Forcing Bulbs in Winter

Hi Friends,
Well the poetry-form-du-jour is blank verse! Is this what happens when you read a poem that makes zero sense and you stare blankly at the page? Surprisingly, no. Blank verse is actually one of the most common forms of writing found in English literature.

Blank verse is writing that is written in unrhymed iambic pentameter. That is, all of the lines are ten syllables long, composed of 5 pairs of syllables, the first unstressed and the second stressed. Now, are you stressed? Because I get stressed talking about stresses. Don’t be. It really is just a way to give speech a certain formality and rhythm. According to an interview given on NPR, poet Edward Hirsch notes that it’s very practical since 10 syllables is about the number that can be enunciated by our English-speaking lungs in one breath. Hirsch notes that most of the famous speeches in Shakespeare’s plays are written in blank verse, and much of contemporary American poetry is as well.

Forcing Bulbs in Winter
by Julie Sumner

At the time of their rediscovery,
the once-plump hyacinth bulbs had languished
forgotten on the shelf in the basement.
Fingering their hollow, papery husks,
I upbraided my distractible soul,
wondered if they had a leaf of life left
after a long year of silent neglect.

Now they daily preach their silent sermon,
humbly at rest in a dish of pebbles,
tap water and the mincing winter sun
have become their heavenly abundance,
tight green buds laugh at my inconsistence.

A Name is a Kind of Poem

This week’s featured poetry form is a catalogue poem. It’s just what it sounds like–a list of things. It’s one of the oldest recorded forms of poetry and I guess that’s because we are always forgetting and having to write things down! According to Ed Hirsch in The Poet’s Glossary, it is a form that is always considered a kind of praise poem, a hymn to the “diversity and unity” of our surroundings. Here is a loose example of this in today’s offering….

A Name is a Kind of Poem
by Julie Sumner

Christopher Columbus, cumulonimbus,
Blue nile lily, also called agapanthus,
Fairhope and Constantinople,
Loblolly pines, porcupines, the San Andreas fault line;
Carolina wren and Eastern towhee,
Cupid, Psyche, Jacques Cousteau, and Opie’s Aunt Bea,
Lydia, who walks the wolfhound down your street.

Specificity breeds a dearness unknown
To generality’s blurred reflection.

The thing itself
Gains a life all its own,
And in its dying
Can cut you to the bone.

The Lock

Sometimes, it’s the most random things that can spark a poem. This week’s poem came from contemplating the lock I use to lock up my stuff at the gym: it’s pretty much the same as the kind I used in high school. No fancy screens or batteries–just an old-school steel lock that requires me to memorize the combination. Strange how some things have not changed….

This week’s poem is in the form of a pantoum. This form of poem is from Malaysia, and was introduced to Western writers in the nineteenth century. It has a very definite repetition of lines, and seems to circle back on itself. The lines themselves are between eight and twelve syllables, and don’t have to rhyme, but I thought it would be fun if they did. Because of the repetition and circular nature of the form, it’s a great form for writing about the past.

The Lock
by Julie Sumner

Its persistent existence is miraculous:
Die cast steel–ordinary, weighty, pendulous.
Have we forgotten how to remember?
The lock demands we memorize its numbers.

Die cast steel–ordinary, weighty, pendulous,
No pixels or messages to remind us–
The lock demands we memorize its numbers,
Secret code, known by heart, unlocks the tumblers.

No pixels or messages to remind us–
Its persistent existence is miraculous,
Secret code, known by heart, unlocks the tumblers.
Have we forgotten how to remember?

It’s About Time

Hi Friends,
Happy New Year! This week’s poem is an example of free verse, which happens to be my preference for writing in many situations. Free verse has no specific rhyme scheme, and the rhythm of the lines mirrors the cadence of everyday speech. According to poet Edward Hirsch in The Poet’s Glossary, it’s a “poetry of organic rhythms, of deliberate irregularity, improvisatory delight.” Hirsch goes on to note that it is written in a certain format to appear visually different from prose, and according to poet Jorge Luis Borges, inform the reader that what is about to be read “‘is not information or reasoning, but emotion.’”

This poem is about time and what we do with it, which I think about a lot as the New Year rolls forward.

It’s About Time
by Julie Sumner

We speak of time as if it’s a thing we own–
Something to be kept, spared, borrowed,
Moments like dollar bills to be wasted or stolen.

We forget over time–
Clocks everywhere counting down unnoticed–
That time is immemorial as stone and
We are the ones living life on loan.