I forgot to share some pretty sweet news: the very talented Swoon Bildos, as you may recall, did a video for my poem “Odds and Ends” some time ago. This was submitted to the Visible Verse festival, and I asked people to vote for his work a while back; well, the video (along with two others of his) have made it to the finals, and will be screened on October 13th! It’s also the last one of the evening, which I find unaccountably cool: I hope that the words and images will stick with the audience as the final moment. In honor of that poem’s subject matter…
This week: “more charm bracelets”
I’m recycling an old prompt because it was one of my favorites out of the ones I’ve been tossing up here all year. If you’d like, you can check out the original from May to see what the original conception was. Again, there are two foci here: the idea of loading short phrases with meaning (to avoid the unnecessary encumbrance of prepositions, articles, adverbs, interjections, whatever), and the notion of stringing these gaudy poemlets together into something fancy. We discussed haiku vs. short poems a few weeks ago, and this is the latter. We’ll begin in the same way as last time, with a tray of charms to pick from; and again, I suggest that you try to get seven of them that tickle your fancy, with the “freebie” to invent your own an option as well. I’ve tried to leave them open-ended and interpretable, so that people can go in different directions with the concepts, but the idea is that there will be some elements shared between different people’s works if they pick the same charms. We’ll see how that goes:
|consolation prize||borrowing||one hour ago||misplaced things||where were you when…?|
|whispers||creating music||overcoming difficulties||the next steps||the elements of a day|
|a place you haven’t been||thoughts at the wrong time||the sense of smell||refusal||many voices at once|
|marriage of convenience||awestruck||small sacrifices||for the one with everything||(invent your own)|
So again, like last time, we are going to jazz these up a bit. Because although each theme can become pretty potent in itself and spin out entire epics, we are keeping the poemlets small, maybe five lines maximum. That means we need to constrain them a bit; the advantage of a small motif is that in addition to circumscribing the theme, it adds a bit of filigree to the charm. And, as I mentioned in the earlier prompt, keeping the same order will add another layer of connection with other poets doing the same exercise. You can arrange the themes in any order you choose, but try to use these specific elements in this order:
first poemlet: associate, in some way, a flower with a musical instrument
second poemlet: do not use any words with more than one syllable
third poemlet: mention two places (countries, cities, etc.) that start with the same letter; perhaps you want to compare/contrast?
fourth poemlet: pair a body part with a verb that is not the one usually associated with it (so have a heart that discusses rather than beats, a hand that thinks rather than holds)
fifth poemlet: describe at least two articles of clothing that you’re wearing*
sixth poemlet: include the words “never”, “fate”, and “structure”
seventh poemlet: do something spectacular!
* I’m sure there are at least a few underwear/nude poets out there in the blogosphere. If it’s from the comfort of your own home, then it’s no one’s business; but for the purposes of this exercise, maybe just fake it?
Now you can pair the themes from the table above with the guidelines of what to include. Between those parts of the exercise and the required brevity, you have a pretty good shape for each of the poemlets at this point. I want to emphasize that the point is not to constrain yourself; or it is, but only for the end of finding the richest individual words, the most necessary bits of grammar, and the economy of metaphor. Also, I think the guidelines for each poemlet are a bit more strict this time around; I have confidence that you’ll be able to take it! I’ll toss an example on here. Let’s say that for my first poemlet I chose “a place I haven’t been” for my theme. With the requirement to have a flower + a musical instrument, I might do something like this:
The violin’s tremolo shapes
a rose garden out of thin air.
I hope it reverberates over the sea,
to Italy, catches some lover’s ear
and echoes his melody back here to me.
Play around with sounds, rhymes, and alliteration a little bit, until you have something that sounds right. I used rather more “filler words” than I intended to originally, for a specific reason: after writing the first line, I had a very strong notion of the meter/rhyme that I wanted to do for this. The first line goes something like short-LONG-short-short-LONG-short-short-LONG. It’s kind of dactylic or anapest, I suppose, and I tried to carry the same kind of rhythm through the poemlet, adding another foot in lines three and five. On top of that, there are rhymes in the longer lines, and near-rhymes in lines two and four. Rather more formal than I intended, but sometimes you surprise yourself and have to roll with it.
So what about stringing it all together? Well, you can use that meter or those rhymes in the other poemlets, though you don’t have to go all out: I might just do an opening line with the exact same rhythm in each of the seven, and let the lines do what they will for the rest. You could also pick one of the words and keep recycling it, like “thin” or “ear”. (Note that you’ll have to pick a monosyllabic one to satisfy poemlet two’s requirement.) Or you could see what you haven’t included — in this one, I notice I didn’t use the vowel “u” a single time — and hold with that omission throughout the chain of poems. (Although, I couldn’t keep mine up, because poemlet six asks you to use the word “strucutre”.) Look for different things that work. The twofold benefit is that you will form connections between your own mini pieces, while the shared themes and motifs will form connections with other poets doing the same exercise. Pretty cool, n’est-ce pas?
These can be seven stanzas of the same poem, or seven different, unique bits, that happen to share some characteristics: it’s really up to you how you want to treat them. But I encourage you to try it out, and come back to share your results so we can all see how everyone’s work reflects with each other. Swoon’s video has got me in the spirit of collaboration as well as the spirit of exploring the value of minutiae, and I hope that this stirs up some food for thought (or, uh, whatever you do to food for thought; cook? microwave?) that will get you in the same zone. Looking forward to seeing what you have to offer…!