{the #MoSt Poetry: 30}

And, huzzah, we’ve reached the end. This was a lot easier over the break; somehow, once the new year began, it was difficult to find time for poetry – possibly because I’ve managed to have some sort of stomach ‘flu AND a sinus infection in the intervening weeks! Nevertheless, this was a great exercise in continuing to write during vacation time, and I’m grateful for Sarah bringing it up to me, and to the Modesto-Stanislaus poetry peeps. And now, onward to this last tough challenge…

Prompt #30 (for January 13th, 2020) ~ I’d like to thank you all for putting up with my peculiar approach to these NYPC prompts, and I hope you’ve had some fun along with some challenges to your writing routine. I’d like to leave you with this challenge: write a Trenta-Sei formal poem. Yes, I can hear you say Huh? and that’s okay; I’d not heard of the form, either, until I came across it in Edward Hirsch’s splendid A Poet’s Glossary and then again recently in an entry by Robert Lee Brewer in his series of descriptions of poetic forms on the Writer’s Digest website. Poet John Ciardi invented the form of trenta-sei (“thirty-six” in Italian) in 1985. It consists of six, six-line stanzas rhyming ababcc. The first stanza establishes the opening lines of each subsequent stanza: thus, the second line of the poem becomes the first line of the third line, the third line becomes the first line of the third stanza, and so on until the end. Ciardi’s “A Trenta-Sei of the Pleasure We Take in the Early Death of Keats” was the last poem he completed before his death. The poet/physician John Stone composed a memorial poem, “A Trenta-Sei for John Ciardi (1916-1986)”. (Please note that you don’t have to make death or memorials the subject of your poem!) Cheers, and may all manner of things be well with you, fellow poets!


All shined and new, an unwrapped year –
(We’ll give last year the evil eye)
a fresh new day we’ll now premiere
our yen for ‘recent’ we supply
pretending ‘past’ has never been
the latest, best, can now begin!

We’ll give last year the evil eye
(so long, farewell, begone with you)
With “best of” lists we codify
A time we’re glad to bid adieu…
As if, as one year slips away
Amnesia will rule the day.

A fresh new day we’ll now premiere
Let’s “carpe diem!” – Start afresh
“New Year! New You!” commercials cheer
As trainers sculpt our wobbling flesh.
Our bodies strain toward sleeker shape
(While wise brains know: there’s no escape).

Our yen for recent we supply
With meals and shopping – and our phones
Consumed by news we gratify
Our appetites and we postpone
The hollowness we often feel,
(Disquietude we can’t conceal).

Pretending ‘past’ has never been.
Pretending all is shiny-anew!
Pretend the fear that underpins
The lives we live and our worldview
Can be erased by days or weeks
That “new” will be the change we seek.

The latest, best, can now begin
Is New Year’s “fresh start” real and clean?
To tell the truth, to our chagrin
Change is much harder than routine.
To break the cycle of the past
Make one small change – and make it last.

{the #MoSt Poetry: 25}

Prompt #25 (for January 8th, 2020) As I write this, 2020 seems to be getting off to a dark start in many places on our planet. As an antidote or opposite to that, write a poem of the human need for connection, awareness, and/or light. Do not use those words in your poem. This prompt got started when 2019 wasn’t done with itself, after I reread a favorite poem by William Stafford. Perhaps you’ll find something here to accompany your poem on its journey.

Hawaii 2019 77


here, I’m reminded
that, like the grains of the sand
we, mostly the same
small against a vast expanse –
humbly seek wisdom

{the #MoSt Poetry: 24}

Prompt #24 (for January 7th, 2020)
Can I Get A Do-Over?
A palinode (or palinody) is an ode in which the writer retracts a view or sentiment expressed in an earlier poem. Maybe you wrote a poem to or for someone expressing love or admiration—or scorn and hostility—that you now regret, and you want to “take it back.” Think about a poem you have previous written—recently or long-past—(and if possible, find that poem) and write a retraction of it. Be-it-ever-so-humble, Wikipedia has some examples. Perhaps your poem will take the form of an apology or amends, or you can always claim that somebody else wrote that earlier poem…Recant, rescind, abjure away! Ready&Steady&Go…

With Apologies to the Panetone People

I take it back!
Yes, I abjure —
I’ll make this right with you for sure.

I’ll listen hard to your feedback
If you’ll allow me to backtrack.

Yes, I recant! I never meant
Your blue was bad – I guess intent
Might matter less in tearful eyes –
I take it back, apologize.

{the #MoSt Poetry: 19}

Prompt #19 (for January 2, 2020)— The Ballad of Ibrahim Cadwallader — In the tradition of Wendy Toftmyer, Jenny Entwhistle, Sam Tolan, Mr. Zocolillo, and Wendy again (Thank You, Gillian, for their inception), write a poem for/to/about a fictitious person named Ibrahim (or Ibrahima) Cadwallader. Perhaps Ibby has just decided to run for office and has come to you for advice; maybe he/she/they is being teased in your junior high classroom, or Cadwallader was the title of the first Turkish/Welsh album to last 50 weeks on the Billboard Techno/House charts (with Ibrahim as its songwriter and lead singer) and he’s asked you to collaborate on his autobiography. Or you just keep it very simple and write a day-in-the-life narrative poem about this character…or somebody else entirely. Have fun—and remember you are the only one who can write this poem!


fish out of water
Ibrahim swam that summer
the year he turned ten
abruptly tall – hunched with it –
shoved in with six pale strangers

“Abraham!” that name –
three broad syllables, all wrong –
his for three long days
a summer camp sobriquet
his shy correction unheard

but one boy listened –
amplified his objection
turning “Abe” to “Ib”
invited understanding
(incited apology)

Ibrahim – Cadwallader –
caught mid-squint – photo finished
grins, pipe-stem arms linked,
best friends, fair-freckled and dark
brothers, no matter color

{the #MoSt Poetry: 18}

Prompt #18 (for January 1st, 2020)— Otherku – Okay, I know this is too simplistic: “Right, so a haiku, huh? Like we did in fifth grade—three lines, 17 syllables, 5/7/5, somethin’ about nature, right?” For this first day of 2020, try to see the form with new eyes, and create an alternate haiku. Perhaps you’d like to try your hand — and fingertips for counting — at a lune, also known as the American Haiku (brief description here). Maybe your poem will have 7 lines, or 20, with syllable counts of 5/2/5/3/5/7/5/11/5/13… (in case you’re wondering, that’s 5 alternating with the first 6 prime numbers.) Maybe your theme ain’t nature, but pasta or particle physics. The important thing is to create your form; design the architecture, then let your wordplay find its way out.

Enjoy–and Happy New Year! Ready—Steady—Go.

6 am, 2020

smoke alarms, beeping
will destroy
resolve to sleep in.

{new year thoughts}

These are thoughts from author Talia Hibbert, filed here so I can return to them at need.

On Planning for 2020

1. Remember who you are.

If you know you don’t have the time or patience to decorate your planner with nifty little themes, then don’t.

If you hate exercise with the sort of burning passion typically seen in cruel-mouthed, bodice-ripping 80s romance heroes, don’t schedule daily HIIT classes from January 1st.

In short, don’t put pressure on yourself to be someone else. Trust me, it never works.

2. This is for you.

We’re often encouraged to set goals that will improve us. While growth is fabulous, being happy is more important than being ‘better’.

Everything about you, everything you’ve achieved, everything you enjoy, doesn’t have to become a neverending competition.

If you love to read, you could set a goal about reclaiming time to visit the library – rather than a goal like ‘Read 500 books!’

If you enjoy knitting, resolve to try new and exciting patterns in 2020 – rather than a goal like ‘Make 500 pairs of tiny socks for local misplaced toucans!’

3. Celebrate the present.

If you’re setting new goals for your job or business in 2020, that’s because you learned something in 2019.

If you’re setting a new personal or health-based goal, that’s because you’ve made the difficult decision to choose change.

While looking forward, don’t forget to value where you stand right now. You’re here. You made it. You did good.

If nothing else, this year will be full of moments when we arrive. Don’t forget to acknowledge them… you made it. You’re here. You did it. Good for you.

{the #MoSt Poetry: 12}

Prompt #12 (for December 26th): I’ve been carrying the words and melody of the carol “In the Bleak Midwinter,” (based on Christina Rosetti’s poem, and usually set to a melody by Gustav Holst) in my skull for a few days now, and still find myself gripped by by these lines:
Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak mid-winter
Long ago.

Here are a couple of versions to listen to/watch (after the annoying YouTube commercials).

Whether there’s winter snow where you live, consider this painting by Vincent Van Gogh, entitled “Winter (The Vicarage Garden Under Snow)” as you prepare to write today’s poem. Once you go to the Norton Simon site, you’ll probably want to enlarge, zoom, and/or pan the painting to notice the details. To the right of the picture are some bits of biographical information and some questions worth considering—to which I’ll add some other possibilities:

What is it like to work outside in cold weather? What things are under the snow? What secrets are revealed—intentionally or accidentally—when we uncover what’s been hidden? Use any of the above stuff (the painting, the carol, seasonal sensations)— or anything that occurred to you while reading this—to write a poem set in winter, bleak or joyful, arduous or easeful.

R e a d y…Steady…Go~~~


dusk comes so early —
not yet a moonlit blanket
water turns to stone

{the #MoSt Poetry: 3}

Write a poem in response to this idea: The Graceful Stumble. This is a prompt from the contest portion of our MoSt 8th Annual Poetry Festival, which will be held on Saturday, February 1st, 2020. The deadline for submissions is Saturday, January 11th, 2020. For more information on Festival registration and contest submission, go to our website. Ready…Steady…Go~~~

Ach, stumbles – there’s nothing graceful about my stumbling, so this one is topically challenging! Mainly, the phrase “graceful stumble” reminded me of watching my eldest sister and her classmates wear high heels at their eighth grade graduation – I was so very impressed at their three-inch lift! Obviously, I must have ignored a lot of …erm, graceless flailing, but I was so impressed. Learning to stumble gracefully was a learned thing.


peace to the road
we all are occupying –
as we race forth, our
goal becomes surviving

we runners fall –
pant on our backs, recover –
(despite good shoes, we
all fall, we discover)

this, our best hope
when life defies objective:
stumble with grace –
and falling, gain perspective.

all grace is learned
and learning graced with trying –
our stumbles, earned, mean
bruises preface flying.

{the #MoSt Poetry: 2}

Consider times in our lives when we are at the table, or someone has said, Come to the table. Write a poem for these times, or about the many sorts of tables (dining, negotiating, or even Periodic) we come to — or leave. For inspiration, consider this poem by our current U.S. Poet Laureate, Joy Harjo. Ready…Steady…Go~~~

Our family has, in the past couple of years, made a bigger point of getting together for meals than we had done for a while. Losing a family member a year for the last few years has brought home to all of us the fact that thought we are a big, sprawling family, we aren’t all of us in robust health, or very young anymore, and so we need to be sure we’re making the most of our time together. Scheduling these things is hectic, accommodating all of us – boyfriends, pets, and children and all – is a pain. But, it is a worth the strain.

Skyway Drive 412

à table

finding the leaf takes a moment
scouting through the house, asking Dad where
after the last holiday
it has gone.

then, when it is recovered,
it takes a village to lengthen it –
two to pull apart the stubborn panels
one to brush away the dust and crumbs,
and lay in the cumbersome board

even then we are not ready
the naked wood is too exposed
to hold our feast; our best efforts
must crown brocade and crystal
silver and porcelain

knives laid just so, plates set, chairs tucked in
across a gulf of roast and rolls
we reach out and link hands
restoring, unbroken, the circle.

connected one more time
we taste life’s sweetness.

{the #MoSt Poetry: 1}

Write a haiku for some goodness that has happened to you this year. If you find it difficult to choose just one, feel free to create a haiku series of goodnesses. Ready…steady… go…

Is anyone else exhausted?

The funny thing about December is that one has moments of… jump-started energy, where, at need, one can achieve all manner of things, despite crowds, driving rain, fog, unexpected traffic snarls… and then, afterward, one collapses into oneself like a disappointing souffle.

I am very nearly to the “afterward.” Our family is very low-key (for Christians) about Christmas, so I’m doing gigs right up until Christmas Eve. Everyone else’s holiday energy keeps me bolstered, but I’m really most happy to just sit under blankets with a book and basically be left alone.

And how I can hear you asking is that different from you on every other day? Um, THE BLANKET? Duh. I don’t use that in the summertime…


To get to the point of this post, today kicks off the Modesto Stanislaus Poetry Challenge, and we’re beginning gently, with a haiku. Especially since we did those all November, we can do this!

Irvington 206

secret garden

from the first cherries
to the sharp bite of citrus
a year-round table