The “Telephone” Poetry Challenge

It should be fairly well known by now, at least in these circles, that Kathy and I are huge fans of Robert Okaji and his poetry. A few days ago, our beloved poet shared a published poem of his that was written as an adaptation of a Chinese poem.

Robert O shared a Chinese to English translation of the original and his own adaptation, along with a bit of commentary on his choices. It was the commentary that inspired me. Ages ago Kathy wrote a wonderful piece about a dreary life in a dreary town which inspired me to respond with a juxtaposed bleak day in a bleak suburb. It was a fun exercise even though I’m not a poet equal talent.

Feeling an itch to do the same with Robert Okaji’s Spring Night (after Wang Wei), I challenged Kathy to a little game of ‘Telephone’ – the poetry edition.

Here’s how it works:
We have posted the literal translation below and reblogged Robert O’s adaptation (go read his poem because the game won’t make sense without it). Mine follows the reblog blurb and you’ll start to see a pattern emerge.

Kathy’s adaptation is the finale. Unless you decide to play. Reblog and add your poem to the chain or link us to your poetic response in the comments (or do both).
I’d love to see the many faces this poem can inspire.

Wang Wei starts –
Person idle osmanthus flower fall
Night quiet spring hill empty
Moon out startle hill birds
Constant call spring ravine in

Spring Night (after Wang Wei) Among falling devilwood blossoms, I lie on an empty hill this calm spring night. The moon lunges above the hill, scaring the birds, but they’re never quiet in this spring canyon. Another try at an old favorite… I consider this adaptation rather than translation, but perhaps appropriation or even remaking […]

via Spring Night (after Wang Wei) — O at the Edges

trees and birds

Tipico by t.s.wright
Languishing under the Trumpet tree
xanthous blooms drop as mambo riffs
subdued by Spring’s evening mist.

Luna slips from between the clouds
chasing tardy egrets to their
paper beds.
Rustling wings, rattling beaks,
throaty, moaning bird dreams
— tipico sonoro.



” ” by Kathy Boles-Turner
Atop this mud-bluff I wait
For May to make up its mind.
The moon drawls south, it seems, sure
To come round slow tomorrow night,
Damp or dry, serenaded by blues-song.

Now it’s your turn. Whaddaya got?

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APAD Day four

Star-Crossed – For Love of Day, For Love of Night by Andrea Dietrich

In shadows’ veils, at end of night,
sweet Moon removes her modest light
and softly, yet again, exhales –
at end of night, in shadows’ veils.

As she departs, her love’s released
to climb the stairway to the east.
They cannot meet to share their hearts.
Her love’s released as she departs.

She watches him while hid from view,
the way he kisses morning’s dew,
and sees gold rays spill from his rim.
While hid from view, she watches him.

Sad Moon, alone for centuries,
with awe has watched Sun leave, cerise.
while she, afar. . . how cold she’s grown!
For centuries, sad moon alone.

She takes his place so he may rest.
And though forlorn, she’s always dressed
in lace, for Luna has great grace.
So he may rest, she takes his place.

For love of night, for love of day,
she can’t implore him that he sway
from course. To be apart’s their plight.
For love of day, for love of night.


(This is a form called Swap Quatrain, where first
line’s phrases swap in the last line of each stanza.)
The chase of sun and moon is a recurring theme of folklore and mythology.
Even now that we have the means to know what the bodies really are, how they
orbit, how we orbit writers will look to the sky and see two lovers who rarely
spend time together.

I really like the form of this poem – the way the first line is transitioned to end the stanza.

Happy day four!

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APAD 2016 Day three

Wind On The Hill by A. A. Milne

No one can tell me,
Nobody knows,
Where the wind comes from,
Where the wind goes.

It’s flying from somewhere
As fast as it can,
I couldn’t keep up with it,
Not if I ran.

But if I stopped holding
The string of my kite,
It would blow with the wind
For a day and a night.

And then when I found it,
Wherever it blew,
I should know that the wind
Had been going there too.

So then I could tell them
Where the wind goes…
But where the wind comes from
Nobody knows.

A.A. Milne – creator of Winnie the Pooh also wrote poems for children.
This one stands out because it reminds me of that time in a child’s development I love so much – the “Why?” phase.

From the beginning we tell our children to do this or not to do this; we hold up a thing and say, “This thing is green.” Or, “This thing is square.” Eventually they dutifully regurgitate the data, trusting us implicitly, and clap or cheer with us when they get it right.

But later, somewhere in the night a doubt creeps in, it niggles at them throughout their dreams. In the moring – instead of disintegrating with the dawn like proper dreams – it tickles their brains during tooth brushings and sock pullings until those trusting little faces look up at you with furrowed brow and ask, “Why?”

That’s when the real education begins — for both of you.

Got a favorite poem? Share it today. For April is the month to share A Poem A Day.

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APAD 2016 Day two

Dutch Lullaby by Eugene Field

Wynken, Blynken, and Nod one night
Sailed off in a wooden shoe —
Sailed on a river of crystal light,
Into a sea of dew.
“Where are you going, and what do you wish?”
The old moon asked the three.
“We have come to fish for the herring fish
That live in this beautiful sea;
Nets of silver and gold have we!”
Said Wynken, Blynken, and Nod.

The old moon laughed and sang a song,
As they rocked in the wooden shoe,
And the wind that sped them all night long
Ruffled the waves of dew.
The little stars were the herring fish
That lived in that beautiful sea —
“Now cast your nets wherever you wish —
Never afraid are we”;
So cried the stars to the fishermen three:
Wynken, Blynken, and Nod.

All night long their nets they threw
To the stars in the twinkling foam —
Then down from the skies came the wooden shoe,
Bringing the fishermen home;
‘Twas all so pretty a sail
 it seemed
As if it could not be,
And some folks thought ’twas a dream they’d dreamed
Of sailing that beautiful sea —
But I shall name you the fishermen three:
Wynken, Blynken, and Nod.

Wynken and Blynken are two little eyes,
And Nod is a little head,
And the wooden shoe that sailed the skies
Is a wee one’s trundle-bed.
So shut your eyes while mother sings
Of wonderful sights that be,
And you shall see the beautiful things
As you rock in the misty sea,
Where the old shoe rocked the fishermen three:
Wynken, Blynken, and Nod.


Hopefully the rules of APAD will allow for a lullaby. This is one of my earliest favorite anythings. Even now I read the words and see the little guys with their nets full of stars.

“some folks thought ’twas a dream they’d dreamed
Of sailing that beautiful sea –”

The text was written in 1889, back when traveling among the stars could only be a dream and a giant wooden shoe was as reasonable a space ship as anything else. Now we have astronauts bedding down on a space station. I wonder what they dream about — sailing deeper into the stars or waking up at home?

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Random Shuffle: A Song & A Poem

Monday night I clicked some random shuffle to life, and a few hours later I had a newborn poem. Love when that happens.

[poem removed]

It needs a title and a little con-crit. Y’all game? Come along then. And when you get a moment to sit in the quiet, click random shuffle and see what comes of it. I’d love to read a newborn poem or short story!


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Disconnected Phrases & Haunting Images: What Fills A Writer’s Notebook

Throughout the month of February, t.s. wright and I have been enjoying the Southeast Review’s Daily Writer’s Regimen. On Day Twenty-Two, Anne Valente’s Craft Talk, “Constellated Images” was featured. I will now share this with you.


In his recent Writers’ Chronicle article, “The Indelible Image,” author Benjamin Percy writes that film lends itself to pivotal scenes. He cites the shark popping out of the water in Jaws, the rolling boulder in Raiders of the Lost Ark. He says creative writing has similar key moments: “Widowed images. Startling images. Haunting images. Iconic images. Whatever you want to call what ends up clogged in our imaginative filter. We don’t always know why they’re important, but for whatever reason, our mind won’t release them.” For his own writing practice, he mentions keeping a corkboard of these images above his desk while writing, images accompanied by bits of trivia, overheard dialogue, observations and even childhood memories. 
Long before I hung a similar corkboard above my own desk, and long before I ever thought to be a writer, I cut my teeth in film. As an undergraduate in the shuttered light of a dark college auditorium, I watched a vampire stalk up the stairs in Nosferatu, a rocket explode into the moon’s face in Voyage to the Moon, a killer hide between clotheslines in Halloween. It wasn’t just the shot composition and lighting in these key scenes that impressed themselves upon me, but the mood these choices created. I wanted to recreate these haunting images in my own artistry, these pivotal moments that would resonate with an audience whether onscreen or within the pages of a book.  
I began keeping a notebook when I started writing, small enough to carry everywhere I went. I scribbled observations as they came. How breath fogs against glass. How the moon falls on central Illinois cornfields in winter. That an octopus has three hearts. Bits of trivia and images and sounds, and my own indelible images: what had been stuck in my brain for years without my knowing why. The way the streetlamps outside my childhood bedroom glittered light on the pavement. My sister witnessing an accident involving a horse trailer, the bodies of appaloosas strewn across the highway. The slow rotation of white wind turbines against a flat Midwestern sky. I wrote them all down, small jottings of language on the notebook’s page. And when I finally sat down to write, to build the elements of fiction that would become my first stories, I looked at the pages of my notebook, so many disconnected phrases and images and brief lines. I drew direct lines between them. I constellated them into fiction. 
Three questions: 1) Do you have a similar technique as Percy or Valente, a corkboard above your desk with pinned images, or a notebook holding scraps of writing to leaf through? 2) If so, what tools do you employ other than the corkboard and the notebook? (I’m learning to incorporate the fun features of the SNote5 into my daily routine.) 3) Whether from film or real  life, what images have gotten clogged in your “imaginative filter” that you simply cannot forget?
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Things Are Not What They Seem: A Brief Writing Exercise

There are thirty-two ways to write a story, and I’ve used every one, but there is only one plot–things are not as they seem.  ~ Jim Thompson

I love this quote. While I can’t say that there are indeed precisely thirty-two ways to write a story, the assessment of plot rings true. Why else would we continue to delve in to a story beyond the first lines if not to discover some revelation or another?

Things are never what they seem at first glance — look deeper and, while you may not find shocking secrets or epiphany, you will find something about a character, a landscape, that is being held secret in those first lines.

While pondering “things are not what they seem” write a minimum of one hundred words (a maximum of 300) to open a story. Your mission is to write the introduction to a character living in an environment to which they are not accustomed. What could have brought them to this place, this time? Did they arrive on their own steam, or did another person inspire them to make the journey? Make us want to find the truth of it all. 

In addition to sharing a link to your introduction in comments below, I invite you to reblog this exercise on your WordPress page — share the writing love! #gobeawesome


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