This year, no daily prompts, no poems-a-days.

Instead, an exercise. A poetry exercise. Daily.

Why?

During a Q & A session at Seattle Arts & Lectures, I heard Robert Currie say that he was more of a process person–didn’t really care if there was ever a finished product–and Anne Carson was more of a product person (she laughed in agreement).

Writing a poem a day has, for me, a huge emphasis on product. Even William Stafford’s “bad poem before breakfast” advice implies a completed poem.

But when I write, I usually don’t write in a linear way. I don’t have a poem at the end, I have some writing. After days–maybe spread across weeks or longer–I will find some of that writing and piece it together into a poem. And then revise. Send out. Maybe revise again.

Trying to have a poem at the end of every day is incredibly stressful, and most of my Poetry Month poems rest in their electronic folders and go nowhere.

I want to get them somewhere. I want to use process to get to product.

So dust off your old poems and get them into (some new) shape. Or, if you’re committed to a new poem a day, check out Robert Lee Brewer’s prompts. Or peruse your newspaper and write about something you read in it. Then, if you want to work or play, stop by. The exercises will mostly come from Wing Beats II and A Poet’s Companion. I’ll be here for all of April.

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Today I give you facts:
1. At a reading, try not to read after Dennis Caswell. He is a hard act to follow.
2. Dennis’s Poem-a-Day email list is a wonder. Highly recommended.
3. Phlogiston is a real word. It is also the title of Dennis’s book.

Phlogiston, from Floating Bridge Press, explodes with playful poems, telling poems, full of intellect and wit and zany detours that lead you right to the heart where you thought you weren’t going and, luckily, ended up.

For a link, here’s Preservation.

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Last month, Tom and I were lucky enough to go hear Sarah Kaye. We sat in the front row. We were awed and swept up and sometimes a little teary. Then Tom surprised me on Valentine’s Day with a copy of her book, No Matter the Wreckage.

We go to readings to hear the poet and the poems in the moment, but then we also get to carry that voice home with us. Having seen Sarah perform in the TED video and now live, I could hear her in these poems–some of which I’d actually heard her perform.

To me, these poems balance story-telling with some amazing imagery. And even the shorter, quieter poems have a momentum. That’s a trick–to put momentum in a quieter poem.

You can hear her perform “Point B” (or “If I should have a daughter”) at the TED link above. But here is another of my favorites, “Ghost Ship”:

 

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If I hadn’t had to work at the winery on Sunday, I wouldn’t have been driving home in my car, and I wouldn’t have heard this: DEAR SUGAR, The Rumpus Advice Column #64: Tiny Beautiful Things.

It made me feel happy.

One of my favorite parts:

Your life will be a great and continuous unfolding. It’s good you’ve worked hard to resolve childhood issues while in your twenties, but understand that what you resolve will need to be resolved again. And again. You will come to know things that can only be known with the wisdom of age and the grace of years. Most of those things will have to do with forgiveness.

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I’m sorry it has taken me so long to post the first monthly poetry pick of 2015, but I bring you Late Wife, by Claudia Emerson.

In plain language, with tense and haunting imagery, this book stitches together many losses. There’s the dissolution of a marriage, the distances felt inside it and the gaps it leaves in the time since. There’s the loss of a lover’s first wife, the imprints of death and memory that shape a room, a house, a shared life going forward. And then there’s the loss of Ms. Emerson, her much-too-soon death last year.

I leave you with “Eight Ball.”

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