by Maria Schulz
April is National Poetry Month. No…WAIT! Don’t run away. Poetry can be fun, and it can also make you think. I wasn’t always so sure about that, though. As a Creative Writing major, I had to take my fair share of poetry classes. Sometimes, there was no narcotic quite as strong as a Poetry professor who would drone on and on about stanzas, couplets, and haikus. Zzzzzzzzzz…oh sorry, I just fell asleep there.
But I was lucky. I was blessed with teachers who just knew how to capture my attention with masterful writing. To teachers everywhere: thank you for your creativity, sense of adventure, ability to laugh, and for helping me recognize the power of the written word.
So many words, so little time
In that spirit, I participated in an April Poetry Challenge a few years back. Every day, we received a challenge: write a poem in some particular form or free verse. Here are some of the challenges I had fun with or was inspired by. Ready? I hope you can stay awake with me. Let’s go:
Write a haiku and an anti-haiku poem:
Rain splashes flowers
Daffodils and tulips grow
The ground is bejeweled.
A fashion staple! NOT
The Catholic school
Girl in me hates uniforms
Or form-bound poems.
Write a poem about traveling:
Every night, after work,
I look over my calendar
And wonder how I’m going to get
My girls from soccer to softball
Gymnastics to baskeball.
Photo night? Birthday parties?
Special Occasions? Playdates?
I go back to my own childhood
When my bicycle was my lifeline
My mother said, “be home at 5.”
I like my bicycle
I rode all over town,
Across the major road that was forbidden,
Because as long as I didn’t get hit,
They would never know.
I took myself to sports and parties,
Throwing balls and gifts into my flowered basket,
Best friend on the back of my banana seat,
We were mostly on time.
Now, I race from one place to another,
My girls screaming in the back seat.
No one rides their bikes anywhere anymore,
God forbid my children take that forbidden road!
I think of that mother in Westchester who dropped her kids
By the side of the road after 2 hours of constant fighting
And think that the prison cell must have been a nice change of pace.
Then I think of Susan Boyle, the Britain’s Got Talent sudden superstar,
Who has totally wrecked my chances of being a middle-aged,
Frumpy, bushy eye-browed singing sensation
(or at least the first of her kind).
These are the places I travel
While the kids are screaming
And we go from one game to another.
Write a poem about longing:
The early days
As I watch my girls blossom and grow
I think how nice it would have been
For them to get to know
My mother. How she would have shared secrets
with them, given them money when I refused,
Taken them places I neither had the time or desire to see.
Girly-girl that she was, her energies were wasted
On tom-boyish me.
But my girls would have delighted her,
Shared tea parties and boy stories,
Dressed in feather boas and beaded bonnets,
Enjoyed fashion shows at the mall.
Like her mother before her, my mother would have
Wiped away tears they would never show
Their poor old useless mother.
How is it that I became that old–and useless?
And how is it that
My mother, who never got the chance to be old,
Grows stronger and stronger in my memory,
My head filled with longing
For the mother and grandmother
That early-onset Alzheimer’s stole
Like a cassette tape
that’s been erased
From back to front.
Mom and Dad
Write a sestina:
What’s a sestina? I’m glad you asked:
The sestina is composed of six stanzas of six lines (sixains), followed by a stanza of three lines (a tercet). There is no rhyme within the stanzas; instead the sestina is structured through a recurrent pattern of the words that end each line, a technique known as “lexical repetition”.
When it came to laughter
Nothing could stop my mother
Like earth, wind, and fire
Laughter was an exciting boss
Who couldn’t stop piling on the work
And who, in the end, she grew to love.
Even when all seemed lost, there was love.
Mixed with tears and a hearty dose of laughter.
Dancing to wile away the time, always full of fire,
Keeping her hands busy with work
And laughing still, my giggling mother
Was so confused, believing the nurses were her bosses.
She thought, “you have to listen to your boss.”
And so she did, and she made them laugh
Tagging behind them on rounds and worrying about being fired.
Folding towels, pouring juice for other patients, work
Was her one true love
And it helped her get through those days when she called for her own mother.
“Where is my mother?”
She would say as soon as she was done working.
Fear would hide behind the laughter
As she folded faster, always watching for her boss.
The nurses grew to love
Sarita, the dancing patient full of fire.
“They wouldn’t dare to fire
Such a good worker. Not even my boss
Could help but fall in love
With me,” declared my mother.
Her unending devotion to work
Always made me laugh.
“You want to laugh?”
My mother said, her eyes sparkling and fiery.
“Here comes my boss.
Even though I forget, it’s me she loves!”
Mom dances and laughs; that’s my mother,
Taking her tragic denouement all in a day’s work.
Never bossy, always laughing.
Loving and dancing while she worked.
My mother made the most of her mind’s dying fire.
He likes it!
Don’t go yet! Just one more, to lighten the mood. Write a poem titled, “Never (fill in the blank):
Never Eat Pop Rocks and Coke
Never eat pop rocks and Coke
They will make your head explode!
It’s true! It’s a fact!
It’s what did in that kid, Mikey.
You know Mikey–
“He likes it! He likes it!
Of Life Cereal fame.
What a shame.
He had so much Life left in him.
Homemade Pop Rocks
Get your homemade Pop Rocks here! Fizzy, fruity, and fabulous, that’s pop rocks for you. I’m happy to report that Mikey is, in fact, still alive and well, and probably enjoying Life cereal, pop rocks, and yes, even Cokes as we speak. This recipe looks like fun–try it and I hope you’ll like it, really like it!
So, have you ever written a poem? Did your eyes glaze over in poetry class, or did you have a favorite poet? What’s your favorite poem? Please leave a comment and let us all know. Thanks again for reading and commenting.