NaPoWriMo 2013

napo2013button2NaPoWriMo, or National Poetry Writing Month, is an annual project in which participating poets attempt to write a poem a day for the month of April. See more at

In 2013 I decided to have a go to get myself into a good habit of daily writing. It’s an interesting way to feel relaxed about production by the very fact of having a daily deadline.

This page was used to comment on the experience as a daily journal, so it appears in reverse order. There are links to each poem under each date entry. If you prefer to jump more quickly to all poems in the order they were written, I’ve provided that for you in a full menu of 30 poems.

30 April 2013

I made it! 30 poems in 30 days!

Both of today’s poems are inspired by Charles Bernstein’s experiments (number 17 and 77 in his list).

Poem 29 is an A to Z poem, which seems fitting given the journey I’ve been on this month: Test drive unlimited.

For Poem 30, there seemed no better way to celebrate the end of this marathon than by Patting myself on the back. Try the sources yourself – I haven’t made anything up; just been selective.

Thank you for staying with me throughout April 2013.

29 April 2013

Wow – so this is the penultimate day! And another two poems takes me to twenty eight. I like a challenge, and I like a target. Tomorrow’s goal is within reach.

The first one for today takes the NaPoWriMo prompt from Day 28, which is all about colour. I may not have selected an obvious colour, but I reckon I’ve shifted it from drab to fab: Reinvention.

The second poem also has its origins in a prompt, this time from The Poetry School on Day 19:

find the most technical piece of text you can in your house (washing machine instructions, contracts etc) and write a love poem using its vocabulary.

Well – this isn’t exactly a love poem, but it’s certainly open to interpretation, and I have to say it’s probably why Rosemary Conley has never written a sex manual for lesbians. I don’t think she’s written a sex manual for anyone, come to that. Anyway, I selected a manual for a piece of kitchen equipment and went with its words completely. So here is
Rosemary Conley’s essentials for a healthier life: never use fingers.

28 April 2013

This is to prove I haven’t run out of steam, and I’m determined to make it to the end. Just two more days to go, and four more poems to write. No sweat! Yesterday I took part in Nottingham Trent University’s runNTU 2013 event, raising money for the John van Geest Cancer Research Centre. In the spirit of fun, fancy dress was encouraged, so I’m offering you a limerick inspired by my costume: The seasons within.

25 April 2013

I needed two poems today to make up for yesterday. Don’t think I was slacking, though. Last night I was at the monthly ‘Jazz and poetry’ event in Nottingham, listening to the delights of Helen Mort and others. So I was grateful for yesterday’s NaPoWriMo prompt, which was all about anagrams.

Here are two on the theme:

What the poetry editors really think, and
Portrait of a name.

23 April 2013

The other day I noted down some of the Kindle book titles I have downloaded over the last year. I had an idea that I could craft a poem from selected titles – similar to a book spine poem, but without the spines! Each line in this poem is a legitimate title, for sale (or free) as a download for Kindle (although I notice a couple of books are no longer available, so I link to a holding page).

Yes, there are going to be a load of links to Amazon products when you click through. But hey – it’s art! For years artists have been using materials that might not be to everyone’s taste. This is Kindle: a romance (in titles).

22 April 2013

The beginning of today’s poem actually arrived yesterday when I was looking for newsprint to deconstruct. It could be the start of a longer poem, but I’m allowing it to standalone for the moment because it’s in tanka form. This one feels pretty solid so definitely requires its own punchy title: Border wars.

21 April 2013

I decided to give myself a day’s break on Friday, and then it grew into two. Still – I’m back now.

Today’s NaPoWriMo prompt from Jo Bell is to “get your Sunday paper and make a newspaper blackout poem.” I don’t buy newspapers so I’ve had to scrabble around the house to find remnants of past Sunday Observer magazines that a news-obsessed friend brought to my attention: one for its article on Susan Sarandon (10.02.13); the other because of an article on Casey Legler (03.03.13). Such name-dropping has nothing to do with the poems. I don’t think so, anyway.

The first poem is Signal strength.

The second poem is Refusing to look up big words.

And for my third poem of the day (a septolet) … this is Bind.

There are different forms of septolet, according to Christopher J. Jarmick. I have used the following definition: Line 1 has one syllable, Line 2 has two, Line 3 has three, Line 4 has four syllables, leave a blank space, Line 5 has three, Line 6 has two, Line 7 has one syllable. Poem should relate to one thought, feeling, object, place.

18 April 2013

This is what I wrote today, on day eighteen. So why not present it as my eighteenth poem? This was inspired by a writing exercise to get us flowing at tonight’s Rainbow Writers meeting at Nottingham Writers’ Studio.

Ten words were read out, one at a time, and we had to write down the first word we associated with each spoken word, without giving too much thought to it.

The words I responded to were: black, pain, flood, stew, forceps, turtle, shoulder, sunset, duvet, dream.

The words I wrote down were: country, anger, water, soup, baby, ocean, heart, dusk, sleep, count.

Don’t ask me why ‘heart’ came from ‘shoulder’ – but I guess they’re not too far apart in the bodily sense. Then we had a few minutes to use all ten chosen words in a poem or piece of prose, using no more than 100 words in total. I didn’t need many words to find this Torrent.

17 April 2013

The Roswell experience is a real event for me within a US road trip in 2003. There may be more work for me to do on this poem to tell the story in a way that enables it to be fully shared. Or maybe it’s as I say in the poem – “can the / Roswell story ever really be known?” This is The long way home.

16 April 2013

Tell your daughters before it’s too late: there’s no such thing as My Little Pony. You think pony trekking is a healthy, relaxing sport in the outdoors? Once, when I was 14, I went riding for an afternoon with two friends, both experienced riders who thought it was fun to gallop. Never again. This is Dash.

15 April 2013

I admit it – I have a tendency to anthropomorphise. So when I began to introduce plants into my garden, at first only in pots, and then, more daringly, by digging into the earth, I gave some of them names. Cassie is a date palm and the first plant to try out a slice of my lawn. I’m not sure there is much soil; not too far down is a load of rubble. I just can’t help thinking of Cassie and the two Cordolynes (one variegated green; one electric pink) as a riot grrrl rock band. I’m hoping all will be well, but unfortunately today’s story is: The decline of Cassie and the Cordolynes.

14 April 2013

There are some dates that stick in your head, and that’s the starting place for today’s poem. I can remember what I was doing on this date twenty four years ago. It was the birthday of my first long-term lesbian partner, and I had written a poem to give to her. It was a relationship I attempted to imagine as more positive for me than was the reality. However, there was no way I’d allow other people to pass judgement; and certainly not ignorant strangers.

Much has changed since then. I’m in a very different place, and the world is different in all kinds of ways; and yet, some messages are worth repeating. You can skip directly to the new poem, if you like, right now: Now and then. Then come back here to see what else I’ve got to say.

“Now and Then: how have you changed?” was actually The Poetry School’s prompt for NaPoWriMo yesterday. So I suppose that was also in my head. I decided it was as good a title as any I could create. From a self-referential view, I quite enjoy the ambiguity of the last verse, which could function as a lighthearted commentary on my poetry writing attempts.

The poem I wrote as a present back then (14 April 1989) is this, based on an actual event when we were out walking in Dorset one day:

In the afternoon

In the afternoon
We were caught.
We were one woman,
              two women.
One plus two;
Two equalling one:
We were one we two.
We were women hand-in-hand.
The third was a minus sign;
Her mark, negating, made
One and two suspect.
Three couldn’t accept the answer
– two women, one unit, won’t go –
The report came;
One word summed up:
(Just around the corner,
one man, one woman,
connected at thigh, chest and face)
We were only holding hands.
We held on;
                  savouring our positivity.
                                our infinitude.

13 April 2013

The second poem for today (thirteenth in all), to get me back on track, is a book stack poem. So there is visual evidence for this one. You could think I was being thoroughly ironic (turning the tables, so to speak) if this didn’t also ring true: A parent fears heterosexuality.

Today’s first poem: the NaPoWriMo prompt for 11 April – when I skipped a poem – was to write a tanka, so I’ve made my first conscious attempt. It’s possible I’ve written one before without knowing it. This form of poem tends not to be given a title. For the purposes of linking, here’s Tanka.

12 April 2013

I wasn’t sure where to start today, so I began with the words “When there isn’t much to say”: Deficit.

11 April 2013

I got a little behind because I had trouble uploading files to my website. Mostly, there wasn’t a poem for today because I went out to a poetry event. It’s not all isolation, you know. Sometimes we poets need to get out there and network and use the spoken word in crowds. Ok, then – maybe smallish audiences describes it more honestly. Plenty of great things come in small packages.

10 April 2013

Today’s poem needed to be short, because I’ve been out all day – first working, then dancing. I go line dancing. It’s the best form of exercise for a poet. Lines are one of our tools. Trying out different poetic forms is also excellent exercise. So I have written a clerihew. I own a copy of The Poet’s Manual and Rhyming Dictionary by Frances Stillman. I bought it when I was 17. It was an early act of claiming the ‘poet’ title for myself. The books on our shelves don’t make us who we are, but they have a good go. This manual wasn’t there to impress anyone; it was there to help me learn a craft; to inspire. That rhyming dictionary defines the clerihew as

a humorous pseudo-biographical quatrain, rhymed as two couplets, with lines of uneven length more or less in the rhythm of prose. It is short and pithy, and often contains or implies a moral reflection of some kind. The name of the individual who is the subject of the quatrain usually supplies the first line.

A supportive English teacher when I was that same age of 17 encouraged me to write, and to experiment. She introduced me to Wendy Cope, informing me that one of the best ways to learn and respect the craft of poetry is to become practised in parody. The older I get, the more important I realise it is to laugh: A thank you in clerihew.

(How strange that the shorter the poem, the longer my commentary becomes …)

9 April 2013

This one requires little introduction. You already know what it’s about – right? 😉

8 April 2013

A bit of fun for today, produced with the aid of The Poetry School prompt:

Take one of your previous poems, or a poem by somebody else, and replace every word in it with a word three places down in the dictionary. What have you got now?

Someone then helpfully provided the link for a wonderful noun replacer at

where you can enter an English text and 15 alternative texts will be generated, from N+1, which replaces each noun with the next one in the dictionary, to N+15, which takes the 15th noun following.

The result is: A bundle of bare-faced gifts.

7 April 2013

It would have been R. S. Thomas’ 100th birthday last week (he was born 29 March 1913). I remember enjoying his poetry when I was an A-level student, so when today’s NaPoWriMo writing prompt from The Poetry School encouraged looking into another poet’s work, I took up my copy of Thomas’ Later Poems: 1972-1982.

I’ve linked to the original poem within my title in the only place I could find it on the web, and which respects the copyright of the poem. I didn’t follow the prompt any further than that. Mine isn’t a response to Thomas’ poem, but my own version – the tone of which ends up being very different. I was deliberately moving away from bleakness and Thomas’ “empty church”. Please read my latest NaPoWriMo offering: Passage (after the R. S. Thomas poem).

6 April 2013

I had begun to write this poem some time ago, and always anticipated it would be a sonnet. However, I couldn’t get more than halfway through it until today. It’s an autobiographical account (as many of my poems are), including exact remembered dialogue: Cloakroom checkpoint.

5 April 2013

The limited word options of magnetic poetry helped me out again today for the body of the poem. Just give it a name (oops, I mean add a title) and poem five is born: Philosophers’ pub quiz.

4 April 2013

I had to get the magnetic poetry kit out today to deal with the ridiculousness of the actor known as Jeremy Irons. Oh yes, I’m being topical. See here if you haven’t caught up with today’s news. And when I studied my magnetic poetry kit, my case was surely strengthened. I know not every word can be included, but let’s get some parity and perspective, please! This one’s got rather a long title: A response to Jeremy Irons in fridge poetry on hearing his interview with the Huffington Post and then realising my pink magnetic poetry kit includes ‘man’ and ‘men’ but only one ‘woman’.

3 April 2013

What brought inspiration for today’s poem? You can make your own mind up about that. As befits a poem called Fencing. I will say that I got the first line while contemplating filling in the membership form for Nottingham Writers’ Studio this afternoon, but it’s really no comment on that process. Do I belong? If they’ll have me, I do.

2 April 2013

There’s definitely something in a deadline. I’ve been wanting to write a poem for a long time about the first independent holiday I took with a group of friends, when I was aged 17. I’d never found a starting place I was happy with before. Then NaPoWriMo got me focused: My first attempt at everything.

1 April 2013

So, I’ve started. I haven’t even got dressed or eaten anything yet, and it’s the middle of the afternoon. That’s how keen I was to get a poem out into the world. Here’s one that may be appreciated best by fans of The Smiths, or those who did their growing up in the 1980s: Morrissey ate my homework.