Events Poem Prompt

April 29: Poem in Your Pocket Day

It’s National Poetry Month, and Friday, April 29, is this year’s Poem in Your Pocket Day! Feel free to peruse the Current Issue and the Archives of Tab Journal for some great pocket poem options.

In fact, the poems you’ll find here at TabJournal can be shared easily in visual and audio versions on social media with the hashtags #PocketPoem and #TabJournal. Leave the poem open on your phone so you can kick off your Friday meeting with a recitation. Or to keep a copy in your physical pocket, you can print an individual poem from an issue PDF.

Cropped banner showing cover of printed journal sneaking out the zipper and grid pattern pouch
Events Poem Prompt

Poem Prompt: National Backwards Day

Who cares where National Backwards Day came from? It’s a great excuse to shake up our (poetry) habits and celebrate the end of January.

Here are a few suggestions for celebrating National Backwards Day:

  • dinner for breakfast & breakfast for dinner
  • say goodbye when you arrive & hello when you leave
  • wear your socks inside out or your shirt backwards
  • (for the disgruntled) turn your back in your online meeting (lower risk by turning camera off)

Of course, those of us at Tab Journal think the best way for poets to celebrate National Backwards Day is to write–or rather, revise–a poem backwards. Here are three ways to rework a draft from end to beginning:

  1. Cut and paste (or rewrite by hand) the last line first, the penultimate line second, the third-to-last line next, and so on through the whole poem. Don’t worry about syntax, punctuation, or meaning until all the lines are in the new order. Once you have a backwards version, treat that as the draft to revise. Think especially about how the reader enters the poem and the different effect this new ending has.
  2. Keep the lines in order, but reorder the words within some or all of the lines. The reordering may create a confusing jumble, and that’s okay. Go with it. You may notice different challenges depending on whether a line is end stopped or enjambed. Let’s take an example from Robert Frost, who sometimes inverts expected syntax. This sort of reordering may require some not-quite-backwards moves or changes in parts of speech if you want the language to make sense, but keep your idea of sense capacious.

    My long two-pointed ladder’s sticking through a tree 
    Toward heaven still, 
    And there’s a barrel that I didn’t fill 
    Beside it, and there may be two or three 
    Apples I didn’t pick upon some bough. 

    Might become:

    A tree through sticks laddered long my two-pointed
    Heaven still toward
    Filling. Didn’t I barrel that there and
    Three or two may be there and it beside
    Some bough upon which I didn’t pick apples.

  3. Another way of defining backwards is as opposite. Often, we write the opposite of something word by word, the whole ends up meaning almost the same as the original because of the layers of negation. Often, a word doesn’t have an authentic opposite. But that’s no reason not to try this kind of revision.

    Your short unpointed tunnel’s burying out of that root 
    Away from hell no more, 
    But here’s this uncontainer that you emptied 
    On top of it, but here may not be any 
    Oranges you put under that root. 

    Okay, not great, but what might we do with words like unpointed, uncontainer, and under, words we might not have come up with–or come up with together–without this exercise in backwardness?

Cheers to backwards! Celebrate poetry whenever you can!