Total Pageviews

Sunday, April 23, 2017

NaPoWriMo 2017 Day Sixteen, The Letter

Dear Journal,

You must think I'm neglecting you, but you can be sure I remember you.   I think about you every day, but somehow the time slips away or something or someone else comes up and -- there you go. Today's NaPoWriiMo was to write  poem in the form of a letter.  Well, let me start with the letter itself, a letter to you that's long overdue. Here's a short one...

When was the last time met; do you remember?  I know for sure it hasn't been since last year, because I had a knee replaced last summer, and I don't think you even know about that. I think we've only met once since that year in Sweden when my husband and I stayed at our friends' cottage on that pristine forest lake I especially remember that, how we laughed in the sauna because my husband gamely joined our host family, steaming in the altogether, while I, one of her very best friends despite living a third of a globe of distance, insisted on wearing my bathing suit and steaming on a lower bench.

Across the Bay of Bothnia, in Finland, our relatives had declined to heat their sauna at all in that hottest of Augusts ever. There we'd dined on soups, and at tea tables with egg butter, piirakka, crisp rye breads and strawberry tortes. In Sweden we ate steak, along with mushrooms my friend had picked along her morning walk down the sun spackled shade of the forest road. I went with her one da, and found out that there really are mushrooms with bright red, white-spotted caps!  Until then I'd assumed them to be figments of children's book illustrators' imaginations. (Don't eat them: they're poisonous, as many pretty things are!)

I could go on...more discoveries and imaginary figments every day.

Figment...'must add that to my list of interesting of the distractions from getting back to you, my journal friend, on a daily basis.  Although, alas, I've begun neglecting her too.  The list, that is.  And I do have lists: to-do lists, grocery lists, call-back lists, bills-to-pay lists, things to take along on the trip list.  They all add up, subtracting more and more from what ideally would be my 'quiet' time. My rest time.  My catch up with my friends time.  Receding, receding, receding....

'Have to go now...I'm pretty busy living the day-to-day, these days.  'Nice talking to you!


P.S., I think I want to try re-writing this as a poem...At least. this here's  a start....

Thursday, April 20, 2017

NaPoWriMo 2017 Day Fifteen, The Natural Middle (Unfinished poem tbd)

Day Fifteen's challenge is write a poem that reflects on the nature of being in the middle of something. The poem could be about being on a journey and stopping for a break, or the gap between something half-done and all-done. Half a loaf is supposedly better than none, but what’s the difference between half of a very large loaf and all of a very small one? Let your mind wander into the middle distance, betwixt the beginning of things and the end. Hopefully, you will find some poetry there!

Whatever you do
     mother would admonish me
     that I still hear her voice
     never ceases to astonish me

do with all your might
     she tried with motherly might
     at home, at church, at school
     to distinguish wrong from right.

a job done by halves
     whether homework assignment
     or setting table for dinner
     or enduring a long confinement.

is never done right.
     according to my brother
     .......    Oh mother

if you could only see me now!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

NaPoWriMo 2017 Day Fourteen, Short and Sweet

Day Fourteen's challenge is to write a clerihew, a four line biographical poem satirizing a famous person. Similar to a limerick, which has five lines and does not (necessarily!) refer to real person.

Here's mine:

And now folks, here's Stephen Colbert.
For skewering news he has a flair.
*He's a profound proclivity
for satirizing civility.
                                 --Shirley Smith Franklin

* I realize there's the possibility of interpreting this as He IS instead of  He HAS, as I intended.
   but it's all just in fun---so go figure!

**Okay, you're right, an outright HE HAS would work better.  See? That's how (I would guess most) poems get written (and re-written, and re-written...), a little at a time, one step forward, two steps back, until it finally tells the author it's done.  And yes, I call it fun.

NaPoWriMo Day Thirteen 2017: What I've learned about Ghazals

Day Thirteen:  What I've learned about Ghazals So Far

Today's  prompt is to write a ghazal, a form NaPoWriMo says originated in Arabic and Persian poetry. According to,  the ghazal "is composed of a minimum of five couplets—and typically no more than fifteen—that are structurally, thematically, and emotionally autonomous."  There are other modified definitions out there, including using the same or similar second line throughout. I just use what works for the ghazal at hand. The form of simply a series of couplets, seems to be becoming more popular in English language writing these days, --I enjoy the ghazal because it has some discipline of a given/chosen/defined form, along with the freedom to combine a variety of thoughts, line and poem lengths,  and the option to rhyme or not to rhyme. 

 I've written several perhaps a dozen of ghazals, a couple of which, I think, 'work.' Although, one writing teacher paused at the fact that my poems seemed to address themes, rather than consisting of relatively random, unrelated verses not, or not related beyond sharing a topic or mood...(what's the difference between that and "a theme"?!)

Ideally, "both lines of the first couplet end with the same phrase or endword, [which] is also repeated at the end of each couplet...[and the poem includes] internal rhymes[,] a reference to your own name in the final couplet." (from NaPoWriMo Day Fourteen challenge).

Ghazals have traditionally consisted of laments, thoughts about love, or drinking thoughts (?). One tradition in writing a ghazal is to include a question, request, plea, or lament addressed to God or a higher power in the last couplet, as well as incorporating the author's name or reference. Modern or American ghazals often take more liberties (those Americans!), but retain the couplet format.

Oh, and did I say that, ghazals can be fun?!

NaPoWriMo 2017 Day Nineteen, How ____________ came to be

Today's NaPoWriMo challenge is  write a poem that recounts a creation myth. It doesn’t have to be an existing creation myth, or even recount how all of creation came to be. It could be, for example, your own take on the creation of ball-point pens, or the discovery of knitting. Your myth can be as big or small as you would like, as serious or silly as you make it.

Oops, didn't get around to it. Sorry.

Friday, April 14, 2017

NaPoWriMo 2017 Day Twelve: A Litter of Alliteration (Consonants) and Assonance (vowels)

NaPoWriMo Day Twelve's challenge is simply to write a poem containing alliteration and assonance, which I'd describe as playful efforts to load the poem with words containing similar consonants and vowels.

This is fun.  I've enjoyed it in my own school days. Though it sticks in my mind as something to which I was introduced during junior high school, it's really what little children do spontaneously as they develop their vocabulary, ritually chanting words and phrases that fascinate them.  First graders, of whom I've taught quite a few! like to get into the alliterative mode, in particular.

I enjoyed, though I labored some over, the following poem.  Is it a heart cry?  Hmm, 'may be a good match for others I've written about writing...tbd.

Is this just a draft -- or final copy? (I think it is wanting one more line. Oh! I've got it! But I won't write it here so that what you see is unfinished and, augmented, presumably can be submitted as 'never published.' Look for/listen to me at the Open Mike Night at Bloomington Old Town Hall on Penn and 90- somethingth, this April 20th!)  

A Litter of Alliteration
by Shirley Smith Franklin

A little alliteration, they said,
try a little alliteration.
Authors pondering upon day twelve
the depths of their minds will have to delve,
forced to foray into the very interior,
evaluate their verses, whether sup- or inf-
rior, their valuable verses, whether they rhyme,
whether verses validate, are fine or absurd    
or simply evoke a celebratory word.
Consonants and vowels with a smile or a frown,
wander the alphabet up and down.
Such slight sounds volley words fine or absurd,
I invoke God, my muse. I must be heard.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

NaPoWriMo 2017 Day Eleven

Day Eleven:  The "(optional) prompt for the day is the Bop," invented by poet Afaa Michael Weaver. It's a hybrid of a sonnet and a song." Like a Shakespearan sonnet, it introduces, discusses, and then solves (or fails to solve) a problem. Like a song, it relies on refrains and repetition."

 In the basic Bop poem,
             followed by a one-line refrain.

    The next,
             followed by the one-line refrain. 

    or concludes 
    the problem, 
            followed by the refrain. 

"Here’s an example of a Bop poem written by Weaver, and here’s another by the poet Ravi Shankar."  
                     I don't know whether NaPoWriMo's examples will open for you from my blog. Let' s both try, and learn something in the process. (Note: They did open, for me.)  I was especially taken with Ravi Shankar's poem,  with a refrain taken from another writer! The poem reflected my morning moods this week.

                     The Bop sounds like a very fun and do-able form. I will have to table it until several current priorities in my life progress to a certain point. I'm checking them off mhy list, one by one. Staying focused. Stay tuned!

Monday, April 10, 2017

NaPoWriMo 2017 Day Ten: You Were Important to Me

Today's assignment:  Write a poem that is a 'portrait' (not necessarily describing looks) of a person important to you.  Wow, it might take a long time to zero in on just one.  For some reason, it occurs to me to write about someone who once was, but no longer is.

When I Needed You

It was then, on the cusp of adulthood
You were always there when I needed you,
Learning to spread my wings would have been good,
You were always there when I didn't, too.

It was there, in the unguarded moments,
You were very there when I needed space,
accompanying my ordinary
You were also there when I needed grace.

Despite the time I poured milk in your lap,
always there when I needed rescue, truly.
Careening into cusp of adulthood,
you were there to consider options, coolly....

{rough draft of first verses,  more to come and be revised.}.

You were important to me then, not  now,
no, not even then, not now, not ever,
I'll forget you til memory fades forever.
you were never that important to me.
                          --Shirley Smith Franklin
Good bye.

Typically spare, bare, my poetry.  How can I infuse metaphor, color, gut-feeling into this poem which is like so many of mine, presented in the abstract, with  not a whole lot of context to draw upon....Although the subject is a therapeutic one for me...helping me offload nagging negative memories that only time has lessened so far.

It looks like it wants to be disciplined into a 'form,' a form that nags at you, yet ends with a resolve... too...I will want to follow up on this one.

NaPoWriMo 2017 Day Nine: A Nine-line Poem

Today's prompt is simply to write a nine line poem of any kind.

NaPoWriMo shares a discussion of nine line forms from The Poet's Garret (a dot com, evidently from Australia), I find a table of forms the names of which are unfamiliar except for the Spencerian stanza, which is nine lines, eight  in iambic pentameter (10 syllables) with the ninth line in iambic hexameter (12 syllables); in an a-b-a-b-c-d-c-d-d end-rhyming pattern.  Another page about Spencerian stanza gives the end-rhymes as a-b-a-b-b-c-b-c-c. (I'm not sure whether the difference is just a careless mistake on the part of the author, or due to entries made by two different poets, or whether both schemes are equally valid Sp. forms.) Some of the other nine line forms look like what I might made up by instinct, working on my own, some times.

I digress.

If you were to write to this prompt, would you lay out the end-rhyming words of the pattern first?
Would you start with a theme, i.e. the subject matter and just write, superimposing the rhyme scheme later?  Write one couplet, trusting the rest to follow?  I've used all those and probably other ways as well. 'Feels to me that the second and third way of composing have more integrity than the first.  But then who's to say?

It has been noted that Longfellow's "Song of Hiawatha," which my mother loved to read, and later recite, to me while I was growing up, is written in (CORRECTION!) trochaic tetrameter, as is much of the Finnish epic poem ( or, poem epic) 'Kalevala."  She was Finnish, which accounts her love of "Hiawatha" and other poems in that meter. It has been noted that Longfellow was also a fan of the Kalevala.

From Wikipedia: "Trochaic tetrameter is a meter in poetry. It refers to a line of four trochaic feet. The word "tetrameter" simply means that the poem has four trochees. A trochee is a long syllable, or stressed syllable, followed by a short, or unstressed, one."

Saturday, April 8, 2017

NaPoWriMo 2017, Day Eight: Repetition, repetition, repetitiveness...

As you might have guessed, today's prompt is to use repetition in some form, any form, short or long form, just be sure to use repetition.
If you like.

I will think on words from an old (like, 1940's) song: ---- for starters. The song goes on to describe and extend the first idea, but I'm thinking of repeating the first few words to create a list of similar statements (this will not appear online.)

You can try, too: email me your results, or post them as comments here.

The following is, obviously, not a serious poem, just setting the wheels in motion for developing the above exercise later.   I see by other poems written to today's prompt take the repetition idea much farther, literally bathing their poems in a single word or phrase and variations thereof.  I didn't go that route...'just a little will do,' in mine, vis:

Good luck to you,
luck to me,
luck to all
who hear pen and paper's siren call.
Writing is a lucky task,
writers are lucky too,
though if it weren't for readers
what good would writing do?
I write for me
but I also write
to be heard.
To be heard,
in a word,
is a kind of bliss,
and I'm hoping you find some
in all of this!            ---Shirley Smith Franklin

Friday, April 7, 2017

NaPoWriMo Day Six: A Favorite Pet, or, Failing That, Favorite Food and Day Seven: a Haiku

Day Six: OK, even as a child I disliked being asked what was my favorite anything.  I mean, all the colors are beautiful; how and why should I choose just one.  A box of crayons was one of the most wonderful
things in  my seven year old world...but that's a story for another time.

I'm going to reclaim a bit of time to catch up (it's actually Day Seven already) and I'm going to take a pass on the favorite challenge.  I trust that any real 'favoritism' can will emerge in any and all of my writing, though not named/claimed as such.

See you later...

Day Seven: Haiku (This one's a 'beater', but maybe it led me 'somewhere.'...))

They say a haiku
is a poem about nature
five, seven, and five.

That is, if you count
all the syllables in it
exactly, just so.

We say that a haiku
can explore any topic
succinctly stated.

If the word count goes over
or is ordered wrong,
who cares.

What matters is the thought                          I'll have to work harder on mine.  This one is just
described, condensed so purely                    an exercise: 'heartfelt' has more power and, hopefully,
it takes your breath away.                             stays with you throughout the remainder of day!

Thoughts may be humorous,                        NO, scratch that comment; good ones often come easily,
joyful, wry, or sad, bottom line being,         if more leisurely. That's one way I know they're 'good.'
haikus that make your heart glad.                Okay, two ways :-D
                 --Shirley Smith Franlkin

NaPoWriMo 2017 Day Four, Just rough notes toward an Enigma

And now for our prompt (optional, as always). One of the most popular British works of classical music is Edward Elgar’s Enigma Variations. The “enigma” of the title is widely believed to be a hidden melody that is not actually played, but which is tucked somehow into the composition through counterpoint. Today I’d like you to take some inspiration from Elgar and write a poem with a secret – in other words, a poem with a word or idea or line that it isn’t expressing directly. 

You thought you knew
what it was I'd do and
why I wasn't telling you 
wasn't even couldn't be a topic for discussion.
I had agreed
though not without regret
temptation called --> choose better word
and what  I didn't tell you
You wheedled, cajoled.
put your arms around me
while all the while 
behind my back 
it wasn't you
that held my attention
. . .

NaPoWriMo 2017 Day Five: Observing Nature, An exercise in elegy (rough draft)

Somewhere in the different napowrimo sites this week was a prompt to write an elegy--Here's a nod to that exercise, written after hearing a writer friend read out a hilarious anecdote about a child's first time watching grandma slaughter a chicken on the farm.

Unfinished...draft only

Elegy to a Dead Chicken

Regal in living, once of
ample breast and wings in ermine
struts on tiny golden stilts,
forays through the kingdom,
crimson crown askew,
eyes, lighthouse beams probing
for delicate gold in the sand.

Ignominously dethroned,
rudely hobbled, pinioned
too briefly upon a rude column
itself a sacrificial tree.
How swiftly fallen from glory,
how bravely fought, the end,
annointed, this demise, in crimson.

Once royal, this body, cast aside
in favor of another, hopelessly
lunges toward the trajectory of every drop
frantic wings flailing to and fro,
fruitlessly seeking the nest.
Alas, no more fluffy chicks
will dry under that ample breast.

Silenced of cluck and shriek,
spared the hunt and peck,
endure the humiliation,
the defrocking, the burning fire.
Could I but bring back
the vision and the strut,
the purity of that royal court.
And then there's the whiff
of a fresh fried, pan fried
sit-down chicken dinner....
                               Shirley Smith Franklin

But oh (then) the (charm )--->need stronger word here-- allure, temptation, oilifactory siren song 
(allure is renewed, an olifactory siren--tantalizes--feast)
 that first whiff
of a pan-fried chicken dinner.

Monday, April 3, 2017

NaPoWriMo 2017 Day Three suggests writing a poem with a line in a foreign language  Is one line enough to introduce a cultural feel, a feeling for another culture, evoke something of that 'foreign' culture? Does it require translating in the poem?  In a footnote?  Or can the context carry it?  I wonder whether there are instructive writings about translating....

               The Pact

When they were first married,
they had made a pact
that each one would
kiss the other, and say
I love you,
before they left for work.
He in his American suit,
in winter a fine woolen overcoat
which would seem out of place
in his homeland, a uniform,
it would seem, in the new world,
showing this world that he belonged,
that he knew how to wear his clothes,
that he was an okay guy.
Driving home from work
at the end of  day,
all she thought of was
when she would see him again
and would she have had time
to prepare dinner and herself
be ready, waiting for the answer
to her morning refrain,
"Marri eppudu wasthaavandi?"*

---Shirley Smith Franklin    *Telugu: When do you come again?

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Picking up the pieces,NaPoWriMo 2017 Days One and Two

Well here it is March, and we still have blogs about a wedding, visiting villages, and a few other little things from our winter sojourn to India, like to tidy up and post.  I can and I will. So that will be the ongoing picking up of the pieces.

Now that spring is upon us, sunshine is mellow, I'm getting better control of health/exercise, and the discipline of writing moves back to the top of the list, esp. the poem-a-day challenge for the month of April. is the site if you want to learn, read, and/or try the challenge yourself, each day this month.

Because posting my poems makes them 'published,' and thus unacceptable for many magazine editors, I won't be posting my finished poems for you to read this month, but you can find my musings and comments on each day's challenge, my own musings on  it, and/or exchanges with other poets, at my blog: with the prefix https://..

Day One, NaPoWriMo 2017

Today's challenge: a tightly rhymed poem, with some interior rhyme, in the style of.a participating poet  whose work was given as an example.  I take 'tight rhyme' to   characterize a certain poetic terseness, as it were, every word a 'meaning' word, the meaning of the total content compressed.  Hmm, isn't that something poets aim for, bringing a sense of urgency, wonder, or some significance that draws the reader in?!

Some of my doodling in search of an idea for today:

The house exhales. is exhaling.  Next to me a computer is humming. hums
Neighbor one  or who lives next door
Sue literally dance-walks her dog every day
Dogs who live on a leash
are intensely interested in other dogs,
 especially  those who eat a common their food and their posts
(do dogs have blogs?),

Generating lines of any significance often  will require  'play time'. Today the 'recreation leader' did not show up.

Day Two, NaPoWriMo 2017

Today's prompt is to write a poem inspired by or in the form of a recipe, real or imagined.  I do want/need to practice poetic forms, but this assignment gives me pause.  Perhaps recipes should comprise a genre of poetry.  Certainly not many things give rise to more praise and satisfaction, or speak to humanity's common need, as cooked or baked foods and the love and care that go into them.

Ingredients that might go into a poem about a recipe-as-poem... (This is not intended as a poem, just me
generating ideas for writing one... but, yes, copyright by me, as is anything else in my blog.)

Recipe as Poetry

the naming of recipes
images evoked by food
verbs associated w. preparation,
serving, eating, cautions.

surprises, wonders
quirks, amusements
nutritional analysis
materials needed
genre of food, suitable times,

seasons, time and temperature
tips and pitfalls
measurements, equipment
microwave version