My dear readers, please forgive me for being so neglectful! It’s hard for me to believe, but I haven’t posted a post on invented poetry forms (a series that has always been the mainstay of this blog) here on “Paul’s Poetry Playground” since last February, so it’s certainly time for me to do another one. Today I will discuss the Mariannet, a name I coined for the previously unnamed poetic form that the poet Marianne Moore created to write her classic poem “The Fish” first published in 1918. Since the form was invented over a hundred years ago, it isn’t exactly new, but in many ways, it will be to most poets, because as far as I can tell, I may be the first to start writing them again since Moore.
The mariannet is an isosyllabic rhyming poem, consisting of one or more five-line stanzas (quintains) with one syllable in the first line, three in the second, nine in the third, six in the fourth, and eight in the fifth and final line. The first two lines rhyme with each other, and so does the third and fourth, but the fifth is nonrhyming and does not rhyme with any other lines. Thus its rhyme scheme can be expressed as aabbx for each individual quintain (with x representing the nonrhyming line). In Moore’s original formatting of the form, the third and fourth lines were indented five spaces and the fifth ten spaces. Unfortunately, such formatting would be very difficult for me to do in WordPress, so I’m treating the indentations as optional. However, if you are writing one, and you can indent, I highly recommend that you do – it will make your own mariannet more authentic and pleasing to the eye. To serve as a model for your own attempt at the form, here is the very first mariannet ever written, Marianne Moore’s The Fish (sadly, sans indentations):
wade through black jade. Of the crow-blue mussel-shells, one keeps adjusting the ash-heaps; opening and shutting itself like
an injured fan. The barnacles which encrust the side of the wave, cannot hide there for the submerged shafts of the
sun, split like spun glass, move themselves with spotlight swiftness into the crevices— in and out, illuminating
the turquoise sea of bodies. The water drives a wedge of iron through the iron edge of the cliff; whereupon the stars,
pink rice-grains, ink- bespattered jelly fish, crabs like green lilies, and submarine toadstools, slide each on the other.
All external marks of abuse are present on this defiant edifice— all the physical features of
ac- cident—lack of cornice, dynamite grooves, burns, and hatchet strokes, these things stand out on it; the chasm-side is
dead. Repeated evidence has proved that it can live on what can not revive its youth. The sea grows old in it.
After reading such a poetic masterpiece as “The Fish”, I doubt you will need any more inspiration to try your hand at writing your own mariannets. But in case you do, here are my own humble (and obviously inferior) attempts at the form:
My Uncle Max’s Most Favorite Maxim
“Sad kids go bad.” is what Uncle Max constantly said. “They’ll wind up jailed or dead.” His own son Sam seemed so damn glum.
Yet Young Sam met No such terribly tragic fate. He still lives… to this date. Never trust what your uncles say!
You Think, Therefore You Are?
Some thoughts may come and go, in a flash fade from your mind. There are others you’ll find taking up permanent residence,
Fixed in place, mixed thoroughly through waking life and dreams, woven within the seams of your being, your existence.
You may be who- ever you wish, you’re defined by thought. Then again, maybe not. Are you you… or just think you are?
Tick, Tick, Tick…
Soon it’ll be noon. This once new day at its halfway mark, following the same arc of each previous day before.
So it will go on this way, continue on and on (until Mankind is gone and the concept of Time’s erased).
One day, the sun may roast the earth in a fiery blaze, bringing the End of Days, but I pray, my friend, not today…
Lack- ing the knack for chit-chat, he fled conversations, social situations, and took refuge in reading books.
A reader may (he soon found) interact and converse with the whole universe yet still stay apart from the world.
He learns what we don’t – how to savor being alone, through the years having grown accustomed to his solitude.
The company he keeps (his own, and of Keats, Thoreau Socrates, and Plato) — all the Society he craves…
So what do you think of the mariannet, my dear readers? Like with all the invented poetry forms that I have the pleasure of introducing to you on this blog, I sincerely wish you will try writing one for yourself, and if you do, please don’t hesitate to share. I hope you enjoyed this post, and thank you so much for reading!
Some of you readers with a good memory may recall a post I did last May discussing the Kindku, an invented poetry form inspired by both traditional Japanese forms (like the haiku and tanka) and Found Poetry. Recently one of that form’s creators, Cendrine Marrouat, contacted me to let me know about a brand new form that she invented just this January called the Sepigram, and asked if I might be interested in sharing it with you all. Like I did with the Kindku, I will once again let Cendrine explain the form and its rules in her own words taken from her website Cendrine Marrouat: Visual Poetry of the Mundane:
“The Sepigram is an unlimited poem that follows a “fractal” (or repetitive) pattern. The word is a portmanteau of “seven” + “pi” + “-gram” (‘something written’ or ‘drawing’). The “pi” part refers to the number π (3.14159 rounded up to 3.1416), which is the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter.
Each part of the Sepigram contains 14 lines and must be divided into 2 stanzas + 1 concluding line.
L1–1 word L2–7 words L3–8 words L4 — repeat word from L1 L5–7 words L6–8 words L7 — repeat word from L1 or use a different word
L8 — repeat word from L1 or use a different word L9–7 words L10–8 words L11 — repeat word from L8 L12–7 words L13–8 words
L. 14: Use seven words from preceding lines (in any order) to make a sentence.
The poem can end here or continue.
L15 — repeat word from L8 L16–7 words L17–8 words L18 — repeat word from L8 L19–7 words L20–8 words L21 — repeat word from L8 or use a different word
L22 — repeat word from L15 or use a different word L23–7 words L24–8 words L25 — repeat word from L22 L26–7 words L27–8 words
L. 28: Use seven words from preceding lines (in any order) to make a sentence.
The poem can end here or continue.
As with all my other forms, sepigrams must feature positive / uplifting elements. A reference to nature is encouraged. For example: season, weather, month, time of the day, etc.
Punctuation and titles are optional.“
Cendrine graciously gave me permission to reprint on this blog the following sepigram she wrote as an example :
Night came to us in a soft whisper in the dance of rain at five o’clock. Night settled among the embers of our fireplace like an old friend who knows her place here.
Day followed quietly when night forgot to look an unruly child, we could truly say. Day settled in our chairs, bed and kitchen, bringing smiles on our faces, in our hearts.
And now, here is my own attempt at writing a seprigram:
During My Daily Constitutional Today (a Seprigram)
Greetings to the afternoon sun and the flock of woolly clouds that crowd the sky above. Greetings to the silver sliver of the moon appearing so incongruously in the midst of day. Greetings,
Salutations to each stray cat, all the squirrels scurrying across lawns, clambering up oaks and maples. Salutations to people passing by (the strangers who returned my smile, and the one who didn’t).
Greetings and salutations to one and all!
Thank you so much for reading! I hope you enjoyed today’s post on the Sepigram, and will try writing some of your own (if you do and share them on your own blog, please make sure to credit the form to Cendrine and to link back to her website @ https://creativeramblings.com/sepigram/ ).
In today’s post, I’d like to share with you a poem that I wrote which originally appeared in the premiere issue of the Concrete Wolf journal of poetry close to twenty-one years ago. I sincerely hope you enjoy it…
People-Watching at the No-Name Diner
While digesting two cheeseburgers and a side order of fries, you begin to speculate on the circumstances of strangers, assigning stories to the unfamiliar faces. The scraggly fellow with a pen becomes a millionaire poet incognito, transforming the lunch habits of the working poor into the ultimate metaphor for the nature of existence. And the throng of giggling adolescents at the table to the left are plotting the overthrow of the Archdiocese, starting with Saint Ignatius’ School for Wayward Girls. But soon, you find your attention shifting, dwelling upon the two figures furthest from you:
A stick-thin girl, midway through her teens, and a bearded man, at least a generation removed. They could be father and daughter, or illegal lovers, wedged into one side of their corner booth like paupers in Potter’s Field. They sit graveyard still, motionless as upright corpses, neither daring to disturb the ghosts laid buried in their silence.
Something is strangely amiss, someone should be there, her presence or the lack of it, a gaping hole in this tableau. Although you hear no sobs, see no tears, you can sense their mourning, their grief, thick and black as smoke wafting up from the grease-splattered grill. And you must look away out of respect for those who might be dead and those who simply wish to be.
—Paul Szlosek (originally published in Concrete Wolf)
In today’s post, we will be exploring the Skinny, a short fixed poetic form created by Truth Thomas, a singer/songwriter and poet, during the Tony Medina Poetry Workshop held at Howard University in 2005. The skinny is an eleven-line poem in which all the words of the first line are repeated in the eleventh and final line. The words may be used either in the original order or rearranged. Also, like in a sestina, the words in the last line do not have to be the exact match of the ones in the first but can be variations of the root word (for example, with the word “confuse” you could substitute “confusion”, “confused”, or “confusing”). All the other lines of the skinny consist of just one word, with the second, sixth, and tenth lines being the same word. The main goal of the skinny is to try to convey a precise idea or vivid image with the least amount of words possible. Although the subject matter can be about anything and the tone may vary from humorous to serious, most skinnys that have been written so far deal with prevalent issues facing society today. I have found writing them can be quite fun, and even addictive as you can witness by the following numerous examples I ended up writing for you to use as models for your own:
Last Sunday morning, My Life Irrevocably Changed. My Newest Ambition? Forget My Last Sunday morning.
Strange DreamscapeWith Felines
In these reoccurring convoluted dreams, Cats Chase Rottweilers Imitating Cats Pursued By Other Cats In these convoluted reoccurring dreams.
There are unfathomable things Only Found In Places Only Wisemen Know, Knowing Only Unfathomable things are there…
Do I believe there’s some truth in all poetry? No, Some Poems Have No Honesty. Oh Really? No. I do believe there’s some truth in all poetry…
Am I Really a Snowflake?
Like a tender peach, my delicate ego bruises Easily, An Unkind Word Easily Devastating My Confidence, Easily Bruising my tender ego like a delicate peach.
Still Feeling Bad After All These Years
His guilty conscience still Dogs Him, Kicking Stray Dogs As A Child Dogs His still guilty conscience.
Perhaps Poetry Is Meant To Be Misunderstood…
A failure to communicate Is Almost Predestined. That Is Certain (Every Poem Is A failure to communicate).
An Ancient Greek PhilosopherQuestions His Religion…
Who truly deserves the favor of the gods? Certain Folks Who Espouse Certain Beliefs, So Smugly Certain Who truly deserves the favor of the gods?
So dear readers, what do you think of the skinny? I hope you will find them as fun and fascinating as I do and will try writing some of your own. If you do, please consider submitting them to The Skinny Poetry Journal, an online poetry journal exclusively dedicated to this unique and wonderful poetry form (you will also find much better examples there than my own meager attempts.)
I want to thank my fellow bloggers Diane Puterbaugh and John Ormsby for graciously accepting my invitation to participate in the Virtual Scaretorium which I am reposting from the Poetorium website below. It is a rather long readfilled with some wacky, weird, and even spooky poetry and surprises (be sure to check out the time machine during intermission) but I think you will enjoy it…
PAUL: (Spoken in a very bad imitation of Boris Karloff) Good evening, every body!
Welcome to our very special Halloween-themed edition of the Virtual Poetorium which we are calling tonight the Scaretorium. As I scan the audience I spy the usual suspects, but there is one unfamiliar face who I surmise must be our special visitor all the way from scary old England, but I’ll talk more about that later. Unlike our regular editions, tonight there will be no featured poet, but instead, we’ll have an extra-long open mic to be divided into two sections, and since we have eight people on the sign-up sheet, there will be four poets in each. We are also lifting our usual one piece per person limit, so everyone can read up to three poems or stories. But before I call the first poet to the stage to read, I will kick off the show with one of my favorite poems by America’s 19th century master of the macabre, Edgar Allan Poe:
The Conqueror Worm
Lo! ’t is a gala night Within the lonesome latter years! An angel throng, bewinged, bedight In veils, and drowned in tears, Sit in a theatre, to see A play of hopes and fears, While the orchestra breathes fitfully The music of the spheres.
Mimes, in the form of God on high, Mutter and mumble low, And hither and thither fly— Mere puppets they, who come and go At bidding of vast formless things That shift the scenery to and fro, Flapping from out their Condor wings Invisible Wo!
That motley drama—oh, be sure It shall not be forgot! With its Phantom chased for evermore By a crowd that seize it not, Through a circle that ever returneth in To the self-same spot, And much of Madness, and more of Sin, And Horror the soul of the plot.
But see, amid the mimic rout, A crawling shape intrude! A blood-red thing that writhes from out The scenic solitude! It writhes!—it writhes!—with mortal pangs The mimes become its food, And seraphs sob at vermin fangs In human gore imbued.
Out—out are the lights—out all! And, over each quivering form, The curtain, a funeral pall, Comes down with the rush of a storm, While the angels, all pallid and wan, Uprising, unveiling, affirm That the play is the tragedy, “Man,” And its hero, the Conqueror Worm.
—Edgar Allan Poe
And now please welcome to the podium, a long-time regular of the Virtual Poetorium, and our featured poet from last Halloween, Meg Smith…
MEG: Inspired by two crows I saw perched on a balcony in Cobh, Ireland, this first poem really speaks to the grief of the pandemic, through the Irish observance of Samhain. Being first-generation, I’m speaking of the authentic cultural context — rather than the pop culture notion that Samhain, Beltaine, and other Celtic holidays are whatever the observer imagines…
I praise you, overlooking Cobh from a wrought-iron balcony; the bones of trees at Hampton Court; pumpkins in their rows of snarls in the dry grasses of Simeone Farm, I love you in your laughter, and gossip, and flashes of night in a year’s worth of Octobers. Call back the lost. The year is filled with wailing. Call back the lost, through the falling veil.
I participated in the “Ghosts of Pawtucketville Night” tour offered by the Lowell Celebrates Kerouac! festival. Jack Kerouac’s Lowell of his upbringing is filled with ghosts, and the haunted presence of those lost before their time. This includes a neighbor of the Kerouac family, who now has a square named in his honor…
At last, a sign, to mark the crossing in the blue street lamps — shouts in nighttime basketball games, but only one poet will catch every shade, every spirit walking, shouting in the twilight of the floodplain.
My final poem of the night was inspired by Valda Hansen, who was an actress who appeared in Night of the Ghouls, a film by Edward D. Wood, Jr., most famous for Plan 9 from Outer Space. In the film, she masquerades as a ghost as part of a con artists’ scam. But she is actually quite ethereal and poetic, a muse of horror camp…
In memory of Valda Hansen
Enough to frighten the kids making out in the sedan by the edge of the marsh — but more, still to love your dance without breathing, through your shadow house — not of this world, but casting threads through its night
PAUL: Thank you, Meg! Next up is our Virtual Poetorium’s featured poet from last November, Howard Kogan…
HOWARD: Halloween is not a topic I have written about, so here is an October poem instead:..
On an uncommonly warm October morning mist-shrouded mountains dream of the Song Dynasty crows stand in mid-air conjuring Canada geese, who appear and disappear along ridgelines apricot-colored leaves drift from quaking aspens
Last night an immense moon rose through the trees like a spaceship glazing the world silver by morning it was gold.
—Howard J Kogan
PAUL: Thanks, Howard! We actually have three previous Poetorium featured poets with us tonight (the third, Diane Puterbaugh, will be reading in the second section), but now I’d like to read a wonderfully charming Halloween poem written by a fourth, Carl Sandburg, who you may recall we brought back from a hundred years in the past using a time machine I borrowed from my cousin Dwayne so he could feature for us this last June (more about that time machine later)…
Theme in Yellow
I spot the hills With yellow balls in autumn. I light the prairie cornfields Orange and tawny gold clusters And I am called pumpkins. On the last of October When dusk is fallen Children join hands And circle round me Singing ghost songs And love to the harvest moon; I am a jack-o’-lantern With terrible teeth And the children know I am fooling.
Now please welcome a good friend of the Poetorium, and the host of the monthly open poetry share at the Booklover’s Gourmet in Webster, Massachusetts, Bob Perry…
BOB: Hello Poetorium. Everyone knows that Halloween is when the computers become little gremlins. Caught this one on camera…
Both my parents passed on in early October, 11 years apart. On the second anniversary of my dad’s passing I sat down at work and this became an insistent poem. It felt like they were there when I was writing it. What a gift…
In October my ghosts don’t wait for Hallows Eve They come early to check out this year’s foliage To talk of times that were, reinterpreting memories As we walk through the forest, each moment A grace I could not see while they were alive They tell me nothing is ever wasted, ever lost Pay attention to the way things come back to you Spend yourself extravagantly, like these trees Let everything go and you will discover You have had everything you needed all along.
—Robert Eugene Perry
Bodhicitta (Attaining great compassion for all sentient beings, accompanied by a falling away of the ego)
shards of glass, blue red lights road slick with rain, viscous river of fluids wailing sirens; other wailing, others waiting staring deep not seeing not feeling gurneys odd angles holding fractured forms shouting rushing figures smoke inhaling crying out help is coming just hold on gasping overwhelming fumes vision blurring, drift to void –
hovering ghost or angel soaking up your pain bleeding out compassion remaining present, keeping intention holding on and letting go simultaneous heartbeat separation is the illusion
rubbernecking tourists grumbling at the logjam, making the sign of the cross as they pass – sacred and profane are abstractions to the dead and dying – which in fact every body is.
—Robert Eugene Perry
Here is something new…
I’m including this next one because it is the Scaretorium and this has the word “Hell” in it. Sorry, that’s as scary as I get…
Roadmap Out of Hell
To look within and own your sin – your past with all its demons A fearless search for truth will hurt but only for a season.
To stay awhile with all the guile digging through the layers It may seem vain but from the pain will blossom earnest prayers.
Beneath the mire your soul respires despite the suffocation Dung unearthed will prove its worth becoming your salvation.
With no regret, you place your bet and sing your darkest song The truth will out, there is no doubt you’re here where you belong.
—Robert Eugene Perry
PAUL: Thank you, Bob! And here is the final poet in the first section of the open mic, the host of the brand new monthly Poetry Extravaganza poetry reading series at the Root & Press Bookstore and Cafe in Worcester, Joe Fusco Jr.
JOE: This is an older piece that I like to put out every Halloween…
My wife never buys enough candy for Halloween.
The family gathers at our house for sandwiches then everyone goes trick or treating except my 86-year-old mother and me.
“She didn’t buy enough candy again,” I lament.
“Just give one piece per costume,” my mother replies.
I feel like a gas attendant during the Carter administration distributing a Twizzler and Snickers to the more mature participants, but only one or the other to the adorable, naive little ones who won’t vandalize our property over my frugality.
By 7 p.m., I’m stuffing my hand into their pillowcases like a penny-pinchin’ Christian at Sunday Mass, so they won’t discover my meager offerings.
(Let me digress: Years ago, when we first moved into the house, on a dark rainy Halloween night, just returning from a cruise of the Caribbean, not a stitch of candy in the cupboard, I was forced to give boxes of store-brand raisins for treats. For years after, kids avoided our house like lice and I received sly death threats in late October with Sidney Poitier analogies.)
By 8 p.m., Mom and I are running on fumes, tossing quarters into their sacks from my son’s silver collection, then Long-Island potatoes, finally just dispensing sound advice from our porch like “Don’t be a fool, stay in school!”
When the family returns, all the house- lights are off. Mom and I are huddled in the back-bedroom over a candle listening to FDR on the radio.
“Is it over yet,” I ask my wife sheepishly.
“Yes, you moron,” she gently replies.
I gather my manhood and shuffle to the kitchen where I rifle the kid’s bags for Kit Kats and Nestles Crunch bars.
Happy freakin’ Halloween.
—Joe Fusco Jr.
PAUL: That was great, Joe! I thought it would be fitting now to close out the first part of tonight’s open mic with a poem I wrote as a sequel to the one I opened it up with — “The Conqueror Worm” by Edgar Allan Poe. The poem is written as a Cascada Viente, a poetry form invented by Brad Osborne, who coincidently was our featured poet for our One Year Anniversary Edition of the Virtual Poetorium last March…
The Return of the Conqueror Worm (A Sequel Set in Current Times)
Behold! The conqueror worm Returns again to the stage In the guise of a vile germ, Its audience in a cage,
As it heralds in the age Of Zoom (with us quarantined, Trapped like words upon the page). This strutting, villainous fiend
Having our lives guillotined, Cut off from family, friends Forcibly being pulled, weaned From them til this madness ends-
Tragicomedy that blends Mournful pathos with jest, A sick farce that all depends On its denouement. The rest,
Just exposition at best And a bad plot twist unseen: This play has no hero, lest It’s truly Covid-Nineteen…
We’ll be taking a short intermission (something we haven’t done for a long, long while) in a couple of minutes before we begin the last half of our virtual open mic, but now it’s time once again for me to present this month’s Poetorium group poem as well as our final Poetorium monthly form writing challenge. This month’s theme was “This Halloween…” with people being asked to email us one to eight lines starting with that short phrase. All contributions were then compiled into the following poem which I’m afraid is rather short this month since we only received submissions from just Bob Perry and Diane Puterbaugh besides myself:
This Halloween people hope for no snow in Syracuse and that the temp. is under 80 in Memphis.
This Halloween Jamie Lee Curtis will star in Halloween Kills, but perhaps after twelve films and four decades there are some horrors that should just be left behind in adolescence and others that should be faced head-on.
This Halloween night I will mourn the Halloweens of childhood past as I wander the streets alone, passing by trick-or-treaters wearing masks under their masks beneath stars like pinholes punched in a perfect plum-hued sky.
This Halloween, just buy 2 bags of Snickers, because you know you will eat through one of them before the 31st.
Thank you both Bob and Diane for contributing to tonight’s Scaretorium group poem!
And now it’s time for me to present, as I mentioned earlier in the evening, our very last Poetorium monthly form writing challenge in which for the last year we invited you to write in a different flash fiction or poetic form. I am sorry to announce that this will definitely be the final one due to dwindling interest but don’t worry, we will have something different to replace it starting next month. You might recall that last Halloween, we challenged you to write a six-word story? Well, this month’s writing challenge was a variation on that. We invited you all to write a six sentence story or poem, preferably one with a Halloween theme (it could have included a title or not, the choice was up to you), but unfortunately only my cousin Dwayne Szlosek took up the challenge and submitted the following untitled poem:
Dracula’s a blood-thirsty fiend… Frankenstein is the first to be the living dead… Wolfman becomes a gypsy curse… Mummies can be ruled by evil… Witches can be ruled by the Devil… They are all classic Halloween movies…
To tell you the truth, I was a bit disheartened by the lack of responses to this month’s challenge, and almost ended up not writing one myself but since I was the one who issued it, I felt it was my duty to present to you for your approval, the following hopefully chilling brief Halloween tale:
The Open Door
Arkham College photography student George Allenby was walking home from a Halloween photoshoot at Hope Cemetery along Webster Street at dusk when he first noticed the faint strains of “Radar Love” drifting from the century-old brick building in the distance. As he walked closer, he recognized the familiar voice of the early evening disc jockey of a local classic rock station blaring from the wide-open green wooden door of the Whitechapel Chemical Distribution Company. He thought “how strange, this is something you might expect to find on a warm summer evening in July or August, but not in the cool brisk weather of late October.” His first instinct was to call the police and report the incident of the open door, but he had forgotten his cell phone in his dorm room. Although he knew deep within his gut that it wasn’t a good idea, curiosity got the better of him, so he poked his head through the darkened doorway and yelled “Anyone there?”, but there was no answer. As he unwisely entered the pitch blackness of the premises, the last thing George heard was the sound of ‘Stairway to Heaven” being cranked up to an ear-deafening volume as if to drown out any possible screams…
I hope you enjoyed this month’s submissions and want to thank Dwayne for being the lone submitter (besides myself) to our very last form writing challenge. As I said earlier, we will have something different to challenge you all starting next month.
Now I have a bit of a treat for you all. We will be taking a short intermission so you can check out the photos on display courtesy of Diane Puterbaugh and myself in a special Scaretorium photography show. Also, do you remember my cousin Dwayne’s time machine? During the break, you will have the opportunity to use it to travel back 45 years into the past to Edgar Allan Poe’s home city of Baltimore and attend a Halloween poetry reading held on the night of October 31st, 1976 at the Maryland Institute College of Art. Don’t be afraid to dawdle there and enjoy the poetry since you have a time machine and plenty of time to get back here for the second part of our open reading. By the way, you may notice the time machine looks very different since you saw it last June. That’s because while programming it for tonight’s adventure into the past, I accidentally hit a random button on the console and it morphed into a somewhat familiar-looking British blue police call box… Anyway, have fun and we will see you when you get back!
The Scaretorium Halloween Photography Exhibit
Dwayne’s Virtual Time Machine
Click Here to Travel 45 Years into the Past to Attend a Halloween Poetry Reading on the Night of October 31st, 1976 at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore Maryland
PAUL: Welcome back, everyone! Hope you all had fun during the intermission…
When we think of Halloween, we usually think of ghosts, witches, and monsters. And what kind of monsters? Usually the classic ones such as Frankenstein, werewolves, and vampires. Well, I’d like to kick off the second part of the open with one of my previously unpublished poems about one I doubt you ever heard of before…
The Ballad of the Goo Goo Ga Ga Monster
At the age of three, I died constantly in my sister’s dreams. Each morning, she would wake and regale me with her nocturnal visions of my demise, explaining how the night before the vacuum cleaner had ambushed me on the stairs and thrusting its crevice attachment down my throat, had slurped my insides out.
Or how as I ran across the lawn to greet her home from school, her yellow school bus suddenly swerved and pounced upon my measly form, reducing me to just another oily stain upon the grass.
Much too young to be bothered by the fact that to my sister these were not hideous nightmares but pleasant dreams, I waited anxiously for the next installment of my death, soon learning that these were not just random exterminations by machinery gone haywire, but masterminded by the dreaded Goo-Goo-Ga-Ga Monster.
Yes, the infamous Goo-Goo-Ga-Ga Monster with a face of pablum mush and breath putridly sweet like baby burps, patron saint of sisters with bratty baby brothers, the Grim Reaper of the toddler set.
As weeks passed, my deaths became less frequent, my sister’s subconscious slowly ceasing its hostilities until Mister Goo-Goo-Ga-Ga vanished without a trace from her morning tales. So I was forced to scour my own dreams, hoping to glimpse his festering face, but he would never show. I was cursed with sweet dreams of chocolate choo-choo trains, fuzzy-wuzzy bunny rabbits, and puppy dogs. The Goo-Goo-Ga-Ga Monster could not be induced to make a guest appearance amidst such nauseatingly wholesome company.
So here I am fifty years later, still obsessed with dreams not my own. Perhaps I just want to stare him in his eyes, and recognize my own mortality. Every story I ever heard, every movie I ever saw has had an ending, either happy or sad, but my life, so far, has not. I just want to be assured there will be a grand finale, a slow fade into blackness, and the credits will roll because how can you enjoy any story, no matter how satisfying if you never know the ending.
Each night as I drift into slumber, I continue trying to conjure up the image of the Goo-Goo-Ga-Ga Monster, but each night, I fail. Yet one evening in the (hopefully distant) future, I will not. I will finally grasp his disgustingly slimy hand and exclaim like some star-struck fan “I’ve heard so much about you. I am so pleased to meet you, pleased to meet you at last!”
As some of you know, I have a poetry blog called “Paul’s Poetry Playground. About a week ago, I wrote a post inviting my readers and fellow bloggers to participate in tonight’s Scaretorium. Our next poet accepted that invitation, traveling all the way from Manchester, England to be with us tonight. So please put your hands together for a big first-time Poetorium welcome for John Ormsby…
JOHN: Hi! My name’s John Ormsby and I’m an aspiring poet with a WordPress account: MrOrmsbyAtLarge. Anyway, here are my poems:
The female spider dines alone For reasons chilling to the bone Perhaps more dates would turn out right If she could curb her appetite
Should I love you Take hold of you Our first kiss would be your last Blood pulsating Seeping, sating Taking more than I had asked. This lifeless life out of the sun Exiled from God’s own plan Its beastly feast that’s fit for none Was not how I began. Still, you near me Don’t you fear me? I can pull you down to hell No I’ll leave you Let me grieve you In that place where monsters dwell
Watch Your Tongue
When canny cannibals suggest You call round as a dinner guest You’re right to feel suspicious They’re hoping you’re delicious And if the book next to the pan Is ‘How To Serve Your Fellow Man’ It’s time to quit the venue ‘Cause guess who’s on the menu?
All three of these poems appear on my blog: MrOrmsbyAtLarge.com. Cheers, Mates!
PAUL: Thank you so much, John. And now please welcome a long-time Virtual Poetorium regular to the podium…
My First Halloween
My first Halloween started when I was young so very early in life, all I ever wanted to do is die like in all of those Halloween movies on FREAKY FRIDAY’s all of us wanted to be that way even if they were all boys, mothers, fathers, sisters or brothers for bringing us too, this planet and I just want you to know good luck and have a safe and Happy Halloween one and all.
Kids passing out candy, kids passing out candy and party’s, parties that we go to always invite us there. Great costumes that I didn’t even know who they were judging the costumes, bobbing for apples, playing ghetto games and Halloween masks that become us.
Trick or treat the smell my feet give me something good to eat. Goes out to every doorstep for candy and parties for goodies and pizza. Some wear costumes or make-up.
Later at night those who walked home would seal their doom. You could feel the slash felt real good to your sick descended souls. The shuddered screams of Horror as the blade crosses the thoughts of boxes yet to be opened while you finally get home you’re only tired of giving up the fight.
Looking at your goodies in your goodie bags that you got from each and every door. Some surprises and toys that you can share with your family and friends. It’s past midnight and you can feel the evil lurking at your own door. You can hear the moon scream while all the while you shudder every thought about the THRILLER NIGHTS.
You can go to your room just because the sounds you hear can make it. Watching the screen. While Freddy and Jason take the terror off the screen. And all the while you are watching and you feel something hit you hard.
Freaky Friday just before you change the number on your dial “What” Let me take you home. O.K. Micheal just one thing though I’m not like the other boys? The shrill of thousands screaming sounds and while you both are laughing you walk through the woods and it is very dark you are suddenly paralyzed. HA HA HA HA HA.
I hear the dogs howl, The voices scream, And all the while The pitter patter of little feet Saying Trick-or-treat!
PAUL: Thanks, Michele! John isn’t the only poet to come a long distance to be with us this evening. Please welcome our last month’s feature, trekking in all the way from the great state of Tennessee, Diane Puterbaugh…
It’s Autumn now the sun moves faster slanting through the back door at 7:03 then the kitchen at 11:11 and finally the laundry room at 6:15
Celebrities ride in rockets gravity touts itself as a tourist destination satellites zip across the Corona Borealis- a rush-hour of shooting stars
Orion, raised in perpetual aim toward a target orbiting down range long shot moon shot covid shot
PAUL: Thank you so much, Diane! And now last but not least in the Scaretorium open mic, my cousin and the man who loaned us his time machine for tonight, Dwayne Szlosek…
DWAYNE: I hope you are all doing well and a Happy Halloween to you all! Due to the holiday Halloween, I thought I would give Nine Gun Billy a break this month and give you two Halloween poems on this October evening instead. I hope you all enjoy them both…
Make Me Rich
Open your door. Put a green bottle in the threshold. Just say these words six times and six times more, and just to be sure say it six more times in front of your door:
“I’m not rich, I’m not poor. I welcome all spirits to my front door. Make me rich instead of making me poor. I will let you stay in my home forevermore. I will cast a spell so no one can break or can Make you leave my home. Oh, hear me spirits at my front door, Make me rich instead of making me poor…”
—Dwayne Szlosek (Copyright 3/29/2021)
It Is Halloween Night
You’ll gasp with delight in every bite You make on Halloween night. Because you are a vampire living in a neighborhood, Looking out your window, Seeing those sugar-sucking Little monsters going to every house Looking to pluck that sugar-sweet candy From the bowl and put it into their bag. They will say “Thank you And we will not egg your house.”
On this occasion, As they look up at you, You look down on them and say With a snickering laugh “Thank you, and I will Not bite you tonight, My pint-size little snacks.” And smile with delight, Making them all wonder What does that mean? It means it is Halloween Night…
—Dwayne Szlosek (Copyright 8/23/2021)
Thank you all for coming tonight and have a safe and happy evening!
PAUL: Thanks, Dwayne, that was a lot of fun! As most of you know, Ron Whittle, my regular Poetorium co-host and cohort, is battling the return of his bladder cancer and can’t be with us tonight. But before I close out the show with a poem of my own, I’d like to share one of Ron’s with you. The following poem is the one he read to open the Virtual Poetorium last Halloween…
The end of Autumn howls in the dark of the night When shadows take flight to wrap themselves around tombstones, trees and such A time for the dead to reappear as ghostly mortals to haunt the imaginations of whose who challenge the night near the old town cemetery Lights flicker wind chimes ring out a scary tune and a fog appears out of nowhere An erie sight to see as caskets lay opened behind the veil of night Creaking gates Tomcats screech and church bells ring out a warning at every step taken beware the ghouls behind you and the specters in front of you As doorbells ring and door knockers rap Fear what is on the other side of that door as treaters descend onto sidewalks full of tricksters in full regalia planning to trick you into giving them sweets in exchange for safe passage into the night
The final poem of the evening is one that I wrote many years ago. It is both a 26-word abecedarian and a magic spell. I hope you will enjoy it (and it doesn’t work)…
A Bloody, Creepy, Definitely Evil, Frightening, Ghoulish Halloween Incantation
Today on the blog, I’d like to share with you the following poem which won third place in last year’s Worcester County Poetry Association’s Frank O’Hara Poetry Contest and originally appeared in the 2020 issue of The Worcester Review (hope you enjoy it):
It Is Those Odd Little Shops I Like…
It is those odd little shops I like, the ones you find nestled between abandoned storefronts on side streets in down and out neighborhoods, their signage (if any) sun-bleached to shades of pastel blue and peach, announcing inexplicable names like Solomon’s Spa, Happy Sundries, or Miami Bling Bling Bang Bang (although Florida’s a thousand miles down the coast). There’s a mishmash of mismatched merchandise- a quart can of motor oil, a latex swim cap, a toilet plunger, a 12 oz. bottle of a foreign soft drink – haphazardly displayed behind the large plate glass window almost opaque with grime, an obligatory random houseplant (a gnarled jade tree or a two-foot-high barrel cactus) apparently thriving on dust in the corner. No customers are ever seen on the premises, so you wonder who shops here, fantasize if its all a sham, a front for the mob to launder money, the secret headquarters of the Illuminati or Trilateral Commission. Someday, you think, if you have enough curiosity and courage as you stroll by, you may stop, try the door, jiggle the handle. If it’s not locked, you’ll enter hesitantly, survey the dim interior, the new old stock scattered on shelves, sniff the air and detect a faint not-quite-identifiable scent (spiced cabbage, frankincense, myrrh?), a whiff of the old world or possibly the next. You nod to the gruff wizened man or woman guarding the cash register, their eyes either glaring or averted as if you weren’t even there. Snatch up a Zagnut, a Sky Bar, a tube of medicated muscle rub and attempt a purchase. “Not for you!”, they’ll say in an accent you do not recognize as they stash the item beneath the counter.“Not for you!” they repeat as they wave your money away with an arthritic hand and shoo you out the door. You are the foreigner, the interloper here. This candy bar, this ointment, this store, this side street, this neighborhood is not for you, for who you cannot imagine, but definitely not meant for you or me and that is precisely why I like these odd little shops so much.
—Paul Szlosek (originally published in The Worcester Review)
Wow! It’s hard for me to believe but it’s been over two month since my last post on an invented poetry form, so I guess it’s time for me to do another one. Today I will discuss the Singsangsong, a form I invented which is an eighteen line poem consisting of six stanzas. The lines can be metered or not and have no fixed lengths (the length of each line can vary within the poem). The stanzas alternate between couplets (two lines) in which the first line repeats as the second, and quatrains (four lines) in which all four lines rhyme with each other (a monorhyme). The first line of the quatrain also repeats as the fourth line (and in case of the final quatrain, the third line as well). In other words, the singsangsong’s rhyme scheme can be expressed (with capital letters representing repeated lines) as AA BbbB CC DddD EE FfFF.
Like many of the forms I have created, it”s probably more suited for light verse than serious poetry. Also because of its heavy reliance on repetition, the singsangsong is meant to be read out rather than read on the page, and should be recited in a singsong manner (hence its name) or even sung using a spontaneous, improvised melody. Here are three examples that I wrote which you can use as inspiration if you would like to try writing some of your own:
Prelude to a Panic Attack
I can’t shake this strange sensation. I can’t shake this strange sensation
Something’s off-kilter, out of whack Like a hidden widening crack Or something lost I can’t get back. Something’s off-kilter, out of whack.
What it is I cannot phathom, What it is I cannot phathom.
I got this terrible feeling Like a wound that isn’t healing that sends my unsettled mind reeling. I got this terrible feeling,
Can’t explain it but everything seems so wrong. Can’t explain it but everything seems so wrong.
Some inexplicable event is happening here Which floods my heart with paralyzing fear. Some inexplicable event is happening here… Some inexplicable event is happening here!!!
A Reluctant Departure
So long, my love, goodbye… So long, my love, goodbye!
Now it’s time for me to leave you. No, I’m not trying to deceive you, Wish my absence won’t greatly grieve you Now it’s time for me to leave you.
Arrivederci, sayonara… Arrivederci, sayonara!
Our time together’s something we can only borrow. Being away from you will cause me sorrow, Yet I know I’ll be with you again tomorrow. Our time together’s something we can only borrow….
Au revoir, auf Wiedersehen, Au revoir, auf Wiedersehen…
I must go and we must part. Although it is fracturing my heart, I must go and we must part… I must go and we must part.
Nostalgia For Summers Past
Oh, Summertime doesn’t seem the same, Oh, Summertime doesn’t seem the same.
I remember what it was like when I was a kid and all the groovy fun things that we did, all the bike rides and Slip N Slides we slid. I remember what it was like when I was a kid.
Oh, all those perfect August evenings, Oh, all those perfect August evenings
Under cloudless moonlit skies, Feasting upon ice cream and french fries, Picking blackberries and chasing fireflies Under cloudless moonlit skies.
Summer was always my most treasured season, Summer was always my most treasured season.
I miss my wonderful childhood summers a lot. Back then, they didn’t seem so miserable and hot. I miss my wonderful childhood summers a lot, I miss my wonderful childhood summers a lot!
Please let me know what you think of the singsangsong, and if you should write some of your own, don’t hesitate to share. Thanks so much for reading!
In today’s post, we will be discussing the Kindku, a newly invented poetry form inspired by both traditional Japanese forms (like the haiku and tanka) and Found Poetry. Co-created by Cendrine Marrouat and David Ellis, here are the rules for writing onetaken directly from their website, Auroras & Blossoms @ https://abpositiveart.com :
“The Kindku is a short poem of seven lines. The syllable pattern is 7 / 5 / 7 / 5 / 7 / 5 / 7 or 5 / 7 / 5 / 7 / 5 / 7 / 5.
The Kindku must include seven words that are taken from one specific source — a poem, a book, a newspaper article, etc. In the case of a book or long piece of writing, those words must come from the same page.
Words must be used in the order they were found. Their placement also depends on the line:
Line 1 starts with word 1
Line 2 ends with word 2
Line 3 starts with word 3
Line 4 ends with word 4
Line 5 starts with word 5
Line 6 ends with word 6
Line 7 starts or ends with word 7
Kindku poems can have titles and punctuation. No matter the topic covered, they must sport a positive tone.
Kindku poets are encouraged to credit and link to the inspirations behind their pieces.”
I’d also like to add that I was curious if the seven keywords had to be exactly how they appeared in the original source material or could they be in a modified form. For example, if one of the words was a noun and was plural in the original, could it be singular in your kindku, or if it was a verb in the past tense, are you allowed to use the word in the present tense? I contacted Cendrine, one of the co-inventors of the form, and she told me the words, indeed, have to be exactly as found in the original text (which does make writing a kindku a bit more of a challenge).
Cendrine, also graciously gave me permission to reprint two of the first kindkus ever written (one she wrote, and the other by David, her co-creator) on this blog as examples (I also need to note, if you wish, you can emphasise the seven words taken from the original source material by highlighting them in bold, like Cendrine and David did in the following kindkus, but that is totally optional):
Art Writes Itself
Art writes itself in the heart before other things; intent lingers for a while inviting practice, lost hope to find a new map. on this continent you are the only master.
Like in all my posts about poetic forms, I am also including my own humble efforts at writing some for you to use as models. I must confess that I did find the Kindku at first extremely difficult to write. Surprisingly, it wasn’t sticking to the exact syllable counts or word order that gave me problems, but the primary rule about the tone of the poem. I wouldn’t say that my first two attempts (one based on Robert Frost’s “The Witch of Coos” and the other from “The Fish” by Marianne Moore”) were exactly negative in attitude, but I wouldn’t describe them as positive and upbeat either, just rather neutral and detached in tone. According to the Auroras & Blossoms website, one of the main purposes of the kindku is to be “an invitation to promote kindness, positivity and inspiration through poetry” (as you can see, the word “Kind” is even a part of the form’s name), so I must emphasise that in order to write a true kindku, you should try to follow this rule as closely as you possibly can, even though what one considers positive probably varies from person to person. Hopefully, in these later efforts, I was able to achieve that goal, but I will let you, dear reader, be the judge:
Isn’t it Obvious?
Visible things often change from invisible, fluctuating in between. Like a magic charm, your own sense of perception detects and opens surrounding unseen doorways.
There is a technique I discovered while working on the above kindkus that I feel makes them easier to write which may prove helpful to you too. Instead of randomly deciding on which seven words to use beforehand, just go through your source material, and choose a word to begin. As you finish the first line, scan for a succeeding word that will work in your second as your train of thought develops, and so on and so on, making sure to use the words in the order they appeared in the original work. You will find this way provides flexibility and flow, and you won’t be forced to stick in a predetermined word that just won’t fit in your poem.
If you are like me, you may even find that writing kindkus will become addictive. As you grow more confident in writing them, here is a variant you might like to try using an entire (or partial) line from one of your favorite works (be it a poem, a song, a short, a quotation, etc.) as the source of your seven words. For an example, one of my favorite lines ever from poetry is the final line of “Refrigerator, 1957” by Thomas Lux – “You do not eat that which rips your heart with joy.” Using its last seven words, I came up with the following (which I found quite pleasing):
That unexpected feeling in your stomach (which rips away complacency, thoughts of despair), your heart pounding in pure delight (each thump pulsing with love), is known, dear friends, as “Joy“…
So I hope you enjoyed today’s post on the Kindku, and will try writing some for yourself (it is a wonderful way to pay tribute to some of your favorite poems or other written works). Remember, even if you do find the rules a bit restrictive and intimidating at first, don’t give up. Keep going, and I can almost guarantee you’ll be more than satisfied with your results. And please don’t be shy about sharing them, either with me, or the kind folks at Auroras & Blossoms. I am sure they will be thrilled to see them!
Thinking it would be an appropiate follow-up to my recent post on the Octo, today I decided to write about the Enneao, a poetry form I invented that was directly inspired by it. While the octo consists of 8 lines of 8 syllables, the enneao (which name was derived from the prefix “ennea” meaning nine) has 9 lines with 9 syllables each (however these 9 lines are divided into 3 stanzas of 3 lines apiece). Also like the octo, the first three lines are transposed as the final three lines of the poem, but in this case, the first line becomes the ninth line, the second becomes the eighth, and the third, the seventh. The fourth and sixth lines rhyme together, while the fifth line rhymes with the second (and eighth). The rhyme scheme (with capital letters representing the repeated lines and small letters the ones that rhyme) can be expressed as ABC dbd CBA.
To demonstrate how close the enneao is to the octo, I thought it would be fun to take one of the poems I wrote as a model for the octo, “Our Seemingly Unending Journey”, and rewrite it as enneao.
So first, to refresh your memory, here is the original poem:
Our Seemingly Unending Journey (The Octo Version)
Where we will precisely end up? I don’t think we shall ever know. Seems a long time since we started. In which season? I don’t recall. Perhaps Winter or maybe Fall. Seems a long time since we started, I don’t think we shall ever know where we will precisely end up.
By just adding an extra line, and an extra syllable to each of the pre-existing ones, you can see I was easily able to convert it into an enneao:
Our Seemingly Unending Journey (The Enneao Version)
Just where we will precisely end up? I do not think we shall ever know. Seems like a long time since we started.
In which season? I cannot recall (I do remember there was some snow… so perhaps Winter, or maybe Fall?).
Seems like a long time since we started, I do not think we shall ever know just where we will precisely end up.
And now here is another example of an enneao I wrote:
Yes, There’s a Vacancy…
No one stays at the Ritz anymore, most folks don’t realize it’s still open. This old hotel has seen better days.
Once it was the hippest place in town. People flocked here, but that was back then. Now the owners pray it’d just burn down.
This old hotel has seen better days. Most folks don’t realize it’s still open. No one stays at the Ritz anymore…
I sincerely hope you enjoyed learning about the enneo today, and might even try writing one yourself (and if you do, please share!) Thank you so much for reading as well as your continued support of this blog!
In today’s post, we will talk about the Octo, not to be confused with a host of similar-sounding poetry forms such as the Octameter (a form we discussed previously on this site), the Octain, the Octet, and the Octopoem (which is also often referred to as an Octo). Created by James Neille Northe, the octo is a poem of eight lines consisting of eight syllables apiece (like my own invented form, the streetbeatina). The first three lines of the poem is repeated as the last three, but in reverse order. In other words, line 1 becomes line 8, line 2 becomes line 7, and line 3 reappears as line 6 (the exact words and their order must remain the same, but the punctuation can be altered). Also lines 4 and 5 rhyme together, thus the rhyme scheme can be expressed as ABCddCBA (with the capital letters representing the repeated lines and the small letters the ones that rhyme).
If you would like to try your own hand an writing an octo, here are a couple examples I wrote which you can use as models:
The Agony of Parting From You
You don’t even dare think of me. Dream of good times, as long as your precious life keeps going on. Perhaps we shall meet up again, yet it’s best to forget. Til then, your precious life keeps going on. Dream of good times, as long as you don’t even dare think of me.
Our Seemingly Unending Journey
Where we will precisely end up? I don’t think we shall ever know. Seems a long time since we started. In which season? I don’t recall. Perhaps Winter or maybe Fall. Seems a long time since we started, I don’t think we shall ever know where we will precisely end up.
So what do you think of the octo, dear readers? Like always, I sincerely wish you will try writing one for yourself, and if you do, please don’t hesitate to share. I hope you enjoyed this post, and thank you so much for reading!