Monday, June 20, 2016

Summer Reading


Today we celebrate the summer solstice here in the Northern Hemisphere—
the longest day of the year and the shortest night—
a good time to discover or revisit Shakespeare's
A Midsummer Night's Dream
(which you can read online by clicking on the title above).

I thought today would also be a good time to share some of my favorite recently-published poetry books by way of  recommendation for your summer reading.





Before I list the books, and I know I promised myself that this wouldn't be an "about me" poetry blog, I'm breaking my own rule because I'm so happy and honored to share that my book A Lightness, A Thirst, or Nothing At All is a 2016 Paterson Poetry Prize finalist (for books published in 2015). 


   
  
Mark Doty's book Deep Lane is the winner and here are the finalists:

  • Vivian Shipley, Perennial (Negative Capability Press, Mobile, AL)
___________________________________________________

Following are my top ten 2016 poetry books 
recommended for your summer reading 
(in alphabetical order by title).
 
 Atlas Apothecary by Tom Plante (Finishing Line Press)

Bright Stranger by Katherine Soniat (Louisiana State University Press)

Coat Thief by Jeffrey Davis (Saint Julian Press)

Collected Poems: 1974–2004 by Rita Dove (Norton).

Confessions of a Captured Angel by Neil Carpathios (Terrapin Books)

The Big Book of Exit Strategies by Jamaal May (Alice James)

The Uneaten Carrots of Atonement by Diane Lockward (Wind Publications)

The View from the Body by Renée Ashley (Black Lawrence Press)

Then Come Back: The Lost Neruda by Pablo Neruda (Copper Canyon)

To the Left of Time by Thomas Lux (Mariner: Houghton)


If you have other poetry books that you recommend,
I'd love to know about them, so please post their titles and authors as comments!

___________________________________________________

BTW ...
If you're looking for journals that accept submissions during the summer, 
be sure to visit Diane Lockward's blog, Blogalicious.


___________________________________________________

Enjoy the season and all the poetry that comes your way!
 I wish each of you, dear blog readers,
 a happy, restful, and healthy summer! 

Summer reruns will begin on Saturday, July 2nd, 
so please stay tuned!



Saturday, June 11, 2016

Prompt #258 – My New Book & Honoring the Art of Detachment




I'm so happy to share the exciting news that my most recent poetry book, a collection of haiku (new and selected), has been published by Muse-Pie Press. It's been almost 20 years since my last haiku collection, so this book is really special to me. It's also very special to me because it's dedicated to my godson, Gabriel. 

Not Asking what if
ISBN: 978-0-918453-51-8
Library of Congress Control Number: 2016902139
Cover Photograph by Bob Fiorellino
 “Great Blue in Silhouette” Copyright © 2016 by Robert J. Fiorellino
All rights reserved.

Muse-Pie Press
73 Pennington Avenue
Passaic, NJ
www.musepiepress.com

80 Pages
105 Haiku
$14.00

If you'd like to order a copy, and I hope you will, payment is easy via PayPal. Just click on the link below, and many thanks in advance for your order!

________________________________________________________________

Prompt

I thought that this week, in keeping with the subject of haiku, we might revisit a haiku prompt from some time ago (Prompt #187). 


 Haiku: Honoring the Art of Detachment

Haiku’s origins have been traced to a form of Japanese poetry known as haikai no renga, a kind of linked poetry that was practiced widely by Matsuo Bashō (1644-94) and his contemporaries. Over time, the first link in a renga, the hokku, evolved into the haiku as we understand it today. A minimalist form of poetry, haiku has been popular among modern poets since the 1960s, when a western-world haiku movement generated increased interest in the form. Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, Gary Snyder, Billy Collins, John Ashbery, and Paul Muldoon have written haiku, and haiku-like poems are found in the works of such literary greats as Ezra Pound, Amy Lowell, and Richard Wright. Although something other than “mainstream” poetry and very much its own genre, haiku is a unique and demanding form to master.

In traditional Japanese, the haiku is typically written vertically on the page  (from top to bottom). Each haiku contains seventeen onji (sound symbols). However, early translators were mistaken when they assumed that onji were equivalent to syllables in the English language and that haiku should be written in three lines containing 5,7, and 5 syllables respectively. Although incorrect, these “defining” qualities of haiku are still regarded as “haiku format” by many. A more acceptable standard for English-language haiku is 10-20 syllables in 3 lines with a longer second line and shorter first and third lines. That said, the parameters are often stretched depending on content and meaning. Three lines have become the norm, but haiku of one and two lines are also seen, and syllable count varies.

Traditional haiku contain a kigo (season word) to indicate the season or time of year in which the haiku takes place, along with two phrases (or images) that are inherently unrelated but are juxtaposed to show some commonality within a particular experience. Normally, one idea is presented in the first two lines and then a switch occurs in the third. Alternatively, a single idea is presented in the first line and a switch occurs in the second and third lines. Nearly every haiku has this kind of two-part, juxtapositional structure. The shift is achieved with what is called a kireji or cutting word, which “cuts” the poem into two parts. The kireji is a kind of caesura (and similar in theory to the volta in a sonnet) that signals a pause in the poem’s “thought” and suggests a parallel to the preceding phrase, the following phrase, or provides a “dismount for the poem that offers a finely tuned sense of closure.   

Haiku is, in a sense, an art of detachment in which the poet is removed enough from the subject to write without self-interest or self-absorption but, rather, with a sense of both inward and outward direction. The best haiku are life-affirming and eternity-conscious, spontaneous and unpretentious but entirely focused and either gently or startlingly profound. 

Note: The word haiku forms its own plural – haikus is incorrect.


Acknowledgment: The essay part of this prompt (above) first appeared in 
Tiferet: Literature, Art, & The Creative Spirit (Digital Issue, April 2014) 


Guidelines: 

1. Haiku describe things in a very few words – they never tell, intellectualize, or state feelings outrightly. They never use figures of speech (similes, metaphors, etc.) and should not rhyme.

2. Haiku is more than a simple genre or form of poetry—haiku is a way of seeing, a way of capturing experience, a kind of “aha” moment or instant when something in the ordinary captures our attention and leads us to a closer, more concentrated look at its connection to nature, and human nature.

3. Haiku don’t have titles, although haiku sequences do.

4. Brevity is key, along with a sense of immediacy (written in the present tense) and often a sense of relationship between nature and human nature. Some haiku poets feel that one measure of a haiku’s success is its ability to be read in a single breath. Most will agree that a successful haiku is characterized by crystal-cutting clarity and in-the-moment presence.

5. Haiku are about spiritual realities, the realities of our every-day lives, and the realities of human- and natural-world relationships. Most importantly, haiku honor the inside of an experience through attention to the outside.

6. Compact and direct, haiku appear to be light and spontaneous, but their writing requires careful reflection and discipline—haiku may even be considered a kind of meditation. Finely-tuned powers of observation reveal the haiku moments that happen continually in the world around us. 

7. Don’t be bound by any notions of 5,7,5 syllable structure—focus instead on use of season words, two-part juxtapositions, and objective sensory imagery. 


Tips: 

1. Bashō said that each haiku should be “a thousand times on the tongue.” Before writing anything, read many haiku from a range of sources to get a “feel” for the form. Be sure to read some haiku that have been translated from the Japanese, but spend more time on good haiku written in English. Read some of the haiku aloud.

2. After you’ve read many haiku and have a sense of what they’re about, think about an experience you’ve had.

3. Remember the season in which you had the experience, and then think of a word or phrase that suggests that season. For example, peonies is a season word for spring; snow and ice are season words for winter. A simple phrase like “autumn leaves” can evoke feelings of loneliness and the coming of darkness (shorted days, longer nights) in winter. While many haiku appear to have a nature focus, they are more-specifically based on a seasonal reference that as much about nature as it is within nature.

4. Organize your thoughts into approximately three lines. First, set the scene, then suggest a feeling and, finally, make an observation or record an action.  Write in the present tense, don’t use figures of speech (similes, metaphors), and keep things simple.

5. Be sure to include a contrast or a comparison. Remember that haiku often present one idea in the first two lines and then switch quickly to something else in the third. One of your goals is to create a “leap” between the two parts of your haiku without making too obvious a connection between the parts or leaping to a distance that’s unclear or obscure. At the same time, you must reveal the emotions (not ideas) that you want to communicate without stating them overtly.

6. Try to think of haiku in terms of your five senses—things you experience directly, not ideas or your interpretation or analysis of “things.” Think in terms of sensory description and avoid subjective terms. 

7. Spend time working on punctuation. In poems so brief, punctuation is important. Read some of the examples and see how other haiku poets make punctuation work for them in their haiku. 


Examples: 

From the Japanese Masters


Winter seclusion –
Listening, that evening,
To the rain in the mountain.
— Issa

My life, –
How much more of it remains?
The night is brief.
— Shiki

Over the wintry
forest, winds howl in rage
with no leaves to blow.
— Soseki

No one travels
Along this way but I,
This autumn evening.
— Bashō 

Contemporary Haiku from Frogpond (Journal of the Haiku Society of America) 

Frogpond 37.1 • Winter 2014



Saturday, May 28, 2016

Prompt # 257 – Chiasmus

 

I thought this week that it would be interesting to explore something we don't hear about often: chiasmus. Chiasmus is a verbal pattern in which the second half of an expression is balanced against the first with the parts reversed (it is similar to a literary device called antimetabole).

Adjective: chiastic.
Plural: chiasmus or chiasmi.

Chiasmus is a Greek term that means “diagonal arrangement.” It is used to describe two successive clauses or sentences where the key words or phrases are repeated in both clauses, but in reverse order. For this reason, chiasmus is sometimes known as a criss-cross figure of speech.

As a figure of speech, chiasmus is characterized by words, grammatical constructions, or concepts that are repeated in reverse order (in either the same or in modified form). In other words, the clauses display what may be called inverted parallelism.

A well-known example is:

    When the going gets tough, the tough get going!

Typically when the first clause contains two words or two groups of words, (A and B), then the second clause contains the same words or groups, but in reverse order:

    1.  … A… B…
    2.  … B… A…

Chiasmus is also used in music. The first movement of Mozart’s “40th Symphony” is a great example in which the musical phrase is inverted and then flipped back.



Another musical example appears in the lyrics of Crosby, Stills, and Nash’s “Love the One You’re With.”
 “And if you can’t be with the one you love, honey, love the one you’re with.”



The Bible also offers examples of chiasmus. For example, in Isaiah, one chiasmus appears within another larger chiasmus, thus creating a kind of double chiasmus.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (NIV) 

In poetry, chiasmus may serve a purpose similar to caesura (a pause in the poem); chiasmus can add to the rhythmical quality of a poem and is typically used to add emphasis.


Guidelines:

1. Start by reading the examples below.

2. If you’ve never tried to craft chiasmus before, a good place to start is taking a known chiasmus and using it as a template into which you can substitute one or both key repeated words.

3. Next, try writing some chiasmus examples of your own.

4. Choose one of your own examples and think about how it might fit into a poem. You might even use it as the title for your poem (and repeat the chiasmus in the title somewhere within the poem).

5. As you write, work around the one chiasmus you’ve chosen. Don’t try to include more than one in your poem. With that in mind, make the example you create a really good one.

6. A kind of chiasmus is sometimes achieved by a sudden change from the active voice to the passive or vice versa, for example:

“The register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the taker and the chief mourner, Scrooge signed it.” (Dickens)


Tips:

1. As you work on this chiasmus challenge remember:
Quitters never win and winners never quit!

Examples:

1. “It is not the oath that makes us believe the man, but the man the oath.” (Aeschylus)

2. “Bad men live that they may eat and drink, whereas good men eat and drink that they may live.” (Socrates)

3.  “I wasted time, and now time doth waste me.” (William Shakespeare, “Richard II”)

4. “Foul is fair and fair is foul.” (Shakespeare, “MacBeth”)

5. “The instinct of a man is to pursue everything that flies from him, and to fly from all that pursues him.”  (Voltaire)

6. “His jokes were sermons, and his sermons jokes.” (Lord Byron)

7. “All for one, and one for all.” (The motto of Alexandre Dumas’ Three Musketeers)

8. “I meant what I said and I said what I meant.” (Horton the Elephant’s, Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hatches the Egg)

9. “Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.”(President John F. Kennedy)

10. “Let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate.” (President John F. Kennedy)


NOTE: My thanks to Michael T. Young for inspiring this prompt with his Facebook post on the same subject. You've met Michael here on the blog, and I hope you'll visit him online.