a curious thing, this—
a seed that does not drop until
fire hath eaten up the underbrush of certainties
There is no hopelessnessin loving you.
Precision, yes, and care, delicacy.
Awareness of your absence, bittersweet, and yet:
you don't trail lonely echoes in your wake
or scatter ghosts of leaves, however crisp
your absence cuts rather like vinegar
and pickled thus everything is flavor
almost too intense to bear
your shadow stretches out before me:
still your light casts my life into relief
Dearest, note how these two are alike:
This harpsicord pavane by Purcell
And the racer’s twelve-speed bike.
The machinery of grace is always simple.
This chrome trapezoid, one wheel connected
To another of concentric gears,
Which Ptolemy dreamt of and Schwinn perfected,
Is gone. The cyclist, not the cycle, steers.
And in the playing, Purcell’s chords are played away.
So this talk, or touch if I were there,
Should work its effortless gadgetry of love,
Like Dante’s heaven, and melt into the air.
If it doesn’t, of course, I’ve fallen. So much is chance,
So much agility, desire, and feverish care,
As bicyclists and harpsicordists prove
Who only by moving can balance,
Only by balancing move.
-- Michael Donaghy
I used to be a pianist and a hiker, and these days I typically use a wheelchair when I leave the house, and my RSI means the most music I usually do is singing. It's been an... interesting transition to make, to say the least; and speaking of interesting transitions, to this day if I am walking late at night I will shift my gait from masculine-typical to feminine-typical and back again depending on what I think's warranted by my surroundings.
This all ties in with bodies, of course: the body as vehicle; motion between places, between states. Here is a thing I love: the way that we can suggest motion through structure, through rhythm, through assonance and onomatopoeia.
And we can also suggest stillness or constraint: I mentioned, yesterday, the strictures of poetry and how they relate to bodies; but I will also never forget the unseen poem in my GCSE English Literature exam, which was about being imprisoned - and was in sonnet form.
Robert Frost, of course, manages motion and stillness all at once.
And so: this is a way for us to talk about tension, about change of state, about - again - loss, but also about not having to be good, and it's not in the words, or at least not quite or not only in them.
Let's be clear: the poems I link to are not required reading for engaging in comments. They're just things I think you might be interested in, at least some of them.
And so, predictably, I am going to ask you to add to my own hoard of poems: what are your favourite examples of poetry in motion?
I apologise that I have not, anywhere in this post, included any trains - but what I will leave you with (and oh, but this leads in to my next post for you) is a tightrope.
This is the word tightrope. Now imagine
a man, inching across it in the space
between our thoughts. He holds our breath.
There is no word net.
You want him to fall, don't you?
I guessed as much; he teeters but succeeds.
The word applause is written all over him.
-- Carol Ann Duffy
"There's something intimate about secrecy. When someone glances about and lowers their voice, you instinctively lean in. Whatever it is that the two of you discuss, your soft-voiced conversation creates a illusion of a private space, one set apart from the crowded world outside.
"Let's create such a space here [...]" Thus begins the Covert Collaboration Challenge, "a little experiment in secrecy as a recipe for intimacy". Over the course of a week, myself and my eight fellow Society members wrote two original sonnets; the majority of the lines in each were written with only one to two preceding lines for reference, and in the case of the second sonnet, the prompt ("spontaneous musicals, or What if life was more like theater?'").
( full text of the 'Shakespearean' sonnet behind the cut )
( full text of the 'loose Petrarchean' sonnet behind the cut )
All are welcome to comment and discuss. Society members, was this experiment successful in fostering intimacy? Do you have any favorite exchanges or quotes you'd like to share from our Top Secret discussion threads?
peel your clementines
like compass stars, and your trash
will bloom orange suns
silver and gold diadems
abandoned, tarnish and fade
while plastic wrappers
float on distant seas, tawdry
amidst glass lures, forgotten
in the ocean's lulling waves
the global local
the distant piscine choking
on our convenience
( Further commentary behind the cut )
Some starting places for discussion:
If this poem was written by three writers instead of two, and you were the third writer, what alternative third stanza might you write in place of 'while plastic wrappers...', etc.? Where do you think the new poem might go from there?
Does this feel like a cohesive poem, or a collection of disparate images? Are there particular key words or concepts that link two or more stanzas together?
Have you ever participated in writing haikai or other collaborative poetry yourself? How is it different from writing poetry on your own?
( Leave kudos behind the cut )
This next poem was started from the last line first, switching off lines. I *may* have added two lines here and there as I got overwhelmed by the creative impulse, but it sorted itself out. If you've never written a poem backwards, I highly recommend it as a format. If you've never written a poem backwards with another person, I recommend that as well.
You are welcome to steal our first/last line: "and all that for a ha'penny" - or come up with something of your own. We'd love to see the output of your creative endeavors sometime, particularly at the Sunday Picnic! I dare you...
that time you nicked my penny for your plots
at first the day ballooned with sharp words, but
I couldn't win against your mock solemnity
we laughed through the ferris wheel
circling around each others' hands,
until the sun's last cheerful hurrah saw us
finished at the fair, exhausted and spent
fingers sticky with cotton candy --
and all that for a ha'penny.
I would like to leave kudos for this poem
I'm thinking of writing a backwards poem for the Sunday Picnic!
Some other time perhaps
Every poll needs a duck!
This poem evolved almost exactly a 24 hour period from start to title. As we were nearing our deadline, each poet contributed a larger chunk of lines than in previous poems (3-5ish), sometimes stopping mid-line to let the other poet finish the thought. The theme was "artistic creation", the form free-form.
One of the things I really enjoyed about writing this particular pell-mell poem was the way we played with melding words. For example, in one exchange jjhunter ended with the word "quick", to which I added "-ening" thus changing the direction of the poem. I love that jjhunter just ran with it, and the synergy created there gave the poem a greater depth to its central theme and ultimately (I'm guessing, since jjhunter chose the title) helped lead to the choice in title.
Without further ado, here's the poem...
Room thunderswept, mind electrocuted,
the ideas swell-and-fade in currents and eddies,
elusive and overpowering. Sometimes
soulwrenchingly lost in the pell-mell tang
of creative synergy when one thread drops
and the others race on, electric in their mania
quickening, a first stirring of creation
or is it triplets quintuplets septuplets
surely one or two will be sacrificed in the birth
of a novel, a love poem, an heirloom quilt
kill your darlings stitched into institutional
whizzing, into the seasons and the harvest king
myth and mistaken and mapping nature
onto humanity as if a muse could be caught
tamped down, distilled into an essence
displayed on a dignified gallery wall
when all all is pursuit, the wild hunt
and beware those who get swept up in it
for there is no perfect art
I would like to leave kudos on this poem
Who do you think started this poem? Answer revealed tomorrow!
jjhunter started it!
lizcommotion started it!
stitched from each poet's muse, handsewn smile recites ragdoll poetry
this arm drawn from a faded childhood dress worn
sepia with adventure, that one from summer skin
burnished smooth with coaxing snails out their front door holes
memories ragged around the edges, smudged by fingers
mucky from ink pens and filching chocolate chip cookies
the way you say hello in my voice, my diction echoed in yours
wordshop duality into one poem, one ragged edge joined to ragged heart
first the baritone of breathing
the baseline beating
the magnum spin of light
next the liquid counterpoint
goes up to heaven and down again
as rain, as sleet and snow
and silent swirl of fog
while chain the carbons breathed by leaves
and ooze the currents down below
and hurtle this whole dancing enterprise
through space around the sun
so we are never really still, you and I,
but adjusting always
never so silent that we are not living song
( Behind the cut, some questions for discussion )
One of my favorite poetry formats is haikai (alternating verses of 5-7-5 and 7-7), or more specifically haikai no renga, which today is known more simply as renku. It is a form of collaborative Japanese linked verse poetry; the more well known form (in English) haiku comes from taking the first verse of a haikai in isolation. I like haikai because I usually write them in collaboration with one or more other poets (with some exceptions), and the strict syllable count for each verse limits its length, making it more likely someone else will take the time to respond.( Some further thoughts about English-language derivatives of Japanese-language poetry formats )
I have not run into many other poets using an English-language haikai format. As mentioned above, it's one that I prefer because the strict syllable counts and overall brevity of stanzas make it an easy format for facilitating collaborative poetry between two or more people. Sometimes I also write non-collaborative haikai when I want a slightly more expansive format than English-language haiku without losing the power of its precision and short, restrained lines.
( Example poem 'Civitatis' behind the cut )
Have you ever written or participated in writing an English-language haikai yourself? I'll repost 'Civitatis' in the comments, and I encourage you to try adding a stanza yourself to the thread according to the alternating 5-7-5 and 7-7 stanza format.
( Some thoughts on the implications of 'haiku' being a linguistic transplant )
The upshot of transplanting the original format from Japanese is that the haiku in English doesn’t map neatly onto the usual rhyme and rhythm schemes of native English or Romance language poetry formats. It is visually distinct and instantly recognizable to a general audience without facilitating sing-song sloppiness or verbose obscurity. By its nature, it challenges the poet to be both succinct and precise, and as a result can pack a significant punch behind its deceptively simple three lines.
genealogy(Source: 'Poem For Your Thoughts?': Special US Voter Registration Edition fill for nagasvoice’s prompt ‘pay it forward’)
of helping hands reminds us
In my opinion, the haiku’s short format makes it ideal for micro-poetry events such as my occasional How Are You? (in Haiku) days. Whether or not you have thoughts to share concerning the main content of this post, I encourage you to write a haiku in the comments responding to the following prompt:
Pick a thing or two that sums up how you're doing today, this week, in general, and tell me about it in the 5-7-5 syllables of a haiku. I will leave anonymous comments screened unless otherwise asked; feel free to use this to leave private comments if that's what you're most comfortable with.
what I can say in
or one thing concise.
To get us started, please share one or more of your favorite haikus in the comments. What makes such haiku work for you?
( Poll to leave kudos behind the cut )
Mysterious paper 'poetree' sculpture - photo by chrisdonia
What is a 'poetree'? It sounds like poetry, and looks like an elision of poet's tree. And in the case of the image above, it is a small, extraordinarily detailed paper sculpture of a tree lovingly crafted from strips of printed paper and mounted on a book. The anonymous artist who left it as a surprise gift at the Scottish Poetry Library a year and a half ago also left this message referencing the library's Twitter handle:
It started with your name @ByLeavesWeLive and became a tree… We know that a library is so much more than a building full of books… a book is so much more than pages full of words… This is for you in support of libraries, books, words, ideas…( Read more... )
There's one type of poetry (besides song lyrics) poetry explicitly doesn't take, and that's the poetry written by the poster. Less explicitly, there is a bias toward poetry that has been published on paper as opposed to posted online or shared through other more unorthodox channels.In other words, poetree was originally conceived as a version of poetry where poets could share their own poetry. The poetry discussion element that has become so central to poetree's identity today was literally an afterthought on the original signup post.
( Read more... )
* poetree's first Guest Host was David Kopaska-Merkel. You can browse David's posts via his comm author tag.
* poetree's first multi-Hosted themed week centered on Poetry Complements. Click the link to read its introduction post and find links to individual posts from that week, including On illustrating poetry by guest artist meeks.
Appropriately, my chosen theme this week is editing. In my first post, I will focus on the difference one outstanding piece of feedback can make in the revision process. In the second, I'll take a broader view and discuss my recent experience in a semester-long poetry workshop. The third is a wildcard post yet to be determined.
For more about me, J.J., please see my first introduction post here at the comm or visit my personal journal jjhunter.
In a post earlier this week, Plunge magazine founder ailelie mentioned the importance of defining any idea, or really any organization, in three to five words. Six months in, I define POETREE as an ‘online poetry discussion community’. The community was originally envisioned as a supplement to the higher volume poetry, another Dreamwidth community that specializes in published poetry not the poster’s own, but quickly began to morph into something more interesting than that: a place where poets amateur and professional and poetry enthusiasts could share and discuss poems and poetry culture. Rather than being just another poetry mailing list, POETREE could take advantage of its host platform to facilitate conversation and and build up an archive of resources available free to anyone interested.
That dream is very much a work in progress, and the journey to realizing it has been alternatively humbling and exhilarating. For the first six months, I focused primarily on recruiting people to write content, and assumed that the audience for that content would materialize over time. The community has certainly grown a great deal -- we’re now at triple the number of members and subscribers that we had in December -- but the amount of discussion going on in the comments has been much more variable. This in turn makes it more difficult for the Hosts to gauge how many people are reading their posts, and (I worry) makes it less rewarding than it might otherwise be for people to Host in the first place.
This is not a guilt manifesto, but rather a place to begin. Earlier I defined POETREE as an ‘online poetry discussion community’; it’s worth asking ourselves, what makes us a community? Is participation a requirement for being part of the community? Where does that leave the lurkers, those who might be reading avidly but by preference or default tend not to comment on posts or have time to Host? ( Read more... )
What do you think? If you left the occasional ‘kudos’ comment, what format would it take? Do you have ideas beyond those already mentioned? What would you like to see in the comments?
As previously mentioned, the most successful villanelles have two strong, flexible refrain lines. It is thus well worth spending a fair amount of time on your first stanza, since not only will you be repeating the first and third lines throughout the piece and deriving your ultimate 'oomph!' from finally placing them one after the other at the end of the poem, but you will have to rhyme the ends of other lines with the final word of your second line no less than five times.
Here are three sample first stanzas from my own work, in order of oldest to latest. (The final one was my submission to stillnotbored's February First Line Contest, which closes tomorrow - I highly recommend checking it out.)
the poet's tree:
a pebble from a pool of poetry
falls from the page to break my surface calm
I come to rest beneath the poet's tree
Mornings recall her to her lie
dreams washed away in the shower
and the birds sing hello, goodbye
Her bones remembered the proper shape-
though time leached their strength and weighed her eyes
she had only her sweet flesh to drape
( Further discussion and full text of 'Proper Shape' behind the cut )
Finally, if villanelles are so difficult to write in comparison to, say, a haiku or a free form poem, why would anyone choose to write them? I personally like doing them because they require so much focus and skill. The format is such that I have to completely close out the world around me for an hour or two and just give myself permission to play with words and sounds and concepts. The product may not always be devastatingly brilliant, but I surface feeling cleansed, much like having gone on a long run or having solved a difficult sudoku or having finished translating a passage from Ovid. I have put some small subset of the world in order, and it rhymed to boot.
The French are to blame for the villanelle. Or, more specifically, minor nineteenth French poet Wilhelm Ténint is responsible for accidentally turning a single obscure sixteenth century poem into an entire 'Renaissance form' that his contemporary Théodore de Banville then 'revived' and popularized. The form hopped the channel - and the language barrier - from French to English in 1877 with Edmund Gosse's "A Plea for Certain Exotic Forms of Verse", and has essentially never looked back since.
In English, the villanelle consists of five stanzas of three rhyming lines (i.e. five tercets) and a concluding four line stanza (i.e. a quatrain). So far, so similar to other interlocking forms like the terza rima. What distinguishes the villanelle is that, of a total of nineteen lines, a full six lines are alternating repeats of the first and third lines. This 'dual refrain' can be powerful, but it requires two brilliant lines that play off each other well.
( Breakdown of format with using first stanza of modern example )
Here's another example, one whose copyright is a bit more permissive:
( 'Do not go gentle into that good night' )
( Questions for Discussion )
Refrain Again: The Return of the Villanelle by Amanda French (text available for free online; I highly recommend it!)
( et al. )
Format: Villanelle (Pt. 2 of 2)
This is a post about a poem as a complement, or perhaps a complement as a necessary evolutionary step for creating a poem. It is the story of how this
The book hits me directly in the heart
a beam of light that shatters me
into a thousand pieces
and salt-water flows out from the edges
( Read more... )
Last year I participated in the annual Yuletide Challenge. Yuletide, for those unfamiliar with it, is the fandom equivalent of a Secret Santa exchange where every participant is assigned another participant who has written prompts for three to four obscure/rarely written about fandoms. The canons, i.e. source material, range from mythology to TV commercials, books to antropomorphic websites. (I'm particularly fond of The Old Spice Guy commercial interpretation of Beowulf written by Castiron, the poem Gamol-léac.) Each participant writes a minimum of a thousand words responding to one of their assigned prompts and submits it late in December; on Christmas morning the archive goes live with all the authors listed as anonymous. On January 1st, the authors are revealed.
I chose to write a poem in response to the following prompt from desertport:
I've studied the poem a few times in lit classes and wrote a little about what the critics have to say about the monsters, a topic that was fascinating. (Haven't read James Gardner's Grendel yet.) One of the most interesting lines of discussion concerned Grendel's mother, her monstrousness, her namelessness, and how she herself lives by the Anglo-Saxon heroic warrior code. Another thing that intrigues me is the silent role of women in general. We have several women in a variety of circumstances whose lives and thoughts I wish I were privy to. Yet another thing that interests me is the poem itself. Who wrote it and when? What were the circumstances of it being written? Where did the story come from? Why was it transcribed and kept? Meta in the form of fic is always a good thing, if you wanted to go that route. Please, go crazy!
The result? A 1,097 word piece inspired by the Seamus Heaney translation of Beowulf that weaves together the stories of Beowulf's mother and Grendel's mother. Other references include John Gardner's Grendel, as well as Alivin A. Lee's Gold-Hall and Earth-Dragon: Beowulf as Metaphor. Beta credit goes to moragmacpherson, who was a solid bastion of support despite her claimed 'tin ear' for poetry, and for peoppenheimer, who is a wonderful poet in his own right.
So. The honor-women in days gone by
and the men who ruled them had grace and greatness.
We have heard of their sons’ heroic campaigns.
There was Hrethel’s daughter, cup-bearer to the Geats
soother of mead-halls, weaving peace between king and thanes.
The All-Father favored her with beauty.
She was not destined to be a queen in a foreign land;
her father kept her close to home.
Dressed in gold-finery, she served high and low alike
performing the courtesies, setting other women to shame
with her example. She was a right woman.
In time Hrethel gave this gem-woman to mighty Ecgtheow
as reward for his loyalty, sealing the bond between them.
The treasure-giver honored his thane with his only daughter.
She became mistress of her own household,
a balm in bed to the battle-hewn warrior
and a comfort to his people.
Lightly she stepped in the mead-hall, listening
always for words roused in anger or formal boast.
The torque-bearer bestowed her golden favor
with care, heart-sore with worry
for Geat-land was beset with monsters,
the great Hrethel hard-pressed to keep his borders strong.
The Lord of All Things was testing his thane
giving the shield of his people chance to show his courage
and prove his war-band’s might against unnatural foes.
( Read more... )
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
Since I joined Dreamwidth, I've worked on three different haiku/haikai-related projects. The first is a set of threads over at dw_codesharing where I offer an invitation code to anyone willing to write a haiku about why they want to join Dreamwidth; I also write a haiku in return that plays off whatever themes and imagery the first haiku introduces. You can find the original thread at the second codes wanted post and a followup thread on the current codes wanted post (#3); some of the exchanges are really lovely.
The second project is an offshoot of the first: a comm specifically for Dreamwidth-related haiku/haikai: dreamwidth_haikai. Of especial note there is alee_grrl's piece snow-tinged dreaming, which has some wonderful continuations in the comments; my piece Letters to the Dreaming World, which was featured in a dw_news post last September; and a series of pieces for the second three_weeks_for_dw (3W4DW) anniversary fest.
Today's poem is from the third project, the 2011 April Haiku/Haikai Fest that I hosted on my journal jjhunter. In celebration of National Poetry Month, I posted an original poem seed every day for a month and invited others to continue the poem in the comments. 'Blue' is from April 8th; blockquotes are verses written by alee_grrl while lines not in blockquotes were written by me.
color is pigment
here: a homemade pastel of
cobalt and sapphire hued glasslapis lazuli
spark-sunlight off mountain lakes
ocean on open ocean
clothes Mary richly
Speckled shells of powder blue peekwhat butterfly net
from the nest-a hint of spring.
Such color in hues
so varied words sometimes fail.
We try anyway
to catch the beauty before
us. So rich a world have we.
can catch the blue of his eyes
swipe hue from berry
snatch more than camera can?
an artist's brush records most
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.