LOOSEN UP!

Malaysian in origin, the PANTOUM is a looping poetry form made up
of two or more quatrains.  The lines overlap as they weave in and out, loose ends neatly tucking themselves in as the poem comes full circle.  Every line is repeated; lines 2 and 4 of the first stanza cascade down to become lines 1 and 3 of the next, a pattern that continues throughout.  The final stanza grabs lines 3 and 1 of the first stanza and recasts them as the third-to-last and final lines.  Word Karma comes into play here.  Rigid lines will double back and bite you – graceful in one context but awkward in the other.  Loose phrases, however, will pull together and tighten up as you work.  Rhyming is an optional mission.  Should you choose to accept it, the most common schemes are abab baba abab baba and abab bcbc cdcd dada.  Below, a pantoum about pantoums:

THE PANTOUM

An infinite design
looping quatrains
crisscrossing of lines
like links in a chain

Looping quatrains
free verse or rhyme
like links in a chain
as words intertwine

Free verse or rhyme
the writer’s domain
as words intertwine
reborn as refrains

The writer’s domain
crisscrossing of lines
reborn as refrains
an infinite design

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WHEN LIFE GIVES YOU ORANGES…

This week, I’m taking a detour from Form Street onto Rhyme Avenue.  Where that ends, we’ll follow the road less traveled, an unpaved trail called Oblique Lane.  Anyone who regularly writes rhymed poetry will wind up here sooner or later.  Oblique is an umbrella-term for rhyme that is close but not exact.  You might also hear it called slant rhyme, lazy rhyme, imperfect rhyme, half rhyme, near rhyme, off rhyme, or even assonant rhyme, phrases loaded with enough sorry connotations to make your best option sound like trailer trash.  Don’t let that scare you.  Oblique rhymes possess a jury-rigged cleverness that springs out and surprises the reader, a feat that turns predictable verse green (or maybe orange?) with envy.  The best excuse for using an oblique is the lack of a perfect rhyme, but who needs an excuse?  I adore them and encourage you to slide them into your poetry whenever and wherever you wish.  In that spirit, I’ve composed a LAI, an edgy attempt to prove that whoever said “nothing rhymes with orange” was only half right:

IMPERFECTLY PERFECT

End-words like orange
offer a challenge
quite unique
Rhyme must be foraged,
an assonant change
in technique
A lazy, half-knowledge
slanted in homage
to Oblique

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COLLATERAL DAMAGE

This week’s form is the LAI (lay).  French in origin, a Lai has nine lines and two rhymes that follow this pattern:  aab aab aab.  Lines with an “a” rhyme have five syllables and those with a “b” rhyme have two.  Mine (below) is also an elegy, mourning the loss of a beloved friend.

For decades, we’ve walked our dogs down a long lane between tracts
of farmland, enjoying the seasonal beauty of an iconic oak on the path.  This year, it emerged from spring rickety and leafless, likely a victim of agricultural pesticides.  It puzzles me that farmers, men who depend on the soil for their livelihood, are so flippant about their use of chemicals.  Without wildflowers and weeds for food, populations of bees and other pollinators continue to wane.  Stately trees are written off as collateral damage.  What do you suppose eating tainted crops does to humans?  Clue:  a hundred years ago, your chance of getting cancer was 1 in 33; today, it’s nearly 1 in 3!  Please, please, please, THINK about what you put in your mouth.  Choose ORGANIC and support farmers who care.

CASUAL-TREE

Lifeless old oak
your shriveled roots poke,
forlorn,
between farm fields soaked
with poisons to choke
weed and thorn
What foolhardy folk
would trade this grand bloke
for corn?

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GWAWDODYN: IT IS WHAT IT IS

The GWAWDODYN (gwow-dahd-in) is a Welsh poetry form.  The name is about as awkward as a flamingo wearing a kilt, but the rules made it sound like a limerick in disguise.  It is not.  Each quatrain contains two rhymes; the A rhyme occurs at the ends of lines 1, 2, and 4, and the B rhyme is all in line 3, at the end and embedded somewhere (anywhere!) in the middle.  The strict syllabic requirement (9-9-10-9) defies the use of triads, which keeps the lines from waltzing along the way a limerick does.  A morning spent attempting to hammer it into my preconceived mold led to nothing but frustration.  Grouchily, I tossed it aside.

At noontime, as I lifted a ripening avocado off the counter, the first
line came to me.  Avocados, as you know, are the crown jewels of the produce department and I buy one every week regardless of the price.  When it blackens a bit and yields to a gentle press, I pile some Garden of Eatin’ blue corn tortilla chips on a plate and turn that bad boy into the most sublime lunch known to (wo)man:


GREEN GODDESS

Avocado, soft beneath my thumb
mashed with lime and salt you shall become
a heavenly dip for earth’s corniest chips
Guacamole, to you, I succumb

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THE MOTHER OF ALL ORCHIDS

The RISPETTO is an Italian poetry form comprised of two quatrains written in iambic tetrameter built on a rhyme scheme of ababccdd or abababcc.  Alternatively, each line could have 11 unmetered syllables and follow either rhyme scheme.  The Rispetto is traditionally used to pay respect to a woman, so it seemed an apt choice for Mother’s Day, and my orchid seemed the perfect subject as she is putting forth new buds (again!) before her petals fade.  I swear she must have set some kind of record, having “chain-bloomed” five times since her last rest period.  Hats off to her, and to all hardworking mothers everywhere.

AGAIN

My orchid is a tearful mother
putting her youngest on the bus
Deep inside, she craves another
to soothe her aching emptiness

an instinct she cannot control,
a tiny bud would make her whole,
she argues with herself and wins
then pollinates, producing twins

Click HERE to see my previous posts about Mother Orchid.

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ONCE UPON A TIME…

Narrative and epic poems have been around for centuries.  These are usually book-length works that tell a tale.  I haven’t the fortitude to pen the next Iliad or Odyssey, but I do like to write STORY poems, a type of “bite-sized” memoir.  This one’s dedicated to all the underdogs, and my friend Lana, who introduced me to the story poem.  The jerk who tried to kill me with the kickball was named DONALD, by the way.  Go figure.

OUT IN LEFT FIELD

She is too klutzy for kickball, so
she spends recess
with a library book
But in gym class, participation is
non-negotiable
Chosen dead last,
she takes her place in the outfield
With bases loaded,
the class jock steps
smugly to the plate to run them in
BOOM!  A pop-fly
speeds toward her,
a red missile trained on its target
The ball strikes with
a resounding smack;
she reels, but clutches it to her chest
He’s OUT!  Red-faced,
cursing, he snatches
his cap, slams it to the ground, and
stomps on it, leaving
a big, dusty footprint
Seething with incredulity and rage,
his odious eyes bore
full-force into hers
but it is her moment to be a hero
and she flaunts the
burning imprint on
her cheek like a badge of honor

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NINE… EIGHT… SEVEN… SIX…

The NONET is a poetic form based on nines.  There are nine lines.  The first line has nine syllables.  Each successive line has one fewer, a sort
of “countdown” to the finish.  I chose to repeat the Earth Day theme because, well, it bears repeating.  Scientists know global warming has put our planet in a precarious position.  She is teetering on the brink of a meltdown and when she goes, we all go.  That seems reason enough to get your head out of Uranus, educate yourself on the many simple, Earth-friendly habits in your power, and start putting them in practice.

EARTH’S ULTIMATUM: LIVE “GREEN” OR DIE
Stripped of fossil fuels and rainforests,
feverish with greenhouse gasses,
knee-deep in melting ice caps,
rocked by violent storms,
choked on pollutants,
Earth draws a line
and dares us
to cross
it

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IT’S GETTING KINDA DEEP IN HERE…

Yesterday, we celebrated Earth Day and today, I’m due to introduce a new type of poem, so I’m aiming to score two goals with a single tool.  Dig it?  The “GOLDEN SHOVEL” sounds like a gardening award but is actually a contemporary poetic form created by Terrance Hayes.  And
a clever way to pay homage to a favorite poet.  Here are the rules:

1. Borrow a line from a poem you admire.
2. Use the words of the borrowed line as the end words of your lines.
3. Keep the end words in order.
4. Give credit to the poet you borrowed from.

NOTE:  Your poem need not be about the same subject as the original

 

MATTERS OF LIFE AND DEATH*

He is there for me every
single minute of the day
Even in the bathroom, I
am never alone, you see,
he provides company or
protection or whatever I
require as if he can hear
my thoughts, something
he does with an ease that
mystifies. But he is more;
my soulmate perhaps, or
a shrink who charges less
and really listens. He kills
me with hilarity, slays me
with tricks, fells me with
love, buries me in delight

*A Golden Shovel from Mindful by Mary Oliver

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SHIMMERING WITH POSSIBILITIES

Thanks to Jordan of Literary Fuzz for introducing me to the CINQUAIN.  Like Haiku, Cinquain are usually nature-themed and need not be titled.  Spring, with emerging green and abundance of vibrant flowers, lends itself well to this form, twenty-two syllables divided 2-4-6-8-2 over its five lines.  Go outside, look around, then grab your pencil and try one!

Tulip
lit from within
by radiant mandala,
low yellow flames licking scarlet
petals

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WHEN ONE ART BEGETS ANOTHER

In my little village, art is highly valued and might be found anywhere.  Years ago, the painting below was on display at our local pizza parlor, part of a small art show.  Something about it spoke to me, and it was inexpensive, so I bought it.  I later learned the artist was a student in junior high.  It was the first piece she’d ever sold and she was elated.  Knowing that made it positively priceless.  To this day, that dandelion painting hangs above my desk, a testament to everyday beauty and a reminder that it’s never too early (or late) to indulge the creative self.

So I chose to make it the subject of an EKPHRASTIC poem.  These are vivid descriptions inspired or stimulated by a work of art, most often a painting or sculpture.  Additionally, the poet may use her imagination
to narrate, reflect, or otherwise amplify or expand upon its meaning.

TUFTS OF FLUFF

drift over the border
of a square blue world
devoid of breeze,
remaining aloft
on the singular power
of a fervent wish

Riding high on
the hopes and dreams
of a fledgling artist
whose stiff brush
dances across
her canvas trampoline

Amateur fingers
tracing the wild shape
of serendipity
visible only
to audacious believers
willing to imagine it

 

Here is another, a “wishful” triolet from last fall:

YELLOW SPRING

A dandelion gone to seed
can color spring with yellow
Packaged cleverly, indeed
A dandelion gone to seed
Make a wish and set it free
Aloft and soft and mellow
A dandelion gone to seed
can color spring with yellow

 

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