Morning Porch, the book?

UPDATE (10/20): You can now subscribe to the Morning Porch via email.

The Morning Porch will be one year old on November 5, and I’m starting to think about what I want to do, if anything, with my first year’s worth of jottings. I think I’ll probably keep up the discipline — it’s a good exercise and a great way to wake up — though it’s possible I could change the form or focus a little. It’s also a fun way to participate in the Twitterverse and defy its reputation as a repository for disposable ephemera.

Though I’ve always thought of my Morning Porch tweets as prose, many readers have taken them for poetry, so I decided to see whether they might pass muster as short poems. The following were selected using the Random link, and all I’ve done is rearrange them, swap in ampersands, and change the punctuation here and there. What do you think? Do they work better as prose or as poems? (I’ve linked the dates to the original posts in case anyone wants to compare.) If I were to enlist the help of one or more editors and publish a book of these, would you buy a copy? If the answer is “probably not,” don’t be shy. I am supremely lazy and would be happy for an excuse not to bother.

Feel free to use the Contact form or leave anonymous comments if you prefer.

***

December 6, 2007

Clear and very cold.
I hear squirrel teeth
on walnut shell.
The Carolina wren’s happiness motor
turns over once, twice, then putts to life.

*

July 24, 2008

Fast-moving showers; the light
changes from minute to minute.
A distant rumble
turns out to be an A-10 Thunderbolt II.
Our modems are safe.

*

April 7, 2008

Gray sky, the smell of rain.
Two insomniac screech owls
exchange trills.
The low-frequency thumps of a grouse.
An enormous silence.

*

August 26, 2008

The hollow sound of claws
on loose bark:
another furious squirrel chase,
this time in the dead elm.
The chaser pauses to lick its genitals.

*

January 11, 2008

Hard rain. Under a monochrome cloud ceiling,
the colors are intense:
laurel green,
tree-trunk sable,
dried-grass yellow,
leaf-litter rust.

*

October 12, 2008

BAM. BAM. BAM.
The red crest of a pileated woodpecker
flashes into view from
the dead side of a maple, sunrise
orange on the hill behind.

*

January 2, 2008

I sweep snow off my chair,
then look up to see the crescent moon
appearing & disappearing behind the clouds.
Trees creaking in the dark.

*

December 23, 2007

Thick fog at dawn,
gray against the snow.
Slate-colored juncos call back & forth:
Where are you?
A wind comes up.

*

September 15, 2008

Where daffodils bloomed in April,
goldenrod sways—
a more worldly yellow.
The distant hurricane
makes a roosting monarch flap its wings.

*

April 3, 2008

The feral cat is back from
wherever it goes for the winter.
It crouches on a fallen limb,
eyes fixed on the weeds,
gathered for the spring.

33 Comments


  1. The Morning Porch is its own third category: a necessary luxury. Even though TMP is poetry of record, I would opine in favor of prose form. Recast ligns dilute the tang of reduction sauce brevity.

    TMP’s draw for me is its sheer dailiness. The repetitive beat sharpens the focus of the picture, the capture of the tune. Isn’t it a Word a Day type creature? Of course, this implies an unremitting tour of duty to build a subscriber base.

    Re print, I certainly would purchase in a calendar format. Your work captured actual days, and shouldn’t be sundered from them. I wonder if Alhambra is worth pitching, as its handsome stand-up poetry calendar works also as anthology.
    http://www.alhambrapublishing.com/EPC08.html

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  2. I would. I think it is a great idea. I love the way you combine the mundane and poetic on twitter. Yeah, I know — “mundane and poetic” is a cliche, but I’m not a poet.

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  3. I always thought of them as prose, or prose poems I suppose. Seems better that way, but maybe I’m just used to seeing them that way. Anyway, they’d be good in book form, I think, one per page. At first I thought with photos, but that could get icky. Maybe a photo here and there, to break up a section?

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  4. I’ve only been reading them for as long as I’ve been on Twitter, a few months perhaps. I enjoy your morning haiku-style pieces. At least, that is how I ‘read’ them, with their rhythms, underlying imagery of nature, quiet moment of -ahhhh- Sometimes I want more of an emotional intensity under the surface (a sleek shark now & then amid golden Oriental goldfish) but not usually.

    In the comments, I found the idea of a calendar quite novel.

    Yes. It would work.

    But I’d do another year or even better two years of Morning Porch and then take the best of three for a year’s worth of daily days, the kind where you get 365 sheets.

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  5. For some unfathomable reason I rarely buy books of poems, and so I’m unreliable as a source in this question, I think, though I also am intrigued by the calendar idea. I do buy calendars.

    I especially like that last one, Dale. gathered for spring. Perfect.

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  6. JMartin – Great feedback; thanks. The calendar idea is intriguing.

    Neil – I love to think that sometimes non-poets read poetry! Much of my online activity is predicated on that notion, in fact. So thanks for being there.

    leslee – Yes, I would like some kind of black-and-white illustrations, at least one per season if not one per month.

    I’m surprised by your preference for one per page. I was figuring on two or three…

    Brenda – Good to hear from another Twitterer. I had thought of them as haiku-like, too, which is why I was surprised to discover in making this post that they are really closer to tanka in length. But definitely that kind of vibe, one way or another.

    Yes, waiting for another year or two before collecting is an attractive option. But I will have to start saving them to disc one way or another, which is why this is still a good time to think about form even if I ultimately decide to shelve the book idea for now.

    Kat – I find poetry books are a good investment (especially if you buy them used), because you can read them over and over. On the other hand, books are not the kind of possessions to have if you move around a lot, as you seem to do. Anyway, thanks for weighing in.

    Rachel – Really? Cool!

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  7. Congratulations on reaching the year mark. I thought I might stop micro-blogging after a year, but I really enjoy the discipline of it in a number of ways, so I think I’ll keep it up.

    I think I like them better as prose, though some of them are good with the line breaks too.

    Waiting another year or so might be a good idea, but you could start the sifting now…

    Get drawing for your b/w illustrations. I got into a couple of drawing groups on Flickr and find the push to do it has added another perspective on observing things.

    I’d buy it, I do buy stuff with a blogging connection, and I think a lot of people would be interested in yours.

    (I love your essay and the comments on poverty, I got thoroughly absorbed!)

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  8. I like them as prose-poems. A book, definitely.

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  9. I prefer them without linebreaks, firstly because I object almost as a point of principle to the idea that you can take something written as a piece of prose and jut have to ad linebreaks to turn it into poem; and also because I think the shortness is part of the appeal and they are shorter (or at least ‘shorter’) without the linebreaks.

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  10. I agree with Rachel. I always thought of them as poetry, just in prose form. When you give them line-breaks the flow seems to get stifled. Although some work well with line-breaks.

    But ultimately I concur with JMartin – he wrote exactly what I was thinking, and good thing he did, because I wouldn’t have been able to put that into the words that he did.

    I see a blending of Visual Soma and TMP happening in calendar form. Now that would be cool.

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  11. If you publish, I will buy. Don’t we all want a little chunk of Dave sitting on the corner of our desks in a circle of light?

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  12. “I’m surprised by your preference for one per page. I was figuring on two or three…”

    I think it’s because that’s how they happen – one per morning. But I guess it makes more sense to make better use of the space with two or three.

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  13. Lucy – Thanks. Glad to hear you’re planning to stick with it too – “Out with Mol” is always a favorite stop in my daily feed-reading.

    You’re right, I should take up sketching.

    Nancy, Harry – Keeping them in prose does seem to be the majority opinion here. If I had poetic principles, I suppose I’d be offended too! The problem is, it’s fun to tinker with them. But probably I should leave well enough alone. There is a certain marketing appeal to a Twitter book, I think, which might be diminished if I turned them into poems.

    Gina Marie – I see a blending of Visual Soma and TMP happening in calendar form. Hmm. In that case, I suppose I’d have to go with a desk calendar format, wouldn’t I? (But would people buy a desk calendar if there were already words on all the days? Actually, I remember years and years ago, the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy put out wall calendars with cool factoids on nearly every day. That didn’t keep us from writing stuff on them.)

    Beth W. – Another vote for the calendar, then? Damn, this is starting to sound like work.

    leslee – O.K. Maybe I should just push email subscriptions, expand beyond the Twitter/Identica and Google Reader/Bloglines readership…

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  14. I don’t think that adding line breaks turns them from prose into poetry. I think they are already poetry.

    Having said that, I think I prefer them without the line breaks. I think you’d need to rewrite some of them to make the line breaks meaningful.

    I can imagine a book with maybe four of these on each page. (Yes, include all 365.) I would buy it. I’d love to read them through from the beginning to see the seasons subtly shifting and changing.

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  15. 1) My vote: no line breaks. They woprk as prose poems exactly as they are, and I’m with Harry on this one on principle, and I love them as prose poems.

    2) Yes, I will buy it. Do it!!! They’re so lovely, Dave.

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  16. Many desk calendars print words on every day, so I agree that would not likely deter.

    You might also include a 140-character space each day for the purchaser’s own description. I, for one, would love to be chivvied into creating a record of my own year of seeing.

    Hard-print-twit?

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  17. (O.K, a bit of a tangent, but I’ve gone ahead and created an email subscription option for the Morning Porch via Feedburner, and put a subscription link into the header of the main site.)

    jo(e) – Yes, you’re probably right about having to do more to them than just rearrange if I do decide to go ahead and poemify them. But ultimately, as you suggest, the easiest and most straightforward approach – printing all 365 (from Jan 1 to Dec. 31?) in order might have the most popular appeal.

    Theriomorph – Thanks for weighing in. It seems you’re in the majority here.

    JMartin – That’s an interesting idea, but it might be easier to get people to try it online. At least for me, if I tried to do it with men and paper, it would quickly turn into an unreadable mess of cross-outs and additions. It usually takes me 10-15 minutes to compose each tweet online, and the reverse character counters that Twitter and Identica offer are invaluable as as I add and subtract stuff. So if I were to do this kind of calendar, I’d probably provide a couple of lines for a “hard-print tweet” as you suggest, but wouldn’t go so far as to include little boxes for each character or space.

    I’m thinking maybe the logical thing to do would be to publish two or three annual anthologies first, and if they create any kind of buzz, then think about recycling them into calendars, which would obviously be quite a bit more trouble to produce.

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  18. You are certainly more disciplined at this Twitter poetry business than I am. I admire your ability to see the world new in 140 characters each morning.

    I do think of the entries as poetry (yours, not mine) but don’t think them particularly enhanced by line breaks except that it slows the eye — not sure that’s always a good thing.

    To be honest, I probably wouldn’t buy a book for myself because I like to read the Morning Porch each morning on Twitter (flawed as Twitter is). I can see myself buying a book or a calendar as a gift, though.

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  19. Hi Sherry – Thanks for the input. I am always glad for your company on Twitter (though you do realize there are a lot more poets on Identica, right?).

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  20. One year is a great achievement. Well done!

    I’m a stingy customer, so if I was going to buy a book or calendar, I’d be paying for something other than the text (because I could see that online for free). Whatever the physical object was would need to be really beautiful or quirky or something.

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  21. Thanks. I’ll keep that in mind. I’m stingy too, which is why “quirky” sounds a lot more doable than “beautiful”!

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  22. This is what I want: A pocket calendar with TMP as prose poems. (No line breaks, please.) One per day, spiral-bound. A few photos (week markers?) or sketches. Places to write, nice typography (of course you would). May I have one, please? I will pay for it. (I adore having full calendar year before and after, for planning and what-not.) I like what-not.

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  23. Wouldn’t they be awfully small and hard to read in a pocket calendar format? I guess I’m not familar enough with pocket calendars…

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  24. “There is a certain marketing appeal to a Twitter book, I think, which might be diminished if I turned them into poems.” Interesting. What’s a poem? (rhetorical question).

    I prefer them (whatever they are) without the line breaks, fwiw.

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  25. LP – Humbling to realize that, judging from this thread, my readership probably has a more sophisticated grasp of what constitutes poetry than I do.

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  26. Everyone – Thanks again for the terrific feedback. I received an additional three messages via Facebook, Twitter/Identica, and email. Putting them all together, I’m hearing:

    – an overwhelming preference for keeping the Morning Porch as-is, in prose (which seems to be poetry enough for most people)

    – a generally positive reaction to the idea of a book and/or calendar.

    Reading these in order, as originally presented, is obviously very important to people. Beyond that, there’s little agreement on the type of printed product. I’m a little reluctant to pursue the idea of a calendar, because in addition to the extra work that might be required to design it, my idea with commiting my words to paper is to create a more permanent home for them, not something as ultimately disposable as a calendar. But I’ll keep thinking about this.

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  27. You could omit the specific year as fairly irrelevant, and so render the printed content archetypal rather than disposable. I must say that I read each date, however, as that poem’s title.

    TMP: A Book of Days? One Hollow’s Year?

    In whatever form, this work is entirely too wonderful to exist only in the Twitterverse. But act fast, before we start circulating as samizdat.

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  28. Yes, the dates are titles – absolutely.

    Would you be willing to write a blurb in exchange for a free copy or two?

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  29. Absolutely yes!

    Although blurb clashes with tweet/twitter.

    A burble?

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  30. A bleep! (better, I think, than a bleat).

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  31. “Bleep” strikes me as a good term for a promo on Twitter itself. Or maybe a twurb. A blurb for a Twitter book I’d call a blurt.

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  32. I suppose I’ll have to send you a mock-up :-) with blurts.

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