Poetry Peeps! You’re invited to our challenge in the month of March! Here’s the scoop: We’re doing an ekphrastic dodoitsu! The humorous dodoitsu form has four lines with a 7-7-7-5 syllabic pattern, and its topics are usually love or work. There’s lots to riff on wryly about love and work, right? Are you in? Good! You’ve got a month to a.) find an image for ekphrastic inspiration, and b.) craft your creation(s), then share your offering with the rest of us on March 25th in a post and/or on social media with the tag #PoetryPals.
Yes, poetry peeps we will indeed make exquisite corpses! Eventually. Wow, that’s just not a sentence a well-placed comma will save, is it? Oh, well…
This exquisite corpse challenge was one I wasn’t quite sure about to begin with — I’ve tried writing exquisite corpse short stories before, and it’s like the worst sort of Mad Libs. Our group has a bunch of rule followers in it (*raises both hands*) so we tend to try to counteract that by being light on the rules. We didn’t try for patterns or anything – each writer was responsible for a single line, and that was that.
The Poetry Sisters came up with an order of operations – who starts, who finishes, do we want a topic or a pattern, or how are we doing this? – and then the texts begin to fly.
Liz: Okay, here’s my line. Wait… I might want to shorten it, if you haven’t started yours or sent it on…?
Me: Oops, too late.
EC Group Draft
This month, odd one out, running short on days and sleep,
This month, past meets pride, roots ripped from native soil still somehow grow.
The once-bright future dims. Shadows grow
But there, near canyon rim, in broken light
the yearling hawk shrieked in futile fury
and the steel-edged clouds looked away
trees bow and bend on a blustery day
that rattles old oak leaves down the street.
The imagery is stunning – broken light through canyon rims, yearling hawks, steel-edged clouds and trees bowing and bending. A rattle of leaves on asphalt finishes us – and we’re moving out and away from where we began.
This month, Liz begins, and then gathers images of time and light and rest — things from the natural world as well as things which are impacted during this winter month. I echoed the same two words as I began my line, because I am all about the pattern and though we had decided against sticking strictly to one, I couldn’t help myself. I also assembled elements from the natural world as well as adding symbolic elements from February – the Lunar New Year, celebrated largely by Asian communities, and Black History Month.
…And then I passed my line on…
… to Kelly who is Anarchy with aquamarine hair. She was not here to follow my lead – and I honestly, I couldn’t expect her to be. For those following along, the whole point of the exercise is Different lines, even though I was clinging with my teeth and my fingernails to Same.
This comes up time after time after time. Some of us are deeply uncomfortable with things like blank verse, unrhymed verse, long or prose poems, and a lack of guardrails in the form of meter and syllabic requirements… and the rest of us like to construct our plane while it’s taking off. It often makes collaborating on a single poem very difficult (witness that we haven’t attempted that since…2018?), but it also often gives us unexpectedly strong results when doing something wholly off-the-cuff and new… like this.
And helpfully (?) the second step in our exercise was to… revise and resubmit. Rotate, wring, and repeat – and snip these phrases free like decoupage. Take this cloth and from it cut a whole new dress… Yes, I think we’ve exhausted our metaphors, but look how awesomely we did it! – Laura’s version is here, and Liz came up with this. Sara’s variation is here, and Cousin Mary Lee took a whole new direction. Andi‘s variation is here, and Kelly’s edited us here. Michelle K joins the fun and even brings a band. Carol V. worked in another variation on a Corpse and played along as well. Finally, Tricia’s poem is here, and she’s hosting the rest of the Poetry Friday crew this week, probably (hopefully?) sans additional corpses. More Poetry Peeps may post throughout the day – I truly can’t wait to see where else this project takes my fellow poets – so check back as we round up all the …um, corpses. (Cue lines from Monty Python: Bring out your dead…!)
We had a great group of words, to begin with, but it took a while to feel comfortable cutting anyone’s lines – even though we all agreed that we were wholly free to fold, spindle, and mutilate the original. Eventually, I came up with an initial stanza:
It’s this month – odd one out,
Running short on days and light and sleep,
All this month, past meets pride,
Roots ripped from native soil still grow by leaps,
And rising, shriek defiance like a hawk,
That dervished by the wind, still grips its rock.
(It was brassy-loud and bold, and I liked it – but a few of us had talked about writing a new draft another day, to see how the lines and words moved us in a new moment… so, I waited. Sure enough, Wednesday, I didn’t feel like that bright and brassy winner, so wrote a new stanza:)
As this month’s brightness fails,
Emergent beauty stripped to steel-edged gray,
Shadows, grown bolder now
Erode late winter’s crisply bright display…
As sabers rattle, we get Cold War chills,
In broken light sift scraps to find goodwill.
Not the most… upbeat conclusion. Here, the fresh wind doesn’t rattle us and turn us around. The emergence of brightness has shifted to steel-edged gray. But, even broken, the light persists.
Now more than ever, when things feel like a tsunami about to break over our heads, we needs the world of words to warm us, nourish us, and keep us going. So friends, as always, tell your stories. Write your poems. Say your piece, and sing your songs. Be well, and do well. Stay warm, in this last gasp of winter, and find the peace and beauty in this world – and as always, don’t forget to share it. Happy Weekend.