The Poet Gives Up

Vincent might have felt differently
when he tried to paint a starless night in Saint-Remy:
the poet detests the pungency of words
stagnating in her mind like a humid day.

She sees them fall, lumpen and heavy 
flocks of birds that scratch her with censorious 
claws as they ascend again into phonemes,
oscillating with unsatisfactory memes.

Now she no longer writes poetry, 
buds open, fresh and green, 
so she can’t see the wood for leaves 
and, like her handwriting,

they flourish in the vernal. And worse,
she wishes every day was spring, 
renounces the mantle of mist and glooming,
until the distant smudge of verse 

disappears in a puff of white and grey
feathers swirling skyward,
language uncaptured 
by hard pen on paper. The poet’s slayed. 

She will no longer dance fast and furious. 
She will be immobile until, serious,
she’s gathered every last bit of her own poetry 
and burnt it on a bonfire of her vanity.

And yet, these verses were once released
from her mind’s sediment. Now that the spill 
has stilled, actuality has adjusted darkness, 
and a feather again becomes a savage quill.

Kim M. Russell, 30th April 2023

Image by Clark Young on Unsplash

It’s always a strange feeling when I get to day thirty of NaPoWriMo. Although I know it will come around again next year, there is something final about it that makes me feel sad; I know I’ll miss it for a while, and then everything will get back to normal again.

The final optional prompt this year is a challenge to write palinodes, poems in which we retract views or sentiments expressed in earlier poems; for example, we might pick poems we drafted earlier in the month and write poems that contradict or troubles them.  Alternatively, we could play around with the idea of a palinode by writing a poem in which the speaker says something like “I take it back” or otherwise abandons a prior position within it. I decided to write a palindrome of ‘The Poet and her Pen’.


21 thoughts on “The Poet Gives Up

  1. I love how you coined the melancholy we are all feeling for NaPo ending once again, I love the parallels you depict in the poem and I really love the ending, because it is a good omen of more and more future writing.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Its also, for me at least, the lack of anything in the middle ; lots of options, yes, but nothing quite like Napo! I think it also just feels so nice to have a whole month dedicated to poetry, when I can feel less of a bore when I mention it, write it, give reading recommendations 😀

        Liked by 1 person

  2. That “distant smudge of verse”–so elusive. But every spring, flocks of poets rush into forests and meadows in hopes of a miraculous sighting… I feel the sadness too, Kim. It’s tinged with relief (as in, “I don’t have to lose sleep anymore”), but it’s definitely sadness. I hope the poets keep doing what they love. Thank you for your words this month and I’ll see you next year!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The end of April is bittersweet. There is a sense of empty when you know that tomorrow there will be no prompt.

    Love ‘and burnt it on a bonfire of her vanity’ and the ‘savage quill’. Together they point to a rebirth. The poet rises from the ashes–renewed, boldened.

    Hope to see you next April Kim. Keep well and keep creating:)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Kim, this poem wrapped up with a bang. Savage quill (whatever it is) girl, you get them! I know I will remember those two words when feeling empty of poetry. Thank you for sharing your gift with us.

    Liked by 1 person

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