[NOTE: April is National Poetry Month. In 2012, I wrote an original poetry prompt for each day of the month, but I didn't write much actual poetry of my own. This year I am trying to do double duty—posting prompts + a new poem draft each day.]
Today is Earth Day. The name and concept of Earth Day may date to a UNESCO Conference in 1969, but it was first observed in San Francisco and other cities on March 21, 1970, the first day of spring in the northern hemisphere and by the 90s the event was global. In 2009 the United Nations declared April 22 International Mother Earth Day. For today, I offer my 2012 prompt, DAY 22: EARTH DAY.
BLIND CREEK— Barry Lopez
To most eyes a dry creek is a place where a creek once ﬂowed and after a rain will likely ﬂow again. Such a waterway is an ephemeral creek, technically. But by another way of seeing, some such creeks never entirely disappear. A ghost, if you will, holds the creek’s place, moving slowly in darkness below the dry, sun-baked surface. In the mind of a local resident ﬁnely attuned to such things, you’ve come upon the invisible but real when you stand above a blind creek. Dig, and the water will come to light, like the blind ﬂoor revealed when the carpenter’s ﬂoor is taken up.
This definition was written for Language for an American Landscape HOME GROUND. I see Barry Lopez’s definition of a “blind creek” as a prose poem. A prose poem is arguably what it sounds like: a poem written as prose. What separates a prose poem from very short fiction, what we’ve begun calling microfiction or flash fiction? The answer varies depending upon whom you ask. Here’s my shot:
Microfiction or flash fiction is a very short story—a mere 250 (microfiction) or perhaps 500 words, or even 1000 words (flash) in length. This abbreviated length forces the writer to introduce character, setting, and plot in the length of a paragraph, though microfictions generally have multiple paragraphs. The story is dense, intense, and over in a single breath—a quick punch and the reader is left breathless.
A prose poem has no linebreaks, and though it may have other characteristics of a microfiction (paragraph breaks) and poetry (density of language and use of literary devices), its purpose is to observe and focus attention on an image or idea rather than to tell a story (plot), which swings the form into the lyric reality of poetry. The focus is on language and image rather than the forward momentum of a story.
For Earth Day, as Lopez has, write a definition for the landscape you know. You could go to the website and find plenty of definitions for river and bluff and so forth. Do that after you've written 30 minutes. Create your own definition and then see what others have found. Maybe you only know cities—define a gutter, transit, retaining wall, rock garden. Choose an element of landscape that you know. Explain how it came to be, how it functions, how it is used or ignored or appreciated, how it changes depending on the season or the weather, and what it might become in the future. Connect what you know about the land to what you know about love or friendship or the future. Do it in about 100 words (Lopez used 106).
NaPoWriMo2014's 22nd prompt challenges us to "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."
I am thinking this would be fun. I'd recommend checking out Mother Goose, of course, and especially Ogden Nash's verses about food and animals.
Writer's Digest suggests we "Two for Tuesday Prompts! Write one, write the other, and/or write both!
Write an optimistic poem. The glass is half full.
Write a pessimistic poem. The glass is half empty."
In the mean time, the Academy of American Poets still has "30 Ways to Celebrate" National Poetry Month. Check out this wonderful list!
Powell's Book Store is now voting on round four of their annual Poetry Madness, this time a "cage match" of women poets. My choices mostly won the last round.
If you decide to write one poem each day or just one for the month, please let me know how it goes.
Tomorrow I will report my own choice of prompt and I'll post the poem draft I wrote today.
Yesterday my own draft started with NaPoWriMo2014's New York School prompt and then detoured when I read that I was supposed to detour. So here it is, not yet a poem, but with aspirations, my twenty-first:
Not Leading but in Step
Einstein will never have seen it coming
because at the moment he understands
how to destroy the universe inside
his own mind, the UPS truck arrives
bearing death, the goldfish drowns in the bowl,
and the sun becomes a red fingertip
muddling the horizon. Sleeping breathes life
back into our bellies. The last winning
round of Jeopardy contains the only
questions we can answer without cheating,
while the pizza burns and blisters to black.
If we took back with all the time wasted
waiting here for the dryer to shut down
we might make our own moist heat. How is it
that in those old movies, the cavalry’s
goal is to kill the chief and they will all
fall? I think about leadership, how tired
I am of hearing we need it. I will
not follow, but hope we march forward,
side by side, not led, but all together.
That's twenty-one poem-like objects done, and nine to go… and today I must work on fiction, so I don't know what I will have for to post tomorrow…
Any fool can write a bad poem in 30 minutes. (Or an hour, or two…)
I am such a fool.
ABOVE: The rhodie on the beach, blooming its fool head off.