{p7 writes back: the lai}

Upon sitting down to compose my Poetry Friday post, I generally express shock that the month has so passed quickly, but May has been ridiculous — it was the same day for at least fourteen years, and then suddenly we were hurtling toward the first of June. The other day, some wag at the Farmer’s Market wished me a Happy Apocalypse, and …yeah, okay, fine. I’ll take it. Welcome To Your New Abnormal.

A friend mentioned the other day that at times, she finds things as they stand simply unbelievable. And I laughed – in empathy, in commiseration, and in recognition. We’ve been here before, haven’t we? In this society and in our world, so many times we’ve faced the same sweeping sickness, the same financial losses. The same racism, the same violence, the same losses, the same pain. Society lurches from pain to plenty and back again, and it feels like nothing we learn makes any difference. I don’t say this cynically – but sometimes in utter bewilderment, and a sneaking suspicion that we’re incapable…

Our poetry challenge this month was to revisit and revise an old poem, or write one new in conversation. Holding to our anti-2020 theme of foresight, I wandered back through old poems until I found the lai poems from 2017. The theme back then was hope and peace and light… and I wrote then that we “sorely needed it.” Bah. I don’t even remember specifics of the horror of 2017, and today’s self looks back, haggard, at yesterday’s self and sighs, “Girl, please. You don’t know the half of it.”

Hindsight. Foresight.

…since we ONCE AGAIN find ourselves and continually in need of hope, peace, and light, let’s light up another lai, shall we? This French form has a nine-line, “A” and “B” rhyme scheme with A lines being five syllables, and B lines two, with the pattern of AA B AA B AA B. This was difficult to work with, and seemed too short to imbue with meaning. To switch that up a bit, today we’re exploring the Lai Nouveau, which has a similar pattern internally, but falls into two stanzas of sixteen lines with repeating opening lines. I find this helps to tie together the whole:


Fate’s had a field day:
Predator’s turned prey:
Knowledge can’t outweigh
Chance’s power play.
Forces us to say,
“Try another way.”

Plans still go astray
Every single day.
Bigwigs cry “Foul play!”
Scrambling away.
They hate
Feeling like their prey…
Fate’s had a field day.

Who is the predator, and who is the prey? Is fickle chance the only way to upend tradition? Given the chance to change something big, where would you start? While you ponder these points, don’t miss more poetry from the Poetry Peeps: Laura, joined by Rebecca, and Sara, following Tricia, and Liz. And welcome to others who’d like to write along with us!

Still more poetry at Poetry Friday which today is at Cousin Mary Lee’s blog. There might be nothing you can do to predict the way life goes, but I know you can roll with it – just like the rest of us. Be good to yourself, friend, and be well.

12 Replies to “{p7 writes back: the lai}”

  1. Predators becoming prey. Much to think about. I’m thinking about tables switching, a power shifts, and if reason can make things better in the end. Powerful verse that I enjoyed reading out loud.

  2. “Try another way.” Oh, yes. If only we could and would.
    I would love to wake up one day and not ask, “What fresh hell is this?”
    Be good to yourself, too, friend and I hope you are well as well.

  3. First, on a poetic note, I know about the lai, but don’t think I’ve ever tried one. Engaging with something new helps, at least for a while. I love what you’ve done with those rhyming words, checkmate, stalemate, irate, they hate, Tanita, sadly covers our times now. And I’m wishing it wasn’t so.

  4. Utter bewilderment pretty much sums it up. Here in the Twin Cities, I’m thinking, AGAIN? And, white supremacists traveling here to riot and loot and stir things up? Wtf. I almost literally can’t believe it, even though I know the facts. “Try another way.” That’s my mantra today. Also, your poem made me think of “World,” by Five for Fighting. I love that song. Thank you, Tanita.

    1. @laurasalas: I’ve been thinking of you, and hoping that where your townhouse is situated is calm. I know that with all else going on, it’s difficult and stressful for you. Here’s to trying something else… Because this isn’t working.

  5. I was feeling so helpless this morning, listening to the news. Like, could we put racism and greed and idiocy on ice for awhile folks — it’s a pandemic! Alas, and like you say, “it feels like nothing we learn will make any difference.” It’s just bewildering. But raising voices filled with light actually does something — I believe that — and so I’ve just read this aloud and thank you. (Also, I guess you and I are both having firm conversations with fate and reason this week. No wonder.)

    1. @Liz Garton Scanlon: Fate and reason aren’t so much listening… but here’s to voices raised, and filled with light, indeed. As we reach a stalemate yet again, here’s hoping new ways – and new avenues of thought – emerge to unstick us from this current moment…

  6. Ooh! I really enjoyed the lai when we tried them and hadn’t thought to step up to a Lai Nouveau! I love how this hindsight/foresight thing is giving us new chances to solve old poems, or enhance them, or even start fresh. Come to think of it, that sums up what hope and peace could do for us slow learner humans, too, if we were willing. Meanwhile: stalemate. Hate. Our fate.

    1. @saralewisholmes: I’m trying to push myself in these “looking back” poems, and I REALLY struggled with the lai the first time, and then I LOVED the final product, so they really are worth dabbling with again. The two syllable lines feel too brief sometimes, but It Can Be Done!

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