Swords of Seven, Unite! Or, something. We need an heroic-sounding cry like that, for poetry.
I didn’t even try to stay on the wagon in 2014. I did my haiku during National Poetry Month, but otherwise, I blew it. We keep promising ourselves that we’ll read more poetry, write more poetry, breathe more poetry, even if it’s BAD poetry, to just get it out there, and so we are kicking ourselves in the backside here on this first Friday of 2015; we, being the Poetry Sisters, the Poetry Princesses or the Poetry Seven, depending on the mood we’re in. Once more from the top! A nudge in the direction of a year of poetry. (It’s always Liz coming up with these nudge-slash-butt-kickings. Did I mention that previously? It’s. Always. Liz. The sweet-looking one with the curls and the butter-wouldn’t-melt smile always kicks us in the tuchis and says “MOVE.” What is up with that?) One poem a month we’ll produce, according to a schedule. This month is the triolet.
The triolet is actually a pretty obscure poem form, so there are few in print from Ye Olden Days and it’s not assigned a lot in English classes. A triolet is a short poem of eight lines with only two rhymes used throughout. According to the American Academy of Poets, the requirements of this fixed form are straightforward: the first line is repeated in the fourth and seventh lines; the second line is repeated in the final line; and only the first two end-words are used to complete the tight rhyme scheme. Thus, the poet writes only five original lines, giving the triolet a deceptively simple appearance: ABaAabAB, where capital letters indicate repeated lines. On the surface of things, that seems easy enough – just do what it says on the box, right? Um, no. This is harder than it looks, especially if you have a topic in mind.
I cheated and started writing my triolet this past autumn, while I was reading the book WHISTLING VIVALDI, by Claude M. Steele. While the book covers an overarching sociological study about stereotype, the author uses an illustration about an African American male walking down the street at night, facing the threat of being seen as potentially violent. In the book, Steele recounts how, to deflect this stereotype threat, African American New York Times writer Brent Staples whistled Vivaldi while walking the streets of Hyde Park at night to signal to white people that he was educated and nonviolent. A journalist this past year used the phrase “whistling Vivaldi” to describe how African Americans tried to eradicate the essential “stain” of race for victims of gun violence against innocent African Americans by saying what good grades they’d gotten in school, or how they’d wanted to go to college in the fall, or how they’d had hopes and dreams that signalled a lack of stereotype threat because they were about bettering themselves, and pulling themselves up by those invisible bootstraps or otherwise appearing to follow the safe and acceptable pathway of The American Dream (TM). I thought of that as Photoshopping a life… and it seemed to me that it was ludicrously sad. All lives matter, no matter if that life was spent just lazing around and thinking they’d sleep in for the summer and not go to college right away, no matter if they thought the height of civilization was working in a nail salon. Not everyone has to go to college or be top of their class or otherwise “achieve” in some way, to make their lives count. Even the lives we think are stupid or small or mean or pointless matter. We don’t need to Photoshop people who have been sinned against; we need to first bear witness, look, SEE them — and then, do better.
a life airbrushed by Photoshop
we grieve, for he was just like us
but balanced. Centered, focused, cropped
a life: airbrushed by Photoshop.
reshape his past? we cannot stop.
enshrine a lie we won’t discuss
a life, air brushed by Photoshop,
we grieve for. He was just like us.
Pretty heavy thoughts for this first Friday of the month of the new year… I guess I’m still just sort of reeling from last year, and how much seemed left …undone. Will 2015 be the year we tie up our loose ends? Stay tuned. Happy New Year.
Poetry Friday is hosted today by Poetry Sister Tricia @ The Miss Rumphius’ Effect; please visit for more great poems today. Other poems from the P7Crew are found with Andromeda Jazmon @ A Wrung Sponge, with Sara Lewis Holmes, with Liz Garton Scanlon at her LiveJournal, with Kelly Ramsdell Fineman @ Writing&Ruminating, with Laura Purdie Salas @ Writing the World for Kids. We’ll see you next month for the (less obscure, hopefully way easier) villanelle.
Happy Poetry Friday of 2015!