Invented Poetry Forms – The Streetbeatina

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I am so pleased to announce that for the very first time, one of the many poetry forms that I invented has been published somewhere other than this blog. At the end of last month, the prestigious online literary journal in a blog format Radius: Poetry From the Center to the Edge posted three of my streetbeatinas (I originally submitted two, but the editor requested a third) along with a short history and explanation of the form. The streatbeatina is one of the first poetic forms I ever created and a personal favorite of mine. Normally, I would now give instructions on how to write one, and show a few examples, but I figure that would be redundant, since all you need to know about the streetbeatina can be found at radiuslit.org. Please check it out, and let me know what you think by either leaving a comment on Radius or back here on this blog. I would really appreciate it, and hope you will be inspired to try writing a streetbeatina of your own (warning: it will be a challenge, but I think you will enjoy it).

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Five Clerihews by Joan Erickson (and One More by Myself)

Dan Witz InstallationMy good friend and fellow poet, Joan Erickson, recently emailed me to let me know that while perusing this blog, she read my post on clerihews, and decided to try writing a few of her own. She included the three that she wrote in her email, then a few days later (apparently still in the grip of clerihew fever) sent me two additional ones. I thought all five captured the spirit of the form splendidly, so I  have asked her kind permission to publish them here, which she graciously granted. I hope you will enjoy them as much as I have:

Five Clerihews by Joan Erickson

George Burns’
radio show made me lose concerns
on days that weren’t always sunny.
He and his wife Gracie were so funny!

Ed Sullivan
was a real fan.
Had the Beatles on his show –
the screaming and singing made him glow.

Norman Rockwell
didn’t have to sell
his paintings in a gallery.
Everyday people paid his salary.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt
was the president who felt
we had nothing to fear –
except fear – is this clear?

Eleanor Roosevelt gave birth
to six babies. For what it’s worth,
later confessed – had no idea how
to feed or care for a baby. Wow!

Writing clerihews must be contagious, because immediately after reading Joan’s delightful one about F.D. R., I was inspired to pen the following about another U. S. President:

Abraham Lincoln
was always thinkin’
that more was less.
That is why he didn’t deliver a longer Gettysburg Address.

Mmmmm… I just had a brainstorm for an interesting poetry project. Since now I have posted clerihews about four different U. S. presidents (Donald Trump, Richard Nixon, Franklin Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln), we just need 40 more about each of the others (yes, there are technically 45 presidents, but in reality only 44 because Grover Cleveland was elected to two non-consecutive terms and is counted twice) to have an entire gallery of presidential clerihews. So how about it, dear reader? Will you accept the challenge of writing a clerihew about one of the remaining presidents, and either send it to me in an email or leave it in the comments of this post? Please do! If we can gather enough, I will publish them all in a future post.

 

Invented Poetry Forms – The Acrostic Selfie Poem

386The name of this form is fairly self-explanatory. An acrostic selfie poem is a short, usually whimsical self portrait in verse, in which the first letter of each line spells out the poet’s name. I can’t actually say who first invented the form since the acrostic name poem goes back at least to the Middle Ages, but I first utilized the concept myself about 15 years ago while teaching a poetry workshop for children at the public library in Sterling, MA. If a poet is feeling ambitious, one can use their full legal name, but it is quite acceptable to settle just for your first name like I did when I wrote the following example as a model for my students  (I hope you will enjoy reading it and that it will inspire you to try writing your very own):

Paul

 Polite to inanimate objects,
 Always apologizing to furniture he bumped into,
 Until all his friends and family complained
Like a chair really cares if you are sorry!”

Invented Poetry Forms – The Clerihew

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In today’s post, I have decided to tackle one of the very first poetry forms that I ever learned to write. Sometime in grade school, I was taught about the clerihew (along with the limerick and the haiku) and thus started my lifelong obsession with poetic forms.

Edmund Clerihew Bentley, the British humorist and novelist best known for (besides the poetry form which bears his middle name) his two detective novels “Trent’s Last Case” and ” Trent’s Own Case”, invented the clerihew when he was only sixteen. According to my calculations, since Bentley was born in 1875, the first clerihew was written in 1891.

The clerihew is a four line biographical poem that is usually comical, and has a rhyme scheme of aabb. The first line normally contains the name of a famous person (although you can use a fictional character or nonfamous person as an alternative). The length of the lines tend to be inconsistent, and the meter irregular. Like haiku, clerihews seldom have titles.

I am not sure if the clerihew is still being taught in schools, but I sure hope it is. It is a delightful form to play with, and when I was teaching my poetry workshop for children at a local library, the kids really seemed to enjoy writing them. So why don’t you try penning one today? I am sure you will have a great time like I did when I wrote the following eight:

A Collection of Clerihews

President Richard Milhous Nixon
was always fixin’
to retire early, but instead he resigned
when caught in a scandalous, political bind.

President Donald J. Trump
cured this nation’s economic slump
when he was elected and took over.
Now we are all rolling in clover.

Henry David Thoreau
liked to watch the trees grow.
He certainly wasn’t too fond
of anyone trying to deforest Walden Pond.

Edgar Allen Poe
was a talented but morose fellow
who wrote “The Tell-Tale Heart” & “The Raven”,
and preferred Providence to New Haven.

Captain James Tiberius Kirk
could be an overbearing jerk
suffering from a severe lack of tact.
He’d make long self-righteous speeches and overact.

Doctor Leonard “Bones” McCoy
never could express any joy,
yelling ” Damn it, Mister Spock,
I am actor, not a Doc!”

Old Walt Whitman
was a hit, man,
with his poetry and flowing beard,
yet still most people considered him quite weird.

Paul Michael Szlosek
suffered an anxiety attack
when he discovered that he left his autobiographical poem
on his desk at home.

 

Four Herrickelles by Paul Szlosek

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In my last post, I introduced the herrickelle, a poetic form I recently invented based on the poem “Upon His Departure Hence” by the 17th Century English poet and priest Robert Herrick. Today I would like to share a few more herrickelles I’ve written. If after reading them, you feel inspired to try your hand at writing one of your own, I recommend going back and reading my original post on the herrickelle, where the rules to writing them are laid out in full.

(One quick note: the herrickelle is not the only invented poetry form to be based on the work of Robert Herrick. There is also the herrick, modeled on what is clearly Herrick’s most notorious poem  ”To the Virgins to Make Much of Time”. The herrick is definitely a more sophisticated and complex form than my rather simple herrickelle, involving alternating masculine and feminine rhymes and strict meter. If this intrigues you, you can read more about the herrick here.)

You will discover all four of these herrickelles certainly have a more modern feel to them in terms of theme and language than the one I posted yesterday as an example (that one had a distinct Medieval flavor). I hope you enjoy reading them, and am curious to hear what you think, both about the form and the individual poems:

Gambling at Foxwoods

I say
the way
I p!ay

takes not
a lot
of thought.

I spin,
don’t win,
begin

to let
roulette
upset

my day.
I stay
and pray.

Oh no,
I go
and blow

a wad
on Odd,
(oh god)

or Red
instead.
So dead

on my
feet, I
still try

to win
and spin
again.

I bet
more, get
more debt!.

Perseverance in a Catastrophe

I know
the show
must go

on. You
do too
(No clue

how or
what for).
Ignore

your doubts,
the shouts,
the bouts

of pain.
Remain
calm, sane

til one
Is done,
my son.

A Letter of Advice (to Vincent From Salvador)

Hello,
Van Gogh!
Start slow…

Adhere
your ear,
with beer.

Erase
your face.
Replace

it with
a myth,
a glyph.

Disguise
your eyes
with lies

once told
(so bold)
to old

girlfriend.
Pretend
to mend

your heart;’
restart
your art!

Critique of a Terrible Poet

This time,
his crime
was rhyme

so bad;
it’s sad.
It had

no flow
and no
joy – oh,

no bit
of wit.
It’s sh*t!

 

 

Invented Poetry Forms – The Herrickelle

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Although the form we are discussing in today’s post was recently invented by myself within the last year, in many ways, it has been around for over 500 years. Confused? Well let me explain just how the herrickelle came about.

In terms of classical poetry, the majority of metered verse has probably been most commonly written in either iambic pentameter or tetrameter. On the other hand, examples of poets who were known to have wrote in iambic monometer are quite rare, except for one major exception (okay, here is a quick aside for those who have never learned or totally forgotten all about poetical meter. A foot is a unit of poetical measure made up of usually two, but sometimes three, or even four syllables, where the sound of one or more particular syllables are emphasized. An iamb is a specific type of foot consisting of two syllables with the last of the pair being stressed. Iambic pentameter is a line of five feet, while iambic tetrameter is four, and of course, iambic monometer is just one metered foot, or, put in another way, two syllables. Get it? Neither do I, but let’s go on):

Robert Herrick was an English poet, priest, and (by most accounts) playboy from the 17th century. Best known for his poems ”To the Virgins to Make Much of Time,” “Upon Julia’s Clothes,” and “Corinna’s Going a Maying,” , he is probably the only major poet proven to have had a penchant for writing poetry in iambic monometer. In fact, most poetry text books use his poem “Upon His Departure Hence” as the prime example of monometric verse. After coming across this poem in such an anthology a few months ago, I was inspired to utilize it as a template to create a new poetry form which I have dubbed the herrickelle in honor of Herrick.

Because I realize many modern poets are uncomfortable with meter (I know I am), I decided not to make it mandatory to write a herrickelle in strict iambic monometer, although you certainly can if you wish. Instead I decided to have the form use a syllable count as its measure (much like the haiku or the monotetra, both of which I have discussed in earlier posts). So this is a description of my unofficial rules for writing a herrickelle:

A herrickelle is a poem of one or more tercets (stanzas of three lines) with each line consisting of just two syllables. Each tercet uses a monorhyme (which means all its lines use the same end rhyme and rhyme with each other). Thus the rhyme scheme would be aaa for the first tercet, bbb for the second (if there is one), ccc for the third, and so on.

Herrick’s “Upon His Departure Hence”, which rhyme scheme is aaabbbcccdddeee, technically would not qualify as a herrickelle, since he wrote its fifteen lines without any line breaks. However the poem can be easily converted into one by simply dividing its lines into five tercets. So here is what I retroactively consider the very first herrickelle in existence penned by the master himself:

Upon His Departure Hence

Thus I
Pass by,
And die:

As one
Unknown
And gone:

I’m made
A shade,
And laid

I’ th’ grave:
There have
My cave,

Where tell
I dwell.
Farewell.

– Robert Herrick

I find composing a herrickelle to be quite a challenge since one is limited to a vocabulary of just one or two syllable words. Because of this, you find yourself often forced to use a lot of short Anglo-Saxon and archaic words. Normally I strongly disapprove of contemporary poets using words like “Thee”, “Thou”, and “Art”.  Yet because of the 17th century origin of the form and its monometric rhythm which feels a bit peculiar and ancient, I think that in the case of the herrickelle, such usage is more than permissible. As an example, here is a herrickelle I wrote with a definite medieval or renaissance flavor –

Why Art Thou So Serious?

Employ
Sheer joy,
My boy!

Thou chance
To dance
And prance,

Let glee
Set thee
Now free,

Let mirth
Rebirth
The earth!

I have more herrickelles that I wrote to share with you (all which sound much more contemporary), but since this post has gone rather long, I guess that can wait until my next one. Thanks so much for reading!

Invented Poetry Forms – The Monotetra

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The poetry form that I would like to introduce you to today is the monotetra, invented by poet Michael Walker apparently sometime in the early 2000’s. The monotetra consists of one or more quatrains (stanzas of 4 lines) with each line written in tetrameter (4 feet or 8 syllables). Each stanza follows a monorhyme (all the lines rhyme together), thus the rhyme scheme for the first stanza would be depicted as aaaa, the second (if there is one) as bbbb, the third as cccc, and so on. What makes the form totally unique and really stand out is that the first four syllables of the final line of each quatrain is repeated as its last four. Or in other words, a four syllable phrase is repeated twice as the last line of each stanza.

For my personal taste, the monotetra, with its monorhyme and repeated phrases, is better suited for light verse than a serious poem. These qualities definitely make it both a delight to write and read out loud. I also prefer the single quatrain versions to the longer ones. But that might be just me, since most of the examples of monotetra I found on the internet are at least two stanzas. I recommend that you might try writing one of each variation to discover which best fits your taste. To that end, here is one that I wrote to serve as a model (I hope you enjoy it!):

Nude Ascending a Staircase

All the men could not help but stare.
She wore her birthday suit with flair.
As she climbed, she paused to declare
“No clothes to wear, no clothes to wear!”