Day Eight – NaPoWriMo 2017 – A Poem Using Repetition

Here I am on Day Eleven posting my poem from Day Eight. But considering that I was not inspired by the prompt that encouraged us to use repetition (think – Edgar Allen Poe -The Raven or The Bells) in a poem, I had decided I would just skip the prompt for Day Eight. But as it rattled around in my brain for a few days, this poem decided it wasn’t going to let me skip a day. I’m happy to have written a poem that uses repetition.

The prompts are always optional and I suppose there could be a day I just wake up with a poem ready to issue forth that needs no prompting. But the reason I like this exercise so much (aside from learning a lot about poetry) is that the prompts help me explore my creativity, but with structure. Structure is important to people like me who grew up believing (and perhaps being told) they weren’t creative. I like being challenged to use a particular technique. Thank you very much Maureen Thorson for creating this forum.

I’ve always liked Edgar Guest’s poems. He was born in England in 1881 but his family moved to the United States when he was a boy. He became known as the “People’s Poet.” He wrote a lot of poetry in the first half of the 20th century – the kind of poems that gave people hope and usually contained an uplifting message about life. The meter was usually very sing-song-y but I almost always feel good about life when I finish reading one of his poems. He’s definitely not for those who think poetry should be filled with angst and misery – but I’ve always liked him. So here’s a nod to Edgar Guest in my repetition poem, The Garden of Life.

Tend to the weeds in your garden of life
Don’t let them choke out the flowers.
Sow good seeds in your garden of life
To brighten both sunshine and showers. 

Till the earth in your garden of life
So your roots can grow deep and strong.
Nurture the crops in your garden of life
And harvest them all with a song.

Prune dead limbs in your garden of life
So the storms that destroy will be few.
Lovingly tend to your garden of life
To grow only what’s good, kind and true.

There will be rocks in your garden of life
Don’t let them stand in your way.
The harvest that comes from your garden of life
Might help show another his way. 

If you till, tend and sow in your garden of life
You’ll find that as sundown draws near.
The bounty that grew in your garden of life
Will comfort the ones you hold dear.
© Kalen Kingsbury 2017


Day Seven – NaPoWriMo 2017 – A Fortuitous Poem


Fear of Storms

It was supposed to be a canoe trip but the chance of storms made caution prevail
Without storms we got even wetter, walking through waist high fields of wet grass
Until our shoes were soaked through and even our inner layers were damp
I wish we had canoed instead.

To my 11-year old son who woke early that day excited for a canoe trip
Walking through wet grass with Mom and her friends from work was not fun
Especially without the promised canoe adventure to look back on and
Only a three-hour car ride in wet clothes to look forward to.

A three-hour car trip to finish the unhappy task of helping my mother
Empty my grandmother’s house, on this mid-May day
that promised adventure but brought only cold, damp misery
Dreary gray clouds and drizzle.

Nana, who taught me all I ever knew of unconditional love, of being kind, of cooking
Bacon and eggs and hot biscuits, gardening and getting my hands dirty
Nana, now two months gone – who lived a long life
but not long enough.

img040 (2)
Nana with my daughter at age 6 weeks

To lift the gloomy spirits of my back-seat passenger, I planned an adventure
We wouldn’t drive the normal route, we’d take the back roads
We’d explore campgrounds we could visit when summer came
We’d discover a new river for our next canoe adventure.

It brightened our moods for a while but the gray dreary day
and constant drizzle wore us down. And I was lost, without a map, again.
Ahead in the road in the middle of nowhere – something white – I slowed
The ‘something white’ moved – PUPPIES! – three puppies hurried into the woods.

I had to stop of course – we were in the middle of nowhere
It could only mean one thing – damp, cold puppies in the middle of a country road.
Cautiously they ventured out of the woods, as we called – “puppies, here puppies”
Led by a rolly-poly ball of wet fur and trusting brown eyes.

My back seat passenger now had three companions, and what 11-year old boy
In wet cloths doesn’t want to share a one-hour ride with three even wetter puppies
Covered in fleas, and ticks and love – or at least gratitude.
On the way to Nana’s empty house for the last time.

The fluffy ball of fur got a name – Samson
For the next twelve years he continued Nana’s lessons in unconditional love
Ever grateful for that rainy gray day in May
when fear of storms cancelled a canoe trip.


Samson at four months




Day Seven – Woohoo – All Caught Up!

This one is gonna be fun – here’s the prompt – but no poem yet – you know – it’s rattling around in my mind.

Finally, our prompt for the day (optional as always) comes to us from Elizabeth Boquet of Oaks to Acorns. In keeping with the fact that it’s the seventh day of NaPoWriMo/GloPoWriMo, Elizabeth and I challenge you to write a poem about luck and fortuitousness. For inspiration, take a look at Charles Simic’s “The Betrothal” and Stephen Dunn’s “The Arm”. Need something more? Perhaps these instructions from Elizabeth will get you going!

Create the following lists:

1. List 1 – 3 random objects. (Smaller tends to be better.)
2. List 1 – 3 random but specific locations. (Think in the cookie jar, or under my seat…)
3. List 1 – 2 objects you’ve lost and a few notes on their back-story.
4. List 1- 2 objects you’ve found and few notes on their back-story.

Now, choosing an object from List 1, a location from List 2, and connect them in a poem with ideas from Lists 3 & 4 and Voilà! A fortuitous poem! As an example of a finished “fortuitous” poem, here is Elizabeth’s own “State of Grace”.

OMG – who doesn’t want to do this?!?! So much fun and I’ve made my list by the above recommendations but I’m just gonna warn you – it’s gonna be weird!

HAPPY FRIDAY! Stay tuned for a fortuitous poem!


Day Six – Posted on Day Seven (but just barely!) A Poem that looks at the same thing from Various Points of View

Functional Fanciful Feathered Friend Feeder
(a grammar lesson gone wrong)

OBJECT: The entity that is acted upon by the SUBJECT.

SUBEJCT: Usually precedes the VERB in the sentence, but not always.

VERB: What the SUBJECT does to the OBJECT.

RULE: All verbs have a SUBJECT.


Kalen           fills          the feeder.
(Subject)     (verb)      (object)

Birds            flock to      the feeder.
(Subject)      (verb)          (object)

The hawk     stalks        the feeder.
(Subject)        (verb)        (object)

Kalen              objects             to the stalking hawk.
(Subject)         (verb)                (adjective) (object)

Wait a minute – the “object” became a verb.
Let’s start over.

Kalen           puts           seed in the feeder.
(Subject)      (verb)         (oh dear – is that two objects? Seed and feed?
(Where is grammar girl when I need her?)

The hawk        stalks     the feeder.
(Subject)          (verb)      (object)

The hawk         is             the feeder.
(Subject)          (verb)       (object)

The birds        leave      the feeder.
(Subject)          (verb)     (object)

Wait a minute – if the hawk is the feeder – is the hawk now the subject and the object?Let’s start over.

Kalen               ignores            the feeder.
(Subject)          (verb)               (object)

The birds         ignore              the feeder.
(Subject)           (verb)                (object)

The hawk        ignores            the feeder.
(Subject)           (verb)               (object)

No birds    die.
(Subject)   (verb)

Moral of the story – sometimes it’s good for a sentence not to have an object.


  1. Things – be they objects, subjects, people, birds or even hawks – don’t like to be acted upon.
  2. It’s good to be objective but nobody likes to be objectified (degraded to the status of a mere object.)
  3. I give myself permission to write bad poetry and enjoy the creative process.



Day Five – Nature Poem (posted on Day Six)

Many of you may have heard the quote  “your one wild and precious life” but did you know it comes from Mary Oliver’s poem – The Summer Day? After a day-long stroll through the fields, several lines observing a grasshopper, deep questions about who made the world and the creatures in it and what is prayer, the poem ends with the following question:

Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

That ‘s something to think about. I like the idea of life being wild and precious. Everyone should give that question some thought. What will I do with my wild and precious life?

This poem also captures the possibility that someone could spend an entire day “strolling through fields” and observing nature.  When I began working in land conservation 17 years ago after working as a corporate attorney for the previous 15 years, my husband (a very hard-working and dedicated high school biology teacher) often”joked” that it must be fun to spend my days “traipsing through meadows.” It was his way of pointing out that his job was much more demanding than mine and although I’ve never actually conceded that point to him, I suppose it might be true. But I don’t get my summers off and I rarely traipse through meadows. (Well, okay, maybe four or five times a year I traipse through meadows but meadows have ticks. It’s not all fun and games out there you know!)

I love to observe nature (ticks, snakes and especially spiders) and I appreciate the chance to spend more time working outdoors than I did for the first 15 years of my career. So you’d think this nature poem would be easy – plenty of material to choose from. But thinking that I SHOULD be able to write a good nature poem is precisely what has made this poem one day late (and not really great.) But here it is:

Colors of Early Spring

An early blue iris on a slender green stalk,
A lone yellow tulip beside my front walk.

White dogwood blossoms appear from nowhere,
Dancing and swaying, suspended, mid-air.

Inaptly named redbud’s brown slender stem,
Sends forth purple blossoms, as if on a whim.

The iridescent back of a shiny black crow,
Glistens and glimmers as he struts to and fro.

Up close and afar in myriad shades of green,
There’s a masterwork of wonder, waiting to be seen.

© 2017 Kalen Kingsbury



Day Five – NaPoWriMo – A Nature Poem

No poem yet but I’m posting the prompt with the link for today’s poet interview. Mary Oliver is one of  my favorite poets. I can’t wait to read the interview.

I’ll let today’s prompt rattle around in my mind while I go about my daily work, which happens to include a visit to a farm. I wrote about this farm last April for the A to Z challenge.

“Our interviewee today is Mary Oliver, as rather incongruously, to my mind, interviewed by Maria Shriver. I won’t bother to conceal from you the fact that I chose this interview in part for the picture, in which Ms. Oliver appears to be a tiny, birdlike gnome in contrast to the Amazonian Shriver. Be that as it may, Oliver is one of America’s most popular contemporary poets, known for plainspeaking poems that focus on the natural world. You can read more about Oliver here, and read some of her poems here.

Last but not least, here is our prompt for Day Five (as always, the prompt is optional). In honor of Mary Oliver’s work, I’d like to challenge you to write a poem that is based in the natural world: it could be about a particular plant, animal, or a particular landscape. But it should be about a slice of the natural world that you have personally experienced and optimally, one that you have experienced often. Try to incorporate specific details while also stating why you find the chosen place or plant/animal meaningful.”

Here’s the link to Napowrimo’s post for today, which is copied in part above.


Day Four – NaPoWriMo – Hidden Enigma

Today’s prompt from

And now for our prompt (optional, as always). One of the most popular British works of classical music is Edward Elgar’s Enigma Variations. The “enigma” of the title is widely believed to be a hidden melody that is not actually played, but which is tucked somehow into the composition through counterpoint. Today I’d like you to take some inspiration from Elgar and write a poem with a secret – in other words, a poem with a word or idea or line that it isn’t expressing directly. The poem should function as a sort of riddle, but not necessarily a riddle of the “Why is a raven like a writing desk?” variety. You could choose a word, for example, “yellow,” and make everything in the poem something yellow, but never actually allude to their color. Or perhaps you could closely describe a famous physical location or person without ever mentioning what or who it actually is.

Can’t tell you what it’s about but leave me a comment if you think you know what it is!

It lies hidden
rises unbidden
when provoked

clenched jaw
insides raw
stifled scream 

heavy sighs
rolling eyes
door slams 

stomping feet
quick retreat
cold shoulder 

Icy stare
I don’t care
. . . then it’s over.

© 2017 Kalen Kingsbury

Day Three – NaPoWriMo – An Elegy

Here’s today’s prompt:

And now for our (optional) prompt! Today I’d like to challenge you to write an elegy – a poem that mourns or honors someone dead or something gone by. And I’d like to ask you to center the elegy on an unusual fact about the person or thing being mourned. For example, if you are writing an elegy about your grandfather, perhaps the poem could be centered around a signature phrase of his. (My own grandfather used to justify whatever he was doing by saying, “well, I can’t sing or dance, and it’s too wet to plow,” which baffled me considerably as a child). Or perhaps your Aunt Lily always unconsciously whistled between her teeth while engaged in her daily battle with the crossword puzzle. These types of details paradoxically breathe life into an elegy, making the mourned person real for the reader.


This one is a little tricky since I’m writing an elegy for someone I never met – my husband’s great grandmother who immigrated to western Pennsylvania from Italy in 1897. Custode Iacobucci was 16 years old when she made the journey from her home in the mountains of Abruzzo, Italy with her older sister Rosalia. Two older brothers were already in Pennsylvania, another followed later that year.

Within two years she was married and began a family. By 1912, when her husband deserted her,  she had nine children. She never remarried. Four of her six sons became pharmacists. Many of her grandchildren and great grandchildren are teachers, doctors and lawyers. Children who never knew her have what they have – and are what they are – because of her courage and determination.


Elegy for Custode

How can I mourn what I do not know?
I mourn the not knowing.

I mourn the empty places and missing faces,
the mystery and missing family history.
The stories I never heard.
The legends I never learned.

I mourn the hardship of your life
The loves you lost – your heartache and pain.

But in the mourning I celebrate the legacy you left behind.
A legacy of strength, courage and determination.

Of the home you left when just a girl,
of hillside caverns, grazing sheep
in the shadow of Maiella.

The innocence you lost, the price you paid.
The child you lost, the sons you raised.

The many nights you wept alone
then faced the morning cold as stone.

I mourn the secrets locked within your hidden smile.
of ancient strega ways and secret spells.

I mourn the times you ached to be soft
but life made you hard – harder than you ever wanted to be.

For never taking less than you deserved
Undeterred, resolute warrior for those you loved.

I celebrate the broken pieces of your heart,
scattered among the gifts you’ll never see.
The wisdom and the strength you left behind
in those of yours who share their lives with me.

© 2017 Kalen Kingsbury





Day Two – NaPoWriMo 2017

Today’s prompt is to write a poem that involves a recipe – you could use a favorite family recipe or invent a recipe for a love potion. So here’s my take on a Southern staple – iced tea.

Southern Tea

Three tea bags – not two or four
Heat the water then you pour
it in the pot.

Teain pot.4217Wrap the tea bag strings
around the handle
while they steep.

How long should they steep
To be a winner?
Just long enough, so that the tea
is cool by dinner.  

If fame and fortune you would gain
Be sure you know just when and how
to strain – the tea. Tea straining.4.2.17

Raise the bloated bags above the pot
Trap them to a spoon – take care they’re hot!
Then squeeze. 

Now the part to suit your heart
Water and tea – which will it be?
(The solution’s in the dilution.)


A Southern staple – to be sure.
A tradition likely to endure,
despite the options in the store. teainglass.4.2.2017

© 2017 Kalen Kingsbury