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Archive for the category “Focus on Form”

More on Limericks

Cover of "The Limerick"

Cover of The Limeric

I love rhyme. I love limericks, and I’ve written quite a few. Here, since I now have the perfect excuse,
are a few new ones.

Here’s one:

There once was a young lad from Kyoto
one evening while viewing a photo
saw a face so grotesque
it resembled a desk
and was sure he had seen Quasimodo.

and another:

One evening while cooking some rice,
a lass went to look for some ice.
When she failed to return,
the rice started to burn.
The poor lass had to cook her rice twice.

A note on meter in limerick:

The feet (metrical feet, not the things at the ends of your legs) for a limerick is typically an anapest
dum, dum, DUM or an amphibrach
dum DUM dum
with the first, third, and fifth lines consisting of three feet of three syllables each, and the third and fourth consisting of two metrical feet.

Edward Lear popularized the limerick,  but in contrast to modern limericks, they contain neither humor nor  a punch line, and the first and last lines were often the same.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Lear

Although Mr. Lear wrote some limericks
I’m thinking they really are gimmericks,
First and last lines the same
make them seem pretty lame.
and of humor there’s nary a glimmerick.

And here’s one about Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick:

Expressing intention to pass
on a third term, the governor of Mass
saw his influence ebb.
It’s all over the web.
Is he planning to seek greener grass?

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A Series of Limericks: tips included

Limericks are not my strength. Try as I might, I cannot spin them off the top of my head. It took me all day to get two decent ones. If you’re not familiar with the form, I found a good guide on About.com by Grace Fleming: How to Write a Limerick. Here are a few tricks I use to get through them:

  1. Do the first two lines (the setup) and the last line (the punchline) first. All these have the same rhyme, and gives you the frame to work with. Then fill in lines three and four (transition) which only have to rhyme with each other.
  2. Use a rhyming dictionary! I use The Scholastic Rhyming Dictionary. Helps for getting out of tight corners when you use a word with not very many rhymes.
  3. Along the last lines, sometimes you have this idea you want, but can’t find workable rhymes. Like in my second limerick below, I wanted to do “Sang for her supper” but could NOT get a decent follow up. Solution: find a synonym. A thesaurus is a handy tool for poets.
  4. If you still struggle coming up with something, give yourself a theme. Write about a friend, or a book character, or spin off a fairy tale. Have fun with it!

Without further ado, here are my two Limericks.

Little Red Riding Hood

Little Red Riding Hood (Photo credit: lllllT)

There once was a red-hooded girl
Who through the dark woods did twirl
‘Til a sound made her scream
And fall in a stream
Turned out it was only a squirrel

There once was a girl from Cancun
Who couldn’t carry a tune
Her song for a meal
Made a werewolf reel
And now she howls at the moon

Make Visible: Focus on Form: Really Bad Limericks

I wrote these today.  I’m not one to write limericks.  I’m not real comfortable with the form.  The last one is for a special friend of mine.

Here goes nothing!

Presenting Really Bad Limericks:

 

Savannah

 

There was a girl from Savannah

Who had the most terrible manners

She never said please

And often would tease

Even those who tripped on peeled bananas.

 

Seattle

 

There was a man from Seattle

Who got in the rottenest battles

If he sat next to you at a bar

Best to take yourself very far

From his brass knuckles, used often on cattle.

 

Ocean Shores

 

There was a woman from Ocean Shores

Who only saw open doors

She was so positive

That God was the causative

With only good things in store.

 

Orlando

 

There was a lady from Orlando

Who was all about the Can-Do

Collages, poems and short stories

Productive, even with her health worries

Wish I had her ducks in a row.

 

“Savannah,” “Seattle,” “Ocean Shores,” and “Orlando” © Anne Westlund

 

“Make visible what, without you, might perhaps never have been seen.”~Robert Bresson, French Film Director

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Focus on Form: Lip-Synch a Limerick

English: A pair of high heeled shoe with 12cm ...

Time for something fun, poetry fans. Put away that solemn face and let your Inner Child out to play by writing a limerick.

In its simplest form, the limerick has five lines. It is lighthearted,  sometimes naughty, witty and provokes a laugh. If you want to be a stickler for the form, Wiki says it is “anapestic or amphibrachic meter with a strict rhyme scheme (AABBA)”.  Follow that or do your own thing. like I did below.

A Sad Tale

by

Lin Neiswender

There was a young lad from ‘Bama
With a taste for glitter and glammah
His designer stiletto shoe
Too high for his hair doo
Made him spend the night in the slammah.

Lin's Senryu

#1880 winner of manner poetry contest

I’m a beginner at Senryu and in addition to Margaret’s great links, found this link helpful: Haiku or Senryu? How to Tell the Difference.
I followed the syllable count but switched the lines. Here’s my first stab at it:

 

Hot packed waiting room

Doctor gives bad news

How lovely is the sunshine

Margaret's Senryu

My Senryu, and fun with GIMP.

I’ve been having a blast lately playing with the color manipulation functions with GIMP, though I have yet to read the book I bought that goes through all the features. Consequently, I have a nice directory full of road photos, a great many of which I’ve played with using GIMP.

Last night Michele emailed me and asked me if I could take today’s blog post and create a Senryu. So I grabbed an image from my Pictures directory and wrote about it.

Night Road

Night Road, photo by me, digital manipulation courtesy of GIMP

Psychedelic sky

Dream made visible

Night Road, photo by me, digital manipulation courtesy of GIMP

Mary's Senryu

Assuming it’s still Senryu if it’s fantasy.

Hero’s Journey

A magical quest
journey for the talisman
a clichéd hero

Make Visible: Focus on Form: Senryu

Welcome to Focus on Form. For the next three weeks, we poets will be writing a poem in the same form and sharing it here on the blog.

My first experience with Senryu poetry was when I posted what I thought was a Haiku and was told it was Senryu instead.  It’s a Senryu because it includes a man-made object (my glasses), even though it’s about the weather; and also because of its sarcastic tone.

Untitled

The June rain
Leaves drops on my glasses
I can’t see summer from here.

June 7, 2008
© 2008 Anne Westlund

 

Senryū (川柳?, literally ‘river willow’) is a Japanese form of short poetry similar to haiku in construction: three lines with 17 or fewer total morae (or “on“, often translated as syllables, but see the article on onji for distinctions). Senryū tend to be about human foibles while haiku tend to be about nature, and senryū are often cynical or darkly humorous while haiku are more serious. Unlike haiku, senryū do not include a kireji (cutting word), and do not generally include a kigo, or season word.

Senryū is named after Edo period haikai poet Senryū Karai (柄井川柳, 1718-1790), whose collection Haifūyanagidaru (誹風柳多留?) launched the genre into the public consciousness. A typical example from the collection:

泥棒を dorobō wo

捕えてみれば toraete mireba

我が子なり wagako nari

The robber,

when I catch,

my own son

(Excerpted from Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Senryu)

The first step to writing Senryu poems is to think of a theme and what message is to be conveyed. Taking ideas from family life and experiences with friends and coworkers is a good place to start.

Once the theme is established, the next step is to begin jotting down ideas and phrases.  Build on those ideas until they form three lines and add up to 17 syllables or less. Senryu poetry seems easy to write but in actuality it is not easy to convey a complete message in three short lines.

The first line should set up the setting, and the subject should be the focus of the second line; the third line should use action to sum up the poem. This is a simple way to approach writing Senryu. With more practice and reading examples the writing process will become more natural.

One thing to remember when writing this form of poetry is that it is not complex. Senryu uses simple language and incorporates humor.  Here are a few more examples written by modern poets:

As if it were spring
the green mold
on the cheese

© Garry Gay

rush hour-
the blonde in the Porsche peels
an orange

©Robert Bauer

(excerpted from How To Write Senryu Poetry by Sarah Carter, http://www.howtodothings.com/hobbies/how-to-write-senryu-poetry)

Give it a try!  I can’t wait to see what the rest of the Poetic Muselings come up with.

“Make visible what, without you, might perhaps never have been seen.”~Robert Bresson, French Film Director

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Taming the elusive Iamb

Note: In all of the following, I have indicated stressed syllables in bold.

Woods and Fields near my home

My woods and fields

An iamb is a two-syllable metrical foot where the stress is on the second syllable:

da dum

A trochee is a two-syllable metrical foot where the stress falls on the first syllable:

da dum

Robert Frost’s poem, “Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening” is composed of iambs:

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

For an example of dactyls check out Henry Wadsworth Longfellow‘s “Song of Hiawatha

Should you ask me, whence these stories?
Whence these legends and traditions,
With the odors of the forest,
With the dew and damp of meadows,

And now Michele’s first stanza:

We claim our fears and ghosts by what we do,
   paths drag us into, not by accident,
   territory steep in our deep taboo.*

*Note: there are several ways to read this line — this is one.

So, lines one and two consist of nothing but iambs, but line 3 starts with two trochees.

One way to figure out the meter is just what I have done above: read the lines aloud, then underline or bold the stressed syllables, then see what you have. Another is to clap as you read: clap on all the stressed syllables while at the same time keeping track of whether this matches your pattern.

Another is to imitate a well-known rhyme or song. One of the only successful rhymed stories I wrote followed the rhythm of a nursery rhyme (unfortunately I’ve forgotten which one). Here are the first couple of stanzas. Can you help identify the song or nursery rhyme I tried to follow?

Old Tom Troll
had a hole by a bridge,
not far from the River Dee,

a lonely hole
not fit for a Troll,
and full of damp debris.

So Old Tom Troll
went out for a stroll
to find new holes to see.

Old Tom Troll
had a hole by a bridge,
not far from the River Dee,

a lonely hole
not fit for a Troll,
and full of damp debris.

So Old Tom Troll
went out for a stroll
to find new holes to see.

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Capturing the Elusive Villanelle

Garden of the Gods, Colorado. © Graf 2006

Maybe “deconstructing” is a better word for what follows.

I love a well-constructed, nuance-laden, tension-building poem — especially one with lines or phrases repeated, each time expanding on the underlying theme. When it works, it really works. When I dabble in a structured form, I need to take it apart and put it back together in a way that makes sense to me.

Over the years, I created my own versions of “cheat sheets” — today they are usually called “templates” — for a variety of poetic forms, when it was important to have a set number of syllables or sounds per line;  control the number of lines in each stanza, especially if the stanzas are not constructed the same — like the villanelle. I’ve used them with haikus, tankas, ghazels, alternating voice layout, and for song lyrics — especially useful to bridge beats, where you want to stretch out a sound.

My Villanelle template and construction process are simpler than it appears at first glance.  I:

1. Took as my guide the Dylan Thomas poem “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night”, which Margaret used when she introduced the form.

2. Identified the rhyme pattern alongside each line, as Margaret explained. To make it easier, I highlighted the first line and each repetition that followed, then used a different color highlighter, and did the same for the third line. Since the only other rhyme was with line 2, I highlighted the last word in each of the “B/b” lines (below is a portion)

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night
Dylan Thomas (1914-1953)


… and so on.

Then, I:

3. Counted the number of syllables per line (ten); the number stanzas and lines per stanza (five stanzas of three lines each (tercets), plus one stanza of four lines (a quatrain)); the total number of lines I needed, including a blank line between stanzas (24 lines total)

Next step was to write my first three lines, using the right number of syllables or sounds, and the right pattern, knowing that the first and third lines would be repeated several times in the poem:

   We claim our fears and ghosts by what we do,
   paths drag us into, not by accident,
   territory steep in our deep taboo.

This gave me the shape of the form. Time to do the template. I:

4. Created a table with eleven columns across (one for each of the ten syllables needed in each line, PLUS a first column with the rhyme pattern), and 24 rows (for each filled and blank line in the poem)

5. Shaded in the rows that were stanza breaks (rows 4, 8, 12, 16 and 20; I didn’t create a column to number the rows — just counted down)

6. Filled in each of the first three rows, one syllable per each cell across the table, in columns 2 – 11, with my first tercet.

7. went back to column one, and, with my trusty Thomas poem, wrote in what the rhyme pattern needed to be.

8. filled in on my template where lines one and three were repeated

9. really cheated on the next step! I wrote the sound I needed to repeat (in parentheses) in the last column of each line. Yes, I’ve creatively split words as I sounded them for the cells.

… (the complete template is at the end of this post)

10. then came up with a bunch of words that rhymed with each of the endings of the two lines.

A1 and A3:  do/ taboo (DO) — view, new, clue, avenue, cue, due
B1: accident (DENT) — amazement, evident, coincident, bent, went, event, dent, sent

Then the creative process really started:

11. I wrote the poem from the last stanza forward — I knew how it started; that was already written. I decided how I wanted it to end, and, using the list of “sound alike” words, figured how to end each of the lines in the quatrain.

12. Worked my way through the poem, looking at the rhyming words I’d come up with, and moved them around.

13. wrote lines, juggled them from tercet to tercet, until they made sense to me.

And, voila! Though this is still a work in progress, you can see how each step shaped this draft of the poem’s cadence, flow, rhythm, content, and context. Now the work begins, to hone it into a sharp, complete story. Like Mary’s poem, my subject is dark. I hope to capture the same sense as hers did.

Ever Thus
by Michele M. Graf

We claim our fears and ghosts by what we do;
paths drag us into, not by accident,
territory steep in our deep taboo.

You may argue with me, bellow your view;
we both know how those branches get so bent:
we claim our fear and ghosts by what we do.

Mourn the loss, the lack of hope for the new
words to stop needless blood so poorly spent.
Territory steep in our deep taboo.

Paint it, gloss it, but you can’t hide the hue
of euphemism masking what is meant.
We claim our fear and ghosts by what we do

when we rant, and rave, call it just miscue,
no longer valid — such self-evident
territory steep in our deep taboo.

Fate enters laughing when it all comes due.
Can how its end not be coincident?
We claim our fears and ghosts by what we do,
territory steep in our deep taboo.

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