Occasional Verse with Paint Chips

I know that last week I said we might do a second entry from the P section of the poetry dictionary, but I decided to go backwards instead, back to the O section. It’s the Friday before Mother’s Dayat least it is in the United States, Australia, Denmark, Finland, Italy, Switzerland, Turkey, and Belgium. If you are in a country that celebrates this holiday some other time, you’ll have other options for this challenge.

This week we are writing occasional verse, which John Drury defines as follows:

OCCASIONAL VERSE Poem written to commemorate an occasion; a poem commissioned by someone to celebrate some happening, like the Olympian odes of Pindar or the coronation ode by a poet laureate.

The term is often used dismissively to label a poem as a kind of “work for hire,” inspired not by imagination but by something external. However, real poems do arise out of (and for) particular occasions. It matters, perhaps, who does the choosing. Ellen Bryant Voigt’s “The Last Class” begins:

Put this in your notebooks:
All verse is occasional verse.

Some kinds of occasional verse have time-honored names from the Greek. An epithalamion celebrates a wedding. A genethliacon or genethliacum . . . is a birthday ode, like Dylan Thomas’s “Poem on His Birthday,” or a poem that celebrates a birth, like Helen Frost’s “First Deep Breath,” which was written as a blessing for poet Annie Finch’s newborn daughter.

Occasional verse might also be written on the spur of the moment, about a time of day, for a birthday or holiday, or for a day of the weekanything that represents a quick sketch of he ephemeral, of time fleeing.

the poetry dictionary, pg. 194-95.

The Challenge

My challenge to you is to write a poem for the occasion of Mother’s Day. It could be a poem about the holiday in general or a specific Mother’s Day that you remember from your childhood. If, as I mentioned above, you live in a country that doesn’t celebrate this holiday on the second Sunday of May, then you can either save your poem for when the holiday happens in your neck of the woods or write about some other occasion.

The paint chip words and phrases that you have to work with are hot sauce, dawn, the Great Plains, heartbeat, pyramid, full moon, and Ginkgo biloba.

I would like you to use at least three of these words and phrases in your occasional poem. If you feel compelled to use them all, but can’t figure out what half of them have to do with Mother’s Day, maybe you could write two occasional poems.

My Poem

Mother's Day

It comes around but once a year
On the second Sunday in May
Like clockwork to the day

As a child it was perfectly clear
This day was all about Mom
Who birthed four girls and brother Tom

Then she died when I was twenty-three
Mother's Day came but she was gone
On me a grievous loss dawned

Seven years passed me by
No mother, no child in my life
This holiday brought only strife

Until the year this day was for me
In nineteen ninety-five
Though late, my son Benton arrived

He brightened my days and nights
Like a full moon in a clear summer sky
His dimpled smile made me sigh

Then came the year I shed another tear
For the child who might have been
Whose heartbeat I heard and then . . .

On such a sad note I can't end
Mother's Day is a celebration complete
With memories of joy so sweet

Mothers and children come celebrate
The times of sadness along the way
Mixed with blessings on Mother's Day

Your Turn

It’s your turn to write an occasional poem about Mother’s Day, or any other occasion you choose. Share your poem in the comments, or post it on your blog and drop a link in the comments. Remember to invite your friends and readers to join in the fun and write their own paint-chip inspired occasional verse. I look forward to reading all the wonderful poems I know you’ll be writing.

I am a Jesus Freak, and I don't care who knows it. I am a wife, mother, sister, aunt, daughter, and friend. My blood family is only part of the larger family of Christ that I belong to. I love to write, especially about my dear Savior.


13 Responses

  1. Gaia really wasn’t there
    the way my mother was.
    The full moon of the night or dawn
    were never heartbeats I’d count on
    the way my mother’s was.

    Happy Mother’s Day!

  2. This is thre third Mother’s Day tidbit I’ve written in a few days. I managed to use all the words. Hope they fit together


    Second Sunday in May
    No matter what the weather
    Full moon or waning crescent
    Families come together
    No pyramid too high to scale
    No distance can sever
    A heartbeat heard
    Loud enough to blend
    Great plains with the dawn
    A mother’s love learned
    A memory fierce
    Gingko Biloba and hot sauce
    Neither spurns or burns

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