poetry, rhyme, wordage, writing

sputter sputter

Today, during yoga, the Random Rhyme Generator turns on again, and hands this over: “marzipan-pale, mandolin-frail.” What do I do with that? It’s so retro – those are the kinds of poems I was writing in 1999 – and if I ever wanted to describe women in terms of musical instruments (high-strung), sugar, and alliteration, I don’t want to do it now.

To be honest, there is a very, very regrettable and derivative poem I wrote that year, in high school, which is some kind of Rapunzel-Greensleeves-Shalott-courtlylove-clusterstuck, and that is SO a line from that poem, which I thought I had left composting in the backyard of my brain, to feed future poems but not ever to remerge. Surprise. It’s back, shuffling its overwritten zombie stanzas up the stairs, dropping rhymes like clods of earth all over the kitchen floor.

Maybe, as I write more poetry, lines from the poems I was writing ten years ago will keep coming back. It’s like you can’t turn it on without turning it all on.

I wouldn’t use a line like that now, but I’m still proud of myself that that skill, matching words to one another on as many qualities as possible, which I cultivated so exclusively and so extremely for twenty-two years, is still dormant in my skull. (No more rhyming and I mean it.)

The kind of thing I would do now, and I’m about to, is write a poem about thinking of a line you can no longer use.

criticism, rhyme, theater, translation


I just had an idea, which I think comes from time spent on Dr. Crazy’s blog.

As I contemplate the return to academia, I was trying to think if there was any topic that I care enough about to spend an entire thesis on it – something which resides within the family of English and comparative studies, relates to both poetry and theater, relates to other languages while still being grounded in English. Something with a relationship to performance without being exclusively about performance. Something more manageable than the history of rhyme in French and English poetry and theater. Something that lets me work on the Greeks without having to learn Greek.

What about some form of translation studies? You could take a given text and do a study of how its various English translations, over time, reflect (or don’t reflect) concurrent trends in poetry, theater, ideas of the time, etc. I guess it’s a kind of reception studies.

Maybe I could do a degree in creative writing somewhere with a 2-part thesis: a scholarly component on translation history of a particular text (ideally a French rhyming drama) and my own version.

I think this would allow me to prove, or disprove some of my favorite chestnuts (if anyone knows why a “chestnut” is called a chestnut in this context, please let me know), things like the ludicrous idea that it’s somehow “easier” to rhyme in French than in English.

I’m kind of into this.

a propos of nothing, rhyme

from the a-pun-is-worth-a-thousand-words department

I’m so full of great ideas once we get into the theater. Such as: “Popsicle Styx,” a super-short stop-motion film about dead souls being ferried down a river of, you guessed it. Part of a series of artsy shorts made entirely from kindergarten art-project materials. To be followed by “Tracing Paper Follies” and “The Ballad of Chalk and Vellum.”

Will there ever be any respite from Piers Anthony’s influence on my consciousness? I think I loved puns this much before I even read those books. I remember discovering, once elected one of the writers for the Stanford Band, that puns (and rhyme) were the only kind of humor I had access to.

convergence, dance, poetry, rhyme

The sonnet arabesque

Yesterday Robert and I met with a composer who writes vocal and other art music, who wants to put her dissertation music together with a ballet in next year’s Convergence.

And last night I saw a performance at Butler Ballet of five short works, including Cynthia Pratt’s RAINMAKERS and Paul Taylor’s CLOVEN KINGDOM. This was the first time in my life I’d ever sat down for an entire evening of ballet. I was blown away by it. Halfway through RAINMAKERS, I had renounced words and spoken vocabulary. I’ve never had so much visual stimulus in my life. Where have I been that I haven’t seen this yet?

I have very few words about this experience, I feel like I should be dancing about it, instead of writing, but here’s a try: the conventions are so different – the lighting so aesthetic as opposed to narrative. The transitions, which I care so much about, seem so insignificant. ‘

The permeable stage, with the wings as flimsy as air, with endless streams of dancers rushing in and out.

The use of the body. The arm is the quotation mark of the word-body – it is much less significant than I want it to be.

The foot is the face, meaning emanates from there, and the face might as well be masked.

And finally, dance got there first. Before we (theater) did.

Then I got to meet some local Indy folks from the ballet community, including a gentleman who kills his own deer (to eat) with a bow and arrow, and has a quiver made out of a coyote he also hunted himself. We sat around a fire talking about fighting hummingbirds, dance, hip replacement surgery, and poetry till morning. One of the people there was writing her first sonnets. I’m going to send her these two poems.

It was beautiful to be in their home, looking at paint samples, eating leftover Dove Valentine’s chocolates with fortunes on the inside (mine was “You will make someone melt today,” but I read it at 11:50 pm) and pretending to have a place I live somewhere in this world. But I was reminded, while touching the coyote’s fur, that I never would have met these people if I were living so stably and simply somewhere. This is part of the journey. Ballet, bittersweet, and all.

If there’s anything in the world of words that can stand up to RAINMAKERS, it’s this poem. Ballet is rhyme, I think – that’s the only compliment I have for it. The repetition of elements chimes the same way.

The Windhover
(Gerard Manley Hopkins)

I CAUGHT this morning morning’s minion, king-
dom of daylight’s dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding
Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding
High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing
In his ecstasy! then off, off forth on swing,
As a skate’s heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend: the hurl and gliding
Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hiding
Stirred for a bird,—the achieve of; the mastery of the thing!

Brute beauty and valour and act, oh, air, pride, plume, here
Buckle! AND the fire that breaks from thee then, a billion
Times told lovelier, more dangerous, O my chevalier!

No wonder of it: shéer plód makes plough down sillion
Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear,
Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermillion.

And this link to Harryette Mullen reading THE DIM LADY., her The Dark Lady takeoff.

poetry, rhyme, travel


The railroad track is miles away,
And the day is loud with voices speaking,
Yet there isn’t a train goes by all day
But I hear its whistle shrieking.

All night there isn’t a train goes by,
Though the night is still for sleep and dreaming,
But I see its cinders red on the sky,
And hear its engine steaming.

My heart is warm with friends I make,
And better friends I’ll not be knowing;
Yet there isn’t a train I’d rather take,
No matter where it’s going.

– Edna St. Vincent Millay

There was a time when I thought that to write poetry in the rhythm, form, and shape shown above was not only my highest ambition, it was my only one. I was so prolific in it – I wrote 365 poems (ANIMA’S DAYS) plus a bunch more, three plays (FAUST adaptation, GILGAMESH, CLYTEMNESTRA SPEAKS) , and a 200-page thesis (TIME TO RHYME) in that exact poetic form. And that’s only what I remember. I was the monotonous and versatile balladeer. I still have a lot of affection for that structure, if only because we’ve traveled so far together – but these days, to make myself write like that now, I have to, well, make myself write like that.

There isn’t even a category for “rhyme” on this blog. I’ll create one, for old time’s sake, but I don’t know how much it’ll get used. I have been trying to write a tetrameter sonnet lately, and it’s killing me. Not that I can’t do it – I can do it easily – but I can’t do it WELL. I used to use that form so thoughtlessly, but it was like using a blender to brush your hair.