Monday, April 25, 2011

TOLT Poetry Exercises 10, 11 and 12

Okay, back to the book!  I'm afraid this entry might be a bit dry, but we need to plow through to get to some of the more exciting stuff!

Exercise 10 was all about rhyming.  For the first part, I was given ten minutes to come up with as many rhymes for "girl" as I could, using the masculine "url" sound for the rhyme.  Here's what I came up with:

  1. pearl
  2. whirl
  3. unfurl
  4. hurl
  5. purl
  6. rural
  7. curl
  8. mural
  9. earl
  10. squirrel

Next, I had ten minutes to come up with rhymes for the feminine ending in "Martyr."  I only did slightly better with this one:

  1. barter
  2. Carter
  3. farter
  4. garter
  5. parter
  6. starter
  7. tarter
  8. smarter
  9. harder
  10. ardour
  11. larder

Mr. Fry said that his rhyming dictionary had 24 rhymes for "girl" and 28 for "martyr" and that if one could get ten that was pretty good, so I felt okay about this.  In the second part of exercise 10 I had to come up with at least twenty words about things I could smell, see or hear in my current location.  When I wrote this I was staying at Claire's old place in Oakland, so here is some of what I came up with:

Next up was exercise 11, which was the only exercise in the book that I feel is poorly designed.  In the section preceding exercise 11, Fry showcases a series of open forms: Terza Rima, Ottava Rima, Rhyme Royal, Ruba'iyat and the Spenserian Stanza.  For each form, he has written a poem IN its form, and then he supplies one other example of each.  The exercise is then to write you OWN poem about the form, using the form.  This is extremely frustrating, because I only just learned about the form and so as I look back to try and figure out what the form is, I'm looking at Fry's example, which is written on the same topic that I'm trying to write upon.  I only made it through the first form before I got extremely frustrated and gave up on the rest of the exercise.

In Terza Rima mode, the rhymes are three
And in the first two tercets you'll use two
First there's ABA, then BCB

Then if you know what you are supposed to do
CD CD will use the final ryhme
Your first section of T.R.'s through!

But this form can repeat time after time
Its interlocking scheme will never end!
I know this poem's not worth a lousy dime
but check out Dante, Terza Rima's best friend!

For exercise 12, I was to finish off a ballad that was begun by Mr. Fry.  He supplied the first two stanzas (in italics below) and then I continued the rest of the story (I'll warn you, it gets a bit gruesome).  This was fun because I didn't have to worry about meter or syllable count, as long as the lines rhymed and it had a nice bounce.  Here goes!

Now gather round and let me tell
The tale of Danny Wise:
And how his sweet wife Annabelle
Did pluck out both his eyes.

And if I tell the story true
And if I tell it clear,
There's not a mortal one of you
Won't shriek in mortal fear!

Now Danny Wise was quite a flirt,
He talked to all the girls.
Lewd comments he would ofter blurt
When passed by golden curls.

Annabelle grew mad with rage
To see her husband acting so.
She felt as though locked in a cage
While he was flitting to and fro.

One night while Danny took repast
His wife snuck to the loo.
And there she got revenge at last
With some super glue.

See, all those years of looking 'round
Had weakened Danny's eyes,
So a pair of glasses were often found
On the face of Mr. Wise.

But lately the specs had not been seen.
For contacts he'd traded them in!
Danny thought the contacts were keen,
So the glasses went in the bin.

And now while Danny ate his fill,
His wife had found his contact case.
The saline water she did spill,
A wicked smile upon her face.

In its place, she poured the glue,
Some in right and left.
Then down the stairs Annabelle flew,
So sneaky and so deft.

That night before Danny went to sleep,
His contacts he took out.
And in the glue they rested deep,
Which Danny knew nothing about.

The morn, you can imagine, my friends,
For Danny was quite a surprise.
When he put one glued-up contact lens
Right onto one of his eyes.

He screamed for help from Annabelle
Who calmly entered the room.
He asked her if she knew what the hell
had happened to her groom!

She gave his arm a tiny pull
And then there was a "pop."
No longer was his socket full,
His eye now sat on finger top.

Dan wailed "I'll make amends!"
He tried to back away.
"You forgot your other contact lens."
He heard his dear wife say.

Now when a sweet young thing walks by,
Old Danny can't remark.
He is a much more faithful guy
Now that he's in the dark!

Okay, that's that.  I'll try to post some more exercises next week!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Ode Less Traveled... finished!

It's national poetry month!  To celebrate it, instead of bringing a bunch of comics to work on during my recent trip out to Portland, Oregon, I brought The Ode Less Traveled by Stephen Fry and a notebook to write in.  After almost TWO YEARS of working my way through this book, I am happy to announce that I finally finished it off today!  Thank goodness for long flights and even longer train rides.

Needless to say, it was one of the most challenging, yet rewarding books I have ever read.  If you are interested in learning more about poetry, I highly recommend it!

There were a total of twenty poetry exercises in the book, and it looks like I left you all hanging back on exercise number nine, so I'll try to post the rest of my examples, a few each week and then I can get back to writing some new limericks!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

My New Favorite Poet

Every week or so, Claire and I will head over to the brand new library which was just built across the river in West Lebannon, New Hampshire.  We usually check out a big stack of  picture books, whichever ones spark our respective fancies, and then we read them out loud together before falling asleep each night.

A few trips ago, I came across a book called The Tale of Custard the Dragon by Ogden Nash.  I mostly picked it out because it had nice dragon illustrations (by Lynn Munsinger) but I found upon reading it, that I was equally charmed by Nash's verse.

The little bio for Nash on the book's dust jacket sang his praises and then some, saying he was a master of "light verse" and humorous poetry.  A quick read of Nash's Wikipedia article confirmed these endorsements.  It turns out that tiny sayings such as "Candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker"  are actually poems of Nash's (that one is titled "Reflections on Ice-Breaking") and the page also showcased some of his many charming limericks and short, funny poems.  Which is to say, EXACTLY the kind of poetry I would like to write.

We looked in the library system for a book of Nash's poetry, but alas, there were none.  But a few months later, Claire and I found ourselves in Montpelier, Vermont, attempting to kill an hour before a movie started.  We headed into the Montpelier library, and found a nice neat stack of Nash books in the poetry section.  I flipped to page after random page, and each poem I found seemed to be winking up at me, as I smiled back down at them.

I ordered The Best of Ogden Nash which arrived a few days ago, and every page has sent me chuckling.  I am charmed by his wit and humor and rhymes, though I think I'm driving Claire nuts, with my constant "Ha ha, Claire!  Listen to this one!"  As per the instruction of The Ode Less Traveled, I'm reading the poems out loud (usually quietly, to myself) and the meter feels just right.  For some reason, I'm able to read these poems much faster than any other I have read before, maybe because of their simplicity and straightforwardness.

It's so great to see an example of someone doing exactly what I want to do with an art form.  This book already has me excited to write more poetry and I know it will continue to do so.  ANYWAY, I'm only on page 23 (of 460!) but I'm so in love with it, I wrote my name on the front endpaper with INK.  It has already earned a place of honor on my shelf of poetry.