dance to the, dance to the music of Chopin and waltz with me, waltz with me round a nice fantasy keep up appearances sentimentalities backhanded compliments blacking out promises
dance with me, dance with me turning me endlessly waltz to the, waltz to the mockingbird murmuring visitors’ vanities blushing with jealousy echoing, echoing over the wonderful fantasy
Today’s Meet the bar prompt at dVerse Poets Pub is to take a look at the waltz. I took this as inspiration to attempt a poem in dactylic meter. Dactyls are feet that are three syllables with the first syllable stressed, or long short short like a waltz.
I really enjoyed this example of emulating another poem. John Murillo took the idea of learning to lose and made it his own. Lockward points out that Murillo does more than keep the theme. He uses repetition as Bishop does, repeating the many forms of “lose,” using many words that start with L, and like Bishop, he writes in imperatives as if giving directions.
So one way to emulate a poem is to write to the theme. Another is to make a list of techniques employed by the poet.
My redrafts emulating three different poems
Back in Part Four of this demonstration I announced which poems I had chosen and did some research into the poets. For this exercise, I chose Dead Stars by Ada Limón, Ode by Jane Huffman, and News by Ben Purkert.
So here’s my process for emulating a poem so far:
read lots of poems
pick a few poems I like
research the poets, learn about their process
learn about the poem
What’s next? I need to decide how emulating this poem will improve the poem I’m working on. I’m going to ask myself some questions as I read the poem again.
Ada Limón gives us a clue into her intent and feelings about “Dead Stars” in this video
Why did I choose this poem? I chose this poem because I enjoy the creative combinations of imagery. I was drawn to the mundane becoming philosophical and daring.
What do I like about it? I like the spoken words in italics (not quotes) used twice. I like the questions and what ifs that are somewhat random but make sense because we are all part of the big band, the dead stars.
What technique(s) do I want to try? She uses questions, speech, and of the senses in her details. She creates some interesting double turns/twists in the set up with: It’s almost romantic . . . until you say . . . And it’s true.
How will this improve my poem? I think this twisting language could help improve my poem. My narrator is in a dizzying, swirling, vertigo of facing facts that lead to sudden and life-changing reality, so her language dealing with it could be more twisty. Some dialogue in italics is worth giving a try as well.
In kitchen sinks full of ideas, there’s an impression that even arrests fruit flies Summer’s sandpaper tongue down our throats jealousy, worry, rage all frozen mid-irritation like tinnitus so acute it becomes a wasp nesting in your ear
I am a woodpile of ants in heat: a carpenter of denial
My view telescopes through the broken pane to his sweat on her body behind the bale
I almost believed him as he twisted his favorite cap until he said, A man has needs, but she’s not you
Which is true, but doesn’t mean he didn’t lie when he said it was the last time
The dropped dish shatters like we all do
its pieces, still holdable, I toss into the trash
with my colors, light, hopes and ambition because the glue has lost its flavor and the scissors their artistry
Though broken, I still hunger and itch
the clicking, clacking pieces find junction. How
will I survive without? After indelible marks topple to the tongue?
What if I can ignore and forget? What if he says Stay. Please stay, and I cave.
I didn’t burn the curtains and the bridge?
What would happen if I left with nothing opened, bare, clean of sticky coating
with hope of refreshment in bonding earth nutrients growing, bonding
if I find new understanding wriggling among the moles under the tent of solitude
Why did I choose this poem? I like the repetition and how it builds movement.
What do I like about it? The subtle changes and double meanings of words in repetitions.
What technique(s) do I want to try? The repetition of words in slight rearrangement creates the idea of smaller and larger circles while also talking about small and large circles.
How will this improve my poem? Because my poem talks about swirling and vertigo. I think I can use some of this style of repetition to get some of the spin my narrator is going through to come to life.
An impression arrests fruit flies. The fruit flies are arrested in kitchen sinks full of ideas. The ideas, frozen in mid-irritation are like tinnitus introducing vertigo. I am dizzy with vertigo. I hear buzzing. I am spinning, spiraling, falling. I am falling. The ground falls away and I am dropping, my arms and my dress fly above my head as I plummet, my pinky toe the stoical point. The pinky toe somehow holds on. Like a pin holding strings connecting to what got me here, to a truth, or many truths long forgotten. That pinky toe pointed, curled and maimed from point-shoes leads the other toes and the foot stepping from the spiral and though dizzy, dizzy and disoriented I see clearly, my view telescopes to his sweat on her body, not hidden by the bale, the dry wasted bale that should have sold, should have fed. I see the clarity distorted in his drops of sweat on her younger body as if finally finding the source of wafting, wind-blown odor of putrid, rotting decay. The putrid decay of our love that had swirled, dizzyingly around until arrested by an impression, here, now, as I stand at the kitchen sink.
Why did I choose this poem? I related to the wind talking and asking my to see.
What do I like about it? I like the juxtapositions creating a different, broader meaning
What technique(s) do I want to try? Again, the spoken words in italics. This time using italics as a shape the wind turns the grass into as well as speech. It’s a great idea. In two quick lines, he turns a believable news fact about sardines into a derogatory accusation.
How will this improve my poem? My poem already has some interesting juxtapositions. What could I cut to make the mind jump? Is there a “news” fact that would paint a picture juxtaposed against an unfounded judgement that would bring the reader to make interesting connections?
An impression of fruit flies in furious flight sketches the words, Think. Can you imagine? contentment empties glue of flavor and steals scissors of sharp cuts. Today, Ms. Winters, the Mayor of Little Town was recalled for having a litter in her office Her predecessor was quoted as saying, I told you she could never do the job as well as a man. She wouldn’t stop licking the blood from their heads: blind and mewling in the box. Think. Can you imagine? The hunger says this is dying season and– What indelible marks will topple to the tongue? Like a bridge burner who can’t turn around Maybe refreshment is nothing but moles digging holes under the tent of solitude I will get there, won’t I? To the dark fresh-earth tunnels where scraping, not smoothing, may nourish understanding
Summing up redrafting
There are so many options for redrafting a poem. I’m excited to try some new things when I revise my next poem. For this demonstration, however, we’ve covered a lot. I think the most important thing for redrafting are the questions I asked myself at the beginning:
What are my motivations for redrafting this poem?
What do I like about it?
What don’t I like about it?
If you recall from Part One of this demonstration, I said, “It feels cluttered. There’s too much that isn’t clear. I want to know more of the story, the character, motivations, and conflict.” Toward that end, I think writing the narrative poem was a great first redraft. The opposites game draft, combined with the original then split lines, were the next most helpful generative drafts.
The new redrafting techniques: Thesaurus game and Put a color on it, didn’t influence this poem very much, but they were enormously helpful with some other poems I was revising.
I’m very excited about the new digital tools I found: Poemage and Scandroid. I imagine I’ll have a lot of fun with them as I continue revising my poems.
Now that my redrafting toolbox is overflowing, an important part of the Review process will be choosing the correct tools for an efficient and effective redraft.
I will read over all of my redrafts and let them inform me as I make some decisions about changes to my original poem. Then I will post it to Scribophile for critique.
While I wait for some feedback, I will continue to learn from other poets. I realized, while writing the post about meter, that I haven’t focused as much on listening to poetry as I have reading poetry. I will work on that through the How Writers Write Poetry MOOCs, YouTube videos, listening to the audio on Poets.org, and exploring some poetry Podcasts.
I enjoyed this video of Naomi Shihab Nye talking about revision.
I also liked some of the things that Juan Felipe Herrera said during this talk. He said once you’ve thrown the words on the page, anything else is a new poem. “If you revise a poem long enough, you have a whole book.”
Using the revision process I’ve been demonstrating, I find his statement is so true. This one short poem, the first one of thirty from NaPoWriMo, has already generated thirty new poems! Think of it: if I took each of the new drafts through the entire process so far, I would have 900 poems and then if I redrafted those . . . One of them would have to be good, right? 😉
Looking over my favorite lines from my two upside-down poems in the last post, I started noticing some interesting, slightly altered repetition. But before we jump into the next round of drafts which will get us looking at rhythm and rhyme, I want to share something fun I found.
Poemage is a visual close-reading tool developed at the University of Utah for exploring the interaction of sonic patterns in poetry. I downloaded the free beta version, saved my poem draft as a .txt file and put it in the program’s poems file. Here is the Poemage analysis of my draft as it is now.
Having only begun to play with this tool, I can see how it will be useful during redrafting. Here’s the analysis of the vowel slant rhymes in my poem.
I started looking at the purple “EY” words and enjoy how they sound together:
embrace decay, vacated frame remains, erasable spaces may flavor irritation.
That’s a poem right there. Let’s look at light green “EH”:
stepping where refreshment telescopes impression let dress arrest empty heads tent indelible contentment
Not as easily a poem, but I can imagine those words in some interesting rhymes.
Force into form
At the end of demonstration four I talked about the four forms I chose for this demonstration: Trolaan, Synchronicity, Ottava Rima, and Nove Otto. I like using RhymeZone to explore my rhyming options. Let’s get started.
Trolaan This form is made of four quatrains (stanza of four lines) with an abab rhyme scheme. There is also a rule about the first letter of each line of each stanza. I’m going to play with the slant rhymes I identified above instead of exact rhymes for this one.
Body Wriggles an Empty Head
An impression arrests all fruit flies in frame after dizzying dress a spiral of space
No contentment embraces nor kitchen sinks emptied nourish erasable remains or navigate pinky-toe stepping
Obscured by crackling and smoke over the permeating decay onward desire in motion opening curious spaces vacated
Beneath the tent of solitude body wriggles an empty head bone bending, not breaking, ensued both imagination and flavor fed
Synchronicity This form has eight three line stanzas with the syllable count 8/8/2. It is written in first person and has a “twist” in the last two stanzas.
Flavorless Glue and Lost Scissors
cracked, speckled, broken window pane a sudden impression alerts arrests
kitchen sinks full of ideas frozen in mid-irritation stillness
like tinnitus introducing dizzying, swirling vertigo I fall
my view telescopes to his sweat on her body behind the bale the source
flavorless glue and lost scissors leave me hungry, full of desire stagnant
juggled stomach stones clack and click what marks will topple to my tongue? undone
clean of any sticky coating the bridge burner can’t turn around no choice
under the tent of solitude refreshment wriggles in the dark tunnels
Ottava Rima This form has both rhyme and syllable rules. It is written in 8 line octives. Each line has 10 or 11 syllables and follows the rhyme scheme abababcc
Before stuck by pins
An impression arrests the fruit flies in kitchen sinks full of imagination frozen in mid-irritation we spin insatiable hunger sketches impressions of furious flight before stuck by pins curious spaces for contemplation what indelible marks will come tumbling to the tongue when the stomach is rumbling?
Contentment empties the glue of flavor and steals the lost scissors of sharp-edged blades leaping from dizzy existence, I waver with nothing I’ve left, clean of sticky trades refreshment wriggles under the tent savored where scraping, not smoothing, may nourish new shades having abandoned the house to fruit flies in dark fresh-earth tunnels I find thought alive
Nove Otto This form also has both rhyme and syllable rules. It is a nine line poem. Each line has 8 syllables. The rhyme scheme is aacbbcddc
It all happened so fast
cracked, speckled, broken window pane fruit flies frozen over the drain what marks will topple to my tongue who knows what hateful things I’ll say now seeing through our loves decay the vertigo of years undone obscured by fire’s crackle and smoke his touch erased by rains first soak to dreams of solitude I run
Revise for Meter
I found more great resources and tools that led me to some more redrafting ideas. First, there are two free poetry MOOC Packs from The University of Iowa’s International Writing Program: How Writers Write Poetry and How Writers Write Poetry II. In Class 5 of How Writers Write Poetry, poets Richard Kenney and Bill Trowbridge present Meter, Prosody, and Scansion in fun and interesting ways. I like how Mr. Trowbridge demonstrates how different types of feet are used to emphasize an image, a metaphor and/or an emotion.
Here’s a chart of the different poetic feet
This led me to another redrafting idea. In the book The Ode Less Travelled by Stephen Fry (Yes, the British comedian), Stephen really breaks down poetic meter with tons of examples, starting with the iamb, of course. I took up his challenge to write lines of iambic pentameter and gave a redraft of my poem in iambic pentameter a try. Here’s what I came up with.
She dreams a tent of solitude tonight a thought arrests the flies in dirty sinks I let my arms and dress fly overhead my pinky toe the point to hold the ground my view becomes his hands behind the bale a source of wafting filth, our love’s decay
content I stale, my life has lost all taste he steals my time, my art has gone to waste desire’s the buzz and itch to make me move a rumble sounds, my constant hunger stays the tongue now free, what hateful words to say the bridges burn, can’t choose to turn around
Then I found something very fun. Charles Hartman at Connecticut College created a program called Scandroid. I downloaded the free program and typed my attempt at iambic pentameter above into it. Here are the results:
How fun is that!!
This post alone opens a world of never-ending re-drafting possibilities. I can see that part of the revision plan during the review will include picking and choosing which redrafting techniques might work best for a certain poem. However, for this exploration of my process, I can see the effect of every step. The next, and final, step I’ll take in the redrafting phase of this poem’s revision is to emulate poems and poets, but I’ll save that for the next post.
quadrille: noun – 1. a square dance performed typically by four couples and containing five (or six) sections, each of which is a complete dance in itself. A piece of music for a quadrille dance. 2. each of four groups of riders taking part in a tournament or carousel, distinguished by a special costume or colors. A riding display.
The dance took its name from square formations executed by four mounted horsemen in 17th-century military parades. The dance was executed by four couples in a square formation.
The following table from Wikipedia shows what the different parts of the Viennese six-part style look like, musically speaking:
part 1: Pantalon (written in2/4or6/8)
theme A – theme B – theme A – theme C – theme A
part 2: Été (always written in2/4)
theme A – theme B – theme B – theme A
part 3: Poule (always written in6/8)
theme A – theme B – theme A – theme C – theme A – theme B – theme A
Part 3 always begins with a two-measure introduction
part 4: Trénis (always written in2/4)
theme A – theme B – theme B – theme A
part 5: Pastourelle (always written in2/4)
theme A – theme B – theme C – theme B – theme A
part 6: Finale (always written in2/4)
theme A – theme A – theme B – theme B – theme A – theme A
Part 6 always begins with a two-measure introduction
The dVerse Poets Pub Quadrille is a poem (or short prose) in exactly 44 words that incorporates a given word. To quote from the original post from Björn Rudberg, “The challenge combines two essential elements to have fun.” Today’s word is muddle and the quotes on the site are great!
I headed over to Shadow Poetry to see if they had a poetry form page for the quadrille and the closest I found was an invented poetry form by C. G. V. Lewis called a quadrilew.
Over at Poetry Soup I found a page of links to poems about quadrille that they call Quadrille Poems which I thought was interesting.
And now that I have some understanding of quadrille (at least the word), here is my first attempt at creating my own:
Lace and denim muddled
space in a rat race
Grace; a muddled mint
in a julep glazed
Chase a hint
of mace-muddled flint,
a warm taste
Face the phenom
of muddled voices
venom without trace
Time is a climb of thirsting,
bursting rhyme sublime
The collection of books pictured above was inspired by discovering The Art of series at my local library. The Art of discusses different aspects of writing with examples from a great variety of texts. I wanted to learn more about the authors who wrote the series, so I picked up their poetry and essays as well. I’m glad I did. This group of books :intelligent discussion, imparted wisdom and beautiful poetry.
But I’m a fiction writer, why spend time with poetry and poets?
Words are a writer’s tools and poets have to use words in the most efficient manner for maximum emotional effect.
It felt like serendipity when Charles Baxter started talking about Brenda Ueland’s book because I already had it on my bookshelf. It’s a great book for those times you need a cheerleader, which, as writers, we often do.
I just opened to a random page and found this bit of fun:
Now Blake thought that this creative power should be kept alive in all people for all of their lives. And so do I. Why? Because it is life itself. It is the Spirit. In fact it is the only important thing about us. The rest of us is legs and stomach, materialistic cravings and fears. –Brenda Ueland
Excited to fill up on some poetry?
Here are some links to poetry sites I enjoy, so you can get your fill while you wait for the books you just ordered from Amazon to arrive 🙂