A to Z Blog Challenge and National Poetry Writing Month (NaPoWriMo) Review and Recap

 

Click on the graphic to link to the National Poetry Writing Month page.

April was my second time doing the A to Z blog challenge. I combined it with my first attempt at the National Poetry Month (NaPoWriMo) challenge. For 2017, poetry was my theme for A to Z. With four exceptions, my poems were in alphabetical order according to topic or poetic form. I had 30 posts for NaPoWriMo, 26 of which I used for A to Z. The NaPo challenge was to write (post) a poem each day.

My theme developed over time. I wrote poetry every day, but I didn’t finish a poem on each day. Some poems took more than a week, while one or two others were ready in hours. I thought some of my poems were long, but that relates to form, content, and purpose.

NaPoWriMo provides optional daily prompts. I did not use the prompts because my rookie status as a poetry writer and dual use with A to Z were complicated enough. Next year I hope to: participate with the poetry month challenge, write one poem each day (start to finish), and use the prompts provided. I also used poems for my weekly writing class assignments, instead of prose essays. I don’t plan to participate with the A to Z challenge again.

However, I’ve always liked poetry, even though I know so little about it. During April, I discovered my greater love of poetry and an overwhelming fondness for writing poems. I grew increasingly curious about poetic forms, genres, and styles. I read several books about poetry and many poems. My quest to learn continues.

My A to Z reveal was the most popular of related posts. The best-liked of my poems were Specks: Coincidence meets Kismet and Sunday Lions. By far, the most commented on was the Collaboration Poem, Dewey and Dad, with my daughter. Other well-liked poems included my Haiku; Onomatopoeia, Never Again, and Regna, The Poetry of Art. Zumurgy Blessings finished off the month well liked.

Surprises that did not do well included my sonnet, the tercet, and the poem on coal miners. Dark poems did not do as well as others. Maybe I should not be surprised. I enjoy dark poems and don’t consider mine as bleak as many. However, since I struggled with those three poems (each for a different reason), it’s more likely they were simply not so good.

Another surprise lesson: I can’t predict what you will like. I can tell from your comments how a poem affected you. I received strong positive comments about twaddle I considered only so-so. Things I thought good, took a long time, or challenged me most, were not always popular. For example, the Sunday Lion verse and Xu (Bang the Gong) I wrote quickly and were liked; whereas, I worked for days on the coal miner poem and the sonnet and they sort of flopped. But, there were some positive comments.

Many readers never click like or comment (maybe can’t). So, I don’t get every reader’s feedback. The bane of a writers craft, “what will readers like?” In some cases, there were more likes on Facebook than on this blog. Another example: when I posted the poem about the deer on the Historical Society’s Facebook page there were more likes, but who knows why? This is no scientific evaluation, despite the best efforts of WordPress to collect data. And no one said anything derogatory.

Bottom line, I learned that, for me, poetry is fun – reading it, hearing it, writing it, or remembering it (we memorized O Captain! My Captain! in grade school). I enjoy relating to love poems, poems about nature or human nature, or the occasional taste of the dark side.

Thank you for reading this. If you will excuse me, I have poems to write, read, and to memorize.

Life is lived forward and understood backward,
but look both ways and mind the gaps.

U – Universal Pain and Suffering (NaPoWriMo #25)

I don’t think there is a rule, but I’ve read that poems should be about specific things. The universe isn’t specific. So how do I write about it and be specific? I decided to key on a quote from Aristotle: “The universe exists for, and shines through, the particular.” My attempt was to twist that concept into living in the present.

 

***

Suffering Universal
By Bill Reynolds

What means the vast universe?
From the largest to the smallest,
It’s the every and the all, interspersed.
There’s more, and we’re on the call list.

Where thoughts drift among the unknowable
It’s all there. Is our significance so minute?
Dare we, as we might; is it so uncontrollable?
Or shall we focus on the more acute?

A far-off star explodes. Planets vanish.
Did you hear it? Did you see it?
Stars in the sky, but maybe not.
We see the light. Is it still a vantage?

Death. Suffering. Pain. Sadness.
Broken bodies. Broken hearts.
Do you hear them? Do you see them?
It’s all there. Should we care?

Are my feet on earth? Can my senses touch reality?
The universe is there, but also here.
Not for its own sake, but for each of us.
Let’s focus on the small, while aware of it all.

I engage with my personal
Real world life as it truly can be.
Let me be in the universal here and now.

Until more of the changes happen,
Until the stars no longer shine,
Until we know it all,
Until we hear the universe breathe.

***

Right here; right now, bloom where you’re planted.
But, look both ways and mind the gaps.

*

T – Tercet: In Real Time (NoPoWriMo #24)

The tercet is a poetic stanza of three lines with a rhyme. While there is no specific rhyme scheme necessary and some even venture into free verse, I prefer to not to dig in unplowed turf. However, I did play with this and came up with rhyming lines one and two in each stanza, and using mid and end line rhymes in line three: aab2, bbc2, etc.

***

In Real Time
By Bill Reynolds

Not to be seen, heard, or specifically smelt.
We know it’s there, cuz experiences felt,
No gods can stop it, no power to quit.

Some sew it wisely, while others just wait.
The outcome’s the same, we share the same fate.
Fight back as we may; that is only delay.

Wind we can feel, the rain we may taste.
But the passage of time, we have little to waste.
Let’s consider the past; make choices that last.

Perpetually running, it passes in silence;
Everything changes, nothing is timeless.
Reality speaks loudly, but time passes proudly.

***

Thinking of time, be looking both ways.
While minding the gaps, watch only today’s.

NaPoWriMo #16 (No AtoZ on Sunday)

This poem is about underground coal miners – people who did, or do, very dangerous work. My father and grandfathers were three. This is also about life in our home when Dad still worked in the mines.

During my early teens, the mining business shut down in northeastern Pennsylvania. This was due to the Knox Mine Disaster in the late 1950s and the easy, cheaper, and cleaner use of oil to heat homes. Today, most coal mined in the USA is exported, but the industry continues to decline. Only 30% of electrical power in America is produced by coal.

Old coal mine entrance. A dark abyss.

Nearer My Hell to Thee
By Bill Reynolds

Before leaving the daylight, and going into the pits,
They look deep into the ground, to the soul of the abyss.
The blackest of blacks, the darkest of darks, and danger,
The dank abyss peers back as men descend into nature.

Far below ground, the mine was there lurking, waiting;
That dangerous, disgusting damnation of sound,
For some small wages, they go into that hole far underground.

Deadly it was and deadly it is, they never know when…
Many wives cried at the loss of their men,
Who died in the gut of the deplorable depths.

It was frightening work miners chose, those jobs that killed.
Black hard hats on heads, mining lamps on to cut the dark,
But still never safe. In denial or not, it was dangerous work.

Blackjack and Brass Knuckles same as my father had.

Father was, and so were both grandfathers, miners all.
Walking home through muddy fields and dark alleys,
Dangerous on pay days; all cash in their pockets,
With blackjacks and knuckles, maybe a gun.

He’d push open the gate, then let it slam with a thud.
Dad would stomp up the stairs and in the back door,
It was always the back way after a day’s work.

Covered with coal dust,
The sweat of the labor, and the stink of the mines;
Smoking his Camels, always coughing and coughing.
But he was my Dad, and it was always like this.

I remember Dad much blacker.

Everything filthy, his clothing all rotting,
Black on his skin, and in his gray hair,
He didn’t know about the black in his lungs,
the deadly back dust was glued on hard, but not to his soul.

White at his eyes and over his lips,
he’d set down his lunch pail. No hugs, no kisses,
just “hiya,” and not much of a welcome.

His coat and his cap, and his boots all come off.
Trounced upstairs to the bath, footsteps pounding the way,
Transformation, about to take place.

In cold water each day, he washed coal dirt away,
From his face and his hair, his neck and his chest,
From his waist to his feet, but not from the rest.

Nothing could wash the coal miner away.

Not the water, the union, the beer, or smokes.
Not on the inside, from his throat nor deep in his lungs.
Black dust in his body and in with his blood.

In a coal mine.

It was always the same, until the disaster.
Miners to work, to suffer and die.
Returning to homes, dirty but to homes they came.

Then one day, the depression set in.
The mines all shut down, proud miners, no work.
One day it all ended and everything changed.

Miners laid off, the mines were all closed.
Oil was king, and nobody noticed.
No more abyss, just a new kind of dark.

If you not yet sufficiently depressed, watch this.

Mind the gaps and look both ways.

NoPoWriMo #9 – Mortality

I just checked the NoPoWriMo web page. Nothing there says it has to be good poetry. Apparently, like so many things in life, sometimes it just ain’t happenin’. So, with my apologies, here is more poetic driveling twaddle by this old flapdoodle. This is an a-z day off, but poetry never ends.

Mortality
by Bill Reynolds

Life gives us surprises – good news and bad.
William who wrote, and he basically said
Nothing is good, nor is it so bad, somewhere I read,
We judge it to be. It’s all in our head.

Not our thinking to make it, ‘tis just what we do.
In the mind’s eye, does yours see it too?
Let’s take on this life, with its up and its downs.
Bring it on now, I’ll return parts not used.

What has no beginning and nothing for end?
Every life, it seems, must continually mend.
Then, it concludes with a message to send,
Forever can deal with what’s left in the end.

Mortality saves me from losing more friends,
Our state of reality gives a second great worth,
Listen again to sounds long ago penned,
To be in a life, since the time of our birth.

While all this must end, it’s all that we have,
So live to the best, and into eternity send,
We played with the good along with the bad,
No one will ask, after we’re gone,
To return all happiness and fun that we had.

Let’s live it to the fullest, defiant to the end.
But, look both ways, no need to rush it.
Mind the gaps, too.

E – Elegy Poem for Mom (NaPoWriMo #6)

An elegy is a mournful poem. I wrote this elegy regarding the loss of my mother, more than 25 years after her death. The elegy is one of the oldest poetic forms. It’s identified by what it says, not how it says it.  The Greek word elegeia means song of mourning, and is often included in classical Greek tragedies. E-words used: enshrined, essence, ecstasy, eyes, end/ended, and even.

Missing Mom

The day Mom died, I stood there and cried.
To the surface my guilt came out of my eyes,
Beside her deathbed, letting go of our life.
Her suffering had ended, and I was alone.

No person is perfect, no human unsoiled.
Enshrined mother’s love, was sunshine to me,
‘twas the essence of my childhood memory,
My loss just the same, never again she will be.

She’d lived a rough life, through to the end,
But she loved me as only the mother to son,
That unconditional love, will never be done.
Only her death could end our last day.

Alone. Just alone.

Her voice and her scent, ecstasy to me.
So much I still miss them. I can still see.
“Hiya,” she’d say, to even the worst.
As kind as she was, so how she asked me to be.

Mom we still miss you, your face and your smile,
The sound of your voice, the look in your eyes.
Never again, will you be for us to see.
The loss that brings a sadness, one forever I’ll feel.

Mind such gaps, look both ways, and remember love.

D – Dogs of War (NaPoWriMo #5)

This poem refers to crew members (called crew dogs) of B-52 bombers and to their war-time mission of dropping munitions to destroy things and kill people, thus the dogs of war. This is a dark and threatening piece, set in six stanzas of six lines each, with even and odd lines rhyming. Misery and woe are metaphors for the many types of weapons dropped. The shrill is the eerie sound bombs make as they fall. The dog, or beast, refers to the model D, or variant of B-52, which is painted black on the bottom of the airplane. Please question in comment.

We are coming for you.

Dogs of War
by Bill Reynolds

Let us slip from nature’s gravity hold
We war dogs of old, both willing and bold.
Into skies we shall go with misery and woe.
To maim and to kill, who we don’t even know.
Our airman’s life is to die if we will.
Into Death’s realm, we’ll send you the shrill.

We’re lashed to the beast, the marvelous dog,
Behind us we leave the stink and a fog.
The thunderous sound of flying around
We send you a hell, you on the ground.
Wonders of war are set at our feet
Our old friend death, soon you will meet.

A B-52H dropping high-drag bombs and flairs.

Destruction we’ll rain on your cities and towns,
You won’t know we’re there, we don’t make a sound.
Concussion will break you and all that is near,
Along with destruction, we’ll send you the fear.
The black-bottom dogs will come as you sleep
To rip and to tear, into hearts of your sheep.

The countdown will start, as our hearts will race,
But Death we’ll deliver at one horrible pace.
The flashes we’ll see and the fires will rise,
The dogs of war unleased, to your demise.
The horror will come as sure as the sun,
This nightmare relents when war is won.

The Beast

Safe home again with guilt, we shall not feel,
Because of the blow, we were vowed to deal.
To the bar we’ll retire and review the day’s mess,
In laughter and stories, we consider success.
The beast is now resting and finding a tune,
Ready again, the dogs shall return again soon.

The horrors of war are hidden away,
The death and the misery kept well at bay.
From dogs to humans we slowly turn,
To our homes and lives we always return.
Havoc returns with the dogs of war,
Until we can say, no war! No more.

Look both ways, mind the gaps, and fill the world with love and peace.
Lest we…

“…Cry “Havoc!” and let slip the dogs of war,
That this foul deed shall smell above the earth
With carrion men, groaning for burial.”
~ Marcus Antonius in Julius Caesar,
Act 3, scene 1, 270–275