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Make Your Own Adventure

And now it comes to this . . .  We are at the final day of National Poetry Month 2022. Thank you to all who stuck with me -- writing poems, trying to write poems, reading the blog posts, and especially those who read at our monthly poetry reading on Zoom. New Jersey, New York. and New England were all represented. Going forward from the end of the month to the beginning of new writing, the next challenge is to make your own poetry, including your own poetic forms. You can actually invent a form or tweak a form. I was once teaching a weekend workshop at a retreat center and there wasn’t a lot of time to write so I came up with the “villanellie”. It’s a shorter version of the villanelle and kind of named after myself, but that part is just coincidence. The villanellie is a villanelle with three tercets instead of five. That gave the participants the opportunity to have a completed work in less time. A mentor once assigned a prompt that was something like “write a poem in twelve sen

Light Verse

As we come to the end of the month we have reached our final Fun Friday for this project. Previously we looked at the clerihew and the limerick, but today we are doing light verse overall. It’s a varied and rich side of poetry. Yesterday I said when writing an ode, to keep it lofty. Today I’m saying come down from that. Go forth and write; keep it light. Even stuffy ol’ me has a few poems that are at least almost funny. Here’s one: High Minded Shoes The goddess within me rose up.                               The feminine came forward to say, “Go forth. Buy yourself something to demonstrate your strength, your versatility. Adorn yourself as the practical, competent woman you are. My wise woman archetype blossomed. My crone aspect made it possible and now — I have new Crocs. There is even a contest for light verse. It’s free to enter and the submission period opens on August 1. The poem above has lost this very contest. Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest (no fee) - Winning Writers   The

Ode

The ode is a poem, if not a song, of praise. It’s usually not in a form such as a sestina or villanelle, but will often be blank verse with iambic pentameter and end rhymes. The Greek poet Pindar is credited with writing the first odes, according to Padgett in the Handbook of Poetic Forms . Although Pindar's were intricate, like so many things, the form has “lightened up” over the centuries until now when the most important point is praise. While the ode does remain a poem of praise, that praise can be delivered in many ways. Odes often have a lofty air about them such as the early English odes written by Ben Johnson including “To the Immortal Memory and Friendship of That Noble Pair, Sir Lucius Cary and Sir H. Morison”. Although this mimics the early Pindar structure, it is also an update of the form. It is written in praise of a life well lived, even if brief. Here is some commentary on this ode followed by the poem itself. Ben Jonson – “The Ode on Cary and Morison” – Reading T

Prose Poem

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a lyric essay! It’s a poem! A prose poem is written with all the poetic considerations of metaphor, terseness, and beauty of a poem, but without line breaks, rhyme, or repetitive structure. What’s the difference between a lyric essay and a prose poem? I don’t know. The question reminds me of people saying a tomato is a vegetable or a tomato is a fruit. Does it really matter? I think people who write essays call the form a lyric essay and people who write poems call them prose poems. Or vice versa. People who write essays might say they write poems, too, but only prose poems. To be either, the work is usually short, distinctly concise, and insightful in some way. It’s not a long expository essay and it’s not a long epic poem. The French poet Aloysius Bertrand is credited with the first book of prose poems Gaspard of the Night, 1836. He was followed by Baudelaire and Rimbaud. The form has had a resurgence of late. If you want to write one, don’t worry

Elegy

Here is another one that, like the occasional poem, is named more for its content than structure. While it’s likely to be read at a memorial service or after the death of a loved one or popular figure, anyone or anything could be memorialized. A pet? A lost crop? Democracy? The point is to acknowledge the loss, so the elegy is almost always serious, unless it is deliberately satirical. Elegy for Jane     Theodore Roethke             (My student, thrown by a horse) I remember the neckcurls, limp and damp as tendrils; And her quick look, a sidelong pickerel smile; And how, once started into talk, the light syllables leaped for her. And she balanced in the delight of her thought, A wren, happy, tail into the wind, Her song trembling the twigs and small branches. The shade sang with her; The leaves, their whispers turned to kissing, And the mould sang in the bleached valleys under the rose.   Oh, when she was sad, she cast herself down into such a pure depth, E

Ghazal

The ghazal is a Persian form whose popularity may have peaked over a thousand years ago, yet it remains popular today. There are a few aspects of the form that are in all (or at least most) modern ghazals. Ghazals talk about love and wine and do so in (usually) five or at least an uneven number of couplets. The last word of the second line is the same in all of the couplets. In the final couplet, the poets “signs their name” or makes reference to their name or their identity somehow. The form is so old though that many variations have sprung up. Poets from Rumi and Hafiz to Goethe and Bly have been writing or translating ghazals. In translation some of the “rules” stated above are less than evident, if at all. An excellent resource, with greater depth than I’ve given here is Ghazal – Poetry Forms (poetscollective.org) . The modern champion of the ghazal has been Aga Shahid Ali especially in his book Rooms Are Never Finished.   (W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. , 2002) More at this lin

Rondeau

This looks like one of those tricky ones. How could you follow the guidelines and come up with anything that flows, that makes sense? Yet it happens. The rondeau has both repetition and rhyme. That’s where it gets its flow. There are three stanzas of five lines, three lines, then five lines again except tacked onto the second and third stanzas is the refrain, which comes from or is the first line in the poem. The poem also revolves around two rhymes taken from the first and third lines of the first stanza. Right about now I’m thinking some examples would be helpful. I’ll start with a rondeau that most of us read or had read to us in school, perhaps on Memorial Day. It was written by John McCrae, a Canadian army physician. 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 Scarce heard amid the guns below. We are the Dead. Short days ago We lived, felt dawn