NaPoWriMo Day 24: Alexander Blustin – Release

Today Alexander Blustin shares a useful technique for writing poems out of nonsense:

This is a prompt from Patrick Widdess’s Poetry Non-Stop book, and it is one I find difficult, but actually the word itself points to a good general method for tackling a difficult prompt. What I’m going to suggest is that you release yourself from making sense. This is a great way to generate original ideas, because when we become hung up on whether something makes logical sense, we become limited by the conscious mind which can be very stuck in its ways.

  • Firstly, time yourself for ten minutes and write about anything, absolutely anything, for that length of time. This is just to get the words flowing.
  • Secondly, choose a standard poetic form. This won’t be your ‘real’ poem; it’s just an exercise to generate material. Depending upon how familiar you are with poetic forms, it could be as simple as a limerick, or something more involved like a triolet or a ballad or perhaps a sonnet.
  • Thirdly, fill up your chosen form with anything that pops into your head, working quickly and not censoring yourself. Write total nonsense. The only rule is that whatever it is has to fit the meter and rhyme-scheme of the form. Whatever you do, don’t try to make sense or to communicate; all you’re doing is extruding random word-filler into a template, as quickly as you can.
  • Fourthly, look back over your random poem and see whether it sparks any ideas for a real poem. If so, great; off you go. If not, write another random poem, perhaps choosing a different form, and repeat this process until something jumps out and grabs you.

This was the method I used when I first met the prompt in Patrick’s book. I have taken to using this book during a couple of 30-day months every year, since it is a really convenient way of cornering myself into generating new material every day, and I can then spend the rest of the year editing this into usable poems.

In the case of ‘release’ I started with a few minutes of random writing, during which a garlic press just so happened to pop up, and then I tried writing out an acrostic on the word release. Next, I very quickly wrote down a completely nonsensical sonnet in which the garlic press also happened to feature. Now, at that point, the line ‘he rinsed the neighbour’s garlic press’ occurred to me. I then realised that the concept of release was relevant to the idea of ‘getting out’ of one’s social background through adopting the cookery of a desired social group. The following villanelle was constructed accordingly.

This poem appears in the March 2022 edition of the light verse webzine Lighten Up Online and I wish to thank the editor Jerome Betts for his very helpful feedback.

Getting In

He rinsed the neighbour’s garlic press.
Funny how things come about;
Funny how some things progress.

Better not to leave a mess –
The owner had impressive clout.
He rinsed the neighbour’s garlic press;

Better not to cause distress
To those who lent it for his trout.
Funny how some things progress.

How has he got to this address,
When all those years they kept him out?
He rinsed the neighbour’s garlic press;

Pretentious food, but nonetheless
He’s learnt it wafts away their doubt.
Funny how some things progress;

The pungent odour of success,
The rules one simply cannot flout.
He rinsed the neighbour’s garlic press.
Funny how some things progress.

Alexander Blustin

Alexander Blustin’s light verse has previously appeared in Lighten Up Online, Light Quarterly, The Bell and in audio form on the Poetry Non-Stop blog. His heavier verse has appeared in Popshot and elsewhere. From October 2012 to July 2014 he ran a weekly poetry stall on Cambridge Market (UK), with a particular focus on work from local Modernist and experimental publishers.

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NaPoWriMo Day 23: Salma Yusuf – Let an animal ignite your poem

Today Salma Yusuf demonstrates how we can use an animal or animated figure to explore complex issues. Listen as Salma gives the background to this poem and consider how you could use this technique to write about feelings or experiences that might otherwise be hard to address.

How the divorce came

It did not knock on any door
It just bumped into us
in the middle of intimacy
We were still trying to cover ourselves
a bit of bedsheet here and a bit of quilt there.

The chandeliers juddered
The taps and sinks rusted
The buckets leaked
The house caught fire
Letters and pictures became embers.

It came prepared for war
writhed in pain
destroyed everything that we built for years
The dreamlike ambience of our home
had slowly transformed into a ball of cashmere.

We held hands but the wick of our candle
was not enough to defeat the dragon
They say that love is the lightning
that can strike seas and valleys
I hold a burnt portrait of you
holding the sadabahar flower
It was the first time we met.

I don’t remember how the dragon left
But I remember the aftermath
I opened my eyes
The blind man next door was blowing into his flute
I was still holding the portrait
this time I could only see the sadabahar flower
It was the last time we met.

Salma Yusuf

Salma Yusuf is a Postgraduate Taught Student at the University of East Anglia pursuing an MA in Creative Writing (Poetry) as the 2021 recipient of the Global Voices Scholarship. Her poetry has appeared in Lolwe, Doek and Ink, Sweat & Tears, among others.

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NaPoWriMo Day 22: Terry Jude Miller – Resilience

Today we welcome Terry Jude Miller to the Poetry Non-Stop NaPoWriMo podcast with a prompt to write a poem on resilience. This is a powerful topic for poetry but one that is hard to get right. Hopefully your resilience will keep you going through this prompt and onto the next one.

Terry says: Resilience poems are difficult to write without sounding preachy or condescending. Use metaphor and imagery to a describe a challenge (as the “roller coaster” is used in this poem) and write something uplifting but not sentimental. The poem should “turn” or “switch direction” at about 3/4 of the way, and should end with a “big band” or “surprise.”

You Have to be this Tall

once you close the curtain
on your role as victim,
as suffering martyr

they give you access
to the roller coaster switch

you still can’t control
where the dips and climbs are
but you can manage, to some degree,
the speed with which you enter
and exit

Terry Jude Miller

Terry Jude Miller is a Pushcart Prize-nominated writer from Houston. He received the 2018 Catherine Case Lubbe Manuscript Prize for his book, The Drawn Cat’s Dream, and was awarded the Georgia Poetry Society’s 2018 Langston Hughes Award. His work has been published in the Southern Poetry Anthology and in scores of other publications including anthologies of the Austin International Poetry Festival, Rio Grande Valley International Poetry Festival, Texas Poetry Calendar, Chaffey Review, Houston Literary Review, Boston Literary Magazine, and the Birmingham Arts Journal. He is the creator of the Texas Poets Podcast.

terryjudemiller.com

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NaPoWriMo Day 21: John Osborne – Teachers

Norwich-based poet, writer and performer John Osborne returns with a NaPoWriMo prompt we can all relate to: Teachers. Have a read and listen to John’s poem and then think back on the teachers in your life. There’s sure to be a poem in there somewhere.

What are electrons?

When our physics teacher died
we didn’t have to do physics anymore.
The headmaster wrote to the exam board
who replied with flowers and exemption forms.

Her equations were still on the blackboard
in her handwriting, in her empty classroom.
A pile of our school books still to be marked.
The Van de Graaff generator in the storeroom,
untouched. Our hair will not frizz again
and now we are excused from physics.

We all loved Mrs Allcock so much,
who spoke of us so warmly at parents’ evenings
and would tell us of her pre-teaching life
directing pantomimes, an understudy at the Old Vic,
she wrote the school play
and she’d let us change our own lines.

Every October there was a school trip to Jodrell Bank.
It was supposed to be our turn that year
Our parents had already signed the participation forms
and that’s why it would be unfair
for any of our class to have to obey the laws of gravity.
Physics brings back too many painful memories
and so we float.

John Osborne

John Osborne writes stories, poems and scripts. His poetry has been broadcast on Radio 1, Radio 3, Radio 4, BBC 6Music, XFM and Soho Radio.

www.johnosbornewriter.com

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NaPoWriMo Day 20: Wendy Hind – Recipe for a new poem

We’re two thirds of the way through Napowrimo! Today Wendy Hind from Tiny Poetry Project makes a welcome return with a prompt that’s a recipe for success.

Cooking up a new poem

Think about a memory related to cooking. It can be about your lack of ability to cook, or your skill in cooking. Maybe it’s about watching someone else cook.

Please take 10 minutes to free write about the first memory that came into your mind with the above prompt. After 10 minutes, pick one small element from what you wrote down and write a poem based on this small segment. More than anything, don’t try to make it perfect – have fun!

My Memory/Poem

THE SUGAR COOKIE RECIPE

The perfectly scripted letters
Are marked with smudges
left by busy manicured hands.
Cream the butter, lard, and sugar.
Do not over beat, the recipe warns.
Add the eggs one at time.
Sift the dry ingredients together,
combine and then chill.

The simple galley kitchen
with Formica counters,
and warm electric oven
hum with impatience.
Finally, the wooden rolling pin
begins spinning at mock-speed,
making a sort of clinking sound
each time its lifted off the dough.

Always wearing a house dress
and pantyhose, reminiscent
of when she came of age in the 20s.
Always wearing a colorful apron
covered with clouds of white dust
appearing like a finger painting.
Always moving with the ease
of performing this ritual, a 1000 times.

Her cloudy blue eyes
look down on me
and wink, while sneaking me
a bit of cookie dough.
Bzzz, the timer startles me.
I carefully set down the
wooden rolling pin with a clinck,
smile, and swallow-up the dough.

Wendy Hind

Please share your responses to today’s prompt either in the comments or via email. The best submissions will be featured in future podcasts.

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NaPoWriMo Day 19: Fay Roberts – Clerihews

Today Fay Roberts makes a welcome return with a short, fun prompt the clerihew. Another one that’s idea for social media so do share and tag @poetrynonstop @fayroberts #poetrynonstop

Fay says:

A Clerihew is a short, humorous, faux-biographical poetry form invented by Edmund Clerihew Bentley in around 1901 and I really enjoy using it as a warm-up exercise, or a palate-cleanser between more serious pieces. A classical clerihew, if that’s a phrase we can use, only has two rules. If you’re getting more experimental, there’s only one. Ready?

Rule 1: The first line must be a person’s name, and usually only their name.
Rule 2: The rhyme scheme is AABB.

And that’s it! Four lines of verse, the first of which is a name, the next line rhymes with it, and then the further two rhyme with each other. There’s no meter, no syllable count, and the sillier the rhyme and the more ludicrous the unevenness of the line lengths, the better, arguably. While the poem is described as a “biographical” form, it doesn’t actually have to contain many – if any – actual facts about the subject.
One of Bentley’s own most famous clerihews goes like this:

Sir Christopher Wren
Said, “I am going to dine with some men.
If anyone calls
Say I am designing St. Paul’s.”

So write one clerihew, or write a slew of them. For NaPoWriMo, I usually pick a theme and write along those lines, and one year (2019) I asked people to nominate names. Here’s one of mine from then:

Alan Rickman
Would always end his handwritten notes with a stickman.
When asked why he would even do this at home he
Would generally mutter something about the venerable clan called Nakatomi
Lean into the ridiculousness, and enjoy writing very silly rhymes!

Fay is a performance poet, musician, storyteller, geek, and accidental voice artist. Ze has a new book – a kind of poetry concept album called Spectral, which has just come out from Burning Eye Books. You can find out more about that and everything else at: linktr.ee/fayroberts

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NaPoWriMo Day 18: David Hanlon – Springtime

Hopefully you’ve all been enjoying some fine spring weather. Today, David Hanlon makes a welcome return in this joyous season and invites us to write about beginnings, renewals and resurrection.

Lifting

This life is made of fence and brick;
warped and crumbling.

The late February sky, malaise-packed with heavy clouds,
has finally cracked.

Trees are worn, satchel brown, licked with ochre and rust,
by nature’s wonder-burnt tongue.

The musky scent of wet wood, permeating.
The red-orange flare of a robin, flickering.

But look, lilac crocuses,
petal pincers, sprouting in clusters,

like tiny feet,
magic circling tree roots,

their amber stamens,
spring’s fireworks,

waiting
to ignite.

David Hanlon

David Hanlon is a confessional poet from Cardiff, Wales, now living in Bristol, England. He is a Best of the Net nominee. You can find his work online in over 40 online magazines. His first chapbook Spectrum of Flight is available for purchase now at Animal Heart Press. You can follow him on twitter @DavidHanlon13

Please share your responses to today’s prompt either in the comments or via email. The best submissions will be featured in future podcasts.

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NaPoWriMo Day 17: Daisy Thurston-Gent – Ode

Picture: Rachel Pearson

Your prompt for today, from Daisy Thurston-Gent, is to write an ode. You many think of stuffy, old-fashioned poems but Daisy shows us that the ode can be vibrant, modern and versatile and you can write one about anyone or anything. Below are some pointers and examples from Daisy.

Choose a subject to write your ode about. Spend 2 mins listing everything you can think of that reminds you of that topic, then 15-20 mins writing and 5 mins editing

Ode to Winter 

by the time the speaker blew on a pogues song at full volume / i think we all knew / winter was coming / way that she does / and those who were left drank / to gnarly accordions / and ragged mandolins screeched promise to us / with bad teeth / and we all fell in love / with our young hearts / brushing the crumbs from our best suits.

winter / you are the dirt that holds my family / you are midnight vinyl dancing graceland with poets and their strangers / you are bitter morning tire screech / a kettle freshly screamed / look at you / turning up to work in your pyjamas / huddled kitchen staff under the bright lights of the hot plates / sharing sickness / cinnamon sticks and star anise / always something mulling / frozen bicycle chains / fumbling icicle fingers / a year’s supply of nectar points. 

O’ winter! yours are the stories we can’t lay to rest / exes / restless ghosts and weights that lay heavy in excess / pressing on our chest plates / making us breathless / frozen moments / shouting matches across headlights on frosted drives / it’s a wonderful life.

the tv is on / no one watches / traditions gravy soaked bubble away on a hot stove / mum’s roast potatoes goldening while upstairs she is hoovering / violently / I am lying beneath the christmas tree / breathing the pine / while the cat plays mouse with my trouser leg / needles fall like tiny samurai swords either side of me / the trifle dish lies smashed on the doorstep for the rest of the year / of course there is a fire / skin crackling / a child / singing winter night / seeing their breath / disappear / for the first time.

Daisy Thurston-Gent

Daisy is a writer and producer from Cambridge. She is a founding member of London Queer Writers, a creative network curating regular live poetry events and monthly online writing workshops for the LGBTQ+ community. She is one half of Radio Xaddy, a brave little podcast about Queer history and culture and co-host of Queer Cambridge on Cambridge 105fm.

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NaPoWriMo Day 16: Olly Watson – Listen in

For today’s NaPoWriMo prompt Olly Watson invites us to do a little eavesdropping. An excellent source of inspiration:

I love to steal lines from people. Not other poets but from everyday conversations. Spend half an hour just sat somewhere where there are people or just open your ears in your everyday routine and listen for the one or two phrases that pop up everyday that can lead to something. I try to write down what ever I hear, so I can go back to it later and then play around with it.

Your Ear to Mine

A friend told me about her little boy,
how on Christmas Eve she had asked him if he could hear the bells.
“Father Christmas is coming,” she’d said.
He’d turned to her, this boy who loved dinosaurs, and replied,
“put your ear next to my ear mummy and then I can hear what you’re hearing.”

I thought of you then.
That time in the Doctors, when you told me how impressed you were
with how I had described my feelings.
“Brought them to life,” you’d said.

It’s all I’ve tried to do ever since.

You’re Mum not Mummy now,
and I’m not sure if either of us hear the bells any more,
but put your ear to mine
and we can try.

Olly Watson

Olly Watson is a thatcher not a poet so has absolutely no clue how he has managed to convince loads of people to put him on stage. He has gigged all over the country including four solo shows at the Edinburgh Fringe, often to crowds in the tens of people, runs his own poetry night in Norwich and was a 2017 National poetry slam finalist. It is true that he’s a much better thatcher than he is a poet, but he is a damn fine thatcher.

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NaPoWriMo Day 15: Jerry Gordon – Augury poem

We’re halfway through NaPoWriMo and it’s a good time to spend some quiet time, taking in our surroundings and finding the poetry within. Jerry Gordon‘s prompt is ideal for that:

Write an Augury poem

Let me first explain a bit about what Augury is. Kind of like reading tea leaves or the patterns left by coffee in a cup, augury was an ancient practice for telling the future or making decisions. An Augur would read a space and time, and then interpret whatever happened inside that space and time. So, to write an Augury Poem, you first need to decide on where you are going to look, and when. For example, you can look through the frame of a window for how long it takes you to drink your coffee. Or, you can decide the area between two cars for the 10-minutes you decide to watch is the space/time frame. Then, whatever enters the frame while you observe it can be included and interpreted in poetic ways. You, as the writer/augur, get to Augment their importance through your imagination. Meanings and values are up to the writer to decide or creatively generate.

Augury Poem

There is a woman here
with beautiful ankles
and her thin sweater
on inside out.
She works
on something requiring
sheets of paper
and repeated reference.
She moves
between her phone
and folder
and smoldering smoke.
At the moment she is
putting her hands
over her face
as though there may be
answers to find
in darkness,
in hiding,
in touching her skull
in wonder.

The street grinds
three meters away.
A building goes up,
hammer after hammer.
Sports cars creep by.

Beyond,
a blue sky
beyond
autumn clouds.

Jerry Gordon

Jerry Gordon is a writer, teacher and improviser living in Osaka, Japan. His novel Terminalian Drift was published in 2021 and is available from Triarchy Press at https://www.triarchypress.net/terminalia.html and as an audio book from 3CMPress at https://moontriangle.bandcamp.com/album/terminalian-drift

Please share your responses to today’s prompt either in the comments or via email. The best submissions will be featured in future podcasts.

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Books by many of the poets featured on the podcast are available from the Poetry Non-Stop bookshop here. All books purchased via this link help to raise money to keep this podcast going.