have you gotten throughout the campaign?
It’s mostly been positive, which makes me very grateful. A lot of people have said they feel empowered by the idea that someone should value their art both monetarily AND spiritually.  The negative feedback I’ve had hasn’t been too bad, and all of it has been understandable. The truth is, journals struggle as much as writers, and are mostly run by volunteers. So many of them barely stay afloat that some people think it’s unreasonable for them to pay writers. The question, then, of whether they should stay in business is a real one. If they are businesses and not non-profits, what does that mean? What should the best practices be? Those are questions I get from some people who question the campaign, and they’re good ones. The very worst feedback comes from those who imply that I care less about my writing or art in general (or that I’m taking away some spiritual worth) by hoping for payment. The classic sellout insult. I don’t worry too much about it, though.  When Eric Fischl starts giving away his paintings for free because he doesn’t want to be called a sellout, then I’ll worry.  The very best feedback I get is from other poets who write to tell me they’ve submitted to a paying journal who accepted their piece and they’re getting paid for their poetry, sometimes for the first time. To hear that they’d never have submitted to a paying market without the Poetry Has Value project is amazing.

5. Do you believe the poetry has value campaign has helped with your author platform?
I honestly don’t know.  I hope so, of course, but that isn’t the reason I did it. Advocacy for poetry and poets is important to me because I already am a part of this field, not because I want to be a greater part of it.  If people seek out my work because I’m an advocate, I’m very grateful to them.  But I haven’t seen that happen too much yet. Of course, it’s possible I’m not privy to how many people find my work through the PHV project. If advocating for ALL poets helps bring people to my specific poetry, I certainly won’t complain.

6. Would you consider the campaign a success?
That’s an interesting question. Maybe I’m not sure what I would consider success yet, in terms of the campaign. I wanted this pledge and project to spark conversations about poetry, money and worth…and I think it has. I’d definitely like to see more of that: more transparency and more debate.  To that end, I’ll keep going.  But, again, people have written me saying they were inspired to value their work, or they got paid for poetry, or they feel like they’re empowered. And that’s a pretty good definition of success in my book.

First Day of School

Screen Shot 2015-07-26 at 10.01.28 AM

Gretchen smiling at Disneyland


Follow girls to bus stop
Inquire where it is
Remember first day of school
Standing with wide-eyed freshmen
Timid about making friends

The first day of school for freshmen was Monday August 3rd. Rachael didn’t start until Wednesday but she was up bright and early to walk her sister to the bus stop. Yes, I have a terrible time getting pictures of Gretchen. The Disney photographer actually caught the girl with a smile on her face when we met Elsa and Anna. I was impressed.

Since the first day is freshmen only, there were only three kids at the bus stop. I wrote my #haikuchallenge Monday about it.

Waiting at bus stop
Count how many freshmen show
My entertainment

Agua Fria starts super early 7:20am except Wednesdays which are late start. Monday only three kids showed up at the bus stop; Tuesday the first day for everyone only four kids were there. I figured high schoolers were “too cool” to ride the bus. But Wednesday when the bus picks them up at 8:15 about a dozen kids were there. Yesterday at 6:45 there was still a good number, but it went down slightly this morning. Well first week of school complete thirty-nine to go.

Disneyland 60 Haiku

How to chill after
hard work canoeing around
Tom Sawyer Island

Mom, Gretchen and Dad canoeing in Magic Kingdom

Mom, Gretchen and Dad canoeing in Magic Kingdom

Once upon a time, I would canoe with my dad. He would do most of the work, paddling on one side and then the other of the canoe. This was our first time at Disneyland when the canoes were open. We went on the ride. Wow! Paddling is hard work especially with only one good hand. To all the able-bodied paddlers in the canoe with me – THANKS!

Chillin on Splash Mountain

Chillin on Splash Mountain

Canoe around Tom
Sawyer Island then chill out
on Splash Mountain flume

In case anyone has not realized the #haikuchallenge word today is chill. I’m chillin out on the last day of summer break, writing a little poetry.

NaPoWriMo Day 28

Peace Bridge

spans across
Niagara river
brings two countries together
drab green color blends in well
offers no pizazz
to skyline

Voice of Niagara Peace Bridge photo

NaPoWriMo Prompt – And now for today’s prompt (optional, as always). Today, I’d like to challenge you to write a poem about bridges. A bridge is a powerful metaphor, and when you start looking for bridges in poems, you find them everywhere. Your poem could be about a real bridge or an imaginary or ideal bridge. It could be one you cross every day, or one that simply seems to stand for something larger – for the idea of connection or distance, for the idea of movement and travel and new horizons.

It’s funny how life works at times. I’ve been working on a bridge poem thinking about Big Bridges Motion poems submission call. Deadline is now May 15th so fellow napowrimo poets if you think your bridge poem has what it takes…

Meanwhile we have been bridging some personal family issues. Hopefully making a stronger connection. And of course Rachael bridged into NHS. They lit a candle for each inductee. It really reminded me of how they bridge in girl scouts, but there was no physical bridge and they didn’t say exactly what the candles signified. Yes, Rachael’s girl scout troop actually bridged up to the next level. Gretchen will be “bridging” up to high school. I just got an email about the parent praise letters they want us to write to our children?! My other daughter graduated from this same school three years ago and I didn’t hear about praise letters. On top of this, there was an example letter. I know you’re quiet and don’t talk to me about your day. Umm… whose kid are they raising? We have dinner together almost every night and both my girls fill me in on their day. Then the email said, letter should be one page. Ha! they really don’t know me. When the girls applied for the middle school honors program, Dad went to the parent meeting on what is expected. He came home and told me, parents have to fill out this section. Damn woman you wrote a book. Yes, we already had the paper work and I know how to read. It wasn’t my fault they didn’t give me enough room and I added another page. I’m a writer, after all. I wonder what the school will think when I send in a praise poem over a letter.

NaPoWriMo Day 21

Blurred Reality

Two kinds of pills

yellow pills

shoved away hurt                                            left the mind on
blue ones
time was sheared away

Stuff dances

dancing memories

uninvited dancing stuff tickled

sashayed                  darted                    plunged
shook loose
blue                                                                                      black

Winter's Bone by: Daniel Woodrell p. 162

Winter’s Bone by: Daniel Woodrell p. 162

NaPoWriMo Prompt – Our prompt for today (optional, as always) is 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. 

I don’t play well with photoshop and it looks like I was trying to erase too hard. On the plus side it gave me an excellent title. Only nine days remain of this insanity. And then summer break officially begins in a month on May 21st. Gretchen’s graduation ceremony is at 10:30 am that day. Rachael is registered for a summer class and I still have to figure out vacation plans. Meanwhile the NHS induction ceremony is on Thursday; Rachael will be filling up volunteer hours this weekend; and at some point the middle school will have its science fair and spring concert. Maybe I’ll be able to catch my breath in June.

NaPoWriMo Day 18

Leary Trip

Day eighteen of bleary, weary trip
My verse becomes dreary, sneery quip

Me, myself and I at Buffalo State (alma mater)

Me, myself and I at Buffalo State (alma mater)

NaPoWriMo Prompt – And now for our (as always, optional) prompt, which takes us from 2015 back to the 1700s. After all, it’s the eighteenth of April, which means that today is the 240th anniversary of the midnight ride of Paul Revere! Today, in keeping with the theme of rush and warning, I challenge you to write a poem that involves an urgent journey and an important message. It could historical, mythical, entirely fictional, or memoir-ical.

My journey (and it is by no means enhanced by anything more than beery) started at Buffalo State where I earned a BS in English Secondary Education in 1996. When I saw the poetry resource today – Our poetry resource for the day is The Electronic Poetry Center at the University of Buffalo, where you’ll find an extensive online library of resources devoted to electronic, digital, and formally innovative poetry. Including flarf! I knew I had to include a picture from Buffalo. Recently Shawn and I got together with fellow Buff State grads transplanted to the desert at a Coyotes/Sabres game. The first video lesson for the How Writers Write Poetry MOOC talked about bank registers as a type of journal. I noticed the other day I paid for the game with check # 1996, the year we both graduated from Buff State.

Sign for Alumni get together. Photo Credit: Nick Mahoney

Sign for Alumni get together. Photo Credit: Nick Mahoney

It popped out at me because of the MOOC. And may or may not be used in future poetry. Hope everyone enjoys the last 12 days of this poetry trip.

NaPoWriMo Day 15


Fifteenth halfway
through month writing poems
Any tips for poets feeling

Motivation Poster from poets.org

Motivation Poster from poets.org

NaPoWriMo Prompt – And now for our prompt (optional, as always). Today, I challenge you to write a poem that addresses itself or some aspect of its self (i.e. “Dear Poem,” or “what are my quatrains up to?”; “Couplet, come with me . . .”) This might seem a little meta at first, or even kind of cheesy. But it can be a great way of interrogating (or at least, asking polite questions) of your own writing process and the motivations you have for writing, and the motivations you ascribe to your readers.

Halfway through the month yes, I’m getting frazzled but it isn’t just because of poetry. Where to find the motivation to keep going? I went over to writer’s digest to see what the PAD challenge was today. I was excited to see today’s guest judge is Alberto Rios (Arizona’s poet laureate). The prompt there was to write an adjective poem. Well I know how I’m feeling at this halfway point between poetry, MOOC, school projects, and a full house – can we say worn out. I do have my national poetry month poster to keep me going. And maybe my state poet laureate will answer my poem with some good tips. 😉

NaPoWriMo Day 14

Conversation Before Caffeine

What are you doing?
I don’t know.
I’m glad you don’t know.
You are
Where is the coffee?
If you don’t know 
how would I?

Beware! Sleep deprived
Mom without coffee.
Listen to her carry on
step by step instruction
to herself
Early and often…
conversing before caffeine.

My children know I'm crazy

My children know I’m crazy

NaPoWriMo Prompt – And now for our optional prompt! Today, I challenge you to write a poem that takes the form of a dialogue. Your conversant could be real people, or be personifications, as in Andrew Marvell’s A Dialogue Between the Soul and the Body, or Yeats’ A Dialogue of Self and Soul. Like Marvell, and Yeats, you could alternate stanzas between your two speakers, or perhaps you could give them alternating lines. Your speakers could be personifications, like those in Marvell and Yeats’ poems, or they could be two real people. Hopefully, this prompt will give you a chance to represent different points of view in the same poem, or possibly to create a dramatic sense of movement and tension within the poem.

We are almost half way done with April. One may think I’ve just begun to converse with myself. Not to worry this is a common occurrence often. When the girls have friends over, they are amused to hear me carry on in the kitchen cooking dinner. Yes, these conversations occur even after caffeine. My Little One got the stickers in the picture at a school book fair. She was particularly proud of the top one.

Of course to add to the insanity of April, I signed up for the How Writers Write Poetry 2015 MOOC which started yesterday. One of the assignments was to write a quatrain. I used my riddle poem since it had four lines. They also reused Robert Hass’s talk from the first course over the summer on sketching poetry. He talked about question/answer. I used this with the #haikuchallenge word on twitter (glance) to come up with a haiku.

Acrostic riddle
Will answer pop with a glance
Left letters bolded

The problem with this second MOOC though is they are using a different website. For me and many of the other students, trying to navigate the forum to post assignments is complicated. And personally I have my mother-in-law here. She is moving here but having complications of her own with closing on a house. In the meantime it puts her in my house, and I have to be sociable can’t keep myself locked away writing and reading poetry all day.