If it’s April, it’s NaPoWriMo 2016, that is, National Poetry Writing Month, a month when poetry devotees (like me and many of you) commit to writing at least one poem per day. There are several blogs, sites, etc., that offer daily prompts, and folks are free to go off on their own and write “as the spirit leads them,” as my mother would say.
This year I have been pretty much in the latter category, drawing inspiration from things, events, happenings in the immediate environment. As it happens, early in the month I attended three events that have had a huge impact on my April writing. The first one was a writing salon at a local art gallery, a short, three hour “class,” that looked at one piece of art from various perspectives and encouraged attendees to write about the experience. The second was a poetry reading at a local library by three sonnet writers, who read and spoke about the “sonnet” craft. The third was a lunch time exhibition talk about a single piece of art, which became the basis for my daily poetry submissions.
So, to ease your suspense, I’ll cut right to the chase. I decided to try my hand at a “crown of sonnets,” also called a “corona.” All the sonnet writers I saw at the reading talked about it! Then, I decided to base each unique sonnet on a piece of art, implementing the tools we used in the writing salon. Finally, I decided to use as the art work a series of paintings used as illustrations for poetry, and the exhibition talk I attended provided such an example, a series of paintings by the famed Harlem Renaissance painter, Aaron Douglas, used to illustrate James Weldon Johnson’s “God’s Trombones, Seven Negro Sermons in Verse,” one of which was on exhibit. You can find the original, in electronic edition with illustrations, here. A re-imagining, if you will, of the James Weldon Johnson classic, informed in text by the Aaron Douglas illustrations.
A technical aspect of the corona. The final line of each poem becomes the first line of each succeeding poem, and the first line of the first, the final line of the last. Additionally, I tried as closely as possible to make each final line align with a line from the actual original Johnson poetry that the art work illustrated. Finally, because the example of the Douglas illustration I saw in exhibition was the illustration for the final poem in the series, I worked my way through the original poems from back to front, giving the whole thing a slightly different twist.
Enough chat. I have posted the whole crown of sonnets on my poetry blog. Please check it out and let me know what you think.