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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.

 

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

 

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Tuesday Tryouts: Try This

8:01 am, Tuesday, 15 February, 2011 – Atlanta

I did not plan this. It is a coincidence that we end up with an exercise to do with love, this week of all weeks. I have my exercises in an order, and so it goes. I considered shifting it to next week, but it’s not quite so tidy, so I will give you an option.

1] LOVE. Think of someone/something you love. It can be a person, someone you know, or don’t – think movie star, or singer, world leader…remember that love has many definitions and they aren’t all the hearts and flowers kind. Think friendships, family, platonic…It can be about your favourite food, place, song, pet. Anything, but read the rules below.

Take six minutes. Freewrite about your love for it WITHOUT using terms of endearment, or the word love/like/adore/or any other abstract synonym. This is trickier than it sounds, but can result in a strong poem.

Stroke/Rewrite as poem.

Option:

2] List as many sport’s terms as you can. Use as many sports metaphors [run with, strike out, hit the mark, team player, foul] as you can to describe an experience such as shopping, or an evening out.

Then describe the same experience, replacing the sports metaphors with another category such as dance [side-stepping, waltzing, leading, following, leaping] or food [digest, half-baked, gel, stew, meaty, fishy], after first listing as many terms as you associate with your chosen category.

Or, describe yourself as a writer in terms of a particular sport [or metaphor of your choice].

I know: these are both difficult. I figure you have reached the point, those who are new writers, to take on something more challenging. Those who are more seasoned writers can play. Do both. Metaphor is fun.

Bonus: A poem by Sylvia Plath, titled “Metaphors”. 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.

Sylvia Plath

Please do post a link in the comments if you write a poem from these exercises. I love to see the results that grow out of the exercises I set.

See you Thursday, with a poem in hand, preferably one of the metaphor poems, to start a series of posts on revision.

All images from OCAL

 
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Posted by on 15/02/2011 in exercises, poetry, writing

 

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Monday Miasma: But I Can Still Alliterate

2:25 pm, PST: Monday, 27 December, 2010 – Walnut Creek

Well, dear readers, I have been felled by a cold, not helped by the exhaustion that accompanies a family Christmas, no matter how fun, and the arrival on Christmas Day of college essays that I said I would edit [having forgotten exactly when the child told me he would send them]. I will make this another photo day and tomorrow a word list and again take a five-day weekend, so that I, and you, can arrive in the New Year, next Monday, fresh and ready to go with writing and poetry.

Two hours later after trying to help my niece arrange her flight to Paris [ I can see why writers do not blog during the holidays]:

These beauties came up near my mother’s apartment after the torrential rains in California. There are some fun possibilities for poems here and if you are not feeling inspired go read Sylvia Plath’s poem “Mushrooms“.

And, if all you want to do is stare at the flames, as I did [the real ones] yesterday for quite sometime, that’s alright. This is an energy draining time of year. Relax, recharge. I’ll have a wordlist tomorrow for those who don’t like to relax and recharge! And if I have the energy, I’ll do a roundup of some writing sites.

 
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Posted by on 27/12/2010 in exercises, poetry, writing

 

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