by Jude Neale
for National Poetry Month, April 2020
I have written to many different forms of inspiration—music, art, dance and poetic collaboration.
During this process I wrote and published seven books of poems. I am moved by everything to create my imagist poems. This time last year I was determined to follow the NPM19 prompts, by writing something new every day. So I could hardly wait for April first to roll around!
I gave myself an out before the project. I would skip those prompts that didn’t resonate with me. I expected to have a dozen new poems at the end of the month.
So when April first dawned I picked up my phone, yes my phone, I have written my last five books on my small cell phone. I opened up the first prompt, which felt like unwrapping a Christmas gift and wrote the first poem.
Prompt: Write a poem that includes directions.
Recipe for Rising
The new robins sing
out the hour,
as dusk slips
to the top of the trees.
It ignites the cedars and maples
into a glorious confabulation
of gold and orange.
I lay on my back
in the long grass
and wonder what the steps
are for making puffed pastry.
And the pink edged clouds
rise high in the cooling air.
The shadows lengthen
until I can hold
the whole world softly
in my out stretched arms.
Keep the butter cold.
Then let it rest,
just as I do in Spring’s
Three hours and I wrote my poem. The prompt was so clever and open ended that I was more than inspired, I was on fire! I could hardly wait for day two!
I woke up at five the second morning with such excitement to find my muse waiting for me.
Prompt: This one had to have question marks and be slightly surrealistic.
The red of her dress glimmers,
no one can pluck.
Is it the colour or the promise
of beauty that holds him?
She moves like a scarf
In the wind, effortless steps
across the plain.
She squats down to look,
a praying mantis,
with knees apart
feet planted in the dust.
What is the use
of this dry feast?
She raises her head
and looks past him
to capture the blaze
of sunlight on her face.
How does one speak
of the rumblings of love?
Make a white flag
Her bare feet
kick up the earth
as she runs to him.
If she is the wind
can he be the hollow flute
echoing back her urgent song?
This prompt took me places I had never been. Again it felt like I had entered another dimension! I have no idea where the imagery came from. It was like unlocking a door to a beautiful room in my mind.
With confidence I wrote the third and then I came to my fourth. Ooh this was hard. I had just lost my mum and wanted the poem to be about our relationship. So I found myself writing a poem that made me cry. This simple prompt had cracked my stiff upper lip and resolve to be brave.
Prompt: This one was 14 lines, a quasi sonnet, about something sad and hard to talk about.
The hospital phoned
And said you were dying
We never talked about babies
Because you forgot how to
When I visited you
You looked for clues
Of who I was
It’s me mum, your daughter
And we’d kiss
I didn’t know your favourite colour
And you didn’t know my birthday
But the hospital phoned
And I knew everything
You taught me about love
These prompts were causing me to delve deeply and with authenticity.
So it went morning after morning. I was strongly committed to connecting with the reader on a familiar basis. I believe that our words can change lives and the world. When I came across this prompt it just wrote itself. I simply listened to my heart.
Prompt: Using “if” write about changing negative to positive.
If the dying earth was carpeted with
A bright pallet of wild flowers
And the waters sang with whales
It would be enough for me to dress
in white to marry the world again.
If I could hug all the nation’s peoples
I would press love like a flower into
Their hearts and the tune of sorrow would dissipate
If you fell at my feet I would carry you on my back
to a resting place where you could learn about love
And flourish in the bowered bed I had made for you
If I lost my voice I would learn to give with my hands
I would fashion bracelets of gold
To show you my shimmering tune
If the sun wouldn’t shine I would gather all the smiles you had saved for me and ignite the whole blessed world with my joy
If I let go of worry I would be filled with the sacred reflection of possibilities opening like a flower
If I could I would change it all
I would leave luminosity and light where my feet had trodden.
Days of non-stop writing allowed me to enter another portal leading to unimagined creativity. I realized that my inspiration was internally triggered by simple instructions from NPM 19’s writing prompts. No prompt had proven too difficult yet and I was confident that I could make the month. Until I was asked to take on Shakespeare in a fourteen line verse. I knew it had to be seamless and meaningful with a different juxtaposition of words and phrases to transport the poem back centuries. Starting with two lines from the middle of a Sonnet, I composed my poem. It is one of my favourite poems I wrote because I had to write intentionally about something I had been grappling with in my own life. Not only that I had to reflect back another era.
Prompt: Write a poem based on one of Shakespeare’s sonnets using two of his original lines.
from Sonnet X11
That thou among the wastes of time must go,
Then of thy beauty do I question make, you ask me once again
if I am old, and I will respond
In heart and mind, I am but young,
though my skin does so gently sag and my hair
has lost its lustre. Still I wrap myself in perfume’s gown
and wonder at the simple problem
of mixing identity with form.
For the balance of youth and wisdom is seen to be inviolable.
And yet I yearn to call back time –
see myself again as blank and lovely. Though I much prefer
the slower dances in your arms, guiding me forward.
I am but a thorny rose, whose blossoms fair and sweet
doth bloom, in the deepest days of this long winter.
Once I’d written this poem I knew that I could meet any further challenges!
I was asked to write Abecedarians, weather poems, haiku, list poems and surrealistic poems amongst the thirty poems. I had reached a goal but I was still not satisfied and continued to write seventeen more days producing forty-seven brand new poems. I had enough for a book. Ekstasis Editions decided to publish it this spring. It is called Impromptu and contains a wide variety of genres and forms. All because I let myself accept the challenge of writing whatever was put before me. I am a better writer now and this is in part due to NPM 19.
I encourage everyone to do this exercise this year and see the multitudinous places your writing will take you. NPM 20’s theme is ‘A World of Poetry’. It will give breadth and depth to your writing. It will also present opportunity to be inspired to create work of great diversity.
I am looking forward to using these prompts and their responses in my poetry workshops and mentoring opportunities, by bringing on the world as promised by NPM 20.
Jude Neale is a Canadian poet, vocalist, spoken word performer and mentor. She publishes frequently in journals, anthologies, and e-zines. She was shortlisted, highly commended and finalist for many international competitions including: The Gregory O’Donoghue International Poetry Prize (Ireland), The International Poetic Republic Poetry Prize (U.K),The Mary Chalmers Smith Poetry Prize (UK), The Wenlock International Poetry Competition (UK) and the Carers International Poetry Prize (UK) and The Pat Lowther Award ( Can.) Jude has written and co-written six books. Her most recent book is a collaboration with acclaimed writer and poet, Bonnie Nish. Cantata in Two Voices was written in turn, line by line in 50 days. This is the fourth book Jude has written on her phone. judeneale.ca