raze: a grinning dog (smile)
[personal profile] raze
Poetry is, to many, a medium of love. What springs to mind are Shakespearean sonnets and awkward limericks in Valentine's day cards and how to impress your 7th-grade crush. Read on... )

Friendship as Intimacy
Romantic love may be passionate and exciting and able to sweep you off your feet... but friendship will always be there to buy you ice cream and say, you were too good for him/her, anyway - and it won't say, I told you so even though it probably did. Read on... )

Featured Poem: An Origin Story
Project V.O.I.C.E. founders Phil Kaye & Sarah Kay are two friends who found each other through a mutual gift for poetry, storytelling, and the spoken word. Listen & Read, plus things to pay attention to )

Optional Challenge
Is there a special friend in your life who you feel you need to say something to or about after reading/listening? Take this opportunity to write a poem of any format for or about them and share it in the comments. I'll share a silly little Haiku below, and will post a longer poem in the comments to get the ball rolling.

A friendship poem by yours truly )

Additional Reading
The Vinegar Club by Andrea Gibson
Love and Friendship by Emily Brontë
Helen Steiner Rice also wrote a number of poems about friendship, which you can find together in a collection here.
kaberett: Overlaid Mars & Venus symbols, with Swiss Army knife tools at other positions around the central circle. (Default)
[personal profile] kaberett
One: I am trans and I am disabled. For me, intimacy often has physical aspects: [personal profile] lightgetsin wrote an excellent essay on some of these intersections, last year, entitled Do I Do It For You? Service kink and disability, on some of the ways in which disability can encourage or compel physical - and emotional - intimacy.

Two: when we talk about intimacy, about trust, we often frame it in terms of the physical. In terms of romance, yes: we fall in and out of love, and making that fall physical is only a little stretch; but also in terms of closeness, as Simon Armitage's Homecoming: Think, two things on their own and both at once/The first, that exercise in trust, where those in front/stand with their arms spread wide and free-fall/backwards, blind, and those behind take all the weight...

These are my two things, each on their own and both at once. These are what I carry with me when I offer you this poem.

For more about this poem - in origin terms - please see Gabe Moses' website, and his reading of the poem.

How To Make Love To A Trans Person, Gabe Moses [explicit; detailed discussion of surgery] )
cadenzamuse: Cross-legged girl literally drawing the world around her into being (Default)
[personal profile] cadenzamuse
Hi! I'm [personal profile] cadenzamuse, and I'm hosting a week on some Atlanta spoken word/slam poets that I like.

I am not a slam or spoken word poet, so I don't know very much about it other than a: it's an out loud/performed type of poetry and b: I like it. So I turned to Wikipedia to learn about the basics.

Wikipedia says that modern spoken-word poetry originated from the poetry of the Harlem Renaissance and was also shaped by the beatniks. It has deep roots in Black culture and politics.

Poetry slams are spoken-word poetry competitions that started in the mid-1980s. Slam poetry has roots in dub poetry and hip-hop (which are also both often political art forms).

But that's really dry. So how about some spoken word self-definitions?

Become a slam poet in five steps, by Gayle Danley
Transcript from Youtube, with ersatz stanza breaks by cadenzamuse )

Some questions to discuss:
  • Have you encountered spoken word poetry before? What have you liked or disliked about it?
  • How do you define spoken word poetry?
  • How is spoken word poetry similar to or different from other forms of poetry developed by oppressed populations?

Some things to try:
  • Write a spoken word poem following the steps laid out by Gayle Danley. Feel free to share it with us!
  • If you have some extra time, watch another excellent introduction to spoken word poetry at the TED Talk "If I Should Have a Daughter" by Sarah Kay.
lnhammer: lo-fi photo of a tall, thin man - caption: "some guy" (Default)
[personal profile] lnhammer
I have what has sometimes been described[1] as an unfortunate taste for bad poetry. I relish it the way some people enjoy bad movies or bad novels. I'm talking about the sort of stuff where, if you meet a line like Of compost shall the Muse disdain to sing?[2] the answer will invariably and unfortunately be No.

And just as there are qualities of badness that make something a "good bad movie" enjoyable, or as TV Tropes puts it So Bad It's Good, so for poetry. The best bad verse reaches beyond the creator's abilities. Ye average teen angst verse has nothing on William McGonagall — of whom more anon. Mere technical incompetence is not enough, however. There must be more.

Such as bathos — the "art of sinking," as Pope & Co. called it. High-flown imagery soaring into a mundane thump is a wondrous thing.
But ah! when first to breathe man does begin
He then inhales the noxious seeds of sin,
Which every goodly feeling does destroy
And more or less his after-life annoy.[3]

And then there's disjoints between style and substance:
"Lord Byron" was an Englishman
    A poet I believe,
His first works in old England
    Was poorly received.
Perhaps it was "Lord Byron's" fault
    And perhaps it was not.
His life was full of misfortunes,
    Ah, strange was his lot.[4]

Victories of sound over sense:
In the music of the morns,
Blown through Conchimarian horns,
Down the dark vistas of the reboantic Norns,
To the Genius of Eternity,
Crying: "Come to me! Come to me!"[5]

Tin ears:
When I came to the little rose-colour'd room,
   From the curtains out flew a bat.
The window stood open: and in the gloom
   My love at the window sat.[6]

Underbaked diction:
And now, kind friends, what I have wrote,
   I hope you will pass o'er,
And not to criticise as some have done
   Hitherto herebefore.[7]

Overheated diction:
"Ne'er will I quit th' undeviating line,
Whose source thou art, and thou the law divine.
The Sun shall be subdued, his system fade,
Ere I forsake the path thy fiat made;
Yet grant one soft regretful tear to flow,
Prompted by pity for a Lover's woe,
O grant without revenge, one bursting sigh,
Ere from his desolating grief I fly—
'Tis past,—Farewell! Another claims my heart;
Then wing thy sinking steps, for here we part,
We part! and listen, for the word is mine,
Anna Matilda never can be thine!"[8]

Unfortunate kennings:
Would any feather'd maiden of the wood,
Or scaly female of the peopled flood,
When lust and hunger call'd, its force resist?
In abstinence or chastity persist?[9]

Incompatible metaphors:
Life scums the cream of Beauty with Time's spoon[10]

Depleted banalities:
                                        Still I toil.
How long and steep and cheerless the ascent!
It needs the evidence of close deduction
To know that I shall ever reach the height![11]

And thundering bores:
Thus, if a Government agrees to give,
Whenever Public Companies are formed,
To each a dividend—say, six percent
Per annum ... [12]

Before exploring the swamplands for more, be warned: ye average volume of bad poetry has a higher body count than a teen slasher flick, deployed to even less emotional effect. Yes, there are volumes — poeple collect this stuff. The above are all culled[13] from The Stuffed Owl ed. by Wyndham Lewis and Lee, which is one of the essential collections for aspiring poets — as object lessons, if nothing else. I'll compile a bibliography in a later post.

But as for what makes bad poetry so attractive -- that, I'm on less clear ground. I hope to explore the topic later this week.

Does anyone else have a taste for bad poetry? What are your favorites?


Note and Citations:
1. By me.
2. James Grainger, The Sugar Cane.
3. Robert Peter, On Time, Death, and Eternity.
4. Julia Moore, Lord Byron's Life. The quotes are original; ditto the grammar.
5. Thomas Chivers, The Poet's Vocation.
6. "Owen Meredith" a.k.a. Robert Bulwer-Lytton, Going Back Again. This is not the Bulwer-Lytton you're thinking of but rather his son.
7. Julia Moore, The Author's Early Life. She gets double-duty in this sampling because she comes up a lot in bad verse lists.
8. Robert Merry writing as Della Crusca, The Interview. The supposed speaker was in her mid-forties, and had not yet met the poet in person.
9. John, Lord Hervy, Epistle to Mr. Fox, from Hampton Court. The authorship is almost as boggling as the lines themselves — a young poet telling his beloved "the birds and fishes do it, so why can't you?" can be forgiven, where by "forgive" I mean "publicly and thoroughly mocked," but this is a Lord Privy Seal writing to his middle-aged friend.
10. Margaret Cavendish, A Posset for Nature's Breakfast.
11. Joseph Cottle, The Malvern Hills.
12. George Everleigh, Science Revealed — which, as as you can tell from this extract, is a work of natural theology.
13. Much like predators cull the weak from the herd.
poetree_admin: Paper sculpture of bulbuous tree made from strips of book pages (Default)
[personal profile] poetree_admin

Since today is an open slot on our These Hallowed Days week, the admins are opening it up for trick or treating, poetry-style. If you start a new comment thread on this post with the subject line 'trick or treat: [your prompt]', the POETREE community is invited to write and reply to that thread with haiku inspired by your prompt that fits the category of 'trick' or 'treat'. We hope you enjoy exchanging haiku!
lnhammer: lo-fi photo of a tall, thin man - caption: "some guy" (Default)
[personal profile] lnhammer
The Kokinwakashu ("Collection of Old and New Japanese Poetry"), or Kokinshu for short, was the first imperially commissioned anthology of poetry in Japanese, compiled around 905 CE by a panel of four leading young poets of the day. This was a cultural watershed -- it firmly cemented the reputation of Japanese as a valid language for poetry, as opposed to the Chinese in vogue for the prior century and a half, and it set what was acceptable in terms of diction, subjects, and images for court poetry (and by omission, what was not acceptable) for the next thousand years minus a couple decades.

Background notes on the collection, verse form, Japanese grammar, and the collapse of ambiguity (if not civilization itself). )

For what it's worth, my philosophy of translation is to render my best understanding of the original's sense while reproducing as much as possible of the poem's quality and structures -- sonic, linguistic, rhetorical, and so on. This involves not only interpretation, but trade-offs. For example, the normal sentence order of Japanese is almost, but not entirely, the complete reverse of English. This means that in a literal prose paraphrase of a poem that's one long clause, the nouns, verbs, and adjectives are in the opposite order in English from the original. If the sequence of images these substantives call up is not important to the poem's effect -- for example, if the mainspring of the poetry is a witty metaphor -- then this reversal does no real damage. But if the images form a careful progression, such as sweeping from a wide scene down to a small detail, it is probably better to maintain that sequence as best as possible, at the expense of breaking up the smooth swoop of a single clause.

Trade-offs. Just like in any poem, or any other work of art.

For this week, I've chosen three Kokinshu poems that highlight different problems of translation. I'm afraid there's far more prose than verse in these posts -- partly because the poems are so small, but mostly it's that it takes a lot to unpack these lovely puzzle-boxes that are Japanese verse. Starting on the next rock, coming tomorrow.

Until then, for discussion: those of you who translate, what is your philosophy/practice? What do you focus on the most?

A modest footnote )

dave_bonta: (Default)
[personal profile] dave_bonta

In their kivas at Shiwanna
the medicine priests preserve
their most arcane chants
in a foreign language, songs
attributed to the ancient Founder
of the healing arts: a gambler,
a vagabond chased from town to town
by stone-throwing children,
disappearing at last into the invisible
realm of the spirit animals
in the mountains to the east:
Shipapulima, city of mists.

Read more... )
rbarenblat: (Default)
[personal profile] rbarenblat
A bit more than ten years ago I took my MFA at Bennington. It was an amazing experience. I still miss the ways in which being a poetry grad student gave me "permission" to focus on poetry. (It's a little bit analagous to how being a rabbinic student, later on, gave me permission to focus on Judaism and Torah.) But back when I was a Benningtonian, I did not think I would go to rabbinic school. On the contrary, I felt that Judaism and I were on the outs. And yet I found myself somehow irresistably drawn to reading Jewish literature, and to writing poems which had Judaic content.

More... )

Poem below the cut! )


Jan. 18th, 2012 08:12 am
jjhunter: Paper sculpture of bulbuous tree made from strips of book pages (poetree admin icon)
[personal profile] jjhunter
Posted by [personal profile] jjhunter on behalf of Luisa Igloria.

In a few of my beginning poetry workshops, I have students write a single line--- something that conveys with sharpness and precision either an image, an observation, a feeling, or a thought--- many times over. It's harder to do than it sounds. But it is so important, as the line is one of the most basic of the poem's syntactical structures.

How many ways can a line be written? Try five. Or twenty for starters. But the beauty of this exercise is when one begins to realize that a line can take on different forms and ways of saying. It can be declarative, it can be demonstrative; it can meander, or be curt. It can gather and accumulate as it goes.

It can shed weight, aspire toward lightness, or even mystery. One of the ways in which it can do the latter, as the masterful poet Pablo Neruda has shown us, is in the form of a question.

I like the condition of mystery that is at the heart of poetry. That is, I don't necessarily believe that a poem has to work out all the conclusions it aspires to arrive at; or even leave the reader with the sense of having said something final. In fact, I tend to dislike or even mistrust poems which end with too much of the sense of an ending--- much in the same way I liked everything about fables except for the "moral" too explicitly tacked on to the end of the tale. I like poems that leave a little opening to somewhere--- a door or a window that can be jiggled open into further possibility.

This poem, which I wrote in April 2011 as part of the (now) more than 365 days of writing (at least) a poem a day and posting these at Dave Bonta's Via Negativa site, hopefully captures some of what I'm talking about here.

Twenty Questions

Has the darkness lifted?
Is the round bud of the maple not filled with longing?

How close can a room hold two, not speaking or touching?
Does every thought glint, is every fire stolen?

Is everything in the world immersed in the petroleum of desire?
Have the clocks been wound, has the coffeemaker been unplugged?

Has the crying from behind the keyhole subsided?
Do you see where the fabric holds the shape of shoulders?

Do you feel how the music rinses us clear?
Has the rain fed you with riddles?

Have I not been permeable to everything that has come?
Would you tell me where to lay this burden down?

Do you love the sweetness that precedes decay?
Do you love the light behind every green blade?

Do you love me homely?
Do you take me plain?

Have I not met you at every detour?
Can you tell me what it is that brings you back?

Each time, have we bent our heads to drink the water?
Would you lie here with me beneath this ceiling of stars?

—Luisa A. Igloria
04 09 2011
meeks: meeks and lorelei (Default)
[personal profile] meeks
Hello, I'm [personal profile] meeks and...I suppose I'm a rather unlikely person to be hosting a poetry discussion, since I'm not a poet, and I can't honestly claim to know very much about poetry! As a reader, I'm primarily attracted to poems that tell a story or describe a scene, and as an artist, I've found they can be a lot of fun to illustrate (and a few people here seem to think I'm actually good at it ;D).

The first poem I illustrated was Lorelei has a Dream by Michael S. S. Thedford. It's made up of 17 rhyming couplets about a hedgehog with an active imagination and a whole lot of books. We spent about four months collaborating on what turned into a 40-page picture book (currently available as a PDF ebook with an iBooks compatible ePub in the works, and hopefully a print edition if Mike can find the time to finish the kickstarter video /shameless plug ;)) I enjoyed it more than any project I had done in years, and more importantly, I actually liked the results. That's basically what convinced me to get back into illustration after giving it up when I finished school.

I've since done illustrations for nine more poems, as part of my Story Sketches project, and I've learned that illustrating a narrative poem is in some ways very much like illustrating a story in prose. I'm a very visual person, and if a story is well written, I'm almost always able to 'watch' the action unfold in my head as I read. Some of the prompts I receive are easy; the image is fully formed in my head as soon as I read the relevant scene. Others take a bit more work, and I need to do a few thumbnails before settling on a composition. If I haven't been told to focus on a particular scene (or verse), I typically look for something with a bit of action and/or interaction between characters. My goal is to capture a moment that draws the viewer in and ideally makes you want to know what happens next.

The thing about poetry that makes it simultaneously delightful and difficult to work with is that whether it's The Cat in the Hat or The Canterbury Tales, a story told in verse has a distinct character that often suggests a visual style, while typically (not always) offering very little actual description. To borrow from the quote with which [personal profile] jjhunter so aptly started the week: the challenge of poetry illustration is to translate the painting that is felt into a poem that can be seen. I don't know if I've always succeeded, but you're welcome to judge for yourself. :)
this is getting rather long, so I'll put the images under a cut )

I think I've covered everything I wanted to write…feel free to ask me any questions!
alee_grrl: Dot from Animaniacs wearing a Kimono (cuteness)
[personal profile] alee_grrl
I love the variety of forms and lengths in poetry. From epics to limericks, there is a length perfect for every occasion. Sometimes you want to immerse yourself in a poetic story, and sometimes you just have time for a short snippet. Little bite-sized poems can be tremendously fun to write. With a little bit of time, a splash of inspiration, a thesaurus (I find them helpful at least), and a quick decision regarding form (metered, unmetered, etc.), you can have a little nugget of poetry. This bits can be visually inspiring, humorous, insightful--just like their longer brethren. These forms are also great for collaboration, which is a fun game of playing off each others words. For some great examples of collaborative poetry here on DW, check out [community profile] dreamwidth_haikai. Since I'm doing short forms today I've included two poems. The first one is a short bit of blank verse inspired by looking at the railroad tracks and the house I live in one summer evening when the power had just gone out. The second is a haikai (thanks to [personal profile] jjhunter for turning me onto that particular form) that resulted from brain overload during a particularly stressful class this semester (dry and/or silly humor is one of my stress outlets). This will be my last post for the week. It's been a blast hosting!


silhouette trees against a darkening sky-
a house broods empty on a hill. lonely rails glint
silver in the dimming light-
everything looks haunted in the gloaming.

Braaaiiiinnnnssss (a law school haikai)

Print swirls across blank
page, energy and knowledge
seep out as you type;

eyes glaze over. Yes, zombie
brief eats your brains as you type.
luzula: a Luzula pilosa, or hairy wood-rush (Default)
[personal profile] luzula
I've always liked setting poetry to music. I think it started when I first read Tolkien at age eight or nine and making up melodies for the songs there.

It's hard to talk about how I do it, though! I mean, I love music and singing, and that's obviously a prerequisite. I most often make melodies that sound like folk music of some kind, because that's the sort of music I listen to most. I usually just go around humming and trying out different melodies and rhythms until I find one that works for me. Usually I won't write it down as sheet music, and neither will I be particularly bothered about the beat being regular--when I've tried to accompany myself with a guitar or something, I've often had to change the way I sing to make the beat more regular. Which is not to say that there isn't a beat, just that I've sung it in a freer way when I do it a capella.

Here's one I made fairly recently: it's fannish poetry by [personal profile] kill_claudio, originally posted here (the fandom is due South and the pairing Fraser/Kowalski, but it can hopefully be appreciated without context):

Shattered Light, by Kill Claudio )

God, I love that poem--it's heartbreaking. Anyway, this one's interesting because it's a set of haikus, so the rhythm of the song is going to have to work with that. Also, I want the melody to somehow indicate the sentence breaks as well as the line breaks, which means that there are variations in the melody between the verses. My sister is the one playing the guitar and singing harmony, and I remember that we wrote down fairly precisely what she was going to do with the guitar (for example make a small break after "full stop" *g*).

Here's a second one: it's Kipling's "Song of the Little Hunter" from the Jungle Book.

Song of the Little Hunter )

I did this one fairly long ago--maybe ten years ago?--so I don't remember much of the process. But I still like it. There's so much drama in it, and I get to act out all the stalking and the skittishness. And I like the language, too (but I remember having to practice saying "the lightning shows each littlest leaf-rib clear" fast without stumbling--there are a lot of consonants in there *g*). I also like how it lets me play around with volume, almost down to a whisper when the text calls for it.
jjhunter: Watercolor of daisy with blue dots zooming around it like Bohr model electrons (Default)
[personal profile] jjhunter
Posted on behalf of [personal profile] ysabetwordsmith for formatting reasons.

In the July 5, 2011 Poetry Fishbowl someone asked for a world-weary paladin rather than the spotless kind usually seen in fantasy and the result was "Shine On." That month's theme was "low fantasy" so this also lent to the mood and tone of the series. Things here have a grittier edge than is typical of most fantasy settings. Everyone loved the world-weary paladin idea and this became an instant hit; people selected the poem for a perk in which donors would get to leave prompts for an extra free poem. It was the first time that a poem went straight to series in that fashion so the donors got to have a lot of influence over what developed right from the beginning.

Shahana, then, is a paladin of Gailah, a deposed goddess. That seriously limits what she can do in the way of magic, and influences how different people see her. The world is a mess, and Shahana still considers herself responsible for improving it, despite her diminished resources. In this first poem, she comes to a ruined village and meets a girl, Ari, who needs her help. The poem is written in unrhymed quatrains, lending a partial sense of structure; some others are free verse but there are several more written in quatrains like this. See an illustration from "Shine On" drawn by [personal profile] meeks.

Most stories are about triumphing over evil. Path of the Paladins is about going forward even after everything has already gone to hell. This series deals with many dark issues such as war, rape, and betrayal; but it also brings the numinous into reach. You can read the rest of the published poems in this series on my Serial Poetry page.

This series has really inspired my readers -- there are other supporting materials including the story "Holy Walking Warrior" sparked by "Shine On" and a detailed literary analysis of a much later poem, "The Symbolism of 'Stained' " which I was particularly pleased to get because there is so little critique of speculative poetry.

ETA: WARNING: "Shine On" contains imagery that may prove triggery for some people, so think before you click. There are fairly detailed descriptions of the aftermath of a raid on a village, and references to two different rapes with varying levels of detail though neither is exhaustive, along with background about cosmological violence and upheaval. The overall tone is weary and gritty but determined. People who are readily depressed or upset by what they read might want to skip this poem. People who are tired of pristine paladins with perfect lives will probably appreciate it.

Shine On

Shahana the Paladin rode her mule into the ruined village,
a day late and a ducat short, as usual, but there nonetheless.
The surviving boys threw rocks in addition to taunts,
all of which bounced off her battered armor.

Shahana helped to put out the last of the fires.
She missed the quick cataract of her old water spell,
but there was no shortage of buckets,
and those did the job just as well in the end.

She rounded up what cows hadn't been eaten.
They didn't need a beast-speaking spell,
just a kind voice and a gentle hand
to guide them into the remaining barns.

Every equine in the village had been stolen,
so Shahana sighed and hitched her mule to a plow
so the old men could begin replanting the ravaged fields.
She could always get herself another mule later.

By that time, the boys had quit harassing her
and started helping out; after all, it was their home too.
One of them plucked at her elbow with trembling fingers.
"Please," he said, "it's my sister."

So Shahana followed him to the room full of casualties.
She gravely surveyed the two black eyes and split lip,
the bite marks on the small breasts and belly,
the blood drying ominously all over the girl's hips.

The paladin stripped off her stained gloves
and knelt to lay her hands upon the still body.
She descended into the silence within herself and prayed,
Great Gailah, lend me Your grace for the good of this girl.

The magic welled up around her, not with the force of a furnace,
but with the slow promise of spring sunlight warming winter soil.
Shahana crouched there, channeling, until her back cramped
and the girl sat up with a ravenous grumble.

A withered old woman brought out a kettle of mutton soup
from a sheep that hadn't gotten out of the way of the fighting.
Firmly she placed bowls in front of each of them
and said, "Eat up, dearies, before you fall over from hunger."

As they ate, the boy Larn told Shahana all about his sister Ari,
and their five brothers who had gone off to war,
and their aunts and uncles and cousins dead of famine,
and their parents just killed in the recent raid.

Larn looked at the paladin with his huge brown eyes
and whispered, "Please ... I know I can't protect her here."
Shahana sighed. He was right; there was no leaving a girl
like her in a village like this. They'd sell her. They'd have to.

Read more... )


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