…some have more baggage than others. Invisible weights…
"Life itself is the proper binge." Saint Julia Child
How do Cinquain become STORIES? I’m primarily a prose writer; inventing, and then recounting (slightly pointless, possibly plotless) stories has been something I’ve done since I was a wee tiny thing. While I love stories, as a young reader, I primarily disliked novels in verse – too many of them seemed like words with random page breaks for no reason. However, I ran across a few standouts when I was teaching (Karen Hesse, Virginia Euwer Wolff and Sonya Somes were early faves). Suddenly novels in verse were coming of age, maturing – and we’ve been spoiled for choice with so many great books published in the last ten years. Still, as much as I love novels in verse, I don’t think I can write them. On the story end of things, it feels like there’s simply too much to pack into a sonnet or a sestina, and I’m fond of form, and internal rhyme as well. All of that can rob or detract from the story being told… can’t it?
“What a poet does, ideally, is talk about the history of the inside of people so that history is more than just the appearance of things,” said poet Lucille Clifton. This month, as story is wrapped up in history, I’m going to challenge myself to explore those inside histories, those appearances and ways of telling the true. I’ve started out by deconstructing/reconstructing a novel I’ve just written. It’s not out until next summer, so no spoilers, I won’t discuss plot details, but, you’ll catch a glimpse of the character in the poems I write. I haven’t decided yet whether I’ll simply stick with one story, or revisit others from my backlist. In either event, I’ll be playing with cinquain (sing-cayn), and try my hand at the Crapsey American cinquain, which is about counting syllables, the Stebbings tetracty, as invented by the English poet Ray Stebbings, the lanterne, which take on the shape of the lantern, and are meant to stand alone, and even the didactic cinquain known for its word count, which is usually first encountered in elementary school.
How about a little Emily to give us a bit of direction?
Perhaps it’s all in how you tell it. Happy NPM.
Poetry Peeps! You’re invited to our challenge in the month of April! Here’s the scoop: we’re writing “in the style of Pablo Neruda.” What does that mean? That’s totally up to you. We’re continuing with our 2023 theme of transformation, but how you interpret that in the realm of Neruda poems topically is wholly your choice. You have a month to craft your creation and share it on April 28th in a post and/or on social media with the tag #PoetryPals.
WHAT, may I ask, happened to March?!
We are sliding right into April – on a bed of chilly mud, I might add – and wow, I feel unready. My National Poetry Month project this year is Cinquain Stories – I’m going to be practicing making a linked story cycle using the five line form. There are quite a few quintains I’ve never played with, so I’ll tell you more about that when things actually kick off, but since I also turned in a novel today and am ramping up rehearsals with my choral groups (and my autoimmune disorder is kicking the back of my seat like an vexatious child in an airplane), I’m a bit scattered. Forgive me, this post will be super short…
…but, it’ll still be fun. I like etherees, though I freely admit to being terrible at them. I wrote a poem I really loved, but realized, when formatting it for my post, that though it’s perfect as it is, it’s …not an etheree. ☺ Did I mention I occasionally can’t count? Oh, well. Today you get the second run that I wrote in a mad hurry. It’s an actual etheree, at least…
I feel pretty good about the fact that I managed to stay on theme for the year, too! I wrote it thinking of the Terry Pratchett quotation from Hogfather, “Humans need fantasy to be human. To be the place where the falling angel meets the rising ape.” The evolving human grows up, squawking to have the last word.
But, did you see what Laura did? Or, what Sara did? Liz’s poem is here, and Tricia’s is here. Poetry Friday host for this week, Cousin Mary Lee’s poem is here. Denise’s etheree is here. Michelle K’s gloriously photographed poem is here. Linda B’s poem is here, and Carol V’s poem is here. Heidi’s definito+etheree (detheree? Etherito!) is here. More Poetry Peeps will be dropping etherees into the aether throughout the weekend, so do check back for a full roundup.
Be well, dear poets. In a world where you could be anything, thank you for choosing to be kind. Pax.
In this hemisphere, March is the month of seeds, the month of being in the raw cold, pushing seeds into the clammy earth with cold fingers.
I haven’t yet gotten to the second part of that last sentence, the pushing in of the seeds with cold fingers. I’m still in the indoors stage, waiting for the raw cold to abate, trying to possess my soul in patience at each new frost warning. This is why half the dining room table is covered with seedlings, strawberry plants and lavender bushes straining toward the light. This is why both my lasagna pans are filled with mini pots of soil. This is not a month for company at my house; I have little packets of seeds and pots on most flat surfaces, and nowhere to put you that isn’t covered with proto-plants. I think I’m worse than usual this year, because it’s been such a cold, gray time. Not just winter, of course; winter is supposed to be cold and gray. I mean the cold grayness of book bans and disheartening political chicanery, of climate threats, and mass shootings, of war anniversaries. I have never needed the hope and anticipation of a garden more.
For moments like these, there’s Poetry Friday.
The Poetry Sisters have been riffing off of the word “transformation” as part of their poetic peregrinations this year. One of the synonyms for the word, evolution, has been quietly reverberating through my poetry practice. With my Deeper Dive group, I’ve been “diving” into some of the exercises in The Practice of Poetry, with the goal of keeping better track of how my poems change, and where I begin with them as opposed to where I end up. It’s been kind of intriguing to see some of them come together, and to feel like I am finally beginning to find my feet as a semi-sorta-kinda poet. (Don’t @ me – it’s a process.)
In doing an exercise to imaginatively embody inanimate objects, I tried to apply the idea of change. I tried to imagine what typically comes to mind when I think of this or that object – and then toss it, enabling me to think past my first reflexive thoughts. Most of my beginnings weren’t poems, they were lists – beginning with the word “I am.” Three objects later, I returned to look at my lists and try and figure out what lines, moved and rearranged, had some kind of theme to them. A few more switches and refinements, and I began to hear… something. Is it a poem yet? Maybe? All I know is, it’s a …start.
The key to having gotten this far is having… started. It sounds kind of obvious when stated so baldly, but it took me a while to figure that out. So many people want to “be a writer,” and state this desire with a fervid sort of earnestness… but writers learn that desire alone cannot be the endpoint. It’s desire and. Desire and work. Desire and beginnings, middles and endings. It’s desire and editing and rewriting. How do you get there from here? You…desire, and then you begin. Somehow in prose I knew that, but just hadn’t figured it out for poetry.
So, anyway, here you are – land cleared and furrow turned. Here you are with seeds in your back pocket, looking at this expanse of earth, wishing for a garden.
I’ve got great news for you – you can take the next step to whatever your goals are. Transformation is at your fingertips. Are you game?
A frequent saying of mine is that anything I write, I’m also writing to myself. As I have a meeting with my editor (triumphantly back from striking) in a few hours, I’ll be thinking of the transformations ahead – the beginnings and the work to be done. As I continue to noodle with various poems, as I look out at the gray world, I’ll be thinking of the transformations necessary. The seeds in my pocket. The call to… begin.
Good luck, all. Remember…
Poetry Peeps! A little reminder for our challenge in the month of March: We’re writing an etheree. This ten-line form begins with a single syllable, and each line expands by one syllable until the tenth line has ten. We’re continuing with our 2023 theme of transformation, but how you interpret that topically is up to you. You have a month to craft your creation and share it on March 31st in a post and/or on social media with the tag #PoetryPals.
Poetry Peeps! You’re invited to our challenge in the month of March! Here’s the scoop: we’re writing an etheree. This ten-line form begins with a single syllable, and each line expands by one syllable until the tenth line has ten. We’re continuing with our 2023 theme of transformation, but how you interpret that topically is up to you. You have a month to craft your creation and share it on March 31st in a post and/or on social media with the tag #PoetryPals.
Greetings, friends, on this absolutely frigid (for California) morning!
Ekphrastic poetry appeals to the storyteller in me. The story I found in this week’s image took me back to high school auto shop. One of the few girls around, I so wanted to be one of the
boys crew, but alas, my time in the shop was an exercise in frustration, as the brave new world of the 90’s era equality wasn’t quite ready for takeoff. (My Freshers auto shop course was called POWDER PUFF Mechanics, and you can bet your backside I refused to take it on principle.) Even my friends only really only let me do the sticky/annoying jobs – greasing bearings, sanding primer, using a tire iron to wrestle tires from rims, draining oil. I lifted and lowered cars on the hydraulic lift (and raised balancing daredevils on it occasionally) and got to wear a coverall like my grandfather. I learned how fragile a powder coat of paint was, and how quickly it could be streaky or unevenly applied (which was why I was told I could only sand and apply primer because I might get distracted while painting). I learned about the toxic corrosion of rust and about sexism, which turned out to be remarkably similar things.
Tricia shared the images which jarred my memory this month. For the show Transformed: Objects Reimagined by American Artists, artist Denice Bizot, who “reclaims, deconstructs and transforms” art from salvage yards and junk heaps, created this image called Urban Flora. On display at The Montclair Art Museum exhibit in New Jersey, it features a 1970’s truck hood the artist found in a salvage shop and beautifully helped along in its state of decay with a hand-held plasma torch. The shapes of flowers and arabesques give the illusion of light, shadow, and movement in the rusty green metal.
Bizot’s intervention in the salvage yard lives of this scrap metal won’t stop rust from chewing it up. Realistically, cutting holes in the truck hood will do even less to preserve it than the weather-worn paint the rust is blooming through. Nothing will save the metal from the destructive transformation it’s undergoing, but how we perceive it… that’s what can change us.
Poetry Friday is hosted over at Tab’s place, so be sure to pop over, and thank you, Tabatha!
There’s a host of other images coming into focus today with the Poetry Peeps. You should see Sara’s poem is here. Tricia’s poem is here, and Liz’s is here. Cousin Mary Lee’s post is here, and Michelle’s post is here, and Carol V’s is here. Molly’s gorgeous image is here, and Heidi’s garden bed is here. Margaret’s dual challenge poem is here. Bridget with her twenty-three words poem is here. More Peeps will be checking in throughout the weekend, so stay tuned for the full round-up.
While I never got to do all the things I wanted to in auto shop, I chose to embrace what made me happy: telling my grandfather about what I was doing (and not telling my Dad, who joined my classmates thinking I shouldn’t be doing it), cherishing the small skills I learned (I can still sand a spot of primer as smooth as a baby’s cheek, thank-you), and getting to work in the cavernous cool of the shop filled with loud noises and sharp smells and the sun glinting rainbows in the oil-and-water puddles on the floor. I tried to paint that into my poem; the choice to redefine something that can, at best, reshape us, and at worst, warp us and simply take it as a gift of memory and let it shine in that way. Here’s to the transformation of time. Happy weekend.