I was saddened recently when I saw the announcement that readwritepoem, a poetry community blog that I have participated in over the last few years, was shutting down. Some of my best poems (or at least some of my favorites) came in response to readwritepoem’s weekly prompts, and the comments from readers who found my blog via readwritepoem were always supportive, appreciative, and constructive. And of course reading the works of other poets, seeing how the same prompt could lead to an amazing variety of end results, was inspiring.
So I was really really happy today to discover that one of the leaders of readwritepoem has started up Big Tent Poetry as a community blog to carry on the weekly prompts, with the prompt posted on Mondays and the invitation to post poems on that prompt posted on Fridays. I missed last week’s inaugural prompt but this week’s prompt seems right up my alley, so look for my first BTP poem tomorrow!
Update (May 14, 2010) This week’s theme was “listening to language” and I thought this old poem of mine would fit the topic well, since it is all about the sounds, not meaning.
heron’s cry —
in the falling darkness
autumn thunder, evening
a branch trembles
as crow goes wandering
the petals alight
on mountain snow
heat-faded remains of daffodils,
their journey withered
Snow comes early in the mountains, but dried flower petals retain the memory of summer’s heat. And everything has its own journey to make, whether long or short.
I linked this poem to the readwritepoem blog, where there is a weekly poetry “prompt” inviting people to submit poems on a new theme each week. This week’s theme was giving up control, writing a poem by pulling randomly from a bag of words that had been cut up from a different source — another poem, a newspaper article, or even a memo from the boss at work :-).
I randomly selected words from some of my favorite haiku from Basho. Here they are as I pulled them from the bag (highlighting the phrases that I used for my poem):
heron’s cry falling darkness two blossoms field echo lightning above nightfall temple autumn thunder evening branch trembles wandering goes crow petal alights mountain snow leaves shimmering heat faded remain daffodils journey withered inches dead silence one into perfect fragrant enough waterfall’s rose barely dried bells sick first bend dream grass stabs
Then all I did was add some line breaks and a few tweaks for grammar. If you are going to try to make a poem from words pulled from a bag, you could do worse than starting with Basho’s words!
(You can read other poets’ submissions on the theme at the readwritepoem blog too.)
simile: a figure of speech comparing two unlike things, often introduced by like or as.
metaphor: a figure of speech in which a word or phrase literally denoting one kind of object or idea is used in place of another to suggest a likeness or analogy between them.
— Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary
life is like a simile
i compare yours to mine
pretending they should be the same
why aren’t you more like me?
life is a metaphor
if i see the world through your eyes
if i walk a mile in your shoes
who will meet me when i arrive?
life is a deep snow-covered hillside pasture
at twilight as the first stars appear,
where dozens of laughing dogs leap and run in circles
desert sky circles:
sunset’s red rainbow beckons
as the moon rises
Lost in the desert, Throws-his-words and Fierce Cat heed Raven’s sign, a red rainbow surrounding the rising full moon, that leads them to water. The haiku is how I would write it; here is Throws-his-word’s song:
In the land of hard stones,
In the land of painted giants,
In the land of angry trees,
In the land of parched lips,
Raven, where is the laughing grass?
Raven, where are the sleeping trees?
Raven, where are the deer and the buffalo?
Raven, where are the singing streams?
“Wait for the sunset”, Raven whispers.
“Wait for the moonrise”, Raven whispers.
“Look me in the eye”, Raven whispers.
“See what I see and come to me.”
I linked this poem to the readwritepoem blog, where there is a weekly poetry “prompt” inviting people to submit poems on a new theme each week. This week’s theme was collaborative, to write a poem using the first line donated from another poet’s poem. I selected my line from a lovely poem by jone.
(You can read other poets’ submissions on the theme at the readwritepoem blog too. By the way, red rainbows are a real phenomenon, and the one Nancy and I saw during a neighborhood walk last weekend was the inspiration for this poem.)
As part of the prompt, I also donated the first line of one of my own poems, and I was delighted to see how other poets took it and made it their own. Check them out!
pre-dawn dark silence,
looking at my (almost) face
in the bathroom mirror.
through the washcloth
my hands see more clearly
Is it just me, or maybe it’s because I’m so near-sighted without my glasses, but I know my own face much better by touch than sight. I’ll often get up early in the morning, especially in winter, wash and dress quietly, deliberately, without turning on any lights. It’s a very different place than the everyday world dominated by sight and sound.
I linked this poem to the readwritepoem blog, where there is a weekly poetry “prompt” inviting people to submit poems on a new theme each week. This week’s theme was to write a poem literally in your face. (You can read other poets’ submissions on the theme at the blog too.)
hidden lightning glows behind the distant clouds
one raindrop trembles at the tip of a leaf
nightfall drifts in through the open window
dim light, faded pigments on old photographs
wandering in long-forgotten memories
I linked this poem to the readwritepoem blog, where there is a weekly poetry “prompt” inviting people to submit poems on a new theme each week. This week’s theme was word fishing, “fishing” out one word from each of five poems from a favorite poet, and using those words to inspire creation of a new poem. (You can read other poets’ submissions on the theme at the blog too.)
The poems I fished from were some of my favorite haiku by Basho:
temple bells echo into silence
the fragrant blossoms remain –
a perfect evening!
one or two inches
above the dead grass
stabs the darkness
the mountain rose trembles
falling petal by petal –
on a withered branch
a crow alights –
barely enough to bend
the leaves of faded daffodils
falling sick on a journey
my dream goes wandering
over a field of dried grass
OK, so that’s seven poems, but I couldn’t bear to part with any of them, and of course as haiku they’re so short :-). From them, I selected the words silence, shimmering, lightning, trembles, nightfall, faded, and wandering, to inspire me in creating a new poem.
Lights of the long-night sky
Dance at your laughing, whirling dance.
They’ve leapt up from their dark-frozen waters,
Greeting you in song, sisters to sister,
While you as if waking from sleep, shook
Off your buffalo cloak and joined their bright cold dance.
They’ve waited for you in brooding patience, dreaming of
Your fierce love and your gentle anger, longing for you
Through long summer years
Until you came at last to their cold, sharp, dark lodges.
They sing just to you,
Help you to dance
They look out at me from the sheen
Of your dark eyes, bright and jealous.
. . .
Now you lie on an icebound boulder, panting and laughing,
And ask yourself if
They know only cold bright dances or dark lonely songs.
You pull me over to you into a buffalo robe together
Until they fall
This poem is Throws-his-words’ song about the first night that he and Fierce Cat spent under the winter Northern Lights in their long westward journey. (Who are Throws-his-words and Fierce Cat? Read their story, and other songs by Throws-his-words.)
I linked this poem to the readwritepoem blog, where there is a weekly poetry “prompt” inviting people to submit poems on a new theme each week. This week’s theme was collaborative, to write a poem built on the bare bones of another poet’s poem. (You can read other poets’ submissions on the theme at the blog too.)
I took as my inspiration this set of bare bones:
Lights of __________
________ at your _________,
________ you _________
while you ____________
your __________ and
____________ with you
until you ___________.
They ___________ you,
help you to ___________
They __________ sheen
of your ________________.
Now you lie on a _____________
and ask yourself if
they _____________ or
_______ you into a __________,
until they ___________
provided by Christine from her original poem Lights of Mantras. I only read her original poem after finishing mine, and I really encourage you to read it and the story behind it. For me this collaborative process was fascinating and fun, and it led me to a poem/story for Throws-his-words and Fierce Cat that I would never have found on my own, and yet which feels so right for them.
As part of the prompt, I also provided the skeleton of one of my own poems that I wrote last year. Seeing how other poets took my poem’s bare bones and made them their own was delightful. Check them out!
(Picture credit: Bud Kuenzli on APOD)