Fourstep Process To Develop Voice

Before you write your next poem, ask yourself 1. With whom am I speaking Perhaps you are addressing someone specific in the poem. If so, use a voice to suit the occasion as you normally would during heightened moments (when feeling happy, angry, betrayed or some other emotion). Or you may want to address a person who never even makes an appearance in your poem. If so, this person is implied. For example, in The Only Morning My Mother Didn't Worship Her Husband, I'm not addressing my mother but...

Satirical Elegy On The Death Of A Late Famous General

His Grace impossible what dead Of old age too, and in his bed And could that mighty warrior fall And so inglorious, after all Well, since he's gone, no matter how, The last loud trump must wake him now And, trust me, as the noise grows stronger, He'd wish to sleep a little longer. And could he be indeed so old As by the newspapers we're told Threescore, I think, is pretty high 'Twas time in conscience he should die. This world he cumbered long enough He burnt his candle to the snuff And that's...

About The Author

Bugeja has published several poetry collections, including Talk (University of Arkansas Press) and Flight From Valhalla (Livingston University Press). His verse has appeared in such publications as Harper's, Poetry, Kenyon Review, New England Review, and Georgia Review. When he is not writing poetry, he is doing journalism. He directs the Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication at Iowa State University and is the author of Interpersonal Divide The Search for Community in a...

Additional Exercise For All Levels The Idea File

You have finished the first and, perhaps, most important section of this book conceiving ideas for poems and writing about them in your journal. Now it is time to review your journal entries and ideas for the various kinds of verse. On a separate piece of paper for each poem, or in separate files in your computer, make final notations and improve each idea until you are satisfied with it. When you are, put the ideas for each work in a folder or file to be used for Notebook exercises in the...

Case Study The Private Elegy

In early April two years ago, I wrote in my journal Last night I took my daughter Erin to Ann Rowland's horse farm called Windy Hills. Ann died during the weekend, and I saw her several times leading up to her final hours. Anyway, Erin and I brought her family some bread last night, at twilight. Ann's daughter Andrea gave Erin her high school jacket and some Black Beauty books. Ann's son, Josh, took Erin up to a hilltop rink where he and she rode his prize-winning Paso Fino bareback as in The...

Chickenegg Question

The answer is simple whatever works for you. Some poets need a title to help clarify or enhance content. Others think a working title one they plan to revise eases stress and eliminates writer's block. And some prefer to compose the poem without a title, worrying about that requirement later. A few do all three, depending on the content- or difficulty of the poem. These poets realize that sometimes the title will come naturally, sometimes not when it doesn't, they use a working title or none at...

Combine Meter With Content

The villanelle works best using a four-foot or five-foot line. (Trimeter starts to call attention to the pattern instead of the poem's content because of shorter line lengths.) Serious villanelles usually employ iambs or a combination of iambs and trochees. Lighter ones use more anapests for a tripping meter or dactyls for a haunting, childlike or marching meter. Before you pick a meter for your poem, be sure to align it with content. The villanelle is an ideal form to express a nagging or...

Decide Whether You Want Your Pantoum to Rhyme Scan or Be Free

Because your lines will repeat, your pantoum will sound as if it is rhymed anyway. If you rhyme it, however, you will add another layer of sound so the effect is fuguelike. In music, a fugue is a composition that blends one, two, or more sounds or melody lines. In psychiatry, a fugue can be a symptom of amnesia in which a person has a forgotten and a remembered life or two life lines. Both meanings of fugue are found in the rhymed pantoum, probably the eeriest-sounding poem in the English...

Decide Whether Your Sestina Will Be Metered

Because the sestina contains such a strong pattern, you can compose one without meter. It won't be free verse because the end words of each line repeat and will have a rhymelike effect on the ear. Nonetheless, deciding to meter your sestina is a top priority. If you meter your sestina, you should avoid trimeter and even tetrameter. The repeating end words will start to call attention to themselves in small lines, detracting from your poem's meaning. Pentameter is the meter of choice, but...

Do the First Draft

Don't worry about composing a perfect sestina on the first go-around. It won't happen. The first draft is important because you'll have a sense of the ultimate success of your sestina you can worry about meter and clarity of end words later. Your goal, simply, is to get a draft using your end words in the prescribed pattern. That is, by far, the most difficult aspect of composing a traditional sestina. They come on wheel or crutch to pray at Lourdes. The millions set up camp along the walks....

Dont Forget to Plug in Repeating Lines in the Following Stanza

This will keep you on track so you don't have to memorize the pattern of a pantoum. For instance, after creating my first stanza, I knew what the first and third lines of my second stanza would be. I also knew that the second and fourth lines would be new, again containing dual functions To haunt us. Say your mantras, make your peace. (Compose second line that also makes transition) Something dies within. Something is released. (Compose fourth line that also propels the poem) I concentrated on...

Driving Past The Nuclear Plant

How often have you heard it tornado rips through trailer court leaving dozens dead, homes demolished. Shoot of straw burrows into pine fence post. Or family killed, dog found barking on roof. So last night as the rain rattled off my hood like rocks, I looked, and there, black in the few hundred feet between storm clouds and ground, the twister dropped. I pulled over, cut the engine, covered my head to wait it out. But no wind roared. The rain let up. When I looked once more, only the reactor's...

Employing A Proper Voice

Consider how Bruce Weigl confronted me in the classroom. He was able to speak to me so directly because he was wearing the mask of teacher and I the mask of student. If he had confronted me in the street or the restroom, the topic of our conversation and his tone of voice would have been inappropriate for the setting. Thus the mask, or role a person plays, influences the type of voice that he or she uses to address somebody in a particular place. On any given day, a person wears several masks 6...

Fluently

My pen-pal cousin used to send me Photographs, heavy in those blue envelopes Stamped par avion. She posed in the sea, Small whitecaps splashing up her sundress. I think I loved her, even when she wrote In that strange tongue so many Ks, Js and Zs My father had to translate. I expected another blue envelope Announcing the birth of her child Instead I get this card, my cousin's picture Printed alongside a cross, heavy with Jesus. I don't call for my father, Scan the inscription full of Ks, Js and...

How It Works

Her lap full of the best ones, While she empties her apron and sweeps I ate what she and my mother had done Hales's poem employs one significant scene depicting the narrator as a child with her grandmother. Though quite brief, the action has a beginning (My grandmother picks through Snapbeans), a middle (I wait While she empties her apron, etc.) and an end (You'll be eating this stuff Long after I'm gone, she tells me). General Rule The simpler the action, the smaller the poem. Theme...

How To Compose A Character Study

Review the chapter on lyric verse, paying special attention to lyrics about basic topics (moments, objects, living things, concepts and experiences). If the living thing is a person and you focus on him or her intensely funneling tones of voice and viewpoint through that person you also are composing a character study. But the transition from the lyric to the dramatic mode can be much richer than that. All you have to do is 1. Imagine the person who would be intensely interested in a specific...

How to Designate Rhyme

Rhyme schemes are cast in italicized codes, like this one for a Shakespearean fourteen-line sonnet abab cdcd efef gg. To decipher that code, you need to know these basics To indicate rhyme, designate the last word of each line with a letter of the alphabet. Lines whose last words share the same rhyme also share the same letter. For instance, this quick poem would be shown as aa Let the words at the end of a line Take letters that you should assign To add a new rhyme, use the next letter of the...

How to Scan

The word scan means analyze a poem to determine its meter. If you have never scanned before, follow this method 1. Read the lines of a poem aloud a number of times until you can feel or sense a rhythm. 2. Mark the unaccented ( ) and accented ( ' ) stresses of each word in the poem. 3. Identify the sound(s) employed most often in the poem. 4. Mark off each sound with the symbol (I ) to designate feet per line. (Consult the section below to identify the various types.) 5. Combine the name of the...

Am A Parcel Of Vain Strivings Tied

I am a parcel of vain strivings tied By a chance bond together, Dangling this way and that, their links Were made so loose and wide, Methinks, For milder weather. A bunch of violets without their roots, And sorrel intermixed, Encircled by a wisp of straw Once coiled about their shoots, The law By which I'm fixed. A nosegay which Time clutched from out Those fair Elysian fields, With weeds and broken stems, in haste, Doth make the rabble rout That waste The day he yields. And here I bloom for a...

Ideas About Nature and the Environment

Ideas for nature and environmental poems surround you literally no matter where you live. The first step is to concentrate on objects and images that you normally overlook in your everyday activities. Once your perception has sharpened, your perspective how you opt to view nature and the environment should develop and help you generate ideas. Try these exercises 1. Go outdoors to your favorite spot or just wander until you arrive at a place. Stop and observe all its natural characteristics...

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow Between the crosses, row on row, That mark our place and in the sky The larks, still bravely singing, fly We are the Dead. Short days ago We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, Loved and were loved, and now we lie In Flanders fields. Take up our quarrel with the foe To you from failing hands we throw The torch be yours to hold it high. If ye break faith with us who die We shall not sleep, though poppies grow In Flanders fields. The Protest. Social activist and...

Invocation

Till the sun falls Below that tree line And light stops Coloring stained glass, I want to talk With the Virgin Mother Who the saints say Always listens. I won't Worry about my wife Who waits outside The mountain chapel. She has a pastel sky For company, though She must share it With tourists at the peak Season. She refuses To share her grief With you and the stone Jesus, cold at your breast. Our child was colder, Even in the red Sunset that was a gift In the birthing room Sculpted forever To...

Know the Method

Because the first and third lines of the villanelle repeat according to a pattern and then must come together as ending lines in the final quatrain, compose the ending (as you would a couplet) first. Many villanelles fail because the first and third lines of the first stanza are not strong enough to sustain the structure and then serve as a conclusion. By composing the last two lines first, you'll save yourself time and energy and virtually guarantee a first draft. Compose your final lines...

Know the Pattern

The villanelle uses two rhymes (designated by a and b), five tercets and one ending quatrain (or five three-line stanzas and one four-line stanza), and two repeating lines (designated by I1 and A the first and third lines of the first tercet, which repeat alternately as the third line of each following tercet and, finally, as the ending two lines). Thus, the form A*b A2 abA1 abA2 abA1 abA2 abA1 A2. If you are having difficulty visualizing the pattern, check this villanelle that I composed...

Let Rhyme Work for

If you are composing a light-verse villanelle, consider multisyllabic words especially with falling (light stress) endings baloney spumoni matrimony. Villanelles about serious subjects usually employ monosyllabic (hard stress) end words bow plow how. Villanelles using a combination of falling multisyllabic and rising monosyllabic rhymes also are excellent if you are composing satire. (See Ron Wallace's State Poetry Day in the mini anthology.) Study all your rhyme and near-rhyme words. Then make...

Level Three

Reread your journal entries from the Level One and Two assignments. In another passage, describe how your ideas have changed, if at all, about religion, the supernatural, the extraterrestrial and the fantastic. Base at least five new ideas for poems on these changes (or lack thereof). 2. Analyze each journal entry from Level One, Two and Three, charting any patterns of growth and recalling the incidents or experiences that might have prompted those patterns. Base at least five ideas for poems...

Levels Two And Three

Look at the list of highs, lows and turning points that you created in the previous exercise when you last went through this text. Has any new experience happened that should appear in a revised list If so, update. Then go through the list again and come up with new incidents for new entries and other incidents for old ones. You'll have at least ten more ideas. Record them as before. 2. Do the library exercise again, coming up with ten more ideas based on research of new listings in reference...

Making My Peace

The owner left his gate wide open a dare so I crossed onto his land and met for the first time a dozen or so pine saplings clustered in a ring, their arms up, their thin copper wrists showing. At once I heaved my impossible prayers to the slight weight of their Far away a woodpecker drummed and paused. trilled hymnlike and all my secrets held fast in the gnarled eyes of wood. Were it not for the title, Making My Peace, Jones's poem could pass for pure nature verse. But in the shadow of such a...

Many And No Breaks

The more stanzas you use, the greater their pull on lines, as if white space is a force of poetic gravity. Some poems require that force to hold the structure together. Other poems seem weightless, fragile, unable to withstand any breaks. Let's consider the two types and their effects. This is the ending of An Abandoned Farm in the West, a poem in unrhymed couplets from Lower-Class Heresy (University of Illinois, 1987) by T.R. Hummer, who has edited The Kenyon Review and New England Review She...

Meter

I fell in love with poetry because of meter. When I was a boy, my mother read lyrics by the great English poets to lull me to sleep at night. She had been given an anthology of immortal poems by her eighth grade teacher and cherished the book. By the time I was in the eighth grade, I had read every poem in the collection. Included was The Bells by Edgar Allan Poe, a stanza of which is quoted below. I would read the poem chant is a better word with my nine-year-old sister Lori, and soon this...

Michael J Bugeja

In memory of our first two children, guardian angels of my daughter Erin Marie and my son Shane Michael, for whom this book is dedicated The Art and Craft of Poetry. Copyright 1994 by Michael J. Bugeja. Manufactured in the United States of America. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means including information storage and retrieval systems without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer, who may quote...

Miss Intensity Meets The Holy Ghost

It was January 11, 1988 (because I thought I want to remember this, even though I didn't tell a soul, they'd think I was like those crazy UFO people in The National Enquirer), and I was wandering around the edge of one of my winning-the-lottery dreams, (the one where I would get the money to fix my teeth and get the calluses off my heels, some and a Thallium stress test because my heart beats too fast and I'd postpone my trip to Paris for six months so I could have plastic surgery at a spa in...

Miss Intensity Thinks About Her Name

Centuries ago at EST, when I waved my hand, praying the Trainer would choose me as lost as my friend Helen who got married and now her name isn't in the phone book anymore for the Birth Process because he was teaching all 300 of us, simultaneously, to get in touch with our bodies and the Self (I'd heard it was like being reborn, alive again, assertive, experiencing wailing Oh Moon of Alabama in the tub, charging that fringy sequin dress, *This excerpt originally was from a larger poem that was...

Mrs Wei On Patriotism

Here many people over-exercise their right to free speech. Everywhere bumper stickers shout at me Have you hugged your child today I brake for animals, Honk if you love Jesus We support our troops Say No to drugs I am for America But when they want us all to chant slogans and tie yellow ribbons to our houses, I plant my feet and say No. whose roots know the earth which gives it sustenance. It is not a hair ribbon Poems like Whitman's For You O Democracy are based on visions of what a country...

Mrs Wei Wants To Believe The First Amendment

That letter telling your President he is wrong, please don't mail it I am so afraid for you. Back home, such forthrightness will drag you to jail, your family will have to hide their name. Or worse, a noose on the raintree, only the wind to keep your ghost company. Speaking out is like flying a kite, a banner for police to track you down. In my country, we have learned to fly kites under the bed. Just don't tell me about the issues. I can see the pale spider-belly head of the newborn who lies...

Music

I cannot hold a note in my hand, Though the singer does in her throat. I cannot hold a grace note On lined paper and hear it, Though the singer waves Her sheet music like a flag. But I can hold the makers Of music, the singer by the palm, The silver of flute or piccolo, Buff nickle keys of a clarinet. If I breathe on them, I can See my own image in the maker. ' It's true. I can stroke The pipework of sax and trombone, Tip a chalice of trumpet, sort The pots of horn, cornet to tuba. I find...

No Strings

We keep finding on our doorstep Rattles too big for the post box. They arrive with offers from a company No parent can refuse, clean diapers Being next to God. The Ivory Snow mother Thinks so in baby magazines on trial Subscription. And if we don't want The bedtime books, we still get to keep The Disney mobile. It hangs above the crib Littered with coupons for free formula, Gerber, Johnson's no more tears shampoo. We send for everything. They don't know that After the stillborn, somebody forgot...

Not Only The Eskimos

We have only one noun but as many different kinds the grainy snow of the Puritans and snow of soft, fat flakes, guerrilla snow, which comes in the night and changes the world by morning, rabbinical snow, a permanent skullcap on the highest mountains, snow that blows in like the Lone Ranger, riding hard from out of the West, when you can't find your house, your street, though you are not in a dream or a science fiction movie, snow that tastes good to the sun when it licks black tree limbs,...

Notebook Level One

Evaluate drafts of poems in your Work in Progress file that seem suited to the lyric mode. Revise them according to precepts learned in this chapter. 2. Review the basic lyric forms discussed in this chapter and select suitable ideas from your Idea File. Then follow the appropriate methods of composition and compose first drafts. After each draft, describe in your journal how the method of composition helped or did not help you come up with a lyric.

Occasion Poetry

This is the catchall category of the text. After reading chapters on love, nature, extranatural, war and political poetry, you should have read many poems that cross borders. For instance, a love poem may speak of the soul and be set in nature. War poetry can have an environmental theme while protesting government policies. However, behind all such poems was an occasion, an incident or a memory that inspired or angered the writer and that may or may not even be mentioned on the page. When we...

Of Sitting Bear

Hoka hey, Lakotas, Sioux warriors used to shout before riding into battle It's a good day to die. Comanche braves must have said it Now the Comanches I don't miss much, and the Plains Indian may not have been or ride the surface of the earth, but I say to majce a man, old and sick and huddled with his teeth, until at last the manacles slide and attacks and attacks the guarding soldiers he knew, a bad day for Sitting Bear to be captured, but a good day to die. First of all, the above account is...

One Dream

Every morning, that I wake before you to watch your eyes tremble and awkwardly blossom. The casual remoteness of your body still startles me in the grainy light that lies between us. How your dreams must hold you, their amorous and fascinating figures the populations inside your vast cities, the quiet voices spinning kisses to keep you. These must be, because you sleep and dream in a lovely game. Only your eyes are telling, their lids pressing out a Morse code at uncertain intervals, cautious...

Perception And Perspective

Understanding the idea of poets as observers is critical if you want to compose nature poetry. For centuries people have looked to the genre to help them appreciate the beauty and design of the natural world. Hence, a poet is expected to behold a tree or a place and see something the casual observer would miss. Again, all this has to do with perception (what we observe) and perspective (how we observe it). Bad poems about nature abound and share two common traits 1. The images from nature are...

Pick Your End Words Carefully

Since these words are going to appear in your sestina so often, you want them to have special qualities. First, the end words should be common enough to serve different sentences. (For instance, you won't get too far with consequently, which is apt to grate on the ear or call attention to itself after the second use.) Second, the words should have different meanings or work in different ways (as a noun, verb and adjective, as in the word fast, for example). Now the English language can help...

Plug in the Scheme

Once you have your end words, take six pieces of paper (or make six pages in a file on your computer disk) one for each stanza. Insert your end words on each page according to the prescribed scheme for that stanza. Using a page for each stanza helps you concentrate, as if it was a separate poem. This way, you'll emphasize every stanza as a complete unit of thought and avoid the tendency to lose interest in the sestina when it progresses and becomes more difficult to compose. 1. Lourdes, walks,...

Poems Here And Elsewhere

I have researched thousands of poems for this book and selected the best. By best I mean ones that illustrate specific points rather than qualify as the greatest in the canon. The latter is a matter of taste, and my list of the greatest poems is bound to differ from someone else's. In each chapter, however, you will find plenty of examples from the works of past and present writers. This is meant to give you perspective. You can see how a genre of poetry began, developed and evolved through the...

Political Poetry

As I write, poets in other lands are in prison because they composed verse with political content that angered or frightened their leaders. These are brave men and women, willing to risk their lives to express their political beliefs. In most countries in Europe and North America, the right to compose political poetry is protected by laws and constitutions, so we tend to take this freedom for granted. Few, if any of us, will ever write a political poem that prompts the FBI to investigate our...

Preparing to write the sequence

Outline each section of your sequence in your journal. If you rough out the poem first, you'll save time by identifying weak spots and eliminating or adding parts as needed. Finally, with overview of the sequence, you can move or rearrange parts to enhance theme or add clout to message. For example, in a six-part villanelle sequence (a combination of symbolic and dramatic groupings), I researched passages in the Bible relating to trees in general and the fig tree in particular. I found several...

Remembering New London

On March 18, 1937, 293 children, teachers and visitors were killed as the richest rural school in the world at New London, Texas, exploded from the ignition of natural gas, which had seeped up from the ground and accumulated in the walls. Even as we sat in our third-wing last classroom peering out at the mantis-like structures plunging into the soil, gritty and black, rising again with jaws drenched in the thrilling crude, those fifteen minutes mattered to us more then the bell would scatter us...

Revising your poems

Take out drafts of poems and follow this step-by-step method to revise your work 1. Lay drafts of each poem on a flat surface. Read them sequentially, from first draft to last, and choose the best draft. Usually (but not always) the last draft will be the most effective because you knew your poem intimately when you composed this version. In any case, put aside your most effective draft. 2. Review every word and line of your lesser drafts. Occasionally you'll find better passages in these...

Sketching The Story

An outline is simply that a guide to help you picture and depict events in a narrative poem. People who argue against such outlines either are born storytellers or are able to imagine key elements without putting them down on paper first. By making a sketch, you can see what elements might falter and what might succeed before you write your poem. You'll save time and energy, recognizing good stories and avoiding problematic ones that stand little chance of success. To illustrate, let's make...

Solving Common Problems

A good descriptive or label title is deceptively simple. It seems at first to define content or set the scene so the poet can continue. True, it does that. But if that is all your title accomplishes, then it has fallen short of its mark. A descriptive or label title also has to convey another level of meaning usually associated with an epiphany or a peak experience. Let's use another excerpt from the poem by Judson Jerome to illustrate this concept. In the middle stanzas of Oil of the Pecos...

The Anniversary

All kings, and all their favorites, All glory 'of honors, beauties, wits, The sun itself, which makes times, as they pass, Is elder by a year, now, than it was When thou and I first one another saw All other things to their destruction draw, Only our love hath no decay . . . The Solstice Poem. This excerpt by Donne celebrates the solstice days marking the change of seasons or, in his example, the shortest day of the year in December, which happened to fall then on a holy day A NOCTURNAL UPON...

The Bohemian Hymn

In many forms we try To utter God's infinity, But the boundless hath no form, And the Universal Friend Doth as far transcend An angel as a worm. The great Idea baffles wit, Language falters under it, It leaves the learned in the lurch, Nor art, nor power, nor toil can find The measure of the eternal Mind, Nor hymn, nor prayer, nor church. The Supernatural Poem. Emily Dickinson, who wrote devotional verse, spoke of other entities disembodied spirits in this excerpt set in the mind

The Dramatic Poem

If narrative poems tell stories and lyric ones sound like music, then dramatic poems characterize. But again, the mode is more complex than that. Like narrative and lyric poems, dramatic ones come in all sizes, styles and voices. Moreover, a dramatic poem can be essentially narrative or lyric. Skilled poets often cross the borders of these three major verse categories, as they should nonetheless, every poet should be able to distinguish a predominantly narrative poem from a lyric one (and vice...

The End Of Science Fiction

This is not fantasy, this is our life. We are the characters who have invaded the moon, who cannot stop their computers. We are the gods who can unmake the world in seven days. Both hands are stopped at noon. We are beginning to live forever, in lightweight, aluminum bodies with numbers stamped on our backs. We dial our words like muzak. We hear each other through water. The genre is dead. Invent something new. Invent a man and a woman naked in a garden, invent a child that will save the world,...

The Eyewitness Method

For those who have experienced war firsthand, composing poems about it can be a catharsis. Initially at least, it can bring back suppressed memories that cause veterans pain and writer's block. In some sense, the eyewitness method is much easier than the visionary one, when it comes to subject matter. Poets who have never been in a war have to understand how war has nevertheless affected them. However, those who have been in a war only have to recount their experiences to purge them, but that,...

The Last

Raised up in the back of our open truck And threw a can of c-rations at a child Who called into the rumble for food. He didn't toss the can, he wound up and hung it On the child's forehead and she was stunned Backwards into the dust of our trucks. Across the sudden angle of the road's curving Waving one hand across her swollen, bleeding head, I grit my teeth to myself to remember that girl Smiling as she fought off her brothers and sisters. She laughed As if she thought it were a joke And the...

The Lyric Poem

Lyric poems come in all shapes and sizes but share one common trait They're musical. The word lyric is derived from the Greek lyra (musical instrument) and melic (melody). It does not tell a story as narrative poetry does, describing events or action in the external world, but focuses intensely on a subject and tries to awaken or evoke emotions within the listener (as music does). Instead of using notes, however, the lyric poet relies on words and poetic devices metaphor, simile, cadence,...

The Palace Cafe

We sit here with our backs to the wall and drink to all the things we should have done before Armageddon fell upon this town. We think we know it well, the mountainous cloud that bore the very soul away, its winds whipping roofs away, walls. It took the wives we swore to God we'd love forever, honor, and sing the seasons to. And took our sons. And then our farms. There was total nothing on the wing but cloud and wind. If we are lucky when the waitress comes, coffee in hand, she might say a word...

The Papal Saw In A Roman Blind

I can almost hear the bells rung by the priest who sired a child. Nuncio, let that father rise to sit at my right touch. One last kiss to ease his grief in the afterlife. I, his bastard, bid for calm like a Papal See in a murmur of signs. Confessor, hear my doubts of the Seven Dolors of Mary, Elevation of the Host. on its knees and offer my alms to a ghost who cannot see the weight of years, blood-soaked stones and the orphanage drilling its wards on the telling of beads. My father, does he...

The Protest Poem

Like the patriotic poet, the protest poet knows that freedom taken for granted is apt to be taken away. But the protest poet expresses that notion differently. Instead of praising a nation's potential, or taking a nation back to the principles on which it was founded, the protest poet criticizes policy so our leaders do not become complacent. Such poets believe that debate is good in a democracy the more controversy, the better because truth thrives when people have access to all manner of...

The Silence Of The Poets

Once there were so many books, so many poets. All the masterpieces one could never read, among the endless shelves of the unreadable. Some claim the best stopped writing first. For the others, no one noted when or why. A few observers voiced their mild regret about another picturesque, unprofitable craft that progress had irrevocably doomed. And what was lost No one now can judge. But we still have music, art, and film, diversions enough for a busy people. And even poetry for those who want it....

The Village Atheist

Ye young debaters over the doctrine Of the soul's immortality, I who lie here was the village atheist, Talkative, contentious, versed in the arguments I read the Upanishads and the poetry of Jesus. And they lighted a torch of hope and intuition And desire which the Shadow, Leading me swiftly through the caverns of darkness, Listen to me, ye who live in the senses The Surreal Poem. Such verse contains dreamlike or hallucinatory images. To illustrate, here is the fourth and last section of...

The World

Like a great Ring of pure and endless light, All calm as it was bright And round beneath it, Time, in hours, days, years, Driven by the spheres, Like a vast shadow moved, in which the world And all her train were hurled. . . . The Intercession Poem. This type calls on a deity to intercede in events on earth, as illustrated by this excerpt from Milton's On the Late Massacre in Piedmont (about an attack on Protestants) Avenge, 0 Lord, thy slaughtered saints, whose bones Lie scattered on the...

This Is Just To

I have eaten the plums that were in the icebox Forgive me they were delicious so sweet and so cold The final lines, so sweet and so cold, imply a certain spite. Marital friction. Watch how the lines defuse, however, if rewritten into long lengths I have eaten the plums that were in the icebox and which you were probably saving for breakfast. Forgive me. They were delicious, so sweet and so cold. Reads like a kitchen memo again, doesn't it The voice suddenly sounds like a family doctor late for...

Title and Polish the First Draft

While I was letting my sestina cool, I thought about using these titles Pilgrims, Mortality and Sightings. The first title seemed too simple in that it did not contain a second level of meaning, as all good titles should. The second title, Mortality, seemed undercut by that word being used so effectively in the envoy. The last title, Sightings, suggested several levels of meaning the site of Lourdes, sighting the Virgin Mary, and citing the poem as a chant (a homophone ). I chose Sightings...

To Edward Alleyn

If Rome so great, and in her wisest age, Feared not to boast the glories of her stage, As skillful Roscious, and grave Aesop, men, Yet crowned with honours, as with riches, then Who had no less a trumpet of their name, Than Cicero, whose every breath was fame How can so great example die in me, That, Alleyn, I should pause to publish thee Who both their graces in thyself hast more Outstripped, than they did all that went before And present worth in all dost so contract, As others speak, but...

To Mary Shelley

My dearest Mary, wherefore hast thou gone, And left me in this dreary world alone Thy form is here indeed a lovely one But thou art fled, gone down the dreary road, That leads to Sorrow's most obscure abode Thou sittest on the hearth of pale despair, For thine own sake I cannot follow thee. Love Moment. This type recaptures the instant one person falls in (or out of) love with another, as in this lyric composed by Leigh Hunt, a friend of Shelley

To The Evening Star

Thou fair-hair'd angel of the evening, Now, while the sun rests on the mountains, light Thy bright torch of love thy radiant crown Put on, and smile upon our evening bed Smile on our loves and, while thou drawest the Blue curtains of the sky, scatter thy silver dew On every flower that shuts its sweet eyes In timely sleep. Let thy west wind sleep on The lake speak silence with thy glimmering eyes, And wash the dusk with silver. Soon, full soon, Dost thou withdraw then the wolf rages wide, And...

Turns of the sonnet

In any sonnet, the turn is that point in the poem where theme or conflict is addressed and resolved. As such, the turn must be foreboded by lines preceding it. Foreboding means that the ideas or images before the turn prepare the reader for the ending . . . without exhausting theme or revealing punch line a tall order. To execute this phase of the sonnet, you need to reflect again on epiphany and peak experience (as explained in chapter one). Like all poems, sonnets deal with these moments of...

Types of Meter

To determine the meter for your poem, do a scansion (according to the methods explained at the beginning of Meter Primer). In other words, read each line of your poem and mark each iamb, trochee, anapest, dactyl, pyrrhic or spondee. Count them and then designate the feet per line. Combine the predominant sound with the feet per line, and you will have identified the meter. To practice, scan this excerpt of an Emerson poem By the rude bridge that arched the flood, Their flag to April's breeze...

Types of topics

Each sonnet form was designed as a vehicle to convey certain topics or situations, using rhyme and scheme to enhance a message. Thus, you should know the tradition before attempting to compose such a poem. Simply, certain subjects do not fit the short form. While a skilled poet can break tradition and employ the sonnet to explain, say, why Communism failed in Eastern Europe, a novice probably should choose a freer form to convey such a notion. A check of several major poetry anthologies puts...

Unfolded Out Of The Folds

Unfolded out of the folds of the woman man comes unfolded, and is always to come unfolded, Unfolded only out of the superbest woman of the earth is to come the superbest man of the earth, Unfolded out of the friendliest woman is to come the friendliest man, Unfolded only out of the perfect body of a woman can a man be form'd of Unfolded only out of the inimitable poems of woman can come the poems of man, (only thence have my poems come ) Unfolded out of the strong and arrogant woman I love,...

Varying And Avoiding Certain Titles

Here are two variations of basic titles 1. The Statement. Instead of a word or phrase, compose a complete sentence. The sentence can function as a suspense, descriptive or label title, as in When I Feel Your Soul, I Reach for You With These Arms (suspense) Caution This Poem Is Armed and Dangerous (descriptive) 2. The Question. Again, cast your title as a complete sentence in question form, as in Who in the Green Hate Would Have Known (suspense) In Whom Now Shall I Place My Trust (descriptive)...

Voice Of America

The computer and the offer Is in the mail with free Coupons. Eat your fill You'll grow fat on freedom, So we'll sell you fat-free Entrees while you exercise Free speech, singing new Anthems with your Sony. The poem tries to work a metaphor, but beyond that, relies solely on message to discuss an agenda our economic addictions. Thus, the poem is mediocre. It preaches to the converted, like patriotic poetry often does. In general, a good political poem should contain as many images as a typical...

What Happens

In Alma, Nebraska, at midnight into a spring storm the young doctor goes out. He says he is going to deliver the widow's baby. I am sitting in the parlor with my new friend, our landlady, who is painting my nails what she calls a good color. She paints her own and tells the story of the widow. Outside the window the rosy snow comes down on the crocus. After explaining the situation in the opening lines, Raz sets the poem in the parlor with a friend and uses images to highlight the irony of...

What The Vietnamese Clerk At K Mart Said Before She Sold The Veteran A Betta

You can find them anywhere, any pet shop, Even the K mart at Muskogee fighting fish That flare so bright you think of dragons, That come one to a bowl with a story I keep For the special customer. Long ago a girl With hair like mine, so black the sun Sparked in the paddies, dipped her hands Below some bubbles and scooped a betta With a little color. The men she knew Fought such fish as Americans today fight , The betta she held was not purple like yours, But brown with a promise of purple, and...

What The Waitress Sees

Something went snap , and she found herself In the service of businessmen. More bread, They call to her, and she responds (1) As if known by that name. More Bread. We want burgundy, lots of it, and then We would like her to leave. She sees Couples all the time married, pretending (2) To be, not to be, about to be. Yet We are different. A man of dangerous Middle Age suited, tied. And you are younger Of course casual, cute. That says plenty, But how we carry on How we huddle Over paper You yell,...

While My Lame Uncle Prays

Outside the cathedral Aunt Lena makes the sign to carry in protest against the British governor, at mass. It is a good sign, the wood handle ripped from her rabbit hutch, our Sunday dinner last seen hopping seaward, a kind of sacrifice. She colors her slogan in red Limey Set Sail The choir inside chants Amen. to see the protest. He leads the charge against us, his walking stick held like a sword. I don't move when he spots me, my rump ready for the cane. Auntie cuts in front her sign a shield...

Writing the sequence

Once you have broken the sequence into its respective parts, compose each as you would a regular poem. The problem now, however, is that the typical poet normally writes good, bad and mediocre poems, and each part of a sequence has to be good or the chain will have a weak link. It is one thing to eliminate a weak link during the outlining phase and another to do so after a part has been composed. After you invest so much time composing a sequence, you might be tempted to leave in a weak poem or...

Drawing From Experience

When I speak at writers' conferences, I ask participants to do an exercise that generates ideas based on life experience. On a piece of paper, poets make a list of the high points, low points and turning points in their lives. For instance, my abbreviated list looks like this 2. Studied to become a musician. 3. Lived and worked in Salzburg, Austria. 5. Divorced at twenty-five, no children. 7. Met Diane Sears and married again. 8. Our first daughter is stillborn. 9. We have another daughter,...

This Living Hand

This living hand, now warm and capable Of earnest grasping, would, if it were cold So haunt thy days and chill thy dreaming nights That thou wouldst wish thine own heart dry of blood So in my veins red life might stream again, And thou be conscience-calmed see here it is I hold it towards you. TARTINE, FOR ALL HER BULK Tartine, for all and rump pivots and revolves with burly grace across the several acres of yard, dashing from one garden corner to the next amid the gush of wit and loquacious...

The Old Trick

It happened once that a woman who couldn't conceive Paradise without her adopted daughter, And the natural mother who all her life held out Hope for a celestial reunion, approached The wise judge, prepared to yield custody At the sight of a sword. Beyond Solomon A girl scaled the pearly gates like an acrobat. Hi, mommy she called, and both women waved. That didn't work. So Solomon heard the arguments, How the natural mother labored while the other Simply waited, and how the adoptive mother...

Elvis At The Dollar Slotbank Sestina

It wasn't only Beethoven whom I found in Las Vegas, though the sound of silver dollar money thunk, thunk, thunk, thunk clanking similar to his Fifth symphony. We hear it coming from the bank of dollar slots next to the Keno Bar Where Steelman likes to sit, drinking soda. It's a bar where he can see the Keno board, watch Las Vegas characters clowns, Elvis impersonators, old ladies in gold lame. It is part of his story, this rattle of money, of the Rolling Stones must also be part of what he...

The Man Who Grew Silent

But he's sure they parted as friends. His wife took him by both shoulders And tried to shake some sense into him. He had not spoken to her since August And the nights were getting cold and long. His fingers trailed down her spine As she turned away and left the house. The trunk was packed already, the children On a bus. He waved from the porch as her car Disappeared. He turned around and smiled Into the almost empty room, TV With a blown tube and a blank face Like his own, but inside, a storm...

Look Up Definitions of End Words and Chart Their Uses

After you have selected your end words, look up all possible definitions and uses in the dictionary and make a chart. Before writing this chapter, I composed a new sestina according to the steps I have outlined here. I had just seen a fabulous documentary on Lourdes, the city in France where the Virgin Mary is said to appear and where miracles reportedly are performed. The mystic appearances and cures seemed ideal for the repetition of a sestina. Using the list above, I chose a related set of...

Keeping Track Of Ideas

There's no one best way to record ideas. Typically poets keep diaries, journals, notebooks or idea files. Strictly defined, a diary is a daily chronicle of incidents and thoughts. A journal is less rigid, allowing you to make entries only when you think you have something important to relate, remember or observe. A notebook is less formal than a journal, usually a spiral pad in which you sporadically jot down ideas for poems or important elements of craft. An idea file is a folder containing...

Satan

Or steals money meant for others' food. said once No man believes he's evil. in these circumstances, and from him. He's not stupid, and doesn't seem insane. He knows I've done no harm to him or his. and prays to Allah, merciful, compassionate. I know too well the darker urges in myself, I've seen little in him I can't recognize. my soul would die if I did the things he does. I'm tempted to believe there really is That's too easy and too dangerous an answer I must reject, abhor and fight against...

Mini Anthology of Free Verse Poems

INSIDE THE LIGHT, THE FIGURE THAT HOLDS US Monet's poplars slide through the bright surfaces of water their slender wands they rise through sky the color of the water, opaque, substantial > enough to hold the V-curve of leaf canopy that suggests perspective, flattened into painting after painting, blurred to background or focussed, distinct, as though by telephoto eye so mesmerized by sun the shape has burned into the lens and left a scar overlaid by a rhythmic imaging of light that hunts the...

Coccinella Punctata

Biologists say the creator Had a fondness for beetles, Queenly colors of a wingcase More angelic than seraphim Aflutter at the seat of all-Being. Whoever made you Kept re-making you until You were divine as the seven Red and yellow like apples Out of Eden. Kill beetles, And the hop fields burn Lady bug, lady bug, Fly away home, Your house is on fire, Your children do roam. Another judgment is upon us, Our Lady. Blessed Coccinella, Intercede as your namesake Seldom does on our behalf. I would...

Extra natura I Poetry

We began the chapter on nature poetry by noting that, at least in part, poems set in the real world are about nature. What about poems set somewhere else in heaven, on Mars, in the mind What to call these For centuries, critics have labeled such categories of verse religious, metaphysical and sublime. The religious poem usually was devotional the metaphysical, metaphoric and the sublime, intellectual. More recently, however, religious verse has become associated with churches or movements e.g.,...

The Line

Poetry is the highest and most complex form of human speech. It includes terms as difficult to pronounce as medical ones amphibrach, dactyl, onomatopoeia to name a few. Suffice it to say that encyclopedias of poetry often number one thousand pages or more, chock full of words like these, with examples and definitions. And yet poetry has one characteristic on which all its other elements must rely the line. Eliminate rhyme, and you still have free verse. Eliminate simile, and you still have...

Structured Free Verse

If you have been composing free verse and following guidelines about idea, voice, title, line, stanza and other elements of craft as presented in the second section of this text, then your free verse really isn't free. It's structured. In other words, it has a preconceived form. In traditional verse using rhyme and or meter, the length of the line, and sometimes the shape of the stanza and the duration of the poem, are determined without your help. For instance, if you follow a rhyme scheme,...

Brown Shoes

Looks like little boy's shoes, they said. I didn't care if they were from daddy, I liked them rich dark brown round-toed, not quite Buster-Brownish. If they looked like little boy's shoes so what I wore them. 2. In time, the house that held 7 people was condemned uninhabitable. 7 people, torn to the ground. Levelled. In the rubble After we had revised her vignette, I asked Rutledge to comment on the experience I had used rhyme in writing poetry almost exclusively to lay an emotional foundation...

The Dynamo

At Yellowstone I saw a geyser spew its water in the air, this was but an appetizer the park attendant, debonair, saw me wearing polyester, knew at once that I was lost how'd he guess my name was Esther Then I saw the name embossed On the tag the park required When I drove here. I'm retired. He explained what rangers know Geysers steam before they blow As you can see, if used in this manner, the rhyming dictionary composes mostly nonsense. You begin a work wanting to capture the essence of a...

Descriptive Suspense And Label Titles

A descriptive title depicts content, a suspense one sparks interest, and the label variety is just that a word or two as on a can of vegetables Beans or Creamed Corn. Let's use a poem by Judson Jerome Oil of the Pecos Valley to illustrate how each functions. Study the above title for a moment. Now imagine it in a trade publication, accompanying an article on drilling in the Southwest. A magazine editor would call this a descriptive title because it informs the audience what the content is going...

The Homunculus

I'm hardly the first man to live in a bottle And see the world through a different size. I'm the King's most privy counselor, And know the secrets lisped at midnight And cunning courtesans. I spy the spies Or in the arras-folds hard by the banisters Of the shadowed gallery. Wiser heads Than yours are indiscreet when all intent On easing the vexed blood-itch. I tell No one but the King the things I hear, Who poisoned whom, and where the florins went. A dirty trade, you say. Well, What's a bit of...

On Alum Creek

Is dying, its branches of white horn surrounding and breaking and forming again. We are one man and one woman. It is the shortest day, the solstice, and already we feel it passing on the flickering of sun, the colder absorbing air disguised as breath, brushing our faces, our ankles. You glide far onto the ice, onto the deep shadow of the sycamore, walking stick discarded on the bank. Your breath follows you, floating up as you shout, Come on, the water's fine I edge out, uncertain, my stick...

Crazy Girl Brings The Rural Carrier A Dime

Every day she meets me at the mailbox, holding Her hand out. It's not the mail she wants. I've tried to give it to her, but she won't Take it just stretches her arm toward me, unfolding Her fingers from the palm. And there's the dime. She wants me to have it. I ask her What do you need She won't answer. She reaches toward me, shaking her head Like there's something we both know. Time after time I ve shrugged my shoulders at her and driven on. A ten-cent stamp, a cigarette nothing satisfies her....