April is National Poetry Month and as has been the case for the past 15 years, poets worldwide come together to participate in the #NaPoWriMo (National Poetry Writing Month) challenge, where they write a poem a day throughout April to celebrate their love for the written word.
Prompts are provided on the main NaPoWriMo blog, but other poetry organisations and individuals offer their own prompts too. No matter what you choose to write about, the basis of this wonderful literary experiment is to complete 30 poems in 30 days.
In India as well, the writing challenge is underway in full swing, with the emergence of hundreds of poets, young and old, participating in it. Here are some of our favourite poems so far from poets worth following and why they are embracing the challenge:
“I dedicated 2018’s NaPoWriMo to contexts. Every poem of this month tries to describe a facet of what makes me. It’s a journey inwards for me, but also one that makes my poetry wider.”
the sea has been blooming
in my chest so long, it has now
started to crack through my skin.
my hands have started to smart
with helplessness: there is no way
to keep it locked inside my heart.
i have carried it in me for years;
this city was stolen from the oceans
it names after itself and this city made me.
the songs i was taught all speak of how the
seas have been plotting their reclamation,
waiting for the city to thrum itself to distraction.
do you see why i refuse to look away?
do you even realised how the smell of you
has dissolved into the sea i pilfered to keep?
sometimes the city, the salt, your skin,
all melt into a gentle cacophony. i wonder
if it would be easier to sink away completely.
“Poetry keeps me sane. As a ritual, I always write at least one poem a day because it’s my strongest voice. It destroys me, pacifies me and loves me back. It’s exciting to be a part of NaPoWriMo challenge because as poets, it cultivates fresh poetry out of all of us. It’s so much fun exchanging poetry that we create out of the same prompts. It really pushes our horizons to think outside of our comfort zone whilst instilling consistency in our writing! It’s my favourite month of the year! I’ve discovered some of my favourite poets on this journey.”
5 steps to a healthy heart
Step 1: love yourself
Step 2: love yourself
Step 3: love yourself
Step 4: love yourself
Step 5: love yourself
If only someone would’ve told me
What to do with all of this love
Pouring from my chest
To not contain it to a foreign body of bones
To take my love in my palms
And caress my brokenness
And feel safe in my own arms
You see, since I was a child,
I was taught to find love
In the blossom of cherry trees
In the silent surrender of the moon to the skies
Of the sea turtle to the ocean
In Amma’s gentle tug at Appa’s shirt.
But today, I ask you to find love
In the crooked of your smile,
The gap between your yellow teeth
The love handles of your waist
In between the spaces
Of your fingers holding a cigarette
In your subliminal thoughts
About your childhood
Where they wouldn’t stop hurting you or telling you that you’re not good enough to ever make it big
But I promise you,
There is someone who looked at you and your dreams and swore that he’d make it all come true
This someone held you close and whispered to you that your kindness can tame this wretched universe
That you’re so fucking beautiful
And they lied when they hit you
And hurt you again and again
Because they’re only taught to taint not heal
And I promise you,
This magic, this miracle (you)
Will come undone on a quiet, well-lit street and the world
Won’t wake up the same.
And I know that this night
You’re still not that somebody that you’re dying to meet
to pour all this love that you’ve caged in your heart
But I promise you,
You will be that
“Poetry is my confidante and my refuge since forever! I write for pleasure, often from pain. Though I guess I write ten odd poems regularly every month, committing to NaPoWriMo is a different ball game. This year, I’ve taken the Airplane Poetry Movement’s challenge of writing on a new prompt daily. It’s not easy, what with all the time taken with making a living. But now, the pleasure of getting a new poem out every day, and getting the feelings recognised and shared by co-poets. It’s a high all its own.”
Breakfast with Dad
In this day of the morning,
I hug my dad and sit down
for the breakfast we never fail to
The winter has left the morning breeze.
A thin whiney voice of a child
floats up from the street,
shrieky with entitlement.
We smile at each other and
he looks sadly at the red melon
and sprouts. “It’s now sixty years
since I’ve been eating this.”
He has very little left to say now,
except when he remembers a summer;
no vagary this –
his past is the only present he knows.
He asks me why the birds are knocking
on the window, and whether I
should talk to them. I say “Of course”,
and let the open skies in.
Indulge him, the doctors said.
I tell him “I will not go to office today.”
He asks nothing, but smiles. Today
we will silently see the clouds drift by.
“This is my second time doing the 30/30 challenge during NaPoWriMo and I’ve found it to be such a great, magical process of learning and growth. It helps me be more regular with working on my craft, which is something important for any artist.”
Ode to Teenage Girls
loudspeaker girl with a scratchy throat
emo bitch with crocodile jaws
snapping ineffectually at the fragmented air.
short skirt, breathless, thick thighs
streaked hair, smartphone, flame eyes
facing fire extinguishers arms wide open
diving head first into the ocean
speaking tsunamis into family gatherings and classroom discussions.
they will call you
turn your body into a public exhibit
your life subject to litigation
words with precursory warnings
when they can’t even hear you
over all their rumbling
voice box in the attic.
stray hair ties on the floor.
girl at the window writing silly poems
portrait of girl as rotting wood and dust
(girl doesn’t need to be saved)
portrait of girl as cracked eyeshadow palette
(girl used and abused)
portrait of girl as textbook definition
(girl dog eared, girl torn up)
portrait of girl as fishnet stockings
(girl turned tear ripping through black crocheted lace)
portrait of girl as joke
(girl messed up the punchline)
portrait of girl as white noise
(girl learnt to tune things out a long time ago)
portrait of girl in the sunlight
(girl says it’s so lit omg but someone’s always holding up an umbrella )
portrait of girl as invisible.
(girl crossed out)
(girl thrown in the trash)
(girl hysterical, girl over dramatic, girl disrespectful, girl too loud, girl doesn’t know what’s good for her, girl fighting pointless battles, girl limping away)
(girl nowhere to be seen)
once upon a time,
the girl lived happily ever after.
once upon a time,
the prince didn’t come,
and there were no huntsmen with axes
or overbearing aunts
or kidnappers with castles,
once upon a time
in a fairy tale,
this was all yours.
once upon a time,
in a late night novel,
they heard you saying
“Two of my poet friends pegged me on to write NaPoWriMo in April 2016. Since then, I’ve never looked back. For me, writing everyday is essential; it is a constant process of evolving and learning each moment; a daily meditation. The part I like the most about the challenge is that you have to publish what you write everyday, which is a great learning curve – not each poem will be great, but the habit of writing and sending out your stuff daily makes you stronger. Like poetry, each day is not perfect, but each day is important, and it must be lived through and experienced for what it is. That is my takeaway – the ability to persist, to learn, to be humble, to accept and to move on.”
Badly Written Homecoming Letter
I stole visuals from the Arabian Sea, selected
songs from forests that let me hide, echoes from
certain higher Himalayan autumns, colours
from the feathers of my favourite birds.
I stole everything from the world around me
To later label and resell as poetry
I am a stealer and I am unoriginal
my breath reeks of alcohol I haven’t tasted
my journals talk of places I haven’t visited
my body is a lie floating around scavenging leftover vibes
from used rooms, bus stops, joints, streets, gardens,
windows, buses, footpaths, temples, mosques, churches
I lent my entire present to study time’s weightless passing
I let books plot inside me new routes to repeat myself
While posing as a true friend I coldly absorbed
the spoken fears of loved ones as future writing prompts
And before idols I stood faceless with hands together pretending
to be devout, honest, pure, untouched, virgin
to the ways of country liquor, beedis and the fresh aroma
of love making,
of skewers, of a woman’s breath on my face, of a farmer’s rant
that flew over my head. I am a fake.
Others lied to win or escape or crossover
I lied to let go of what could never be mine
And using napkins, papers, screens, barks, stone walls
I recorded sightings I’ve unfairly hoarded for centuries
As for those who raised me to become someone else, know
That I’ve whored myself out to life and become nobody
And I’m returning home with nothing but poetry
Come, let’s have some tea
“I read the prompt before I leave to work and when I drive, I keep thinking about how that prompt affects my life or has left an impact. At times, I stop in traffic to write down a thought or a verse. I try to finish the poem by the evening. It’s a crazy routine but it works for me. It’s gruelling because of my job and other things. But I look forward to the challenge each year. Just the sheer amount of poetry I get to read from everybody makes it worth everything.”
The Graveyard Book
There is a book
where stories go to die.
It’s pages as white
as the souls that it swallows.
Here words are not written in ink
but whispered between the knots of paper
like a lover’s abuse.
It’s not something people prefer to read for their leisure,
it’s not what God wanted to write in the first place.
This is what the ugliness of mankind looked like and still does,
this is the history of an untouchable skin colour
and a caste that can get you burnt alive before supper.
I swear, if you read these pages
you will see what you want to see,
a balance sheet for all the years you gave them a hand,
an inconvenience you had no hand in.
Your ignorance will black out chapters of the part
where your privilege was handed over to you
by the hands that kept these stories hushed,
the part where my great great grandfather
was chased away with stones because he went near a school.
When they tell you that your ancestral women
fought evil and chased them away from their land,
they won’t tell you about the part
where they chased a dalit out with sticks and stones.
This is a book where stories go to die
where parts of it are deliberately left out
for the elements to fade them away,
to erase it slowly from time and history.
But what stories can you expect from hands
that were chopped for touching a book,
what poetry can you expect from a man
who was never thought to write.
There is a book where stories go to die,
like the songs of the mourners.
There is a book where stories go to die,
when you find the graveyard book,
search for this.
“This is the second time I’ve taken up the NaPoWriMo challenge. I think poetry is a never ending journey and NaPoWriMo has helped me dissect and explore my rawest bits alongside my fellow poets. I usually read the prompt and let it sink in and when I feel the moment is right, I start writing the poem.”
present tense love
a handbook for my lover
a feast of sin and flesh
pallu of my saree falls, intentionally
I can hear my jhumkas tip toe on skin
smell the taste of your tongue
around my neck
sharp teeth, you nibble softly
intertwined fingers, others lacing
stretch marks, holding weight
we are the beginning
salvage and the holocaust
splotches of saliva,
un-knotting, un-draping, un-layering
bodies bending, folding neatly
like pleats of my saree
undone emotions and blouse,
it takes three minutes to undress
we are the length of a song;
present tense love, punctuations
in right places, no grammatical errors,
upper case-lower case friction in corners
semicolons, no full stops
semi colons, semi colons;
“NaPoWriMo has proven to be a great platform to showcase my series “Poetry for a Cause”. Writing everyday is a challenge, but a good one!”
a violin and a girl went
up a street in the nation’s capital
daring to walk unaccompanied.
acid flung at her face
carving deforming contours, stripped
identity, burned her inside and out. Yet,
tyranny shall not be allowed to succeed.
Yet, in spite of it all, she will rise again and bloom.
“NaPoWriMo feels very much like Ramzan as a month to me, because it permits me to detox my system with its impurities, and also because I start off saying I’ll be doing all 30 days, but temptation beats me and I fall back to old habits of not putting myself through a discipline. But as in all matters of faith, I try, which should count for something.”
Crimes in Rhyme-1
It’s NaPoWriMo...Bro, time to pull out the rhymes, commit some crimes
Maybe do some lines, and try this incline, Einstein.
Might fall, spleen may sprawl, but it’s cool, fucking miniscule
Like a molecule, or little bitta pee in a big pool.
Right sir, there’s no metaphor, just some fun, under a 38 Deg. Sun
not going to hurt anyone, kinda like Marshall County but without a gun.
I promise nothing serious, nothing tedious, like an enabla, going Dha Dha
Tirakitt-a, against a frikkin’ tabla.
Took a poll, not the way we roll, so we’re keeping it genteel, not getting laryngeal
Cause we gotta heal before taking the bloody Bastille.
“It’s as though anything has the potential to be a poem in April. Watching my own work develop over the course of the month, and learning from my fellow poets as they too push their concerns and craft – this, for me, is the most amazing thing about Daily Riyaaz.”
Nothing against Instagram Poets
today i spent time
replying to comments
(casteist) that said we
didn’t need reservations
because blue flags
were strong enough
to kill innocent people
(???) and i am tired.
so here is today’s –
it is poorly crafted, a
little like something
from Milk and Honey
– except bitter, of course.
and at least Kaur could
draw (and draw people
in). i’m just tired.
“I started writing poetry again after many years last year. And it was thanks to NaPoWriMo 2017 that I found myself once more returning to a particular rhythm and voice. I primarily write my poems in response to my images; the images are the starting point for the train of thought which eventually culminates into the poem.”
The Floor Of A Forest
There are green dots, asterisks,
in this abandoned paragraph.
The sun writes in the spaces
between the antique words
and the soil gives soul
to these pages that everyone else
had forgotten about. In years to come,
these verses will become epics,
those mighty trees communing with
the heavens above,
singing paeans to those words
that someone still dared to write,
that they might
never ever be read.
“NaPoWriMo is a lot about learning to be consistent with writing poetry and thus improving in the process. My poetry went through an immense improvement last year after NaPoWriMo and I’ve never looked back ever since.”
i call up my past and it croaks on the phone
can we undo the rotting below our homes?
the rain always smells of a place I have known
slicked on my body, a reminder of home
i send bottles across the lap of the sea
the shore finds my history and grows me a home
unknown is the taste of the sky i come from
yet the rain holds me close, an unchanging home
if this land was once wounded sea, churning blood,
how could i still call this violence a home?
i trace rough-edged blueprints that resemble maps
my hand is a compass reaching out for home
this body is three parts the sea and the rain
i sink soft and slowly in search of a home
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