National Poetry Month: PLAYING WITH FORM!

national poetry month 2It’s April and that means it is National Poetry Month! Even though I love a good celebration as much as the next person, I can’t help but wonder what does it really mean to have a National Poetry Month?

On one level, it means there’s an increase each April (since 1966 when NPM began) in poetry awareness and appreciation, which means it can be easier to find a poetry-related event in our community or a book about poetry at the library. This is exciting and fun to see because poetry often gets overlooked amidst the prose. And during April, most schools teach poetry-related lessons, which is phenomenal because I love thinking about kids having fun with poetry.

But still I wondered, What does it mean for me, the aspiring poet, at the most basic and personal level?

I’ve decided that beyond the sense of belonging a month of national celebration evokes, NPM meant for me, personally, it is time to try new things, new forms, new language, new ideas. A time to be a bit reckless and whimsical. A time to truly embrace poetry as a means of capturing the abstract, of painting with language, of experimenting with sound. A time to be brave with words.

Hand-drawn light bulb over bright colorful blots of paint, on wh

In the UK, they celebrate National Poetry Day in October, and it just so happened one October a few years ago in honor of the UK NPD I was flipping through The Crafty Poet: A Portable Workshop and learned about a form of poetry previously unknown to me – the sonnenizio. It was a moment of pure joy – a new form, a sparkly name… time to play!

Poet Kim Addonizio made up the form by playing with a sonnet. Thus the name, sonnenizio (sonnet + Addonizio) was born.  The rules are simple:

  • Borrow a line from someone else’s sonnet
  • Take a word from that line and repeat it in every other line (in some form – homonyms work!) in the poem
  • In true sonnet form, the poem should be 14 lines and the last two should rhyme 

try-something-newIn honor of National Poetry Month, I encourage you to play with the form. Even if you don’t consider yourself a poet, stretching yourself with a little poetry will work wonders for the rest of your creative life.

And if you do write something, let me know! I’m collecting poems inspired by Cupertino Poet Laureate events for publication in a community anthology. So email me with “Anthology” in the subject line with your sonnenizio (or poem in any other form!) or use the contact form on this website if you’d like to see your work included!

For inspiration, here’s an example by the inventor of the sonnenizio, Kim Addonizio, I found on Genius.com:

Sonnenizio on a Line from Drayton
by Kim Addonizio

Since there’s no help, come let us kiss and part;
or kiss anyway, let’s start with that, with the kissing part,
because it’s better than the parting part, isn’t it –
we’re good at kissing, we like how that part goes:
we part our lips, our mouths get near and nearer,
then we’re close, my breasts, your chest, our bodies partway
to making love, so we might as well, part of me thinks –
the wrong part, I know, the bad part, but still
let’s pretend we’re at that party where we met
and scandalized everyone, remember that part? Hold me
like that again, unbutton my shirt, part of you
wants to I can tell, I’m touching that part and it says
yes, the ardent partisan, let it win you over,
it’s hopeless, come, we’ll kiss and part forever.

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Lunch Hour Poetry!

The Modern Sonnet ShakespeareI’ve been having a blast running the Lunch Hour Language Artists workshops. Last week, we met for Session 1: Workshop 3 – The Modern Sonnet. I continue to be humbled by the amazing work that participants generate every session, and The Modern Sonnet was no exception.

The sonnet can be a daunting form, so to kick things off and get us in the spirit we broke into four groups and completed a group sonnet. The first three groups each wrote four lines in A-B-A-B rhyming pattern, and the fourth group wrote two stand-alone couplets. We then combined each groups’ work to form an English (or Shakespearean) sonnet. The couplet group listened to the first three sets of lines before choosing which couplet they felt best fit the poem.

It was a fun experience to watch unfold, and it helped the workshop participants loosen up and get into the mindset of sonnet writing (I hope!). If you haven’t joined us for an LHLA workshop, next week is your chance – we’ll be diving into our final form, cinquain!

Lunch-Hour-Language-Artists Sonnet #1

The flickering warmth of a candle light,
a beacon shining through the dark.
The warmth of your hug is my delight
enveloping my heart with your loving bark.
A Valentine, a lacy, red, dripping heart;
I give to you. What will you give to me?
My heart and gifts fill an every-growing cart
that overflows until we make our love into three.
Love is surprising, catches us off guard;
pulls me in undiscovered directions,
blurs my senses, stumbles into my backyard;
hijacks my unrelented affection –
but since I don’t possess a Shakespearean wit
I was not able to finish it.

15 March 2018

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Prompt # 15 : Poems for Rain

Zuni Prayer

Cover my earth mother four times with many flowers.
Let the heavens be covered with the banked-up clouds.
Let the earth be covered with fog; cover the earth with rains.
Great waters, rains, cover the earth.  Lighting cover the earth.
Let thunder be heard over the earth; let thunder be heard;
Let thunder be heard over the six regions of the earth.
Zuni Prayer for Rain

This week the governor of California declared an emergency in our state. “California faces water shortfalls in the driest year in recorded state history.” Jerry Brown said, “We can’t make it rain, but we can be much better prepared for the terrible consequences that California’s drought now threatens, including dramatically less water for our farms and communities and increased fires in both urban and rural areas.”

This urgent news started me thinking about things I can do: take shorter showers, reprogram the irrigation system so that the lawn is watered less. Reuse water from the kitchen for house plants and the veggie garden, as much as possible. (I already drive around in a dirty car, so I can’t save water by washing it less!)

I was a high school student in Cupertino in 1977, and I remember collecting water with buckets in the shower for my mom’s azaleas.  You can see more photos like the one here in SF Gate’s interesting article about drought years 1997 and 1991.

1977 Water Rationing

As the governor says, we can’t make rain. But what if we could? Some people pray for rain; there have been rain dances and prayers and ceremonies throughout the history of humankind on the planet. Water is more precious than gold or salt — the ultimate in life-giving elements.

Today’s prompt is to write a rain prayer poem. A rain dance song. A poem in which you celebrate rain and ask for rain to fall. There are many poems on this topic to be found in books and on the internet if you like to read to get ready to write.

Mueller’s poem is a classic sonnet form, with strict rhyme and meter, qualities is shares to some extent with the less formal Zuni prayer. The Zuni prayer also uses repetition to suggest a ceremonial style. Many rain poems have a rhythm or beat that suggests a dance or chant. Several of the poems for kids have language that imitates* the noises rain makes:

Dot a dot dot dot a dot dot
Spotting the windowpane.
Spack a spack speck flick a flack fleck
Freckling the windowpane.

(From “Rain Weather Poem” by Eve Merriam).

So! Write about rain, about its sound and feel, about its value and promise. Praise rain, dance and sing for rain. Maybe it will work.

(Rainy palm trees photo credit here.)

* Bonus prize for anyone who comments with the name of this poetic technique!