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NaPoWriMo Promp 17: The (Somew)Here and Now

Sarah and Jeff Boyle

Difficulty 4/5

The endlessly cool thing about literature is its ability to take you anywhere and anytime, as long as the words are well put together and you're willing to let yourself be transported. One of the most difficult things to do in writing (in poetry especially) is to address things that are happening in the world right now. It is hard without lots of time to reflect and process to write something that will not only talk to and about the world today, but also stand on its own as a good piece.

That's the challenge today: a poem to address current events. As you can see above, we concede that it ain't gonna be easy. But give it a try. Here is something to keep in mind: the world is BIG and you are not. No disrespect intended. But if you are looking at the world with a mind toward talking about something you feel is important, a good way in is to have some connection, however tenuous, to yourself. That way you're not shouting into the sky, but shrinking what could be an overwhelming concept into a feeling you can carry around in your pocket or travels with you in your bones.

Here is a great example of a current events poem. It's based on the shooting of three Muslims in Chapel Hill, North Carolina:

The Words Come, They Choke Me
by Leila Chatti

For Deah, Yusor, and Razan

Too many times I have written
this poem: blood a dark ink,
moon a bullet hole.

My tongue flaps useless
as a bird. The words
come, they choke me.

Somewhere, always, smoke.
Somewhere, always, something
burning, something snuffed.

The sun set again,
bled like a wound.
I stood; nothing could

move me. The world went on
spinning tiredly, & like that
I survived another day.

I breathe & life
keeps coming.
It feels simple enough

that I know to be suspicious.
Tonight, dark as a flint chip, candles
each a pinprick. I swallow

a flame within me,
shelter it as the sky
dons her black veil.

The topic of the next poem isn't so dire; it's the Super Bowl. But don't think it's a frivolous poem. As in all the best poems, the poet uncovers a deeper truth or a more complicated issue couched in what could be an easy poem about the ridiculousness of the Super Bowl. Instead, it addresses the problematic juxtaposition of the Super Bowl and the ongoing realization about the brain injuries football players sustain:

from Gratuitous Super Bowl Poem
by Vincent Toro

...Less than a decade
after his retirement he could hold
no thought much longer than most
plays last from hike to down.
His frontal region abraded, scar

tissue piled up behind his ever-
widening glabella like an offensive
line working against the clock.
Buried beneath the lesions near
his parietal bone, hidden inside
the calcified creases of his motor

cortex gleams reflections
of the four rings he reaped
by mistaking his mug for ram’s
horns, his sons’ voices chipped
off and collected in muddy
pockets between eroding

sutures...

(Poems originally appeared in Rattle, reprinted with permission of the poets.)

If you click on the links to the poems, you can hear the writers reading their work (a great chance to hear how poems sound aloud). Rattle is a well-respected literary magazine that has a print and an online version, where they publish a current events poem every week. Additionally, they publish and anthologize work by younger writers as well. For information about that, go here. Check it out--it's a cool magazine.


Have you registered for the Poem-A-Thon yet? Sign up to write poems and raise money for the Greater Pittsburgh Literacy Council today! We just ordered some pretty sweet one-inch buttons that are yours for free if you play along with us. Join us in person in Pittsburgh on April 26th at the East End Book Exchange for the Poem-A-Thon Write-In and Reading