NaPoWriMo #23 – Sonnet

Welcome to Writing Prompt Pit Stop! It’s Day 23 of National Poetry Month, and it’s Shakespeare’s birthday (and death day) – so what better way to honor him than writing a Shakespearean Sonnet, or at least making a valiant attempt! This was also the prompt from NaPoWriMo – and it could’ve been any type of sonnet…there are more than one type, you know. My sonnet is titled, “De-stressing Spring,” and is followed by the prompt I used, and then the April PAD Challenge prompt. Enjoy!

De-stressing Spring

Winter has hijacked spring for too many depressing weeks,
along with many beloved celebrity deaths; most recently, Prince,
Mother Nature cries for hours, her dreary days play for keeps,
her warmth has been hijacked, never felt cozy again since.

It’s no fun when you’re grumpier than the 90-year-old Queen,
when it comes to those unresponsive students you teach,
at the end of the semester it makes one feel unusually mean,
reading panicked student emails; ones you earlier tried to reach.

But the calendar shows the grading deadline is finally drawing near,
and spring warmth will really arrive, along with pretty migratory birds,
there will be free time to commune with friends, share good wine or beer,
it won’t matter anymore that the youth will think that we’re all nerds.

So, forget the tense, distressing moments of life’s sad harassing tests.
Look up high for inspiration; maybe discover majestic bald eagle nests.

Day 23 NaPoWriMo prompt:

I challenge you to write a sonnet. Traditionally, sonnets are 14-line poems, with ten syllables per line, written in iambs (i.e., with a meter in which an unstressed syllable is followed by one stressed syllable, and so on). There are several traditional rhyme schemes, including the Petrarchan, Spenserian, and Shakespearean sonnets. But beyond the strictures of form, sonnets usually pose a question of a sort, explore the ideas raised by the question, and then come to a conclusion. In a way, they are essays written in verse! This means you can write a “sonnet” that doesn’t have meet all of the traditional formal elements, but still functions as a mini-essay of a sort. The main point is to keep your poem tight, not rangy, and to use the shorter confines of the form to fuel the poem’s energy. As Wordsworth put it, in a very formal sonnet indeed, “Nuns fret not at their convent’s narrow room.”

Day 23 April PAD Challenge prompt:

For today’s prompt, write a footwear poem. A poem about shoes, flip flops, socks, slippers, flippers, boots, pumps, and so on. If you’d prefer not to dedicate a poem to your footwear, just mention footwear somewhere in the poem. That’s right; your hi-tops don’t have to be the star, and it’s totally cool if somebody’s clogs play a minor role in the poem.

If you get something that you would like to share, feel free to post in comments below!

Keep writing!


Writing Prompt Pit Stop

Welcome to Writing Prompt Pit Stop! Obviously, because I’m starting to immerse myself in the Oulipost warm-ups for NaPoMo in April, I’ve been thinking quite a lot about constraints, and formal poetry. I usually avoid sonnets, villanelles, sestinas, and the sort like the plague. Not because I don’t like them or feel intimidated, but mainly because they take a lot more time. As I write that, that sounds bad, because it sounds like I don’t spend a lot of time on the poetry I write, but I do – a lot. I guess the thing is, I steal a little time here and a little time there and can write something to my liking that I can work with – a lot quicker. It doesn’t feel forced. When you get into the rhyme schemes and things like that, that can come (not always!) with sonnets, sestinas, etc., it feels like what you can write about is limited.

However, one of my favorite poems to do in form is the pantoum. I’ve had a lot of success with them, and I find that I enjoy what they have to offer. I also love to write haiku and senryu poems which also come with their own rules. But as with anything, rules are meant to be broken – and you’ll find, if you look into these structured poem forms the rules have been broken by many poets throughout the years…even if it’s with tense changes in the pantoum, or the “American-ized” haiku that doesn’t always follow the 5-7-5 rule.

Since in the next month I will be writing a lot more here with the Oulipost assignments (and posting them daily in April!) I thought that I would give you a few ideas for writing some “formal” poetry if that interests you during April – National Poetry Month.

I’ve linked the forms that I’ve mentioned, but below I’ve posted a “template” that I made for my students to use as an exercise – and that can give you something to work with too. Pantoums lend themselves well to things that happen over and over again (such as weight loss, relationships, seasons, history, etc.) I usually work with five-six stanzas myself, but they can be as long as you want, but your last stanza must end with the second line as C and your last line as A. I challenge you to write a pantoum! If you feel so inclined you can share it here in comments, or email me here. Have fun!

Pantoum Poem Template:

























Writing Prompt Pit Stop

Welcome to Writing Prompt Pit Stop! Since it’s November and Thanksgiving is this month, it seems like a good time to write about what we’re thankful for. As writers we may do this in many ways already: maybe we honor a grandparent or a family member with a poem, or maybe we write about our hometown, or where we’ve spent a lot of time, as a setting in a novel, short story, or an essay. We may be thankful for that love of our life, that special person who broke through our defenses, and pour our hearts out in a sonnet or a prose poem. Or we may be thankful that we escaped a rotten relationship and write the next big drama for the stage…the things we’re thankful for should be endless, and should give us endless possibilities to write about.

So, I’m going to guide us through four Wednesdays to touch on a few of those possibilities and as you write and read the prompts, you may come up with so many more of your own. With this week’s prompt we will explore the idea of being thankful for our friends. If you’re lucky you have more than you can count, but inevitably you have your closest friends, those friends that you would confide anything to and never worry that they’ll betray you, you have those friends that are ones that make you laugh and that you enjoy going out with and letting your hair down, you have friends that are your office or work buddies, friends that are ones you’ve made through mutual interests such as clubs, hobbies, church, or activism, and sometimes if you’re lucky enough you have lifelong friends that have known you since childhood. No matter what type of friendship(s) you have, or have had throughout your life…they are something to be thankful for as they get us through the highs and lows of our lives – and those friendships are all just waiting to be mined for stories or poetic moments. I have written many a poem involving my friends, and a few of them appear in the book I co-authored with Jayne Marek and Mary Sexson, Company of Women:New and Selected Poems (Chatter House Press, 2013). I’ll share one poem and an excerpt from my section of the book What She Taught Me:

Our Night Out

In a dark bar on a Toledo Saturday,

too early for the happening crowd,

too late for two friends who decide to stay

in a place that pulls our memories

from “far-out” places – the music patronizes

our middle-age while still flirting with youth –

swigging liquid courage, musing over Dancing

in the Dark, and “Who’s going to drive you home,

tonight?” Remembering loud nights

that didn’t seem too long, way back when,

when we were not paying attention to time,

tick, tick, tocking forward. Our minds reflecting

refracting pieces of our disco selves unraveling

like an off track 8 track tape and when we twirl

around we see each other in the bar mirror –

cynical and dark. (51)

And, here’s an excerpt from the title poem “What She Taught Me” which is dedicated to my former high school art teacher, mentor, and one of my dearest friends, Ann Johnson:


If she hadn’t been that teacher

who pushed me past my limits,

made me give a voice to purple,

in front of the class, who praised

my Polka Horse block print and

asked to keep it for her own,


who gave me unlimited hall passes

signed AJ, to ditch my dreaded Home Ec

at the end of the school day to come

to the art room, where no one cared

if I could sew a stitch, or sauté an onion.


If she hadn’t been that teacher

who flunked me for not painting

by deadline, who teased me

out of my shell, who didn’t turn me away

when I dropped by her house to say “hi,”

dressing so funky that

she didn’t care who stared.


If she hadn’t been that teacher

who was vibrant and different,

in school convocations, who dared

to show vulnerability, I would not have

kept going back to school,

each day a new reason to live. (61)

This poem continues on and has a second part to it as well – you can see how in both poems that I was writing about specific incidents…reflecting on my feelings and the friends that I was writing about.

So let’s get to it! Here is your nineteenth prompt:

“Forever Friends”

1) In your daybook write down a list of friends, you can start as far back as you can remember and list as many as you can all the way up to present day. Some of you will have pages and pages, and others will have an intimate few. Then with that list go back and write down a few memories that you have of each. You can see how this can explode into so many ideas that you could spend months just writing down memories and incidents, let alone picking one or two to really concentrate on. Be as detailed as you can with your lists and memories because that will help you when you go to write the specific story, essay, or poem about the friend(s) that you select.

2) You have a ton of friends to choose from on your list, now write about the friend you’ve had the longest. Write about a friend you lost and never thought you would. Write about a friend that betrayed you. Write about a friend that was so generous you don’t know how you’ll ever repay them. How about those Facebook friends? Friends or not…that is the question…now write!

3) Write a thank-you letter, note, poem to a friend and really send it.

4) Take any of your prompts and write until you have something you’re happy with in your genre of choice…and then as always, revise, revise, revise!!

As with all writing, this “Forever Friends” writing should be fun! And I remind you that if you ever want to share any successes or attempts that you get from these prompts, don’t hesitate to let me know. You can contact me here.

Look for another prompt next Wednesday! Until then, keep writing!