garden door image

Hysteria 2020 April writing challenge with Eithne Cullen

April the first is not a joke in my household, instead it heralds the start of this year’s Hysteria Writing Competition. And this year our Writer in Residence is Eithne Cullen. Eithne has been given the challenge of coming up with a blog post each month that challenge you to get your thinking hats on and try something new out.

Sometimes ideas come crashing into our heads and sometimes it’s hard to think of things to write about. When I’m stuck I turn to prompts. Each April NaPoRhiMoNet ( sends out daily prompts and starters. I tried the first one today. I must admit, I found it hard to get my head around it, so I went for my daily walk (lockdown!) came home and tried again. The image that came to mind was a garden: you can never finish the work as the seasons change and things come back, like weeds to annoy you. Here’s the prompt, and the poem I came up with.

This month’s writing challenge

I’d like to challenge you to write a self-portrait poem in which you make a specific action a metaphor for your life – one that typically isn’t done all that often, or only in specific circumstances. For example, bowling, or shopping for socks, or shovelling snow, or teaching a child to tie its shoes.

My  life’s a…

a secret garden

where people rarely go

but beauty slips in

unannounced like

flowers that just appear,

and joyful news arrives

the way courgettes

materialise and surprise,

and all the picky little

things that crop up to annoy

are the goose grass,

clover, moss in the lawn –

the things I have to clear.

Each hurt the thorns

that tear and snag,

each pain a nettle sting,

each sadness dew on morning grass,

each joy the birds that sing.

When things are not so clear to me

and anxiety take as hold

the little pushy crocuses

with saffron heads of gold.

Eithne Cullen

When you’ve finished the writing challenge why not submit it to the Hysteria Writing Competition – you never what might happen and you could even be published!

Image courtesy: Mabel Amber on

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