The Subjunctive

You know, I bet I could write a better poem called “The Subjunctive”, but at the moment, this is an exercise for NaPoWriMo (and the last!), to take a short poem we like and turn every word/phrase in it on its head. A recent find is Ada Limón’s “The Conditional”, which you can read here. I liked it as soon as I saw it, at least partially because of the grammatical reference, so I went back to it for the exercise. I think my poem is more similar than I thought it would be, even though I did my best to really alter a lot of elements. Ah well. Language, she is the universal beast.

The Subjunctive

Let yesterday tumble in.
Let the sun unfold its tropical bloom.
Let rhubarb bend with reddened youth.
Let the moon glint as a pure blue monocle.
Let the cat’s nose flare valleys.
Let snakes coldly leave no trace.
Let his cap be a velvet planting-pot.
Let me always keep on watching: the squinted
past, trickling like water on rock, always
orbiting, always changing its light.
Let me meet him again and again. Always him.
Let me waste that first forever glancing away
from each other, back to shy back, catching
a butterfly and letting it crawl the cool sea.
Let it be worth something. Let it never be
enough. Let him say he’s done: not I, buried
elsewhere, ignorant with joy.

That Word

I admit I’m being straight-up cheeky with this piece, after a very long and dismal day that I’m trying to erase from my memory. Tried over and over to do the NaPoWriMo prompt, but the trouble with being a language nerd and translation industry professional is that I can’t just not-quite-translate a poem from an unfamiliar tongue. First, there’s few that are truly unfamiliar to me, at least among ones that you’re liable to find poetry in easily. At the very least, I can usually identify the language itself, the pronunciation, and hazard a few guesses about words. Then, I get very hung up on trying to capture the sounds perfectly into English words, rather than just mucking about with what the text looks like. So instead I did Miz Q‘s prompt to re-line a chunk of prose.

And she may recognize where I got it from. ^_^

That Word

By rights,
each line should have
a reason for being a separate line, a reason
for beginning where it does,
and a reason for ending with just
that word. Even if
that word is there,
as in formal poems, for the rhyme
or to complete a syllable count.
And if that word is there
in free verse because you want it to shout,
the word is still only
part of the line,
and the line is only
part of the poem.

Gauguin’s Washerwomen

One more before I quit the café, seeing as they close in twenty minutes, and I need to cook myself some wholesome food. Poets and Writers has some good-looking prompts this month, and as I am a subscriber and everything, I thought I’d give their ekphrastic prompt a try (from Day 2). The suggestion was to go to the MoMa website, where I found the Gauguin painting referenced in the title:

At the workshop on Monday, I brought an ekphrastic poem, and I do want to share a few musings that came up in that discussion. First and foremost, it is terribly important to move outside the frame of the painting; the poem should stand on its own. Pretend that the person has no way of seeing the painting, or even the title, for a clue. If you’re too focused on the images and things going on in the image, you may lose some of the power, and an ekphrastic poem should never diminish a poem’s power, only enhance or at least complement it. Secondmost, do this as soon as possible within the poem! In this piece, I got a little bit meta, talking about the artist as much as the poem itself, and the importance of both, which may not have been the best tack. Do what you have to do to immediately indicate to the reader that this is a poem about the poet considering art, not necessarily a narrative or exploration inside the painting itself. (You can do that too, but they tend to be more peculiar than the former.) And lastly, any references you do make to what’s inside the frame should be as universal as possible. Therefore, this poem ended up being a praise poem about ladies! And not in a romantic or objectifying way, or at least, I hope it doesn’t come across that way: it’s half a blazon-poem for the mothers (and I suppose wives), sisters, aunts, grandmothers, etc., without whom (and without whose Herculean efforts) none of us would be here.

Perhaps you would like to try this prompt as well…?

Gauguin’s Washerwomen

Praise be to the ones who take us, lightly,
by the chin, and turn our heads around
to see the history of labor laid out in our wake.
Praise be to those languages where machine
is a feminine noun, worn through as it is
with a thousand thousand pairs of careful arms
so used to the weight of a child and hands
that have memorized every inch of every home:
praise be to the ones who show us that.
Praise be to a woman’s work, which is never
finished, and to a woman’s strength, and to
the life-weavers whose names and faces
we cannot know, without whose loving patience
we would not exist to praise them now.
Praise be to the tired back and stooped neck.
Praise be to the ones who hold us
around the shoulders as they lay the angles
over each crooked bone, saying, look,
this is what you are the fortunate heirs to.
Praise be to the parade of history; praise be
to those who peel off hay-green squares of it
thin as gold leaf, slowing down time enough
for water to turn to stone and grow moss
as the first crisp of autumn forever folds
a woman’s apron into pleats, then lift the whole
river with its line of women and write on a wall
with a language that is all color: praise,
praise, praise.

A Bend in the Sound

I know I owe you guys a Refinery post and a Curio post. My schedule is fairly clear this evening (though I am forcing the Fellow to watch Twin Peaks, because honestly, how could I not?, so maybe that will take time), and I am hoping that I can get that done at least. Goodness knows the absolute last thing I’ll want to do is brave the elements, with wind chill reaching negative numbers. Ugh.

I am at work right now, writing poetry. This is a normal and everyday thing when I have downtime, and it doesn’t really impact my job. But, lately I’ve been getting very disenchanted with things around here, which (for a reason I won’t get into) was cemented yesterday. I’ve set a number of plans in motion to go with, and in a few months we’ll see how bad things get with the job. The other thing is, at the Winter Getaway this weekend and at the monthly writer-artists’ salon last night, I had occasion to talk to a number of people about life: bottom line, what good is a little bit more financial security and schedule regularity if you’re miserable? I would rather work three part-time jobs at odd hours and enjoy them, with writing in the free spaces, than struggle through the workday. Especially last night, when I was discussing all the non-text storytelling ideas I’ve had in the arts realm, and receiving enthusiastic support from the group, I felt that urge. So we’ll see how that develops, I suppose.

Swapped chapbooks with another poet, Tara, last night, since we’ve promising to do that for months. And one of the other attendees (who is an author I grew up reading and admiring and get tongue-tied around) took a peek at my book, and said, “These are really good!” Chuffed to bits, I was. That got me thinking about the weekend all over again, and thinking about how to make more room for the creative in 2013. So: there is a weekly workshop by Douglas Goetsch (who I met at the Getaway, and who was way cool), starting next Monday. It is, for me, a pretty penny; but it could be worth the expense? I would rather wait until I have some cash saved up, but I’m not sure if there will be another workshop in the near future which I can attend. Also, it’s five minutes from my apartment, so that’s a nice touch. What do you guys think?

And at last, a poem. Donna‘s prompt to write about a place (but focus on the people) was filed in the back of my head all last week, and I finally finished this beast of a thing about it. Most of you are aware that this name of mine is a pen name, but you might not know that it is an old family name, and there is an island in North Carolina from the same ancestral roots. (The first section is the gospel truth.) I’ve thought about visiting, though I could’ve written more stanzas about how I expect it would be rather different from anything in my experience, and actually I might not get along with the people there. But there is something indescribable about the connection of family, and name, and language, that meshes with the vision of the sea and the land at war like that. It’s a concrete little pebble buried deep inside that isn’t going anywhere.

A Bend in the Sound

1.
My professor says she was enchanted by this
postage stamp of an island, down the Carolina coast
where Back Sound squares its shoulders
against the loom of a hurricane. She says,
it’s the vowels.
The way a long ah will be half-swallowed,
caught under the tongue with pious humility,
while the flimsy ih is given a light shriek,
the long ee of the seashore
and the storm at night.
I’m writing a book on it, she says, and I feel
misplaced pride when I tell her half a lie, saying,
yes, I know, that is my island.

2.
The body is a museum with a hundred wings
devoted to every genetic stitch: and I’d like to think
there is a fingerbone or narrow bile duct
that I could say, here is the part I share with you,
great-grandmother, counting back growth rings,
finding a name and three lines of a story.
I cling to that when the water
rises. And some well-gardened ancestor
split into pieces, one of them carried southward
thanks to longshore drift, to this place
I have never been.
He planted our name in the reeds and marl,
unfurled it to wave in a stranger salt breeze.
Sometimes, a ghost comes to each of us
to whisper heirloom ideas when we do not
expect it. Then, we must decide
which histories matter to us the most.

3.
Somewhere, I have a cousin
who gets up before dawn to smear white paint
across the prow of a splintered boat, dragging
patchwork nets to the beach and stumbling
when the wind kicks down the dune.
I remember reading that we are all related,
if you count back far enough:
aunts and uncles, terribly removed.
But blood-iron is magnetic too, twitching direction
towards its kin. If I stood among the marram grass
watched the lanterns wink on the choppy sound,
I would lean forward, heartfirst.
Somewhere, I have a cousin
with the same right iris, the same tender rib.
She is smoking a cigarette and reading Elijah;
she is cutting up cucumbers for a midday snack;
we put consonants at the ends of our names.

4.
Cape Lookout could be gone in a hundred years.
No predictions: but that wildcat water gets crazy,
drinks deep in the summer.
Then, the dock piles and the church doors
and the stacked creels and the power lines
will know oceanic mercy. I dream of rock people
eroded, resigned, carrying on floating.
But I worry about how maps change at that bend
in the sound. Who will share my named body
when the storms split the living room walls?
At sunset, the wind threatens
an orange light speaking exodus, watermark
change, things that are inescapable.
The only glimmer in my dream is that the past,
having happened, is inescapable, too.

5.
If you stand at the mouth of the inlet
that digs into the southernmost cape, you can
see the barrier shoals, the ocean just beyond.
Hollowed-out vowels and old, old stories
bob in the slosh like big-bellied pottery,
laughing their mouths up just once
before they tip, fill, and hide from view.

Lexicography

I read the We Write Poems prompt wrong, a little bit. I think they were asking for twelve words to keep, but I ended up doing twelve words to ditch. I could have picked ethnic slurs or sexist epithets, vulgar slang or awful philosophical mumbo-jumbo, but instead I went for the common vocabulary, right in the jugular. This poem went through about ten revisions, and still has at least ten more to go before it feels right, but I suppose it’s a start, at least. Some of these choices are a little bit nebulous, perhaps… but I think they’re all defensible, to a degree. If I had to pick twelve to save, I don’t even know where I’d start; there are too many beautiful words in the world.

Eh. It’s late, and it’s better than nothing. My brain feels pretty tapped out this week.

Lexicography

Give me a blade and a dictionary.
First, the pronouns: I and you and they
lit up in firefly scraps, leaving nothing
but we, to teach us each other.

And then better and worse, so we can know
each beauty and each sorrow for itself:
cracking crème brûlée with a spoon,
the blue sweep of night coming over the horizon,
every wonder teased out like knotted hair
and considered one pearl at a time.

Yes and no will be tossed aside
so we can unroll our reasons in tapestries.
And there won’t be a way to ask for more
so we’ll learn to settle for enough and too much.

Enough of love and faith, good and evil,
fingernail syllables clipped too short.
Cut deep to peel up the paper for these,
full of definitions that keep changing shape.
Instead, let there be stories and actions
delicate as webs, unbound by such little words.

Then in the empty space there will be room
to dance out those nameless things lurking through
our history. What will be the word for
the happy ache of a suddenly weightless heart,
the turbulent shape of the sparrow’s path,
the first thrill of snow on eyelids?

Give me adjectives and verbs
with flexible ends. Give me the revisable page,
a roll of Scotch tape, give me a pen and ink
and the still-unspoken corners of the world.

Reverie Forty-Nine: i’ve got rhythm

Have to type quickly today, as there are things that need some doing around town. This week has just been interminable, and I worry that the next will be even worse. But here’s to keeping a stiff upper lip and hoping that it all works out, and that I can make it through to the other side (vacation!) intact. Got such a headache, though…

This week: “i’ve got rhythm

After talking about punctuation and line breaks, and different ways to use sound repetition, I want to wrap up this little three-part series with some talk about meter, vocabulary, and the broader level of sound structure. The usual caveat: this is all my own opinion. The secondary caveat: I have this habit of spelling meter as metre sometimes, à la the Brits, I suppose. Please pardon me in advance if I weave between the two spellings.

It can be easy to throw meter out the window, especially when doing free verse: with all the delicately crafted images and carefully placed sound devices, attention to grammar and punctuation (or breaking them apart), and other structural tricks, who has time to worry about the stressed syllables? Leave it for the sonneteers. But the truth is that meter can serve you well in any poem, whether it’s in a particular form or not. The basic types are as follows, described by each “foot”:
iambic – unstressed syllable followed by stressed (the caffeinated beverage…)
trochaic – stressed syllable followed by unstressed (anybody want peanut?)
spondaic – two stressed syllables in a row (stand back!)
dactylic – stressed syllable followed by two unstressed (come to the carnival Saturday)
anapestic – two unstressed syllables followed by stressed (in the silence, a cry)
amphibrach – unstressed, stressed, unstressed (the moon is the coin that bought nighttime)

There are others, but you’re most likely to run across entire lines of feet in one of these meters, or a few types mixed together. Pretty much everyone knows iambic pentameter from the sonnets; but what about amphibrach trimeter/dimeter? (That would be the limerick.) Or dactylic dimeter? (See the aptly-named “double dactyl”.) See what each line summons up in you and how they feel: try to give a name to the rhythm, whether it’s gallop, plod, trudge, sprint, flitter, crash, parade, etc. When you’re writing formal verse, you don’t often have a choice, but in free verse, you can mix and match these freely. If you want a particular section of the poem to move more swiftly, a lot of unstressed syllables often helps; similarly, if you want to stop the reader dead in their tracks, a spondee can be very effective, especially when combined with a subtle rhyme, a period, and a line break.

Even in formal verse, if you’re feeling adventurous, you could mess around with metre. Try doing a trochaic sonnet, or even a dactylic one. Is the sonnet more than just the sum of its parts? If you change the rhythm, you still have the rhyme scheme to follow, and the all important octet-sestet combination, with that important turn in the middle. (And if you don’t know what the turn is, please review the definition of the sonnet.) We are often told to use iambic rhythm in English because the language normally falls into that pattern; but part of the joy of poetry is to explore how far outside that pattern you can flex language.

So now let’s talk about choosing vocabulary. Again, free verse has a bit more liberty with this one, as there are normally a couple different options for the pacing of your lines, and therefore more options for the word selection. In a sonnet, the rhyme and the iambs keep you fairly set; you may have to say absurd instead of cockamimieridiculous, ludicrous, etc. even if you’re feeling wordy. But I want to draw your attention to word length, which is a different aspect that isn’t considered as often. In Japanese poetry, we hear about how haiku are not counted in syllables, but rather in “morae”, a nebulous linguistic concept. The short-and-sweet version, though, is that it’s about the number of sounds you’re cramming into one syllable. Think about be and strengths; they are both one syllable, but which takes longer to say? The latter has more morae, and would take up several “syllables” in an authentic Japanese-style haiku.

Use this perception to your advantage. Remember to change the flow of the poem. If you want to keep your reader moving at a clipped pace, you could write:
the river is serpentine, lapis lazuli singing its song

But if you want to slow that line down a bit, you might choose deeper vowels, syllables heavy with more consonants, and a metre with more stressed syllables:
wide-flowing water streams and falls; oxbow lake meets mire and sighs

Lots of monosyllables mixed in there, and “bow” is the only syllable that has less than three sounds in it. Rather than worrying about which words you can dig up that have the most syllables or the proper ones that fit the rhythm, try to find words which have the right balance. Try this: I can’t believe I’m about to suggest this, but open a thesaurus. Pick a word like “water” or “river”, and just make a list of everything in that entry. For each word, pick apart the stressed syllables; what meter could this fit into? Rate it from 1 to 10 on how heavy and slow (or light and quick) it is. Does it convey a particular tone? Sometimes, making a list like this can be very well-suited to replacing a word that you know is wrong for its location in your poem, but you can’t figure out why.

And a side note: you’ll want to stay away from the rarefied words, of course. And you don’t want to force a word into place. The cardinal rules of choosing language in poetry – get specific, but comprehensible, and don’t break the word too much – are paramount. But when you have your specific, comprehensible, flexible words, sometimes there are still several options, and the one whose sound matches your mood in that place in the poem will be the best one.

Lastly, sound structure in general is an important consideration. To develop what I said above, different metres, vowels and consonants will have a different effect. (And the rub is that different people will have myriad reactions to the same sounds.) You may craft a line perfectly, and then discover that the next one you want to write is completely different in rhythm. But instead of seeing this as a problem, use this to your advantage: what changes in the poem’s tone do you come across as a result? If you’re writing a poem about snowfall that starts out light and airy, and suddenly you want to insert an image full of deep, wide sounds:

…while thin-fingered flakes gathering between the twigs
make a bored yawn whose snobbery crumbles to the touch…

Roll with it! Here, the lines go from an almost childish glee at the snow to a disinterested unfriendliness, and the sound reflects that. (Note: “bored yawn” = spondee.) And look at the lines: they keep stopping and starting (like snow, perhaps?) with iambs rubbing against trochees, fading into a nice little pair of iambs at the end. Allow your lines to echo each other with their pace, but contrast in sound quality, or perhaps vice versa. Most importantly, allow yourself to discover things about the poem by reading it, over and over, as you write it, and tweak it to allow the sonic devices you love to come through.

There are poets for whom the overarching sound structure is the primary concern, but if you’re not one of them, then I urge you to keep it in mind. It might come after finding those perfect images and getting the rhymes just right, and writing in your particular voice, but it’s just one more component of the puzzle in a memorable poem. Formal verse takes advantage of this fact by forcing you into one pattern or another; it makes finding an enchanting skeleton to your poem easier, but can get stale real fast, or prevent some of what you want coming through. Write what you want to write, but then go back and write it again to see how it talks and sings. You will surprise yourself when you think about how lines rub against one another, how metres match within a poem, how the weights of different syllables will pull the poem in one direction or another.

A bit of reading, again:
– Dylan Thomas, “Fern Hill” (again, I know!)
– Langston Hughes, “Harlem
– Rafael Campo, “Love Song for Love Songs

These are more or less chosen at random (okay, Fern Hill was not), but try reading these paying attention only to the sound. Look specifically for any change/shift/regularity in meter, any repetition of sound structure (not just rhymes!), and words that seem curious at first glance, but upon closer inspection bring the feel of the poem to life. (Relating back to the last Reverie, all three of these do also do interesting things with rhyme.) Free-write a bit: what ideas do these three poems generate in you?

And then once you’ve gotten those juices flowing, try either revising and old poem to pay more attention to meter and sound — change some of the words around! — or craft an entirely new one where you do make it your primary concern. Happy writing!

Reverie Forty-Eight: euphony, eyephony, we all phony

Forgive the tongue-in-cheek title…

Let me give some quick blog updates. First, the GRE went well; at least, I felt good enough about my scores to send them to my prospective schools (again). Simultaneously, my company (which has been in impending merger for a year) is finally rolling out all their fringe benefit things as part of the parent company like opportunities to work in Europe/Asia, and flexible freelancer hours. (This week, though, has been illustrative of the principle that there are times when no fringe benefits, I think, could make me truly love my job. So we’ll see what happens in ten months.) Meanwhile, NaNoWriMo is finished; final count of 51,345 words. Of course, the novel itself is not done, and my new goal is to finish it before Christmas, but at least I won the challenge. It feels great to be writing prose again as well. And today is World AIDS Day, which has me a little bit down, thinking about Nicholas. I wonder if today is the day to begin the warped elegy for him that’s been languishing in my mind since August.

But enough business chat. Down to the Reverie.

This week: “euphony, eyephony, we all phony…

…for homophony? Or whatever you will. I want to talk about sound structure today, not necessarily sound symbolism, but the nuts and bolts of using different sounds in your poems. There’s two threads I want to pursue: formal and free verse. In formal verse, people often think that if they can just fit the rhyme scheme required by the poem, and the meter, they don’t have to worry about all the words leading up to the end. (Sometimes an inspired bit of alliteration might slip in there too.) But in fact, it can be helpful to think about all the words working together, not just the ends of lines. Conversely, in free verse poets sometimes believe that rhyme has no place in their work, when in reality the careful use of sound can pack a wallop.

Firstly, rhyme. Rhyme is really just matching sounds, but what people think of as rhyme is often technically a perfect masculine tail rhyme. So “I think that I shall never see / a poem lovely as a tree” fits the bill for this: same vowel sound, different consonants, stressed syllable, at the end of the line. But let’s pick this apart: perfect implies imperfectmasculine implies feminine, and tail implies head. Here are a few quick pointers:
1. Perfect rhymes are those which the final stressed syllables of two lines match vowel sound and differ in consonant (…see, …tree)
2. A masculine rhyme, like the one above, contains the whole rhyme in one syllable. Feminine rhymes have an additional unstressed syllable which shares vowel sounds, and can have the same or different consonants in the second syllable (…acquainted / …painted, …pleasure / …treasure)
3. Tail rhymes come at the end of a line. If we strictly consider the rhyme to be a match of sound, we could include alliteration (head rhyme), consonance, assonance, etc. to be other kinds; but for our purposes, let’s treat these as separate phenomena.

Poets often fall into the trap of writing according to how they pronounce the lines. Naturally, you want it to sound right to yourself, but when you pass it to another person, they don’t always pick up the same patterns that you articulate. Try this: take a poem of yours that features some kind of rhyming device (but doesn’t beat the reader over the head with it) and record yourself reading it. Then give it to a friend and have them read it. How similar is the reading? Chances are it will be at least a little different. Bear this in mind when setting up your sounds: little words like for or and can have flexible pronunciations, while several substantives (leg, hour, orange, water, bath) change from dialect to dialect. Write in your own dialect, but allow yourself to be a little bit flexible. I have several North Jersey friends who would rhyme leg and egg with plague and the Hague, while South Jersey is often lampooned for water rhyming with (do-)gooder. You can take advantage of this with forced rhymes: allow your line endings to shift their vowels ever so slightly in a plausible direction. Check out Wikipedia for several examples of “mergers and splits” that happen in English, and don’t let “proper pronunciation” stand in the way of word choice. This is the first kind of “imperfect rhyme”.

Two other possibilities are slant rhyme or weak rhyme. The first is essentially rhyming consonants rather than vowels: hand and bendwrist and test. (If you match the consonants but change the vowels, that’s called pararhymehand/hound, wrist/rest.) The second is rhyming unaccented syllables, because remember, if you have a meter that’s not iambic or anapest, what will you do for a rhyming form? Note the difference between this and a feminine perfect rhyme: under and thunder is feminine perfect, wastrel and scoundrel are weak rhymes. (But they still work really well: try shouting, “A wastrel! A scoundrel!” in a quiet cafe a few times like I just did. You’ll see what I mean. Lovely amphibrach.) And then you have near rhyme, which matches a stressed and unstressed syllable, if that’s your thing: solvent and wentdeadly and spree. But this is somewhat rarer as a tail rhyme when your meter is consistent.

Now for the other side of the coin. As I’ve alluded to before, I dislike when people think that free verse “can’t” or “shouldn’t” rhyme in various ways, that every line should just be pulled from the ether and dropped onto the page. I’ll quote — as I am wont to do — Laura Dern as Poet Laureate on the West Wing: “An artist’s job is to captivate you for as long as we’ve asked for your attention.” I have faith in y’all’s abilities to come up with beautiful imagery and language to describe it, but if you can get the sounds to carry your reader even further, it’ll be a hat trick. It’s what makes for fantastic poems. Let me present you with my three cardinal rules about rhyme in free verse poems:
1. It’s okay to have two lines rhyme, at the end, just as though it were a formal poem. You might want to avoid an iambic pentameter couplet at the beginning, so the reader doesn’t feel misled, but if the imagery and language demands it anywhere else in the piece, rhyme!
2. Your rhymes do not have to fall at the end. We’re disregarding alliteration and the beginnings of words for this Reverie, but by all means, use them. And by equally all means, allow the ends of the third words of each line to have a rhyme scheme, or every prime-numbered syllable, or whatever. Internal rhyme is a hallmark of great free verse poetry.
3. A lot of experimentation that may seem out of place in a sonnet or terza rima is welcome in free verse. Try repetition or rhyme chains as a device: “the tintinnabulation of the bells, bells, bells, bells, bells,” or “a lean green mean machine“, for example. (But maybe better than those examples I just used.)

Think of it this way as well: formal verse rhyme schemes are predicated on the end of the word, but at least in modern poetry, enjambment causes a lot of the discrete clauses to flow together more smoothly. When you hear a poet read, do you count the syllables, and mark exactly where the rhymes will fall? I’m a fan of doing my creation secret sonnets, which are iambic, 140 syllables, and with particular rhymes every ten syllables, but otherwise they are arranged just like free verse. If the flow of a read poem is relaxed about where the rhymes fall in the pattern of speech, why shouldn’t you be? Make use of internal rhyme if it serves you; and in free verse, you have the option not to if it doesn’t.

Ultimately, you must also consider why rhyme is done in the first place. Big reasons include: it adds connective tissue between lines to associate images with each other; there is the principle of euphony, where the beautification of sound signifies art rather than just talk; and in forms, well, you just have to. Rhyme should be seen neither as a chore nor as a panacea: use it in just the right amounts that you must and want, throughout the lines you need to, for whatever purpose of making the poem sing beyond its literal content. Metre plays an important part for this is well, but rhythm is only part of a song.

I recommend some reading:
– Dylan Thomas, “Fern Hill“, because it’s a free verse poem bursting at the seams with alliteration, assonance, consonance, and internal rhyme of all sorts.
– Pretty much everything by Emily Dickinson, I think, has slant rhyme in it. Check her out.
– James Falen’s translation of Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin, which I read in college and has stuck with me since. Other languages have all their own rules when it comes to rhyme, and 19th-century Russian poetry gets particularly elaborate. Check out just the beginning; the whole novel (a verse novel!) is like that, and Falen maintains the scheme nigh-perfectly.

Then come back and write! If you’re into formal verse, try messing with the rhyme schemes; if you’re into free verse, get some sound repetition into the works; and either way, allow yourself to do internal rhyme and use difficult sounds that you wouldn’t ordinarily use. I humbly offer my secret sonnets or this poem, with holorhyme (rhyming entire lines rather than individual words) for some ideas. And maybe you want to try different combinations of punctuation, building on the Reverie from last week? See what marinates in your brain, what sticks and what doesn’t, then come back and share. Happy December!