Tuesday, April 29, 2014



Dear god. Just when I was hoping for something along the lines of "write a short, no more than six- or eight-line, poem about a freesia in a pickle jar standing in front of a mirror, the  penultimate poetry month poem day produces a prompt worthy of hair-tearing. Get this:

"This may remind you a bit of the “New York School” recipe, but this prompt has been around for a long time. I remember using it in a college poetry class, and loving the result. It really forces you into details, and to work on “conducting” the poem as it grows, instead of trying to force the poem to be one thing or another in particular. The prompt is called the “Twenty Little Poetry Projects,” and was originally developed by Jim Simmerman. And here are the twenty little projects themselves — the challenge is to use them all in one poem:

1. Begin the poem with a metaphor.
2. Say something specific but utterly preposterous.
3. Use at least one image for each of the five senses, either in succession or scattered randomly throughout the poem.
4. Use one example of synesthesia (mixing the senses).
5. Use the proper name of a person and the proper name of a place.
6. Contradict something you said earlier in the poem.
7. Change direction or digress from the last thing you said.
8. Use a word (slang?) you’ve never seen in a poem.
9. Use an example of false cause-effect logic.
10. Use a piece of talk you’ve actually heard (preferably in dialect and/or which you don’t understand).
11. Create a metaphor using the following construction: “The (adjective) (concrete noun) of (abstract noun) . . .”
12. Use an image in such a way as to reverse its usual associative qualities.
13. Make the persona or character in the poem do something he or she could not do in “real life.”
14. Refer to yourself by nickname and in the third person.
15. Write in the future tense, such that part of the poem seems to be a prediction.
16. Modify a noun with an unlikely adjective.
17. Make a declarative assertion that sounds convincing but that finally makes no sense.
18. Use a phrase from a language other than English.
19. Make a non-human object say or do something human (personification).
20. Close the poem with a vivid image that makes no statement, but that “echoes” an image from earlier in the poem."
Don't they know I have a ferry to catch?
Mutter, mutter, mutter. Well, let's see. Number 11 could double as the opening line, I guess.
Here goes:
We are cooking here! And speaking of cooking, on the ferry coming over to Vancouver Island I was leafing through a book about kale and noted an odd spelling of the word "kail" in one of the recipe headings. Turns out it's old Scots.
So this one's really odd. I think I managed to stuff in all the required elements. No one said it had to make sense! (Yet in a curious way it does, to me anyway). 
And now I'm very much looking forward to going to a poetry reading in Victoria tonight!

If You Read to Them, They Will Sleep

In the frivolous rooms of funhousery are webs of spiderless deceit 
where sun squeezes shut your pupil-pinprick eyes 
and moss crouches crew-cut soft beneath your feet. 
The air is full of saliva-inducing hints of soon-to-be-dipped-in-chocolate raspberries
and the kail sounds like Gilbert and Sullivan arguing over a plinth.
"Where do you think you're going?" asks the barbed wire 
when you squeeze under the fence to save the two-bit entrance fee. 
"Eat, eat, you too skinny!" will be the word from your almost mother-in-law.
Happily, there are no pendulous rules for when you will comb the cake. 
No rules at all, in fact.
The first thing you have to do is as you're told. 

Your feet will be blistered from walking on moss.
Willow Point cows will spackle-dot the field with calves and cow plops. 
A ripe riposte from the septic field will remind you shit always needs attention.
You will touch the fire, taste its orange-purple smoke—chacun a son gout 
then fall asleep beside the baby who's worn out several diapers with his sandpaper skin. 
This is about as far as this poet-person will go, 
trying out the funnering to see if it fits. Right, Curly? 
Cicadas drum a solo to the coming night.
You ask the spider where is the way out 
and it tells you clearly its web has broken into shards of silver, 
drops of blood from the barbed wire fence a Jackson Pollock landscape.


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