Reverie Twenty-One: charm bracelet

I was going to start this prompt off by saying that Memorial Day weekend means I have the whole café to myself. But since I started typing, it has filled up quite a bit… still, I was able to get a seat, which is pretty rare for a Saturday noontide. I’ll still consider it a victory.

This week: “charm bracelet

Qarrtsiluni is open for submissions on the theme of “Fragments”, which got me thinking about some potential prompts involving poetry-snippets. Donna did a prompt recently based on Kay Ryan and her brevity. And since I didn’t have a grand unifying theme for this week, I’m running with the idea of fragments as a method for building up a series of short pieces. I’ve been thinking lately about songs (and poems, more generally) that have turns of phrase which are unique and sum up a lot of feeling with simple language. They were playing a song here at the cafe earlier by Sugar Ray (the title of which escapes me) that has the line, “All around the world, statues crumble for me”… how will you interpret that? My favorite lately is from Massive Attack’s “Teardrop”, which is: “Love, love is a verb; love is a doing word.” Beautiful! And it conveys so much in so little space.

Let’s think of the process this time as making a piece of jewelry, with beads and charms and dandies and things. You’ll have to forgive me if I’m not super accurate with how I imagine the process; I’ve always wanted to make little jewelry things, but find the materials for even small pieces to be prohibitively expensive. (The only ones I’ve managed with any sustainability are raver jewelry bits made of plastic beads that come in bags of 500 for a few dollars.) My mother and aunt are currently into this whole Pandora-beads craze (or maybe it’s faux-Pandora beads, I can’t remember), and the cost of them just makes my eyes bulge. So, the process here is something of the Platonic ideal of charm-bracelet poetry creation, I guess.

Here’s twenty little beads you can use:

childhood memory romantic encounter 2nd-biggest fear brush with death moment of frustration
keeping a secret linguistic beauty writing a poem doing the impossible life goal
emergency telling the future loved by family peace in nature feeling of foreboding
discovering laughter coming home most hurtful words forgetting tears (invent your own)

What you do with these is your own affair; they all deal with moments and experiences, more or less, but I’ve tried to leave them open to interpretation. You can pick your own, or come up with some random method to select, but my suggestion (which you can expand or contract, depending how complex you want to get) is to choose seven.

So, for each of these little charms, you’re going to write a short snippet. I know some people are not fond of miniature verse, but the advantage of stringing seven snippets together is that you can build up some connective tissue between them. We’ll get there. First, though, we’re going to jazz up those charms a bit. A bit more direction this time: each of the poems should have the following elements, in order (or, if you’re feeling feisty, mix it up):

first poemlet: mention your birthstone
second poemlet: use a word with three or more syllables
third poemlet: mention your zodiac sign
fourth poemlet: use at least three capital letters (“I” on its own, and the beginnings of lines, do not count)
fifth poemlet: pick a color and use at least two synonyms/varieties/shades of it
sixth poemlet: use as many different kinds of punctuation mark as you can
seventh poemlet: surprise us with something fancy!

This will give each poemlet a filigreed feel, and show some connective tissue with other people’s work, which is a nice touch (especially if everybody maintains the same order of embellishments). These poemlets (notice how I started using this word halfway through the post, and now I’m all enamoured of it? yeah) don’t have to be long! Maybe four or five short lines at most. See how much you can get into the confinement of that space. For example, if I chose “linguistic beauty” as my first one, I might end up with something like the following:

I wear the music of Greek like a sapphire:
sounds fished from that sea, shot from that sky,
all of them blown into glass and looped once,
twice, around my wrist. 

So it might be something like that: short and sweet, mixing in some alliteration and metaphor as you see fit. This one got a little bit meta and had a self-referential mention of the jewelry idea itself; you don’t have to do that (unless you want to). But I hope that gives an idea of the kind of shape I’m thinking the poemlets will take.

The final step, of course, is to string them all together with a unifying poetic chain. I have three recommendations for this: first, you could have one word that appears in all the poemlets. Think Wallace Stevens and his blackbird. Second, you could take one line in a particular meter, and have a line in that meter in each poemlet. It’s best (I’m remembering a discussion with Viv as I say this) if you come up with your own, rather than just saying “iambic pentameter”. My second line above is “long-long-short-short-long, long-short-short-long”, so maybe I would keep that pattern for the second line of each one. And third, you could set yourself a single end-rhyme or lipogram challenge: try to have at least one line in each poemlet end with a particular sound, or try to strip all of them of a particular sound.

It’s up to you whether you want to consider these disparate (but connected) pieces of the same poem, or seven separate bits that share some blood. You can flex the prompt to make it your own, with a pair of needlenose pliers and some wire. (As an additional challenge, I will give mad props to whoever takes the crown-of-sonnets road: have each poemlet be six lines, and use the first line from the first piece, the second line from the second piece, etc., to build the final poemlet. Strictly optional!) But do trade, share, and show off what you’ve created, and tell us the stories behind each of those embellished little charms, because isn’t that the whole point in the end?

Come back throughout the week (or after) and post the results of your labors. I’m thinking this one might spawn a mini-Reverie later in the week, but we’ll see…

21 thoughts on “Reverie Twenty-One: charm bracelet

  1. vivinfrance says:

    Great idea – see you next year or whenever I come up for air!

  2. […] notes: I’m tickled by Joseph’s charm bracelet challenge. Which is to string poemlets like a charm bracelet. I love charm bracelets. I love the beady things […]

  3. […] on a lot of pain and sadness is all too easy, even when parts of this poem inspired by Reverie Twenty-One were actually ‘charms’ of happier moments. Forgive the sadness inherent in these words, […]

  4. Tania says:

    First attempt at this, raw and ravaging, but inspired by past and present pains.

  5. […] Beat the batter pouring like liquid honey; Oh my! Oh yes! This poem was written with a prompt from Joseph Harker's Reverie, on linking short poems to make a poetic charm bracelet. Share this:TwitterFacebookEmailLike […]

  6. Whoa, Joseph, this was work (but worth it). I love the way your prompts stretch me; screaming “I can’t do this” — and then I do.

  7. Great prompt, Joseph. I am going to try and write something to it soon.


  8. […] second offering to the prompt over at Reverie Twenty-One, this one using the form he […]

  9. Tania says:

    Wrote another, this time using the suggested poemlets rather than plucking my own. I rather like the result. Great prompt!

  10. Mr. Walker says:

    Here is my poem: Charming.


  11. […] by Reverie Twenty-One: charm bracelet, at Joseph Harker’s naming constellations blog. The prompt had multiple layers; rather than […]

  12. pmwanken says:

    I have stayed very much on the periphery of these Reveries because they generally make my head spin. I’m barely used to the idea of writing poetry, let alone delving into the crafting of such pieces as those outlined here. Yet…I read Richard’s poem and was intrigued enough by this prompt to give it a go.

    STRUNG ALONG BY CHARM is my attempt at this poem bracelet. I’m not sure why I did it to myself, but I used a color theme throughout, as well as made each poemlet my favorite short form: the piku.

    And yes…my head is now spinning. When it stops, I’ll be back to read the others.


  13. […] Harker gives us Reverie Twenty-one: charm bracelet. Another lovely title, and a great analogy to the Pandora bracelets, if you have seen the ad. If […]

  14. barbara_ says:

    Didn’t think I would care for this, but with some modifications it works for a number of things. You can bring some unity to those loose fragments that didn’t really fit the poem that spawned them, which is nice. And they work pretty sweetly for wordles. Find myself envisioning dragontroves of the things.

  15. […] might write something along the lines of Joseph’s Reverie 21, but here, a charm bracelet of imagistic […]

  16. […] back into writing, I’ve gone back through prompts saved for later.  This one on creating a poetic charm bracelet, from Joseph Harker at naming constellations, was impossible to resist. In explaining his prompt, […]

  17. Yousei Hime says:

    Finally done. Not really pleased with it as a whole . . . not even pleased with all the parts, but I’m very happy to have written at all. Bits and pieces feel good. Even so, thank you for the challenge.

  18. […] basic premise of this particular prompt is to create a little series of “poemlets”, like charms on a bracelet. See the original […]

  19. Sara Norja says:

    Hi! I’ve been reading through your blog archives (I really, really love your poetry – keep on bringing us the beautiful words!), and decided to do this prompt. Here is the result:

    I should really do more of these poetry challenges of yours! It’s great to prod the brain into something out of my usual grooves. :)

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