We Wordle #27


… in gardens, beauty is a by-product.
The main business is sex and death …
–Sam Llewelyn, The Sea Garden

I was trying to remember a quote about the subject of poetry. I thought poems are about beauty, you know, like Keats’ “Ode to a Grecian Urn”. Yet in an ode to beauty or art, death is never far away from consciousness.

Thou, silent form, dost tease us out of thought
As doth eternity: Cold Pastoral!
When old age shall this generation waste,
Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe
Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say’st,
“Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”

Key subjects of poetry are Love, God, Sex, Death. But if you think about it for a few seconds, it’s Death that frames every subject, isn’t it?

So this week, let’s think about writing a memento mori poem. Memento mori (Latin ‘remember (that you have) to die’). An archetypal memento mori poem is Wallace Stevens’ “The Emperor of Ice Cream”.

Here’re the haunting final lines, Stevens writing about a dead woman:

If her horny feet protrude, they come
To show how cold she is, and dumb.
Let the lamp affix its beam.
The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream.

So in a terminal life, we ought to enjoy our desserts while we can. Is that it?

Another example is Hamlet’s soliloquy to the dead clown, Yorick:

Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio: a fellow
of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy: he hath
borne me on his back a thousand times; and now, how
abhorred in my imagination it is! my gorge rises at
it. Here hung those lips that I have kissed I know
not how oft. Where be your gibes now? your
gambols? your songs? your flashes of merriment,
that were wont to set the table on a roar? Not one
now, to mock your own grinning?

Here are two more examples from the masters, William Carlos Williams’ Death the Barber, and Emily Dickinsons’ I Heard A Fly Buzz.

In your poem you need to use these words. The list comprises one word each cherry-picked from the poems submitted to Barbara’s prompt last Thursday.

purpleinportland: trance
Irene: track
Jules: skin
Christopher: emperor
Misky: popcorn
Barbara: bacon

Write on, poets. I’m waiting to see what you come up with.


Prompt 221–Body and Soul

Body and Soul

Stand up.
Take a deep breath and then let it go.
Do that again. Do you feel a tightness in your diaphragm? Your jaw? Your shoulders? Fingers? Take another, deeper, breath–this time, extend your arms out to the sides and shake your hands. (If you’re at work, or in the coffee shop, maybe you should find a stairwell or closet or stall. Just for a couple of minutes.) Shrug a few times. Shake your…all over. Now, relax. Close your eyes. Sway.
Got some Bossa Nova in your music collection? It doesn’t matter: just think “Girl from Ipanema” Tall and tan and young and lovely…

Tall and tan and young and lovely,
The girl from Ipanema goes walking
And when she passes, each one she passes goes, “Aaah…”
When she walks, she’s like a samba
That swings so cool and sways so gently
That when she passes, each one she passes goes, “Aaah…”

Yeah, like that. Just.
When you sit down to write, send your internal censor back to the stairwell, and BE the girl/boy who makes each one go “Aaah…”
You are the most desirable person in the song. Write that into a poem. (You can always revise it all away, relax)



Albrecht Dürer

Albrecht Dürer

We Wordle #26


Hi poets,

Welcome back to our small pond.

Sometimes I wonder when our pond will dry up and it’s tied to a core question. Does the well of creativity dry up? Can you run out of material to write? Not really. If you don’t limit yourself to writing about your own life story. I mean, we don’t really want to listen to the same story over and over, do we? So how do you ensure that you don’t run out of material? You’ll have to come up with stories. If you can fictionalise, the well will draw water from the ground in infinite cycles of precipitation. Poems are, of course, stories.

Since this is a wordle prompt, in our cycle, here are the words, one selected from each of the poems submitted to Barbara’s prompt last Thursday.

Hannah: green
Laura: wine
Jules: bloggers
Christopher: papers
Irene: vanilla
Marilyn: gin
Barbara: moles
Purpleinportland: stain

Poems have a speaker. The speaker is not the poet. However much one imagines it is the poet. Or perhaps it is the poet speaking. But something happens in the process of writing such that both individuality and otherness come into play.

To quote Czeslaw Milosz:

The purpose of poetry is to remind us
how difficult it is to remain just one person,
for our house is open, there are no keys in the doors,
and invisible guests come in and out at will.

It is possible to compare the poetic process to dreaming. In dreams, all sorts of absurdities are allowed, and the unconscious finds expression. The world is mutable. Who is this darker, other self that appears? What is the role of fantasy in your writing?

Seems to me that’s how a novelist like Haruki Murakami writes too. Playing on the duality of self and other.

Take these thoughts and write.

Prompt 220 On the Road

Tourist Home, Motor Village, Travel Court,

Bedbug Palace, Motel Hell

Write about that room by the highway.




Barbara here. I’ll be one of your off-and-on prompters for the next few months. I’m a little odd, and my prompts are likely to follow suit. If they seem unruly, give them a good talking-to, shake them (gently. there’s not that much holding them together). They’ll work with you if you’re firm.

For anyone who doesn’t know the drill:
1) You read the prompt
2) You react with a poem, or maybe a flash of fiction
3) You post that creation on your own blog (with a link back to Wolfy, so your friends and neighbors will know who set you off)
4) You come back here and drop a link to your post in the comments section. Say a few words. Wave.
5) You read what the others have written–as many as you can manage–and let them know what you think is fun or moving or thought-provoking. Talk among yourselves
6) Rinse and repeat as needed.