Saturday, December 16, 2017

Prompt #301 – Happy Holidays!



This week, let’s have a look at language using alternative titles for time-honored Christmas and other seasonal songs. This is just for fun—feel free to copy, paste, and print to enjoy with family members and friends during your holiday celebrations. The answers are posted below after a poetry prompt for this week (but don’t peek until you’ve tried to name all the songs)!

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Can You Name These Christmas Carols?

1. Ah, Approach, Everyone Who Is Steadfast (or, Ah, Loyal Followers Advance)

2. Far Off in a Feeder

3. Hey, Minuscule Urban Area of Southwest Jerusalem

4. Icy, the Humanoid Solid Precipitation Sculpture

5. Do You Auscultate As I?

6. Ag Chimes

7.  Ah, Liturgical Evening

8. Individual Visualization of Matriarch Smooching Red-Suited, Sleigh-Driving Guy

9.  God Grant Relaxation to You Jolly Fellows

10. Heavenly Beings from the Areas of Magnificence

11. Arrival at 2400 Hours in Cloudless Weather

12. The Bantam Youthful Male Percussionist

13. Father Christmas is on the Way to the Borough

14. Ecstasy Toward the Planet

15. The Dozen Intervals between Sunrise and Sunset Related to the 25th Day of the 12th Month

16. Us, a Monarchical Trio Who Originated Near the Ascent of Apollo

17. I’m Fantasizing Concerning a Blanched Yuletide

18. The Initial Christmas

19. Noiseless Nocturnal Period

20. Listen, the Foretelling Spirits Harmonize

21. Array the Corridors

22. The Sum of My Yuletide Yearnings is Two Anterior Incisors

23. Query Regarding the Identity of Descendant

24. The Quadruped with the Vermilion Proboscis

25. Frozen Precipitation Command or Allow Crystalline Formations to Descend

26. Ebullient Elderly Saint who was Bishop of Myra

27. Ringing Chimes

28. At This Juncture Arrives the Jolly Old Elf.

29. The Appearance of Christ’s Natal Day is Commencing

30. Ah, Drawing Close Permit Us to Worship Him

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This Week's Prompt: Try Writing a Holiday Poem

1. Write about a holiday from your past (dig deeply into family memories).
2. Write a poem in which you compare winter holidays of the past, present, and/or future.
3. Write about seasonal ghosts that haunt you.
4. Write about people from your past who are no longer with you and how that impacts your present holiday season; or, write about one special person with whom you always associate the winter holidays.
5. Write about aspects of winter holiday traditions that remain part of your annual celebrations.
6. Write about the faith and/or cultural aspects of your winter holidays.
7. Write about one unforgettable winter holiday.
8. Write about holiday food treats and how they sweeten your memories.
9. Write about a holiday song that replays in your mind because of its associations (or, write your own words to a Christmas carol or other winter holiday song).
10. Write a poem based on an old Christmas, Hanukkah, or other winter holiday photograph.
11. Write about a historical holiday-time event.
12. Write about a winter holiday yet to come. You might consider a fantasy poem with a futuristic sensibility.

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 Christmas Carol Quiz Answers

1. Oh, Come All Ye Faithful
2. Away in A Manger
3. Oh, Little Town of Bethlehem
4. Frosty the Snowman
5. Do You Hear What I Hear?
6. Silver Bells
7. Oh, Holy Night
8. I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus
9. God Rest You Merry Gentlemen
10. Angels from the Realms of Glory
11. It Came Upon a Midnight Clear
12. The Little Drummer Boy
13. Santa Claus is Coming to Town
14. Joy to the World
15. The Twelve Days of Christmas
16. We Three Kings of Orient Are
17. I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas
18. The First Noel
19. Silent Night
20. Hark, the Herald Angels Sing
21. Deck the Halls
22. All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth
23. What Child is This?
24. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
25. Let it Snow
26. Jolly Old St. Nicholas
27. Jingle Bells
28. Here Comes Santa Claus
29. It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas
30. Oh, Come let Us Adore Him

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To All My Blog Readers

I wish all my blog readers happy and healthy holidays and the best blessings of this festive season. May the the coming year bring you good health, much happiness, and all the things that you love! I’ll resume posting on Saturday, January 13, 2018! In the meantime, celebrate the season!








Saturday, December 9, 2017

Prompt #300 – The Night Before Christmas Parody



This week, I decided to revisit (and embellish) a seasonal prompt from December 11, 2010. The prompt deals with writing parodies of a well-known poem. Parody is always fun—the imitation of another work, writer, or genre. In poetry, parody is often about burlesquing serious verse for comic or satirical effect. This week, the idea is to write parodies of Clement C. Moore’s famous poem “The Night Before Christmas” (originally titled “A Visit from Saint Nicholas”). 

This poem has delighted both children and adults for many years—and some very funny parodies have been written. These humorous riffs on the Christmas classic are in many ways as entertaining as the original.

The original version of “A Visit from St. Nicholas” was anonymously published shortly before Christmas in 1823. As the poem’s popularity grew, several writers claimed to be its author, including Clement Clarke Moore, a classics professor, writer, and friend of author Washington Irving. Written in anapestic tetrameter (four feet of unstressed-unstressed-stressed), the poem’s rhythm and rhyme have made it easy to memorize.

Three of four hand-written copies of the poem are housed in museums (including the New York Historical Society Library). A private collector sold the fourth copy in December 2006; this copy was written and signed by Clement Clarke Moore and given as a gift to a friend in 1860. It was purchased for $280,000 by an unnamed “chief executive officer of a media company.”

Guidelines:

1. To begin, read Moore’s “The Night Before Christmas.”

2. Now sample some parodies of the poem. Google "Parodies of the Night before Christmas," and you'll find several online. Note how the parodies imitate the style and form of the original but use different language and meaning to alter the text.

3. Next, think of the content you’d like your poem to contain. Theme? Idea? Think about the examples you read and consider other possibilities. Here are just a few:

The Night Before Christmas (from a Pet’s Point of View)
A Mother’s/Father’s Night Before Christmas
A Poetry Reading the Night Before Christmas
A (Profession Here, Teacher’s, Lawyer’s, Poet’s, Policeman’s) Night Before Christmas
A (Person’s Name Here) Night before Christmas (This Version is about a Particular Person)
The Night Before _________________(Not Christmas, Anything You Wish)

4. When you’ve got an idea in mind, begin writing. You should, of course, model your work after the original while addressing a completely different subject matter. If the Moore poem is longer than you’d like your parody to be, simply write something shorter. Be sure to follow the rhythm and rhyme schemes of the original poem – that is, maintain the sense of music that Moore created. Allusions to Moore’s poem are fun to include.

Tips:
1. Something that I’ve done over the years is to write “Night Before Christmas” poems for friends and family members. I print and frame them and give them as gifts – they’re fun to write (especially humorous versions), a great way to make friends and family members smile, and an amusing way to share poetry.
2. Have fun with this!

3. As always, you’re invited to post your poems as comments (finished or in draft form) for other blog readers to enjoy.

Example: “Twas the Night before Hanukah”





Saturday, November 25, 2017

Prompt #299 – Silent Night


As the holiday season begins, and Christmas preparations gear up in my house, I find myself listening to (and singing in my less-than-harmonious voice) a number of favorite Christmas carols. I wondered what the most popular Christmas carol of all might be. A quick Google search led me to an article based on a Time Magazine study that revealed the following:

“The names Joseph Mohr and Franz Xaver Gruber have largely vanished into the annals of Christmas tormentors, but their greatest triumph lives on. “Silent Night,” which Mohr wrote the lyrics for (in German) in 1816 and Gruber put to music two years later, is the most recorded Christmas song in the modern era of the holiday’s substantial oeuvre.”

“To determine this fact, TIME crawled the records at the U.S. Copyright Office, which offers digitized registrations going back to 1978, and collected data on every Christmas album recorded since that time. “Silent Night,” it turns out, is not merely the most popular carol; with 733 copyrighted recordings since 1978, it is nearly twice as dominant as “Joy to the World,” a distant second with 391 records to its name.”




Whether your observation of the season is secular or religious, and regardless of your religious affiliation, this week, the challenge is to use the title (that’s right, just the title) of the song “Silent Night” as a springboard for something that may well be quite different from the song. Think about a “silent night” (any silent night) that you’ve experienced. This may be a seasonal or Christmas experience or a “silent night” experience from any time of year.

Guidelines:

1. Free write for a while on silence, nighttime, or any specific experience you’ve had at night (mystical, beautiful, frightening, comforting). Some possibilities may include a family time, a particular holiday celebration, a nighttime walk in the woods or on a city street, a time alone, a time when words failed you, or a time when you were in deep reflection.

2. After free writing for a while, take a short break and then go back and read what you wrote. Is there anything there that you might work into a poem? Copy some images and ideas that you think might fit.

3. Consider prose, narrative, and lyric forms.

4. Write your poem with the specific intention of creating a mood or atmosphere. Mood is the major feeling or atmosphere of a piece of poetry, and can be an important device is establishing emotional communication between you and your readers. Remember that your topic is a “silent night.”

5. Don’t be afraid to create an air of mystery. Along that line, don’t tell it all—leave room for your readers to enter your poem. Give your readers something to reflect upon. Don’t close the “door” on your poem—leave it slightly ajar.

Tips:

1. The images you create will impact the mood of your poem. If you create somber images, the mood of your poem will darken and perhaps become ominous. If you create light, happy images, your poem’s mood will move into a positive, uplifting direction. Know what mood you want to create before writing anything.

2. Remember that setting contributes to mood and atmosphere, and establish a setting for your poem accordingly. (Note that setting is the physical location in any literary work. It provides a background that supports the content.)  

3. Use language to your poem’s advantage. That is, choose words and phrases that convey the mood or tone of a “silent night.”

4. Be generous with caesuras (pauses). Allow the unspoken silences of your poem to speak to your readers. You can create pauses with dashes, parentheses, spacing, and line breaks.

5. There should be nothing superfluous in your poem: no extra words, no extra syllables. Avoid explanations of what you’ve written in your poem: trust your images.

Examples:


Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening By Robert Frost

Whose woods these are I think I know.  
His house is in the village though;  
He will not see me stopping here  
To watch his woods fill up with snow.  

My little horse must think it queer  
To stop without a farmhouse near  
Between the woods and frozen lake  
The darkest evening of the year.  

He gives his harness bells a shake  
To ask if there is some mistake.  
The only other sound’s the sweep  
Of easy wind and downy flake.  

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,   
But I have promises to keep,  
And miles to go before I sleep,  
And miles to go before I sleep.


Evening Solace By Charlotte Brontë

The human heart has hidden treasures,
In secret kept, in silence sealed;—
The thoughts, the hopes, the dreams, the pleasures,
Whose charms were broken if revealed.
And days may pass in gay confusion,
And nights in rosy riot fly,
While, lost in Fame’s or Wealth’s illusion,
The memory of the Past may die.

But there are hours of lonely musing,
Such as in evening silence come,
When, soft as birds their pinions closing,
The heart’s best feelings gather home.
Then in our souls there seems to languish
A tender grief that is not woe;
And thoughts that once wrung groans of anguish
Now cause but some mild tears to flow.

And feelings, once as strong as passions,
Float softly back—a faded dream;
Our own sharp griefs and wild sensations,
The tale of others’ sufferings seem.
Oh! when the heart is freshly bleeding,
How longs it for that time to be,
When, through the mist of years receding,
Its woes but live in reverie!

And it can dwell on moonlight glimmer,
On evening shade and loneliness;
And, while the sky grows dim and dimmer,
Feel no untold and strange distress—
Only a deeper impulse given
By lonely hour and darkened room,
To solemn thoughts that soar to heaven
Seeking a life and world to come.


Saturday, November 18, 2017

Prompt #298 –Gratitude


If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.
— Meister Eckhart

Here in the U.S., Thanksgiving will be celebrated this coming week on Thursday, November 23rd. This year our Thanksgiving coincides with Japan’s Kinrō Kansha no Hi, a national public holiday celebrated every year on November 23. Derived from ancient harvest festival rituals named Niinamesai, its modern meaning is more a celebration of hard work and community involvement, translated as Labor Thanksgiving Day. Other countries that celebrate Thanksgiving include Germany (first Sunday of October, essentially a harvest festival that offers thanks for a good year and good fortune) and Canada (Parliament made it a national holiday in 1879, declaring in 1957 that the holiday would be observed yearly, "A Day of General Thanksgiving to Almighty God for the bountiful harvest with which Canada has been blessed—to be observed on the 2nd Monday in October"). Grenada, Liberia, and The Netherlands also hold Thanksgiving celebrations. 

Thanksgiving in the United States has a long history beginning in 1621 when the Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians shared an autumn harvest feast that is considered the first Thanksgiving celebration. For over 200 years, days of thanksgiving were celebrated by individual colonies and states. In 1827, magazine editor Sarah Josepha Hale began a campaign to establish Thanksgiving as a national holiday. Finally, in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln set the last Thursday in November as the official day for a national Thanksgiving observance. In 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt moved the holiday up a week, and in 1941 Roosevelt signed a bill that designated the fourth Thursday in November as Thanksgiving Day.

Whether we set aside a day for national thanksgiving or make being truly grateful a part of our everyday lives, it’s important to remember that being grateful for what we have now and have had in the past can make us feel better about ourselves, our lives, and our relationships.

Cicero said, “Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.” There are times in our lives when we may feel more Grinch than grateful, especially when the stresses of every day living gather momentum and all but overwhelm us. However, acknowledging and expressing our gratitude can have a beneficial effect on our lives, relationships, and work.

What are you grateful for? This week let’s write about a specific thing for which we’re grateful. A French proverb tells us, “Gratitude is the heart’s memory.” Our first step in writing this week will be to remember—to look into our memories and to identify a single thing for which we’re especially grateful. 

Guidelines:

1. Make a list of things for which you’re thankful. Think in terms of people, health, work—all the things that are good in your life.
2. Choose one item from the list.
3. Free write about the item you chose.
4. Look at your free write and select images and details for your poem.
5. Draft your poem.


Tips:

1. Your poem may be stichic (one stanza with no line breaks), it may be a formal poem, a prose poem, or your poem may take the form of prayer or a letter.
2. As you write, think about the reasons for your gratitude and show (without telling) what those feelings mean.
3. Dig deeply to reach beyond the specifics of your personal experience to the underlying universal subject with which your readers will identify. In other words, in this poem, move toward something larger than your personal experience.
4. You might address or dedicate your poem to a person for whom you're thankful.
5. Another possibility is to approach the flip side and write about a challenging time (or a time of adversity) that somehow led you to feelings of gratefulness (my mom used to say that good always comes from bad).


Examples:

In the United States, November is National Native American Heritage Month, with that in mind (and considering the tradition of our first Thanksgiving with the Pilgrims and Indians), this example is a poem translated from a traditional Iroquois prayer.


We who are here present thank the Great Spirit that we are here to praise Him. 
We thank Him that He has created men and women, and ordered that 
these beings shall always be living to multiply the earth. 
We thank Him for making the earth and giving these beings its products to live on. 
We thank Him for the water that comes out of the earth and runs for our lands. 
We thank Him for all the animals on the earth. 
We thank Him for certain timbers that grow and have fluids coming from them for us all. 
We thank Him for the branches of the trees that grow shadows for our shelter. 
We thank Him for the beings that come from the west, the thunder and lightning that water the earth. We thank Him for the light which we call our oldest brother, the sun that works for our good.


Additional Examples:

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Prompt #297 – Top Ten Tips

  
Often, when I offer tips for writing poems, I include one of more of the following items that I feel are important to remember. I used to do a "High Five," but I've added to that list. There are, of course, many other “tips” for writing poetry, but observing these will help move your poems toward final versions that shine. 

1. Avoid the passive voice.

2. Eliminate “ing” endings wherever you can.

3. Limit use of adjectives.

4. Avoid prepositional phrases when you can.

5. Get rid of articles (a, an, the) as much as possible.

6. Create images that are unique and memorable.

7. Avoid overstatement and too many details—show, don’t tell.

8. Stay away from clichés, abstractions, and sentimentality.

9. Create layers of meaning—point toward something bigger than the body of the poem.

10. Work on form and format (syntax, line breaks, and stanzaic arrangements).

This week’s challenge is to look through some already-written poems (that you consider “finished”) and to “checklist” it using the ten tips above. 

Guidelines:

1. Take a look at a poem you’ve already written and apply the preceding items as a checklist for editing. 
 
2. Go through your poem one item at a time and see if there are changes you can make. 
3. After you’ve finished, compare your original version and the newly edited one. Is the edited version stronger than the original?

 4. Try this with other "finished" poems too!



 

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Prompt #296 – What Does Your Costume Say about You?



Dressing up in costumes (called ”fancy dress” in England) has a long history. Masked balls and other fancy dress occasions were popular long before the custom of wearing costumes on Halloween came into popular practice. Halloween costumes as we know them today were first recorded as late as 1895 in Scotland with little evidence of the practice in England, Ireland, or the US before 1900. Early Halloween costumes took their character from Halloween’s pagan and Gothic sensibilities and were worn mainly by children. These costumes were made at home from found materials, but by the 1930s, several companies began to manufacture Halloween costumes for sale in stores, and trick or treating became popular. Today, Halloween costumes are worn by children and adults, all of whom enjoy the fun of becoming something or someone other than who they really are.

From the time I was little, I enjoyed Halloween costumes for the pure fun of them but also because, in costume, I was able to step out of myself and into another personality. 

Although, traditionally, Halloween costumes are monsters, vampires, zombies, and other ghoulish creatures, many more are based on characters and figures from history, movies, and everyday life. In a very real sense, costumes are communication devices—they say something about the people who wear them.


Suggestions:

1. Write a poem about a costume “experience” that you  had as a child or as an adult.

2. Write a poem about a costume that you’d love to wear. What’s the “character” you’d like to “become” on Halloween night? Why and how would a particular costume take you out of yourself and into a new personality?

3. Write a poem about the costume you would never want to wear and why.

4. Write a poem in which you “create” a bizarre costume that makes no reasonable sense—a fantasy costume. You might try a prose poem for this one (and be sure to include a little surreal imagery).

5. Write a poem about the animal you’d like to dress up as and “become” on Halloween night.

6. Write a poem about a historical person whom you’d like to “become” on Halloween. 

7. Write a poem about a costume party that you attended.

8. If you were going to dress up as a famous poet, which poet would you choose? In your poem, tell why you would choose that poet and describe your costume. For example, if you were to dress up as William Carlos Williams, your costume would include such things as latex gloves, a white lab coat, a stethoscope, eyeglasses, and brushed-back hair. For William Shakespeare, you’d need an Elizabethan-style outfit, beard, etc.

Tips:

1. Remember as you write to let your poem take you where it wants to go, and to be aware of meanings other than the obvious.

2. Link the end of the poem to the beginning but not overtly—and don’t over-write.

3.  Write beyond the last line, then go back and find the last line hidden in what you’ve written.

4.  Try (minimal) repetition from another part of the poem—sometimes this can work very well.

5.  Use more one-syllable words than multi-syllable words in your last couple of lines (think in terms of strong verbs and no superfluous language).

Examples:



It’s Halloween by Jack Prelutsky

It’s Halloween! It’s Halloween!
The moon is full and bright
And we shall see what can’t be seen
On any other night.
Skeletons and ghosts and ghouls,
Grinning goblins fighting duels,
Werewolves rising from their tombs,
Witches on their magic brooms.
In masks and gowns
we haunt the street
And knock on doors
for trick or treat.
Tonight we are the king and queen,
For oh tonight it’s Halloween!


Happy Halloween!