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Archive for the ‘Poetry Lessons’ Category

“Can Poetry Matter?”

by Dana Gioia

“1. When poets give public readings, they should spend part of every program reciting other people’s work--preferably poems they admire by writers they do not know personally. Readings should be celebrations of poetry in general, not merely of the featured author’s work.

2. When arts administrators plan public readings, they should avoid the standard subculture format of poetry only. Mix poetry with the other arts, especially music. Plan evenings honoring dead or foreign writers. Combine short critical lectures with poetry performances. Such combinations would attract an audience from beyond the poetry world without compromising quality.

3. Poets need to write prose about poetry more often, more candidly, and more effectively. Poets must recapture the attention of the broader intellectual community by writing for nonspecialist publications. They must also avoid the jargon of contemporary academic criticism and write in a public idiom. Finally, poets must regain the reader’s trust by candidly admitting what they don’t like as well as promoting what they like. Professional courtesy has no place in literary journalism.

4. Poets who compile anthologies–or even reading lists–should be scrupulously honest in including only poems they genuinely admire. Anthologies are poetry’s gateway to the general culture. They should not be used as pork barrels for the creative-writing trade. An art expands its audience by presenting masterpieces, not mediocrity. Anthologies should be compiled to move, delight, and instruct readers, not to flatter the writing teachers who assign books. Poet-anthologists must never trade the Muse’s property for professional favors.

5. Poetry teachers especially at the high school and undergraduate levels, should spend less time on analysis and more on performance. Poetry needs to be liberated from literary criticism. Poems should be memorized, recited, and performed. The sheer joy of the art must be emphasized. The pleasure of performance is what first attracts children to poetry, the sensual excitement of speaking and hearing the words of the poem. Performance was also the teaching technique that kept poetry vital for centuries. Maybe it also holds the key to poetry’s future.

6. Finally poets and arts administrators should use radio to expand the art’s audience. Poetry is an aural medium, and thus ideally suited to radio. A little imaginative programming at the hundreds of college and public-supported radio stations could bring poetry to millions of listeners. Some programming exists, but it is stuck mostly in the standard subculture format of living poets’ reading their own work. Mixing poetry with music on classical and jazz stations or creating innovative talk-radio formats could re-establish a direct relationship between poetry and the general audience.

… watch the ancient, spangle-feathered, unkillable phoenix rise from the ashes.” ~ Dana Gioia

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Haiga

Haiga is a Japanese art form combining haiku, written in calligraphic script, with a painting. The painting may not be an illustration of the poem. Instead, the poem and the painting may be in juxtaposition to one another — so that their contrast may create fuller meaning.

Here is an example by Yosa Buson, an 18th century Japanese poet and painter:

“A little cuckoo
across
a hydrangea”

Buson greatly admired his predecessor in the art of poetry, Matsuo Basho (who made both haiku and haiga, too), and he painted a portrait in his honor.

Buson’s artwork frequently combines poetry and painting. Two years before he died, he painted “Old Pine.” Like so much of his oeuvre, this masterpiece shows his detailed attention to the beauty of Nature.

Contemporary haiga artists continue to combine poetry and image. Somtimes they create word-and-image duets in honor of past poets, as is the case in this picture, which remembers a haiku by Shushiki, a Japanese woman who wrote haiku in the Edo period in the tradition of Basho.

To view some other examples of this creative work, with original poetry and artwork by contemporary poets, visit:

See Haiku Here

Haiga Online

Daily Haiga

Women Poets of Japan

A contemporary haiga by John Hawkhead that I particulary enjoy is this:

“lying together
after the spring thunderstorm
blossom and hailstones”

I encourage you to make your own haiga!

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Sevenlings

I was recently exploring The American Poetry Journal’s website and discovered this wonderful description of sevenlings, a poetic form based on a famous poem by Anna Akhmatova (one of my favorite poets!). Your challenge? Write a poem in this form!

Direct from APJ:

The sevenling is a poem of seven lines inspired by the form of this much translated short verse by Anna Akhmatova (1889 – 1966).
He loved three things alone:
White peacocks, evensong,
Old maps of America.
He hated children crying,
And raspberry jam with his tea,
And womanish hysteria.
… And he married me.
tr. D M Thomas
from Selected Poems (Penguin)
The rules of the sevenling are thus:

The first three lines should contain an element of three – three connected or contrasting statements, or a list of three details, names or possibilities. This can take up all of the three lines or be contained anywhere within them. Then, lines four to six should similarly contain an element of three, connected directly or indirectly or not at all. The seventh line should act as a narrative summary or punchline or as an unusual juxtaposition. There are no set metrical rules, but being such as short form, some rhythm, metre or rhyme is desirable. To give the form a recognisable shape, it should be set out in two stanzas of three lines, with a solitary seventh, last line. Titles are not required. A sevenling should be titled Sevenling followed by the first few words in parentheses The tone of the sevenling should be mysterious, offbeat or disturbing, giving a feeling that only part of the story is being told. The poem should have a certain ambience which invites guesswork from the reader.”

Enjoy!

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Last night, I had the pleasure of attending a one-man dramatic performance by John “Chuck” Chalberg who was impersonating G.K. Chesterton, “the prince of paradox,” a man who wrote the Father Brown mysteries, a biography of Saint Francis, and more than 75 other books; he famously influenced C.S. Lewis. As Chalberg showed, he was dramatic, funny, and meaningful. And tho’ of course I don’t agree with everything Chesterton believed, I can’t deny that Chalberg made him very persuasive!

One of the types of poems that Chesterton delighted in writing was the “clerihew,” and to celebrate the Chesterton evening last night, the audience was challenged to write clerihews, too.

What is a clerihew? Invented by Edward Clerihew Bentley, it is a whimsical biographical poem usually poking fun at famous people. The first line names the person. The poem has a total of four lines and a rhyme scheme of AABB. Anyone can be subjected to clerihew treatment  — architects, economists, and even other poets! Here are some examples from the clerihew inventor himself:

(1)Sir Christopher Wren
Went to dine with some men
He said, “If anyone calls,
Say I’m designing Saint Paul’s.”

(2) John Stuart Mill,
By a mighty effort of will,
Overcame his natural bonhomie
And wrotePrinciples of Economy.

(3)The people of Spain think Cervantes
Equal to half-a-dozen Dantes;
An opinion resented most bitterly
By the people of Italy.

Edward Clerihew Bentley (1905)

Michael Curl wrote a clerihew in honor of the inventor of the clerihew. Here it is:

E. C. Bentley
Mused while he ought to have studied intently;
It was this muse
That inspired clerihews.

So the question that naturally emerges from gaining knowledge of this most recent of poetic forms is  … do you clerihew? Try it!

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My sister Alice is awesome. At the moment, she’s a senior in high school and getting all her college acceptance letters (hooray! I am so proud of you!!) after months of waiting on pins and needles. She’s also a devout Christian, and her youth pastor has asked her to preach to her youth group, the Rebellion. (Yes, the Rebellion, an inner city youth group at Church on the Hill in Vallejo, California.) She’s preaching on the theme made fearless. She called to tell me about it, and I got to encourage her. Women preachers run in our family: I preach, our sister Anne preaches, and now Alice will preach the gospel, too. Soli Deo gloria.

As we talked, Alice shared with me a poem she recently wrote. It is modeled on a poem by José Martí, a 19th century Latin American poet from Cuba who wrote in Spanish. The poem by Martí emphasizes a repeated refrain; likewise, the poem by Alice does, too. Alice’s poem is in Spanish (about which she modestly says, “not perfect Spanish, I wish I was fluent!”), but she has provided an English translation for readers of The Poetry Place. I’ve provided a translation of of José Martí. Spanglish readers, read on!

“Selección de Versos Sencillos: XLIV”
José Martí

Tiene el leopardo un abrigo the leopard has a coat
En su monte seco y pardo: in his mountain dry and dark:
Yo tengo más que el leopardo, I have more than the leopard
Porque tengo un buen amigo. because I have a dear friend.

Duerme, como en un juguete, She sleeps, as if inside a toy,
La mushma en su cojinete the Japanese girl on her cushion
De arce del Japón: yo digo: under a Japanese maple. I say:
“No hay cojín como un amigo.” “there is no cushion like a friend.”

Tiene el conde su abolengo: The count has his ancestry,
Tiene la aurora el mendigo: the dawn has her beggar,
Tiene ala el ave: ¡yo tengo the bird has its wing:  but I have,
Allá en México un amigo! there in Mexico, a friend!

Tiene el señor presidente The respectable old president
Un jardín con una fuente, has a garden with a fountain,
Y un tesoro en oro y trigo: and a treasure of gold and wheat,
Tengo más, tengo un amigo. but I have more: I have a friend.

“Un Dios Quién Me Ama”
Alice Holthuis

Se dice que está contento
con la vida tal como es,
pero tengo un Dios
quién me ama.

Se dice que se vive para el fin
de semana, ¿Por qué no vive para
hoy? Porque tengo un Dios
quién me ama.

Se dice que “Estoy tan enamorado.”
Pero el día siguente, se rompa
el corazón. ¿Puedo decirle
de Dios quién me ama?

Se dice que ha tratado eso antes,
que éste no es su “cosa.”
¿Sabe qué me alegro porque
Dios me ama?

Se dice que no hay esperanza, propósito, no tiene prisa…
Yo he encontrado esperanza, propósito,
y un razón para vivir
en el Dios quién me ama.

“A God Who Loves Me”
Alice Holthuis

You say that you are content
with life as it is,
but I have a God
who loves me.

You say that you live for the weekend,
but why not live for today?
Because I have a God
who loves me.

You say that you’re so in love,
but the next day you break her heart.
Can I tell you about the God
who loves me?

You say you’ve tried that before,
this isn’t your “thing.”
Do you not know that I rejoice
because God loves me?

You say there is no hope, no hurry,
no purpose. I found purpose,
hope, and a reason to live
in the God who loves me.

I appreciated my sister’s poetic work because it really is a well structured, bilingual poetry lesson. Begin with a poem in a language other than English. Translate it. Write your own poem in the language of the poet, following the model the poet has provided, but enlarge or change the meaning, the message, with your own ideas. Then translate your own poem into English. Every poet can and should do this kind of work in order to explore the possibilities of poetic language in translation.

I encourage you to try it!

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