April is National Poetry Writing Month, and it is being celebrated in the printmaker’s studio at Studios on the Park in Paso Robles with an exhibit of ekphrastic poetry.
When people talk about ekphrastic poetry, they are usually talking about a poem that is written as a result of looking at a painting or drawing or sculpture. But it can also work the other way around. It is not necessary for the work of art to come first, and for me the poem comes first and then a wood block print is created based on that poem. And although the poem and the print can each stand separately, together they are meant to enhance each other.
For National Poetry Writing Month the goal is to write a new poem every day in the month of April. So how do you write thirty poems in thirty days? The first few might be hard, but it gets easier as the month goes along and you get in the grove of writing every day. I accomplish this by getting up at three o’clock in the morning. The world is quiet and there are no distractions, and I wait staring out the window into the dark until something triggers a thought or idea. One word leads to the next and one line to the next until there is the rough draft of a poem.
Then comes the hard part of shaping the rough draft into a poem. Like Michelangelo is credited with saying about sculpture, with a rough draft you just cross out everything that is not the poem. But Michelangelo began with a stone already in front of him. He didn’t have to create the block in the first place. With a poem the stone has to be created before it can be shaped.
And just as there is in running a marathon you can it a wall on about day twenty in this writing marathon. There comes a point when there seems to be nothing left to write about. You’re empty. Drained. The imagination departs and three o’clock in the morning becomes the witching hour of monsters and goblins and emptiness and despair and there are no poems waiting to be written down. But if you can slog through days twenty to twenty-two or twenty-three there comes a second wind and with the end of the month in sight the poems start to write themselves again.
Of course there is no ekphrastic poetry without coming up with images that reflect the poetry. Fortunately the poems are now a huge reservoir of images and ideas from which I can draw for subject matter. This is one of my main reasons for writing poems since coming up with the subject matter for prints is often harder for me than carving the blocks and making prints.
I am not alone in participating in April’s National Poetry Writing Month (NaPoWriMo). If you go to www.napowrimo.net you will find hundreds of web sites and people who are participating.
Anyone can participate and there is no charge for participating. There is also no prize for writing thirty poems in April except for the prize of ending up with thirty poems. On the other hand, there is no penalty for failing to write thirty poems except for ending up with fewer than thirty poems.
you notice how the ending dribbles out
to nothing? “a last, a loved, along the “
It’s out of gas. It can’t complete the thought
unless you start the cycle once again
at riverrun, but who would read the thing
a second time or even read it once?
The book is better if it’s not been read.
It’s like a lot of things that’s better left
to our imagination—like this poem.
Once this poem’s written down and read
it’s fixed. It’s formulated on a pin.
It’s dead. There isn’t any movement, life.
It’s static. Moribund. Deceased. And so
there isn’t any poem here today.
It’s left unwritten, left to gestate, and
The Witching Hour
It’s three o’clock, and I am wide awake
and waiting for the slivered moon to move
behind the tree and hide. The passengers
at thirty thousand feet are probably
asleep and neither know nor care their plane
is keeping me awake. I watch it move,
a flashing dot that slides across the sky.
At least there is a reason it’s awake.
It has a destination, purpose, goal.
I listen for the things that can’t be heard,
for something that will keep me company.
The feral cat is silent. Does she hunt
or she is sleeping soundly underneath
my studio and dreaming of the dog
who tries and fails to catch her every day.
It’s three o’clock. The world has gone away
and left me here alone . . . awake . . . alone.
My dog is barking in her sleep again.
I wonder if she’s chasing that damned cat
or if she knows I need the company.
I’m wide awake. At least I think I am.
It’s hard to tell. I mean I sometimes think
I am awake but then I do awake
so I suppose I could be dreaming. If
I start to fly or float among the clouds
or find myself in Italy again;
if I am riding in the Tour de France
or planting out the perfect vegetables
that grow and ripen over night, well then
I’d know that this is just a dream.
But even in my dreams I sleep and eat.
I’m not a superhero all the time.
I am a coward walking down a street
that never ends. . . alone on Moonstone Beach
where Sisyphus is laughing as I try
to stabilize the waves and fuse the sand.
But no, I’m wide awake just sitting here
and staring at the books that line the walls.
Can you be bored and boring in your dreams?