Posts Tagged ‘Poem’

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A Fine Fall Day

November 7, 2013
Walking this morning just before a rain storm set in.

Walking this morning just before a rain storm set in.

Took my sister’s dog, Sammy, for a walk this morning.  Fall is such a wonderful time of year.  Maybe it’s my age, who knows, but fall has become my favorite season of the year.  Spring is nice and full of new, summer is bold and hearty, winter is steady and rests the world, but fall shows us the beauty of change.  There is a lesson there for us all.

Here are two poems to fall I wrote a few years back:

 

Fallen Leaves

I

Walking the woodland on fallen leaves
my mind soon ambles free
Each step crisp with sound
each sound a whispering sprite
Though this is a trail well-worn
a newness still takes hold
New sprites lead to other paths
new paths that refresh my soul
Further I trod on fallen leaves –
come join my wondering mind
Then soon you’ll hear the murmuring song
then song can heal your soul

II

Walking the woodland on fallen leaves
we stir with natured hearts
Each step heals life’s hurt
each hurt released from our souls
Though our mind’s a trail well-warn
a newness still survives
New thoughts falling down like leaves
new leaves that whisper too
Further we trod to heal ourselves –
calling all to join our trek
Then soon ’twill be humanities time
then time will heal the world

Fall’s Great Reason

As the warmth of days begins to wane
and crispness fills the sky
We watch the forest full of leaves
change colors in reply

Excitement’s felt throughout the land
as change takes its hold
With wondrous shades of gold and red
Fall’s beauty does unfold

New fallen leaves blanket the ground
and crunch beneath our feet
We stop to hear the rustling of wind
on limbs it seeks to meet

And all beasts know at this time of year
that winter’s on the way
So now’s the time to collect things up
tucked for a colder day

A squirrel take nuts, a man does thoughts
to last the days and weeks
in the time when snow rules the skies,
oceans and distal peaks

So we think of how the world then turns
in changes so profound
Much like spring, summer, winter and fall
seasons in us are found

Spring gives life and summer the hope
to meet the world so well
We grow, we learn and then make our way
living our lives pell-mell

Fall gives color to days we live
adding to life’s great tome
Color for yarns and tales we tell
before winter calls us home

So enjoy each of fall’s precious days
though it was made of gold
It’s in the fall we understand life’s
a story to unfold

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Poetry Sunday: Memorial Day

May 27, 2012

I’ve written about Memorial Day before but it is a subject dear to my heart having learned while I served in the military just what sacrifice truly means.  Oddly, this important day’s history is uncertain and it did not become a national day of remembrance until 1966.  While other countries certainly honor their men and women that die in combat, we in the United States have a civic and moral duty to recognize the sacrifice that made us who we are.

No one knows just how Memorial Day started.  There are many stories and over a dozen localities lay claim to being its birthplace.  Here is what we do know:  Towards the end of the US Civil War, around 1864, organized women’s groups in the South (the Confederate side) began decorating the graves of soldiers killed in the war.  Soon, the practice migrated north (the Union side) and the US Army officially recognized the practice in 1867 with General John Logan’s General Order # 11[i].

New York was the first state to officially recognize a Memorial Day with virtually every other state following suit, but Memorial Day did not become a federally recognized holiday until 1967 when President Lyndon Johnson signed legislation into law.  Sadly, it took the federal government 99 years to get with the program.  If it took that long to establish something like honoring our war dead, is it any wonder why they can’t get anything done on difficult issues?

Perhaps the worst change to Memorial Day happened in 1968.  The federal government saw fit to pass the Uniform Monday Holiday Act[ii](it did not take effect until 1971).  The act changed the day to the last Monday in May, giving us the three-day weekend.  As nice

Gen John Logan

as a three-day weekend is, it makes the day more about romping on the beach rather than honoring our lost heroes.  I guess in the United States we have to invent a reason to take a holiday, I prefer the way the United Kingdom handles it by declaring a “bank holiday” and everyone just takes the day off.  That way, we keep our special days special and get a break from work too.

Ok, so now you know just a bit about the history of the day.  It is the history that inspired me to write my tribute poem to Memorial Day and the men and women it honors.  Regardless of what you do tomorrow, take a few moments and give thanks to your fellow citizens that gave everything for you to have such a day.

Memorial Day

Be it Southern widow’s pride
or the stroke of Logan’s pen –
the truth of it matters naught
the deeds – the fight – the daring
all sacrifice remembered

Lincoln’s “last full measure” paid
they are “the better angels”
no justice paid them with words
The price always understood.
Remember what this day’s for.

The brave, sacred few who gave,
their very bones are our brick –
their precious blood our mortar,
binding this nation as one.
They gave to us and gave all.

With bowed head I pray for them
to forever gently rest
and know we hold to the gift.
This land’s free by lives spent so
forget that not, not this day!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


[i] HEADQUARTERS GRAND ARMY OF THE REPUBLIC

General Orders No.11, WASHINGTON, D.C., May 5, 1868

The 30th day of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet church-yard in the land. In this observance no form of ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit.

We are organized, comrades, as our regulations tell us, for the purpose among other things, “of preserving and strengthening those kind and fraternal feelings which have bound together the soldiers, sailors, and marines who united to suppress the late rebellion.” What can aid more to assure this result than cherishing tenderly the memory of our heroic dead, who made their breasts a barricade between our country and its foes? Their soldier lives were the reveille of freedom to a race in chains, and their deaths the tattoo of rebellious tyranny in arms. We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance. All that the consecrated wealth and taste of the nation can add to their adornment and security is but a fitting tribute to the memory of her slain defenders. Let no wanton foot tread rudely on such hallowed grounds. Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond mourners. Let no vandalism of avarice or neglect, no ravages of time testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.

If other eyes grow dull, other hands slack, and other hearts cold in the solemn trust, ours shall keep it well as long as the light and warmth of life remain to us.

Let us, then, at the time appointed gather around their sacred remains and garland the passionless mounds above them with the choicest flowers of spring-time; let us raise above them the dear old flag they saved from dishonor; let us in this solemn presence renew our pledges to aid and assist those whom they have left among us a sacred charge upon a nation’s gratitude, the soldier’s and sailor’s widow and orphan.

It is the purpose of the Commander-in-Chief to inaugurate this observance with the hope that it will be kept up from year to year, while a survivor of the war remains to honor the memory of his departed comrades. He earnestly desires the public press to lend its friendly aid in bringing to the notice of comrades in all parts of the country in time for simultaneous compliance therewith.

Department commanders will use efforts to make this order effective.

By order of

 

JOHN A. LOGAN,
Commander-in-Chief

N.P. CHIPMAN,
Adjutant General

Official:
WM. T. COLLINS, A.A.G.

 

[ii] “Uniform Monday Holiday Act.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 18 May 2012. Web. 27 May 2012. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uniform_Monday_Holiday_Act>.

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Poetry Sunday: Metaphor and Simile, Tools of the Trade

April 29, 2012

Poetry can serve many purposes with the emotions and meanings it conveys.  Some are sad, while others are happy.  Some take us deep into thought while others make us smile at some little point we’ve overlooked.  The point is poetry has a story to tell.  It is the poet’s task to tell the story in a way the reader understands.  This is where metaphor and simile lend a hand.

Though often confused, the two are quite different.  For example, to explain it with a metaphor, one might say, “simile is metaphor with an attitude,” while stating it as a simile, it might read, “Metaphor is like simile.”  In the first case, it states the two things are the same, in a point of view, in the second case, it states they are similar in general.

Of course neither is limited to poetry, though that is where they take up residence most of the time.  One of the most famous metaphors of all time comes from Shakespeare’s play As You Like It[i],

“All the world’s a stage.”

We know the world is not literally a stage but we treat it as if it were by our actions.  In this case, metaphor’s exaggeration helps us understand the

William Shakespeare

point.  Sometimes, such exaggeration gets in the way of understanding.  It makes no sense to say, “He found his way through the maze, after all, all mice are elephants.”  Showing the elephants and mice are the same is just too large a leap.  This is where simile takes over.

Using a simile to compare, you could write the prior statement as “Elephant like, the mouse remembered his way through the maze.”  The simile counts on us knowing elephants have good memories.  It shows mice are similar to elephants in that way.  However, without knowing the point about elephants, the simile has no meaning to the reader.  Simile counts on prior knowledge, metaphor tends to explain itself.  Returning to the Shakespeare quote, it goes on to tell us just how the world is a stage:

“All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances.”

In his metaphor, Shakespeare explains what he means by his statement about the world being a stage.  Even without knowledge of what the stage actually refers too, we understand his meaning.    We can see his point and accept the whole of the world as a stage.  To state the same thing in a simile, you could write:

“Like actors on a stage, people come and go from our lives.”

Somehow, it just does not have the same impact.  In this case, to understand it, we need to know actors enter and leave the stage.  Shakespeare’s metaphor shows us, without knowing anything about actors or stages.  It is up to the poet to know when to use which form of allegory, it is up the reader to judge the poet’s success.

In poetry, similes are somewhat limited to a direct statement in a stanza within a line or two.  Metaphors can do the same but the poem as a whole can act as a metaphor.  In my poem Kite, I use metaphors throughout to describe the attachments in a relationship but the poem as a whole serves as a metaphor on relationships.

With the fairest of breezes,
off I go!  I take to flight.
A silken twine holds me fast
looking back, it leads to you.

You, only you hold the twine,
I rise further to the sky
until no sight of you’s left,
still, the twine holds me to you.

Drunkenly I ride the breeze
knowing that you set my course.
I reach for the high-up clouds
and then strain against your grasp.

Soon whipping winds have me caught,
and they sing upon the twine.
A song we both hear and know,
a sorrowful, wailing song.

Damage done – the string does part
and I flail within a cloud,
leaving you there, holding twine.
Stringy, stretched, useless twine.

You stand there, left wondering |
and I’m lost within the sky.
The twine floats back, back to you
and I’m numb without it there.

Away I fall lost to you
as I crash upon some tree,
leaving you with tangled twine –
the folly of flying kites.

The silken twine is the connection between two people in a relationship.  The kite serves as one person and the kite flyer serves as the other.  Wind acts as the turmoil couples encounter that pulls on the kite string.  Then the whole of kite flying serves as the whole of a failed relationship.  Unlike Shakespeare, I did not explain my metaphoric connections in the poem, as most people will see the links to their own relationships.  That is the great thing about being a poet; we get to make the choice.

Similes are more for simple comparisons.  It is an “A is like B” sort of thing.  For example, in my poem June Bug, I compare bugs getting too close to a light to Icarus.

On a starless night filled with haze
a porch light shines alone.
A yellow-pale reflects on dust
some breath of wind has blown.

And there I sit upon a swing
that moans its off-key sound.
Soon I’m joined by a million wings
that charge this light they’ve found.

They fly a path that’s drunkard-straight
imbibing on the light.
They dare to get but just so close
then escape away with fright.

The light has magic to a point
as they dart and flit around.
But, if to close they dare approach
like Icarus they find ground.

So there I sit and watch the sight
as they swarm and dance in air.
with too much fuss they chase the night
inspired by a porch light’s glare.

Of course, you need to know the mythical story of Icarus for the reference to work, so again, simile counts on prior knowledge, as explaining that myth is a poem all unto itself.  Did you see the direct metaphor I used?  There is one, but in this case, it is what I call a moronic metaphor as it directly disputes itself.  That is a hint by the way.

So both metaphor and simile have a fundamental role in poetry.  They are tools in the poet’s toolbox.  The poet needs to understand when to use which one; the reader needs to know how to connect the dots.   They both add depth to poetry specifically and all forms of communication in general.  Comparison is the way we understand things and that is exactly what they do, they compare.

 

On a side note:  Kite is an example of blank verse.  Blank verse will be the topic of next week’s post.  If you are not familiar with blank verse, read it over again knowing there is something more to it that free verse.  See if you pick up its natural cadence. 


[i] Shakespeare, William. “As You Like It, Act 2, Scene 7.” The Complete Works of William Shakespeare. The Tech, MIT. Web. 29 Apr. 2012. <http://shakespeare.mit.edu/asyoulikeit/full.html>.

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The Four Nobel Truths

April 28, 2012

I came across a very interesting blog post this morning.  It reminded me of this poem I penned a few years back.  It is based on the Four Nobel Truths of Buddhism. I often wonder why the world is the way it is.  It would not kill any of us to be a a bit more kind it our daily lives.

There is suffering…
          of this, no one can deny,
          or lack of life’s simple needs,
          man’s children often die.

There is cause for suffering…
          though rarely the intent,
          but more by lack of feeling,
          such innocence is spent.

There is an end of suffering…
          Sooner or later, the pain will go away,
          by deeds done or not,
          we pick the role we play.

There is a path to the end of suffering…
          but what, oh what will it be?
          Will you pick the trail that gives life,
          or grant death slowly, by degree?

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Poetry Sunday – Sonnets, A Bit Harder but Well Worth the Effort

April 1, 2012

Sonnets are one of the harder forms of poetry to master.  To make matters even more muddled, there are many forms of sonnets.  In the United States, when we think of sonnets, it is the English, otherwise known as the Shakespearean, form we think of.  Other popular sonnet styles are Italian, Occitan, Spenserian, Modern, and many others.

I like Shakespearean most, but when I write them, I modify the style a bit.  A classic Shakespearean sonnet uses three quatrains and a couplet with a rhyme scheme of ABAB CDCD EFEF GG and a meter in the iambic pentameter style.  To put that into English, each stanza rhymes every other line and no two stanzas use the same rhyming words as other stanzas.  Further, each line is ten syllables long in most cases with a natural strong stress on the even syllables.  This is where the word foot comes in.

Iambic means the syllables of a line are grouped in pairs with the stronger stress on the end syllable.  One of the best examples comes from one the Bard’s plays:

“To be, or not to be, that is the question:[i]

It is hard to read lines like this from Hamlet in anything other than its Iambic form.  The words are naturally stressed on the even syllables.  With the stressed syllables emphasized, it looks like this:

 “To be, or not to be, that is the question:”

Remember, the line is from his play and in his plays the lines do not always contain the right number of syllables. Such is the case with the example, but it does illustrate extremely well the proper use of iambic meter.

The syllable group is called a foot.  Some groups have two syllables, and some have three or more. In the Shakespearean Sonnet’s case, there are ten syllables making up five iambic pairs or five feet. The word for five feet in a line is pentameter and when the two work together it is called iambic pentameter.

While this is not the technical definition, it works for a general understanding of how Shakespearean Sonnets work.  Here is one of William Shakespeare’s famous examples, simply titled Sonnet 18:

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date:

Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm’d;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance or nature’s changing course untrimm’d;

But thy eternal summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest;
Nor shall Death brag thou wander’st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou growest:

So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this and this gives life to thee.

 

You can see Uncle Bill’s (Shakespeare is every poet’s good ol’ Uncle Bill) use of the rhyme scheme and meter.  We must give deference to the changes in language since then that makes the rhymes seem forced in some cases.

Another writing device used in most sonnet forms is the “turn,” or volta, as poets like to call it.  By the way, volta means time or turn in Italian.  This turn is a distinct change in the thought and flow of the poem.  While it is not a spelled out rule, many poets place the turn in the third quatrain (stanza) and return from the change in the ending couplet.  Shakespeare placed his volta at the couplet and so do I.  It really is up to the poet.

While Shakespeare is one of the true masters of the form, I find sticking to a constant meter (iambic pentameter for instance) does not blend well with modern though and speech patterns.  I like to break the quatrain into couplets with the first line having four feet and the last having three.  It just reads easier to me and gives the work a more song-like quality.  Here is one of my sonnets for example:

The Day I Found You

We sat upon a swing that day
and made the world our own
We talked with more than words could say
with seeds our thoughts had sown

For love began upon that swing
our souls became as one
For us the world had joys to bring
through this life that we’ve run

I look back now, that day I see
and know I found my soul
It’s from life’s dark you set me free
and with your love, made whole

I love you for you, but really much more
you taught me to love, you opened love’s door

So, why not take out your pen and give a sonnet a try.  It is the first day of National Poetry Month after all!  Pick a classic style or modify one and I did.  It is up to you.  The point is to create something that is uniquely you, something that expresses your feelings and thoughts.  I know some of you are thinking “eeew – I can’t write a mushy love poem.”  The good news is sonnets can be about anything, it is the style of the poem, no its subject matter, for example:

What Stars Know

The far off lights that paint the sky
as dark does veil the Phoebus stage
and the crescent moon’s winking eye
do know the truth of wars we wage

For land, for God, for things profound
we give as reasons why we fight
but orbs up high retort the sound
of angry words proclaiming right

Tis death and pain that man does sow
upon this home, our home – the earth
the cost exceeds what we can know
are we so vain to set life’s worth?

To learn from stars is what we must do
Live and let live is the path that’s true

 Sonnets are harder to write, that is certain.  Once you do, you will understand the fun of it.  The rules make the game fun, but like with any game you must practice before you become good at it.  Write well, write often!


[i] “Hamlet.” – Act 3, Scene 1 by William Shakespeare. Web. 01 Apr. 2012.
<http://www.shakespeare-literature.com/Hamlet/8.html>.

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Poetry Sunday

March 25, 2012

I think I am going to start a series here in my blog and call it “Poetry Sunday.”  On Sunday’s, rather than a typical blog post, I am going to post a poem or two.  Some will be old, some new but comments are welcome on either.  I will comment just a bit about the poems, either what I was thinking or to point out something of interest about its style.  It would be wonderful if other poets would join in and comment with examples of their works or at least links to it.

To get started, here are two of my most popular poems:

Life’s About the Adjectives

Life’s about the adjectives,
it’s how we know the world.
Nouns, you see, are only names,
with adjectives – life is knurled.

Think about the apple,
just fruit upon the tree,
red ripe skin with tasty pulp,
better lets us see.

Providing us the texture,
of color if you will,
ADJ allows us space,
to give our lines the fill.

Life’s about the adjectives,
spice for the written line,
Verbs, you see, are motion,
and index things like time.

Think about the race car,
going around the lane,
zipping fast with lightning speed,
better feeds the brain.

Providing us the feeling,
of nature if you will,
ADJ gives the taste,
to writings we distill.

Verbs contain the action,
and nouns have the heart,
adjectives add the flavor,
for cooks of written art.

Life’s about the adjectives,
how else could it be,
that words paint the pigments,
in poems for us to see?

This poem won the 2008 Willard R Espy award for light verse, a nice honor for me to say the least.  The poem uses an aBcB rhyme in each stanza with no formal meter.

A GRAIN OF SAND

A grain of sand, nothing more
blowing and rolling about the shore.
All alone, one takes no note
its moving about the wild sea oat.

Soon to fall and move no more
the Wind takes another from the shore.
Blown again under the night’s full moon
it finds the oats and forms a dune.

To rise or fall, the tender dunes wait
as Wind moves sand to receive its fate.
They welcome me back each day anew
as I walk within the sunrise hue.

It is the same but different now
the dunes I see as I make this vow:
“Dear Lord, I thank you for this day
the same is new in a gentle way.”

“Each dune is sculpted with your hand
by blowing around each grain of sand.
The dune has beauty as a whole
but is nothing without the single sand’s soul.”

“I pray we learn from the grain of sand
to become a part of your larger plan.
We each have beauty within our core
it’s by coming together, we become much more.”

This poem uses 2 rhymed couplets in each stanza making it an AABB scheme.

Notice how the form of rhyme changes the feel of the poem.  In the first example, the aBcB gives the poem a whimsical feel as it is read.  While the more formal AABB couplets of the second example gives the end of each couple a natural hard stop.  In a sense, it forces the reader to pause and reflect.  Each shows how rhyme scheme selection plays a huge role in the overall feel of a poem.

Reading poetry should never leave you with sort of a “wow, that was one technically perfect poem,”  no, it is more about the emotions and feeling you are left with as the reader.  These tools and devices come into play for the poet to implant emotion and feeling into a poem.  At the end of it all, if you enjoyed the poem, the technical merits of it mean nothing.

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Wintertime’s Reprieve

February 21, 2012

Far and away my mind does fly
from winter’s dull and gray.
To lands of warm and sandy loam
that calls most every day.

No parade of noise fills the air
this while my mind is free.
‘Tis more a place of solemn care
my soul does long to be.

At water’s edge with fresh wind’s breeze
I find my heart’s complete.
With toes in sand l walk this beach
dreaming of summer’s heat.

So join me there along the strand
when chill of morn does blow.
We’ll warm ourselves in our souls
from winter’s cold and snow.

Copyright ©2012 MH Benton. All rights reserved.

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