David Reads a Found Poem

Getting into the spirit of spring with poetry, pottery and. . . wait, Martha Stewart?

Getting into the spirit of spring with poetry, pottery
and . . wait, Martha Stewart?

Or maybe David Feeds a Round Poem. Now that would be an intriguing title. Speaking of title, today’s poem has a lousy one, but then again, I didn’t promise to write a poem a day this year like the fine folks doing the NaPoWriMo challenge for National Poetry Writing Month, so I am under no obligation to properly title anything.

I tried it in 2010 and 2011 and came up with some nice drafts, but I have never gotten good at cranking one out per day like that. Still, I’ll take a stab at a few this month, and I’ll share them with you. I promise. Or after this one, you might consider it more like a threat.

Anyway, last year I started my own project; call it NaPoRecMo, National Poetry Recording Month. I recorded one poem per day throughout the month of April, edited them and posted them to YouTube and then here to the Dad Poet blog each day. That was a big undertaking, bigger than I thought it would be. I mean, I might have done less work trying to write an original piece each day.

So this year I’ve trimmed things dow a bit more, though already I see by my first two days that I am falling prey to my habit of making extensive commentary. I cannot help it. I love this stuff. Poetry, I mean. Some poems will be from SoundCloud, some from YouTube, and I will repeat poets sometimes, as well as include a few by yours truly. I’m not sure this one actually counts though since all the lines were thieved from my betters.

If you want to record a poem of your own you can leave it in my SoundCloud Dropbox. Just click on that link over to your right. Or better yet go to the Record-a-Poem project on SoundCloud from the Poetry Foundation, the publishers of Poetry magazine, which I will talk more about this week, as I have a copy of their issue here in front of me, and you can find the April issue online too.

If you prefer to write your own, there are tons of sites offering poetry prompts, including NaPoWriMo.net, Poets and Writers, Writer’s Digest’s Poetic Asides with Robert Lee Brewer. I know Margo Roby has put up some links to challenges and other NaPoWriMo fun as well, so be sure to check those out.

Today’s recording was inspired by a prompt from the NaPoWriMo site at napowrimo.net. It was actually from their first day’s prompt, but as often happens when presented with these things, my mind wandered and so did the poem, and I just had to stumble along behind trying to catch up with them both. The challenge was to start a poem with an opening line from another poem and just let the idea go off on its own path to find something new, yet honoring the original. Well, that was my understanding of it.

Poetry and Potteryside by side on my table. Baby, why can't we?

Poetry and Pottery, side by side on my table,
oh lord why can’t we?

Marylin Cavicchia did a marvelous job in finding a new direction for E. E. Cummings, “Anyone Lived in a Pretty How Town.” Jennifer Bullis, who like me is apt to dis-remember the rules, borrowed the title of my reading from yesterday of Frank O’Hara’s “For Grace, After a Party.” I am honored to have played a small part in the form her word-play took.

And for those of us who may be oh. . . less organized than your average formal poet, this rule breaking is a fine thing. The idea behind these prompts after all is to inspire you to create a new poem. Once you get started, who cares whether you fulfilled all the requirements of a challenge? Something new has come to life! And that was the whole objective from the start.

So I took the first line of Byron’s “She Walks in Beauty.” Then instead of using my own words to build on that, I thought of the lines from a poem called “Nightwatchman’s Song” by W. D. Snodgrass, which got me to thinking about the Biblical passage of I Peter, chapter 3. . . and you get the idea. I am sure you’ll recognize the line from a children’s rhyme in there too. I kept most of the lines unaltered, even though it made the grammar a bit wonky, but it felt right, so I went with it. I also kept a certain form that developed, because I felt it was important to keep some challenge to it, even if it felt like the poem was making up the rules as it went along. But again, that’s the fun of it.

Perhaps you can help me yet with this lame title, because it really deserves something better, something about night and flight and light. . . See if you can guess the other nine poets I stole from. We can discuss them in the comments or in a later post, but hopefully I did them some honor in how lovingly I maligned their words.

Broken Rules and Stolen Lines

She walks in beauty like the night
watchman, somewhat tipsy, returns
evil for evil, or insult for insult.

There’s a certain slant of light
through yonder window breaks,
like moonbeams that behind some piny mountain shower

when the blackbird flew out of sight,
and dares to claim the sky.
I will never give up longing.

I have seen a dream, and it has taken flight;
I wish I may, I wish I might
have been one acquainted with the night.

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31 thoughts on “David Reads a Found Poem

  1. The title “Tapestry” came to mind. Then I realized that would be “borrowed” from Carole King. Then I realized that wouldn’t be all that off-point.

    Has it been a year already? Wow.

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  2. Oh I love this!

    Did I see Romeo in there?

    Can’t believe it’s been a year already. I do NaPoWriMo every year but I stopped posting the poems last year and enjoyed it more. I’ve got six poems already. I love NaPoWriMo!

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  3. Nice! I like all the surprises these borrowings create. Just when we think we’re in familiar territory, this beautiful night watchman comes staggering along out of the dark!

    I like “Tapestry,” too. And those flowerpots!

    Thanks for your kind mention. Here’s to “dis-remember[ing] the rules. (Wait–is that like *dismembering* the rules??)

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    • I’m glad you liked it! I was debating about whether or not to end the first line without night, and drop it into the one word in line to as nightwatchman, which is how Snodgrass uses it, but it seemed better to do split the word this way, and leave the first line as is. Thanks for confirming that gut feeling. 🙂

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  6. I only caught Dickinson and Shakespeare, though I also know the nursery rhyme. You’re right, that a poem about desiring light during its nightly absence (a pastiche nocturne) should have a more representative title, but I don’t have one right now.

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    • Ah, I thought you might get Frost at the end. In the last night’s post I explained who the other poets were. It really was a fun exercise in thievery. 🙂

      I like the “Tapestry” ideas, but was leaning toward something borrowed and broken. . . I still don’t have it.

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    • Replied before I got to the next post, then felt silly for not recognizing Frost (I wrote about him tonight) and Stevens and Shelley. I only got an MA in Shelley’s time period–I ought to know him when I see him.

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    • When we read him in my American Lit II survey in undergrad, I made a comment in my written response along the lines of, “Frost wrote happy snow poems. Where’s the happy snow?” Now, when I teach Frost, I avoid Stopping by the Woods and The Road Not Taken–I skip straight to Design, Mending Wall, and the more obviously morally ambiguous selections.

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  8. Pingback: David Reads from April’s Poetry Magazine, Part 1 | The Dad Poet

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