For Those Who Have Died At Birth

What do they say, the souls of the newborn dead When, lolling about in the long afternoons of heaven, The conversation turns to reminiscing Remember how it was . . . The feel of silk The taste of strawberries The smell of a mother's hair Her perspective can be reduced to a few words, Hickman says the ultimate triumph of love. To convey that, she imagines lazy afternoons in heaven (setting) in which images associated with touch, taste and smell important senses to newborns are recalled in easy...

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...

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...

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...

Elegy Written In A Country Churchyard

The curfew tolls the knell of parting day, The lowing herd wind slowly o'er the lea, The plowman homeward plods his weary way, And leaves the world to darkness and to me. . . . These are basic types of elegies found in the literary canon. By categorizing them, I hope to stimulate ideas based on personal, private and public eulogies or on inscriptions experiences in cemeteries. Now let's take a closer look at the universality of elegies and propose ways for you to sharpen ideas for them.

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...

On My First Daughter

Here lies, to each her parents' ruth, Mary, the daughter of their youth Yet all heaven's gifts being heaven's due, It makes the father less to rue. . . . ON MY DEAR GRANDCHILD SIMON BRADSTREET, WHO DIED ON 16 NOVEMBER, 1669, BEING BUT A MONTH, AND ONE DAY OLD No sooner came, but gone, and fall'n asleep, Acquaintance short, yet parting caused us weep Three flowers, two scarcely blown, the last i' th' bud, Cropt by th' Almighty's hand yet is He good. With dreadful awe before Him let's be mute,...

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,...

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...

Pick a Subject That Suits the Form

This is paramount if you ever hope to write a pantoum. Consider how Joyce Carol Oates describes the pantoum's ability to convey certain subjects The pantoum is a poetic form marvelously suited for conveying extreme states of mind mania, paranoia, delusion. Writing a pantoum is quite an experience I've only written two in my entire life, and felt each time as if I were descending into madness, and holding on only by way of a rigorous discipline in itself a bit mad. Of course, pantoums don't have...

Midline Breaks

No one says that a stanza has to follow the end of a uniform line. You can break into the white space of a stanza at any point in a line if that will aid in the reading of a poem. Originally this was the norm in verse plays on stage during the Elizabethan era. One actor would say half a poetic line, and another actor would finish it. Poets adapted this playwriting technique to the page, usually in narrative verse that features more than one speaker. Later this metamorphosed into a bona fide...

Acknowledgments

I don't know how I got so lucky to write it. Included in these pages are dozens of poems by some of the world's most talented contemporary writers, most of whom donated their works, time and wisdom without compensation in an attempt to make The Art and Craft of Poetry an enlightening, enduring text. Contributors to this project include Diane Ackerman, Terry Anderson, Tom Andrews, Nuala Archer, David Baker, Jim Barnes, Kevin Bezner, Charlene Blue Horse, Lady Borton, Kevin...

Genera Ubi Sunt

Where are the Mahicans whose name means wolf In the wolf-less mountains of the Catskill The Tasmanians whose rocks are relics In the marsupial uplands of evolution The Congoids who met Columbus, the Celts Who met the Norse in their holocaust sloops We, too, are explorers but cannot find them In our modems and books. We know all about Eur-asians and -arabs, the yearlings of war. Show us the lost tribes of Israel and Germania So we may follow the roads to Rome, annul The laws of endangerment, and...

Permissions

Kismet and How Like a Virus Entering a Cell are reprinted with the permission of Diane Ackerman. The poems appear in her book Jaguar of Sweet Laughter New amp Selected Poems, published by Random House in 1991. The excerpt from the poem Beowulf, as translated by Michael Alexander, is reprinted with permission from Penguin Books Ltd. Alexander's translation was originally published by Penguin Classics in 1973. Satan by Terry Anderson is reprinted with his permission, copyright 1992. At Burt Lake...

Ann Howland

Three trees are planted. more will follow Your horse delivered a magnificent, independent foal Valour and survived a terrible contest with old barbed wire. Spring percolates, hesitates. The records are boxed, estates in order, patients redirected. Still . . . the winds blow thru the hills and the brightly colored wings are missed. The poem was signed by her husband Gerry Hilferty and Ann's children Andrea and Josh. Later I learned that Hilferty, a designer of museums and...

Types of Placement

Here are basic placements and their effects in a poem End-Stopped Rhyme A rhyme word followed with a punctuation mark, usually a comma or a period. This type of placement helps shape the line as a unit, giving it a crisp feel. It also calls attention to the rhyme word, emphasizing its meaning and its music. Look back with longing eyes and know that I will follow, Lift me up in your love as a light wind lifts a swallow, Let our flight be far in sun or blowing...

On The Life And Death Of St Teresa

Her left arm's at Lisbon, fingers of the right hand at Seville, Avila, Paris, Brussels, Rome. Right foot in Rome, a slice of flesh. One tooth in Venice. Piacenza boasts of a napkin stained with her blood. Milan keeps a piece of the heart, another tooth. Lump of her flesh in Naples, scapular. Her slippers at Avila, most of the torso at Alva, at Cagliari her veil. The wooden cross she used to beat the demons sent to try her, at Rome. Also Brussels. Two very large slices of...

Six Elements Of Narrative Verse

If you know these elements topic, theme, voice, viewpoint, moment, ending and how they affect your story, you'll also be able to envision your narrative and simplify the creative process. Topic The subject matter has a beginning, middle and end. Sometimes the ending comes first, the beginning second and the middle third or some other combination but all narratives, however innovative, contain all three. Moreover, because of such a structure, you'll be able to sense a passage of time First this...

The Narrative Poem

Narrative poems come in all shapes and sizes, but they all have one thing in common They tell stories. People have been telling stories since the dawn of creation, and the great religious and poetic works reflect this. For instance, a parable is a story. Throughout time, in cultures around the world, the person who tells an enlightened tale has been honored as a priest or visionary with unique powers. Even the word poet, used today in conversation, implies that a person has a special gift that...

How Like A Virus Entering A Cell

And pumped your salty cargo pell-mell In that tidal basin where life's begun, white heat eclipsing but to reappear. And how I sculled through your mind-lagoons vetchy, radiant, thick with fauna , regaled by egret-flight and japonica, time rode the floe of our imaginings, and my heart beat faster for its clipped wings.

Mini Anthology of Narrative Poems

THE MAN WHO BEAT THE GAME AT JOHNNY'S TRUCK STOP for Bruce Weigl The man didn't say a word. He brought his hands down hard On the glass top of the machine And broke through into the shining Space we all gaze at, longing To touch it, never knowing What we want, or how easy it would be If you only didn't mind getting a little Blood on your hands. In napkins, and he sat a long time Not talking, not minding the dark Blot the bound fingers left On the table, not listening When we told him again and...

The Pantoum

Although I think it's more difficult to compose a good sestina, some critics argue that the pantoum is more elusive. The reason, simply, is the complex form. Written in quatrains four-line stanzas , the pantoum repeats the second and fourth lines of each stanza as the first and third lines of the following stanza, respectively. The pattern is continued for as many stanzas as you like. But when you end a pantoum, you should repeat the first and third lines of the first stanza as the fourth and...

Cultural Filters

At this point it is important to note that each of us views nature differently, however hard we try to depict it in verse. Each of us carries the filters of culture and experience that influence how we perceive and interpret the world. Rather than attempt to explain the myriad types of possible interpretations an exercise that could fill an encyclopedia I'll contrast the poems of two women from different cultures and regions. Poet Sharon Klander came north to earn a doctorate in creative...

All The Leaves Say

In the other, the sunken life, in the world of green feedings, all the leaves say yes, meadows of curved stems say yes and warmth flows from the depth of this yes out toward horizons where hills are still transparent and the ground white with drippings from the moon. Waking from this memory of green, we'll face the skirmish of each day, with hostages retrieved from the night. This time will be different, new patterns for the feet, wings for the eye, rhythms for the heart, and our names...

The Patriotic Poem

While revolutionary poetry is written only by a handful of poets and succeeds only at propitious moments, patriotic poetry appeals to many writers and is timeless. Those are drawbacks. At any given moment, poets are writing this type of verse and doing so in similar or antiquated ways. Thou art as rich as proud, from snow cap to gulf stream, panhandle to prairie, Chances are, you've seen poems like this or even written a few. Indeed, anyone could have written the above work, with its safe ideas...

Infant Sorrow

Into the dangerous world I leapt Helpless, naked, piping loud Like a fiend hid in a cloud. Struggling in my fathers hands Striving against my swadling bands Bound and weary I thought best To sulk upon my mothers breast. I wander thro' each charter'd street, Near where the charter'd Thames does flow. And mark in every face I meet Marks of weakness, marks of woe. In every cry of every man, In every Infants cry of fear, In every voice in every ban, The mind-forg'd...

Generating Ideas For Political Poems

You may claim that you don't have a political bone in your body, but if you have bones, some of them are political. You might not care for protest poetry and might shrug at the mention of revolutionary or patriotic verse. Perhaps you are quite content with the status quo. If so, imagine an issue that would send you into the streets with a sign and a slogan. Surely, there's one. For instance, millions of Americans are content to watch spectator sports every weekend or consume hours of soap...