{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: 29}

Prompt #29 (for January 12th, 2020) ~ Because I couldn’t imagine myself compiling a set of NYPC prompts without including a Mary Oliver poem as “combustion” for a poem of your own, I offer one of my favorites, West Wind #2. Respond to it/ borrow (i. e., steal wisely) from it in any way you like. Ready and…Steady…Go and…

Oban D 68


nearly halfway –
surely, to receive instruction
after all this time
must render both the gift –
and the giver –
unnecessary. and yet
the reminder blazed
stark across the page
renewing a wisdom you knew before:
don’t lose chances – take them all
don’t lose your heart – give it out for free
your roll of the dice says the winner takes all:
put your face to the wind,
toward all that unmakes you, and
row for your life.
run to the battle.

{the #MoSt Poetry: 28}

Prompt #28 (for January 11th, 2020)~ Read “The Peace of Wild Things,” by Wendell Berry. Where do you find peace amid and/or because of wild things? Perhaps your poem about this will be an ode to a particular beach where the tides crash against boulders, or a sonnet about a black phoebe on a backyard limb, or some other formal poem — a ghazal? — about being stuck in freeway traffic and having the time to notice a delta of geese against the sunset.

Irvington 248

winter ornament

weary and aching
my restless gaze snags lightning –
on winter-seared thorns
adorned with iridescence
that ruby throat defies cold

{the #MoSt Poetry: 27}

Prompt #27 (for January 10th, 2020) ~ Read “Writing in the Dark,” by Denise Levertov. Write a poem about writing under adverse or unusual circumstances or in strange places— maybe standing up in a crowded airport gate waiting area and drafting that poem that must be written, even if it means using a leaky pen on a grimy window, or using your pant leg as your writing desk, or… R~S~G…

the scrawl

what did i mean then?
on the edge of the bedpost
blunt pencil gripped tight
on the back of a receipt
“who does the little things, wins.”

{the #MoSt Poetry: 26}

Prompt #26 (for January 9th, 2020) ~ Less than a day after writing yesterday’s prompt, I watched a CBS Sunday Morning segment on David Byrne, the principal songwriter, singer, and guitarist for Talking Heads. In it, he discussed one of his current projects: an online magazine called Reasons to Be Cheerful. Write a poem with that title— “How to Be Cheerful” — in an authentic voice — or an ironic one. Here are some other options:

  • Write a Part II/conclusion/continuation to the poem you wrote from yesterday’s prompt;
  • Write a poem entitled “How to Be _____________,” a “recipe” or pedagogical poem with you — or your narrator persona—as the experienced expert. Maybe your poem is “How to Be a Middle Child,” “How to Be On the Right Side of History,” or “How to Be Quasi-Apathetic.”
  • Write a poem about a time when someone told you to “just cheer up,” or “walk it off,” or “turn that frown upside down.”
  • For extra credit, write your poem to music that seems to “harmonize” with the tone of your poem—or whose melody, rhythm, or genre is entirely antithetical to the flow of your poem. So whether it’s The Piano Guys or Arnold Schönberg, Beatles or Bebop, “meditation music” or Metallica: play and write on…
  • Ready, Steady, You Know the Rest…

How to be Less Annoyed (Because Cheerful Is Asking A Lot)

(with apologies to Wendell Berry)

Make a place of acceptance.
Accept. Leave space
For any unexpected silence, for
Trailing doubts, seeping resentment.
Accept them. Abandon regret.

Close the judgmental electronic eye.
Eschew social media; the “Likes,”
And “Shares” and “Friend”ing;
Shift your gears to neutral.
In lieu of speaking, coast.

Let the road unspool before you.
And discover its own uncharted track.
Be buoyed by the winds of a new doctrine
And let it blow all through you –
Open your hands and let go.

{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: 22}

Prompt #22 (for January 5th, 2020) The Pantone Color of the Year for 2020 is Classic Blue. (Here’s Pantone’s own description; scroll down to see previous years’ colors.) Write a “list” poem in the form of an blog or newspaper review, listing the reasons you like or dislike this choice of color. Point out the connections the color’s name evoke for you. For example, “classic blue” might bring to mind Buddy Guy, or a navy peacoat, or Gainsborough’s The Blue Boy, or Levi Strauss’ first pair of riveted denim pants, or the cover of your favorite book as a child. Your review might be from the viewpoint of a philosopher, politician, art critic, or house painter. For extra credit, try writing your poem as a sonnet, or a concrete poem.


boring blue
it’s steady, true
a democratic shade
in lieu of
screeching red —
it’s classic, right?
it’s starlight seas
and summer nights
it’s meant to say
“shhh, folks, be calm!”
like soothing surf,
this blue’s a balm
and so we choose — a safe, blue choice
a boring blue
for this year’s voice…


the “color of the year” says peace
while calling cool the climate’s burn!
but, no mere color can decrease
our planetary unconcern.
let’s choose a color — call it change
and let it dictate fashion’s sway
a blue-white brownish tint arrange
and thus create a brand-new day.

{the #MoSt Poetry: 21}

Prompt #21 (for January 4th, 2020) Write a poem containing the words preempt, vivacious, lope, fractal, and warren. Colonel Looseleaf Harper’s bonus word is lambent.

(I am convinced that Gary, here, is trying to kill us with these prompts. I refuse – refuse – to write the thirty-line epic these heavy-hitter words seem to call for, and am doing my best to shove them into the shortest poem, ever.)

Southampton Bay

morning watch

Each morning, we preempt the day
And lope across the muddied hills
While lambent clouds sun’s rise displays
Shadows the warrens under hill
Vivacious finches, robins, thrush
Spiral away in fractal skies
We, crunching through the underbrush
Provoke the wildlife’s hue and cry.