NaPoWriMo 2021 – Day 9

The (optional) prompt given for today was to write a poem in the form of a “to-do list” but to choose an unusual person or character. For example, what’s on the Tooth Fairy’s to-do list? Or on the to-do list of Genghis Khan? Of a housefly? Your list can be a mix of extremely boring things and wild things. For example, maybe Santa Claus needs to order his elves to make 7 million animatronic Baby Yoda dolls, to have his hat dry-cleaned to get off all the soot it picked up last December, and to get his head electrician to change out the sparkplugs on Rudolph’s nose.

I’ve chosen one of my favourite Shakespearean villains: Iago, from the play ‘Othello’. Iago is a wonderfully Machiavellian creature, always plotting and scheming to bring others down. If you ever get the chance to see the 1995 Kenneth Branagh film version in which Branagh himself plays Iago, he conveys this wonderfully well through the metaphor of a chess board, manoeuvring pieces into position as he rattles off one of his soliloquies describing how he will destroy the other characters’ lives. I’ve combined all of his soliloquies into one big fat ‘To Do’ list.

Iago’s To Do List

Put money in my purse…

Roderigo has a trusting nature – ‘twill

Work to my advantage.

Thus do I ever make the fool my purse.

Othello next…

The Moor did give my promotion to Cassio –

Curse him for that! I’ll be avenged.

He’s sweet on Desdemona, old

Brabantio’s only daughter, and ‘tis thought

An elopement has been planned.

I’ll rouse the old man from his bed this night

And Roderigo will fill his mind with images so foul

‘Twould make a doxy blush.

‘Your daughter and the Moor

Are making the beast with two backs!’

Curse the thought of her!

Sweet Desdemona, why

Didst not choose me to taste thy charms?

Othello’s old, and – how shall I say’t? –

Not one of us.

The better shall my poison work on him.

But oh! my lips do yearn to taste her still.

I’ll sow discord betwixt the two of them.

How so? Now let me think anon.

The self-same Cassio who took

The post I wanted cannot hold his drink.

He’ll be disgraced and then I’ll set him on

To Desdemona to implore her help.

He hath a daily beauty in his life

That makes me ugly – but we’ll see

If Cassio’s so pretty with a sword

Thrust through his heart…

Five lives ruined – and ‘tis not yet dawn.

All in all, I’d say a good day’s work.

NaPoWriMo 2021 – Day 8

Today’s prompt asked us to look at a book called Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters. I wasn’t familiar with the book before but really enjoyed leafing through some of Masters’ dramatic monologues, each one spoken by a person buried in the cemetery of the fictional town of Spoon River, Illinois.

Today’s challenge was to write a poetic monologue in a similar style so I chose my great-grandmother, Ivy Wood (1893-1992). I’ve written about Ivy several times over the past few years, basing my fictional stories on the anecdotes she used to tell me in my childhood. I’ve also used her as the inspiration for a character in a much longer work – a multi-generational cross-genre novel I’m working on. Today’s poem reflects on Ivy’s first husband, Alec Forbes, whom she deserted when their baby was only a few months old. Alec was a mean drunk and used to hit my great-grandmother, but she told me the reason she ran away was because she was afraid he’d hurt their baby (my grandmother). This offereing gives a possible version of events and thoughts.

Ivy Wood

His blue eyes caught my attention

When I saw him in the park, cutting hair in the open air.

With so many mouths to feed in our house,

There was no money for luxuries like that

And I told him so.

His fingers feeling the weight of my hair awakened something sinful in me

So that when he asked if we could walk out,

I smiled and blushed and was not like myself.

We were married six months later.

His eyes were still blue, but the drink on his breath

Was a secret he had kept hidden from me.

He took me that night like a sheep in the field,

Filling my belly with our only child.

And he kept on drinking when his mother died,

And when our child was born,

And when the bailiffs arrived.

His eyes were still blue – and so were the bruises I bore,

So I left him, running away with the bairn.

My second husband was a kinder man,

But I never told him I was still married to Alec.

NaPoWriMo 2021 – Day 7

I didn’t manage to post my poem yesterday as I was busy completing a folk tale about the faerie folk, but I was very happy to learn of two new forms of poetry, both involving syllabic counts. I’ve copied and pasted the instructions from the NaPoWriMo website to give you an idea of what these two forms involve:

‘There are many different poetic forms. Some have specific line counts, syllable counts, stresses, rhymes, or a mix-and-match of the above. Of the poetic forms that are based on syllable counts, probably the most well-known – to English speakers, at least – is the Japanese form called the haiku. But there are many other syllable-based forms. Today, I’d like to challenge you to pick from two of them – the shadorma, and the Fib.

The shadorma is a six-line, 26-syllable poem (or a stanza – you can write a poem that is made of multiple shadorma stanzas). The syllable count by line is 3/5/3/3/7/5. So, like the haiku, the lines are relatively short. Rather poetically, the origin of the shadorma is mysterious. I’ve seen multiple online sources call it Spanish – but “shadorma” isn’t a Spanish word (Spanish doesn’t have “sh” as a letter pairing), and neither is “xadorma,” or “jadorma,” which would approximate “shadorma” in sound. But even if this form is simply the brainchild of an internet trickster who gave it an imaginary backstory, that’s no reason why you shouldn’t try your hand at it. Every form was made up by someone, sometime.

Our second syllabic form is much more forthright about its recent origins. Like the shadorma, the Fib is a six-line form. But now, the syllable count is based off the Fibonacci sequence of 1/1/2/3/5/8. You can link multiple Fibs together into a multi-stanza poem, or even start going backwards after your first six lines, with syllable counts of 8/5/3/2/1/1. Perhaps you remember the Fibonacci sequence from math or science class – or even from nature walks. Lots of things in the natural world hew to the sequence – like pinecones and flower petals. And now your poems can, too.’

Since there are so many mathematicians in my family, I’ve chosen to go with the ‘Fib’ and to attempt a poem which brings together the mathematical significance of the Fibonacci sequence.




a spiral

opening out and

then decreasing in size again.

The universe sings and numbers

wind their way around

each other,




NaPoWriMo 2021 – Day 6

For today’s prompt, I was instructed to ‘Go to a book you love. Find a short line that strikes you. Make that line the title of your poem. Write a poem inspired by the line. Then, after you’ve finished, change the title completely.

I’ve taken ‘Tess of the D’Urbervilles’ by Thomas Hardy and the line “It is too late.”


Too late the realisation of what you had:

‘One who loved not wisely but too well.’

The woman pays, and that has been your song,

for as my own confession tumbled from my lips,

mirroring your own sordid secret, your eight-

and-forty hours of dissipation with a stranger,

I knew then what I still know now:

you judged me for not living up to your ideal.

In your mind, I was the perfect woman: pure

and virginal; and when

you found your idol had but feet of clay,

all hell broke loose.

‘You are not she! You are

another woman in her shape.’

It is too late.

Our paradise has been besmirched;

the Eden of innocence cannot contend

with knowledge once tasted. Pandora’s

evils have escaped; and it is too late

to put them back inside the box.

NaPoWriMo 2021 – Day 5

Today’s prompt challenged me to find a poem and then write a new poem that has the shape of the original and in which every line starts with the first letter of the corresponding line in the original poem.

I chose Carol Ann Duffy’s poem ‘Valentine’ which you can find here: Valentine by Carol Ann Duffy | Scottish Poetry Library

My poem is below:

Never forget where you have come from.

It might be from riches.
It might be from endless poverty.
It does not define
life or yourself, who you truly are.

I can make a new life,
live how I want.
I can make my own story
as happy as I want it.

I can choose a better story.

Never forget who you truly are.

If you have known sadness,
If you have known unhappiness,
perhaps things can change now
and be right.
Forget all your sorrow.

This life
Is waiting expectantly for you to start it;

It’s hoping.
Life waits
In eager expectation to
caress your soul.

NaPoWriMo 2021 Day 4

Today’s prompt asked me to choose an image from @SpaceLiminalBot. I was struck by the colour in one particular image and wrote the following poem:

Wet Room

Lime green tiles

from floor to

ceiling; shiny

squares of

virulent colour.

She lies upon the

lime green tiles,

her body still

and lifeless.

A splash of red

snakes across the

lime green tiles;

her life force

leaking out.

Wet room:

wet with her


NaPoWriMo 2021 Day 3

Today, I was challenged to make a “Personal Universal Deck” and then to write a poem using it. I hadn’t heard of a Personal Universe Deck before, but it’s a way of describing your life in 100 words, the good and bad, taking 80 of those words to describe the five senses and another 10 for words of movement. You can find out more here: Personal Universe Deck | Paul E Nelson

I’ve recently written a Greek myth about Selene, the goddess of the moon, so I think my poem was partly inspired by her.

Stars weave their way

across a midnight sky,

chasing the moon, a

silver disc set in an

indigo sea.

Dawn slowly rises,

shading the heavens in

palest lilac until

the world is


NaPoWriMo 2021 Day 2

The prompt for today was to take Robert Frost’s poem ‘The Road Not Taken’ and use that as the inspiration for ‘a poem about your own road not taken – about a choice of yours that has “made all the difference,” and what might have happened had you made a different choice.’ This is a poem I’ve taught in school to Y9 students (13 and 14 year olds), so I’m familiar with it, but I’m afraid I’ve been rather flippant with today’s entry, parodying Frost’s poem to reflect the indecision felt when choosing between two cakes. I apologise unreservedly to former-President Barack Obama who said on several occasions that this was one of his favourite poems.

The Cake Not Taken

Two cakes stood still on a yellow plate,

And sorry I could not eat them both –

Too many calories – long I stood

And looked at both as much as I could

And thought of the weight that would pile on hips;

Then took the smaller, as just as nice,

And having perhaps the better icing,

Because it was pink and might taste the sweeter;

Though as for the other, it was much neater;

And both were really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay

On a plate just asking to be eaten.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how much I now would weigh,

I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two cakes sat there on a plate, and I —

I took the one that was slightly smaller,

And that was the only difference.

NaPoWriMo 2021 – Day 1

Last year, I tried NaPoWriMo for the first time, thinking it would be good for me to step outside my comfort zone of writing fiction to try poetry instead. I managed to produce a poem every day in April.

This year, I’ve decided to challenge myself again, although I didn’t get the chance to update my blog with the poems written on April 1st and 2nd, so I’m adding those entries now.

April 1st is a short poem inspired by an animated version of “Seductive Fantasy” by Sun Ra and his Arkestra

Colours swirl into

sounds and shapes, alive

with the tempo of


Music weaves its way

around circles of

light, bubbles of


under a sky the

colour of


Like The Prose Day 30

I’ve done a quick word count, and my total number of words for the thirty stories I’ve written for Like The Prose this June is 58, 451 – that’s not including any other stories I’ve written as entries for competitions or in response to other people’s prompts.

Today, for the first time, I feel exhausted – which could be one reason why today’s piece is the shortest in the competition at only 384 words. It’s not the greatest piece of writing – the title and the last line are the only bits I’m truly happy with; but the germ of an idea is there and maybe, one day, I’ll go back to it and wrestle it into something I like better.

What’s really important is that I stuck with it, writing something every day, whether or not it was my preferred genre or something I knew. It’s taken me out of my comfort zone and it’s also taught me to look at different styles of writing and dare to experiment. For that, I am grateful.

Meet Me In The Gap Between The Words

You said you would take the blank, white canvas of my heart – and create. A song spilled from your pen, weaving words into a tapestry of vibrant colour, creating a world in which we were the only two. Margins of reality ran down the page of your imagination, ruled by the constrictions of everyday life, but you and I were doodles of defiance and we spattered our joy across the universe we had found together.

For a long time, your words danced across our lives in a whirling bacchanalia. We were caught up in the heady feeling of togetherness, the giddy laughter, the drunken sensation of being inebriated with love. You twirled me in and out of fairy tales and sent me hurtling into space. Every love song ever written was one you had penned for me and the rhyming couplet of us lengthened into a sonnet as you covered us both with a cloak of clichés, hiding us from the outside world. That was then. That was the beginning.

Do all lovers love like this so that every day is Christmas and New Year’s Eve, every exchange a Rachmaninoff Concerto, passion rising to a crescendo of stormy emotion?

 The pristine pages of our history yellow with age. Edges furl as our lives become well thumbed, sometimes ripped through carelessness. A tear stains my face; suspicion stains your heart. Words become distorted as they slide off the page and into reality. We hurl them like plates; twist them like knives. Who would have thought that love could be moulded and shaped into something sharp and destructive? Is your heart full of tears (to rhyme with fears), or tears (to rhyme with cares)?

I set fire to my angry words, the incandescence of my rejection flaming into a blaze of hurt. Its smoke spirals upwards. Now, only bitter ashes remain. All my words are dust.

In the aftermath of grieving, in mourning all the lost phrases and paragraphs and the gut-wrenching feeling of finding that – sometimes – words are meaningless after all, hope rises like a phoenix from the ashes of us.

And I will meet you in the gap between the words where the only thing that matters is the sound of my heartbeat next to yours.