Prompt No. 11, December 19, 2013

It’s hard to remember to write a poem a day during the holidays. There is so much commotion. My daughter came home from college today, her boyfriend and my son are with her in the kitchen, making so much noise! I need quiet to write poems. So I came upstairs, sat down and started with “I need a poem.” Then, a surprising poem flowed right out of my pencil. A gift. A perfect poem for the darkness in my cold heart, the shrinking part of my soul that cowers around the children — they are so alive!

While thinking about how to write a poetry prompt that might replicate this experience, I searched the internet for “noise” poems and “winter darkness” poems. Here are a couple that might inspire you.

  • Noise Day” by Shel Silverstien. A funny lighthearted poem. Rhymes and bounces.
  • Phantom Noise” by Brian Turner. A dark edgy poem about PTSD and noise and probably tinnitus. Lyrically beautiful.
  • The Academy of American Poets has a whole list of poems for winter.
  • Emily Bronte’s “Spellbound” has a haunting urgency to it — as is she can’t take shelter from the coming storm because she must write her poem instead. Something about winter slows us down, frightens us. And yet we must keep living.
  • Annie Finch writes eloquently about Winter Poetry on the Poetry Foundation’s website, presents a sampler of winter poems, and includes a poem of her own, called “Winter Solstice Chant.”  You can hear her read it there, which is a delight.

One of the ways to help yourself along, if you are feeling it hard to find poems in your life right now, is to repeat lines. Annie Finch’s poem repeats one line twice.

“Winter Solstice Chant” by Annie Finch

Vines, leaves, roots of darkness, growing,
now you are uncurled and cover our eyes
with the edge of winter sky
leaning over us in icy stars.
Vines, leaves, roots of darkness, growing,
come with your seasons, your fullness, your end.

My draft poem, which I’m calling “I Need A Poem” (for now) uses a repeating stanza form, repeats the first words in the fourth and fifth line of each stanza, and also repeats one line through all three stanzas. I didn’t set out to write a poem in this form, but sometimes the content finds its own form during the writing. This is also a gift to a tired and overwhelmed poet. Overwhelmed with holiday noise. A repeating element in a poem is soothing. A chant. A song.

I’ll share it with you here, but be sure to look for the handwritten draft and other related images on Tumblr.

“I Need A Poem”

I need a poem
the kids are so noisy
the kids are so happy
from NY and Oregon
from Germany

I’ve forgotten about yesterday
I need a poem
the kids are so happy
cooking omelets and lentil soup
cooking together

tomorrow will be darker
I’ve forgotten about yesterday
the kids are so happy
yelling toward Solstice
yelling up the light

Your challenge is to write a poem about the dark. Think about what it means to be in the dark, what it means to be in the light. Is one place quiet or noisy? What is noise on the inside like? Why do you feel quieter in the winter? Why is the light so loud? Make it easy on yourself and repeat lines. You can copy my stanza format if you want. It’s nothing special. But it worked!

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