Etheree Day 2012
Today is February 13th. That makes it Etheree Day, a day set aside to celebrate the Etheree form. I think most of the people reading this blog will know by now the design of the Etheree. But for those who do not, it is a ten line form with the first line consisting of one syllable, the second line consisting of two syllables, the third of three, on up to the tenth line which consists of ten syllables. In other words, a ten line poem with the syllable count as follows: 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10. The total count is 55 syllables.
I have developed a lasting fondness for this form. I like the simplicity of it and the overall feel of the form. The Etheree resembles a bud slowly opening. Or the way an acquaintance develops into a friend; first there is a kind of hesitant getting to know the other person, then the conversation and feeling, after a time, flows more freely.
This year I have discovered that at times the energy of an Etheree I am working on propels me to continue composing past the tenth line. I’ve written a number of eleven-line Etheree as well as twelve-line Etheree. I still consider them to be Etheree; they are variations on the form like an eight or twelve syllable per line sonnet.
A friend of mine who sometimes composes Etheree told me she prefers the reverse Etheree which is also ten lines, but reverses the syllable count as follows: 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1. She likes the way the reverse Etheree gradually comes to a close.
Because the Etheree is so new (I believe it was launched either in the late 80’s or early 90’s) the Etheree lacks the weight of tradition behind it. This allows people to experiment with the form rather freely without feeling that they are challenging some kind of Etheree heritage. I know that for me I quickly became aware of that sense of esthetic freedom with the Etheree form. I mean that there is not at this time any great Etheree Master that looms over the form. And there is no American Etheree Association advocating for a specific approach to the form. The Etheree is still too new for that.
I’ve discovered several things writing Etheree. The first is how endrhyme in Etheree has a unique effect. Because each line is one syllable longer than the previous line, end rhyme in Etheree don’t fall quite where the listener would routinely expect it, yet the endrhyme is close enough to be effective and to feel strongly like a traditional endrhyme. A series of 3, 4, or 5 lines with a common endrhyme really pulls the Etheree along and gives the reader/listener a strong sonic clue as to the shape of the form.
I’ve also learned more about how the Etheree is an excellent form for painting a picture. The early lines of an Etheree are like single brush strokes on a canvas. The later lines are long enough to add more complete detail. The incompleteness of the early lines draws the reader into the poem and as the lines become longer and the picture more complete there is a kind of satisfaction at having the complete image finally revealed.
I think what I would like to focus more on is how the Etheree might incorporate a pivot line, or a shift, or juxtaposition. These are commonly used in Haiku and Tanka, but I notice that I have only rarely used them in Etheree. I suspect that they could find a place in the Etheree form.
In honor of Etheree day take some time to compose your own Etheree. I think you will enjoy it. Here’s a recent Etheree of mine:
At the café
I sit by myself
Looking out the window
At the busy parking lot
While old songs from the seventies
Bring to my mind a forgotten past –
A crow from the future lands on a fence