Friday, April 3, 2015

Day Three ... NaPoWriMo / Poem-a-Day 2015


Day Three. And Good Friday too. As a person raised Catholic, for me the phrase "day three" resonates: "On the third day he rose again in fulfillment of the Scriptures." I suppose today in NaPoWriMo/Poem-a-Day Land, there will be many "third-day" poems. Okay, on to the poetry prompts.

Here's Maureen Thorson's NaPoWriMo prompt for day three: "I challenge you to write a fourteener. Fourteeners can be have any number of lines, but each line should have fourteen syllables. Traditionally, each line consisted of seven iambic feet (i.e., an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable, times seven), but non-iambic fourteeners also exist." Maureen points out that the renowned poem "Casey at the Bat" by Ernest Lawrence Thayer is made of fourteeners. "The form is versatile enough to encompass any subject matter, but as the example of 'Casey at the Bat' shows us, it is particularly useful in narrative poetry, due to the long line and the step-like sense of progression created by the iambs."

Robert Lee Brewer's PAD suggestion today is to "write a machine poem. A machine could be a car or a robot, obviously, but simple machines include levers, pulleys, and screws. There’s also 'machine learning' and 'deus ex machina'." Robert wrote a particularly fun machine poem sample today. You can read it here.

I didn't come up with a "third-day" Easter poem, although I hope many other April poets who wanted to did. You can't push these things; if the Muse ain't there, she/he/it just ain't there. But I did manage to combine the fourteener and machine prompts. Here you go . . . my best shot.

Machine

tick tick tick the clock punctuates tick tick close dark tick tick

tick tick my bedroom tick tick tick safe thick warm tick tick tick

heart thumps tick tick tick ribcage embrace tick tick tick timepiece

counting tick tick tick counting seconds tick tick since my birth

tick tick my lungs fill tick tick tick sweet air tick tick whew tick

tick whew tick tick the body tick tick tick pumping tick tick

whoosh tick tick tick liquids tidal tick tick swoosh tick tick flux

broth tick tick tick elixir rivers tick tick tick bones thick

rocks cliffs tick tick tick skyscrapers city tick tick tick streets

flowing metal tick tick rust juts up into sky tick tick

tick tick ore vein dips down tick tick into earth tick tick tick

earth home all tick tick tick engine counts down tick tick tick years

months days tick minutes tick seconds count down tick tick until

tick tick we go tick tick go tick home tick tick home tick but

till then tick tick may motor rev tick run tick long tick yeah


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

Alan brilliantly merged the machine and fourteeners prompts today, using one of the most basic of machines, the hinge. When I first read this, the first thing I said, with some chagrin, was, "Fourteeners rhyme?" I had merely gone for the fourteen syllables per line. But Alan really mined well the English ballad tradition here, both in form and substance. Enjoy, friends.

Thomas Crofts and the Miracle Hinge

His dissertation finished, and his future in the air,
his focus softly clouded by the ales of everywhere,
the campus quad enshrouded by a fog before the dawn,
our Thomas Crofts, medievalist, met Satan on the lawn.

He didn’t look like Satan first, more Mephistopheles,
with coat sleeves pushed to elbows, coatskirt hanging to his knees,
suggesting eighties throwback or Neil Gaiman on a tear.
Enlightened Thomas Crofts is not thrown off by what folks wear.

For Thomas, in his studies, somehow found forbidden text,
so Satan, prone to confidence, thought he’d take Thomas next
and showed him something marvelous that no one else had seen
for decades, except Thomas, on a microfiche machine.

It was the hinge of miracles, a relic from a time
when Roman lords awash in wealth still dreamed of perfect crime,
commissioned corrupt metalsmiths and priests without restraint,
demanded means to steal from gods their wealth without man’s taint.

The hinge of miracles, it’s said, when opened and placed flat
against a surface makes a panel open, just like that,
to walk into a stony vault, or reach into a box,
or violate a sacred place, defeating seals and locks.

And Satan, then, without a word, held in his outstretched hand
the hinge of miracles, which looked at first like plain iron band
but glowed of hidden elements in fog and overcast
enough to snare the interest of intrigued young Crofts at last.

When I tell you what happened next, I’m sure that you will cringe
to think that Thomas Crofts, medievalist, took up that hinge
and opened it and pressed it flat against the Tempter’s chest
and ripped his heart out, one, two, three, and tossed it to the west.

They say that still in Madison there lies a hard dirt patch
that never can grow grass and always smells like a lit match,
a heartless figure walked into the state house in due time
to tempt some weaker souls committing legislative crime,

and he might run for President, promoting reckless rules
attractive to Fox viewers and some more demented fools,
but here in Appalachia, Thomas Crofts, medievalist,
keeps open mind for learning, but for evil, a scorched fist.


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

Genius. Especially if you know Alan's other Thomas Crofts, medievalist, poems. Crofts is a good friend of Alan's, a colleague at East Tennessee State U, who is in fact a medievalist. Click here to see some more Thomas Crofts, medievalist, poems. You'll see this page first but if you scroll down you'll see the other pages with the poems. In the picture below you'll see Thomas Crofts, medievalist, himself. With sword, of course.

Thomas Crofts, medievalist


To get a sense of the man, click here to read an article by Thomas Crofts, medievalist, about joy and poetry. Or click here to see the ETSU faculty page of Thomas Crofts, medievalist.

By the way, Alan has also got a Christ connection in this poem, or at least an allusion, since we see Satan tempting the good medievalist as he did Jesus once in the desert, the temple, and a high mountain. Of course the poem is also a political satire, and it's very witty of Alan to get the word "walked" in here. 'Nuff said.

And another "by the way," Alan's poem can be sung, as can all ballad-style fourteeners. Try it using, say, the tune of "The Yellow Rose of Texas" or the theme song to Gilligan's Island. Any other suggestions for melodies one could use to sing Alan's poem? Oh! . . . "Oh! Susanna" would work, and also "Amazing Grace." Have fun singing, everybody.

Friends, won't you comment, please? Alan and I would love to hear from you. To comment, look for a red line below that starts Posted by, then click once on the word comments in that line. If you don't find the word "comments" in that line, then look for a blue link below that says Post a comment and click it once. Thanks!

Ingat, everyone. Hope National Poetry Month is not being cruel to you.   


NAPOWRIMO / PAD 2015 • 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


4 comments:

Bruce Niedt said...

Glad to see you doing the dual prompts again, Vince. I like your "clock" poem, but you're right - Alan's poem is just brilliant. I had fun with this prompt too - you can find my Day 3 poem at bniedt.blogspot.com. See you around!

Thomas Alan Holmes said...

Thank you, Bruce. I am grateful that my colleague, Thomas Crofts, medievalist, is going along with this line of poems. We just recently appeared together in "Thomas Crofts and I Consider Haruspication and Routine Examinations of Middle-Aged Men" in The Examined Life, and I have been circulating a chapbook manuscript that contains about sixteen to twenty of our adventures.

Thomas Alan Holmes said...

Vince, I have been polishing this poem since sending you the version on the blog, and, you're right, the word "walk" fits in there just fine. I also fixed the meter in a couple of lines, because I was writing it as if I were speaking it, taking liberties with a couple of unstressed opening syllables in a couple lines. Singing it? I don't know . . . .

Vince Gotera said...

Thanks, Bruce. Alan kicks my keister day after day. :-) I'll come look at your poem from yesterday.

Alan, have you TRIED singing it? It works! Just like pretty much any Dickinson poem.

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