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!
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 heavily 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!
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.
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
filling this moment, these thoughts
with much perfume, and sweetness
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.
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!
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…
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.
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.
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.