At some point I need to make a post for each of all the NaPoWriMo biz I have going on in April, because there’s quite a bit. I’m going to once again endeavor to do that wildest of wild pastimes, two poems per day… one set will be for Oulipost, which I expect to be mad good fun, and the other will be for a fundraising effort coordinated by Rachel Bunting and Kristin LaTour. Still need to pick what charity I’m raising for, but please do consider donating once that gets started! (Maybe I can give some kind of fancy prize to the persons that donate the most?) Natch I’ll be doing the Poem-in-your-Pocket Day later in the month, and if the book giveaway is happening this year, I’ll hop on that too. Beyond that, the Resonance prompts will continue weekly through the month, and I imagine that if I’m doing my usual train-commute reading, poetry collections will occupy that time.
And of course, CSHS is still open for submissions until Friday, for the unthemed issue; we will be reading for the first themed issue, Alchemies, through April (for release on/around 1 May). Get it, yo.
Today, it’s the warmest it has been in… well, weeks. There was that one really warm day some weeks ago, but aside from that one, I could say “months”. We’ve had so many days of miserable chill and snow and wintry mix and early darkness and whatnot, that it begins to feel like spring will never just get here. And of course it’s supposed to snow later tonight, but for now, it’s sunny and almost warm. I left my overcoat at home, which I may regret later. But at least it got me thinking about themes for resonance ten, settling on the notion of “carpe diem” as a topic/process for this week. I dislike that “yolo” stuff for a few different reasons, but I think carpe diem has some fiber to it.
Let’s start by discussing the unexpected. I think a lot of potential for poetry lives in the space created by the unexpected, whether positive or negative, major or minor; nobody wants to read a narrative that’s predictable, at least nobody I know. Life’s dramedy springs from the gap between your expectations and their tendency to completely fall apart. (John Lennon: “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”) Begin by considering a recent event that broke from what you anticipated: for me, it’s as simple as a balmy day in the middle of an otherwise frigid March. Sun! Birds! Meltwater! Draw up some images from the form of the thing/event in your mind, and the thing/event as it actually shakes out: maybe try to get ten of each, just for some variety. Jot them down.
Now, decide how you want to present the topic. You can embellish it far beyond the actuality — not only is it a balmy day, I might say, but it’s hot enough for sweat and ice cream and the beach and all that. (Not true.) You may want to discuss how much the way things have turned out is terrible, or you may want to throw in your whole-throated support. But overall, this should be a poem of action: do not remain passive. Let it be first-person (or at least first-person masquerading as second/third), use active verbs to show your involvement in interacting with this windfall/catastrophe/savior/nemesis, and define an arc that you want this story to take. If you’re the planning type, you might want to set up a five-stanza dramatic progression (exposition – development – climax – denouement – resolution) and carefully plot out the narrative here. If you’re not, you may wish to just wing it. But lay yourself bare: your thoughts and feelings about this deviation from the norm, delved deeply and turned up against the backdrop of the thing/event itself. Take a position on the idea of “carpe diem”: in this case, do you support it or do you say nay?
I’d like to suggest an element of this in the process as well: jot down another list of ten details that have nothing to do with anything else. Trot out your best and wackiest metaphors. Then close your eyes, and point to one of them; close your eyes again, and point to one of the details you’ve already listed. The challenge is to make the most of it: if you’ve written down “a cloud-purse ready to tumble out grandmotherly snow”, and you’ve matched it to “woman in a sunhat”, how will you get them to coexist? Poems have to earn their metaphors: but it becomes more of a(n optional) mindbender when they earn ones that are contrived, that you do not expect. Work it in as many times as you feel like…
…but ultimately, tell us the story of how you came across something different from the usual, open all the doors of your cupboards to show us how you dealt with it, and how the interaction progressed/what you learned. Do you expect your life will change from this point forward? Do you think you paid off some kind of karmic balance in the exchange, or can you impart some wisdom from your willingness to act? In a sense, every poem has this conversation with the other; but what we’re interested in here are the others that come barreling around the bend without warning, for better or for worse. And if you dodge such a thing successfully — and not only dodge, but leap up on top of it like Laurence Fishburne in the Matrix, ready to pull it in whatever poetic directions you fancy — by all means come back and share!