Sunday, November 28, 2010

An Invented Form

The other night I went through my writing folder to see if I had any poems in progress that might hold some promise. This folder holds the poems that have been semi-abandoned, that is, they weren't working but I liked them well enough to hold onto them, thinking something might click for me weeks or months down the road. I throw out nothing, no matter how vile the first draft might be. Most of the drafts in this folder do not, in fact, ever amount to anything, but every once in a while I come across a draft and wonder why I abandoned it. I see some promise in it. Or I find a line that's the very one I need in another draft.

What I found this week was an unrevised draft, one I'd completely forgotten about. I don't know if this draft will amount to anything, but the form is intriguing, and I might like to give it another whirl. I can't, however, remember where I came across this form. I think it's an invented form. I love invented forms. I'm hoping that one of you can identify the name of this form and possibly even be able to tell me where I found it.

I wrote down the instructions for the form:

1. Begin with a line from a poem by someone else. (I suspect that the original instructions might have directed me to draw from a sonnet and then create a sonnet. My draft is 14 lines long and my first line is from a famous sonnet.)

2. Having chosen your first line, you must now repeat one word from that line in each successive line of your poem. For example, my first line was "Let me not to the marriage of true minds." I then decided to repeat "not" in each of the following lines.

3. The final two lines must rhyme.

Now while I love invented forms and rules, I also like to break the rules, so although I'd decided to use "not" as my repeating word, I also decided to use variations of the word. I first brainstormed a word bank: knot, nod, nut, nude, null, knotty, nub, but, cut, lot, mutt, knotted, nit, knit, gnat, note, net. Then I wrote the draft using a number of those words.

Does anyone recognize this form or know where I found it? Anyone feel up to giving it a try?

Note: My December Poetry Newsletter will go out this Wednesday, December 1. If you want to subscribe, go over to the sidebar and fill out the quick form.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Turkeys and Poetry

No, I will not be eating one of these turkeys for Thanksgiving. They showed up in my backyard about a week ago. I counted 27 of them! They walked around and pecked the ground, exhibiting what struck me as extreme arrogance. This was their ground and they could take whatever they wanted. Then they left and have not returned. I will not be roasting any turkey. We're going the restaurant route, letting someone else do the work and the clean-up. This could also be called the lazy route.

Several days ago Kathleen Kirk invited Facebook poets to post a favorite poem, one we're thankful for. I chose Yeats' "Adam's Curse," a poem I love. Some years ago when I attended the seminar at The Frost Place, we were each asked for one of our readings to read three favorite poems by other poets. This was one of mine. Reading this in Frost's barn was a lovely experience. It's a poem I'm thankful for.

Adam's Curse

We sat together at one summer's end,
That beautiful mild woman, your close friend,
And you and I, and talked of poetry.
I said, "A line will take us hours maybe;
Yet if it does not seem a moment's thought,
Our stitching and unstitching has been naught.
Better go down upon your marrow-bones
And scrub a kitchen pavement, or break stones
Like an old pauper, in all kinds of weather;
For to articulate sweet sounds together
Is to work harder than all these, and yet
Be thought an idler by the noisy set
Of bankers, schoolmasters, and clergymen
The martyrs call the world."
                                              And thereupon
That beautiful mild woman for whose sake
There's many a one shall find out all heartache
On finding that her voice is sweet and low
Replied, "To be born woman is to know—
Although they do not talk of it at school—
That we must labour to be beautiful."
I said, "It's certain there is no fine thing
Since Adam's fall but needs much labouring.
There have been lovers who thought love should be
So much compounded of high courtesy
That they would sigh and quote with learned looks
precedents out of beautiful old books;
Yet now it seems an idle trade enough."

We sat grown quiet at the name of love;
We saw the last embers of daylight die,
And in the trembling blue-green of the sky
A moon, worn as if it had been a shell
Washed by time's waters as they rose and fell
About the stars and broke in days and years.
I had a thought for no one's but your ears:
That you were beautiful, and that I strove
To love you in the old high way of love;
That it had all seemed happy, and yet we'd grown
As weary-hearted as that hollow moon.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

New Chapbook in Progress

Several months ago I received an invitation to publish a chapbook as part of the Greatest Hits series published by Pudding House Publications in Ohio. According to the information I received, this is an invitational series. A poet is nominated by the last poet who had a chapbook with the press. I won't reveal the name of my kind nominator, but I send him much appreciation. After a nomination is received, then a committee of six determines whether or not to issue the invitation. The series now includes close to 300 chapbooks.

As this invitation arrived right around the same time my new book was coming out, I asked to delay it for several months so I could give my full attention to the new book. Delay granted. I was instructed to select my 12 greatest hit poems, that is, the ones most often requested, most talked about, most well-travelled. That ought to be easy, but wasn't. It was easy enough to select the first 6 or so. The others, not so easy. I'd make a selection and then realize, no, that's one of my favorites, but it hasn't really circulated as much as others. I was instructed not to choose my favorites but my greatest. Then, of course, it's hard to even think of greatness. It seems so arrogant. But eventually I got the poems selected. Don't think I stuck with the original list, however. There was some more hemming and some more hawing. Several changes were made.

Next, I took notes on each poem. Where did it first appear? Where did it go from there? I did this note-taking as I also had to write an introduction to the collection. This essay was supposed to trace the lives of the poems in chronological order. I delayed and delayed. And so many other things intervened, other writing projects that had deadlines. But finally a few weeks ago, I took charge of myself and sat down to do it. I decided I'd do one poem a night. But once I got underway I ended up doing 3 or 4 each night, so it was done rather quickly once I got started. The challenge was to make the essay comprehensive and interesting and, at the same time, manage not to sound like a obnoxious braggart. Then, of course, several rounds of revision.

Next came the Acknowledgments page and the Contents and assembling the entire chapbook into one file. I sent it off last week to the publisher, and she's let me know that she's already working on it and plans to have it for AWP.

I will have no involvement in the cover design as all covers are the same—gold card stock with a black border. Likewise, all titles are the same: Greatest Hits, followed by dates and the poet's name.

More details as the chapbook moves along.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Prince of a Reading

You know the story that ends, "You have to kiss a lot of frogs to get a prince"? I sometimes think of this as a metaphor for poetry readings. Some just work out better than others. Occasionally one makes you wonder why you do readings. Occasionally one reminds you why you give readings and how wonderful they can be. That, I'm happy to say, was my experience this past Saturday night in Lambertville, NJ.

I was invited by Vasiliki Katsarou to read at Panoply Books, a charming used books store owned by Roland Boehm. I was very much looking forward to the reading as it was my first NJ reading from my new book, Temptation by Water. Vasiliki made a beautiful flier which she posted around town and in the store. She also emailed it to me so that I could use it to invite people. She also posted the reading at Facebook and Twitter.

I was hoping for maybe ten people to show up, so was delighted when we had somewhere between 20-25. Considering the size of the store, that was a big crowd, standing room only! What a fabulous audience they were! Attentive, engaged with the poems, not one person working on her own poems.

I read ten poems in the order in which they appear in the book. That allowed me to talk a bit about the structure and motifs of the book. Then we had a Q&A, something I always enjoy after a reading. Vasiliki provided a lovely spread of snacks—crackers and cheese, some kind of filo dough hors d'oeuvre, grapes, Prosecco. So people had some nice munchies after the reading. I sold and signed books and continued the conversation a bit longer.

Then I went home and slept like a baby.

Lambertville is one of those artsy towns with lots of bookstores, antique shops, and art galleries, 
sort of an old world feel to it. Did I mention that this is where Gerald Stern lives?

Every second Saturday of the month the stores stay open late, so there were lots of people milling about. 
Some of them wandered in during the reading and lingered for a poem or two.

The outside of Panoply Books

The interior, back room where I read

Me reading, looking somewhat spectral, feet of some audience members—photo taken by Ray Brown who brought 5 people with him which is one reason why I'm a big Ray Brown fan

Sunday, November 14, 2010

A New Review and It's Weird

Poet and reviewer Nicelle Davis has written a delightfully wacky review of my book, Temptation by Water. The review is posted at Pank and illustrates that reviews don't have to be stodgy affairs. This one is creative and unusual. There's a brief prose overview and then two visuals. Yes, visuals!

The prose part begins, "Diane Lockward’s collection of poems, Temptation by Water, takes readers on a journey through a maze of sorrows and delights." Click HERE to read the rest of the review.

Here's one of the visuals. Notice how the book's water motif is visually represented and how Davis manages to bring in some quotations from the poem. The second visual is a unique kind of maze. Very charming, I think!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Poetry Reading in Lambertville

Any chance that you'll be in NJ this Saturday? If so, I'd love to see you at this reading. The bookstore looks like a very cool space, and Lambertville is supposed to be filled with galleries and artsy spots. This is the one Saturday per month that all the stores and galleries will be open. Try to come!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Mystery Solved

Thank you all for the nice notes about my Verse Daily poem, Birdhouse. I challenged you to identify the form. Sadly, no one rose to that challenge! So I will now solve the mystery. It's an Anagram poem. I have five of them in my new book, one in each section.

I was introduced to this form by a friend. She'd just learned it in a workshop with Terrance Hayes. He has a bunch in his book, Wind in a Box, and defines the form in his end notes. You begin by choosing a word of substantial length. Then you quickly make as many words as you can from the letters in that word. You need a list of at least eleven words, but more is better. Hayes stipulates that all words must be four or more letters and words cannot be formed by the addition of an "s." I am not that strict.

For a second example, here's another anagram from my book. I'd recently come across the word "ecdysiast" and fallen in love with it, so it was one I wanted to work with. If you first just glance at the end words of my poem, you'll see that all of them—easy, cast, act, Yes, desist, and so on—are made up of letters from my lead word. You are free to not use the lead word as your title, but I think that there should be a connection between that word and the content of the poem. Now read the poem. Then read it aloud.


You think it's easy
to unravel the boa of feathers and cast
it off, to turn the act
of undressing into an art, suggest Yes
to each hungry face, go just so far and then desist?

Not one can touch, but all must leave feeling sated.

Sequins sparkle as she slinks across the dais,
peels the skirt and tosses it as if rolling dice,
and then the bustier, hook by hook, and thrown aside,
a spider molting, her gaze at once smoldering and icy,
the swivel of hips, to keep the tease slow and steady.

I hope that you noticed the sounds as you read. Lots of rhymes and near rhymes, assonance and consonance. For me, one of the really appealing aspects of this form is the sounds that result. You can't help but get music into the poem.

Now you know what's coming next, don't you? A challenge: Write your own anagram. Warning: This form is addictive. You'll find yourself working on words in your head when you ought to be paying attention to other things. So what! Enjoy.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Verse Daily Knocks on My Door

Today I am enjoying the honor of a feature on Verse Daily. My poem, Birdhouse, from my new book, Temptation by Water, will be strutting its stuff for 24 full hours and then will be archived for all eternity. Please pay a visit! Then let me know if you can identify the form of the poem.

The feature includes an image of the book cover, a link to Amazon, image links for my other two books at Amazon, a bio, and a list of additional poems of mine available online. This last, I think, is a wonderful addition to the Verse Daily site. It provides an easily accessible library of a poet's work.

"Birdhouse" first appeared in Tiferet, a beautiful print journal. I am grateful to them for having chosen it. And I am grateful to Verse Daily for choosing it now.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

New Journal: The Stillwater Review

Arctic Meadows Preserve and Mud Pond, Stillwater Twp., Sussex County, NJ. Photo courtesy of 
The Nature Conservancy

Here's a publication opportunity some of you might be interested in:

The staff at the The Stillwater Review from the Betty June Silconas Center 
at Sussex County Community College invites the submission of poems for the premiere issue of a new print journal.
 Deadline for submissions is December 1st.

 Submit 3-5 poems to 

You are asked to submit your poems as doc, docx or rtf files, and include your name, 
address and phone 
number on each poem.
 No previously published poems or simultaneous submissions.

According to the managing editor, this will be a bound journal. She adds, "This first edition will be poetry only, and we are looking forward to creating another journal for the fine poetry being written today.  We plan to put some of the poems in the journal online with video clips of a selection of the poets in the journal reading online and talking about their work.

I know some of the people involved in this new journal and am confident that it will be an outstanding addition to print journals.
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