29/30: Every Poem An Elegy, Every Poem An Ars Poetica // In Which I Recall The Flood As Pink Lightning
Today’s exercise: we’re dealing with forms and functions. Elegies and ars poeticas, advertisements and travelogues, etc, etc.
(1.) Examine several different poetic “forms” (outside the “sonnet, villenelle” type, more like, modes or pieces with certain aims or traditions): acrostic, ars poetica, elegy, aphorism, aubade, ballad (see also lullaby and other music-crossover forms), dramatic monologue, epic, epigram, epistle, ode, pastoral, nocturne, carpe diem, etc. Modify these forms or approaches, use your own, current vernacular(!), and use them as jumping off points. Remember to go back and remove the original conceit if it’s getting the the way later.
(2.) Try applying form as a framing element (or another way to juxtapose two ideas and get really dynamite content that works on multiple levels). Try to combine form and content in new and interesting ways, maybe ways that might even clash a little bit. Example exercises: Write an advertisement for the house you grew up in. Write a travelogue to the land of the dead. Write an elegy for Pop Rocks.
(3.) It’s been argued that every poem is an elegy, and/or that every poem is an ars poetica, because the nature of poetry is to commemorate what is already past, and because a poem is the product of the art of poetry and every product somewhat comments on its production, etc etc. What do you think about this? What are you attempting to elegize in any one poem, and how could poems you have written also speak to the act of writing? Double-duty language? In your revision process or when generating some new pieces, reflect on these questions. Challenge what an elegy or an ars poetica should look or sound like, the same way as in the other exercises.
Consider poems like Mary Szybist’s “Invitation” (as a strange kind of elegy, and also as an example of a form from the second exercise here, an ‘invocation’); and the nature of grief.
Alternatively turn the parameters or exercise or rules of your poem into the poem itself.
Part of 30/30 and my own Prompt A Day for National Poetry Month. Image: moonywolf
29/30: In Which I Recall The Floor As Pink Lightning
To the boy who held me
down, said Shh! Shh! It’s okay, and later,
went blind for congenital defect, not
for what he did, I have no complaints.
I’ve looked for alone time, hours, and only
found glib brambles in the mouth
of the off road. I know your apartment
letter but not which floor you live on.
One time I climbed on top of my sweetheart,
scooped in the seat of a white Ford
gritted and worn, and I said Shhhhh
and shit and we have to go get a
backup plan. The sand turned cotton
candy and felt roughly the same
in my teeth. He’s got a Korean wife
he brought back from Korea, these days,
she gets to be in all the pictures.
Every time I ask the elevators
to stop on my floor, I press the buttons
hard, thumbprints in a browned thigh,
skin-memory ghosted in white
like the numbness of my earlobe
once alive. Everything on my body
has been tested.
(This one I had as a title in my notebook for quite some time. Still not sure anything ever lives up to it but I’ve generated quite a bit from this title, and maybe I’ll put together all the little bits I’ve done from it into a better poem that does the title more justice, someday.)