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NaPoWriMo

Two more to go! Here’s today’s NaPoWriMo prompt:

Poet and artist Joe Brainard is probably best remembers for his book-length poem/memoir, I Remember. The book consists of a series of statements, all beginning with the phrase “I remember.” Here are a few examples:

I remember the only time I ever saw my mother cry. I was eating apricot pie.

I remember how much I cried seeing South Pacific (the movie) three times.

I remember how good a glass of water can taste after a dish of ice cream.

The specific, sometimes mundane and sometimes zany details of the things Brainard remembers builds up over the course of the book, until you have a good deal of empathy and sympathy for this somewhat odd person that you really feel you’ve gotten to know.

Today, I’d like to challenge you to write a poem based on things you remember. Try to focus on specific details, and don’t worry about whether the memories are of important events, or are connected to each other. You could start by adopting Brainard’s uniform habit of starting every line with “I remember,” and then you could either cut out all the instances of “I remember,” or leave them all in, or leave just a few in. At any rate, hopefully you’ll wind up with a poem that is heavy on concrete detail, and which uses that detail as its connective tissue.

I remember

Shocking-pink knitting wool
behind a draper’s window covered
with yellow cellophane: my mother said
it was too bright for a jumper.

Shilling blocks of ice cream with
three stripes pink, brown and white:
they were wrapped in cardboard
which we peeled off and licked.

Glass bottles of limeade
standing on the shop floor
engraved with Bon Accord, Aberdeen:
we savoured green fizz at parties.

My brownie uniform and
the smell of its leather belt:
it was important to tie the yellow tie
with a reef knot.

Blue nylon party dresses
and sticky-out-petticoats:
they had to be worn with shoes
painted with Meltonian EasyWhite.

Shoe shops with
brown Start Rites and Clark’s Sandals:
they had an X-ray machine
that made your feet green.

The lash of skipping ropes
in the school playground and
the flash of a shocking-pink jumper:
I was envious of it.

This started with a recollection of the corner shop where I was sent as a child for a shilling block of Walls ice cream; I always wanted a jumper made from the bright pink wool in the window and never got one. I followed on with random recollections of that time, then shaped them into a poem where colours seemed to pop up in every verse. I remember in colour! In my first version, I began each stanza with ‘I remember’ but in my final version I decided it was better to trim it.

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