Julie Goell’s book, Life in a Clown House: A Manual and a Memoir, was precipitated by Nicole D’Entremont’s Sudden Fiction group. The entire book was dictated and laboriously transcribed by Nicole and a host of friends and neighbors. Julie's neurological condition has deteriorated to the point where she can no longer dictate and is using a spelling board to communicate. Nicole came up with Sudden Poetry as a way to keep writing. A word is randomly selected from any book, and a Haiku-ish little poem is composed.
Sudden Poetry, designed by Nicole D’Entremont
Instructions: Have Julie point, without looking, to a word in any book. To begin we used, White Dog Fell From the Sky, by Eleanor Morse to choose words as prompts.
1. (prompt: stupid)
Watch out, I’m dangerous.
I’m not as stupid as I look,
only as dumb as I feel.
2. (no prompt)
I didn’t expect to see the spring.
In a flurry of efficiency
I threw away my summer clothes.
3. (prompt: life)
Life has me flummoxed
but I’m still racing to the finish line
trying to see who comes in first.
4. (prompt: delicate)
How to say this delicately:
I do not have the plague.
I just want as much love as anyone would.
5. (prompt: she)
She flutters by, full of excuses I didn’t ask for.
Why does she bother to come at all,
unless it is not me she’s visiting?
6. (prompt: one)
One: Get me out of this skin I’m in.
Two: Give me back my body.
Three: I didn’t ask to play this game.
7. (prompt: setting)
The sun was setting behind Great Diamond.
I look at you but say nothing.
So many opportunities lost.
8. (prompt: woke)
I woke to the sound, reassuring, of your breathing,
clock doing its familiar ghosting thing.
I wonder, how much longer?
9. (prompt: prove)
I see the proof in your worried looks,
In your frequent awakenings to turn me,
And in frantic calls to the doctor in the middle of the night.
10. (prompt: local)
Local flowers in bloom.
The greenest summer you’ll see.
Hope I’ll get to see it through.
Silas says these are “hai-kools” - a form Julie invented.
11. (prompt: sky)
Dark grey skies of late.
Mood around me is grim.
Somewhere inside a dancer rages.
12. (prompt: handles)
You ask where did these handles come from
and look at me accusingly.
Mystery solved. It’s all that cake you ate.
6.17.16 (words from, Wise Blood, by Flannery O’Connor)
13. (prompt: settled)
We settled here thirty years.
Don't know how much more beauty I can stand.
14. (prompt: stinging)
The stinging in my eyes is proof.
I’m a big crybaby and
I don’t know how to hide.
15. (prompt: facing)
I am facing you
but don't know if you are in profile
or about to leave your seat.
7.6.16 Julie stayed at Norway Rehab for a week while Avner taught the 25th annual Eccentric Performing workshop at the Celebration Barn in South Paris, Maine
16. (prompt: attention)
So much attention being sick,
You’d think the world revolved around me,
Your usual charm just swept away.
17. (prompt: remember)
I remember your hands and feet so tiny,
the wind could blow you away.
Now a married man so solid.
18. (prompt: museum)
Our basement is our museum,
Piles of lives lived everywhere
A testament to love.
7.15.16 (words from, Outside the Law: A Thief’s Primer, by Bruce Jackson)
19. (prompt: dance)
You dance me to bed
When I have to be moved.
We waltz blind but carefree.
20. (prompt: peeling)
Peeling like an onion
Getting to the core of me.
I want my layers back.
21. (prompt: minute)
In a minute I’ll be gone.
Seemed to take forever.
Time flies when you’re having fun.
7.22.16 (words from, The Chairs Are Where the People Go, by Misha Glouberman)
22. (prompt: end)
The end, when it comes, will it hurt?
My mind plays out all possible scenarios.
The hardest being the one where you’re in the next room.
23. (prompt: important)
The things that once seemed important
no longer are.
You will be the last to go.
24. (no prompt)
I’ve often thought,
when can I stop caring?
If I call, I’ll cry
and I don't want to do that to him.
7.29.16 (words from, Rashi’s Daughters, Book Two: Miriam, by Maggie Anton)
25. (prompt: erudite)
I know I look dumb
I’m actually quite erudite
What little pleasure that gives me now.
8.3.16 (words from, Circus World, by Barry B. Longyear)
26. (prompt: silence)
The silence is too loud.
I have to break it up somehow.
Let’s start with you: How the hell are you?
27. (prompt: boy)
Boy, what do I do now?
Caught between, worried that you’ll have too much fun
and that you won't have any.
28. (prompt: dropped)
You dropped in to visit.
There is much to say
and too little time.
8.19.16 (words from, Pale Fire, by Vladimir Nabokov)
29. (prompt: characters)
Many characters come to call,
from subtle to sublime,
As if I had some kind of answer.
30. (prompt: slight)
You entertain the troops
with sleight of hand and magic.
If only it were a laughing matter.
31. (prompt: gathers)
Storm clouds gather ahead.
I needn’t tell you this.
But we have to talk. Soon.
9.23.16 (words from, Geek Love, by Katherine Dunn)
32. (prompt: scrap)
Let’s scrap the whole thing:
This Julie project with
all its twists and turns and gyrations.
33. (prompt: dance)
I danced through it all,
never knowing it would end
so abruptly or unbidden.
34. (no prompt)
Bereft of words
I didn’t catch a wink of sleep
But lay peering dumbly about.
My problem is I can’t see
Neither what I have done
Nor what I’m about to do.