Sunday, May 1, 2011

TOLT Poetry Exercises 13, 14 and 15

Okay, these three exercises from The Ode Less Traveled each focus on a different poetic form.  For exercise 13 I had to write some heroic verse (iambic pentameter with AA BB CC DD rhymes, but using enjambments and caesuras, in a modern sort of way).  As for the subject manner, Fry suggested "a short dramatic monologue... in which a young man in police custody, clearly stoned off his head, tries to explain away the half-ounce of cannabis found on his person."  I'm not super proud of how my effort turned out, but here it is nonetheless:

Oh officer, why don't you hear my plea?
In any other country I'd be free!
You locked me up because of pot?  As if
I'm out to sell.  It only took one whiff
Of me for you to start your search.
My lousy luck, it happened by the church!
Would you have thrown me in this cell, if all
Those god damn catholics hadn't left the hall
Exactly during your discovery
Of the ounce of pot I had on me?
I know you're quite devout they say, but had
We been alone that Sunday morn, a tad
More leniency, perhaps?  The USA
Has such a rigid stance on "Mary J"
I'm sure the Europeans'd let me free
Including Rome, the heart of Italy!

Yes, well.  Good practice anyway!  Next up was exercise 14, in which I had to write a villanelle, which is extremely complicated.  It has six stanzas, the first five with three lines, and the last with four.  Each line either ends with an A rhyme or a B rhyme,  but also entire LINES are reused thusly:

Stanza 1: A1 b A2
Stanza 2: a b A1 (where A1 is the entire first line from Stanza 1)
Stanza 3: a b A2 (where A2 is the entire first line from Stanza 1)
Stanza 4: a b A1
Stanza 5: a b A2
Stanza 6: a b A1 A2

Got it?  Fry gave permission to write on any topic, so I chose one of my favorites: sequence.

All things in life are sequence.
No moment stands alone.
Someday this all will make sense.

Maybe thirty-five years hence,
Or when your children are grown.
All things in life are sequence.

You're hired to paint a picket fence
'Round a house with a lawn that's mown.
Someday this all will make sense.

You grow so weary of monthly rents,
You work your fingers to the bone.
All things in life are sequence.

So you save your dollars and your cents,
And buy a house of your very own.
Someday this all will make sense.

You mend and fix and paint the dents
With skills that took ten years to hone.
All things in life are sequence,
Someday this all will make sense.

Exercise 15 required an even MORE complicated poetic form, the sestina.  Now let's see if I can get this right...  There are six stanzas and an ending "envoi" and this form is all about the end words of each line, or "hero" words.  The numbers below represent the hero word at the end of each line (or rich rhymes, or homonyms), which are reused throughout the poem.

Stanza One: 1 2 3 4 5 6
Stanza Two: 6 1 5 2 4 3
Stanza Three: 3 6 4 1 2 5
Stanza Four: 5 3 2 6 1 4
Stanza Five: 4 5 1 3 6 2
Stanza Six: 2 4 6 5 3 1
Envoi: 2-5 / 4-3 / 6-1

Is that complicated enough for you?!  In the book, Fry's father comes up with a mathematical algorithm which explains how the order is arrived at for the hero words.  It's very complicated.  Anyway, for my sestina, I started out by trying to figure out six words that each had multiple meanings, including an old confusion that used to arise from the possessive of my name, "Alec's" and the name of my best friend in high school, "Alex."  Then I started to weave a little story, using Alec and Alex as characters, not me, or my real friend Alex, mind you!  I think I was more focused on the hero words than the meter, so I apologize if this doesn't scan well.

The sit inside the dingy flat,
Alec, Mark and his roommate Alex.
Each of them, at the wall now stares
At the newly hung poster of Karl Marx.
"That's that," says Mark, the the A-L-E pair.
"It'll give this place a revolutionary air!"

But when they move out, who will be the heir
Of this poster, hanging on the wall so flat?
Alex bought it, but he's been known to pare
Down his belongings.  Maybe he'll make it Alec's!
Or Maybe Alec won't want it and it'll be Mark's,
If it leaves this apartment at the top of the stairs.

It's a well-worn path, up the steep, creaky stairs
With the smell of factory smoke thick in the air
And names scrawled on the wall with spray paint marks,
But the rent is cheap, so it's not a bad flat.
Like the poster, the apartment was found by Alex,
Then Mark moved in, an unlikely pair.

Each morning Alex begins to munch on a pear
As he heads out to work, down the steep, creaky stairs.
A few blocks away, he swings by Alec's
And the two go to work in the cold morning air.
Meanwhile Mark sleeps on his back, dead flat.
He used to be a student, but he had bad marks.

They still send him money, those parents of Mark's.
They think he's still in college, that unknowing pair.
Mark drinks gin all day, with tonic that's gone flat
and waits for the sound of Alex coming up the stairs.
When he enters, Mark begins to throw ideas into the air.
But a long day of work has made a weary man of Alex.

If there's a knock at the door, they know that it is Alec's.
He comes to talk to Mark about the philosophy of Marx.
They talk and smoke and talk and smoke, 'til both do fill the air,
While Alex sits there quietly, munching on a pear.
At last a final silence falls, their eyes all in stares
Looking at Karl Marx on the wall, whose ideas spin 'round the flat.

Someday Alex will move and retire, he'll eat his daily pear.
Less certain is the path of Mark's, who'll always live upstairs.
Alec moves in and the fill the air with ideas that just fall flat.

Okay, next weekend we'll take a look at a Rondeau Redoublé, a pathetic Cento I whipped up, and my first proper Haiku!

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