28  April  Posted by admin

April 26-29th Mom’s Poem a Day Challenge 2013

Words of One Syllable



The old saying for plain, direct speech is “tell it in words of one syllable.”

Robert Pinsky


Try a poem that uses only words of one syllable.  To make it harder, you might even forbid your poem the use of any form of the verb “to be.”  This will push you into non-Latinate language and short active verbs.  It is interesting to observe how these restrictions complicate and alter expression.  It is difficult to find examples of poems written with only single syllable words.  It is less difficult to find poems you could easily translate into words of one syllable. This first poem Pinsky found is sort of dark.


Tichborne’s “Elegy”

………Written with his own hand in the tower before his execution.


My prime of youth is but a frost of cares,

My feast of joy is but a dish of pain,

My crop of corn is but a field of tares,

And all my good is but vain hope of gain.

The day is gone and yet I saw no sun,

And now I live, and now my life is done.

The spring is past, and yet it hath not sprung,

The fruit is dead, and yet the leaves are green,

My youth is gone, and yet I am but young,

I saw the world, and yet I was not seen,

My thread is cut, and yet it was not spun,

And now I live, and now my life is done.

I sought my death and found it in my womb,

I looked for life and saw it was a shade,

I trod the earth and knew it was my tomb,

And now I die, and now I am but made.

The glass is full, and now the glass is run,

And now I live, and now my life is done.

….….……………….….….….—Chidiock Tichborne


(from an article by Robert Pinsky)



How did I make it?

My heart’s not the same as yours.

If your heart was like mine

You’d get it and be right here too.

Han Shan/Gary Snyder

from Cold Mountain Poems



Monosyllabics I


I once sat on a log

at the edge of a field

in the dark with a man,

a friend, we talked.


We watched a star, a small ball

of fire,  shoot an arc

down through the night

to land in the corn.


“Oh my God!”  We yelled.

“Did you see that?”


A rock from space still sits

out there now in that field.

No one will know it if they find it.

It has turned tame and cool.


I can’t tell you the grand point,

just the gist of this small tale.

You must make your own point—

small as a rock, big as the sky.  Try.

jch 3/26/13a



Bright white

bounced light

great plate

eye of night

full moon.

jch 3/27/13



April 27th

Dream Prompt


Dreams, it has been said, were the first poems and stories told around the fire in ancient tribal cultures. Write a poem about a dream, or dreams, or dreaming.


Empire of Dreams

                        Charles Simic


On the first page of my dreambook

It’s always evening

In an occupied country.

Hour before the curfew.

A small provincial city.

The houses all dark.

The storefronts gutted.


I am on a street corner

Where I shouldn’t be.

Alone and coatless

I have gone out to look

For a black dog who answers to my whistle.

I have a kind of Halloween mask

Which I am afraid to put on.



Elizabeth Bishop


I see a postman everywhere

Vanishing in thin blue air

A mammoth letter in his hand,

Postmarked from a foreign land.


The postman’s uniform is blue.

The letter is of course from you

And I’d be able to read, I hope,

My own name on the envelope


But he has trouble with this letter

Which constantly grows bigger & bigger

And over and over with a stare,

He vanishes into blue, blue air.




Sleep is the best meditation.

                                                The Dalai Lama


“I’ll let you be in my dreams if I can be in yours”

Bob Dylan


In Praise of Dreams

                        Wislawa Szymborska


In my dreams

I paint like Vermeer van Delft.


I speak fluent Greek

and not just with the living.


I drive a car

that does what I want it to.


I am gifted

and  write mighty epics.


I hear voices

as clearly as any venerable saint.


My brilliance as a pianist

would stun you.


I fly the way we ought to,

i.e., on my own.


Falling from the roof

I tumble gently to the grass.


I’ve got no problem

breathing under water.


I can’t complain:

I’ve been able to locate Atlantis.


It’s gratifying that I can always

wake up before dying.


As soon as war breaks out,

I roll over on my other side.


I’m a child of my age,

but I don’t have to be.


A few years ago

I saw two suns.


And night before last a penguin,

clear as day.


Aprll 28

Title Search (not for Lawyers)



“An ideal poem: every line of it

can serve as the title for a book.”

Vera Pavlova

in Heaven is not Verbose: a Notebook

Poetry Magazine April 2012


When I read the quotation above, I started a little notebook of titles.  It made me begin to hear titles everywhere.


Make a poem out of titles.  They might be:

titles of poems you have yet to write,

titles of yet unwritten songs,

imagined titles of your novels,

chapter titles for your novels or memoir,

titles for children’s books,

titles for chapters in a quirky, imagined nonfiction book.


But somehow the titles should hang together as a poem and introduce an element of mystery.  This exercise is great if you are a poet who has trouble escaping sentence structure as I do.



Table of Contents

                                     Elaine Equi



Monster Gardens

Up Close, Out Back, Down Under

Flying Backward

The Drunken Voluptuary Workers in the Sanatorium

Dove Sighting

All The Yellow in the World

A Curse I Put on Myself

Three Sides of the Same Coin


Night Cream

Good Luck With Your Chaos

The Glass Stagecoach

In the Country of Mauve

Parrots and Dictators


Walking the Evening Back Home

A Twelve-Course Dinner of Regret

The Gap Gatherer

Burning Down the Ocean

Multiple Choice


April 29th

A Tentative Autobiography


Write an abbreviated autobiography (like Vera Pavlova’s), a Curriculum Vitae (like Lisel Mueller’s), or a poetic evasion of your life story (as in Mary Oliver’s poem).


A tentative bio:

caught fireflies,

read till dawn,

fell in love with weirdos,

cried buckets of tears

for reasons unknown,

birthed two daughters

by seven men.

Vera Pavlova

Translated from the Russian

by Steven Seymour


Curriculum Vitae   Lisel Mueller  1992

1) I was born in a Free City, near the North Sea.

2) In the year of my birth, money was shredded into 
confetti. A loaf of bread cost a million marks. Of 
course I do not remember this.

3) Parents and grandparents hovered around me. The 
world I lived in had a soft voice and no claws.

4) A cornucopia filled with treats took me into a building 
with bells. A wide-bosomed teacher took me in.

5) At home the bookshelves connected heaven and earth.

6) On Sundays the city child waded through pinecones 
and primrose marshes, a short train ride away.

7) My country was struck by history more deadly than 
earthquakes or hurricanes.

8) My father was busy eluding the monsters. My mother 
told me the walls had ears. I learned the burden of secrets.

9) I moved into the too bright days, the too dark nights 
of adolescence.

10) Two parents, two daughters, we followed the sun 
and the moon across the ocean. My grandparents stayed 
behind in darkness.

11) In the new language everyone spoke too fast. Eventually 
I caught up with them.

12) When I met you, the new language became the language 
of love.

13) The death of the mother hurt the daughter into poetry. 
The daughter became a mother of daughters.

14) Ordinary life: the plenty and thick of it. Knots tying 
threads to everywhere. The past pushed away, the future left 
unimagined for the sake of the glorious, difficult, passionate 

15) Years and years of this.

16) The children no longer children. An old man’s pain, an 
old man’s loneliness.

17) And then my father too disappeared.

18) I tried to go home again. I stood at the door to my 
childhood, but it was closed to the public.

19) One day, on a crowded elevator, everyone’s face was younger 
than mine.

20) So far, so good. The brilliant days and nights are 
breathless in their hurry. We follow, you and I.

From Dogfish

Mary Oliver


You don’t want to hear the story

of my life, and anyway

I don’t want to tell it, I want to listen


To the enormous waterfalls of the sun.


And anyway it’s the same old story

A few people just trying

One way or another,

to survive.

Mostly I just want to be kind.

And nobody, of course, is kind,

or mean

for a simple reason.


And nobody gets out of it, having to

Swim through the fires to stay in

This world.


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