Thursday, May 5, 2016

Delving Into Poetry Month: Thirty Days of Planting Words

        April is (or now was) National Poetry Month, a nice designation but nothing near the impact of a national holiday. Emily Dickinson's birthday maybe? Or Walt Whitman's? 
         Still, poets get excited about it in sort of busman's holiday way. Let's write more poems this month, they say. Let's write a poem every day. A National Poetry Month website encourages this workaholic tendency, offering clever and original prompts on each of the month's 30 days. In fact, any number of other websites do a similar thing. 
          Prompts are a new discovery for me, perhaps an invention of the instant communication possibilities of the digital age. If someone says, 'why don't we all write a poem about trees, or birds, or women whose image deserves to be on the twenty dollar bill?' you could say that was a prompt. But things are considerably more elaborate in the industry these days. 
         Here, for example, is the National Poetry Month [http://www.napowrimo.net/] website's prompt for the April 24th:

Today I challenge you to write a “mix-and-match” poem in which you mingle fancy vocabulary with distinctly un-fancy words. First, spend five minutes writing a list of overly poetic words – words that you think just sound too high-flown to really be used by anyone in everyday speech. Examples might be vesper, heliotrope, or excelsior. Now spend five minutes writing words that you might use or hear every day, but which seem too boring or quotidian to be in a poem. Examples might be garbage disposal, doggy bag, bathroom. Now mix and match examples from both of your lists into a single poem. Hopefully you’ll end up with a poem that makes the everyday seem poetic, and which keeps your poetic language grounded. 

          Or kinda wicked paradoxically incongruous.
           Nevertheless I gave the monthly project a try, working not everyday but with a start and stop rhythm. I frequently fell three or four days behind and went doggedly back to the days I missed to try to catch up. And while I never did get to all 30 prompts, I enjoyed the process. Two of the poems I wrote this way turned into 'garden theme' poems and appear in this month's Verse-Virtual.
            They are titled "Visiting Roses: Under the 'Lune' " and "A Family Garden." [www.verse-virtual.com/robert-c-knox-2016-may.html]
             "Visiting Roses" originated with a prompt to write in a poetic form called a "lune": 

This is a sort of English-language haiku. While the haiku is a three-line poem with a 5-7-5 syllable count, the lune is a three-line poem with a 5-3-5 syllable count. There’s also a variant based on word-count, instead of syllable count, where the poem still has three lines, but the first line has five words, the second line has three words, and the third line has five words again. Either kind will do, and you can write a one-lune poem, or write a poem consisting of multiple stanzas of lunes.


             "A Family Garden" came from this prompt:
...write a poem that takes the form of a family portrait. You could write, for example, a stanza for each member of your family. You could also find an actual snapshot of your family and write a poem about it, spending a little bit of time on each person in the picture. You don’t need to observe any particular form or meter.

           A more challenging prompt introduced me to the form of the "tritana."


The tritina is a shorter cousin to the sestina, involving three, three-line stanzas, and a final concluding line. Three “end words” are used to conclude the lines of each stanza, in a set pattern of ABC, CAB, BCA, and all three end words appear together in the final line.
Confused? No problem — here’s an example!


I did read the illustrative tritana, and liked it. The poem that resulted from this formal challenge, titled "The Slow Tritina We Will Dance," has been accepted by another literary journal for an upcoming issue. Never too late, I guess, to learn something new. 

One last offering from my month's work, to illustrate the range of the imaginative and wholly unpredictable universe of the 'prompt.' (There is no end to it.) Here's the prompt for June 17:

I challenge you to find, either on your shelves or online, a specialized dictionary. This could be, for example, a dictionary of nautical terms, or woodworking terms, or geology terms. Anything, really, so long as it’s not a standard dictionary! Now write a poem that incorporates at least ten words from your specialized source.




I found a dictionary of geological terms that attracted me because on the first page appeared "alluvial fan." I loved the double meaning possibility there. Here's the resulting poem, with notes below to explain the unfamiliar terms.
 
School of Hard Rocks

The Alluvian Fan is rooting for mud
While the Spirit of New Mexico prays for dry weather to save his handsome Butte
A Density Current pores through the country with an angry thump:
many votes for Donald Trump.
An increased dip in a dipping trend says Monocline is now your friend,
while tumbling on Scree in a bald Reverse Fault, a stumbling Roughneck calls a halt.
Put down your cup of early joe and help me wind yon Pahoehoe
It coils around the Tourmalines that color grew in deeper mines
And persevered through many fights
with blind, albino Troglobites
The Caldera yawns at Yellowstone 
While for its loss a Cation moans
In deeper days in heavy dirt
A crystal nodule strives for Chert
Attorneys for the Deeps in opposition
Await a geological Deposition
To rule at last, without dispute
That Fossil Fuels aren't worth a Hoot 

[NOTES from a glossary of geological terms:
http://geology.com/geology-dictionary.shtml
A
lluvial Fan:A fan-shaped wedge of sediment that typically accumulates on land where a stream emerges from a steep canyon onto a flat area.

Density Current:
A gravity-driven flow of a dense fluid down a slope through a fluid of lower density

Monocline: An area of increased dip in otherwise gently dipping strata.
Scree: A mass of small loose stones that form or cover a slope on a mountain.

Pahoehoe: A Hawaiian term for a lava flow that has a surface flow structure that looks like coiled rope or cord.


Tourmalines: a crystalline boron silicate mineral compounded with elements such as aluminium, iron, magnesium, sodium, lithium, or potassium
Troglobites:Small creatures that have adapted to a permanent life in a cave.

Caldera: A large, bowl-shaped crater associated with a volcanic vent
Cation: An atom with a positive charge that has been produced by the loss of one or more electrons.
Chert: The precipitation of chemical sediments from mineral rich waters. 
Deposition:
A word used in reference to sediments or sedimentary rocks that are composed of particles that were transported and deposited by wind, water or ice.
Hoot: Slang sense of "smallest amount or particle"]




DAY TEN She challenges us to write a “book spine” poem. This involves taking a look at your bookshelves, and writing down titles in order (or rearranging the titles) to create a poem. Some fun images of book spine poems can be found here. If you want to take things a step further, Lillian suggests gathering a list of titles from your shelves (every third or fifth book, perhaps, if you have a lot) and using the titles, as close to the originals as possible, to create a poem that is seeded throughout with your own lines, interjections, and thoughts. Happy writing!


Far Side

The Far Side of the World
We travel when the wind is fair
One Palestine Complete
Turn the pages back on time's mistakes
After King Philip's War, Mayflower,
The Invasion of Europe by the Europeans
Time's Last Chance and Other Riddles
Laws of Number, Excluded Middles,
The World Without Us,
Shame of the Cities,
Clever Men and Clever Ditties
Eye of the Storm by Namesake Knox
Wings Over Cape Cod and Ancient Rocks
The Journal of Albion Moonlight
and All Such Stuff from Other Days
Lord of Chaos rules The Ways
Festive Time and Haunted Hours
A Field Guide to Wild Trees and Flowers
New England Mysteries All Must Fear
The Tempest, The Inferno, and King Lear
Tragedy in Dedham, Marcel Proust Along
Swann's Way, Falkner's Hamlet, Old Will's Play
Florida and Samarkand, Places we will find to stand
and dip our toes in soothing sand
But don't forget Blue Fruit for Sal, or Toad for Owl,
Something to Beguile the Hour,
The Day We Ran Away, Adventure Calls,
Defiance Hurled, Taking Daddy's Little Girl
to The Far Side of the World  


 




School of Hard Rocks

The Alluvian Fan is rooting for mud
While the Spirit of New Mexico prays for dry weather to save his handsome Butte
A Density Current pores through the country with an angry thump:
many votes for Donald Trump.
An increased dip in a dipping trend says Monocline is now your friend,
while tumbling on Scree in a bald Reverse Fault, a stumbling Roughneck calls a halt.
Put down your cup of early joe and help me wind yon Pahoehoe
It coils around the Tourmalines that color grew in deeper mines
And persevered through many fights
with blind, albino Troglobites
The Caldera yawns at Yellowstone 
While for its loss a Cation moans
In deeper days in heavy dirt
A crystal nodule strives for Chert
Attorneys for the Deeps in opposition
Await a geological Deposition
To rule at last, without dispute
That Fossil Fuels aren't worth a Hoot