Episode 43: Nathan Nicolau – Mindfulness for poets

Nathan Nicolau was jobless and battling depression. He came close to taking his life, but then he began to fight back. During his recovery he discovered poetry, and started getting work accepted in journals and winning competitions. In this interview Nathan’s passion for poetry is evident as he offers advice and encouragement for anyone who writes or is going through hard times. Drawing on Buddhist philosophy, he shares practices which are great for writing and living.

Nathan’s mindfulness writing exercise

Take a walk somewhere, be it outside or just in your home. Observe objects for what they are, not what you think they are. For example, instead of seeing a couch as something you sit on, see the couch as it is. Perhaps how much it has sunken in overtime or how many people have sat on it appeals to you. Start writing a poem both describing that object and then reframe it to how it makes you feel.

Listen to the podcast to hear Nathan discuss this exercise and share examples of his work.

As always, please share your responses for possible inclusion on future podcasts or the blog. You can send poems here.

Nathan Nicolau is a writer/poet based in Charlotte, NC. Since his published debut in 2019, his poetry, essays, and fiction have been featured on multiple websites and magazines. He is also the founder and editor-in-chief of New Note Poetry, an online poetry magazine. Find out more about him at nathannicolau.com

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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.

Send us your NaPoWriMo poems

That’s it for NaPoWriMo 2022. Thank you to the 30 poets who have offered such a variety of poems and prompts over the month which I know have inspired many fantastic poems already. Thanks also to everyone who has shared poems during the month. It has been a pleasure to read them.

NaPoWriMo may have finished but in a way this is just the beginning. You’ll hopefully have lots of ideas and first drafts that you can develop over the coming months. I would love to feature them on the podcast so please send text and recordings of up to three poems from NaPoWriMo before May 31. If you don’t want to record you can send the text and I’ll do my best to read it. Please send submissions here.

If you haven’t heard all the podcasts you can still catch up with the playlist below, and make sure you subscribe to catch all future podcasts.

NaPoWriMo Day 30: Pete Goodrum – Poetry

It’s the final day of NaPoWriMo. Congratulations if you’ve been keeping up every day but hopefully you’ve at least enjoyed writing and listening to some great poems – and there’s one more to go. Pete Goodrum returns to share a prompt you will definitely have something to say about after the last month…

I’d like you to write a poem about… Poetry. If you’re interested in poetry, take some time to think about what you think about poetry.

Think about poetry itself. Think about how to construct a poem about poetry. Will it rhyme? Will it be in particular poetic form. What message are you trying to convey?

I wrote this poem after I witnessed some unexpected and very sceptical visitors to a poetry night be completely won over by an open mic session.

Let’s be honest.

Let’s at last be honest.
You never really liked me, let alone loved me.

Yes, there were moments, in your teens
when you thought it good to have me around.
You showed off about knowing me,
even sometimes used my words to impress others,
but it soon faded.

In fact, and I hate to raise it,
but you rubbished me, told the world,
or your world at least,
that I had no place, no use,
and that you had no need of me.

Except of course, now and then,
with women more than men
you’d try not to hide
your sensitive side
and you’d touch some hearts
with the romantic parts
because after all
that’s all you recall.
The easy bits
the cheesey bits.

And then I was forgotten again.
Until you needed me.
You’d call on me at weddings of course.
Yes, I was useful for those.
Even at christenings you’d search me out
to add a touching note.

Oh, and funerals. Yes, you wanted me then.
You’ve summonsed me to attend,
to be there, at the end,
to play my part
to help you explain your breaking heart.

But in all the years in between
as I’ve changed and grown,
when I’ve ranted and excited,
inspired and delighted
loved and detested
expressed and protested –

Through all of that, you’ve ignored me.

But I’ve never gone away.

I’m here.
Remember me now?
Yes, that’s right.
Whisper it.

I’m poetry.

Pete Goodrum

You can find out more about Pete’s work and various publications here.

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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.

NaPoWriMo Day 29: Christina Thatcher – Journeys

It’s nearly the end of the month and what a journey it has been. And that is today’s prompt with Christina Thatcher making a welcome return to Poetry Non-Stop for NaPoWriMo.

Write a poem which includes a bus or train journey. You may want to consider what is passing by outside the window, the sounds or conversations happening inside or even the memories that this journey invokes.

Interweaving 

On the bus from Pontypridd to Cardiff, a
woman braids her hair, an apple’s breadth

from the rattling window where ffordd and
farmland meet. How strange to see this here,  

after so many years: my mother’s mane in
this faraway place—her flyaways breaking  

loose, her split end static darting faster than
spooked sheep. How strange this electric  

urge to release my own locks from their stale
ponytail and mimic these braids:

the same weave as these horses,
the same soft as these women.

Christina Thatcher

First published in A470 anthology (Arachne Press, 2022)

Christina Thatcher is a Creative Writing Lecturer at Cardiff Metropolitan University. She keeps busy off campus as Poetry Editor for The Cardiff Review, a tutor for The Poetry School, a member of the Literature Wales Management Board and as a freelance workshop facilitator across the UK. Her poetry and short stories have featured in over 50 publications including Ambit, Magma, North American Review, Poetry Wales, The London Magazine and more. She has published two poetry collections with Parthian Books: More than you were (2017) and How to Carry Fire (2020). To learn more about Christina’s work please visit her website: christinathatcher.com or follow her on Twitter @writetoempower.

If you’ve enjoyed this podcast please consider showing your support with a donation via ko-fi.com

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

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.

NaPoWriMo Day 28: Gabrielle O’Donovan – Give voice to nature

Connect with the natural world for today’s NaPoWriMo prompt from Gabrielle O’Donovan.

Be the voice of something in the natural world

My prompt is to write a poem in the first person from the point of view of something in the natural world that is not a bird or animal – for instance a tree, a river, a cloud. It’s a chance to observe, free associate, have fun. If you can, go outside for inspiration, and spend some time with whatever you are giving a voice to.
I wrote some short poems about trees a few years ago when I was working with Roselle Angwin and recommend her book ‘A Spell in the Forest – Book One. Tongues in Trees’. For more inspiration, you could read Don Patterson’s wonderful sonnet, ‘The Wave’, or Louise Gluck’s ‘The Wild Iris’.
My two short poems are on Willows, and it is worth noting that it is currently Willow month in the Ogham tree calendar.

Salix Babylonica
I am diva of the riverside
I am Monet’s moody blue
I am star-crossed lovers
I am Salome’s seductive dance
I am a coloratura trill
I am the shiver in your spine
the risk of letting go

Crack Willow
I am the hawk’s eye view
I am the blackbird’s call
I am cricket’s straight bat
I am the arch of the harp
I am the song of the wind
I am weaving the earth
flickering your dreams

Gabrielle O’Donovan

Gabrielle O’Donovan is an Australian living on the Cheshire edge of Manchester. She is a member of Second Light women poets’ network and has been published in anthologies, journals, and alongside art exhibitions in the UK, France, and Australia.

If you’ve enjoyed this podcast please consider showing your support with a donation via ko-fi.com

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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.

NaPoWriMo Day 27: Peter Wallis – Sevenling

Peter Wallis introduces us to a short form the sevenling for today’s NaPoWriMo prompt. He says:

a Sevenling – a seven line
poem consisting of two three-line stanzas and a single final line.
It is a form devised by Roddy Lumsden. I was lucky enough to be taught about it at a workshop
of his.
He took the idea from a poem by Anna Akhmatova (here translated by D. M. Thomas)


He loved three things alone:
White peacocks, evensong,
Old maps of America.

He hated crying children,
And raspberry jam with his tea,
And womanish hysteria.

. . . And he married me.

The first three lines should contain an element of three – three connected or contrasting
statements, or a list of three details, names or possibilities. This can take up all of the three lines
or be contained anywhere within them.
Then, lines four to six should similarly contain an element of three, connected directly or
indirectly or not at all.
The seventh line should act as a narrative summary or punchline or as an unusual juxtaposition.
There are no set metrical rules, but being such a short form, some rhythm, metre or rhyme is
desirable.
To give the form a recognizable shape, it should be set out in two stanzas of three lines, with a
solitary seventh, last line.
Titles are not required. A sevenling should be titled Sevenling followed by the first few words in
parenthesis.
The tone of the sevenling should be mysterious, offbeat or disturbing, giving a feeling that only
part of the story is being told. The poem should have a certain ambience which invites
guesswork from the reader.

Lists of three and the number seven are magical things.
I find this exercise best if you can approach it lightly. Aim to jot down several attempts and then
go back to the one that you feel most drawn to.
Don’t overcomplicate things – Akhmatova’s poem has just seven end-stopped lines.
Start with three of anything – the last three novel you read, three favourite holiday destinations,
favourite foods or drinks, three ways to sign off emails, three schoolfriends, three wishes . . .
I find that the first two stanzas are relatively easy to come up with.
What takes the time is the final line which cuts across expectations. You might find yourself
redrafting this in the back of your mind throughout the day.
In the original workshop, as I was a teacher, I used “Reading, Writing and Arithmetic” (The
three Rs).


Back to basics.
Reading, Writing and Arithmetic,
the curriculum says.

Then I jumped to my father questioning me after school. He wanted signs of academic progress.

What did you do at school today?
Was it good? Tell me
your best thing.

and finally
Miss Crowther’s dress had seven petticoats.

The one thing I gloried in was the teacher’s full skirt, not having twigged what my father thought
school was for.
More recently, as part of a project about allotments, I wrote:

SEVENLING (He set to work) 
  
He set to work and planted 
three rows of radishes, 
two of lettuce, one of peas. 
 
The home he left was cheerless. 
Home welcomed his return. 
He changed his clothes. 
 
Anniversaries can be made of such afternoons.

Peter Wallis is a U.K. based poet and Hawthornden Fellow. He won publication of a pamphlet, Articles of Twinship, in the Bare Fiction Debut Poetry Collection Competition 2015 (copies available via the Contact Page at peterwallis.co.uk). His poems have been widely published and have both shortlisted and longlisted in the National Poetry Competition. He is Submissions Editor for the U.K. charity “Poems in the Waiting Room”.

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

If you’ve enjoyed this podcast please consider showing your support with a donation via ko-fi.com

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

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.

NaPoWriMo Day 25: Michelle Marie Jacquot – Humour in dark times

Michelle Marie Jacquot makes a welcome return for today’s NaPoWriMo podcast.

This prompt is one all about finding the humour in life. In the harder times, in the happy, and in the ordinary. I would prompt you to think of a time that made you laugh or smile, simple as that. The last few years have been challenging, and I think finding joy and lightness anywhere we can is an essential part of being human, in good times, and especially in darker ones. In my opinion, it’s vital to getting through them. “Joy as an act of resistance” is something I think about often, almost as a modus operandi. It can be a relief to look back on what might have seemed like the end of the world at the time (and may well have been), and finding something to laugh about in hindsight— finding the brighter side to life when at all possible, even in small ways. We may not be able to solve all of life’s problems, but we can make some jokes out of them to help us get through them and onto the other side.

Your poem doesn’t have to be about anything recent, just something that will add some lightness and laughter to your day. Try the first thing that comes to mind. Perhaps even start free writing it as a story, as if you were telling it to a friend. From there, you can pick and choose certain words or phrases that pop out as a jumping off point to craft the poem from. Happy writing!

PARTY OF ONE

I had my birthday party
indoors this year
So did everyone else
in the entire world, I hear

Maybe I’m not as depressingly special as I thought

Maybe we’ve all been secretly eating cake
alone in the dark all along

Michelle Marie Jacquot

Michelle Marie Jacquot is a writer and performer from Los Angeles, California. Her debut poetry collection Death of a Good Girl was released in 2019, becoming a Barnes & Noble bestseller in the genre. Her latest pamphlet, DETERIORATE, critiques and contemplates the effects of the digital age on humanity, and is available worldwide. Her next collection is set to be published in the summer of 2022.

www.michellemariejacquot.com

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

If you’ve enjoyed this podcast please consider showing your support with a donation via ko-fi.com

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

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.

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.

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

If you’ve enjoyed this podcast please consider showing your support with a donation via ko-fi.com

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

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.

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.

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

If you’ve enjoyed this podcast please consider showing your support with a donation via ko-fi.com

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

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.

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

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

If you’ve enjoyed this podcast please consider showing your support with a donation via ko-fi.com

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

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.