Poem Tryouts: Blazon It!

7:28 a.m. — San Antonio

listening to the neighbour’s lawn mower

Hello everyone. I can’t believe August starts in a couple of days. The downside of summer is upon us. Today, I want us to explore Blazons. It’s an old form (13th c.), originally used to detail the various parts of a woman’s body; a sort of catalogue of her physical attributes. The term is taken from the official, written description of the coat of arms, called the ‘blazon of arms,’ a system to denote colours, placement, and styling by using an economy of words.

What does this mean for us? Imagery like we’ve never done imagery! Let me show you a blazon by Andre Breton:

Free Union

My wife whose hair is a brush fire
Whose thoughts are summer lightning
Whose waist is an hourglass
Whose waist is the waist of an otter caught in the teeth of a tiger
Whose mouth is a bright cockade with the fragrance of a star of the first magnitude
Whose teeth leave prints like the tracks of white mice over snow
Whose tongue is made out of amber and polished glass
Whose tongue is a stabbed wafer
The tongue of a doll with eyes that open and shut
Whose tongue is an incredible stone
My wife whose eyelashes are strokes in the handwriting of a child
Whose eyebrows are nests of swallows
My wife whose temples are the slate of greenhouse roofs
With steam on the windows
My wife whose shoulders are champagne
Are fountains that curl from the heads of dolphins over the ice
My wife whose wrists are matches
Whose fingers are raffles holding the ace of hearts
Whose fingers are fresh cut hay

The speaker has only reached her fingers! For the rest, if you are curious, go here. The blazon needn’t be positive and can be tongue in cheek. Note Shakespeare’s Sonnet 130, where he writes a short blazon listing attributes back handedly [such a rebel, that man].

I see no reason a blazon cannot be written about objects, pets, animals that aren’t pets, pretty much anything that has attributes. The attributes don’t necessarily have to be physical, though those are probably easier to work with. So. Think of someone, or something, List the qualities/aspects of your chosen subject.

To help create images of the more surrealistic kind (should you wish to emulate Breton), consider how each aspect you list affects you sensorily — taste, touch, smell, sight, sound. Let your emotions go.

I look forward to your poems. Blazons fascinate me (I have no idea why). I shall see you again, next Tuesday, for a wintery day.

Happy writing, all.


Posted by on 29/07/2014 in exercises, poetry, Summer


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Poem Tryouts: Content = Form

8:18 a.m. — San Antonio

listening to a vociferous mourning dove

Hello, all. Surviving? I hope you enjoyed reading the poems posted this past week. I loved reading both the familiar and the new. We might have to have another reading day sometime.

One item of interest, which some of you will have seen on my Facebook wall: Many of you know Sasha Palmer, aka The Happy Amateur. Sasha has just written and submitted to a competition, a short story ‘Born’. The competition is based on fan votes and Sasha is in 1st place. Consider checking the story out and if you enjoy it, rate it.

First go to: [you do not have to sign up, or log in]
Then enter: hughhoweyfanfic in the search box

Sasha’s story is in the top line, Ist, ‘Born’. She also created the sound track. Enjoy!

Now, let me give you something to tussle with and distract you from any summer woes. Today, I want you to try a form you have never written in. I know, but it’s good for you. It’s good for your poetry, too. At its best, form enhances content.

Last week, I gave you two places to look: The Academy of American Poets and Robert Lee Brewer’s list at Writer’s Digest. You may have your own site — in which case, do let us have the link.

Where to start? Pick your topic and then read over some of the forms you haven’t tried to find one whose technique suits your theme. Or, find the form you have been meaning to conquer and figure out a topic that will work well with it. Then, tussle. That’s the fun part.

See you next Tuesday when we shall write a blazon, a form that fascinates me, thus appears each summer. It’s a form I think we can play with beyond its original intention.

I look forward to seeing the forms you choose.

Happy writing, everyone.



Posted by on 22/07/2014 in exercises, poetry, Summer


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Poem Tryouts: We Read Poems, Too

7:18 a.m. — San Antonio

listening to the sound of the computer fan [I, too, will be glad to get back to my music]

Hello, all. Halfway through the summer, I hope we are all surviving. I thought you might like something a little different, this week. I want you to consider some of your favourite poems by other people. They can be contemporary, or classic(al), the poets alive, or dead. Pick the one that you love enough to share with other people and post it for us to read.

For those who are saying, ‘But, I want to write something,’ you can write a mirror poem to the one you are sharing, or a response poem. Or, talk about what it is you love about the poem. My favourites move around, but there are a few that stay, such as Coleridge’s Kubla Khan, which I love purely for the sound. I always read it aloud. Then there is James Wright’s:

Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy’s
Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota

Over my head, I see the bronze butterfly,
asleep on the black trunk,
blowing like a leaf in green shadows.
Down the ravine behind the empty house,
the cowbells follow one another
into the distance of the afternoon.
To my right, In a field of sunlight between pines,
two droppings of last year’s horses
blaze up in golden stones.
I lean back, as evening darkens and comes on.
A chicken hawk floats over, looking for a home.
I have wasted my life.

The poem is about as summery as imagery gets [no, that is not a requirement]. I love the feel of the poem, as I read it. So, start thinking and let us have your favourites, to while away a pleasant afternoon.

I have hopes of getting to last week’s poems, but no guarantees that I can comment. I shall endeavour. Meanwhile, I shall see you next Tuesday when we will investigate forms. That’s right, I said forms. Now stop groaning. I’ll give you a couple of places to look. The Academy of American Poets gives a list with a brief definition. You can pick a couple and Google them; or, Robert Lee Brewer, of Writer’s Digest, has a list and if you click on the link, you will be taken to a ‘how to’ page. Oh, and you must pick a form you have not tried.

Happy reading and writing, everyone.


Posted by on 15/07/2014 in exercises, poetry, Summer


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Poem Tryouts: Sensory Words

6:50 a.m. — San Antonio

listening to the water running while Skip shaves

Hello all. We’re almost halfway through summer. Welcome to the new people whose names I have been seeing. Come the end of August, I’ll have a brief post with the hows and whys and wherefores of Wordgathering. Meanwhile, follow along; Join in even! Try a poem.

Before we get started, a note from Irene Toh of  Red Wolf Journal: Red Wolf has published two collections of poetry in a PDF format, Having Taken Vows, by Christopher Hileman, and Duet, by Christopher Hileman and Irene Toh. Head over for the links to download the collections.

Today’s prompt is short and sweet. Don’t look at the calendar. It will only confuse you. The topic has changed three times. The exercise is a pinch hitter, that came about at midnight, as I read a Nero Wolfe mystery, while trying to fall asleep.

You are looking for a word that affects your senses strongly, any time you read it, or hear it, so strongly that you feel it physically. My word is coffee. and it affects me more at night [when, of course, I don't have a cup]. The feeling I get, on reading, or hearing [on television], the word is such that I have to restrain myself from getting up and making a cup. I can even smell it.

Once you have the word, you may write an ode to the topic; or, you can write about the whys of the feelings aroused on reading/hearing your word; or, you can play [I don't know -- that's up to you]. Your objective is to have your readers feel some of what you feel. Use sensory details.

See you next Tuesday when we are back with the summer calendar and what I call ‘a day of rest’ [this does not mean nothing]. Check it out, as you might want to look around.

Happy writing, everyone.


Posted by on 08/07/2014 in exercises, poetry, Summer


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Poem Tryouts: Let’s Oulipo

10:07 a.m. — San Antonio

listening to the sound of my laptop overheating

Hello. I’m a little late, this time because I had to wait for enough functioning brain cells to gather in one mass. Today, I want us to oulipo [Didn't know it was a verb, did you? During my month long romp with oulipian forms during National Poetry Month, several of us delighted in using the word oulipo in every way we could.].

‘Founded in 1960 by French mathematician Francois de Lionnais and writer Raymond Queneau, Ouvroir de Litterature Potentielle (OULIPO), or Workshop of Potential Literature, investigates the possibilities of verse written under a system of structural constraints’.

Several of you have played with a couple of the more well-known forms, such as the Snowball and N+7. If you know and like an Oulipo form, feel free to go with that, but if you want to hurl yourself into the unknown, I’m giving you the link to April. That gets you to April 30 and you can scroll back through the month looking at each prompt. For once, you will even have an example poem.

Oulipo is a type of found poetry. My source, during April, was the newspaper. You may use any written material you wish. Some of the forms lend themselves better to specific types of writing. You will need to play. You may also need to adapt.

For those who don’t have time to scroll through thirty days [!], I am giving you links to my favourites and you can choose from among those — or do more than one. It’s addictive.

1] Lipogram: Not easy, but great fun. Ended up one of my favourites and one I remember.

2] Definitional: This was the first where I strayed from the prompt and redefined the form for myself.

3] Univocalism: Fun. I liked this constraint.

4] Never thought I’d be saying this — Sonnet: I went from despair to euphoria on this one. I chose the ultra-modern form, once I knew it existed and loved writing the poem. You can try this, or one of the classic sonnet forms.

5] And, the Irrational Sonnet: Much more sonnet like but with stanza breaks that I found work better for me, than the traditional. I thoroughly enjoyed working this.

6] Lescurean Permutations: This one tickled me, possibly because I had good source material.

When you visit April, you will find the prompts, a brief comment or two, and my poem in response. All words are from another source. People approach the source material differently. Some cherry pick words, but that doesn’t work for me. I collect phrases and sometimes split them, if they are long. Of course, remove words that don’t work; change tenses and point of view and gender, for consistency; and place line breaks where the poem needs them.  PLAY.

I shall see you next Tuesday, not for the postponed prompt on sleeping/dreaming poets [I like the collection I have sitting on my other computer, so that's waiting until post-summer, now.] Tuesday will be an unknown. Well, yes, I know.

Happy writing, all.

P.S. Check Wikipedia for some history, if you wish.


Posted by on 01/07/2014 in exercises, poetry, Summer


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Poem Tryouts: Poets Dreaming

1:23 p.m. — San Antonio

listening to the rustle of paper, as Skip unpacks another box of stuff from mom’s that I can’t live without

Aieee! WHAT DO YOU MEAN IT’S TUESDAY? The uppercase is to replicate what I actually said and which I cannot say here, when I realised, in the middle of unpacking boxes, that today might be Tuesday. Hello, everyone.

As I was noodling around coming up with the summer prompts, I came across a number of images of poets sleeping or dreaming. Long pause. Margo can be heard using language she does not usually use. There is a faint echo in the blogosphere.

So. My dropbox has decided to stop syncing; thus the images are sitting on my other computer, the one in Atlanta. Needing a couple of weeks to regroup, I will throw a curveball and we will all shift gears to the prompt for week 6: What does summer mean to you?

List all the things that summer means to you or for you. Pick one to focus on or, if you spot a thread, more. Don’t forget sensory details so we also feel what you feel, understand what summer means to you.

You can also find an image that shows what summer means and write a poem that parallels or embodies the image.

My apologies if I am not terribly lucid. My mind is mush. I shall see you next Tuesday for some oulipo-ing.

Happy writing, everyone.

P.S. Barb C.? Are you there? I need that photo of Rehoboth. I need an escape!


Posted by on 24/06/2014 in exercises, poetry, Summer


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Poem Tryouts: A Single Image

7:00 a.m. — somewhere in the air between SF and SA

listening to the click of keys as my husband slays in WOW

Hello, all. I have been enjoying the poems that have been translated and wish I had the time to comment. Hopefully, once we are settled for our month in San Antonio, I can go back and reread and comment.

My mother is safely in SA in a guest apartment [with the same floor plan as the one she will have] waiting for her furniture, and us, to arrive. At this end, my two brothers and I were all together for the first time in twenty-five years. We have vowed to never let THAT happen again. The flat is packed out and there is just enough left that Skip and I are camping out. It’s rather fun until we go into the kitchen to microwave something and the microwave is no longer there.

This week is a lovely, easy prompt. Truly. Find a single image and stare at it. What is it you want to convey to your audience about the image? Convey it in a Japanese short form poem, such as a tanaga, renga, tanka, haiku or… there are others out there. Remember that it is not about the syllables.

These are small bites. Feel free to write on several images, each with its own conveyance.

I shall see you next Tuesday, for the next summer prompt.

Happy writing, all.


Posted by on 17/06/2014 in exercises, poetry, Summer


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