Poetry: A to Z

printable-alphabet-big-letters-a-zPoetry: A to Z

Posted on March 1, 2016

Throughout the month of March, I am going to focus on poetic forms, posting a different type most every day (poetry: a to z).

This will be exciting, as there are many poetic forms that I do not use, or remember much about. And there are some that I use quite often, such as haiku, pantoum, and villanelle.

I will include a definition and sample poem with each post. The sample poem will be written by me, or (more likely) a famous classical poet. Happy March!

(A) Anaphora

Posted on March 1, 2016

Anaphora is a rhetorical device that includes multiple phrases, lines, or sentences that begin with the same word or phrase. The repetition creates a musical effect, and can bind lines together in a memorable way.

Excerpt from Song of Myself by Walt Whitman:

Ever the hard unsunk ground,
Ever the eaters and drinkers, ever the upward and downward sun, ever the air and the ceaseless tides,
Ever myself and my neighbors, refreshing, wicked, real,
Ever the old inexplicable query, ever that thorn’d thumb, that breath of itches and thirsts,
Ever the vexer’s hoot! hoot! till we find where the sly one hides and bring him forth,
Ever love, ever the sobbing liquid of life,
Ever the bandage under the chin, ever the trestles of death.

Read more about anaphora at the Poetry Foundation.

(B) Beat Poetry

Posted on March 2, 2016

In the early 1950s, beat poetry took over San Francisco, California and was led by poets such as Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Allen Ginsberg, and Jack Kerouac. Beat poetry was typically fast-paced, free verse, and jazz-like and questioned issues in society. Lawrence Ferlinghetti founded the legendary San Francisco bookstore City Lights, once a gathering place for beat poets. Here is the poem People Getting Divorced by Lawrence Ferlinghetti:

People getting divorced 
          riding around with their clothes in the car   
   and wondering what happened 
                      to everyone and everything   
                         including their other 
                                                pair of shoes 
         And if you spy one 
             then who knows what happened 
                                             to the other 
                                           with tongue alack   
   and years later not even knowing 
                               if the other ever 
                                        found a mate 
                                  without splitting the seams   
                                     or remained intact 
    and the sole 
                     ah the soul 
                                     a curious conception   
         hanging on somehow 
                                     to walk again 
                                                   in the free air   
                            once the heel 
                                                 has been replaced

(C) Cento

Posted on March 3, 2016

A literary collage, or patchwork poem, the cento is a poetic form that is created by combining lines of poetry from one or more poets. The end of the poem The Wasteland by T.S. Eliot can be classified as a cento.

I decided to create a cento using lines of poetry from Tulips by Sylvia Plath and Hope is the Thing with Feathers by Emily Dickinson. These poems and tones are so very different from one another, but they are two of my favorite poets. A mix of melancholy and hope…

Hope is the thing with feathers – that perches in the soul –
Stupid pupil, it has to take everything in
I’ve heard it in the chillest land – and on the strangest sea –
And comes from a country far away as health
The water I taste is warm and salt, like the sea,
That kept so many warm –
They are subtle: they seem to float, though they weigh me down,
And never stops – at all –

Read more about the centoSylvia Plath, or Emily Dickinson.

(D) Deep Image Poetry

Posted on March 5, 2016

Poets such as James Wright and Robert Bly published deep image poetry in the 1960s, which focused on images of the natural world. This type of writing allowed the reader to visualize experiences through expressive illustration, creating a connection between the spiritual and physical realms. Deep image poetry is considered by some as the roots of poetry.

Here is “Come With Me,” a deep image poem by Robert Bly:

Come with me into those things that have felt this despair for so long—
Those removed Chevrolet wheels that howl with a terrible loneliness,
Lying on their backs in the cindery dirt, like men drunk, and naked,
Staggering off down a hill to drown at last in a pond;
Shredded inner tubes abandoned on the shoulders of thruways,
Black and collapsed souls, who tried and burst
And were left behind,
And those curled steel shavings scattered about on oily benches,
Sometimes still warm, gritty when we hold them,
Who have given up, and blame everything on the government,
And those roads in South Dakota that feel around in the darkness…

Read more about deep image poetry or Robert Bly.

(E) Ekphrastic Poetry

Posted on March 6, 2016

Poetry that imitates, critiques, or reflects upon nonliterary art, or that serves as a vivid description of a scene can be described as ekphrastic poetry.

There are many talented WordPress artists who post ekphrastic work, dealing with art or photography, such as Thin Spiral Notebook and Hortus Closus.

Paintings have long been the subject of poems. William Carlos Williams wrote a poem based on Landscape with the Fall of Icarus.

One of my favorite paintings is The Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh. Anne Sexton celebrated this painting by writing the poem, The Starry Night, featured here:

That does not keep me from having a terrible need of – shall I say the word – religion. Then I go out at night to paint the stars. – Vincent Van Gogh in a letter to his brother

The town does not exist
except where one black-haired tree slips
up like a drowned woman into the hot sky.
The town is silent. The night boils with eleven stars.
Oh starry night! This is how
I want to die.

It moves. They are all alive.
Even the moon bulges in its orange irons
to push children, like a god, from its eye.
The old unseen serpent swallows up the stars.
Oh starry starry night! This is how
I want to die:

into that rushing beast of the night,
sucked up by that great dragon, to split
from my life with no flag,
no belly,
no cry.

Read more about ekphrastic poetry or Anne Sexton.

(F) Figurative Language

Posted on March 7, 2016

To use figurative language is to employ figures of speech, such as metaphor and simile, when ideas are compared. The poem “You’re” by Sylvia Plath is an excellent example of figurative language in poetry. As you read “You’re”, notice how often she used the words “like” and “as”…

Clownlike, happiest on your hands,
Feet to the stars, and moon-skulled,
Gilled like a fish. A common-sense
Thumbs-down on the dodo’s mode.
Wrapped up in yourself like a spool,
Trawling your dark as owls do.
Mute as a turnip from the Fourth
Of July to All Fools’ Day,
O high-riser, my little loaf.

Vague as fog and looked for like mail.
Farther off than Australia.
Bent-backed Atlas, our traveled prawn.
Snug as a bud and at home
Like a sprat in a pickle jug.
A creel of eels, all ripples.
Jumpy as a Mexican bean.
Right, like a well-done sum.
A clean slate, with your own face on.

To read more about figurative language and poetry, see Learning about Figurative Language.

(G) Ghazal

Posted on March 8, 2016

A ghazal is a poem consisting of five to fifteen couplets, originally written in Middle Eastern languages, typically dealing in deep loss or great love.

The rhyme scheme is intricate, as each couplet ends with the same word or phrase, and also includes a preceding rhyming word.

Poet John Hollander wrote “Ghazal on Ghazals” which is quite helpful, and entertaining, as it is a poem that helps describe a ghazal, as a ghazal.

Ghazal on Ghazals, by John Hollander

For couplets the ghazal is prime; at the end
Of each one’s a refrain like a chime: “at the end.”
But in subsequent couplets throughout the whole poem,
It’s this second line only will rhyme at the end.
On a string of such strange, unpronounceable fruits,
How fine the familiar old lime at the end!
All our writing is silent, the dance of the hand,
So that what it comes down to’s all mine, at the end.
Dust and ashes? How dainty and dry! We decay
To our messy primordial slime at the end.
Two frail arms of your delicate form I pursue,
Inaccessible, vibrant, sublime at the end.
You gathered all manner of flowers all day,
But your hands were most fragrant of thyme, at the end.
There are so many sounds! A poem having one rhyme?
A good life with a sad, minor crime at the end.
Each new couplet’s a different ascent: no great peak,
But a low hill quite easy to climb at the end.
Two armed bandits: start out with a great wad of green
Thoughts, but you’re left with a dime at the end.
Each assertion’s a knot which must shorten, alas,
This long-worded rope of which I’m at the end.
Now Qafia Radif has grown weary, like life,
At the game he’s been wasting his time at. THE END.

Read this great article from the Indianapolis Public Library about ghazals.

(H) Harlem Renaissance

Posted on March 9, 2016

The Harlem Renaissance was a literary movement that began in Harlem, New York during the 1920s. It celebrated black culture and was strongly influenced by jazz and blues.

The poet, Langston Hughes, is recognized as one of the key figures of the Harlem Renaissance. (Note: I featured his poem Juke Box Love Song on my blog in April 2015). Here is the poem “Out of Work” by Langston Hughes:

I walked de streets till
De shoes wore off my feet.
I done walked de streets till
De shoes wore off my feet.
Been lookin’ for a job
So’s that I could eat.
I couldn’t find no job
So I went to de WPA.
Couldn’t find no job
So I went to de WPA.
WPA man told me:
You got to live here a year and a day.
A year and a day, Lawd,
In this great big lonesome town!
A year and a day in this
Great big lonesome town!
I might starve for a year but
That extra day would get me down.
Did you ever try livin’
On two-bits minus two?
I say did you ever try livin’
On two-bits minus two?
Why don’t you try it, folks,
And see what it would do to you?

Read more about the Harlem Renaissance 1917-1935 at PBS.org

(I) Imagism

Posted on March 11, 2016

Imagism was invented by Ezra Pound and was dedicated to replacing traditional lines of poetry with more concise use of language and new rhythms. Imagist poems were written in free verse and followed many rules, such as: to use the language of common speech, but to employ always the exact word, not the nearly-exact, nor the merely decorative word.

Along with Ezra Pound, the Imagism movement was introduced by Richard Aldington and Hilda Doolittle (H.D.). Other poets of the movement include D. H. Lawrence, Amy Lowell, and John Gould Fletcher. Here is a poem from John Gould Fletcher from “Arizona Poems” March 1916:

Cliff Dwelling, by John Gould Fletcher

The canyon is heaped with stones and undergrowth.
The heat that falls from the sky
Beats at the walls, slides and reverberates
Down in a wave of gray dust and white fire,
Choking the breath and eyes.
The ponies straggle and scramble
Half way up, along the canyon wall.
Their listless riders seldom lift
A weary hand to guide their feet.
Stones are loosened and clatter
Down to the sun-baked depths.
Nothing ever has lived here;
Nothing could ever live here:
Two hawks, screaming and wheeling,
Rouse a few eyes to look aloft.
Boldly poised in a shelf of the stone,
Tiny walls look down at us,
Towers with little square windows.
When we plod up to them,
And dismounting fasten our horses
Suddenly a blue-gray flock of doves
Bursts in a flutter of wings from the shadows.
Shards of pots and shreds of straw,
Empty brush-roofed rooms in darkness:
And the sound of water tinkling—
A clock that ticks the centuries off in silence.

(J) Juxtaposition

Posted on March 12, 2016

In poetry, juxtaposition is a technique that involves comparing and contrasting two or more ideas, side by side.

The poem “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost does this by comparing two paths, or decisions, each one quite different from the other, with its own set of adventures, concerns, and end results.

The Road Not Taken, by Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Read more about Robert Frost.

(K) Kyrielle

Posted on March 13, 2016

A kyrielle is a French poetic form that consists of a four-line stanza, with the fourth line serving as a refrain. The poem often contains a rhyming scheme. Here is “Kyrielle” by John Payne (1842-1916):

A lark in the mesh of the tangled vine,
A bee that drowns in the flower-cup’s wine,
A fly in sunshine,–such is the man.
All things must end, as all began.
A little pain, a little pleasure,
A little heaping up of treasure;
Then no more gazing upon the sun.
All things must end that have begun.
Where is the time for hope or doubt?
A puff of the wind, and life is out;
A turn of the wheel, and rest is won.
All things must end that have begun.
Golden morning and purple night,
Life that fails with the failing light;
Death is the only deathless one.
All things must end that have begun.
Ending waits on the brief beginning;
Is the prize worth the stress of winning?
E’en in the dawning day is done.
All things must end that have begun.
Weary waiting and weary striving,
Glad outsetting and sad arriving;
What is it worth when the goal is won?
All things must end that have begun.
Speedily fades the morning glitter;
Love grows irksome and wine grows bitter.
Two are parted from what was one.
All things must end that have begun.
Toil and pain and the evening rest;
Joy is weary and sleep is best;
Fair and softly the day is done.
All things must end that have begun.

For more about the kyrielle, see the Writer’s Digest article, Kyrielle: a French poetic form.

(L) List Poem

Posted on March 14, 2016

I would have to say that I am a fan of this poetic form. I am a list maker

A list poem names a series of things, such as actions, images, places, or thoughts. It is sometimes called a catalog poem. Many of Walt Whitman’s poems are list poems.

I created my own, titled “Journal Pages”:

journal pages
full of life and love;
a refreshing pint
at the Fifield Pub;
cactus blooms
beneath a pumpkin sky;
smiles and laughter
from the cutie-pies;
splendid experiences
a new fiction story;
for all those dear:
peace, love and safety

For more about list poems, see the Writer’s Digest article, List Poem: A Surprisingly American Poem.

(M) Monostich

Posted on March 15, 2016

A monostich is a one-line stanza or poem. When it is a single poem, it can be a fragment, definition, image, etc. But it must be able to stand alone.

I am going to recycle my own example of a monostich. I posted it last year, and the words still rest on my fridge via magnetic poetry…

A smile always blooms when morning comes  

Add your own monostich in comments if you desire!

(N) Nonsense Verse

Posted on March 18, 2016

Nonsense verse can be described as whimsical writing that typically includes elements of rhythm and rhyme, as well as humorous or silly characters. One of the most famous poems that employs nonsense verse is “Jabberwocky” by Lewis Carroll:

’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.
“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!”
He took his vorpal sword in hand;
Long time the manxome foe he sought—
So rested he by the Tumtum tree
And stood awhile in thought.
And, as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!
One, two! One, two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.
“And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!”
He chortled in his joy.
’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

(O) Ode

Posted on March 19, 2016

Modern odes are often free-verse poetry, declaring one’s love or appreciation for nature or everyday things. More classic odes, such as the Pindaric or Horatian, were often song-like and followed certain rhyming patterns.

Regardless of how they are categorized, odes are usually quite passionate and euphonious. I almost posted To Autumn by John Keats, or Ode to Salt by Pablo Neruda, which are both wonderful, but I came upon Alice Cary’s “To Solitude” and decided to use it as the sample:

I am weary of the working,
Weary of the long day’s heat;
To thy comfortable bosom,
Wilt thou take me, spirit sweet?
Weary of the long, blind struggle
For a pathway bright and high,—
Weary of the dimly dying
Hopes that never quite all die.
Weary searching a bad cipher
For a good that must be meant;
Discontent with being weary,—
Weary with my discontent.
I am weary of the trusting
Where my trusts but torments prove;
Wilt thou keep faith with me? wilt thou
Be my true and tender love?
I am weary drifting, driving
Like a helmless bark at sea;
Kindly, comfortable spirit,
Wilt thou give thyself to me?
Give thy birds to sing me sonnets?
Give thy winds my cheeks to kiss?
And thy mossy rocks to stand for
The memorials of our bliss?
I in reverence will hold thee,
Never vexed with jealous ills,
Though thy wild and wimpling waters
Wind about a thousand hills.

Read more about Alice Cary.

(P) Pattern Poetry

Posted on March 20, 2016

A pattern poem is comprised of words or letters that form a picture. Pattern poems always catch my attention. I think they are quite unique, in that the image is just one more game the writer played with words.

I recently finished Collected Poems, by Dylan Thomas. There, the entire poem, Vision and Prayer, was in pattern-form. Here is “Out of the Sea, Early” by May Swenson. It is said that this poem’s pattern represents the rising sun…

A bloody
egg yolk. A burnt hole
spreading in a sheet. An en-
raged rose threatening to bloom.
A furnace hatchway opening, roaring.
A globular bladder filling with immense
juice. I start to scream. A red hydrocepha-
lic head is born, teetering on the stump of
its neck. When it separates, it leaks rasp-
berry from the horizon down the wide esca-
lator. The cold blue boiling waves cannot
scour out that band, that broadens, slid-
ing toward me up the wet sand slope. The
fox-hair grows, grows thicker on the
upfloating head. By six o’clock
diffused to ordinary gold,
it exposes each silk thread and rumple in the carpet.

(Q) Quatrain

Posted on March 21, 2016

A quatrain is a four-line stanza that can be rhymed or unrhymed. There are different types of quatrains, such as the alternating quatrain (rhymed abab) or the envelope quatrain (rhymed abba). I chose the Emily Dickinson poem, “Have You Got a Brook in Your Little Heart (IX)” as a sample…

Have you got a brook in your little heart,
Where bashful flowers blow,
And blushing birds go down to drink,
And shadows tremble so?
And nobody knows, so still it flows,
That any brook is there,
And yet your little draught of life
Is daily drunken there.
Why, look out for the little brook in March,
When the rivers overflow,
And the snows come hurrying from the fills,
And the bridges often go.
And later, in August it may be,
When the meadows parching lie,
Beware, lest this little brook of life,
Some burning noon go dry!

(R) Rhopalic Verse

Posted on March 22, 2016

In rhopalic verse, each successive word is longer by one syllable. This game-like pattern can be hard work, actually. Some may say that the verse “balloons”. Here is the pattern:

Word 1 = 1 syllable
Word 2 = 2 syllables
Word 3 = 3 syllables
Word 4 = 4 syllables
Word 5 = 5 syllables, and so on…

I wrote a (very short) rhopalic verse tonight:

Rhopalic Spring Verse

am gladly welcoming,
spring flowers blossoming,
fresh petals evolving,
‘tis pleasant-exciting

(S) Sonnet

Posted on March 24, 2016

For the letter “S”, I had to go with the sonnet. Often a romantic plea, small story, or meditation, the sonnet originated in Italy (little song) and was later brought to England. It consists of 14 lines that are usually rhymed. Here is Sonnet 30 by William Shakespeare:

When to the Sessions of Sweet Silent Thought

When to the sessions of sweet silent thought
I summon up remembrance of things past,
I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought,
And with old woes new wail my dear time’s waste:
Then can I drown an eye, unus’d to flow,
For precious friends hid in death’s dateless night,
And weep afresh love’s long since cancell’d woe,
And moan th’ expense of many a vanish’d sight;
Then can I grieve at grievances foregone,
And heavily from woe to woe tell o’er
The sad account of fore-bemoaned moan,
Which I new pay as if not paid before.
But if the while I think on thee, dear friend,
All losses are restor’d, and sorrows end.

(T) Tanka

Posted on March 27, 2016

The tanka is a Japanese poem consisting of 31-syllables, following the 5, 7, 5, 7, 7 form. Some describe the tanka as similar to a haiku (5, 7, 5) but with two extra 7-syllable lines, allowing it to be a less concentrated, more casual poem.

The tanka was once used as a way for lovers to communicate, serving as a written gift or intimate correspondence while courting. Sometimes the final two lines of a tanka serve as a shift in mood or subject, with this “shift” making it comparable to a sonnet.

I devised a tanka for today’s post, titled “Beloved Honeysuckle”:

clean, sugar fragrance
beloved honeysuckle
erases worry
filling this moment, these thoughts
with much perfume, and sweetness

by Jennifer Fifield

(U) Ubi Sunt

Posted on March 28, 2016

The ubi sunt is a poetic theme that questions where people have gone. The poem serves as a roll call for those missing or who have passed away, and deals with the inevitability of death.

A well-known ubi sunt is “Astrophil and Stella 102: Where Be the Roses Gone, Which Sweetened So Our Eyes?” by Sir Philip Sidney:

Where be the roses gone, which sweetened so our eyes?
Where those red cheeks, which oft with fair increase did frame
The height of honor in the kindly badge of shame?
Who hath the crimson weeds stolen from my morning skies?
How doth the color vade of those vermilion dyes,
Which Nature’s self did make, and self engrained the same!
I would know by what right this paleness overcame
That hue, whose force my heart still unto thraldom ties?
Galen’s adoptive sons, who by a beaten way
Their judgements hackney on, the fault on sickness lay;
But feeling proof makes me say they mistake it far:
It is but love, which makes his paper perfect white
To write therein more fresh the story of delight,
Whiles beauty’s reddest ink Venus for him doth stir.

(V) Verse Letter

Posted on March 29, 2016

A verse letter is a correspondence poem, or letters exchanged between two people. A verse letter is also known as an epistolary poem, epistle, or letter poem.

I featured Elizabeth Bishop’s poem Letter to N.Y. on The Writing Life in April 2015, but I believe that it is a great example of a verse letter:

In your next letter I wish you’d say
where you are going and what you are doing;
how are the plays and after the plays
what other pleasures you’re pursuing:
taking cabs in the middle of the night,
driving as if to save your soul
where the road goes round and round the park
and the meter glares like a moral owl,
and the trees look so queer and green
standing alone in big black caves
and suddenly you’re in a different place
where everything seems to happen in waves,
and most of the jokes you just can’t catch,
like dirty words rubbed off a slate,
and the songs are loud but somehow dim
and it gets so terribly late,
and coming out of the brownstone house
to the gray sidewalk, the watered street,
one side of the buildings rises with the sun
like a glistening field of wheat.
–Wheat, not oats, dear. I’m afraid
if it’s wheat it’s none of your sowing,
nevertheless I’d like to know
what you are doing and where you are going.

(WXYZ) Series Finale

Posted on March 31, 2016

Seeing as there are no poetic forms that begin with the letters w, x, y or z… I instead decided to post a poem that follows some of the poetic forms I featured this month – a grand finale of poetic forms.

And it’s not completely true that there are no poetic devices that begin with the letters w, x, y or z. There is “waka,” but I already featured “tanka.” And not to say that my blog series was that thorough… I just should have planned better!

So here is Love Song, by William Carlos Williams. I adore his poetry, so it is a nice way to end the poetry: a to z series. This poem features a monostich at the beginning, and is classified as Imagist poetry.

Love Song, by William Carlos Williams

I lie here thinking of you:—
the stain of love
is upon the world!
Yellow, yellow, yellow
it eats into the leaves,
smears with saffron
the horned branches that lean
against a smooth purple sky!
There is no light
only a honey-thick stain
that drips from leaf to leaf
and limb to limb
spoiling the colors
of the whole world—

you far off there under
the wine-red selvage of the west!