Poetic Structures

Poetic Structures
Wednesday Workshop
21 July 2021

External Structures

            Roman Armies, men and words, were structured, highly structured. Poetic structure can take many forms: external structure, the sonnet, for example, with its 14 lines and its 4+4+3+3 verse form which can also be 4+4+4+2 or 5+5+4, or 5+4+5 or 2 x 7 or 3+3+3+3+2. I have experimented with all of these sonnet forms, and many more, at one stage or another in The Nature of Art. Milton Acorn, the Governor-General’s Poetry Award Winner for poetry, wrote a book called Jackpine Sonnets. His Jackpine Sonnets are wild and beautiful, growing this way and that, totally individual and out of shape, just like wind-swept jackpines of Tara Manor in St. Andrews on the East Coast of New Brunswick, Canada, where I penned some of these poems.

Internal Structures

            In the same way that poems can be given a formal structure, so can lines. Structure can be external, flowing from line to line in an unbroken sequence, or it can be internal, limited to each line. Some of my poems include stanzas where the individual line flows into the stanza and the result is an amalgamation of both the individual and the whole. Individual lines can be structured by syllable count, 10, 11, 12 or more per line. They can also be structured by stress, the stress of normal speech or the stress of forced rhythm. Structures can have Greek or Latin names, English ones too. Or it can be the structure of simple, everyday speech. Fray Luis de León, (1527-1591) wrote that he counted his syllables when he spoke and he wrote prose and poetry the same way he spoke. Syllables, a strange term nowadays, not understood by all. Try the ‘beat’ of music: “You can’t always get what you want” (Rolling Stones) or “All you need is love,” (Beatles). Simple really, but it is all too easy to complicate these concepts.

Comment: Clearly this is a simplification of what can be an intensely scientific and academic subject. We have only to think of the books of rhetoric, with their long lists of Greek names for the different syllables, long and short, and the different line lengths that run from Iambic Pentameter to Hymns Ancient and Modern. However, the purpose of these thoughts is to simplify and not to complicate. More important, perhaps, rhythm, in one form or another is akin to structure and many of us have an innate sense of verbal rhythm, whether we count our syllables on our fingers, as I do, or count them not, as is the modern trend in some poets. Think daisy petals: she loves me, she loves me not, I count them, I count them not. Yet still the rhythm is there and that, in many ways, is one of the key secrets of our unique poetic voices: we all speak and write in different fashions and that is one of the things that makes us unique.

Hollyhocks

Hollyhocks

I have published three books this year and I am working on a fourth and a fifth. Somehow, the blog, like these hollyhocks, seems ephemeral. It will not out last me, though its seedlings, children and grandchildren, may creep into my printed books and remain a lot longer. These, incidentally, are the children and grandchildren of the first hollyhock grown in the garden. I think a little bird must have dropped it about five years ago. Now it has seeded and reseeded itself. Reseed, yes — recede, we hope not. They are so tall we can sit in the kitchen and they are at eye level with us.

And don’t forget the yucca. He was $120 in the local garden store. Reduced to half price ($60). Then to $50. “We are in the wrong zone for yuccas,” I told the salesman. “Yours for $20, then. He probably won’t last.” That was 32 years ago. And baby, just look at that yucca now.

He hides behind the hollyhocks, but he doesn’t live in their shade. Not by any means. There are so many things to see and do. The blog seems to have drifted by a little bit. I know it’s lonely, but I haven’t forgotten it, as the hollyhocks haven’t forgotten the yucca and vice versa. It’s just that it’s summertime and things are busy and well, I guess I’ll try to do a little bit better. I promise!

Ginger Marcinkowski

Spotify
Don’t forget to scroll down to appropriate audio episode.

Ginger Marcinkowski
(KIRA, August, 2019)

“My walk each morning, rain or shine,
feathers my black galoshes with dewy grass.
There I would ramble through gated doors
that kept out the world and sealed in
my pen’s work for that day. 

I often found myself sidetracked,
exploring paths that led through flowerbeds,
and up to my favorite sculptures.
I paused to watch my fellow artists
as they focused on chosen subjects
unaware that I was eavesdropping. 

Then silently, I would steal away
along the well-trod path to my studio,
pausing long enough to greet the llamas
and baby goats. If I listen carefully
I can still hear their bleating. 

In wonder, every day, I climbed the steps
of wood that led to my studio, opened
the door, and turned to breathe in my good
fortune. “What a blessed woman you are,”
I would tell myself before taking my place
for hours on end at my desk, each moment,
each stroke of the pen, each letter added
to the growing lines on the page, a gift.”

Comment: I have been writing poems about the KIRA artists as part of my next poetry book, The Nature of Art and the Art of Nature. This is my KIRA2021 project. The Nature of Art is a revision and expansion of a poetry manuscript of the same name that placed second in the WFNB’s Alfred G. Bailey Award (2020). This poem appears in the section entitled Impressions of KIRA Artists. Currently this section contains eleven poems, but it is still under construction. This poem is interesting in that it is a ‘found’ poem, in the sense that Ginger wrote these words to me in an e-mail. I removed them, reordered them, polished them, and sent her back her own poem in her own words. What fun! This should help explain the use of inverted commas at beginning and end, for this poem is spoken in Ginger’s own words.

Saturday at KIRA

Early morning sun through mist.

Scroll down for the text of the selected poem.

Saturday at KIRA

Visitors Day at KIRA and the artists work in their studios showing their methods and techniques to visitors from the local community and further afield. The mist disappears very quickly and we are left with sunshine and warmth. A good day for sitting out on the porch and waiting for guests.

View from my book table.

I sit behind my table on the porch at KIRA, making notes in my journal and waiting for the advent of guests. I have no plans other than to sit ad write. If people arrive and wish to engage me in conversation, that will be great. It will be even better if they pick up a book, open it, choose a poem or a passage of prose, and allow me to read it to them. They can follow the text while I read. When people do arrive, they look first at the covers of the saddle-stitch books and chapbooks. Many comment on the wonderful pencil sketches that Geoff provided for them. A couple are drawn to the bright colors and cartoons of the larger books. Title and cover combine together to persuade each visitor to pickup a book and start to read it.

Visitor’s view of the book table.

This is more or less what guests and visitors see when they approach the book table. You have to imagine me, the poet, sitting behind that table, masked if I do not know the guests, unmasked and at a safe distance if I do. I find it difficult to read out loud with the mask on. It is much easier, mask off.

I promised one guest, alas, I have forgotten her name, that I would post a poem and a voice recording of it, here on my blog, so that she and her friends could hear me read. This is the poem I read to her. I do hope she is able to locate my blog and follow this up. Here is the poem, from Sun and Moon. Poems from Oaxaca.

Santo Domingo
Worshipping Gaia before the great altar
in Santo Domingo

If the goddess is not carried in your heart
like a warm loaf in a paper bag beneath your shirt
you will never discover her hiding place

she does not sip ambrosia from these golden flowers
nor does she climb this vine to her heavenly throne
nor does she sit on this ceiling frowning down

in spite of the sunshine trapped in all this gold
the church is cold and overwhelming
tourists come with cameras not the people with their prayers

my only warmth and comfort
not in this god who bids the lily gilded
but in that quieter voice that speaks within me

and brings me light amidst all this darkness
and brings me poverty amidst all this wealth

I will post some of the other poems that I read on the porch over the next few days. Meanwhile, be patient with me. I feel that I am all off-balance, trapped between two worlds, part of me is away in KIRA and part of me is home in Island View. I find it difficult to work on my KIRA2021 project, a rewrite of The Nature of Art and the Art of Nature. This manuscript placed second in the WFNB’s Alfred G. Bailey poetry award in 2020. Since then, I have been revising it and adding to it, with KIRA2021 in mind. However, creating and posting seem to be two conflicting skills right now. The need to express (open blogging) and the need to create (secretive and non-sharing). I hope this helps to explain my irregular postings and my absences from this blog.

Garden of Memories

Spotify
Don’t forget to scroll down to appropriate audio episode.

Garden of Memories

Last year, a star as red as the warrior planet,
fell down the chimney and covered the poinsettia
with its annual story of glorious, gory leaves.

The cat and the dog stood shoulder to shoulder
to deliver new versions of their Christmas broadsides.
Ghosts danced on the snow bank, slender and bright.

This year an obsidian knife, chipped from black,
volcanic glass hacks into my mind, carving it
in two. Snowflakes invade its split personality.

I tread thin ice that burns with a glacial fire.
Incarcerated birds sing deep in my rib cage.
All my lost toys lie buried beneath fresh snow.

Tears freeze in my eyes, drip from my eyelashes.
They shoot towards earth and descend as stars.
A sunflower grows from my rag-and-bone body.

If I sit here in silence will the world, like a garden
growing wild, go on without me? I pop the question
but spring blossoms seal their lips, refuse to reply.

Monet at Giverny

Spotify
Remember to scroll down to the correct audio episode.

Monet at Giverny

Day’s executioner stripes evening
across the sacrificed horizon.
In blood he was born, in earth
will he rest his flesh, turning it into bread.
Purple this imperial wine streaming with day’s
death, ruffling these troubled waters.

Green footprints, the lily pads.
A halo, this drowned man’s beard,
liquescent. Like the gods, he dreamed
he walked dry on water.
Stepping stones, these goldfish
flowering beneath this thin line of cloud.

Maples flash ruby thoughts that ripple
outwards, waves cast upon a liquid sky
towards what farther shores?

Wisteria blesses him with its curly blue locks.
Narcissus, he clads himself in an abyss of lilies,
imperial, his reflection, and imperiled.
Slowly he slides to sleep, merging into his dream:
a vaulted cathedral, his earthbound ribs,
the blood space immaculate.

His lily pond turns into a fallen mirror,
shattering as it ripples in the breeze.
Shards of clouds flare like flames. Fractured
fish, red and gold, shelter beneath white lilies.

Night and day, sun and moon, leapfrog
over tranquil water. Something always survives:
sepia tints, old photos, dreaming on and on.

Click on the link below to peruse my books for sale.

Books for Sale

Hollyhock

Spotify

Remember to scroll down to the correct audio episode.

Still Life with Hollyhock
for
Geoff Slater
the inventor of line painting

How do you frame this beaver pond,
those paths, those woods? How do you
know what to leave, what to choose?
Where does light begin and darkness end?

Up and down: two dimensions. Easy.
But where does depth come from?
Or the tactility, the energy, water’s
flow, that rush of breathless movement
that transcends the painting’s stillness?

So many questions, so few answers.
The hollyhock that blooms in my kitchen
is not a real hollyhock. It is the painting
of a photo of a genuine flower that once
upon a time flourished in my garden.

A still life, then, a nature morte, a dead
nature, portrayed in paint and hung alive,
on display in this coffin’s wooden frame.

Click on the link below to peruse my books for sale.

Books for Sale


International Book Day

23 April 1616 > 23 April 2021
International Book Day.

Today we celebrate the anniversary of the deaths of three great writers: el Inca Garcilasso de la Vega (Comentarios Reales, Peru), William Shakespeare (poetry and plays, England), and Miguel de Cervantes (Don Quixote and so much more, Spain).

Our hibiscus decided to issue its first official blossom of the year, just to help us all celebrate this day.

Nochebuena

IMG0034_1.jpg
Poinsettia is called nochebuena in Oaxaca.
It also means ‘Christmas Eve’ in Spanish.

Spotify:
Remember to scroll down to the appropriate audio episode.

Nochebuena

Nochebuena / Christmas Eve:
last year, a star fell down the chimney
and landed on the poinsettia.
The cat and the dog stood up to deliver
new versions of their Christmas vision.
Birch bark: ghosts on the snow bank turned
white in the moonlight as they danced,
so slender and so bright.

This year an obsidian knife
hacks through my mind
slicing it into two uneven pieces.
Snowflakes invade its split personality.
Thin ice spreads across glacial fires.
Incarcerated birds sing deep in my rib cage.
A child’s world: with its lost toys lies
buried beneath fresh snow.

Tears freeze in my eyes,
drip from my eyelashes,
and fall to the earth as stars.
Soon I will be an enormous sunflower,
trapped in this wet clay rag of a body.

If I sit here in silence
will the world, like a garden
growing wild, go on without me?
The flowers in my yard close
their mouths and refuse to answer.