Like the similarly-named acrostic selfie poem which I wrote about on this blog last April, the anagrammatic selfie is a short, usually whimsical self-portrait in verse. But unlike the acrostic version where the first letter of each line spells out the poet’s name, the anagrammatic selfie consists solely of words formed from only the letters contained in your name. So logically, the first step when writing one is to choose which variation of your name you want to use (this will also be the title of your poem). For example, if I just used my first and last names, Paul Szlosek, I could create a list of 333 different words to write my poem with, but if I add my middle name Michael, I would then have an even larger choice of 2724 (if you are one of those people that lack a middle name, you could substitute a maiden name, or a title like “Doctor”, “Mister”, or “Miss”). After deciding which version of your name you are using, you just start puzzling out all the words you can create with its letters. Just keep in mind a letter can be used in a word only as many times it appears in your name. In my case, I could not use the word pizzazz because in that word the letter z appears 4 times, but only once in my name Paul Michael Szlosek (however I could use the word pass since the letter s appears twice in Szlosek). To save time and effort, you may want to consider using an online word finder tool to create your word list (the one I would recommend most would be https://www.wordmaker.info). Once you have a list of at least a hundred words, start studying it to see if any words on it might suggest a certain pattern or theme to you. For instance, on my list, the words schlimazel, schlemiel, cellulose, calluses, and shoelaces caught my attention and inspired me to write the following:
Paul Michael Szlosek
Is a schlimazel, a schlemiel,
Has cellulose, calluses,
Smells like sheep’s pee,
Loses his shoelaces,
Lacks all social skills,
Is as musical as a homesick camel,
Helpless as Achilles’ heel.
So, please, POEM,
Please call Paul home.
Help him cope,
Heal his soul.
Help him hope.
Here is another one of my attempts at an anagrammatic selfie which I hope might serve as a model if you decide to try one for yourself:
Paul Michael Szlosek
He is so much like
A small, pale mouse.
He leaps up, escapes his maze.
Police mice chase him home.
So what do you think of this form, my friends? What I really love about this form myself is that the repetition of the sounds of the same limited set of letters gives your poem a natural sense of rhythm and resonance without you even trying. I really hope that you will try the anagrammatic selfie yourself. If you do, I am pretty sure you will be pleased with the results.
“There is something about writing poetry that brings a man close to the cliff’s edge.”
“Most people are much better at saying things in letters than in conversation, and some people can write artistic, inventive letters, but when they try a poem or story or novel they become pretentious.”
“Writers are desperate people and when they stop being desperate, they stop being writers.”
“Bad poetry is caused by people who sit down and think “Now I am going to write a poem”.
“I should think that many of our poets, the honest ones, will confess to having no manifesto. It is a painful confession but the art of poetry carries its own powers without having to break them down into critical listings. I do not mean that poetry should be raffish and irresponsible clown tossing off words into the void. But the very feeling of a good poem carries its own reason for being… Art is its own excuse, and it’s either Art or it’s something else. It’s either a poem or a piece of cheese.”
“Literature, you know, is difficult for the average man to assimilate (and for the unaverage man too); I don’t like most poetry, for example, so I write mine the way I like to read it.”
“Great writers are indecent people; they live unfairly saving the best part for paper. Good human beings save the world so that bastards like me can keep creating art, become immortal. If you read this after I am dead, it means I made it.”
“Writing is like going to bed with a beautiful woman and afterwards she gets up, goes to her purse and gives me a handful of money.”
“The secret [to writing poetry] is writing down one simple line after another.”
“To me, Art (poetry) is a continuous and continuing process and that when a man fails to write good poetry he fails to live fully or well.”
“I prefer the absurdity of writing poems to the absurdity of not writing poems.”
“Poets, if they’re genuine, must keep repeating “I don’t know.” Each poem marks an effort to answer this statement, but as soon as the final period hits the page, the poet begins to hesitate, starts to realize that this particular answer was pure makeshift that’s absolutely inadequate to boot. So the poets keep on trying, and sooner or later the consecutive results of their self-dissatisfaction are clipped together with a giant paperclip by literary historians and called their oeuvre.”
“Each of us has a very rich nature and can look at things objectively, from a distance, and at the same time can have something more personal to say about them. I am trying to look at the world, and at myself, from many different points of view. I think many poets have this duality.”
“All the best have something in common, a regard for reality, an agreement to its primacy over the imagination. Even the richest, most surprising and wild imagination is not as rich, wild and surprising as reality. The task of the poet is to pick singular threads from this dense, colorful fabric.”
“The joy of writing. The power of preserving. Revenge of a mortal hand.”
“In the language of poetry, where every word is weighed, nothing is usual or normal. Not a single stone and not a single cloud above it. Not a single day and not a single night after it. And above all, not a single existence, not anyone’s existence in this world.”
“I usually write for the individual reader – though I would like to have many such readers. There are some poets who write for people assembled in big rooms, so they can live through something collectively. I prefer my reader to take my poem and have a one-on-one relationship with it.”
“I’m fighting against the bad poet who is prone to using too many words.”
“Poets yearn, of course, to be published, read, and understood, but they do little, if anything, to set themselves above the common herd and the daily grind.”
“Contemporary poets are skeptical and suspicious even, or perhaps especially, about themselves. They publicly confess to being poets only reluctantly, as if they were a little ashamed of it. But in our clamorous times it’s much easier to acknowledge your faults, at least if they’re attractively packaged, than to recognize your own merits, since these are hidden deeper and you never quite believe in them yourself.”
“Poems give us permission to be unsure, in ways we must be if we are ever to learn anything not already known. If you look with open eyes at your actual life, it’s always going to be the kind of long division problem that doesn’t work out perfectly evenly. Poems let you accept the multiplicity and complexity of the actual, they let us navigate the unnavigable, insoluble parts of our individual fates and shared existence.”
“Art-making is learned by immersion. You take in vocabularies of thought and feeling, grammar, diction, gesture, from the poems of others, and emerge with the power to turn language into a lathe for re-shaping, re-knowing your own tongue, heart, and life.”
“When I write, I don’t know what is going to emerge. I begin in a condition of complete unknowing, an utter nakedness of concept or goal. A word appears, another word appears, an image. It is a moving into mystery.”
“I write because to write a new sentence, let alone a new poem, is to cross the threshold into both a larger existence and a profound mystery. A thought was not there, then it is. An image, a story, an idea about what it is to be human, did not exist, then it does. With every new poem, an emotion new to the heart, to the world, speaks itself into being.”
“Creativity itself is a joyous unlatching. The act of creative imagining, inventing, saying differently, crafting a metaphor or image, then crafting another metaphor or image when you go further or when you revise – all these take whatever you think “is” and make clear that other possibilities exist as well. The sense of possibility, the amplitude and freedom that sense of malleability brings – for me, that cannot help but be joyous.”
“The secret of understanding poetry is to hear poetry’s words as what they are: the full self’s most intimate speech, half waking, half dream. You listen to a poem as you might listen to someone you love who tells you their truest day. Their words might weep, joke, whirl, leap. What’s unspoken in the words will still be heard. It’s also the way we listen to music: You don’t look for extractable meaning, but to be moved.”
“Poetry itself, when allowed to, becomes within us a playable organ of perception, sounding out its own forms of knowledge and forms of discovery. Poems do not simply express. They make, they find, they sound (in both meanings of that word) things undiscoverable by other means.”
“The creative is always an act of recombination, with something added by new juxtaposition as making a spark requires two things struck together.”
“Art keeps its newness because it’s at once unforgettable and impossible to remember entirely. Art is too volatile, multiple and evaporative to hold on to. It’s more chemical reaction, one you have to re-create each time, than a substance. Art’s discoveries are also, almost always, counter to ordinary truths.”
“A poem makes clear without making simple. Poetry’s language carries what lives outside language. It’s as if you were given a 5-gallon bucket with 10 gallons of water in it. Mysterious thirsts are answered. That alchemical bucket carries secrets also, even the ones we keep from ourselves.”
Like the monosyllabic sonnet which we recently discussed, today I will talk about another invented poetry form inspired by the traditional sonnet – the sonnette. Invented by the American poet, children’s author, museum curator, magician, and Boy Scout executive G. Sherman Ripley sometime in the early 1900s, the sonnette is basically a miniature or half sonnet consisting of seven lines (exactly half of the sonnet’s usual fourteen). It has two stanzas: a quatrain (4 lines) followed by a tercet (3 lines) with the quatrain having a rhyme scheme of abba. while the tercet has one of cbc. And just like its inspiration, the lines are metered, usually written in iambic pentameter.
As you can see, meter is definitely not my strong suit, but here is my own feeble attempt at a sonnette (for you to use as an example if you would like to try writing one yourself):
Ode to a Wannabe Baby Boomer Rocker
Once he dreamed of being the next Springsteen,
but he settled for a working man’s wage
and a once-a-week gig on a bar stage.
What seems like a dream is life in between
the hours he gets to strum guitar and sing
(he’s a remnant of the Rock and Roll age
in a time where Hip Hop and Rap’s now king).