Tag Archives: semi-formal verse

Calling the Poem: 5. ‘Of Muses’

When thoughts, fantastic dreams, bright images,
invade you from inside without relief –
thoughts that aren’t yours, nor come from the outside –
then, heedless of the real world’s scrimmages,
you can’t ignore, forget, refute, refuse.
Forces not you, that ride you and bestride,
when viewed with self-delusion, self-belief,
must therefore be some spirit, god, or muse.

*****

This is the fifth of the 15 poems in the ‘Calling the Poem’ series, published as a Snakeskin e-chapbook. From the awareness of the creative mood to the valuing of an idea, to the attempt at expression, to the crafting and polishing of the item, there are several stages in the creation of a piece of art. I am trying to lay out my sense of this process, and of how any individual can choose to develop it, and produce more and better art.

It’s my belief that many, many people could be the most amazing poets or other creators, but they don’t go down that path because they choose not to pay attention to the stray thoughts and images that come their way. For those of us who try to follow and develop the images, there is always the question of where they come from: from within us, or from the outside? I think humanity’s self-understanding is very primitive so far, and that there are layers under layers still to be peeled back. All our answers are best guesses, working hypotheses, delusions… but they are all we have, and valid and valuable when seen in that light.

Most of the poems in this series are semi-formal – they have enough rhythm and rhyme to facilitate their recitation, but lack the formal structures, the appropriate patterns, that can be aspired to. To me the recitation is key, because poetry is auditory in nature, in its origin, at its heart. It is almost as old as singing, which is in turn almost as old as rhythmic babbling and drumming. The poem printed on the page is not the poem itself, it needs to be read (aloud, or in your mind’s voice) in order to become the poem.

So I don’t have strong opinions on whether to capitalise the first letter of each line of a poem: it doesn’t impact the sound. But if it can help with the reading and comprehension – by not capitalising and thereby showing the flow of the sentence, or by capitalising in order to differentiate from spillover part-lines and thereby retaining the metre or rhythm – then an appropriate choice should be made. The version of this work that I am using is all first-letter capitalised. I’ve modified that today because I felt the poem was more comprehensible when the individual sentences were more clearly marked; the issue isn’t otherwise important.

And, no, I’m not impressed with concrete poems or shape poems as verse, although they can be excellent as jokes and witticisms.

Photo of “Henri Matisse – Dance [1910]” by Gandalf’s Gallery is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Poem: ‘Poems Like Motes of Dust’

Like tiny midges, poems in the air
were unseen all my life, presence unclear,
occasionally one would land, bite, sting…
I’d be aware
a poem had come, was singing by my ear.
Now everything, literally every thing,

is a poem: a car, a dog, a glass,
a chair, a seagull, every blade of grass,
all people and each thing they pass.
Now I see swarms, millions of flies,
or like light’s dots of darkness thickening as day dies,

the poems are visible in the air around,
a pointillist canvas, every dot
a poem in itself, an image, word, rhyme, thought,
or like neutrinos streaming from the sun,
billions a second passing with no sound
unseen, unfelt, through everyone,
the poetry of existence, raw, untaught.

The Universe: a cloud of dust that hangs and floats,
dust like a drive of cattle on the range,
or when you fill a barn with dusty motes
by sudden action, and a sunbeam’s slice;
or as Sumerian gods convene, converse,
swarming like flies around burnt sacrifice,

summoned by smell of sacrificial meal…
was it my sacrifices made this change,
made poems visible like motes of dust?
Is this the Universe’s thrust?
Hide them, and then reveal?
For all the poems make one UniVerse.

This is the fourth of a series of five poems recently published in The Brazen Head. It is semi-formal: written in iambics with lines of uneven length, fully rhymed but not to any pattern. My model for this style of verse is Matthew Arnold’s ‘A Summer Night‘, a poem that I have loved and recited since high school. (We can leave for another time the debate about whether his poem should have stopped as originally at the final question mark, or whether the years-later addition of the subsequent lines is an improvement.)

Smoky Dusty Light Rays Texture” by Sprogz is marked with CC BY-NC 2.0.

Poem: ‘Hunting’

The Osprey splashes, misses, and flies by
skimming the waves, rising, five yards away.
What’s its success rate? Does it care?
The Stingray searches, gliding, mouth to sand
five yards beyond the shallows where I stand.
Its Roomba-work’s its own affair.
The water splishes, burbles random rhythms.
The sun confuses, over-hot, then hidden.
The Oystercatcher calls. The Osprey rocks
on its branch in a casuarina,
flaps down-beach to another.
Along the margins of the shore, alone, each stalks.
They hunt for food
and I hunt them for what they mean, or could.

A semi-formal poem: rhymes and slant rhymes, iambic rhythm, but little structure beyond that. I was hunting for a poem about hunting for a poem, and, well, you don’t catch everything you want every time…

Published recently in the British periodical ‘Obsessed With Pipework‘ – thank you, Charles Johnson!

“Osprey landing_9566” by Don Johnson 395 is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

Poem: ‘Love Poetry’

All the love expressed in poems overtly
Seems so pure they can be taught in schools,
Yet reading lives of all these divine fools
You realise that the impulses
That drove them to express themselves in verse
Include love that repulses
(Differing by era), and was forbidden:
Incest, same sex, underage, interracial,
Interfaith, cross-generational,
BDSM – even a pet, a dog.
Scandalous, and kept hidden,
At worst horrific and at best uncouth –
Yet all identity is just a fog
Of “You, my love”, expressed covertly.
And kids in school are never taught the truth.

Seriously, no one seems to pay any attention to the realities behind the love poetry that is taught and studied in schools. But much of the reason for the admired poem being so forceful is often that the poet was conflicted about being able to express their love at all – gay in a time of homosexual suppression is the one most easily identified now (in Shakespeare, Byron, etc, just as there are similar non-poetic gay passages in the Bible), but any strong but forbidden desire is capable of producing fine art.

This poem is not really formal. It has rhyme and meter but it is unstructured. Semi-formal, then, like much of the best work of Arnold and Eliot. It was published in that edgy, carefree journal the Rat’s Ass Review – thanks, Rick Bates!

“Love Poetry” by Kez Price is licensed under CC BY 2.0