Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Invented Forms—Part 2

The second form I want to pass onto you is called a "sevenling." J.P. Dancing Bear, the poet and editor of The American Poetry Journal, introduced me to this form. It was invented by poet Roddy Lumsden. It is a poem of seven lines inspired by this short poem by Anna Akhmatova (1889 - 1966).

He loved three things alone:
White peacocks, evensong,
Old maps of America.

He hated children crying,
And raspberry jam with his tea,
And womanish hysteria.

. . . And he married me.

tr. D M Thomas From Selected Poems (Penguin)

Lumsden provides the following rules for the sevenling:

The first three lines should contain an element of three - three connected or contrasting statements, or a list of three details, names or possibilities. This can take up all of the three lines or be contained anywhere within them. Then, lines four to six should similarly contain an element of three, connected directly or indirectly or not at all. The seventh line should act as a narrative summary or punchline or as an unusual juxtaposition. There are no set metrical rules, but being such as short form, some rhythm, meter or rhyme is desirable. To give the form a recognizable shape, it should be set out in two stanzas of three lines, with a solitary seventh, last line. The tone of the sevenling should be mysterious, offbeat or disturbing, giving a feeling that only part of the story is being told. The poem should have a certain ambiance which invites guesswork from the reader.

Here's an example by Lumsden. The poem seems to have no title.

All those buzzsaw years I ran the show,
all those kids who asked me for advice,
The Architect, the Miraclist, The Man.

The starlets kick-line, that was my concoction,
the sailor boys, the peacock feather spotlights;
till one night in a blackout, I let slip

what it is I say to all the girls.

And here's my own example from The Del Sol Review:

Woman with Fruit

Raisins, prunes, and apricots,
the dried fruits she hungers for,
done now with ripeness, the mess of juice.

Especially she craves figs,
their turtle-textured skin, resolute stem,
quirky resilience of the pendulous bladder,

and inside the sack, seeds that crackle like grit.

Now try your hand at the sevenling.

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