Thursday, 28 April 2016

NaPoWriMo - what day is it?

My calendar tells me it’s the 28th day of April but after having a few days away (see my previous post), and then catching up with things at home, I’ve fallen behind with the Write a Poem a Day challenge. But I have been making a note of the daily optional prompts on, and my muse has been sending me random ideas to fit some of them.

The prompt for Day 18 was: a poem that incorporates the sound of home.
I started trying to write something about the sounds in my childhood home, and then in my present home, but it just wasn’t working. Then I asked one of my fictional characters what she remembered hearing in her home.

Home sounds

I hear my daddy laughing
rich as chocolate, loud as happy thunder.
I hear my mummy talking
light and tinkley, a pretty fairy voice.
I hear the sounds of cooking,
pans clunk, plates clatter, and spoons are scraping.
I listen for feet stepping,
who will come to read my story tonight?
I hear the phone ring, ringing,
Daddy’s ‘hello?’ and then Mummy’s ‘what’s wrong?’
I hear a door’s soft closing.
Nothing but hush. A bad feeling inside.


Day 20’s prompt was for: a kenning poem.
A kenning is a sort of riddle found in Norse sagas where the real name of an object or person is replaced with metaphors.

What am I?

Soft shuffler
Flat flopper
Sound muffler
Toe hugger
Cosy comforter
and, best of all,
Home welcomer!

(answers in the comments, please!) 

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

A 'what if ' too many

‘What if ?’ must be the most useful phrase in a fiction writer’s toolkit. It can – and has – sparked all kinds of wonderful stories.

What if a young girl fell down a rabbit hole?
What if someone found a treasure map?
What if two lovers were kept apart by their families?
What if humans could travel to another planet?

But, in real life, it can be a very disturbing question.

We were planning a weekend visit to my 80-year-old aunt who lives in Wales (the other side of the country from us). I knew she wouldn’t be able to put us up overnight so, after checking she hadn’t made any other plans for that weekend, I told her I’d phone again after I’d arranged some accommodation, and tell her what time to expect us.

A few days later, I tried to call her in the early evening but she didn’t answer her phone. I assumed she must have gone out somewhere.

I tried again the next morning. No answer. Oh well, she was probably out shopping.

I called a couple of times in the afternoon. No answer. Perhaps she was in her garden or visiting a neighbour. But when she still wasn’t answering her phone that evening I began to feel uneasy.

I called my sister and asked if she’d heard anything from Auntie. She hadn’t, but said she would try phoning as well. Another day went by with neither of us being able to contact her.

   My mind filled with 'what if ’s'

What if she was ill?
What if she’d had an accident?
What if something had happened to her while she was away from home and no one knew who she was?
What if she’d suffered some kind of memory loss?
What if I couldn’t find out where she was?
What if she’d been kidnapped? Or abducted by aliens? Or …?

    NO! I had to ignore the ‘what if ’s’ and think logically!

The next morning, I called Auntie's doctor (in case she’d been taken into hospital), social services, and then the police. It was both a relief and a huge worry when they said they would send someone to her house straight away.

   There were more ‘what if ’s’ while I waited for news.

What if she didn’t answer the door?
What if the police had to break in?
What if she wasn’t there?
What if they found …?

And then my phone rang. It was Auntie. She was perfectly okay, although she’d been rather shocked when she’d answered a knock on her door and found two police officers there. The reason she hadn’t answered her phone was that she’d accidentally turned down the volume on it, so she hadn’t heard all that frantic ringing. (I’ve made sure she can’t do it again!)

I suppose all those 'what if ’s' might come in useful for future stories, but sometimes I wish I had a switch to turn down the volume on my imagination!


Thursday, 21 April 2016

NaPoWriMo catch-up

There are so many other distractions in my life at the moment that I’ve fallen way behind with the Write a Poem a Day challenge, but here are two more attempts:

When I saw the prompt for Day 14 – write a san san poem – I didn’t even attempt to do it. It seemed too complicated, and I didn’t have time for complicated! It’s a Chinese form that uses 3 repetitions of 3 terms or images, arranged in 8 lines which rhyme a-b-c-a-b-d-c-d

But after a couple of days, the following 3 phrases popped into my head

a free day     nothing to do     be myself

     I need a free day with nothing to do but rest
     and be myself. To do as I please with a free day
     having nothing to do, no deadlines, no plan,
     only a hope to be myself and to do my best
     no matter if I spend that time on work or play.
     But how can I steal a free day with nothing to do
     when my conscience nags me to do all I can?
     I need to learn to be myself, be something new.


Day 15’s prompt was: a poem that incorporates the idea of doubles
Again, I needed more than one day to even come up with an idea for a poem, let alone write it!

The Power of Two

Two is an even number
that smoothes out the oddness of one,
and makes a stable centre
for three, four, five and the rest.

Like yin and yang, night and day,
twos hold opposites, reflections
reversed no matter which way
they may be twisted or turned.

Two is a magic symbol
to bring good luck, make dreams come true,
to summon a miracle,
and even bind me with you. 

Thursday, 14 April 2016

NaPoWriMo Day 13

Today’s prompt was: a poem inspired by fortune cookies

Only time for a quick haiku.

Fortune does not shine
on fortune cookie buyers
but those who sell them.

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

NaPoWriMo Day 12

The prompt from was: an index poem.

The idea is to make a poem using words found in either a real or imaginary book index.
I took a very small section of the index in Life Style by Dr Peter Marsh, an interesting book that I picked up in a library sale.

I’m not sure if the following can be classified as a poem though – I suspect it’s just a piece of prose chopped into short lines. 

Alternative strategies for dealing with vulnerable kids

Statistics show
accidents involving adolescents
are more common
in urban areas
than in the countryside.

Although chances
of mishaps occurring at school and home
are the same everywhere,
teens hurt while involved in crime,
anti-social behaviour
(in streets and shopping malls)
and random acts of aggression,
are more likely to live in cities.

Our solution,
to move accident-prone children
to safer places, such as farms,
has been opposed
by agribusinessmen
concerned at the effect this might have
on the local agriculture
and other environmental issues.

Their proposal
is that secure compounds
should be built in cities
to protect at-risk adolescents,
and those already in the country
should be closely monitored
by animal behaviour therapists.

We await your decision with interest.

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

NaPoWriMo Day 11

The prompt for Day 11 was a bit complicated: a poem closely describing an object or place, then ending with an abstract line that doesn’t seem to have anything to do with that object or place – but does.

I understood it better after reading a poem recommended on the website, but had to wait for my muse to visit the next morning before making my poor attempt.

April shower
Soft pattering on the window,
clear rivulets trickling down,
blue sky beyond.
Catkins on the birch tree
and a robin singing.
To the right, flowering cherry,
maroon leaves, pink blossom,
on the left, tall hedge,
shrubs close together,
many shades of green.
Flowers directly below,
some late daffodils,
red tulips, blue forget-me-nots,
mixed pink and white stocks,
one purple pansy.

My mind is a barren desert.

Sunday, 10 April 2016

NaPoWriMo Day 10

I was lagging behind with this ‘write a poem a day’ challenge, but I’ve caught up with the help of today’s prompt: write a book spine poem.

The idea is to juggle titles of some of the books on your bookshelf to make something that might be called a poem. Here’s what I found in my non-fiction bookcase:

The Paper Astronaut
sings a
Song of the Earth
Life on Earth
The Complete Gardener
Mushrooms and Toadstools
so the
can create
Great Recipes for Good Health

I could have had fun with this all day, but I must go and catch up with my other writing! 

NaPoWriMo Days 8 & 9

The prompt for Day 8 was: a poem about a flower

Sounds simple but it had me stumped! What could I say about a rose, or any other bloom, that another poet hasn’t already said so much better?

Staring out of the kitchen window, hoping for inspiration, I noticed a little patch of blue and came up with this:

Jogging my memory

I don’t remember
that plant                                             
growing between
paving slabs.
A weed, I guess.
made me wait,
to see what grew.
Of course!
How could I forget


Day 9 was even more difficult.
The prompt was: a poem that includes a line you are afraid to write.

I was brave enough to write a few lines, but not to publish them.
You’ll have to make do with this:

For ?

They say you should be careful
in case your wish comes true
in unexpected ways
that hadn’t occurred to you.

So I’ll keep this one a secret
in my heart and all I do,
hoping I won’t need to name it,
because my wish is your wish too.

(Oh, dear, it sounds like something out of a greetings card, doesn’t it? Not scary at all!)

Friday, 8 April 2016

NaPoWriMo Days 6 & 7

So much to do, so little time, racing to catch up …

The prompt for Day 6 was; a poem about food.

Such a huge subject that I didn’t know where to start. In the end, I thought about how different the food I eat today is from my childhood meals. When did ‘traditional British food’ start to change? A little trip down memory lane prompted this haiku:

Tradition destroyed
on the day Mum discovered
Vesta beef curry.


Day 7’s prompt was: write a Tritina

It’s a poem with 3 x 3 line stanzas + 1 final line.
It doesn’t have to rhyme, but uses 3 repeating end words in the pattern ABC, CAB, BCA, with all 3 end words appearing in the final line.
It felt more like doing a word puzzle than writing a poem, which is probably why I enjoyed doing it!

Universal child

When you last looked out at the night sky
And tried to count all the twinkling stars
Did you wonder who might be looking at you?

Was it possible another you
Was gazing up at a different sky
Seeking a sign of life among distant stars?

How many planets orbit the stars?
A number so vast it will astound you.
Sextillions of worlds, each with its own sky.

You are unique under this sky, but remember you were made from the stars.


Wednesday, 6 April 2016

NaPoWriMo Day 5

The prompt for Day 5 was: a poem inspired by the name of an ‘heirloom’ plant.

The website gave links to a couple of American seed companies, but I did a search for British heirloom seeds and found plenty of inspiration at The Real Seed Catalogue

The Czar is a tall runner bean with white flowers.
Pink Passion chard is a leafy green vegetable with bright pink stalks.
How could I not put them together in a poem?

Mixed vegetables

King of the allotments they called big Joe,
his veg patch was his pride and his joy.
There wasn’t a plant that he couldn’t grow
be it cabbage, spuds, leeks or pak choi.

Sweet little Sal took the plot next to Joe’s,
Her knowledge and skills were both zero.
She asked his advice on spades, rakes and hoes,
Joe was happy to give her the info.

Sal quickly learnt with Joe’s kind tuition,
soon her carrots and onions grew tall.
Novice Sal became Joe’s competition,
he wished he hadn’t helped her at all.

Jealous Joe did his best to avoid her,
took to gardening at unsocial hours.
Sal missed their chats, their laughter and banter,
felt sad as she tended her flowers.

Joe started weeding early one morning
when a friendly ‘hello’ made him squirm.
Sal had popped up, close by with no warning,
cheery as a bird that’s caught a worm.

Sal said ‘I was just admiring your Czar,
it's the biggest one I’ve ever seen.’
But Joe was squinting at something bizarre,
a bright plant in Sal’s bed, red and green.

‘That’s my Pink Passion,’ said Sal with a smile
‘Come to dinner and you’ll have a taste.
Although chard is best with beans Chinese style …’
Joe began stripping Czar in great haste.

Later that year, at the fruit and veg show
Joe and Sal swept the board together,
then sealed their love with a promise to grow
on a double allotment - forever. 

Some of the lines don’t scan as well as I’d like, and I want to come up with a better title, but I might revisit it and polish it up – one day!

Monday, 4 April 2016

NaPoWriMo Day 3 & 4

 The prompt for Day 3 of this ‘write a poem a day’ challenge was: a poem in the form of a fan letter.

I could think of lots of people I’d like to write such a letter to, mostly writers and artists who have inspired me, but I just couldn’t find the right way to start. By the end of the day, this was all I had produced.

I need a poetry idea,
A flash of inspiration,
A clever thought, some pretty words
To boost my reputation.
My mind is blank, there’s nothing there
The muse has gone away.
Long hours tick by, the minutes too,
I’ll try another day.


Today, Day 4, was completely different. Prompt: the cruellest month.
My subconscious threw this up amazingly quickly.

The Cruelty of March

A perfect March day,
a day you’ll recall years from now
and assume you are seeing those clich├ęs of spring
 - courting birds, blue sky, skipping lambs -
through lemon-tinted lenses
that make the greens joyous.

Good journey for once,
no hold-ups, wrong turnings or
crawling behind tractors for mile after mile.
Clear roads, windows down, music on
and, at your destination,
a vacant parking spot.

Lovely room, you think,
easy to forget where you are,
a pleasant hotel bedroom or private house perhaps.
Light and airy, pastel colours, a shelf
for all her cards and flowers,
a comfy-looking bed.

You smile, so does she,
and give your gifts with more smiles
hoping they’ll say so much more than your words.
Family news, a strained joke, idle chat
until the interruption of tea
gives blessed relief.

Beautiful view, you say,
as you stand and cross to the window.
The gardens are a picture today, have you seen?
Daffodils, primroses, buds on the trees,
and can you hear that blackbird
singing his heart out?

You hope for a moment,
she’ll ask you to take her outside or at least
make the effort to sit up and enjoy this first day of spring.
She lies quiet, still, eyes half-closed,
and you want to bite your cruel tongue
for talking of new life.  
I’m sure it can be improved, and I’ll keep it in my ‘to be edited’ file, but I’m quite pleased with this first draft.

Sunday, 3 April 2016

NaPoWriMo Day 2

(I did write this on April 2 - honest! - but didn’t have time to post it here.)

Prompt: a family portrait

The only photo I have of my great-grandmother shows a very stern-looking woman …

Old photograph

Sitting so stiff and straight,
the great-grandma I never met
stares at the camera
down the years
towards me.

And these are her children,
only names on the family tree
except this young girl
who became
dear, old Nan.

I recognise her face,
but not the prim and proper pose
or solemn gaze so
unlike the
one I knew.

‘Ah, the old days,’ she said,
and laughed at the memories she shared.
‘Yes, times were hard, and yet,
we did have
such larks!’

I see a new picture.
Photographer nods, mother smiles,
children blink and stretch.
They did it.
They kept still
for a whole minute!

It needs tidying up, but I'm quite pleased with it. 

Saturday, 2 April 2016

NaPoWriMo Day 1

I had no idea what to write for the first day of the NaPoWriMo challenge. Luckily, they post an optional prompt for each day on their website so I had a look at that. Today’s prompt was to write a LUNE.

It’s a three line poem with
                              five syllables in the first line
                              three in the second
                              and five in the last line

or you can use five, three and five whole words instead of syllables.

I tried the word version first:

                             Write a lune they said
                             so I did 
                             but is it a poem?

(My answer was ‘No!’)

After much pondering and editing I came up with this one counting the syllables:

                             In soft lunar light
                             courting loons
                             sing sweet lunes of love.

And then I tried both forms using the same idea:

          (words)   April the artist splashes pink
                                and white blossom
                                all over her brightest greens.

      (syllables)   April paints pink and
                                white blossom
                                on her brightest green.

Not happy with any of them, but it’s a start!