{pf: poetry peeps make a metaphor}

Greetings! Welcome to another Poetry Peeps adventure on Poetry Friday!

You’re invited to try our challenge in the month of March! Here’s the plan: We’re going to dance forth with some “dizzying dizains.” Never heard of a dizain? Not sure why you’ll be stumbling and spun? The short version is: it’s a French form from 15th-16th c., with a 10-line stanza · 10 syllables per line · And an ababbccdcd rhyme scheme. A bit longer of an explanation can be found at Writer’s Digest, with a few helpful tips and an example. Interested? Good! You’ve got a month to spin your poem(s), then share your offering (or someone else’s) with the rest of us on March 26 in a post and/or on social media – #PoetryPals.

Our second challenge of 2021 was to roll the metaphor dice, digitally or in person if we had actual metaphor dice on hand, then write a poem – full stop. There were no other rules nor themes this month. Fortunately, the Perchance metaphor generator is …full of delightful chaos. Today’s Poetry Friday hostess, Karen Edmisten’s first metaphor made me snort-laugh – I look forward to seeing what (if anything) she comes up with. You should read Sara’s here. Tricia’s is here, and this is Liz‘s. Laura’s is here, and here’s Kelly’s. Michelle’s metaphor is here, and Mary Lee’s is here. More Poetry Peeps will be checking in throughout the day, so stay tuned!

Metaphors are wild – there’s no plausible deniability as with similes – no cushioning “like” or “as.” No, no, my dear, you ARE my sunshine, full stop, you ball of flaming nuclear goodness. My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun, but the rest of her…? She is FIRE…apparently literally.

While also a number of other things, metaphor by definition is a descriptive device, used for rhetorical effect. While I started out trying to use blank verse, the more rigid, syllabic form felt best – and don’t ask me why, except maybe it is just that metaphor is so whimsical (read: IRRATIONAL) I felt it needed some guide rails. The guidance-heavy form I selected was the Zeno, created by poet J. Patrick Lewis. As a ten-line poem with a syllable pattern of 8/4/2/1/4/2/1/4/2/1, it seemed most like time – mathematical and divisible. The fourth, seventh and tenth lines – all those with single syllables – rhyme, making it deceptively simple looking, but wresting sense and emotional resonance from such firmly structured lines is the tricky part. I found that after the first one, the next came much more easily, and the form matches really well with something so variant.

Go Set A Watchman

Honesty is a watch, well-honed,
its pendulum
hound, two-edged sword,
piercing, marrow
cleaving –

This next poem is from the metaphor dice, and is a phrase I was initially against using. It seemed to obvious, too easy – and yet, when I asked myself why, I had no good answer. Some questions… don’t.


Home is a mad thunderstorm. Wild
Hurricane stills –
Is this the eye?
The end?

And for all that it felt “too obvious,” and the form possibly too confining for emotional resonance, I think this one edges toward being my favorite.

Finally, this last effort was from a phrase that initially was poetic right out of the box. “Talent is a birdcage.” As a kid, I loved singing, but my distaste for ‘performance’ seeps through from being trotted out at church like a beribboned Shetland pony. “Oh, of course she’ll sing!” my parents gushed, smiling without asking, somehow pleased to be asked. “Why did we pay for voice lessons?” they asked in sharp whispers, when my tiny rebellions emerged. (What? Bitter? Me?) Throughout my life, I have been involved in countless thousands of performances, but there’s a way to sing without it being performance, I think? Something between sharing your soul and selling it…

These are my first try at zenos, and I’m really pleased with them, for all that syllabic poetry occasionally presents me with some real difficulties. Poetry Friday is hosted today, as I mentioned, over at Karen’s. Thank you, Karen! I hope the rest of you will take your sunshine-y presence on over that way and enjoy some more poetry.

In just a few days, it’ll be March, and we’ll have officially passed A Plague Year. It feels odd to think in terms of “celebration,” when despite several vaccines emergent, it’s not over, and its distanced-and-masked reality – and its global impact – will yet be with us. So, while we cannot truly celebrate, can we commemorate our resilience? Our neighbor’s courage? Our loved ones’ lives, lost, or carried on, though slowed and changed? Think about it… every day of a life well-lived is worth remembering. Happy Weekend.

22 Replies to “{pf: poetry peeps make a metaphor}”

  1. Your “free bird” is marvelous Tanita–”why do they sing” they have to, but with such a price. The staccato rhythm carries through and resonates with the singing or against it as in this case–so many layers there in so few words–invigorating, thanks!

  2. Wow, what a challenging and intriguing form. I love all of these, Tanita but I think my favorite is … wait, I can’t pick a favorite. 🙂 The form doesn’t so much contain or limit as it does shape the wallop you’ve created in each piece. I’m blown away that you created all three of these for one challenge!

    1. @Karen Edmisten: I’m happier with these than expected, but I think I’ll try them again without a theme, and see if the magic still works… I have a feeling that left to myself, the form has such presence on its own that I might not be able to wrangle it without a clearly defined and most of all LIMITED topic. We’ll see… but I am still waiting to see what you do with “family is a hammer!”

  3. You’ve definitely inspired me, Tanita, to try on some metaphors and the zeno. I know about it, but. . . Perhaps in March I’ll find some ways to mark that day of lockdowns, that year that many did not survive and others did, the year of survival. I’m writing too much, but thinking of your “Free Bird”, relating to your own feelings, yet to this past year, & wonder if it can mean much more if we move into less tight places? Wonderful and thoughtful poems!

    1. @lindabaie: I’m all in favor of moving to less confined spaces, internally and literally! I was all over the road with my thinking in these poems, but you’ve kind of pulled the thoughts together – a longing for freedom and a memorial to those not free, in whatever means, seems to underscore the last two…

      …thank you for making me sound more erudite than I am!

  4. YOU DID ALL OF THESE?? I’m kind of blown away. Also, we need Zenos as one of our monthly prompts — they are so cool. I have to say, those last three lines of the middle poem? “Is this the eye? /The end? /Why…” Oh, Tanita. Those absolutely bring me to my knees…

  5. You definitely rocked the Zenos. I’m going to add that form into my daily jots and see what happens.

    I realized going through the roundup that I skewed the challenge just a bit (or perhaps skewered it with my needle). I tried using both ] the generator and my dice, but wound up settling on a metaphor of my own making. Oh, well…

    1. @Cousin Mary Lee: I think your skewering worked out well. I’m actually thinking of trying these with my OWN metaphors too, because some of what the generator came up with ended up being too specific or awkward. I’m looking forward to more zenos, too!

  6. Oh, these are fun! I’m glad you enjoyed zenos, Tanita–they’re one of my very favorite forms. These are all successful, but the talent one–ooh, yes, please. The rage at the end! Love it. I also adore this: “Something between sharing your soul and selling it…” Isn’t that the fine line artists of any kind walk…

    1. @laurasalas: Selling v. sharing – that’s a line that too many parents don’t quite get… that even when they’re young, it’s still a LOT for performers to keep performing… I was surprised by how much I liked the Zeno form. It didn’t seem… really doable at first and it felt like it had TOO many rules, but I think it’s got just enough to take a tiny bit of meaning and dig in.

  7. I love this form and you’ve created magic with it. I love all 3, but I love the middle poem. There’s something so raw and truthful about it. I totally get the last poem. During my 14 years as a cantor I stood behind the column next to the organ. The congregation could hear me, but not see me. Other cantors went up on the lectern to sing. Not me. It wasn’t about me, it was about the music, and I felt so much happier NOT being seen.

    1. @Tricia Stohr-Hunt: Oddly, I LOVED singing for funerals when I was younger… because the local chapel invited singers into a nook behind an ornamental metal grate – we were virtually invisible, and yet we were there and a part of things. Our own little metal veil…

      I’m glad you like the second poem. It’s so raw I hesitated to share it, but …Zeno lets you kind of prune emotions down to where they’re manageable, so I like it for that, too. I can see it might not suit every topic, but it’s useful here.

  8. We should all try Zenos now…you made them shine. My favorite is the first one…the rhyme of truth and toothed is inspired. I concur on using form to make emotional content both less “whimsical” and more resonant…although I have no problem with whimsical (or irrational!) I figure forms are called forms for a reason…we can pour ourselves into them like oozy cake batter and…okay, now I AM getting whimsical.

    1. @saralewisholmes: I was glad toothed actually worked, since the sword, being “two-edged” also brought that to mind (“Sharper than a serpent’s tooth…”). I’m fine with whimsy from other people, but I find it works its way into unreason really easily in MY hands… your hands it likes.

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