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 Day—at 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 week—anything that represents a quick sketch of he ephemeral, of time fleeing.the poetry dictionary, pg. 194-95.
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.
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
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.