For this experiment, we’re going to get inspired by two interesting forms in the book: the couplet (as seen in “Cerebrum corpus monstrum”) and the permutation poem. (as seen in “My heart is full of practical folklore”). (those one-page readings are attached in files)
After reading “My heart is full of practical folklore,” think of a bit of folk wisdom you carry with you. Some advice you may agree or disagree with. It could be something unique to your culture (spit three times to ward off the evil eye, for example, which is something my grandmother did) or something broadly known (use rice to dry out a phone that’s been dropped in water, for example, which is something I learned from the internet).
Write down this bit of “practical folklore.”
Can you come up with others? Make a list of several bits of practical folklore. Try to come up with 5 examples and write them down. Highlight the ones you find most interesting.
Pick one of the phrases and permute it, trying out variations in the word order to generate new sentences. Try to do what Bertram does in her poem, rearranging the words so the advice seems to be telling you to do something else. Circle any permutations that that interest you.
You are going to construct a poem in couplets, meaning stanzas that are only two lines long. After every two lines, insert an extra break. A line in a stanza doesn’t have to end with a period. It can be enjambed. The two lines of a couplet can be the same length or different lengths.
The form is generally used to convey a feeling of balance and symmetry, so messing with that symmetry can be interesting!
Bertram breaks her couplets periodically, leaving one line standing alone without a pair (lonely!). Do this only if you feel it deepens the meaning of your poem.
Write a poem in couplets that does the following:
Includes at least one of your “folk wisdom” sentences and one of its permutations (feel free to use more if you found good examples!).
Tries to avoid using clichés. After you write a line, ask yourself “have I ever heard this before?”
Tries to avoid giving the reader a moral. Keep in mind Carrie Bennett’s advice about using the poem to explore a question without a predetermined lesson.
If you are someone who wants to do something more “technical” or formal, or if you want more direction, here is a more specific prompt:
Write your poems in a traditional couplet form: the ghazal (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. (originally an Arabic verse form)
At least 5 couplets.
Every line has the same number of syllables.
The first couplet sets up the rhyme scheme and a word that will repeat at the end of each couplet.
Each couplet is thematically and tonally independent from the others. They are “closed” (ending with a full stop).
The poet inserts their name in the final couplet in second or third person. This is called the makhta.
Here’s John Hollander’s “Ghazal,” which explains the form as it unfolds, as an example:
For couplets, the ghazal is prime: at the end
Of each one’s a refrain like a chime: “at the end.”
But in subsequent couplets throughout the whole poem,
It’s this second line only will rhyme at the end.
On a string of such strange, unpronouncable fruits,
How fine the familiar old lime at the end!
All our writing is silent, the dance of the hand,
So that what it comes down to’s all mine, at the end.
Dust and ashes? How dainty and dry! We decay
To our messy primordial slime at the end.
Two frail arms of your delicate form I pursue,
Inaccessible, vibrant, sublime at the end.
You gathered all manner of flowers all day,
But your hands were most fragrant of thyme, at the end.
There are so many sounds! A poem having one rhyme?
–A good life with a sad, minor crime at the end.
Each couplet’s a different ascent: no great peak,
But a low hill quite easy to climb at the end.
Two-armed bandits: start out with a great wad of green
Thoughts, but you’re left with a dime at the end.
Each assertion’s a knot which must shorten, alas,
This long-worded rope of which I’m at the end.
Now Qafia Radif has grown weary, like life,
At the game he’s been wasting his time at. THE END.
Write a ghazal
You might choose not to repeat words, but to use rhyme / wordplay instead. Feel free to use any of the kinds of rhyme we’ve learned about: off-rhyme, consonance, assonance, pararhyme.
Each couplet SHOULD be discontinuous (emotionally and thematically) from the others. Use this disjointedness to your advantage (to create mystery? to tell us something about the poem’s speaker? to sound mystical?)
Give us at least 5 couplets.
This is an opportunity to cherry pick lines from your journal that haven’t gone anywhere.
Try to include a spoonerism. (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.
Include your folk wisdom from the brainstorming in some way.
You must use the attached Format to write this poem experience.
One-page total. 15 lines for poem. Due before May 9, 11:59.
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