Each of the 47 poems in Jude Neale’s latest book—her eighth—was written in a matter of hours.
Impromptu came out of an International Poetry Month challenge to respond to a daily writing prompt.
Every morning last April, Jude would get up at 5 a.m., eager to rise to that day’s challenge.
“It was like unwrapping a Christmas present. I never knew it was going to be.”
One day it could be surrealism, the next an elegy, or a Shakespearian sonnet. By the end of April, Jude had 30 poems. But she liked the challenge so much that she asked for 17 more prompts.
“And I sent them off to my publisher and he said ‘what a great book!’” Explained Jude.
One of Jude’s favourite prompts was to use two lines of a Shakespearean sonnet and create a whole new poem.
“That thou among the wastes of time must go,/Then of thy beauty do I question make, you ask me once again” (that’s the Shakespeare part) becomes Jude’s own reckoning with aging. “I am but a thorny rose,/whose blossoms fair and sweet/doth bloom, in the deepest days of this long winter.”
Joni Mitchell’s 1970 classic “Big Yellow Taxi” also makes an appearance in the varied but always personal series of poems alongside Psalm 23.
“What makes these poems different is that within a strict structure I was always telling my own story,” Jude wrote in an email after our conversation. “What condensed for me was love.”“These poems are of light and love, betrayal and sadness, journey and quest.
“I received a gift each morning with which to explore my own world.”
Jude said that this is her favourite yet book. “It was the most challenging, the most difficult, the most rewarding and I’m very goal-oriented when I write...and I met every goal.
“Everything is autobiographical, almost,” Jude told me. “[It’s] like reading a story of my life.”
Prompt six, “Using “if” write about changing negative to positive,” became “Changes.”
“If I let go of worry I would be filled with the sacred reflection of/possibilities opening like a flower.”
“I’m pretty devastated about what’s going on with the world right now and feel pretty impotent,” said Jude. “This poem was the perfect way to change that.”
As the book is also essentially a series of writing exercises, Jude describes Impromptu as “a perfect book for writers.”
“Because so often writers say ‘I don’t know what to write about,” said Jude. “And here it is, all provided for you.” She’s even used the book in teaching students at Island Pacific School about poetry.
Impromptu is published by Ekstasis Editions and Jude is holding a book launch 4 p.m. March 8 at Collins Hall.
Come June, Jude will be at Joy Kogawa House for her next project.