Sunday, December 28, 2008

Random Lines / Found Poetry

David Elzey, over at Fomagrams, and Gwenda Bond at Shaken and Stirred, have come up with found poems that consist of their blogs' first lines from the first post of each each month this year. I wanted to try it, but since I've only been doing this since July (six months) that would make for a short poem for me, and one that more often than not began, "In honor of Poetry Friday...." I decided instead to go with a random line from each one of my 48 posts., starting with the very first one back in July and moving forward chronologically post by post. I didn't add any connective tissue, so it's a bumpy ride - huge potholes. But what an interesting experiment. It felt sometimes, when I put the random sentences next to each other, that there were two voices speaking, so I added italics for the second voice. It still didn't quite feel like a poem, so I just turned it into mini-prose-poems, divided when they reached some kind of closure, tonally or logically.

Here goes:


So, welcome!! Firm opinions, fine cuisine, and lots of laughter - what more can you ask for? Meanwhile, just look at the fascinating lectures my colleagues on the faculty are delivering. Suddenly, everyone is in context – which is sobering and pleasing. (Someone get me a doctor.)

I love the art of parody and this certainly qualifies. If it does, maybe the message is mistaken. Here’s a link to more information. Here’s a link to the glowing review. The poet sometimes smells a question when the answer is a rose. It’s a lovely puzzle to write/solve.

You can break the rules. Imagine. Below is a sample. Incredible. Perfect blending of the formal elements. I can’t resist the tunk-a-tunk-tunk. I like those tunes and those dancing bears, too.
delight…mystification….Poets, cows and scientists - we like to investigate what our gaze falls on.

“But the Devil whoops, as he whooped of old: 'It’s clever, but is it Art?’ ” I’d vote for him just for this. Hell of a skeleton there on the table. Preaching to the choir. Obviously. It’s so lucky there’s an audio link. Giving metal a tongue. Don’t miss the prize to be won. Think about giving a subscription to someone.

I was a goner, even before I knew the alphabet. Some say there is a malevolent spirit….But I’m still optimistic. What? Check it out. Just be prepared: because it breaks your heart.

Tomorrow, when I have my coffee, I’m going to pretend I’m in the park. Other than that. Life's little -ifuls (merc, bount-, beaut-) are no tethers to keep me secure.

Here’s my contribution, guided by syllables. The line breaks are strange. It feels like a difficult form to end. There’s a devil at your side….The goofier the better, that’s what I was taught.
Tongue in-cheek, skull-and-crossbones. Every once in awhile, I’m in the mood for John Keats. I blame the light.

Love is strange. I find myself drawn to the unserious this time of year.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Poetry Friday: Rounding Out the Year

I sometimes think it would be good (as in, good form) to be serious at year's end. But I find myself drawn to the unserious this time of year. Here, to round out 2008, is a quotation about poetry from the always quotable Calvin Trillin: “When it came to poetry, my father was not an absolutist. Pie was his favorite subject for a couplet, but every three or four weeks he would write about something else….” I am hoping to do a pie poem or two in the near future. Meanwhile, I offer up this poem, which sends a nod to Trillin, as my own way to close out the year:


Jan: Champagne. Hope. Sleet. Rain.
Feb: Sleet. Rain. Hearts. Hope again.
March: New babies. Chicks. Piggies. Lambs.
April: Easter dinner—lamb, chicken, hams.
May: Merry --as in may I / may I not?
June: Marry -- bride in white, groom hot.
July: Lonely Planet. Cameras. Shorts in
Aug: Beach. In the bookbag, Trillin and Sedaris.
Sept: 9/11 and its everlasting postseason.
Oct: Dressing up for candy & dandier reasons.
Turkey dressing. Obama won, thank God.
Dec: Virgin Birth. Wise men in the
Middle East? Jihad.

Poetry Friday today is being hosted by Tricia over at The Miss Rumphius Effect.

Friday, December 19, 2008

A Poem to Honor Two Strange Things

Today would have been my mom and dad's 64th wedding anniversary. Though my dad died in 1985, I still call my mom on their anniversary. Sunday my husband and I will celebrate our 37th anniversary, and we still have no idea, really, why it all works. Love is strange, and marriage even stranger. So here is a light-hearted poem in honor of those two strange, deep-hearted things:

To My Husband

Yes, we’re odd as ginger snaps
dunked in Turkish coffee,
we’re hot, beneath the sugar.

We stir each other’s chai
until a foam forms.
We sip, we sleep.

Honey, you still toast
every sesame seed in me—one bite
and it’s Madagascar
all over again.


Poetry Friday is being hosted this week over at Authors Amok.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Terza Rima for The Stretch

Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect set a difficult challenge for yesterday's Monday Poetry Stretch: terza rima. It's a form that pulls you forward, because the rhyme scheme goes like this:


It's built of tercets - and the second lines of each stanza rhyme with the first and third lines of the next. An elegant form, as Dante proved. Here is my terza rima: it's an interesting experiment, but the form deserves better - my rhymes are too loud. I'm looking forward to seeing other responses linked over at Tricia's site.

The Doctor Says, "He Has Meningitis”

Something flies across the frame.
Then it's gone—the day appears
then disappears. Same

as most days. But when I clear
my throat, the hospital wall
sways. And when I near

the sill, something hits: small,
a bird's body, a bird’s eye.
How strange life is when all

the world seems to be dying.
Today it's a sparrow fooled
by glass. I blame the light.

The story's true:
The child lives.
But the bird dies. And the view.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Poetry Friday: Oh, Why Not Some John Keats?

Every once in awhile, I'm just in the mood for Keats:

On the Grasshopper and Cricket

The poetry of earth is never dead:
When all the birds are faint with the hot sun,
And hide in cooling trees, a voice will run
From hedge to hedge about the new-mown mead –
That is the Grasshopper's. He takes the lead
In summer luxury; he has never done
With his delights, for when tired out with fun
He rests at ease beneath some pleasant weed.
The poetry of earth is ceasing never:
On a lone winter evening, when the frost
Has wrought a silence, from the stove there shrills
The Cricket's song, in warmth increasing ever,
And seems to one in drowsiness half lost,
The Grasshopper's among some grassy hills.


Elaine Magliaro at Wild Rose Reader. is in charge of the Poetry Round-Up this week. Thanks, Elaine!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Describing Emily Dickinson to a Pirate

"Hope is the things with feathers / That perches in the soul...."

I have just been reminded (over at The Florian Cafe ) that today is Emily Dickinson's birthday. When I studied Dickinson's work in college - especially the "riddle" making - I grew to love her strange dash- dominated phrasings. Douglas Florian's post reminded me that she seldom traveled, yet she wrote that she knew "how the heather looks / and what a wave must be." It's hard to imagine never having seen a wave, isn't it?

Since I offered up a Blackbeard clerihew yesterday, today I will offer my tongue-in-cheek, skull-and-crossbones tribute to the Belle of Amherst:

Describing Emily Dickinson to a Pirate

There was no parrot, no peg leg, no hook.
She rattled no sabers, shook no swords
except metaphorically, was terrifically
girlie, a loner, a virgin (vestal, as in white dresses.)
Despite a few Wild Nights, no cannonballs.
Eventually died for beauty, though
no walking of plank and no plunk
or splash. Never pissed off the bow
of a vessel under sail. Not hail, not hearty,
not a party girl, disliked stormy weather.
No blimeys, no maties, no arrrrrghs,
though lots— and lots— of dashes—
and she had a thing— for feathers.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Time for the Monday Stretch - Ah, Clerihews!!

I'm so happy that Tricia over at The Miss Rumphius Effect is asking us to stretch our way to clerihews this week. CLERIHEWS ARE SUCH FUN! The goofier, the better - that's what I was taught. W. H. Auden wrote some doozies.
The form was invented by Edmund Clerihew Bentley (pictured here) thus the name. Bentley was a great friend of G.K. Chesteron and wrote four mysteries which have been referred to as the beginning of the "modern mystery." Dorothy Sayers loved those books. Bentley published a book of clerihews titled Biography for Beginners. The form appears, at first, to be simple, but there are nuances to it that make the good clerihews truly good. Cleverness reigns supreme. Here is what a clerihew looks like:

1. Two unmatched (irregular meter) rhyming couplets. The irregular meter is part of the humor. The third and fourth lines are usually longer, so at its best the clerihew feel like it's been written by someone not totally in control of the poem. The rhyme is usually part of the humor, too - it's often torqued or contrived - again, as if the poet had not totally mastered the thing. The clunkiness of the clerihew is a defining feature, not a mistake.

2. One whole line - I was taught that it always was the first line - is the name of someone (usually famous....) Rarely anything else in the name line - if so, it should add briefly to the humor. But generally, nothing but the name.

3. Tone is satirical or, actually, whimsical - it pokes fun at the named person but isn't severe.

Here is the sample that's often given:

Sir Humphry Davy
Abominated gravy.
He lived in the odium
Of having discovered sodium.

[Sir Humphrey Davy, by the way, also wrote poetry, along with being a chemist. He conducted science experiments on his sister's dresses. His friends apparently said this about him: "This boy Humphry is incorrigible. He will blow us all into the air." I say that to comfort mothers out there whose children are incorrigible.]

Back to the clerihew. Here are my contributions. First, a few about writers, then a more or less political clerihew spiced up with Schezuan take-out, and finally, a pirate clerihew.

Four Clerihews for Four Writers

Robert Frost
Didn't often get lost.
But when he managed to
It was usually the fault of a road or two.

W. H. Auden
Occasionally turned up sodden.
(Getting himself plastered
Came after his muse had been mastered.)

Dorothy Parker
Just got darker and darker.
She wasn't really much fun.
But she was awfully clever with a pun.

Ogden Nash
Woke up with a rash.
"I bet it was that cute little duck.
Bad luck."

A Clerihew in Praise of Kung Pao Chicken

George W. Bush and Laura
Might project a less white-bread aura
If they would just eat a little kung pao
Every then and now.

A Pirate Clerihew

Edward Teach (aka “Blackbeard”)
Made lots of people afeard.
You could offer to write him a clerihew,
But he’d just as soon put a sword right through you.

Here is a photo of our soon-to-be ex-president, without dreads, eating something that will not improve his aura, and a picture of Blackbeard looking distinctly Rastafarian (and not at all like someone you would call "Teach."

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Editors: "There's a devil at your side...."

Wow, news from the publishing world is grim, grimmer, and grimmest. Here's a YouTube video for the pink-slipped. It's sung, appropriately, by The Editors. "I don't think that it's going to rain again today...." Hold the thought.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Poetry Friday: Abbott and Costello and Steinbeck

This Day In History tells me that 67 years ago today The Sea of Cortez was published. It was co-written by John Steinbeck and his friend, marine biologist Ed Ricketts (the model for Doc in Cannery Row), and it chronicles their voyage (in a sardine boat!) around Baja California and into what we know as the Gulf of California. The day after the book was released, Pearl Harbor was attacked, and the two men were soon serving in the military. Many people feel that Steinbeck revealed more about his personal philosophy in The Sea of Cortez than in any of his fiction. In honor of the sea creatures those friends observed and documented on their trip, and in honor of my good friend, fellow poet Sierra Nelson, who once captained the Cephalopod Society in Seattle, I offer up a poem of my own, written on a ferry home from a writer's retreat at Sierra's mom's place on Hood Canal, about creatures who live below the surface of the water. Things underwater, where I cannot see them, definitely worry me:

Returning to Seattle

Invocation to the gods of this ferry,
impaired as they are by surf, wind, waves, currents,
torrents, etc. (though no more than I am by
eyes, ears, hair, my own superficial ripples lately):
Make me (please) cognizant (unmummy me), keep me
deeply aware and bewondered by the gilled, the dim
swimmers and crawlers beneath me, the bullheads
and dead-eyed dogfish, the cockles, the unlucky clams—
what am I forgetting?— ah, the octopuses, those
hose-armed cephalopods with their predations, their
scary (embold me) tentacles and their slippery nature.
Deter me from disliking (unloving) these creatures and their
unaired (I seek but cannot see) surroundings. Please accept
regrets, etc., for the unkindness of the above & my limitations.

The assignment on the ferry trip home was to write what we call a "hot rivets" poem - one where the last word of one line rhymes with the first or second word of the line below it, having the effect of welding the two together. It's a wonderful form to work with, taking the poem many directions that surprise you (which is one of the great satisfactions of writing, no?)

Today Poetry Friday is hosted by Mommy's Favorite Picture Books (so maybe I should have chosen a sweeter poem.....)


And now for something completely different: This Day in History also tells me that it was on December 5th, 1952 that The Abbott and Costello Show debuted on TV. Probably not an event to remember for most people, and I don't think my parents bought a TV until about 1955, but oh, Abbott and Costello - I used to love going to matinees at our local theater, The Garden, to see their movies. Lou Abbott was so foolish , so sweet, so accident prone and so constantly confused. Here is a little YouTube clip - what can I say? It was a simpler world...

Monday, December 1, 2008

Monday Poetry Stretch - Bing, Bling, Ca-Ching

Time to begin the week with another poetry stretch, and Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect suggests a form called a climbing rhyme, where the rhyme moves forward in four-word lines - from fourth position in Line 1, to third in Line 2, to second in Line 3. At that point, the fourth word of Line 3 begins a new rhyme sequence, with the pattern continuing. It feels like a difficult form to end - what do you do with the last line? But here's a possibility:

Heard Over the P.A. System at the Mall

Placido Domingo singing White
Christmas? Not right, not
Bing-ish. Politely tell him:
Time to trim your
repertoire, flim-flam man,
humbugger. You can’t sing
Crosby. Banned. Prohibido, Placido.

Here's an adaptation I like as much, abandoning the third line/fourth word requirement, and going with a simple pattern of 4th/3rd/2nd-word rhymes in separate 3-line stanzas:


White, bright bells, tree
tops, kings (three) glistening,
wet sneezes and snow

flakes, listening to Bing
crooning, reindeer singing recorded
carols, blinged baubles wish-

listed, next January banging,
New Year hanging there
syning, langing, aulding away,

longing for more chances,
mustachioed nutcrackers dancing fat
mice, fancy tutu-ing, p.j.'s

on stage– Drosselmeir, Clara,
sugar-plummed fairies, Malled-
out America
's symphonic ca-ching.