11. Carol

Carol
A hymn or poem often sung by a group, with an individual taking the changing stanzas and the group taking the burden or refrain. – poetryfoundation.org

 A Spring Carol

Though the fields are bleak and brown
Soon they will grow tall and green
The trees in bud,
The squirrels and the robins

Though the cold snow flies today
Soon will come the kinder rains

Though the ice lingers in the shade
The creeks and rivers run freely

Though the winds are sharp and cruel
Soon soft breezes will bring us Spring’s softness.

 

The carol being a seasonal song, this is a celebration of Spring in contrast to last week’s poem. Or, more accurately, a celebration of Spring to come since we had snow yesterday and it was below freezing today again. I also drew somewhat on the Spring section of Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana.

I considered trying to do Middle English for this, since I’m mimicking the medieval form of the carol, but I decided my ME skills weren’t up to it.

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10: Canzone

Canzone  – Literally “song” in Italian, the canzone is a lyric poem originating in medieval Italy and France and usually consisting of hendecasyllabic lines with end-rhyme. The canzone influenced the development of the sonnet – poetryfoundation.org

Spring (to H.D.)

Past the long and unkind embrace of winter,
Now is brutal rebirth of Spring, that dirty
Ragged flailing of life to fill the empty
Broken ground and choke up the sky with reaching,
Gasping hunger for heat. The wind rampages
And the nakedness snow had clothed now shivers
Under turbulent clouds, by swollen  rivers.
I, too, abhor that goddess myth of preaching
Modernists, with their boy’s idealism bleaching
The deep cruelty of Spring, because your vision
Taught me. Yours were the words, the cool precision,
Made so lasting a mark upon my teaching
That now, when Spring becomes, I feel the shred
Of roots, I see the blood in maple’s red

So when I looked up hendecasyllabic lines, wikipedia told me that no-one really uses them in English. It turns out that’s because they’re stupidly hard to write. However, because I am stubborn, I stuck with it, except for the last two lines because that’s structurally justifiable.

I also had a hard time settling on something to write about this time, since the form is so open in terms of themes. It was originally just going to be about the Spring, it being finally not a frozen wasteland here, but ended up shifting into engaging with H.D.’s representation of Spring, which was formative for me. I was reminded as I was looking through one of my old poetry anthologies that I wrote an essay on H.D. at some point in undergrad. I like the idea I was going for in this poem, even if the execution is not great.

9: The Bop

A recent invention, the Bop was created by Afaa Michael Weaver during a summer retreat of the African American poetry organization, Cave Canem. Not unlike the Shakespearean sonnet in trajectory, the Bop is a form of poetic argument consisting of three stanzas, each stanza followed by a repeated line, or refrain, and each undertaking a different purpose in the overall argument of the poem. –  Poets.org

The Program

We come because of love, because we are promised
A life in union with these works, these ideas,
These people – a convent for the lower-case word.
And we do love, we love as some love the books themselves –
The tactile reassurances, the familiar gestures,
As warm and safe as a lover’s body in the dark

But that unrequited love will not nourish us.

Despite the promises Hollywood makes us,
Love will not mend minds and bodies worn and broken
On the rocks of genteel poverty and imposter syndrome,
Abuses of power, mundane and bizarre, committed by crusaders
For justice and equality, and knowing that we are
At best numbers in a system and at worst a joke,
A punchline about laziness and uselessness and weakness.
We are fighting for too few lifeboats here

And this unrequited love will not nourish us.

But what if we are not drowning? Who told us
We were but the people already in the lifeboats?
And we believed them and believed each other.
It is possible to drown in a few inches of water.
It is possible, too, to find ones feet, to stand,
To wade in to the shore that was, after all, so close,

Because this unrequited love will not nourish us

 

It was nice to have a form so comparatively free of constraints this week – no meter, no rhyme scheme. This form, like the blues, is more about the content than the form itself – here, the working through of an issue. I ended up writing out some of my discontent with the US academic system here and the way it’s built on a raft of icky (and sexist) assumptions about emotional labour and the way it operates within an environment of anti-intellectual capitalism. The anti-academia piece is a genre in its own right these days, too, though it’s usually done in essay form. I happened on this as I was thinking about the way that the problem, problem solution format was – I assume – designed for writing about social justice issues. It certainly works well for that purpose anyway.

8: Blues Poem

One of the most popular forms of American poetry, the blues poem stems from the African American oral tradition and the musical tradition of the blues. A blues poem typically takes on themes such as struggle, despair, and sex. It often (but not necessarily) follows a form, in which a statement is made in the first line, a variation is given in the second line, and an ironic alternative is declared in the third line. – Poets.org

Broodhollow Blues

Well, selling encyclopedias was getting him down
Yes, selling those big Brittanicas was getting him down
Because no one’s buying
with a depression ‘round

So the letter from Broodhollow seemed like good news
So the letter from Broodhollow seemed like good news
That inheritance was
just the cure for his blues

But that town is more trouble than it seems
Oh, that town is more trouble than it seems
With bats and ghosts and ghouls
In and out of his dreams

Now his mind is going, he’s got to find the clues
Now his mind is going, he’s got to find the clues
Or he’ll be stuck forever
with those  Broodhollow blues

I struggled with this one because I just couldn’t think of anything to write about – my life is just not very bluesy (which is awesome for everything except trying to write the blues). I finally hit on writing about Zane, the main character in Kris Straub’s fantastic cosmic horror webcomic Broodhollow (it’s a wonderful mix of sweet, funny and horrifying and the art is gorgeous).

This was a tough one, too, because the tone is far outside of my usual wheelhouse. I think it came out fairly well considering but I wouldn’t try it again.