Message in bottle echoed from abyss:
Never never never quit says Winston.
Failure on occasion dashing premise,
Review the situation says Fagan.
Alternatives overrun by Mainstream
Startups happily subsumed by Wall Street
Too Big To Fail, the American Dream
Business as usual, rinse and repeat.
With kinder gentler cruelty inhuman,
Faster rats in smaller packs hunt for yield
Manmade ‘cyclical’ passive-aggression
Mocking the vaunted level playing field.
‘To be or not to be’, timeless puzzler
Long before Shakespeare, and after Tumblr.
Time flies, fun or no
Everyone says so.
But where Time goes
…write a poem of farewell…
Ships passing in the night
The geese fly east on Thursday
Honking in the wind, V-formation silhouetted
Against the cooling sky
Conviction of Columbus, accidental as America
Go west young man
We live, we die
The sweet smell of success
Mirror Mirror, who’s the fastest rat of all?
Forgive and forget
Mo’ betta Mo, fo’ sho
Behold the repeating pattern, again
Fair-weather fowl flee foul-weather feasts
C’est la vie
The bell tolls for thee and me
Chickens coming home to roost
…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.
Barrel bombs are crude devices
Oil drums and large bottles
Packed with explosives and metal
City living in danger and fear
Shabby imitation of its former self
Missing ceilings, razed buildings
Tangle of rubble and cables and dust
Charred buses shield against sniper scopes
Piles of rubble where homes used to stand
Thousands maimed or killed
Consumed by grief and shock
Rescue teams with little training and limited equipment
Grim dangerous labor of love
‘Our humanity urges us to do this job,
to save people from under the rubble
and take them to hospital’
No signs of an end to this war
Defenseless in the face of incessant attacks
Caught between two sides fighting to the bitter end
Deprivation and despair
Flee or fight, hide or die
It isn’t a life, afraid of shells falling day or night
‘I have nowhere to go’
‘I am so scared’
Little hope of relief or respite
UN Security Council Resolution
Violations Documentation Center
Indifference of the outside world
…find a news article, and to write a poem using (mostly, if not only) words from the article…
Sidewalks diverged in a neighborhood,
And relieved I need not travel both
And being one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it turned at the overgrowth;
Then took the one less bleak and bare,
As having perhaps the better claim
Because its snow did footprints wear;
Though as for that the pastimes there
Had worn them down about the same,
Unequally plowed that day they lay
One’s deep snow no boots had packed
I’ll save trailblazing for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
How people say ‘You can never go back’,
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Sidewalks diverged in a ‘hood, and I—
I took the one more traveled by
And questioned the choice ever since.
…Our early-bird prompt this year (on March 31) was an ekphrastic poem. This is something similar — a poem written from a photograph. There are four below, one of which I hope will catch your fancy…
What color is the badge for compliance
Neither fighting battles nor stopping war
Only bearing witness and footing bills?
With punishment attending defiance
Safe sensible beige, colorless color
Mental disquiet quietened by pills.
Death and destruction, wealth and corruption
Back-breaking debt will progeny outrage
Returns on investment, job creation
Duct tape, red tape and badges of courage
…curtal sonnet is shorter than the normal, fourteen line sonnet. Instead it has a first stanza of six lines, followed by a second stanza of four, and then closes with a half-line…give the curtal sonnet a whirl…
‘If I knew then what I know now’
Mind’s abiding torment
If I could do it over, differently
Heart’s ongoing anguish
If I knew then what I know now
I would do things differently.
Puny, fragile, mortal people
‘So soon old and so late wise’
Honest mistakes, heartfelt regret
Not correctable, fixed unfixed
Garishly permanent amid continuous change
If we knew then what we know now,
Vietnam would be different
like Iraq and Afghanistan
Iran/Contra would be different
like Fast and Furious
The Savings and Loan Crisis would be different
like the Financial Crisis
The Dot Com bubble would be different
like the housing bubble
The War on Drugs would be different
like the War on Terror
The War on Poverty would be different
or not, SNAP!
History repeats and repeats
‘I would give my eye teeth’
‘I would give my right arm’
‘I would give everything I have’
‘I would give anything’.
Sorry Charlie, no can do
Not even devil’s deal for you
Macro, yes but micro, no
En masse must Sorry Charlies row
For good of team and later players
Not egocentric notions of fair.
Sorry Charlies sing in chorus ‘No way Jose’
Misery loves company, the course we will stay
And we will never forget.
…Anaphora is a literary term for the practice of repeating certain words or phrases at the beginning of multiple clauses or, in the case of a poem, multiple lines…
solid granite, dove-grey
bulwark against slave trade
adorned with tobacco leaves.
Sailors and slaves
paupers and knaves
boys with sticks
ladies with tricks
if riverfront bricks could speak
One orphan wall remains
brick the color of old scabs
white and flaky at the edges
withstanding wars but not progress
hope and ivy springing eternally.
…write a poem that features walls, bricks, stones, arches, or the like…
by Colette Nic Aodha (homophonic)
tú imithe le seachtain you imitate the ocean
d’gháire fós mo thionlacan dangling emotion
ba mhian liom éalú beneath elegant moonlight
ó d’íomhá atá do mo leanúint oh don’t laugh at my yearning
uair a eiríonn an ghrian you are air and ground
go luíonn sí arís going yon and staying still
is níos deanaí fós the nights are dear
is mé ag glanadh suas my days grander still
tar éis lá oibre at last the whole
tú mar a bheadh néal carnach you are breath on glass
ós mo chionn ache in heart
tuigim go mbeidh sé amhlaidh gone to be all to another
go dtiocfaidh tréigean do chomactais. go to hell taking me everyplace
gone a week,
your laugh is still my escort,
though I’d rather escape
your image, following me
from the moment the sun rises
till it lies down again
and later still
as I pick up
after a day’s work
you are like a grey cloud
collecting above me –
I know it will be thus –
until you betray our liaison.
Conair an Cheoil
by Gabriel Rosenstock
…Nuair a stop an ceol …Never stop calling
thost an chruinne. though none listen.
(…When the music stopped
the universe became silent.)
…the homophonic translation. Find a poem in a language you don’t know, and translate it into English based on the look of the words and their sounds…
Children laying down to sleep
I pray the Universe to keep
You in folds of kind embrace
As Life and Temptation you face
Pipers play and riches beckon
Your own Conscience must you reckon
Give a thought in each decision
Is there more Life after this one?
Righteous do not writhe on death bed
Wishing they’d been wicked instead
Altogether different frown
If it’s the other way around.
* * * *
Bickle and Blythe
Tripped on sickle and scythe
How they fussed and cried;
When they grew older
And braver and bolder
They went to war and died.
* * * *
Little Ms. Activist
Sat at her smart device
texting her curses away
Along came a virus
Requiring a genius
And sullied Ms. Activist’s day.
…write a poem for children. This could be in the style of a nursery rhyme, or take a cue from Edward Lear or Shel Silverstein. It could rhyme — or not. It could be short — or not…