Saturday, August 27, 2016

Summer Rerun – 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,” (at the risk of seeming immodest) here’s what we worked with.

·      A twelve-line poem divided into three four-line stanzas.
·      No rhyme and no prescribed meter.
·      Each stanza begins with the same word.
·      Line 1 is repeated as line 5.
·      Line 4 is repeated as line 12.
·      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, there’s a great how-to here

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

Saturday, August 20, 2016

In Memoriam – Wendy Rosenberg

On August 13, 2016, a very dear friend and fellow poet, Wendy Rosenberg, passed away.  Wendy was a kind, gentle, and caring lady. She became a Certified Applied Poetry Facilitator (CAPT) through the National Federation of Biblio/Poetry Therapy, and was a member of the National Association for Poetry Therapy (NAPT). She attended the Expressive Arts Institute at Salve Regina University where she received training as an Expressive Art Education Facilitator. Wendy was also a Kaizen-Muse creativity coach and a Reiki master. Widely published in numerous journals, Wendy was active in poetry readings and was a popular workshop presenter.

Founder of the Westfield Poetry Group (2005-present), Wendy was the recipient of a Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation teacher scholarship to the Fine Arts Work Center, and she took her love for poetry and the creative arts into classrooms, homeless shelters, after-school programs, and bereavement workshops. Wendy faced a terrible illness with incredible courage and grace. She is survived by her husband Mark, her daughter Jackie, her mom, and two brothers. She will be greatly missed.

Our last summer rerun (scroll down) takes us to a prompt that Wendy used to write one of the poems that will appear in her posthumous collection (scheduled for publication later this year. She chose this prompt from The Music In It when it first appeared on May 7, 2011 and wrote a poem that is skillfully layered with meaning. 

It is with great sadness, gratitude, and love 
that I share Wendy's "Junk Drawer" poem with you.

Junk Drawer

            By Wendy Rosenberg 

The way I clean a junk drawer
is simple: dump, winnow treasure
from trash, rearrange memories –
keep or let go.

I line dead flashlights
beside damp thoughts
discarded last spring after
my aunt’s funeral.

Thin ribbons mingle with my
mother’s melancholy. She and
my father don’t talk much
anymore. All the pens are dry.

My mother asks me to call the
cemetery, secure space for
my father’s ashes, and hers.
I grab a loose doorknob.

The four of hearts stuck in the
corner doesn’t worry over a new
job or an appointment with my
dog’s cardiologist.

Dust from unfinished poems
lies under loose coins. I hold a
broken hourglass and watch 
the sand flow.

This poem first appeared in Wendy's chapbook In the Waiting.

To order a copy, please click on the link below.


 Summer Rerun Prompt – What’s in Your Junk Drawer?

If you'd like to try a junk yard poem of your own. Here are a few ideas from the original post to help you get started.

Our lives can be like junk drawers, filled with clutter we keep. For this prompt, I’m not thinking about a literal junk drawer but, rather, an emotional junk drawer (psychological baggage, failed relationships, memories that should be forgotten, griefs and grievances that “mess” with our happiness, broken dreams that need mending, reminders of people and places we’ll never see again).

This week we use poetry to jettison some junk. The goal is to write a poem about the clutter in your emotional junk drawer. (Try using the imagery of an actual junk drawer, and let the poem take you where it wants to go.)

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Summer Rerun – Rantables

This week’s prompt takes us back to October 19, 2013, and rant poems. Have you ever felt that you needed an outlet to vent, to shout, squawk, yell, or bellow about something that really bothered you? Have you ever displayed your frustration or impatience in a kind of “temper tantrum” with a family member or friend?

While more and more research suggests that “ranting”  isn’t necessarily the best thing for us, research does suggest that venting through writing can be a therapeutic strategy that can help engage the body and mind and allow your emotions to drain a bit, thus not needing to actually yell, stamp your feet, or otherwise physically let the anger out. In a rant poem, we pull ourselves together and write through whatever it is that’s upset us. A rant poem can be “wild” or it can be controlled and sensible—the latter is our writing challenge for this week, a rantable that doesn’t lose its perspective—a “rational” rant.

The idea is to let your feelings out about something or someone and to examine those feelings through your poem. Remember, this isn’t a narrative poem—you’re not telling a story, you’re writing about something that really bothers you. The activity is similar to the invective poem in Prompt #107, but this is not a poem addressed to something or someone; rather, this is a poem about something or someone.

For Starters:

Begin by thinking about or listing things that have really upset you, and then choose one to write about.

Write some details (phrases, thoughts) about this “rantable.”

Select some of the details from the preceding step and write them into complete thoughts. Develop those thoughts into lines that contain similes, metaphors, off rhymes, or other poetic language techniques.

Now go through your sentences and remove the word “I” anywhere that you’ve used it. Replace it appropriately.

Go ahead—rant and rave, but remember to maintain a sense of control. The idea is to get things “off your chest.”

Topics May Include:

Personal Affronts ( insults, lies, betrayals, bad manners, bullying)

Social Concerns (hunger, inequality, power, greediness, inhumanity to others, animal abuse, injustice)

Pet Peeves (junk mail, improper grammar, texting at the dinner table, impatience, thoughtlessness, arrogance)

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Summer Rerun – Phrase Play

This week’s rerun takes us back to October 22, 2011. I chose this prompt to follow last week’s, which focused on clichés, because both deal with phrases.

This is another summer exercise that lends itself to humor, but that’s not written in stone, so enjoy this one and see where it leads you.

Have you ever listened to someone who uses a particular phrase so often that you expect to hear it whenever you speak with that person? Are there certain phrases that you use often in everyday conversation? Think of the “trendy” phrases that become (for me anyway) like fingernails on a chalkboard; for example, push the envelope, I hear you, piece of cake, a toss-up, I could care less, my bad, just sayin’ (and a new one that I heard recently – totally salinda meaning peacefulness, or a peaceful state of mind). Interestingly, every language has these well-used phrases; for example, in Italian in bocca al lupo, literally means “into the wolf’s mouth,” but rather like “break a leg” in English, this expression is used in Italy to wish someone good luck.

Choose a phrase (not a cliché but a commonly used idiomatic expression) and write a poem using that phrase as much as possible. Turn the expression over and around, spin it, repeat it, extend it, give it new meanings, mock it, praise it, see how far you can stretch it.

1. Begin by making a list of expressions that you, your family, or your friends use often, and then choose one to incorporate into your poem.
2. Alternatively, you might use several phrases throughout your poem, or perhaps even compose an entire poem of  “phrase plays.”
3. Have fun with this!