Friday, April 18, 2014

Day 18 ... NaPoWriMo / Poem-a-Day 2014


Day 18. We are 3/5 of the way through National Poetry Month.

Today was a special poetry day for me: I had the privilege and pleasure of reading some of my poems in a panel of poets at the Popular Culture Association / American Culture Association annual conference in Chicago. The panel was titled Where in the World: A Reading of Place and Culture, chaired by poet Teresa Schartel Narey; the other poets were Pramila Venkateswaran and Shaun Perkins. Unfortunately, I got stuck in a traffic jam on the Dan Ryan Expressway on my way to the conference this morning and got to the panel late. But it was fun nonetheless and I was honored and humbled to be with such fine poets.

Maureen Thorson says, "Today I challenge you to write a ruba’i. What’s that? Well, it’s a Persian form — multipe stanzas in the ruba’i form are a rubaiyat, as in 'The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.' Basically, a ruba’i is a four-line stanza, with a rhyme scheme of AABA" (NaPoWriMo). There's a little more to it than that, at least in the English tradition: not just aaba but also iambic pentameter. Though maybe Maureen didn't want to scare off some NaPoWriMo folks with the dreaded "iambic pentameter" phrase.

Robert Lee Brewer suggests today: "write a weather poem. A weather poem can be a poem about a hurricane or tornado; it can be a poem about the weatherperson; it can be a poem about forgetting an umbrella on a rainy day; it can be big; it can be small; etc." (Poetic Asides).

Okay, you know how I love to make this poem-a-day thing tougher than Maureen and Robert set it up to be. Instead of one ruba'i or a group of rubaiyat, I'm writing a rubaiyat sonnet vis-à-vis weather. Wish me luck!

Creation, DisCreation

When Gaia was young the gods bombarded her
with iron boulders, raining metal meteors
that melted into a subterranean ocean,
which now our scientists call Earth's iron core.

This planet's molten blood boiled, bubbled, and
blew into volcanoes, archipelagoes, new land.
Plants, trees, one-celled animals, the dinosaur.
Hummingbirds, muskrats, mammoths, then Eve and Adam.

And what have we done with Eden? We've ruined weather:
acid rain, runaway greenhouse, monster
hurricanes, super-typhoons, holes in the ozone,
smog and toxic chemicals in dead air.

When the gods finally come home  from their long deep space roam,
if they lift their eyebrows in anger  what miracle can we show 'em?

—Draft by Vince Gotera    [Do not copy or quote . . . thanks.]

Primeval Earth pummeled by meteors and asteroids.

I'm really upping the ante here. Generally rubaiyat sonnets have this rhyme scheme: aaba bbcb ccdc aa (interlocked rhymes). Mine only uses two rhymes, so a and b all the way: aaba bbab aaba [bb][ab] (also interlocked). The bracketed bits show internal rhyme within the ending couplet. In other words, I use the rubaiyat rhyming pattern but split into two lines: in this case, bb in the first line of the couplet and ab in the second line of the couplet. The poem is also metric: pentameter in the first three stanzas then alexandrine (hexameter) in the couplet. This allows me to have a caesura or sense break in the middle of each of the lines: three feet + break + three feet.


"Folks, I would have written a ruba'i," Alan says today, "but I had another idea instead. However, I have written that form before, mainly to vent while grading a batch of essays. It would have been dishonest to offer it as if I had written it today, however. I just want you to know that I have attempted the form. (That poem is in the P.S. below.) My offering today is a sonnet instead.

God of Kudzu

Dear God of Kudzu, God of twisted vine,
of curling tendril, creeper, blade entwined
with chain-link, batten, mortar, slat, aligned
with jamb, foundation, lintel, power line,
loose chimney stone, pried nail, enamel sign,
house numbers, horse shoes, Christmas lights designed
to look like icicles, the other kind,
the broken spokes of bikes, should I decline
to nod, acknowledging a friend in sight,
to bend to look a small child in the eye,
to acquiesce, convinced of greater right
or, worse, convinced from my own certainty,
draw me to curve, insinuate me tight
between, throughout this world where you’ve put me.

—Draft by Thomas Alan Holmes     [Do not copy or quote . . . thanks.]

Kudzu "eating" a car.
Alan, what a wonderful sonnet. Makes me think of Gerard Manley Hopkins. Especially in the phrase "the broken spokes of bikes," which exhibits a refreshingly braided sound play: the consonance of /b/ and /k/ in broken and bike; the nicely mangled rhyme of broken and spokes; and then the sibilant echoes of "s" throughout the phrase. Brilliant.

Speaking of "brilliant" . . . cool that we both had sonnet on the mind, though we approached them differently today. I like how your first quatrain is Petrarchan, then in the second quatrain you go all John Clare, then in the closing sestet, you're normative. Beautifully written. And your metrics are especially fine and tight today. Congrats.


Won't you comment, please, friends? To make a comment, look for a blue link below that says Post a comment; if you don't see that, look in the red line that starts Posted by Vince and click on the word comments.

Ingat, everyone.  




P.S. Here's the previously written rubaiyat Alan referred to above.

Mopping Up Words as the Day Is Dawning

Whose words these are, I think I know.
Here’s plagiarism’s pillage, though;
the well-turned phrase that’s dropped in here
lacks all citation it should show.

I’ve seen these same miscues all year:
the prose that pains my reader’s ear,
the more than commonplace mistake,
each praised when read by clueless peer.

I raise my arm so I can shake
my hand until numb fingers wake.
I feel renewed suspicion creep:
here’s essay for mere essay’s sake.

My books are lovely, dark, and deep,
but I have syllabi to keep,
and piles to grade before I sleep.
and piles to grade before I sleep.

—Draft by Thomas Alan Holmes     [Do not copy or quote . . . thanks.]

Alan, this reminds me of a parody an old friend from grad school, Keith Welsh, wrote back in the day. I can't remember it all, but it begins something like this: "Whose shoes these are, I think I know. / His feet are in the village, though. / He will not mind me stopping here / To watch his shoes fill up with snow."  


POEM-A-DAY 2014 • Pick a day in April: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30


2 comments:

Thomas Alan Holmes said...

Hopkins is always a favorite here in my department, and, for me, Hopkins, Yeats, Thomas, and Hardy.

Thomas Alan Holmes said...

Vince, this poem is going to appear in the inaugural issue of Cherry Tree (due out in February 2015), so I don't know what your protocol is regarding these posts. Happy New Year!

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