Tag Archives: e. e. cummings

Poem Tryouts: Meanwhile, Back at the Farm

7:37 a.m.

listening to contemporary Hawaiian music sung by Keali’i Reichel

Hello, all. So. We have all done our homework, yes? You! Yes, you in the second row. Stop trying to hide. If you have done your homework, it just means you can move straight to writing your poem. If not, you’ll need a slight detour.

I asked you to: Find a poem that gives a piece of, or one side of, a story. Your task is to write a poem that gives us another side, or piece of the story. It’s a type of response poem.

e. e. cummings wrote the following as an indictment of the tremendous focus on all things scientific and technological. The speaker’s answer to a world such as that described, is to leave it. There are other worlds.

pity this busy monster, manunkind

pity this busy monster, manunkind,

not. Progress is a comfortable disease:
your victim (death and life safely beyond)

plays with the bigness of his littleness
— electrons deify one razorblade
into a mountainrange; lenses extend
unwish through curving wherewhen till unwish
returns on its unself.
A world of made
is not a world of born — pity poor flesh

and trees, poor stars and stones, but never this
fine specimen of hypermagical

ultraomnipotence. We doctors know

a hopeless case if — listen: there’s a hell
of a good universe next door; let’s go.

Now, look at the other side, or at an added piece of the whole, as presented by James Arlington Wright:

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 shadow.
Down the ravine behind the empty house,
the cowbells follow one another
into the distances of the afternoon.
To my right,in a field of sunlight between two pines,
the droppings of last year’s horses
blaze up into golden stones.
I lean back, as the evening darkens and comes on.
A chicken hawk floats over, looking for home.
I have wasted my life.

In one sense the speaker also wishes to escape life, but he wants to escape to the beauty of the world.

Have fun with this. You might write a tongue in cheek this is what really happened poem; or a yes, this happened, but so did this poem; or a while this was happening, in the background here’s what was going on poem.

This does require that you give us the text of your chosen poem, so that we can enjoy what you responded to, as well as how you responded. I am looking forward to what you come up with, and yes, the response might be as short as a haiku.

I shall see you Thursday for links; Friday, for a roundup of the week’s prompts; and next Tuesday for an image prompt [it’s a little weird, she said happily].

Happy writing, everyone.


Posted by on 22/10/2013 in exercises, poetry


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Thursday Thoughts: Poetic Inversion and the Yoda Effect

9:16 a.m. — San Antonio

A couple of weeks ago I asked if any of you, dear readers, had a topic you wished me to discuss. Viv, of Vivinfrance’s Blog, whom many of you know, had an immediate response: ‘Could you give us your view on poetic inversions – which I was taught to shun, but which sometimes force themselves into a poem.’

This could be a short post. My view: If the poem requires it, do it.

But, let’s look at what a poetic inversion is and why it was, and is, shunned by teachers. In the English language, normal sentence syntax [the order of words in a sentence] is subject, verb, object: I kicked the ball.

But, there are five other possibilities. Glance back at the sentence and see if you can figure them out before reading my list.

I the ball kicked.
Kicked the ball I.
Kicked I the ball.
The ball I kicked.
The ball kicked I.

What happens to each sentence when I shift the order of the words? Two major things: The emphasis shifts and so does the rhythm. Say each one aloud, if your internal ear is not hearing the difference enough. What are teachers so afraid of? With young, or new, writers, teachers want them to develop their internal ear before they take on something that can ruin a poem if a writer cannot hear its effect. That would be what I am calling the Yoda effect: Afraid of the force not, am I.

But, like many of the things I have said to beware of in past Thursday Thoughts, it’s more a case of be aware. Know that you [or the poem] are creating an inversion and the effect of that inversion on what you are writing. If it sounds cheesy to you, probably it will sound the same to a reader. You may choose, for the poem, to do it anyway, but you are doing so with knowledge and deliberation.

Some poets who have used poetic inversion: Shakespeare, often; Milton; Emily Dickinson; Walt Whitman; and the most known for it, e. e. cummings. Go look at some of cummings’ poetry. The poetic inversion is a major device of his.

Why consider using the inversion yourself? For the reasons listed above: you want the emphasis, or focus, placed on a word; or you need to keep a poetic rhythm going; or you want to break a poetic rhythm.

I had such fun writing this post, so at any time, because I will forget to ask, give me a topic you want me to write about and I shall look into it, and if I am able, I shall write about it. Thank you for this one, Viv.

I want to give a shout out to all the people who responded to this Tuesday’s Tryouts to write a poem on something lost. If you haven’t had a chance to read their poems, stop by when you can. If you haven’t posted a poem, it’s never too late. Remember that if you have questions about anything I write, ask. If you think someone will enjoy this, click buttons!

I shall see you tomorrow for the Friday roundup; Tuesday for a second open prompt [whoo hoo!]; and next Thursday for …wow! I don’t know. Can you tell I am on vacation? I usually know two or three topics in advance. I’ll let you know.

Happy writing, everyone.


Posted by on 23/06/2011 in poetry, writing


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