Tuesday, August 19, 2008

A Day of Poetry—Pt 2

As promised, here's the rest of yesterday's prompt. Now that you have your list of phrases using your two initials, read this model poem by David Lehman. It appeared on The Writer's Almanac on May 17, 2008, and is from his collection, When a Woman Loves a Man.


SF stood for Sigmund Freud, or serious folly,
for science fiction in San Francisco, or fear
in the south of France. The system failed.
The siblings fought. So far, such fury,
as if a funereal sequence of sharps and flats
set free a flamboyant signature, sinful, fanatic,
the fire sermon of a secular fundamentalist,
a singular fellow's Symphonie Fantastique.

Students forget the state's favorite son's face.
Sorry, friends, for the screws of fate.
Stage fright seduces the faithful for the subway fare
as slobs fake sobs, suckers flee, salesmen fade.
Sad the fops. Sudden the flip side of fame.
So find the segue. Finish the speculative frame.

—"SF" by David Lehman from When a Woman Loves a Man (Scribner, 2005).
I love the playfulness of the poem, the pleasure the poet takes in the words. And I'm fascinated by the sounds that echo throughout the poem. Notice that Lehman sets up his poem in sonnet format with each line's last word beginning with the letter F.

Your job now is to take your list and turn the phrases into a poem. Don't worry excessively about making a lot of sense. Be playful, fanciful. Take pleasure in the words. Then impose some kind of formal structure on your poem. It doesn't have to be a sonnet, but something that has a pattern to it. Good luck.

A few final thoughts:
I wonder if this qualifies as an invented form? Or a hybrid? I'm aware of other poems that rely on the use of letters, e.g., the acrostic, the abecedarian, the anagram, but I haven't seen something like this in a sonnet form. I'm also wondering if you were to get a good result, a publishable one, if you should credit Lehman? What if your poem bears no resemblance to his except for the use of two letters?

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1 comment:

  1. This question of acknowledgement is an interesting one that I battle with often, as I frequently find inspiration of one sort or another in others' work. I usually draw the line at the (admittedly fuzzy) notion of "resemblance" that you identify.... In this case, it seems to me that a poem consisting almost entirely of words beginning with one or two letters has a resemblance to Lehman's whether it wants to or not. So I guess I'd be inclined to credit him....


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