“How are artists, writers, and activists mobilizing and participating in the struggle for human rights and gender justice around the world?” is a question this panel asks at this amazing festival happening soon (May 10-13, 2023) in New York with some events in Los Angeles.
In the detailed description, we learn more about this panel: “To answer these questions, and discuss the very real risks artists take when addressing them in their work, writer, filmmaker, and human rights activist Amir Soltani will moderate a conversation with Afghani women’s rights activist Crystal Bayat, award-winning visual artist Tala Madani, Iranian poet-in-exile Nesar Mohammadi, and multimedia artist and member of the Art/Culture/Action collective Nazanin Noroozi. The program will be co-presented by The Skirball Cultural Center, and will be followed by a reception. The Cultural Partner for this program is The Farhang Foundation.“
To learn more about this PEN American panel on human and gender rights, click here.
Even if you can’t attend, it’s important to know about these names, learn about these topics, and stay connected. I’ll be looking out for writing & art by these creatives.
In the aftermath of the poem-a-day challenge, I want to add a few poems that slipped by with the fast pace of my literary life since my book Rainbow Warrior was released!
On Day 10 of the poem-a-day challenge, I was uninspired to write a “shanty” poem although many of my poet friends were loving it. No, it was not coming to me!
This was the prompt from Maureen at NaPoWrimo: “I’m playing to my own strengths here, but I challenge you to write a sea shanty (or shantey, or chanty, or chantey — there’s a good deal of disagreement regarding the spelling!) Anyway, these are poems in the forms of songs, strongly rhymed and rhythmic, that sailors might sing while hauling on ropes and performing other sea-going labors.”
Although some of my kindred poets were writing away, I just couldn’t imagine a poem/song to be sung while loading or unloading a ship, etc., so I slipped to day eleven and continued.
Now, I’ve decided to use a poem to the sea from an earlier time to make up my day 10 challenge! Below is the poem: “Offering to Yemanya.” Shout out to Ed Madden, in whose workshop I wrote this poem some years ago (sponsored by the Poetry Society of South Carolina).
The prompt: “Start by reading Alberto Rios’s poem “Perfect for Any Occasion.” Now, write your own two-part poem that focuses on a food or type of meal. At some point in the poem, describe the food or meal as if it were a specific kind of person. Give the food/meal at least one line of spoken dialogue.”
In 2022, I was pleased to be featured by Maureen and Napowrimo with my poem “Kielbasa Speaks to the Vegetarian of Polish Descent,” so for this food poem, I wanted to stay with the Polish theme and Pierogis came to mind. Here’s what came out of my meditation on Pierogis! I wish I had some sizzling in butter right now!
Update: I was so pleased that Maureen & NaPoWriMo selected “Yellow Celosia of Hope” as the featured poem of the day! Thank you, Maureen! It was an honor!
So close to the end of this challenge, we need hope, so hope is the topic of my poem today. And here is the prompt from Napowrimo, day 27: “Today, begin by reading Bernadette Mayer’s poem “The Lobelias of Fear.” Now write your own poem titled “The ________ of ________,” where the first blank is a very particular kind of plant or animal, and the second blank is an abstract noun. The poem should contain at least one simile that plays on double meanings or otherwise doesn’t quite make “sense,” and describe things or beings from very different times or places as co-existing in the same space.”
As Maureen Thorson, our fearless prompt leader says, “Here’s one from the archives” (Napowrimo). The planets are acting out right now! It’s Mercury Retrograde, among other unusual circuits. It could be that or maybe just day 24, a book launch on the horizon (for my book Rainbow Warrior), gardens to be planted, guests arriving, etc. etc., but whatever the reason, my muse has literally sat down and refused to budge. So, all to say, though I have been faithful to 2023 prompts until now, here’s one out of the archives, Poem-a-day, 2017. I think the prompt was doodling!
after Emily Dickinson’s “The Moon is Distant from the Sea”
The moon is sister to the sea,
with amber hands she leads the
seeming docile sea along appointed
sands. The sea never
misses a degree, obedient
to her sister moon’s eye, she
comes just so far toward the town &
just so far goes away.
Oh, yours, the amber moon &
mine, the distant sea, obedient
to the least command
the seas impose on you & me.
Hello readers! Have I stolen Emily Dickinson’s poem? No, today’s prompt requires it. You will see the prompt below as well as the original poem. In the original by Dickinson, she made the sea male and the moon female. Although both entities in nature are without a specific gender, I couldn’t imagine the sea as male, so I revised it to make the moon and sea sisters! (poetic license!) Jacquelyn
“Today’s prompt. . .is a variation on a teaching exercise that the poet Anne Boyer uses with students studying the work of Emily Dickinson. As you may know, although Dickinson is now considered one of the most original and finest poets the United States has produced, she was not recognized in her own time. One reason her poems took a while to gain a favorable reception is their slippery, dash-filled lines. Those dashes baffled her readers so much that the 1924 edition of her complete poems replaced some with commas, and did away with others completely. Today’s exercise asks you to do something similar, but in the interests of creativity, rather than ill-conceived “correction.” Find an Emily Dickinson poem – preferably one you’ve never previously read – and take out all the dashes and line breaks. Make it just one big block of prose. Now, rebreak the lines. Add words where you want. Take out some words. Make your own poem out of it!”
At last! A prompt I can warm up to. I love flowers, plants, and the natural world, so writing an edible plant poem was a good way to start the week. Thank you Napowrimo for a great prompt for Day 17 of our poem-a-day challenge. And here is the prompt in detail. As always, there are some specific instructions to adhere to, such as using a repeated phrase and making a specific comparison to my life or someone close to me.
Taste of Sun: Eriobotrya japonica
Japanese plums, loquats, saffron clusters
pasted on palmish evergreen leaves
in breezes swinging.
Another spring blooms.
Let’s gather them & slice the fruit.
Each one a center of smooth seed,
a sculptor could carve a tiny face from.*
Loquat in saffron clusters.
Let’s gather them & slice the fruit,
concoct a yellow cocktail with ice
stirred in. Laugh & toast
to love like days past.
Another spring blooms.
Fruit once fragrant blossoms.
Now, the loquats bunch in saffron
clusters. We laugh & drink the fruit,
cheers to days past with a tangy taste of sun.
Jacquelyn Markham 4/17/2023
*A nod here to the first known female sculptor, Properzia de’ Rossi, who carved intricate pieces from fruit pits, a practice during the Renaissance, but not a common one. De’ Rossi may not have had access to tools and materials as a male sculptor might have in the 16th century.
I once wrote dialogues between the poet and the poem. This prompt is a little like that kind of dialogue, but even a bit more complicated. Here it is from Maureen at Napowrimo: “I challenge you to write a poem that addresses itself or some aspect of itself (i.e., “Dear Poem,” or “what are my quatrains up to?”; “Couplet, come with me . . .”) This might seem a little “meta” at first, or even kind of cheesy. But it can be a great way of interrogating (or at least, asking polite questions) of your own writing process and the motivations you have for writing, and the motivations you ascribe to your readers.”
The prompt for today, Easter Sunday, was to write a sonnet about love. Sounds easy, right? Not after the prompt for yesterday took all the creative juices, but the show must go on, so we poets keep writing as much as we can. I got the lines, the syllables, but not the iambic pentameter or the rhyme. Still, I am sharing this sonnet about love inspired by Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now” quote.
When Warm Embrace Turns Chill: A Sonnet
“It’s love’s illusions I recall.” ( Joni Mitchell)
There are so many details to today’s prompt, I am going to post it below the poem. Or, you may refer to the prompt as presented by Napowrimo here. My poem was inspired by a freewriting I found in a journal using a Chagall painting as a prompt in Katherine Tandy Brown’s writing workshop. Thank you, Katherine!
Her life is a blue song
& it is no bohemian rhapsody.
A blue angel plays a blue horn
while a blue goat dances to the notes.
Her life had become a blue story &
even her angel played a blue song of sorrow.
Yes, there were moments of yellow—
bright sun, sunflowers, & moments when
honey shimmered liquid gold
on her tongue and bird-trilled down
her throat. Less often moments of red—
roses, passion, & heat on her skin.
Still most days the blue angel
hovered over her daily chores,
over washing the dishes,
over feeding her cat, & over her paying bills.
Blue angel even hovered
over her slightly damp brow
when walking the path to nowhere.
Blue goat by her side followed the
blue notes & Poet Voice lingered
in the clouds as the blue angel blasted
blue notes & lightly blew a gentle chanson
from her golden horn.
Blue goat would frolic to notes
of the brightest blue like
Flannery’s peacocks at her Andalusia farm.
Though he trailed her steps on the path,
as he placed one hooved foot gingerly
in front of the other in a goat dance,
it was so joyful, it almost cheered her—
she whose life is blue song.
But no, she could not be cheered
by the goat’s antics, so she kept on
with her blue story & when
blue notes fell in piles
on the edges of the path,
they were quickly & completely absorbed
by the green blades sprouting from
black earth. Blue angel declares she
will blast her golden horn into the sky
when she whose life is a blue song
sings a sun-soaked song of joy, &
the blue song breaks like a shattered mosaic.
Jacquelyn Markham (4/8/2023)
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.