Cement Shrouds

CONTENT WARNING: POETRY

I used to share a poem on this blog on Sundays, but haven’t done it for ages. Today that will change. Since I’ve been sorting through my old poems in the process of assembling my third poetry book, I’ve been more conscious of my lack of poetry postings. I know poetry seems to offend so many people— I lost a Twitter follower over it. At least, one that I know about who actually told me to quit Tweeting poetry as if I’m going to shape my Twitter life to fit him, ONE follower.

I have been writing quite a bit of minimalist poetry in recent years. Haiku, of course. And Collom lunes. There are two kinds of lunes, both more suitable for school children’s poem writing projects than the haiku, which has a long history and a lot of rules— a haiku is not just counting syllables.

The Collom lune counts words, not syllables, in an 3-5-3 pattern. Learn more about regular lunes and Collom lunes here: http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/poetic-asides/poets/poetic-form-lune

This seems like a lot of introduction for a tiny little poem, doesn’t it? Anyway, here it is. Duck!

Cement Shrouds

the teacher uses
cement shrouds to keep us
lined up proper

 

Shared on Poets United

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How to write like uber-popular author Louis L’Amour

Louis L’Amour was born in 1908 and died in 1988. The heyday of his writing career was in the 1950s and 1960s. But— a few weeks ago I went into WalMart in the book section to find a Louis L’Amour book still available.

What is the secret of Louis L’Amour’s fiction-writing power? Why is he, a writer known for writing Westerns, not the most popular genre today, still on the WalMart buyer’s mind as someone to keep in stock? It may be in the nature of the very first book Louis L’Amour published.  A book of his poetry called Smoke from this Altar.

You see, here is the difference between writing a novel and writing poetry. In a novel there are thousands of words, and a writer who worries overmuch about whether word 27322 is exactly the most powerful and best word for that position doesn’t finish many novels. Words and sentences in a novel can be bland or dull, so long as the action in the novel keeps coming and you find ways to make readers identify with the characters.

In a poem, every word counts. A novel can have unnecessary words, sentences and even paragraphs so long as they don’t interfere with the flow of the story. A poem must not have a single word that does not serve the poetic purpose. The words in a poem must be powerful and evocative. Even the sounds and rhythms of words must be considered in a poem.

So what happens when a poet, or someone who loves and reads poetry, writes a novel? The language gifts of the poet may find their way into the prose, making it more powerful. Here is an example taken from L’Amour’s ‘The Sackett Brand.’

“The trouble was, when I walked out on that point my mind went a-rambling like wild geese down a western sky.

What I looked upon was a sight of lovely country. Right at my feet was the river, a-churning and a-thrashing at least six hundred feet below me, with here and there a deep blue pool. Across the river, and clean to the horizon to the north and east of me, was the finest stand of pine timber this side of the Smokies.

Knobs of craggy rock thrust up, with occasional ridges showing bare spines to the westward where the timber thinned out and the country finally became desert. In front of me, but miles away, a gigantic wall reared up. That wall was at least a thousand feet higher than where I now stood, though this was high ground.”

Lest you think the above example was too descriptive, rest assured that someone gets shot by the end of the page. It still is an action-packed western. It’s just that L’Amour knew how to use language very well, as a result of his work as a poet. So he could through in a good bit of description that could bring the West to life.

If you are curious about the poems of L’Mour, his book ‘Smoke on the Water’ is available and so you can see for yourself. But until you get so far, here is an example poem that tells a Western story.

I have three friends, three faithful friends,
more faithful could not be-
and every night, by the dim firelight,
they come to sit with me.

the first of these is tall and thin
with hollow cheeks, and a toothless grin,
a ghastly tare, and scraggly hair,
and an ugly lump for a chin.

the second of these is short and fat
with beady eyes, like a starving rat-
he was soaked in sin to his oily skin,
and verminous, at that

the crouching one is of ape-like plan,
formed like a beast that resembled man:
a freakish thing, with arms a-swing,
and he was the third of that gruesome clan.

the first I stabbed with a Chinese knife,
and left on the white beach sand,
with his ghastly stare, and blood-soaked hair,
and an out-flung, claw-like hand;

the fat one stole a crumbling crust,
that he wolfed in his swinish way-
so i left him there, with eyes a-glare,
and his head cut of half-way.

we fought to kill, the brute and i,
that the one that lived might eat,
so i killed him too, and made a stew,
and dined on human meat.

and so these three come to visit me,
when without the night winds howl-
the one with the leer, the one with a sneer,
and and one with a brutish scowl;

their lips are dumb, but the three dead come
and cough by the hollow great-
the man that i stabbed, the man that i cut,
and the gruesome thing that i ate.

their lips are sealed, with blood congealed,
but they will not let me be,
and so they haunt, grim, ghastly, and gaunt,
till death shall set me free.

i have three friends, three faithful friends,
more faithful could not be-
and every night, by the dim firelight,
they come to sit with me.

#Micropoetry should be Tweeted

Poetry is dead? No, not really. Not on Twitter, anyway. There is a brave gang of us brave fools who share our shortest poems there— #micropoetry. There are a lot of #haiku. Some of them are actual haiku and others are more #senryu or other short poems.

Micropoetry is a great fit for our age when we have no attention spans and are trained by the FakeNews media to think in slogans and soundbites. Just as the longer poems were a fit for the Victorian age when local newspapers printed poems regularly and people read them.

Asian short poetic forms are a good fit for Twitter poetry and micropoetry. The sijo poem is too long to fit into a Tweet, but some have shared them in graphic form as Twitter poetry. Haiku is a natural. I often do Collom lunes, a poetic form of 3-5-3 words. I checked the hashtag #CollomLune and found others besides myself had used it, especially an antisemitic pro-palestinian fellow who is very persistent in his use of the hashtag.

I have been neglecting my poetic life for a few months and work up determined to do something about that. I looked up Collom lune online again so I could read a few and be inspired. Then I walked into the kitchen and saw a mother cat with a baby. Not actually HER baby, but a baby. And memorialized it in a Collom lune.

Cat Mama

cat sits on

small box. kitten is nursing

from her anyway.

 

Of course, Tweeting my poem, submitting it on Micropoetry.com, and posting it in this blog post mean that I can’t submit the poem to most poetry markets. But since poetry markets don’t pay, and most are aggressively unfriendly to conservative voices, I’m not worried about that. I can always include them in my next poetry book. Which I ought to start writing one of these days now.

Where the Opium Cactus Grows: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0557939135/

Poets market: Eastern Structures

One of the most significant moments of my writing life happened in 1989. After having written poetry intensely for about a year, I finally dared submit my poems to a couple of markets— I had purchased Writer’s Digest’s ‘Poets Market’— and one of them, Struggle: A Magazine of Proletarian Revolutionary Literature, accepted some poems. (I was in my Youthful Marxist Phase at the time.)

I wrote a lot more poems that had ranty Marxist topics and I got published a few more times in Struggle. And I think that I learned a lesson about getting poetry published— try to find a poetry ‘zine you are in synch with and submit regularly.

Currently I discovered a new poetic market in a Facebook group about sijo poetry. It’s called Eastern Structures, and publishes 3 poetic forms: ghazals, sijo and haiku. The editor of Eastern Structures, R. W. Watkins, was seeking out some submissions of sijo for his next edition. The web page of Eastern Structures is: https://sites.google.com/site/nocturnalirispublications/eastern-structures

The ghazal form is explained on the website. ES publishes only 5-7-5 syllable haiku (& senryu)— they are quite firm about that. But they don’t insist on a season word in the haiku, or the strict division between haiku and senryu in the subject matter.

In the Sijo Poetry Facebook group, (https://www.facebook.com/groups/21083466365/), I asked the editor if he had any preferences for sijo in the matter of the number of lines. All the sijo in Eastern Structures #2 were written in 3 long lines, instead of breaking each long line into 2 half lines, leaving what looked like a six line poem.

R. W. Watkins replied: ” I prefer the original three-line version. The six-line version has a tendency to become a six-line thing in itself. I wrote an article on this subject almost two decades ago. Certain people hated me for it; it was an ‘inconvenient truth’.”

So— if you are a sijo poet, I would suggest you submit your sijo to Eastern Structures as poems of 3 long lines. If you have written sijo of 6 lines where the two line-pairs don’t work well as one line, the editor will probably reject it.

If you are new to submitting your poems to a market, here are some tips useful for submitting anywhere:

  • buy a sample copy or two of the ‘zine and read what has been accepted.
  • review descriptions of ghazals, sijo or haiku and see if your poems qualify as these forms.
  • write many, many ghazals, sijo or haiku before submitting, so you can pick the best of many.
  • after completing the first draft, let each poem ‘age’ a month or two before working on the final version.
  • if you think a market is a good fit for your work, don’t take rejection badly. Many poetic markets get hundreds more submissions than they can use. Submit your best new work at a future date.

Have you ever submitted your poems or prose to a publisher? How did it work out for you? Are you still submitting?


Other Post of Interest:

Celebrate: Poem Published! https://myantimatterlife.wordpress.com/2016/03/04/celebrate-poem-published/

Poem Stories: The Cosmos by Han Yongun; Celebrate

Celebrate blog hopThe Cosmos

The cosmos is swaying
in the autumn wind.
Are your petals wings
or wings your petals?
Your soul is a butterfly —
as far as I can see.

The Korean poet Han Yongun (1879-1944) was a Buddhist monk, and also one of the 33 who signed a historic document in 1919 declaring the independence of Korean from Japanese rule.

This poem is a sijo. A sijo is a traditional Korean type of poem, just as haiku and tanka are traditional Japanese types of poems.

How do you understand this poem or other poems? Forget all the English class nonsense where there were ‘right’ answers about the hidden stuff that was in a poem that only an English teacher could work out. A poem is more like an ink-blot test, and there are no right and wrong answers when it comes to what you see in a poem and what you think it means.

Here are some things the poem awoke in me:
I wondered about the word ‘cosmos.’ I looked it up in the dictionary. It can mean an orderly universe. Or it can mean a variety of flower. Is the ‘cosmos’ in this poem the universe, the flower or both? (It makes me wonder what the original word was in the Korean and if it had these two meanings.)

I wonder who the Speaker of the poem is talking to that either has wings or petals. Or both. Are the wings/petals literally. And the soul is a butterfly thing— ‘as far as I can see….’ Interesting.

So, now, your turn. What does the poem mean to you? If you had one question for the poet Han Yongun about the poem, what would it be? Post it in a comment!


This is  a post in the Celebrate the Small Things blog hop.

What am I celebrating? Well, it’s kind of hard these days. I’ve been sick and it’s been very hot and uncomfortable by me. And then I heard the word about the terrorist attack in France killing 77 (Eternal rest grant unto them O Lord.)

But I wrote a good poem last night after I studied the sijo poem above, so that’s something to celebrate. Can’t come out with a new poetry book if I don’t generate enough new material.

And on Lexa Cain’s blog, my friend Robert Mullin’s novella Blood Song was featured on a list of ‘freebies.’ I liked the book so much that I hope some more people will download and read the book.


My email list:

I’ve temporarily taken down the pop-up for my email list. I was hoping to put up a less annoying one but the one I wanted was not compatible with WordPress.com, just WordPress.org. If you want to join my email list without a popup to prompt you, the form is at: http://eepurl.com/FN2hr

Writing a yangjang sijo poem

modkoreanThe yangjang sijo is a modern variant of the standard sijo (pyong sijo), which is a very traditional Korean poetic form. The yangjang sijo was invented by poet Yi Unsang (also spelled Lee Eunsang.)

The standard sijo is written in three lines in Korean. Because the Korean alphabet is quite compact, the poems have awkwardly long lines in English. So the tradition is to divide the three Korean lines in half, making it look like a 6 line poem. For syllable counting purposes, each Korean line is divided into 4 quarter-lines.

Yi Unsang created the yangjang sijo by removing the middle of the three lines of the pyong/standard sijo. This makes the poem more compact and intense.

The first line of a yangjang sijo states and develops the theme. An anti-theme or a twist is given in the second, concluding line. If the first line raises a question, the second line will answer it. Or the second line will be a comment, perhaps a witty one, on the theme raised in the first.

Sijo lines have recommended syllable counts for the quarter-lines of each of the three lines. Yangjang sijo can use these as well. Here is one scheme, taken from Jaihiun Kim’s Modern Korean Verse in Sijo Form:

First line: 3 – 4 – 3 – 4
Second line: 3 – 6  – 4 – 3

A more flexible scheme as recommended by Yi Unsang, creator of yangsang sijo.

First line: 2-5 + 3-6 + 2-5  + 4-6
Second line: 3 + 5-9 + 4-5 + 3-4

So in total the yangjang sijo will have around 27 syllables while the standard sijo has around 44. But as you can see by the syllable counts above, it can vary a bit.

A yangjang sijo by Yi Unsang, taken from Modern Korean Verse in Sijo Form:

I’d Rather Go Blind

I try in vain to see my beloved
she appears only in dreams

If I can see her only with my eyes closed
I’d rather go blind.

Some things to note about Yi Unsang’s poem: First, like most modern sijos, it has a poem title. Also, the English translation is in four lines. Really, though, they are four half lines.

Here are the syllable counts for the quarter-lines of this poem:

4 – 6 – 3 – 4
5 – 6 – 3 – 2

This yangjang sijo is the only one I have been able to find so far. To get more models for study, find classic pyong/standard sijos and remove the middle line to see if they still make a little sense. Like this:

Deep in the mountains we have no calendar
To tell us when the seasons change

When children hunt for warm clothes,
We know it must be winter!

This is from a sijo in ‘Sunset in a Spider Web: Sijo Poetry of Ancient Korean’ by Virginia Olsen Baron. Here is another sijo adapted to yangjang sijo form:

My house is so deep in the woods
That the cuckoo sings in the daytime.

Even the dog, who has forgotten how to bark,
Naps while flowers fall.

The sijo form in general does not restrict the poet as to the subject. It can be about love, nature, politics, industrial espionage, your appliances plotting against you…. anything. You don’t have to make Korean culture and history a part of it. Use your culture, the history of your land, your life.


Atomic Energy is Your Friend

atomic-bombi am a shiny metal
atomic bomb
dropping so gracefully
thru your sky

do you hear my screaming silver streak?
do you see my flash brightening your last world?
do you feel my ardent heat caress you?
and are you sad to die?

i am a shiny metal
atomic bomb
dropping so gracefully
thru your sky

Nissa Annakindt 1990

This is one of my older poems but I still like the idea of getting the atomic bomb’s point of view. The poem doesn’t have any deep political or environmental message. It just is. Any meanings or hidden messages you find in this poem are unintended by the author.

This poem was included in both of my published poetry books, Where the Opium Cactus Grows and surly petunia.

‘surly petunia’ is a mini-ebook, kind of like a chapbook, with 24 poems. It is only 99 cents on Kindle right now. Check it out at https://www.amazon.com/Surly-Petunia-Nissa-Annakindt-ebook/dp/B00NZ96EYE I’m hoping to get some more sales of this poetry book before I publish the next one.