pioneer poetry

national poetry writing month.

april beckons gray rainstorms, fresh blooms, and hungry poets eager to greet a whole month of celebrating their craft as part of national poetry writing month. in 1996, the academy of american poets introduced it to increase awareness and appreciation of poetry in the united states. the tradition caught fire and now sees poets all around the world writing and sharing poetry every april.

i believe deeply in the practice of poetry. it helps me slow down, take a breath, and really observe my surroundings. when shared, it allows me to relate to myself and others and often reveals truths i've been searching for.

i've always wanted to participate in this monthlong poetry celebration to hold myself accountable in writing more poetry! for the rest of april, i'm hosting a little poetry challenge. i like to think of it as pioneer poetry: using verse to explore uncharted territories in my story. 

i'm going to post a poetry prompt and my poem attempt every day on instagram. whether you'd like to join me every day or a prompt inspires you one day and you want to give it a spin, i want to read your poetry!

use the hashtag #pioneerpoetry if you'd like to share in the celebration. let's get writing, poets!

prompt of the day. 

write a timeline poem using personal events and public events. it seems daunting to shuffle through your life year by year, but it's so rewarding to finish with a little map of the events, people, and places that have shaped you into your wildly wonderful self! i wanted to begin the month of poetry with this prompt because it let me swim around in my story and peek in at the places that broke me and built me. i even found myself stumbling into forgotten memories that i hope to use as fodder for further writings.

poem of the day.

in ninety-three,
my mother delivers me naturally.
the local paper photographs us
for an article on the growing popularity of nurse-midwives. 

when i can hold my head up on my own,
a space shuttle lifts from earth
on a mission to restore the vision of the hubble space telescope,
which is on the fritz with something called 'spherical aberration.'

the mission lasts eleven days
and the crew members make five space walks
trying to get a camera in outer space to properly focus and reflect light.

in ninety-four, nelson mandela is elected the first black president of south africa. 
in ninety-five, oj simpson is found not guilty for the murders of nicole simpson and ron goldman. 

in ninety-six, i'm three-years-old. 
my mother is journeying towards her phd in io psych, but dreams of being a stay-at-home mom. 
my father owns a fly fishing shop, but dreams of guiding in the open sea. 

the year of the columbine massacre, my little brother is born. 
i sprain my ankle wrestling with a neighbor the night before
and wear an ace bandage when i meet him in the hospital.

a century rolls over,
a president is inaugurated after a controversial election,
the world watches the trade centers crumble.
it's estimated that between six and eleven million people take to the streets to protest war on iraq. 

i begin reading art history books and practice oil painting in the closet of my bedroom. 
hair has begun to grow on my vagina
and there are little lumps on my chest where breasts will be. 
they are tender to the touch.
i worry i have cancer when i first feel them. 

hurricane katrina hits. 
my dad volunteers with the red cross and travels to new orleans to offer aid. 

i start school at a public junior high.
i don't know anyone
and i eat lunch
from a brown paper bag
in a red bathroom stall
for the first few weeks. 

my english teacher notices my writing
and words start roaring from me
like water.

i read my poems and stories to my classmates
and realize we're not as different as i thought we were.

in two-thousand-seven, 
i smoke pot from a coca cola can
behind the alley cat coffee shop
with kaia holbrook
and two boys with wolffish grins, greasy hair and leather jackets
peppered with safety pins and patches. 

during the school year,
i slip through a chain link fence
behind the football field and walk to kaia's house. 
we run for miles.
we write poems and draw pictures and pass notes. 
we give each other tattoos with razor blades and sharpie ink. 

during the summer,
we sneak out
to meet boys for beer at the playground. 
the cops catch us one night.
the morning after, hung over and self-sorry, my mother tells me that time heals all wounds. 

barack obama is inaugurated the forty-fourth president of the united states the year i start high school.
i drink electric blue vodka and pop ecstasy pills every weekend. 
i like the little pills pressed with stamps of dolphins, ninja turtles, and lightning bolts. 
i stay up all night talking about the boys who aren't there while playing with my friend beth's long, auburn hair.
in the morning, i go to the mountains to watch the blood red sunrise over the still, gray reservoir. 

i lose my virginity in a house decorated with broken windows and spray paint. 
we're drunk and we don't talk about it. 
it carves me raw.

i begin using and selling cocaine. 
on the fourth of july, i'm checked into an inpatient treatment center. 
i listen to the fireworks from a white room with no door.

i turn eighteen and i'm out of control. 
i stay out for days and steal money from my parents. 
i'm snorting and freebasing oxycontin. 

a chain of mistakes leads me to a stranger.
i move to oregon to be with him
and i fall in love with heroin.

everything is damp. 
my relationship spoils like sour milk. 
there are bruises all over my body from the physical abuse. 

i'm hospitalized. 
i'm sexually assaulted by a stranger at a house party. 
i call my dad and he doesn't ask questions, just drives from colorado to oregon to bring me home.
i'm too broken to know what to say
the eighteen hours we're in the car together.

back in colorado, i never leave my room. 
i can't feel anything. 
i go to therapy, acupuncture, reiki. 
nothing works. 
not even the drugs i used to love.

i go to a doctor's appointment for a routine std check
and i'm told that i'm pregnant.

i dream of a little girl in a green dress walking me down train tracks beneath the moon.
she tells me her name is persephone and promises to teach me
how to properly focus and reflect light
like the astronauts who fixed the hubble space telescope the year i was born.

-annabelle fern