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Tag Archives: André Breton

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.

 
46 Comments

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

 

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Summertime and the Living is Tuesday Tryouts

8:47 a.m. — Walnut Creek

Finally. I am in California, with my mother, where I will spend the next month. Routine. Lovely. Now, where are we in the Summer Tryouts? Ah, the list poem. I love list poems. There is no wrong way to do one and lists allow experimentation, play, fun.

You can go back to the list you made of summer associations and see if there is a list poem within it.

You can check out Walt Whitman, the king of listmakers.

You can try a riddle ala Sylvia Plath. Those who don’t know this poem, every line is a metaphor, as is the whole poem. Everything adds up.

Metaphors

I’m a riddle in nine syllables,
An elephant, a ponderous house,
A melon strolling on two tendrils.
O red fruit, ivory, fine timbers!
This loaf’s big with its yeasty rising.
Money’s new-minted in this fat purse.
I’m a means, a stage, a cow in calf.
I’ve eaten a bag of green apples,
Boarded the train there’s no getting off.

You can try your hand at a BLAZON, for no other reason than it’s a cool name for a form. Here’s an excerpt from a blazon, a poem that itemises the qualities of something or someone beloved:

Free Union
a 1931 poem by Andre Breton

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

If you wish to read the entire poem, you can find it here. Note that Breton starts at the top and is working his way down the form of his wife. That is one of the conventions of a blazon.

A list poem may be short, as in ‘The Grocer’s Children’ by Herbert Scott

The grocer’s children
eat day-old bread
moldy cakes and cheese,
soft black bananas
on stale shredded wheat,
weeviled rice, their plates
heaped high with wilted
greens, bruised fruit
surprise treats
from unlabeled cans,
tainted meat.
The grocer’s children
never go hungry.

A site on wikispaces offers a good working definition of a list poem, to go with ‘The Grocer’s Children’: ‘List poems are made up of common (but not plain) items, sensory details, metaphor, and uncommon observations or comments. Basically, the poem is a list of images, but at the end the poet sort of answers the “So what?” question we are begging to ask.’

Go forth. Make lists. Play. Post. I am looking forward to reading your list poems. I will also [plan to] finish catching up on last week’s poems as soon as mom and I have groceries. She knew I was coming in on the 2nd. She thought the 2nd was today.

Happy writing everyone.

 

 
55 Comments

Posted by on 03/07/2012 in exercises, poetry, writing

 

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Tuesday Tryouts: Blazon It!

8:33 — Atlanta

Hello all. I decided to show you the BLAZON. The form is not stressful and can be fun.You will need to think metaphorically, much like the delight song I asked you to write some weeks back, or surrealistically, as we did some months back. I have provided links for both posts, as we have new readers, and my long time readers may need a refresher. I know I would.

Here’s an excerpt from a BLAZON, a poem that itemizes the qualities of something or someone beloved:

Free Union
a 1931 poem by Andre Breton

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

If you wish to read the entire poem, you can find it here. Note that Breton starts at the top and is working his way down the form of his wife. That is one of the conventions of a blazon.

Shakespeare, in his Sonnet 130, wrote a blazon, but did so by listing what the attributes of his speaker’s beloved are not.

My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips’ red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damasked, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks,
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.

I love to hear her speak, yet well I know,
That music hath a far more pleasing sound.
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress when she walks treads on the ground.
And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.

Your Blazon

I am going to broaden our options by suggesting that we can pick a person, or an object, or even a concept and that we can write a blazon where we dislike rather than like something. For one of the things/persons you love/hate, itemize the qualities this thing/person has.

To help you create images of the surrealistic kind, consider, as you list, how each quality affects you and your senses (touch, taste, hearing, smell, sight) and your emotions and your imagination.

List at least fifteen qualities and next to each, jot sensory associations. In case you have not gone back to the postings, I have copied an example of metaphor associations: Patience: turtle, stone, the colour grey, glaciers…they are your associations so don’t worry if others might think them odd. You will only have the metaphors and imagery, in the end.

Pick the ones you like and model your lines after Breton, or Shakespeare, or come up with your own way to list the attributes. You want specific images, sensory associations where possible.

Once you have about fifteen lines, arrange them in an order that makes sense to you, and reads well. Eliminate lines that don’t ring true, or don’t fit. Figure out how you want to end your poem. Finally, post the poem and post your link in comments, or post the poem in the comments here. Most of all, have fun with this.

I will see you Thursday for more words to avoid, and Friday for the week’s wrapup. If you know anyone who would enjoy blazoning, feel free to share. Happy writing.

 
8 Comments

Posted by on 19/04/2011 in exercises, poetry, writing

 

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