Monday, August 18, 2014

The Joy of "The Making Of A Poem: A Norton Anthology of Poetic Forms"

Post by Liz Mastin
With the overwhelming prevalence of free verse today, I believe many poets have so distanced themselves from “formal” poetry, that they assume structured poetry is just not “today.”They often imagine it is old-fashioned, outdated and even boring. But this is not true! Poetry forms can add a delightful quirkiness and freshness to “today’s” poetry. Forms give a poem an almost “physical” quality and they are an enjoyable challenge.

I must plug a wonderful book called “The making Of A Poem: A Norton Anthology of Poetic Forms.” To me, it is invaluable, so easy to read and understand, with an interesting variety of the most used poetic forms. A short history and instructions are given for each form type, along with great examples of poems written in each of those forms. Some of the example poems in the book are old and some are new, but they are all good, and all in all, make for a very enjoyable and educational study.

The forms featured in this excellent book are The Villanelle, The Sestina, The Pantoum, The Sonnet, The Ballad, Blank Verse, The Heroic Couplet, The Stanza, The Elegy, The Pastoral, The Ode and Open Forms.

As a reminder of how enjoyable formal poems can be, I thought I’d jot down portions of some of the wide variety of poems to be found in this book:

The Villanelle
The Waking
By Theodore Roethke

I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.
I learn by going where I have to go.

We think by feeling. What is there to know?
I hear my being dance from ear to ear.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

The Sestina
The Book of Yolek
By Anthony Hecht

The dowsed coals fume and hiss after your meal
Of grilled trout, and you saunter off for a walk
Down the fern trail, it doesn’t matter where to,
Just so you’re weeks and worlds away from home,
And among midsummer hills have set up camp
In the deep bronze glories of declining day.

You remember, peacefully, an earlier day
In childhood, remember a quite specific meal:
A corn roast and bonfire in summer camp.
That summer you got lost on a nature Walk;
More than you dared admit, you thought of home;
No one else knows where the mind wanders to.

The Pantoum
Parents’ Pantoum
By Carolyn Kizwer

Where did these enormous children come from,
More ladylike than we have ever been?
Some of ours look older than we feel.
How did they appear in their long dresses

More ladylike than we have ever been?
But they moan about their aging more than we do,
In their heels and long black dresses.
They say they admire our youthful spontaneity.

The Sonnet
To My Mother
By George Barker

Most near, most dear, most loved and most far,
Under the window where I often found her
Sitting as huge as Asia, seismic with laughter,
Gin and chicken helpless in her Irish hand,
Irresistible as Rabelais, but most tender for
The lame dogs and hurt birds that surround her –
She is a procession no one can follow after
But be like a little dog following a brass band.

The Ballad
The Tale of Custard the Dragon
By Ogden Nash

Belinda lived in a little white house,
With a little black kitten and a little gray mouse,
And a little yellow dog and a little red wagon,
And a realio, trulio, little pet dragon.

It would take up much space to include short examples from all the forms in the book, but here is a Sestina I wrote about “The Making Of A Poem.”

Norton’s Poetic Forms Anthology
By Liz Mastin

I’m sitting by the sea
With my forms anthology
And I hate to put it down.
Though it’s late, think I’ll go swimming.
Remember one thing should I drown,
“Bury this book with me!”

Bury this book with me
If they drag me from the sea,
I don’t mind that I should drown:
Save my forms anthology!
I’m almost happy I went swimming;
Please be glad and don’t be down.

And when they lower me down,
Place the book atop of me
And be careful when you’re swimming
In the dangerous riptide sea.
Guard your anthology!
Though I’m sure that you won’t drown.

In a place where no one drowns,
Charming heaven of angel down
With my great anthology
Resting gently right on me,
I’ll enjoy a glassy sea
Where a sign says – “No Swimming!”

It’s just fine I can’t go swimming,
Only once I care to drown.
I only wish to see the sea;
No more struggling going down,

Yes dry and safe with me
In a different kind of sea,
“In” my forms anthology

I’ll be swimming.

Liz Mastin Bio                                                          
Liz Mastin is a poet who lives in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho during the summer and Bullhead City, Arizona in winter. She thrives on the study of the great poets, their biographies, the schools of poetry to which they adhered, and the poetic conventions of the times in which they lived.

While she enjoys free verse as well as metrical poetry, her main interest lies in prosody. She notices that most of the enduring poems are those we can remember and recite. Liz enjoys poetry forms such as the sonnet, the sestina, the couplet, blank verse, simple quatrains, etc. and she hopes to see modern poets regain interest in studied metrical poetry.

Liz is currently putting together her first collection of poems which should be completed this winter. The poems are a mixture of metrical and free verse poems.

No comments: