Thursday, January 31, 2013

Poetry Everywhere

Good Morning:

When I wrote the post about 'The Place of Poetry' at one point I mentioned that you can hear poetry everywhere, you just have to tune your ears to its presence.  Here is a great example:

At a coffee house, on the street, and on a plane!!! Poetry everywhere!!!

P.S.  I have discovered that with an Explorer browser this embed doesn't appear.  The youtube embed does appear with Chrome and Firefox.  If you are using Explorer try this link:

If that doesn't work, go to youtube and search for 'Flight Attendant RAPPING the Safety Breifing'.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013


At night I travel to the land of dreams,
It seems so real and grand;
I awake then understand
What seems real resembles sand

Monday, January 28, 2013


There's a storm coming,
The temperature has fallen
And the sky is low

"I think it might snow," she says,
"The first snow of the new year."

Chai and a novel
Keep away the day's worries
From the evening hours

He attempts a different route
For his daily two-mile walk

Brief gusts of warm wind
September cherry blossoms
While plum blossoms fall

Three brothers and their wives
Trade stories of how they met

Sometimes love endures,
Sometimes it turns to hatred --
Seasons of the heart

"It's been hot for weeks," he says.
"The garden needs some watering."

Mud dries, becoming dust
Clouds disappear in the sky
And the sound of flies

At the elegant cafe
Coffee's served to perfection

As the moon rises
Over the cool cityscape
Fresh September winds

"A long time's passed since we talked.
It's good to see you again."

Consequences of Connecting

Slate gray sky on a cold first month morning,
The morning tea slakes thirst
While the internet news bursts
The sunrise calm felt at first

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Winter Forest at Night

The first month of the year is cold and damp,
Close and dense mist appears,
Leafless branches far and near --
Subtle sounds are all I hear

Friday, January 25, 2013

The Place of Poetry

The Place of Poetry

When poet’s become introspective about their art it often takes the form of attempting to locate the place that poetry occupies in society.  This has been going on for a long time; think of Sydney’s “The Defence of Poesy” wherein Sydney offers an apology for ‘poesy’ embedded in a Platonic view. 

I have recently been reminded of this introspective tradition by two articles that were published in response to the poem offered at Obama’s Second Inauguration.  The poem was by Richard Blanco and overall received a positive hearing.

But there were dissenters.  One was in an editorial in the Washington Post by Alexnadra Petri titled “Is Poetry Dead?”  (See the January 22 issue)  This was quickly followed by a response written by John Deming, who is the editor of the online poetry magazine “Coldfront”; but I found the response at, so it appears to be getting some attention.  Deming’s response at Salon is “Is poetry dead?  Nonsense, says John Deming”.

Modern introspectives regarding poetry often note the slippage of poetry’s place in our world when compared to the exalted status poetry had in past centuries.  It is difficult for us today to comprehend just how exalted that past status was; poetry was considered close to the divine.  Great poetry was often treated like scripture; for example Plato will quote Homer as a proof text.  And this exalted status was cross-cultural; one can find similar views about the exalted status of poetry in East Asia.  Confucius, who we generally think of as relentlessly secular, considered Poetry so important that one of the Confucian Classics is his collection of ancient Chinese Poetry from a wide variety of sources.  It is called “The Book of Songs” or “The Book of Odes” and as in Homer, Confucian scholars quoted from this collection as a proof text right along with the Analects.

Poetry today simply does not have such an elevated status.  Poetry is a fringe pursuit today.  Literature as such is a fringe pursuit and poetry is at the fringe of the fringe.  In terms of cultural impact film, television, and now online media have moved to the center; more people read blogs than poetry.  In today’s culture it is a television series that occupies the consciousness of a generation rather than an epic like the Iliad or Paradise Lost or the Psalms of David.

If you look at it this way it is easy to see why someone like Alexandra Petri would think of poetry as dead or dying or at best marginal; as lacking in vitality.  Others have noted this as well.  Dana Gioia’s famous essay, “Can Poetry Matter?” made some of the same points more than a decade ago.  And Gioia is an excellent poet; so it’s not just outsiders who see this.

It is easy to slip into a kind of defensiveness regarding this situation if you are a poet.  In my opinion that is what John Deming does.  Deming attempts to counter Petri’s assessment by noting how many poetry books are published, how active poetry journals are, etc.  For example, Deming writes, “More than 2,000 books of poetry are published each year in the U.S.”  I suspect it is much higher than that if you include poetry that is self-published, particularly now that print-on-demand technology is widely and inexpensively available.  Almost all the poetry that interests me these days is through this kind of publishing.

But this kind of numerical citation is unconvincing.  Homer may have written only two poems (granted they were both epics), but the influence on Greek culture was pervasive.  I can’t think of any modern poet who has even a fraction of that kind of influence.  Not that there are no popular poets today; think of Mary Oliver or Robert Frost.  But even with poets as popular as Oliver the influence she has is miniscule compared to a Homer or a Basho.

Yet, in my opinion, poetry isn’t dead.  Nor do I think of contemporary poetry as weak or lacking in vitality.  Rather, I see poetry as now being located in a different cultural sphere.  Today I see poetry as a craft, rather like gardening, baking, cooking, and quilting: things like that.  People continue to write poetry for the same reason that people continue to garden, continue to bake, continue composing songs, etc. 

If you look at poetry this way then one’s attention shifts away from those who still carry the torch for the exalted status that poetry used to have.  I feel that Deming is an example of someone still trying to carry that torch of poetry’s ultimate exalted significance.  I sympathize, but I also think it is a lost cause.

In shifting away from those who look back on poetry’s long period of cultural centrality, what one finds is a rich, diverse, and vital culture of poetry.  But it is located in different regions than the inherited cultural center.  It is located where popular culture is located.  It is found in popular music whose lyrics are often excellent poetry; personally I have learned a lot from popular music and the way it handles metaphor, rhyme, and rhythm.  It is also found among those who gather locally because they share an interest in a specific form, or poetry in general.  These kinds of societies resemble gardening societies, something like the local Bonsai Club or Rose Cultivators Guild or African Violet Society.  Or they resemble friends getting together to play some music or a pick-up game of basketball at the local schoolyard.

My view of poetry is that it is natural, an inherent aspect of being human.  Go to a playground and listen to the kids spontaneously rhyme or speak to a pulse.  You can hear this kind of thing everywhere, you just need to listen for it.  Poetry is as natural as whistling a tune or planting a flower or offering friends a meal.

Is the loss of cultural status a bad thing for poetry?  It depends.  If what you want is adulation then it will be seen as a loss.  If what you want is to participate in something that others consider exalted, mysterious, and somewhat esoteric, then it will be felt as a loss.

On the other hand, if shaping words into pleasing forms satisfies you in the way that gardening satisfies a gardener, in the way that brewing a good cup of tea satisfies one’s self and one’s friends, then this change in status will not be felt as a bad thing.  Petri argues that “You can tell that a medium is still vital by posing the question: Can it change anything?”  And Deming responds defensively.  But for me, this is the wrong question.  By change Petri means political or sociological change.  Petri’s editorial appeared in the Washington Post and it is perhaps inevitable that such a publication would conceive of importance only in political and/or sociological terms.  But why should this capacity be the standard by which we judge something as vital?

Gardening in America is undertaken by countless people; I’d bet that it is in the millions.  It is a vital part of American life.  One can say the same regarding cooking.  And one can say the same for poetry.

Yes, times have changed.  What once had status now does not.  That is the way of the world.  Personally, I am completely comfortable with the place poetry occupies in the world today. 

Hearing God Everywhere

Melodies heard in a forest of pines --
Of rhymes that have been blessed,
Of kindness when you're a guest,
Of times set aside for rest

Thursday, January 24, 2013

If Floors Could Speak

Morning sunlight shines on the old wood floor;
Would floors have stories told?
(Summer heat and winter cold)
About houses bought and sold

Wednesday, January 23, 2013


Neighbors arguing --
The clear sound of their voices
Through the thick cold fog

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Tanka Day: 2013

Tanka Day: 2013

Today is the day set aside to celebrate the Tanka form of poetry.  It is one of the great traditions of formal syllabic verse.  It is a Japanese form that has a written history of about 1400 years.  During all these centuries the formal structure has remained the same: a five line (or ‘ku’) form of 5-7-5-7-7 syllables, a total of 31 syllables.   (A free verse 5-line poem in Japanese is called ‘Gogyoshi’, or sometimes, ‘Gogyohka’.)

Tanka is the seed form for all Japanese poetry.  Both Renga and Haiku ultimately have their origin in Tanka and the form remains central to Japanese poetry today.

The transmission of Tanka has been slow, much slower than Haiku.  Whereas Haiku is widely practiced in the U.S., Tanka has a much more muted presence.  Yet there are poets who compose in the Tanka form.  And through the new technologies they publish their work through print-on-demand outlets.  I thought this would be an appropriate day to review two new collections of Tanka, both published in 2012.

The first is simply titled ‘Tanka’, it is by Steve Townsend.  Townsend’s collection is a set of introspections, thoughts, and landscapes.  In tone Townsend reminds me somewhat of James Hackett, though perhaps not as explicitly philosophical.  The two poets also have a similar relationship to lineation: I mean that both of these poets are as likely to go beyond the traditional line count as they are to write under the traditional line count.  Here’s an example of a long-lined Tanka:

Past the darkest sky
into that infinite universe of stars
I launch my thoughts tonight,
and they fall back heavily to earth
I must go to sleep once again.

It’s a nice portrait of how mental activity can generate sleeplessness.  Notice the long count: Line 2 has 11 syllables, Line 4 has 9, and Line 5 has 8.  Yet the overall shape of classic Tanka is retained.  For Townsend the 5-7-5-7-7 is the center of gravity for the form, but it’s clear to me that he is treating the form as a recipe with variations.  I think he does an effective job.  Townsend has a sure grasp of lineation.  Almost always a line is a secure grammatical unit with run-ons practically nonexistent.  In a few of the Tanka the lines are rhyme defined.  Here is an example:

Cicadas no longer sing
and the tall trees begin to change
to bright red and gold,
the air has begun to chill
as the sun falls below the hills.

Again, notice the long Line 1 of 7 syllables, followed by Line 2 of 8.  Lines 4 and 5 end- rhyme effectively.  I think this is well done.  I like Townsend’s efforts.  The tendency to compose in longer lines gives his Tanka a sense of expansiveness and lyricism that I think you will enjoy.

The second collection is “River of Time” by Robert W. Barker.  It is subtitled ‘Six Seasons of Tanka’.  The six seasons are achieved by dividing winter into three separate periods such as ‘Early Winter’.  This is a Tanka diary.  The fact that it is a diary shapes the presentation.  What you are going to read are the thoughts and observations one would normally find in a diary, but in Tanka form.  It covers one year.

Barker is more committed to the 5-7-5-7-7 and doesn’t deviate from the classic syllable count.  One advantage of this is that as you read from one Tanka to another a steady rhythm is generated and they flow easily into each other.  These Tanka are, at times, very personal.  Here is one called ‘Alzheimers’:

Patiently she sits,
And holds their worlds together,
As he loses his;
Leaving, she turns, touches me,
“Pray you do not die this way.”

Like Townsend, Barker’s lineation is securely centered on grammatical phrasing.  As far as I was able to note, run-ons are non-existent.  This adds to the sense of rightness and shapes the Tanka well.  It is also a good demonstration of how naturally English can be shaped into phrases of 5 and 7 syllables.

Both of these books are short.  ‘Tanka’ by Townsend is 63 pages, and ‘River of Time’ is 63 pages as well.  ‘Tanka’ has two Tanka per page, while ‘River of Time’ has less than one Tanka per page, with some pages blank.  This makes ‘River of Time’ a small collection.

Interestingly, neither of these poets tell us what drew them to the Tanka form.  There are no ‘Introductions’ that let us know if they have a history with Tanka and/or Japanese poetry.  I suspect that they were introduced to the Tanka form in a class, perhaps a book of forms, or by a friend.  And the form resonated with them. 

If you are interested in syllabic Tanka in English both of these collections are worthy of one’s attention. 

By Steven Townsend
ISBN: 9781475022179
Available at Amazon

River of Time:
Six Seasons of Tanka
By Robert W. Barker
Published by iUniverse
Available also at Amazon

Saturday, January 19, 2013


Dawn spoke quietly
Above the frost covered field
Clouds of muted gold

Thursday, January 17, 2013

In Solitude

January cold
The sound of frost melting
As the sun rises
And touches the one window
Of my hidden hermitage

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Dream Interpretation

I had a dream that came like a warning;
The morning cold's a spike,
Lost on a wilderness hike,
Campfire embers shed no light

Monday, January 14, 2013


Early evening calm;
Dry, cold fog, like a thin veil,
On the leafless oaks

The light of the waning moon
Comes from somewhere in the sky

She has no idea
Who invited her to join
The online forum

While on a June vacation
At the National Park

Away from the heat
Of city buildings and streets
And city traffic

He must answer the cell phone,
His boss expects it of him

A surprise exam,
The students who have studied
Feel vindicated

The weatherman said, "Clear skies,"
But thick snow is falling fast

Pedestrians wait
For the signal light to change
As a truck speeds by

Young lovers do not perceive
Anything but each other

When does dawn begin?
When is a question answered?
When did I first become old?

The first few cherry blossoms
Have opened to the wind

Saturday, January 12, 2013

First Month Thoughts

The cold of January starts the year,
Marks the year's first queries;
Who will die?, who will marry?,
What burdens must I carry?

Friday, January 11, 2013


A blackbird flies across a field of oaks
A few boulders with moss
Left by a glacier now lost --
Sunlight on the sparkling frost

Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Hidden Geometry of Flowers: A Review

What are numbers?  What are we counting when we count numbers?  The status of numbers is one of the great mysteries of existence; a mystery that philosophers have addressed down through the centuries.

In a number of posts I have talked about how the process of counting syllables unites the poet with the rest of humanity.  A poet counting syllables is entering into the same process as the store clerk counting change, as a musician counting beats or measures, as the cook counting the minutes while the bread is baking, as the mathematician solving an equation, as the worker marking his calendar for his vacation, etc.  Counting syllables is a profoundly human act.

The book, “Hidden Geometry of Flowers”, suggests that there is a larger context that can inform what we are doing when we are counting syllables.  It is the context of nature as such.  The suggestion here is that nature as a whole is participating in counting, in numbers, in ways that are mysterious, yet also evident to an attentive observer.

The instantiation of numerical forms in nature is observable in many dimensions.  But perhaps the most attractive manifestation of numerical forms is found in flowers.  The book “The Hidden Geometry of Flowers: Living Rhythms, Form and Number”, by Keith Critchlow, is a stunning presentation of this view.  The geometrical patterning of flowers is used to suggest that the world of numbers, and the world of nature, are intimately related.  Critchlow is suggesting that flowers instantiate and participate in numbers and that this is the source of their beauty.

The book is visually stunning; a real feast for the eyes.  The author has spent many years photographing flowers, and plants in general, and uses these photographs to illustrate his thesis regarding the intimate connection between numerical structures and flowers.  The illustrations are reproduced on heavy stock paper and this does make the book somewhat pricey; at $50.00, and a paperback, it is an expensive book.  Yet it is also a keeper; one that you can refer to over and over again.  From this perspective it is not overpriced.

One of the things I like about this book is that it presents its view rather than arguing for its view.  What I mean by that is that the author allows plants, flowers, and the processes they present to speak for themselves.  I mean that the book is not a logical, or deductive, treatise that starts from hypothesis and then deduces conclusions.  Rather, the book is a call for us to look at the world around us, and plants in particular, in a different way and see how that can transform us.

Critchlow at times draws a connection between the numerical relationships found in flowers and plants and those found in music.  He doesn’t use poetry to illustrate his thesis.  But I found the connection easy to make, to draw out from the author’s presentation.

What the book suggested for me is that when poets engage in counting, in shaping words according to a syllabic form, they are engaging in the same kind of activity that a flower engages in as it unfolds in accordance with the formal parameters of its type.  In a way I am saying that flowers are also engaged in counting.  I don’t mean that flowers are in some manner saying to themselves, “One, two, three, . . .”  I don’t really know how flowers go about counting, but I am suggesting that the world of nature is moved to unfold in accordance with numerical realities, and that these realities are present in the human mind as much as they are present in a seed, in a bud, in the petals of a lotus or rose.

Each type of flower instantiates certain geometrical relationships; and, in addition, unfolds in accordance with a certain rhythmic patterning as it grows from seed, to plant, to flower.  This happens again and again, as each flower blossoms in each succeeding season. 

In the same way, when someone writes a Tanka in accordance with the 5-7-5-7-7 syllabic structure, the ‘blossom’ of the Tanka is seen once again in the world.  In the same way, when someone composes a Tetractys with the 1-2-3-4-10 syllabic structure, the ‘blossom’ of the Tetractys is seen once again in the world. 

Just as flowers instantiate certain numbers and relationships between numbers, so also a poetic form instantiates such a world of number and numerical relationships.

And it is all based on counting.  Clark Strand wrote that when we count 5-7-5 we are united with the mind of Basho and all the Haiku poets of the past.  But Critchlow’s books offers the suggestion that we are uniting with the mind of nature herself when we engage in this kind of patterned counting.  The same reality that gives rise to roses and lilacs gives rise to Tanka and Tetractys, to Sonnets and Fibonacci.

It is this kind of repeated patterning of form which unites the formal poet with Great Nature.  Although counting is the most ordinary of human activities and has the virtue of keeping the poet humble; yet counting also unites us with all of nature and the patterns and processes happening all around us.

At the beginning of these observations I asked “What are numbers?”  Many mathematicians believe that numbers are real, that they are not human inventions.  This view implies that we discover numbers and their relationships and that numbers are not conjurations of the human mind.  I tend to agree with this point of view; it is a kind of Platonism, or, perhaps, more rooted in Pythagoras.  From this perspective, counting of syllables is a door to the realm of numbers; a realm that expresses itself in countless natural forms.  When the poet shapes words in accordance with a numerical patterning, by counting syllables, the poet takes a step into this world and at the same time serves this world and gives expression to this world:  Just as flowers do when they unfold in accordance with the patterning of their type.

The book, “Hidden Geometry” is not directly about prosody or poetry.  There is no chapter devoted to the application of numbers in a poetic context.  But I think poets in general, and syllabic poets in particular, will find this book of assistance by demonstrating the primal nature of the basic process the formal poet uses when composing a poem.  It will help the syllabic poet make the connection between what they are doing when composing a poem and what they perceive in the world around them.  It places the shaping of words into this larger context.  I found the book applicable to many aspects of poetry composition.  Perhaps you will as well.

The Hidden Geometry of Flowers:
Living Rhythms, Form and Number
By Keith Critchlow
Floris Books
ISBN: 9780863158063

Wednesday, January 9, 2013


The crescent moon over the mist-filled field,
The moist, tilled fields are still,
The lake of mind has no rill --
Sunrise like a dream fulfilled

Monday, January 7, 2013


One more day passes
As we move into winter
The wind harasses

Sunday, January 6, 2013


Have you ever seen a triple rainbow?
This is something I didn't even know
Could happen or that it was possible.
Yet, hovering over Sebastopol
Three stacked rainbows arched across the mist-filled sky.

Have you ever seen the light of the Lord
Glowing within another human being?,
Not in some Saint you naturally turn toward
But in a derelict, someone really mean?

Have you felt the presence of grace that falls
On the good and on the evil?, on all
Living beings ev'rywhere, no exceptions?

There are realms all around us that we do not see,
Like kindness, compassion, and the presence of eternity.

Saturday, January 5, 2013


A quiet night, nothing urgent to do,
To dreamland I am lured,
A half-full moon, no wind stirs,
Songs from other lands I've heard.

Friday, January 4, 2013


Cold walk
Slow morning
A golden sunrise --
Then an unexpected surprise
When images and thoughts about my mother arise;
In particular I can recall the challenging look that would appear in her eyes
When someone would misuse a word my mother would sigh,
Lean forward and then she would try
To explain that words
Are alive,
Like thyme,
Grass, . . .

Thursday, January 3, 2013



The dense morning mist
Moistens the leaves on the ground
And the feral cat

In the middle of the street
A bag of scattered groceries

Store windows display
The newest things we must have
To make us happy

Snow drifts from yesterday's storm
Shifting lines to gentle curves

Glittering moonlight
From a spacious, windless sky --
Slow moving shadows

Cool the day's intense heat
Electric fans on the floor

"This new computer,"
Talking to himself out loud,
"Makes some tasks simple."

Gliding above the houses
A red-tailed hawk banks to the right

She folds her laundry
While singing a song she heard
On the radio

Distant stars send their lightwaves
A rain of many colors

Four decades ago
(The nightscape hasn't changed much)
They met at this spot

The elderly apple tree
Will bloom for a few more years

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

"Olives" by A. E. Stallings: A Review

Stumbling Upon Syllabic Verse
A Review of A. E. Stallings “Olives”

I enjoy it when I stumble upon syllabic verse in unexpected places.  In particular, when I am reading a poet who is not known for taking a syllabic approach, and then I find some syllabic verse, usually tucked away in the middle of a volume, it gives me a sense of satisfaction.  Because I am interested in English language syllabic verse, and because a syllabic approach to English language poetry is still marginal, having such verse appear in unexpected places resembles for me a prospector finding a few choice nuggets.  It also signals to me that syllabic verse is becoming more of an acceptable option in English language poetry circles.

These encounters are of two types.  The first type is when a free verse poet decides to write some syllabic verse.  The second type is when a metrical poet decides to engage with some specific syllabic form.  (Because syllabic verse is still a fringe approach for English language poetry it is extremely rare to find a poet who does not have a non-syllabic background; the only exception I know of is Elizabeth Daryush.)

I always learn something from these encounters because the poets bring to the task of writing syllabically their own background, talents, and tendencies, based on their standard approach to poetry.  For example, Hayden Carruth’s Haiku have the jagged syntax typical of his free verse.  I learned from Carruth’s Haiku how it is possible to have a very dense phrase structure; it surprised me how Carruth was able to do this and gave me an opening to a new way of looking at a Haiku line.  Another example is Mary Jo Salter’s Haiku, which have a lyrical quality to them and a sparkling sense of image and metaphor.  Richard Wilbur’s Haiku Stanzas use rhyme so skillfully, and in a way I haven’t been used to, that they also teach another way to organize Haiku lineation.  Salter and Wilbur are metrical poets and bring a strong sense of rhythm to their syllabic poems based on that affiliation.

A recent example of this kind of encounter is A. E. Stallings’ newest book, “Olives”, published in 2012.  I have read Stallings earlier book, “Hapax”; which I believe is her second collection.  I haven’t read her first collection.

Stallings already has garnered many awards and honors.  She is a metrical poet of great skill; she reminds me of Richard Wilbur, but more sardonic (see, for example her poem in “Olives” titled “The Mother’s Loathing of Balloons”).  I particularly enjoy her sonnets where her constructions are deft and enticing.  Stallings also is a master rhymester, often surprising us with the breadth of the field of rhyme she draws from.

Because of Stallings focus on the traditional metrical approach to poetry, it came as a pleasant surprise to find in “Olives” four Fibonacci poems.  She refers to them collectively as “Four Fibs”, capitalizing on the affectionate nickname for Fibonacci. 

As in previous encounters of this type, Stallings brings with her to a syllabic form the distinctive qualities of her primary focus; that is to say I can recognize the metrical background in her Fibonacci.  She also incorporates a lot of rhyme into her Fibonacci which, again, is brought over from her great skill in rhyming metrical verse.

Here is the first Fibonacci from ‘Four Fibs’:

or grapple
over the apple?
Eavesdropping Adam heard her say
to the snake-oil salesman she was not born yesterday.

This is a great example of a Fibonacci.  The lineation is clear, mostly due to the skillful use of rhyme.  The rhyme scheme is A-B-B-C-C-D-D.  After the initial Line 1, we have a series of rhymed couplets and even though the lines are of irregular length, it holds together because the rhyme signals to the reader where the line breaks fall.  Also worth noting is the repetition of rhyme for the initial syllable in lines 2, 3, and 6.

It’s worth noting that two of the other Fibs have rhyme schemes that are even tighter than this one, using only three rhymes.  The last Fib uses five.

Also included in “Olives” are a set of Haiku Stanzas titled, ‘Blackbird Etude’.  Like Richard Wilbur, Stallings incorporates the rhyme scheme such that the first and third lines of each stanza end-rhyme.  And like Wilbur’s stanzas there is that pleasing balance of rhyme-defined run-on lines combined with lines where the rhyme and grammatical structure coincide.  ‘Blackbird Etude’ is a nature poem; imbibing the nature centered esthetic of traditional Haiku, focusing in particular on the territorial call of blackbirds.  Here are the concluding verses:

It sounds like ardor,
it sounds like joy.  We are glad
here at the border

where he signs the air
with his invisible staves,

song as survival –
a kind of pure music which
we cannot rival.

It has been my observation that most poets who come to syllabic verse do so from free verse; that was my own route.  Because free verse has a strong tendency to avoid rhyme poets who come to syllabic verse from free verse have a tendency to mimic that avoidance of rhyme when they grapple with a syllabic form.  Again, that was my personal tendency for a number of years.  The breakthrough for me was discovering Emily Dickinson; she showed me how effective rhyme can be in short form verse and really opened me up to rhyme in a syllabic context even though Dickinson herself is a metrical poet.

Metrical poets who decide to compose in a syllabic form tend to be more open to the usage of rhyme in a syllabic context.  This is because defining lines through rhyme is standard in metrical verse; so it is, I suspect, almost instinctive for a metrical poet to bring their well-honed skill in rhyming to a syllabic context.  Both Richard Wilbur and, now, A. E. Stallings are examples of this.

The Stallings Fibonacci are all seven lines long, which is one line longer than most Fibonacci I have seen.  The syllable count for a seven line Fibonacci is: 1-1-2-3-5-8-13.  Stallings’ works contain examples of short lined and long lined poems; so I can see how she would enjoy going for the slightly longer count.

“Olives” also contains sonnets in various, and sometimes startling, configurations; my favorite is ‘Fairy-Tale Logic’. And there is a compelling Villanelle, ‘Burned’.  And, of course, there are other poems that are well honed metrical lyrics.  All the poems are carefully crafted through the skillful metrical approach that is central to her work.  The whole volume is a treat.  Get a copy; I think you will enjoy it.

(Olives, A. E. Stallings, Triquarterly Books, Northwestern University Press, ISBN: 9780810152267, $16.95, Published 2012)

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Welcome to 2013

Good Friends:

A short thank you post for all of you who have dropped by, read a post or two, and perhaps found something worthwhile.  A special thanks to the "Followers"; your presence is much appreciated.  An extra-special thanks to all those who have referred others to this tiny corner of the blogosphere; some of you have linked this blog from your blog, or referred others to this spot through different means.  Thanks for taking the time and effort.

I also appreciate those who have taken the time to send a response, either directly to the blog or through personal email.  Excellent comments and suggestions have been sent my way.  This blog is better for the comments I have received.

All of this made 2012 an enjoyable year for me, and hopefully for some readers, here at Shaping Words.  Many Thanks.

Onward to 2013!!!

Best wishes,