Friday, February 6, 2015

Chiral: a Poetry Friday Fling with a Villanelle





When I fall in love with a word, I go a bit mad.  It happened this week, when I belatedly began a draft of a villanelle so I could hang with the Poetry Seven today.

I'd written a villanelle with this Gang of Poets once before, and was pleased with my fairly traditional take on a feast. This time, I aimed to write about the "fulcrum of the day" (i.e. noon) but I made the fatal error of Googling rhymes on the Internet.

Specifically, I had a non-repeating line that ended with spiral and needed help.  Lo and behold! The rhyme search turned up

Chiral.

On to Wikipedia, where, along with some impenetrable diagrams of molecules, I found THIS:

"Human hands are perhaps the most universally recognized example of chirality: the left hand is a non-superposable mirror image of the right hand; no matter how the two hands are oriented, it is impossible for all the major features of both hands to coincide." 


Well, COOL. Our hands, although we think of them in pairs (like rhymes), they are, in reality, unmatchable. What a fitting subject for the villanelle, a poetic form built around the fiction that things can always be manipulated so they will line up, just so.

The only teeny problem with this lovely word, chiral, was that I could name but one other rhyme for it off the top of my head. (Besides spiral.)  Did that stop me? Did that stop me from making it the REPEATING LINE?

No, it made me fling myself further into the Internet to see what other unmatchable words were out there.

 See? MAD.

In truth, though, I've always been this way.

I admire other approaches to poetry, of course--  I adore a well-tempered line turn, a gorgeously formal word choice, an exquisitely correct rhyme---I really do.  I just don't know how to write that way.

To me, poetry is an excuse to play with words as hard as I possibly can.  A way to be madly in love with world, one cool fact at a time. A chance to gyre and gimble over the fundamental strangeness of my own hands.

My poetry sisters all know this, of course. What a veneration of villanelles they've made:  Tanita, Liz, Laura, Andi, Kelly, and Tricia.


No Matter

Our hands, no matter how we rotate them, are chiral
did you know that? they’re mirror images that never meet
Look at them! Look at them now! Don’t listen as I birle

(to cause a floating log to revolve by treading); I spiral
on the surface of the Inter-bog, layered rich as peat;
But my hands, no matter how I rotate them, are chiral

How did I find these facts? I was seeking rhymes more viral,
to conflagrate—OMG—there is such a thing as gleet?
Look at your hands! Look at them now! Don’t listen as I birle!

I blame Ogden Nash, who could precisely match eye roll
-ing end rhymes; no unruly corners on his fitted sheet!
Yet, my hands, no matter how I rotate them, are chiral

It’s like trying to tame the Jabberwock, most gyre-ral
but he’s one-off; no need for gamete to mate gamete
Look at your hands! Look at those doozies! Don’t listen as I birle!

But if you must Google these words, seek out too: gyral
(relating to the convolutions of the brain); how meet!
Yet, hands, no matter how we rotate them, are chiral;
Look at them! Look at them now! Don’t listen. I birle!

---Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved)

Poetry Friday is hosted today by Liz at Elizabeth Steinglass.



Friday, January 2, 2015

Antidote: A Triolet for the New Year



The antidote to fear is honeyed in devotion
delivered deep, a draught of slow and barmy mead.
Else we dry to salt, fleeing night-depths of the ocean;
The antidote to fear is honeyed in devotion 

Why pillory our hearts, why gulp the unguent potion?
Why frack our veins to stir up courage quickly dead?
The antidote to fear is honey-slow devotion;
Yes, poetry, delivered deep, a draught of barmy mead.


This poem would not have been possible without the encouragement of the rest of the Poetry Seven:  Liz, Andi, Kelly, Laura, Tricia, and TanitaEach of these poets has a triolet posted today, so go and drink deeply.  

For more about triolets, see here.   For more about the Poetry Seven, read about our first gig together on this April day in 2008.

Poetry Friday is hosted today by one of the Poetry Seven, the amazing Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Poetry Friday: Writing Pantoums with Friends

When Liz suggested reviving the dormant Poetry 7 Collaborative by writing pantoums around a common line, I said: "I'm in." 

Then I went to look up a pantoum.

Oh.

Hmmm.

Writing this was like turning myself inside out. 

The best part? Getting to read all my poetry sisters' beautiful efforts, which Laura Salas has collected here for Poetry Friday.  


A Pantoum

With thanks to Ani DiFranco for the line “I’ve got better things to do than survive"

I’ve got better things to do than survive
Like bread, I’m buttered to the edge
Slathered in riches, I’ve
congealed, a manicured hedge

Like bread, I’m buttered to the edge
I roll my socks in pairs; nothing should be
congealed; a manicured hedge
bitten back to nubs; still---wood, tree.   

I roll my socks; in pairs, nothing should be
alone in the dark; I reach for matches
bitten back to nubs; still! Wood! Tree!
I call out names, stick knives in latches

Alone, in the dark, I reach for matches
made in heaven; thus, a poem is braced, stave by stave
I call out! Names stick knives in latches;
Turning wood is soft as butter on the lathe

Made in heaven---thus, a poem is! Braced, stave by stave, 
Slathered in riches, I’ve 
turned. Wood is soft as butter. On the lathe,
I've got better things to do than survive.

                  ----Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved)

Laura Purdie Salas has the Poetry Friday roundup today.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

"Clear Thinking about Mixed Feelings": A Guest Post at Teachers Write

I'm guest posting about poetry and inspiration at Kate Messner's fabulous virtual writing camp, Teachers Write, today.

You may recognize some of the themes I talk about (and even the actual words!) as drawn from this blog---but then, I see this blog as a kind of notebook in which to gather my thoughts for both now and later.  It turns out there is a cumulative effect of reading, writing, and believing. 

 Come join me!


Friday, May 4, 2012

Poetry Friday: Renku


Poetry ought to be taught in schools as a game.  I mean it. All the way up to high school and beyond.

We start this way---with hand clap rhymes, or raps, or silly jingles which we make even sillier, or perhaps, (gasp!) off-color.

And then...the bell rings and recess is over and poetry gets made "a subject."

PHOOEY on that!

In contrast, there's  an old Japanese game called renku* in which poets build a linked chain of haiku together on the spot. Apparently, in ancient times, it used to get quite rowdy---even a little PG-13 here and there, perhaps like some modern day bouts of Pictionary tend to do...

It was about pleasing the crowd with a sly twist on theme. Or throwing in a tricky word. Or slipping in an allusion that tickled your brain until you had time to look it up and say: Oh, right! I should've gotten that!

So, in the spirit of going back to poetry's roots, the Poetry Seven are at it again with a pickup game of renku.  Liz and Andi threw us the idea a week ago, and presto! by today, we have something that weaves and jinks and laces us all together.  We have a game. Play with us.

*Renku: alternating verses of three lines, two lines (could be 17, 14 syllables) with a linked theme and a shift. Below, the initials at the end of the lines indicate which of the poets wrote it. lps=Laura Purdie Salas, aj = Andi Jazmon (Sibley), tsh=Tricia Stohr-Hunt, kf=Kelly Fineman, sh=Sara Holmes, td=Tanita Davis, lgs=Liz Garton Scanlon




fall leaf in April
wearing last season's fashions--
shunned by the green crowd lps

nature’s first green is gold
progeny emerge in flame aj

white melts into green
gardens blush Crayola proud  
blooming shades of spring tsh

strolling down the pebble path
rose-cheeked dreamer lost in thought aj

palest pink dogwood
April breezes whisper by
petals flutter down kf

ink dries on palest pages
garden rows plow down sillion aj/sh

Brash green garter snake
Hoe laid beside June daisies
Book and tart limeade sh

serpent jewel, puckered words,
work abandoned, glory claimed aj

afternoon drifts by                            lps
wispy clouds, half-closed eyelids
distant playground sounds

cloud congestion, dully pewter
petrichor from distant patters td

tapped on leaden skies                    td
rain’s persistent percussion
arrhythmic ad lib

a morse-code chicken scratch          lgs
a fresh start too hard to resist

the rain leaves its mark --                   lgs
such an inscrutable plot
begs to be re-read

red again so soon and down
persimmon fingers shiver aj



Visit the player's posts today for more about the game:

Tanita Davis (wow! love what she says in the last paragraph about finding April's purpose)
Andi Sibley (took this to a whole new level with her "rules of the game")
Liz Garton Scanlon (chief instigator and rabble-rouser)
Tricia Stohr-Hunt (she recounts the conversations among the poets that led to the chain. Behold the chaos!)
Laura Purdie Salas (started us off with that evocative first haiku)
Kelly Fineman (I followed her in the chain, trying to link her palest pink dogwood to ink on book pages)


Elaine at Wild Rose Reader has the Poetry Friday Roundup today.