Is It A Poetry Day? Ask NaPoWriMo – I’ve Lost Count.


My classes resumed this week and because I like to concentrate on poetry in Term Two  in the lead up to producing the fund raising calendar at Godfrey Street Community House we started off the term with an exploration of What is Poetry and how poetic techniques can improve our writing.

Nick Staikos MP and President of Godfrey Street and Manager Helen Howells
Nick Staikos MP and President of Godfrey Street and Manager Helen Howells.

I planned my lessons and thought what serendipity – April is National Poetry Writing Month, albeit mainly celebrated in America, I’ll take part and hone my poetry skills.

However, being brought up in a house where the poetry of Rabbie Burns was often quoted, I should have known “the best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft a-gley.

I’m still taking part but keeping up with their particular prompts will be for another day. And when I completed my first lessons this week, to say the announcement to concentrate on poetry got a mixed reaction was an understatement!

Oh, No – Not poetry!
Mairi Neil
What is poetry to all of you? I ask
Ponder the question, then write
Producing a poem, today’s writing task.

Responses cold, fearful, many a frown,
Disappointment, mumbles, sighs too
Shoulders droop, pens freeze, eyes down.

Okay, Let’s discuss this aversion
What poems can you remember?
Any leave a favourable impression?

Poetry is a hangover from childhood
Memorising lines, reciting to please
Most of my experiences not that good!

I remember a powerful poem from school
Men in the trenches of World War One
Life can be sad and death oh, so cruel.

I remember a rhyme, I was in Grade Three
About honey, seeds, a camel I think
The teacher, not the poem, inspired me.

I don’t know poems, they’re songs to me
Rhythm, rhyme, rap – different styles
Traditional rules continually set free

I think of Leonard Cohen, – what a man
His words depress some but for me
His verses profound, his lines scan

Discussion over, the class starts to write
Pens scratch and laptop keys tap
Like the phoenix imaginations take flight.

Class attempts at poetry produced to share
Angst, humour, memoir, homage to Dr Seuss
Poems unlocked, they didn’t know were there!


andy warhol  electric chair painting.jpg
One of Andy Warhol’s paintings of the electric chair that challenges beliefs, encourages thoughts  and emotions

When the class read back the results of their splurge writing and we shared thoughts and ideas I’m glad to say the sick feeling in my stomach eased slightly.

Sometimes the lessons we plan work and sometimes they don’t get the reaction you hoped for and so it’s a relief when you can salvage something from a perceived disaster!

Splurge Dirge
Mairi Neil

Let’s agree poetry is a way
for words to live in print
Wordsmiths have their say

Sometimes it’s a bit of fun
doggerel, childish ditties,
satire, irony, – even a pun

Practicality can be boring
romance is better in verse
poetry sets emotion soaring

Memories collect and grow
nostalgia breeds a poem
subverting what we know!

Terse verse a picture paints
limericks, clerihews, lunes
ridicules sinners and saints

Messages in greeting cards galore
Quatrains, rhymes, free verse
jingles, psalms, songs and more.

I can’t imagine poetry’s demise
this wonderful chameleon genre
Its devices will always surprise.


I have my homework cut out convincing some students how valuable poetry is to improving all of our writing regardless of genre but will have some fun in class trying.

I have a new student from Japan – her background Korean-Japanese with a grandfather brought over as indentured labour to work in Japanese coal mines.

A practical person who prefers essay writing, she admitted to knowing little about Korean or Japanese poetry. I aim to surprise her next week with some Korean poetry- the traditional Japanese Haiku and Haibun already planned for down the track.

Hopefully, as in previous years, many of the students will be ‘turned on’ to poetry. They’ll appreciate and value the words of the thousands of poets who add richness to many cultures – not just our own.

I was fortunate to have parents who valued poetry because I have to admit there were some teachers at school who seemed to spend their time destroying it! Unfortunately, I’m not alone in that experience and so no wonder any announcement of ‘we’re going to write poetry’ is met with a groan.

Fingers crossed, I won’t put any reluctant writers off the genre but spark their interest instead. Poetry is anything from nursery rhymes to song, romantic verse to narratives and ballads. There is even prose poetry – yes, we’re going to have fun, failures, fantasies and fabulous successes because we are in writing class!

Why I Love Poetry
Mairi Neil

Poetry is verse, stanza, word pictures…
letters arranged on the page
side by side, jostling, juxtaposed,
or ascending, descending in
straight or haphazard rows.
Disparate, complementary, unusual,
sensual, harsh… familiar words
sad, happy, angry or joyful…
Powerful, mood altering lines
oozing tears, encouraging grins
prophetic, nostalgic, absurd
onomatopoeia, assonance, dissonance
alliteration, metaphors, similes, even
split infinitives included.

Across and over the dreaded block
Words whisper, waft, snap,
scratch, glide, massage, tickle, tempt,
caress, choke, chuckle, slap,
shock. They bang not whimper.
Keep me awake or
Soothe me to sleep
Prick my conscience…
nettles in the grass,
a menacing migraine or
short tap on the head,
they comfort like Mum’s cuddles
demand action like Dad’s pipe band music
The too jocular ‘rise and shine’.

Poetry is a voice, but also an ear
Other poets persistent, persuasive
what they feel and think, opinionated,
the ‘agony and ecstasy’ of their hearts
Poems remember what hurts
what inspires, what’s observed,
anger, outrage, compassion, acceptance…
They worship Mother Nature,
bless the sun, adore the moon,
cherish the flowers trees
people dance with joy
beneath sunny blue or stormy grey skies.
Pose questions and explore answers.

Poetry can revere a creator,
fear the wrath of gods or God
celebrate his or her love
pay homage to the miracle of birth
be awed by the inevitability of death.
Through verse, stanza, lines
random or planned arrangement
Poetry adds to the rich tapestry of life
Writers of various genres
assemble and disassemble
the jigsaw of ‘the human condition’

That’s why I love poetry.

view from train between LA and San Fran 2012.jpg
View from the coastal starlight train as I headed up to San Francisco from LA 2012

4 thoughts on “Is It A Poetry Day? Ask NaPoWriMo – I’ve Lost Count.

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