Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Poetry Jump-Starts (for my classes and whoever else needs them)

It's Wednesday, which means that Mary Biddinger is tweeting a new Summer Poetry Prompt, as she is doing every Wednesday this summer. I thought I would post the prompts I give to my FIT students here, too.

Poetry Jump-Starts
Here are some prompts to get you started on a poem! 
·      Write a poem in the voice of another person, a creature, or an object, using first person (dramatic monologue).
·      Write a letter in verse form to a famous person.
·      Write a verse letter to someone you know very well.
·      Is there a piece of art or music that you admire, or even dislike?  Write about it—describe it, but try to say something beyond the mere description.
·      Look out your window at the scene you see every day.  Observe it for some length of time.  Try to imagine you’re seeing it for the first time.  Do you see anything new?  Use your imagination.  Then write.
·      Go somewhere you’ve never been before, and write about what you see there.
·      Write about an image from a dream. Describe it as specifically as possible, just as you remember it, without interpreting or explaining it.
·      Write about a specific, detailed memory.  Using sensory detail and/or figurative language, try to “show” the significance of that memory to your reader, rather than “telling” it. (Try to use all five senses—sight, sound, smell, touch, taste)
·      Take two lines from poems by someone else.  Write one at the top of the page, and one at the bottom. Write your way from the first line to the last.



Friday, April 29, 2016

NaPoWriMo Day 17/29

What the Living Say to the Dead

It goes without saying but I'll say it anyway:
you were in my dream, alive and well,
smiling and younger than ever, our two young kids
monkey-scrambling, and you wanted to be with me.
We roamed the ancient buildings of an ivied campus,
working out our future after the brief interruption
of your apparent death. You would stay now,
I knew, with us and all would be well. It was spring,
lilies returning to the pond, the first rowboats
tentatively nosing out onto the water. Shadows
alternated with dapples of sun, a buffet awaited
us at midday, cocktails and crudites at sunset,
and at bedtime, we would tuck ourselves in,
as we did so many times, sheets always a-tangle,
when you were ours and I was yours
and the clock struck without any sense of dread.
The problem with these dreams is that I always awaken,
and they're never true. I suppose that's obvious,
but you can't be clear enough when it comes
to the dead, they have so much trouble hearing
you above the din of everything else they know,
the music of the spheres and all the dead rockers
gone before their time, like you, the snowdrop cluster
of your love in the shade of a mossy old oak,
the sudden clearing where a lone fawn startles,
then turns to follow the doe he has so recently
emerged from, steaming and bloody and fierce
hungering for balance, poised for the chase.

Amy Lemmon
April 29, 2016

Thursday, April 28, 2016

NaPoWriMo Day 16/28

The Edible School Yard

you can't get persecution in a can   telephone game
or jar--it won't be preserved   armour star
through heat or pressure cooking   rattle goes the lid
it lives in the memory    hardens
to a lump of anthracite    tasty bite
and all the safety panties     i see london
in the girls' department at J C Penney   for your shopping convenience
will not save you from   i see france
the laughter

there's your boyfriend

pointing at the boy crouched   plaid shirt dragging in the dirt
on the ground in the third grade boys' line
"he's smelling his own pits!" gleeful
and lunch is dismissed     low, low
pale green plastic molded trays
on which a salty concoction  with brown gravy is plopped

we dare Amy over

it was always almost me
it was me
i think i am remembering it wrong
and there's nothing to eat today
no donuts in the window or the cow on top of the barn
only the creak of an empty swing
going back and forth
back and forth

i dare you all over

Amy Lemmon
April 2016

NaPoWriMo: Lost My Mojo

This year for the first time I thought I'd try NaPoWriMo--National Poetry Writing Month, writing a poem a day and posting on my blog. That lasted until the 15th, at which time I took the weekend off (busy with kids and such) and then never got back to it. Maybe I went to too many poetry readings--this National Poetry Month was a killer! I focused too much on the online class I'm teaching now (yes, while on sabbatical) and the 3 I'll be teaching during the summer session (argh). Bobby needed attention, Stella's IEP meeting happened, and life intervened. In short, one thing led to another, I got out of the habit of lowering my standards and steeling myself to draft and post a poem every day. I kind of started to forget what it felt like.

On the plus side, I'm happy with having drafted 15 poems so far, and I think I'll try to eke out a couple more before May is upon us. Anything that gets me stringing words together is a good thing. Stay tuned, folks!

Friday, April 15, 2016

NaPoWriMo Day 15

What Are the Prospects?

This time of day, Broadway south of Union Square
is mewling with students and tourists,
all speaking languages I can't even identify,
families and mothers with toddlers
trailing sippy cups, guys just off shift
lighting cigarettes because they can
before the train. I turn to my hummus,
certain that life without chickpeas
is not worth living, and it occurs to me again:
What are the prospects? The question I asked
every time I tried the online Tarot reading generator,
hoping each time for some ancient truth
that would blow up like a billboard in living color,
explaining everything from the guy I wasn't hearing
from to the poems I wasn't writing, to my kid
not getting out of bed for school. What are 
the prospects? The doggedness of my persistence,
refusing to quit until I got an answer I could live with.
Now, it's mostly about this curly kale and the fiber
content of the whole wheat pita. I'm a pushover
for health kicks and promises, rooting for moisture
in the dressingless salad, settling for the odd clump
of feta, a lone pitted kalamata. My prospects
are kaput, goosey gander full-on shutdown
and we are not at liberty to discuss them
at this time. Still, spring is coming, as it does,
and pushover that I am, anticipating change,
anticipating green pea shoots and white asparagus,
new lambs and all that bleating, bleeding out
and about in the world that is still mostly fine,
mostly inhabitable, mostly turning still.

Amy Lemmon
April 15, 2016

Thursday, April 14, 2016

NaPoWriMo Day 14

The Widow Takes to the Drink

Every night or nearly so, she pours
just one glass, slowly becoming just one more.
She shrinks from flasks, from any branded signs
that others use when drunk out of their minds.
Alone or with a friend, the bar's the thing
and if the song is good she'll even sing
an eighties ditty or a post-grunge chant
the punkish side of country, sweet and tart.
So set 'em up again and watch her swig--
no glass too full, no jigger over-big.
She won't disappoint, loosening her grip
the hard edge softening slightly with each sip.
She knows no stranger, chats up every sot
It's always happy hour until it's not.


Amy Lemmon
September 2010?-April 2016

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

NaPoWriMo Day 13


Ohio Steel

     Floyd O. Lemmon 1912-1982

He didn't need college to be a success,
started in the foundry, moved up to foreman
and then got into sales, traveling with a suit and tie
a smart hat and an expense account
a crystal paperweight a medal a retirement prize

*   *   *

Started in wartime
fires kept burning
dehumidify the ore
hollow casting
war again
wartime contracts
cold war defense
mosaic of parts
and fabrications

*   *   *

He roamed the property
in search of arrowheads
protean bones and stones
fields with feed corn   seed corn
straw and hay fodder for the cows
creekbed always moving

*   *   *

When the company was sold
they moved his job to Pennsylvania
but he stayed on his land
traveling man
restaurants and homey motels
amateur shutterbug
photos and photos
a slideshow every weekend

*   *   *

Foundry Craft Grillery       historic Lebanon Steel Foundry
     sounds of metal on metal       heat of fire     dedicated workers
successful player         industries                simplicity        
old world           grilleries and butcheries
fire forged the iron and steel         past               eight foot custom wood-fired grill
 leaders and laborers           private dining space               founded City      1750s

*   *   *

Steel the company that kept him
Steel the blade that cut the lawn 
and chopped down weeds in the meadow
Steel the wheel that ground the meat for Gran's ham salad
Steel with copper bottoms the pots and pans where supper cooked
the lid rattling beef and noodles
All those dinners she had to eat alone
after he was gone

Amy Lemmon
April 13, 2016

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

NaPoWriMo Day 12

Our Measure of Misfortune

"This is it," I thought. A sun-breaking-through-clouds,
angel-chorus-sweeping thought. "Nothing else bad can happen
to us. Our parents won't sicken and die, no one we love
will get cancer, there won't be any bad accidents--"
Somehow my shocked mind concocted this lovely fiction,
a palliative to the unimaginable horror we faced:
a defective child, genetic abnormality, the baby booby prize.

*  *  *

The train lurches and a woman sprawls to the floor.
The man's she's with turns in the other direction.
"You almost killed me!" she screeches.
Other men rush to lift her to a seat. "You're difficult
to walk with," he says, hugging a pole mid-car.
Two busybodies cluck for half an hour,
volume turned up when the man gets off
at Times Square with the fallen woman.
"They were together!"   cluck cluck
Where is the tenderness of late?
Where the privacy to choose your own partner,
to cleave to and from?

*  *  *
After Tintoretto

As your arm settles on the back of my chair
dying sun graces the table, lighting my face.
The restaurant is suddenly transformed
into a Renaissance tableau
chairs perfectly arranged
a hush lifts visibly
as I ascend


Amy Lemmon
April 2005 - April 2016