In her book Blood Almanac, Sandy Longhorn offers a series of self-portrait poems. For each month of the year, she presents a poem reflecting both season and self.
Month I became the silent child,
the mortar of the brick wall crumbling,
everything came loose as a baby tooth.
Air rushed in, whistled on the way out,
my body as dray as an Egyptian tomb.
Voices tumbled in, forced open
the shut ear, made me the depository,
this library of spurn and scorn.
Month I became the thorn,
venom, muscle and the flat hand,
became a word that pulsed
and writhed and was unsayable.
- Sandy Longhorn
from Blood Almanac
I like this calendar frame, and appreciate the way each poem stands individually but is then deepened when read with the knowledge of its memoir intent. And so — as is often the case — inspired by another poet's idea, I tried my own monthly self-portrait:
This is how September lets go
On the last days, September betrays.
Gust by gust, in mad dash from summer’s endless expectations,
she muscles light to the low-angled end, throws the feast to winter’s
hungry maw. A metallic sky welds a cold grip on autumn’s orange.
Rain swells river, puddle, pool, gushes every roof, gutter and seam.
In incessant wet, wind shakes the ache of every limb, turns sky
and house to night. I am jade and craving, the damp
swallow of each last brassy glow.
- Drew Myron
Try this: Write a poem based on a month. Choose any month and let the images and mood of that season tumble out. Don't worry about making sense. The beauty of these poems is the unexpected quality of unusual word combinations, and the sideways insertion of self. Stuck for a starting point? Borrow Sandy's evocative opening line: Month I became . . . .*
I'd love to see where this exercise takes you.
Please feel free to share your results in the comments section.
* with attribution, or course. Even better, use her phrase in your first draft and then work out and away with your own words.