“A poem is the record of a discovery, either the discovery of something in the world, or within one’s self, or perhaps the discovery of something through the juxtaposition of sounds and sense within our language. Our job as poets is to set down the record of those discoveries in such a way that our readers will make the discoveries theirs and will delight in them.”
“Any well-made poem is worth a whole lot more to the world than the person who wrote it.”
“The poem is the device through which the ordinary world is seen in a new way – engaging, compelling, even beautiful.”
“There’s nothing wrong with delighting in what you do. In fact, most of the fun you’ll have as a poet will come about during the process of writing.”
“Keeping a journal is like taking good care of one’s heart.”
“There are those who think poets are more sensitive than other people, more keenly aware of the world, but most of the poets I now are just as oblivious to what’s happening around them as is the rest of the population.”
“I farm a little plot of things to say, with not much frontage on the busy road.”
“I like the poem on the page and not at the podium. I like to address the poem in peace and quiet, not on the edge of a folding chair with a full bladder.”
“In my work, I really try to look at ordinary things quite closely to see if there isn’t a little bit of something special about them. I’m trying to make something as nearly perfect as I can out of words.”
“Valentine’s Day is the poet’s holiday.”
I wish to thank Linda J. Wolfe for introducing me to the octameter poetry form which she posted as a writing prompt on her online Wolff Poetry Literary Magazine. The octameter, originally invented by Shelley A. Cephas, is a 16 line poem consisting of two stanzas of eight lines each. Because of the name, one might expect the form to be written in octameter (lines of eight metrical feet), but instead, each line consists of 5 syllables apiece. The rhyme scheme is rather complex – xxabxbxb cxacxcbb (x representing non-rhyming lines).
I was so intrigued by the form I tried writing one right away and submitted it to Linda’s magazine for a poetry contest she was running. To my utter amazement, it was selected as the winner! The poem, which was not submitted under my own name but my WordPress account of a photoblog that I also run, was published on Linda’s site. However the version that was originally posted, I later discovered, was altered somehow (either by an electronic glitch or editorial choice) with changes to some of the words and line breaks resulting in a violation of the strict 5 syllables per line rule thus disqualifying it as a true octameter. So here is the original version which follows all the rules and can serve as a model if you do decide to try your hand at writing one:
Like a schoolyard fad,
Summer always fades,
leaving you to mourn
the loss of its light.
Please try to ignore
now premature night,
fields shrouded in white.
Your thoughts, dense as lead,
weigh your spirits down.
Your body’s so worn,
it won’t rise from bed.
Old snow forms black scabs.
All songbirds have fled.
Spring, nowhere in sight,
is late (just for spite).
“A good poem is a contribution to reality. The world is never the same once a good poem has been added to it. A good poem helps to change the shape of the universe, helps to extend everyone’s knowledge of himself and the world around him.”
“What I like to do is treat words as a craftsman does his wood or stone or what-have-you, to hew, carve, mold, coil, polish, and plane them into patterns, sequences, sculptures, fugues of sound expressing some lyrical impulse, some spiritual doubt or conviction, some dimly realized truth I must try to reach and realize.”
“The best craftsmanship always leaves holes and gaps… so that something that is not in the poem can creep, crawl, flash or thunder in.”
“I like to think of poetry as statements made on the way to the grave.”
“If you want a definition of poetry, say: Poetry is what makes me laugh or cry or yawn, what makes my toenails twinkle, what makes me want to do this or that or nothing and let it go at that.”
“Poetry is the rhythmic, inevitably narrative, movement from an overclothed blindness to a naked vision that depends in its intensity on the strength of the labour put into the creation of the poetry.”
“Reading one’s own poems aloud is letting the cat out of the bag. You may have always suspected bits of a poem to be overweighted, overviolent, or daft, and then, suddenly, with the poet’s tongue around them, your suspicion is made certain.”
“The best poem is that whose worked-upon unmagical passages come closest, in texture and intensity, to those moments of magical accident.”
“I make one image—though ‘make’ is not the right word; I let, perhaps, an image be ‘made’ emotionally in me and then apply to it what intellectual & critical forces I possess—let it breed another, let that image contradict the first, make, of the third image bred out of the other two together, a fourth contradictory image, and let them all, within my imposed formal limits, conflict.”
“Don’t be too harsh to these poems until they’re typed. I always think typescript lends some sort of certainty: at least, if the things are bad then, they appear to be bad with conviction”
I am so psyched to discover that today is National Clerihew Day!
To celebrate, here is a brand new clerihew I just wrote to mark the occasion:
Edmund Clerihew Bentley
never suspected evidently
the form he invented would have its own day
celebrated in the (good ol’) U.S. of A.
HAPPY NATIONAL CLERIHEW DAY, EVERYONE!!!
I love looking up odd, different and wacky national days. It helps you learn a lot of random information, like the clerihew.
July 10 of each year celebrates National Clerihew Day in the United States.
- Edmund Clerihew Bentley created the whimsical, four-line biographical poem.
- The first line is the name of the poem’s subject, usually a famous person put in an absurd light, or revealing something unknown or spurious about them. The rhyme scheme is AABB, and the rhymes are often forced.
Edmund was a 16-year-old student when he thought up the lines for his first ever clerihew.
- Sir Humphry Davy
He lived in the odiumOf having discovered sodium
HOW TO OBSERVE
On National Clerihew Day, try writing a clerihew or two of your own! Make sure they follow the rules mentioned above.
Post on social media using #NationalClerihewDay.
No doubt about it, the expanding definition poem is probably one of the most obscure and offbeat poetry forms I have ever come across. The first and only time I ever read about it was in a forgotten issue of The American Poetry Review probably sometime in the late 1990s. There doesn’t seem to be a trace of its origin or even existence now anywhere on the internet. It is extremely simple and fun to write, seeming more like a weird writing exercise than an actual poetry form. What makes it so unique is that this form practically writes itself. To begin, all you have to do is choose a single word, any word at all. Then you look up that word in the dictionary and write down its definition. Selecting certain words from that definition, you replace those words with their own definitions. You just keep doing that, substituting words with definitions (editing as much as you like) until you are satisfied with the results. And that’s it, you have written an expanding definition poem!
As an example, here is a poem I wrote expanded from the single word “laundry” when I was asked to give a poetry reading at a local art gallery as part of the opening of a photography exhibit on the colorful clotheslines of Venice, Italy:
(An Expanding Definition Poem)
A particular spot in space,
A place, a building where
Garments, wearing apparel,
Or bedclothes, i.e. sheets,
Blankets, pillowcases, etc.
Are freed from any filthy
Substance such as mud,
Dust, excrement by compounds
Of fat or oil with an alkali
And a transparent, tasteless liquid;
The essence of rain, rivers, lakes
And so on, then liberated from
All moisture or wetness,
By the process of evaporation
Before being made smooth
With pressure applied by
A heated instrument or utensil
Usually composed of the most
Abundant and useful
Of the metallic substances
That cannot be chemically
Interconverted or broken down
Into a simpler particular kind
Of real physical matter
With uniform properties
And possessing a tangible,