Saturday, September 29, 2012

Prompt #120 The Adeleanelle

I admit, with a slightly red face, that I’ve never written a villanelle, though I do admit that I have enjoyed reading a few, especially Dylan Thomas’s “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night” and Elizabeth Bishop’s “One Art.” I’ve excused myself with the thought that formula poems are almost mathematical (and math was never my strong suit) but, perhaps I’m just a coward …

Developed in France and  introduced into English literature during the late 1800s, a villanelle has 19 lines, with two repeating lines throughout the poem. Here’s the canonical format:

Refrain 1 (A1)
Line 2 (b)
Refrain 2 (A2)

Line 4 (a)
Line 5 (b)
Refrain 1 (A1)

Line 7 (a)
Line 8 (b)
Refrain 2 (A2)

Line 10 (a)
Line 11 (b)
Refrain 1 (A1)

Line 13 (a)
Line 14 (b)
Refrain 2 (A2)

Line 16 (a)
Line 17 (b)
Refrain 1 (A1)
Refrain 2 (A2)

(Are you confused yet?) The first five stanzas contain three lines (triplets), and the last stanza contains four lines (a quatrain). The 1st (A1) and 3rd (A2) lines of the first stanza are alternately repeated, with the 1st line becoming the last line of the second and the fourth stanzas, and the 3rd line becoming the last line of the third and fifth stanzas. Lines 1 and 3 are repeated again to  become the last two lines of the final stanza. (Feeling compulsive?) There is no prescribed meter or line length; however, iambic (ta-DUM) and four or five feet per line are good bets. (Do you have an idea now why I’ve never tried to write one?) Of course, modern attempts stray from the rules and allow for some flexibility, and enjambments can be used to help the course of the poem. Note: Poems have two basic types of line breaks: end-stopped and enjambed (in an enjambed line, the break occurs in the middle of a sentence or phrase; end-stopped lines end with punctuation).

In one of my workshop groups, I recently taught the villanelle and, although it was happily received, the group members thought the form was too strict and too rigid for their purposes.  They asked if I would come up with a slightly simpler format loosely based on the villanelle but “easier.” Dubbed by group members as the “Adeleanelle,” here’s what we worked with.
  1. A twelve-line poem divided into three four-line stanzas.
  2. No rhyme and no prescribed meter.
  3.  Each stanza begins with the same word.
  4.  Line 1 is repeated as line 5.
  5.  Line 4 is repeated as line 12.
  6. The poem takes its title from the fourth line of the first stanza.

Here’s an unedited example from the group (thanks, Jayne R. for your permission to print it here).

Another Time, Another Life (the title is line 4)

Line 1                                                 And now in the retelling, 
Line 2                                                 I wish and wish again that
Line 3                                                 the dream had been a dream—
Line 4                                                 another time, another life …

Line 5  (repeat line 1)                         And now in the retelling,
Line 6                                                 I wish you here, my love,
Line 7                                                 your still eyes wide (alive),
Line 8                                                 nothing in the shadows—

Line 9                                                 And only light and light—
Line10                                                where loss forgets its place
Line 11                                               and your hand is warm in mine,
Line 12 (repeat line 4)                        another time, another life …

If the Adeleanelle doesn’t strike your fancy and you want to go for a “real thing” challenge, click here for a great villanelle "how-to."

Note: Keep in mind that whatever you choose, meaning should never be subordinate to form!

Villanelle Examples:

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Prompt #119 – What Autumn Brings

Happy autumn everyone (in the northern hemisphere anyway)! Autumn officially begins in my place on the map at 10:49 AM today (September 22nd). Just as that happens, I’ll be conducting a workshop and critique sessions at a Women Who Write poetry conference in Madison, NJ, and tonight I’ll be celebrating the autumnal equinox (a time of equality between day and night) with friends, dinner, and a bottle of mead. My mom always called autumn “the brief, bright season.” As a child, it was always my favorite time of year (quite probably because autumn’s arrival heralded my birthday, Thanksgiving, and Christmas).

There’s something special about autumn's mixture of warm sun, cooler air, and colorful leaves. This week, let’s celebrate the season and write poems about autumn. You might try an ode or a sonnet, or you might write about an autumn experience that you had (memoir poem). You might describe the season (being careful to make your description unique and memorable – avoid those seasonal poem clichés that can ruin otherwise good poems). You might work with autumn as a metaphor (again, be wary of clichés and definitely stay away from autumn as a metaphor for a particular time of life). Another idea is to use the prompt title as the title of your poem (“What Autumn Brings”). An option you might like is to take on the character of an autumn aspect and write a persona poem (write from the perspective of a tree, a leaf, a bonfire, a chestnut, a migrating bird, etc.). Have fun with this – enjoy the imagery of this colorful season!


"I am the autumnal sun" by Henry David Thoreau
"Hornworm: Autumn Lamentation" by Stanley Kunitz
"Autumn Daybreak" by Edna St. Vincent Millay

Monday, September 17, 2012

Automatic Redirect – Aaaargh!

Dear Blog Readers

When I went to “The Music In It” this morning, I found (to my dismay) that the blog was automatically redirected to something called I thought at first that something glitchy had occurred, but the redirect continued (to my increasing dismay). It was disturbing, to say the least, when every time I opened the blog it was redirected to the Famous-Poets site in a matter of seconds.

After trying a number of help programs, I called my friend Diane Lockward who knows much more about blogging and computers in general than I do and who, in fact, encouraged me to start a blog. (Check out Diane's excellent poetry blog.)

I was beginning to worry that I might lose the blog completely or, at best, have to start all over again. But, to make a morning-long story short, Diane guided me to a Google help group in which I left a message that was answered very quickly by a person named Joe Wales (Redleg x3). He knew exactly what the issue was and gave me perfect directions for fixing it. Seems that two of the gadgets I’ve had on the blog for a couple of years (Poetry Quiz and Today’s Poem) were the culprits. I have no idea how they came to “author” the automatic redirect, but I deleted both and now the blog is fine.

I'm tempted to rant on about what happened, but I'd rather go eat a chocolate cookie (which I will do as soon as I post this!). 

I send my apologies to anyone who visited and was annoyingly redirected this morning (so glad you came back), and I send my sincerest thanks to Diane and to Joe!

In poetry and still (happily) blogging,
P.S. This incident has “prompted” me to re-do the right sidebar (where the offending gadgets were located). It will take a while to plan and post, but please stay tuned for new material.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Prompt #118 – Kaleidoscope Poems

Our days are a kaleidoscope. Every instant a change takes place. New harmonies, new contrasts, new combinations of every sort. The most familiar people stand each moment in some new relation to each other, to their work, to surrounding objects.

– Henry Ward Beecher

While recently “playing” with an online photo program, I changed a simple photo of hydrangeas in my yard to the image above. It reminded me of a cardboard kaleidoscope that I had as a child and how much I enjoyed that tube-shaped toy – an optical instrument, part of which I turned by hand to produce the most amazing symmetrical designs through mirrors and pieces of colored glass at the end of the tube. Over the years, I’ve heard the word “kaleidoscope” used as a metaphor for changing colors, for changing events, for the ways in which we look at things, the ways in which our perspectives can change, and for life itself. I’ve heard terms such as “a kaleidoscope of illusions” and a “kaleidoscope of dreams.”

Best-selling novelist Danielle Stelle, also a poet, opened her novel Kaleidoscope with a poem of the same title; in James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake, the kaleidoscope is a metaphor that speaks of change or disruption; Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass has been called “a kaleidoscope of English history;” and the Beatles described Lucy in the Sky as a "girl with kaleidoscope eyes."

You can see where I’m going with this, right? Your challenge this week is to include the word “kaleidoscope” in a poem as imagery or as a metaphor. The obvious poem would be one in which “kaleidoscope” is a metaphor for life. If you choose that approach, be sure to avoid clichés and work toward language and ideas that are fresh and unique. Another option is to include a single kaleidoscope reference (see the example poems below). You might even write about a kaleidoscope you had as a child.

Things to Think About:
  1. What are some kaleidoscopic things in your life?
  2. What’s your emotional kaleidoscope like?
  3. How is your personal/family/professional life a metaphorical kaleidoscope?
  4. What experience in your life involved a dramatic change with just a small shift (as in a small shift of a kaleidoscope)?
  5. Have you ever been offered kaleidoscopic possibilities (emotional, spiritual, professional, etc.)?
  6. What fantastical scenario does “kaleidoscope” suggest to you?
  7. Can you think of anything in your life that was a kaleidoscopic comedy?
  8. Did you ever own a kaleidoscope (as a child or as a collectible in your mature years)?


FYI: The kaleidoscope was invented in 1815 by Scotsman Sir David Brewster (1781-1868) during experiments with light polarizations. Brewster's name for his invention was derived from the Greek (kalos or beautiful, eidos or form, and scopos or watcher), thus meaning "beautiful form watcher." A patent was obtained two years later, and the original scientific tool was later copied as a popular toy. Brewster hoped to make money on his invention, but a loophole in the patent wording allowed others to copy his design. During the Victorian Era, kaleidoscopes were popular parlor "toys," and both old tin and cardboard kaleidoscopes remain collectible.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Prompt #117 – Days of the Week

Do you have a favorite day of the week – a day you remember because something wonderful happened on that day? Or a day you remember because something no-so-wonderful happened? Do you like Sunday because Sunday is the day you just “hang out” and relax? Do you like Wednesday because it marks the halfway point between weekends? Or do you like Friday because it’s the last day of the work week? Is there a day on which something special happens regularly (club meeting, poetry reading, dinner with friends, prayer group meeting, favorite TV program? I don’t suppose we spend a lot of time thinking about a particular day of the week, but this week that’s exactly what we’re going to do. Think about all the days of your life (that reminds me of a soap opera), and then pick a day of the week that has special meaning for you. Write about that day. Your poem might be narrative, or you may want to go in another direction. You might enjoy writing a fantasy about a particular day of the week. Most importantly, capture the essence of one day of the week in a poem. Don't be afraid to stray from the day you've chosen. If your poem leads you elsewhere, go with it (and remember to work toward layers of meaning). Resist the urge to “finish” a poem by tying it up in a neat package – last lines that explain or sum-up can ruin an otherwise good poem.

Examples (one for each day of the week):

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Prompt #116 – Migrations

As summer winds down and we begin the month of September, autumn migrations – heralds of cooler air and bright colors – begin in my corner of the world. Many years ago, back in the days when I was active in the haiku community, I wrote a poem about migrating geese, which later became the title poem of a haiku collection. The poem was honored with a first place Henderson Award in 1984, and the book won the first place Merit Book Award for 1987. 

                                                      migrating geese –
                                                      once there was so much
                                                      to say

I haven’t thought of the poem or the book in years, but I did yesterday when a flock of geese, apparently in a pattern of early migration, flew above my back yard just as dusk began to settle. I thought then about that little poem and how it linked the seasonal migration of geese (nature) to the way a relationship had changed (human nature). It occurred to me that there are times in all of our lives when we find ourselves in a process of migration (not merely physical migration, but movement from one spiritual place to another, from one emotional place to another, from one relationship to another). 

I hope the idea of “migration” will capture your imagination this week. Think about it: birds and animals migrate; people migrate; migration is a way of marking time; migration is about journeying; migration is about change; migration is a state of mind. This week, let's write about a personal migration – your movement from one place to another (emotional, spiritual, actual). 

1. Begin with a freewrite and then look over what you’ve written to see which ideas you can work into a poem. 

2. Try to incorporate some nature imagery. 

3. Compare yourself (or something in your life) to a flock of migrating birds or to a single migrating bird. 

4. Write a persona poem from the perspective of a migrating bird, butterfly, or animal.

5. Try using “What The Wild Geese Know" as a title or theme. 

6. If you like haiku, try writing a migration haiku. Click Here for Info on Haiku.

7. If writing about a personal “migration” doesn’t come together for you, write about a bird, butterfly, or animal migration. (You might even try an immigration poem.)

Most importantly, think about the rich potential in migration for metaphor, imagery, and figurative language; go beyond the obvious; give your poem room to discover what lies behind its conscious subject – "migrate" beyond your poem's surface content to create layers of meaning!