It’s autumn here in the Northern Hemisphere, my favorite time of year, which always reminds me of the very first poem I ever memorized, “A Vagabond Song” by Bliss Carmen. At age 7 or 8, the poem appealed to my young sense of wonder—I decided that what I wanted most was to be a vagabond poet. I loved the way the lines looked and the way the words sounded. I still do and share the poem with you below.
A VAGABOND SONG by Bliss Carman
There is something in the autumn that is native to my blood —
Touch of manner, hint of mood;
And my heart is like a rhyme,
With the yellow and the purple and the crimson keeping time.
The scarlet of the maples can shake me like a cry
Of bugles going by.
And my lonely spirit thrills
To see the frosty asters like a smoke upon the hills.
There is something in October sets the gypsy blood astir;
We must rise and follow her,
When from every hill of flame
She calls and calls each vagabond by name.
October also means Halloween! This year I plan to offer two season-appropriate prompts, starting this week with one that deals with Halloween but, more importantly with nouns and verbs in poetry.
The great poet Marianne Moore once said, “Poetry is all nouns and verbs.” Writing a memorable poem can be a matter of strong nouns and verbs. To use some Halloween language: nouns and verbs are the skeleton of a poem. Adjectives and adverbs are the costumes—if you use too many, they hide the deeper meanings of the skeleton.
1. Choose one word from the nouns list for your subject (of course, if you have another Halloween-related noun, feel free to use it).
2. Free write about the word you’ve chosen for your subject.
3. After free writing for a while, go back and read what you’ve written. Is there an emerging theme or idea?
4. Using your free write material, begin writing your poem, making sure that you use a few words from the verbs list.
1. Think Halloween.
2. Be creepy if you like.
3. Avoid overuse of adjectives and adverbs.
4. Create a tone or mood that appropriate to your subject. Remember that the verbs you choose will give your poem momentum and a sense of trajectory.
5. As you develop your poem, move away from the obvious and work toward deeper meanings.
“Haunted Houses” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
“Mr. Macklin’s Jack O’Lantern” by David McCord
“Theme in Yellow” by Carl Sandburg
And … by way of sharing, here’s a Halloween prose poem from my forthcoming book, A Lightness, a Thirst, Or Nothing at All
Trick-or-treaters come to the door repeatedly—little ones early, older kids into the night until she runs out of candy and turns off the outside lights. The wall between worlds is thin (aura over aura—stars flicker and flinch). The woman buttons her coat, checks her reflection in the mirror, and stands cheek to glass (eye on her own eye, its abstract edge). She leaves the house (empty house that we all become)—shadows shaped to the trees, crows in the high branches.
(Acknowledgment: US 1 Worksheets, Volume 59, p. 51)
I love this and the Bliss Carmen poem. I even googled the poet.ReplyDelete
This is an eerily wonderful time of year -- there's definitely 'something in the autumn'.
Thanks for adding to the wonder for us and encouraging us to make the most of it in our own poems.
Oh, forgot to write how much I enjoyed your Halloween poem. The imagery is stunning, and the sense of something more than the obvious subject is so strong. Thanks for sharing that.Delete
Thanks so much for your comment and for your kind words, Jamie! I'm glad you enjoyed the Bliss Carmen poem!Delete
Jamie, thanks, too, for your kind comments on my Halloween poem! It will be in the new book!Delete
Here in Mumbai, our equivalent to your autumn (October/November) is a post-monsoon season for us and not much like the autumn you describe. But this prompt encouraged me to read about your autumn online and to immerse myself in the 'sense' of it.ReplyDelete
I find so much of interest on this blog. Thank you.
Thanks so much for your comment, Amita! I try to keep in mind that many blog readers aren't from the same part of the world, and it's wonderful to know that this prompt encouraged you to find out more about autumn in my "corner of the pond."Delete
I love the word banks in this prompt, and I LOVE this time of year! Thanks for the seasonal prompt. (I plan to use it in my classroom this week.)ReplyDelete
Thanks for your comment, Carol! This is a wonderful time of year, and I'm glad to know that you're going to use the prompt in your classroom. Hope it works well for the students!Delete
Just read Carol R.'s comment and would guess that a lot of these prompts find their way into a lot of classrooms! I've never borrowed one that didn't meet with student success!ReplyDelete
Thanks for your comment, Rich! It's great to know that you use the poems in your classroom!Delete
Autumn (fhómhair) is in full color here in Ireland too. Thanks for the seasonal prompt!ReplyDelete
Thanks for your comment, Maire! Enjoy the colors!Delete
of delicate lace-like leaves
their pungent odor
mixing with the smell of wood burning fire places
warming currents of chilly air
scantily exposed skin
hands and face
on a subtropical scene
Very nice, Risa!Delete
oh dear! ing verbs!ReplyDelete
Ah, you've been paying attention! :-)Delete