Posts Tagged ‘popular poems’

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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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Free-verse, free-verse everywhere, but still no poets think

March 20, 2012

Walt Whitman
Father of Free-verse

I am often asked where my inspiration comes from regarding my poetry.  I am taken a little aback by this, as I think my poetry is self-evident. I guess they are asking more about what makes me see the world as I do rather than what a particular poem is all about.

For me, my life is poetry, not some free-verse prose form that runs on like a bad version of Hemmingway.  No, the poetry of my life is more like Frost, Dickenson, and Yeats.  In other words, it has something to say, a singular point to make.

I will never be a modern poet.  I do not understand spoken-word or slam poetry.  I’m not knocking them, it’s just not me.  I am all about metaphor and form, that and a good selection of adjectives.  It has been said I write “like a nineteenth century poet.”  I am sure it was not meant as a compliment but for me there could be no greater.  I am lost in a romantic time when true craftsmanship existed in poetry.

In the end, modern poetry has just passed me by.  In fact, I see free-verse much the same as Robert Frost.  He put it like this: “Writing free verse is like playing tennis with the net down.”  I tend to think the form is over used today.  In a sense, it is advanced poetry.  It requires the poet to be poetic without the use of ninety percent of poetry’s tools.  It is like a carpenter building a house with just a hammer.

Still, it does have its place, there is no denying that.  To be honest, some of my more popular poems are free-verse.  My point is I use the form sparingly.  I produce a work in that style, and then retreat back to the safety of rhyme and meter.  It is like coming home after a vacation.   It is good to get out and see the world, but nothing beats coming home.

Perhaps it is the fast-paced world that promotes free-verse.  I mean if all you have to do is move from a to b and not worry over structure, results come quickly.  I am not sure “quickness” is what Walt Whitman wished to inspire or that the controversial poet, Ezra Pound accepted a “fire and forget” approach to poetry.  They mastered the use of words and kept a poetic feel to their work.  Pound’s great free-verse The Garden has little in common in approach, style and feel of works produced today.  The effort he expended is obvious and the result speaks for itself.

Opening Stanza of The Garden:

Like a skein of loose silk blown against a wall
She walks by the railing of a path in Kensington Gardens,
And she is dying piece-meal
of a sort of emotional anemia.

Of course Ezra would be happy with poetry going beyond where he left it.  He even said to do just that.  My point is not about the newness, it is the seeming lack of effort I feel with much of what I read in today’s free-verse offerings.  I feel it debases the art of poetry.  I get the sense a young poet reads some T.S. Eliot and thinks “I can do that,” never realizing the painstaking time and deliberate word selection Eliot struggled with.  Even one of his best poems, one of the best poems ever, The Waste Land has been criticized for its disconnection and disjointed style, more a criticism of free-verse than Eliot.   Still, when you read it, then step back from it, the symmetry and beauty of the work stands like a beacon in the night.

The opening lines of The Waste Land:

APRIL is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.

What all these champions of free-verse had in common is the ability to pick and choose the elements they used and remain poetic.  They knew how to color outside the lines.  That is what seems to be missing today.  While they abandoned the rules, they never abandoned style.

In the end, each poet must walk their own path.  My 2¢ worth of advice will not hold even that value to them.  My only hope is young poets wake up and put in the effort to produce true poetry and not just slap a few catchy words together and think themselves brilliant.

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