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February 2014

This month's prompt comes from a new writing practice I started this year. Writing the Day was the name I chose for this practice which was not a New Year Resolution, and wasn't totally original.  I want to write a poem each day.

William Stafford is the poet who inspired this daily practice the for me. Stafford wrote every day of his life from 1950 to 1993. He left us 20,000 pages of daily writings that include early morning meditations, dream records, aphorisms, and other “visits to the unconscious.”

When Stafford was asked how he was able to produce a poem every morning and what he did when it didn’t meet his standards, he replied, “I lower my standards.” I like that answer, but I know that phrase “lowering standards” has a real negative connotation.

I think Stafford meant that he allows himself some bad poems and some non-poems, knowing that with daily writing there will be eventually be some good work.

I wanted to impose some form on myself each day. I love haiku, tanka and other short forms, but I decided to create my own form for this project.

I call the form ronka – a somewhat egotistical play on the tanka form. And it is the form for this month's prompt.

These poems are meant to be one observation on the day. It might come upon waking. It might come during an afternoon walk, or when you are alone in the night.The poems should come come from paying close attention to the outside world from earth to sky or from inside – inside a building or inside you.

People know haiku as three lines of 5-7-5 syllables. But that’s an English version, since Japanese doesn’t have syllables.

The tanka form consists of five units (often treated as separate lines when Romanized or translated) usually with the following pattern of 5-7-5-7-7.

For my invented ronka form, there are 5 lines, each having 7 words without concern for syllables. Like traditional tanka and haiku, my form uses no rhyme. You want to show rather than tell. You want to use seasonal words - cherry blossoms, rather than “spring.”

It's hard for Western writers to stay out of their poems - lots of "I" - but ronka have fewer people walking about in the poem.

The poems are just 5 lines, but you can certainly write several on a single theme and chain them together renga style.

For examples, all my ronka poems are on the Writing the Day website. I look forward to you outdoing me at my own form.

For more on this prompt and others, visit the Poets Online blog.


An ice storm subdued the unruly bamboo
its bend now architectural, space becoming place,
a momentary home, refuge for no one,
topped by errant grackles tired from flight.
Somewhere icicles crash, and they are gone.

Peter Goudaman


A steel grey sky, swollen with clouds,
hovers over the tall green spruce trees,
the air alive with fresh falling snow.
I am surprised to catch the sparrows
feasting on the rose glow barberry bush.

marie a. mennuto-rovello


Deer tracks on old snow and now
Purple skies warning of yet another storm
After the last, two deer came 'round -
Mother, munching pine needles staring at me,
over oatmeal. I staring back at her.

Beverly Rosenblum


A majestic orchid stands by my bath
dressed in royal purple, its branches arced
as if waving to its subjects. No
need to peer in the mirror to
question its beauty, angst over age lines.

Barbara Whitehill


Snow fell hard and heavy all night.
Cold but pristine, the glittering white blanket
covered all the world in quiet beauty.
The frigid silence, so fragile as glass,
was shattered by the hulking city plow.

Letitia Minnick


Walk the Live Oak Trail and you
will come upon a crumbling concrete circle.
Why is it there? for what purpose?
Those ancient live oaks will not say
They will not give up their secrets.

Bobbie Townsend


As Mother shuffles along the garden path
Waiting for me to hold up roses
She no longer sees, she is awake
To gifts her dead husband brought her,
More than my arm she leans upon.

In the nearby pines, a pileated woodpecker
Routinely knocks his head against a tree.
She talks of her lonely married nights:
Her husband’s insisting respectable women avoid bars.
From over our heads the woodpecker laughs.

Ron Yazinski


Maze of boulders on the hill’s backside.
Old tin cans glow red with rust.
Lost pocketknife, bottles burned blue as sky.
No rain. Tunnels appear in dry soil.
The calendar claims that winter’s almost over.

In neglected corners, the shelter of rocks,
weeds without names weave their thin lace.
My dog has learned a new dance.
A leafless oak blossoms with blackbirds singing
Spring, whether we deserve it or not.

Taylor Graham


Waiting for the ice to come, the
too early robin feels the scent of
rain looming on the wintry western horizon.
She huddles nearer to the scent of
life hiding in buds, tiny as hope.

Her twig dances in clueless play, jostling
with the wind’s first breath before the
rain arrives, falling into metamorphosis through a
sky gray as instinct’s failings. Feathers tremble
‘neath the icy weight of spring deferred.

Linda Watson Owen


Opera of a time in the park,
a day when diva trees are new
full and green luminescence plays pretty footsie
with dew. Iris tenor pantaloons purple meets
tulip coloratura, duet love scene is lilacs.

Mary Orovan


No, it's not the Apollo Lunar Module
inside the moon's Bay of Tranquility crater.
It glows in the gloom. Liftoff scheduled
tomorrow at noon -- separation of lower left,
back-most molar from its curved jawbone home.

E.E. Nobbs


Sweet, salty stink of the duck pond;
bold, salmon pink of the western sky.
But we walk east, toward the darkening.
Shadows of fir branches blacken eastern skies.
Young walkers welcome warm dusk in August.

R. Bremner