Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Pantoum: The Princess and the Frog

The Princess and the Toad

Toads are less popular than frogs.
Ostriches bury their heads in sand.
The upright abhors toadying
When winter’s hibernation ends.

Ostriches bury their heads in sand.
The archetypical dwell in halls
When winter’s hibernation ends.
The eponymous hero promises.

The archetypical dwell in halls,
Endearing and obnoxious.
The eponymous hero promises.
The princess marries the prince.

Endearing and obnoxious,
His eyes look abnormally large.
The princess marries the prince.
The conceited ass never learns.

His eyes look abnormally large.
There are more to toads than meet the eye.
The conceited ass never learns.
Beauty’s ambivalence drives.

There are more to toads than meet the eye.
The upright abhors toadying.
Beauty’s ambivalence drives.
Toads are less popular than frogs.

If you're not familiar with the pantoum format, it consists (in English) of four lines in which the 2nd and 4th are repeated as the 1st and 3rd in the next verse, and so on.  When you're ready to come to an end, the original 1st and 3rd lines are placed as the 2nd and 4th of the last stanza.  There's a tendency for the pantoum to drum its way along at a fairly stolid pace (although that may depend on the poet) because of the repetitions.  However, the repetitions, coming as they do against new lines, tend to take on new meanings.  
This particular one is based on phrases and lines and words from this morning's Wordways (John Hale) in the ODT: The Ambivalent Amphibian. 

And they all think they’re standing still…

And they all think they’re standing still…
but I know that each and every object, the
29 inch Sanyo television, the
Epson stylus photo 830U, the
CD case inexplicably marked:
38374653gd, the
one remaining Christmas card with a Santa surprised at work-
I know they’re all whizzing round the world at
a speed that is somewhat akin to that of a recently-
discovered comet which may or may not hit the Earth;
I know they’re all under the delusion that
they’re stationary, that the only moving object here is

But when I walk to the kitchen, a walk that’s roughly Eastward,
I am perhaps going faster than they are, or maybe
slower, depending on which direction the earth is spinning.
My calculation is that Eastward is the way we sail, but
I’m open to correction, since I’m also under the
impression that the Southern hemisphere is actually in the North,
though to argue such a rearrangement would set the world aflame.
I’m easily misinformed, however; a stand-up comic’s joke can fool me,
a salesman at a party can sell me nonsense,
a grandmother can spout ancient wisdom and I will rest
happy in my new-found knowledge.

So when I’ve put the jug on, and come back to the lounge,
the jug races ahead of the rest of us;
though facing forwards, I’m walking
backwards, gaining time I lost on my Eastern trip.
Or so I think.   But not being one prone to
contemplation, it’s possible the
29 inch Sanyo television with Dynamic Platinum Flat Screen,
the Epson stylus 830U that prints photo quality reproductions,
the CD case marked 38374653gd as a code to identify its user,
the one left-over Christmas card with a Santa shuffling
two wrapped presents from side to side in an indeliberate manner
all have it over me in the analytical stakes,
and that while they sit they have
the time to discern whether the sun rises in the kitchen,
whether the world rolls like a cricket ball towards a never-to-be-found boundary,
whether the North denies the South’s rightful place,
and whether silent objects, the stuff of still life paintings,
have any ability to think upon their place upon the planet.

This poem was written some time ago, and is only now added to the blog. 

Update, 2014. This poem was accepted for an Australian speculative poetry anthology called Stars Like Sand, edited by Tim Jones and P S Cotter.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

More on Villanelles

I've talked about Villanelles on this blog before, and included at least one example that I haven't written myself. 

I've just come across another, this time by Theodore Roethke.  I was reading this poem, courtesy of the daily Writer's Almanac email, and realised within a stanza or so that it was a Villanelle.   The title is The Waking, and you can read it here - where they have permission to reproduce it.   Here are the first three lines:

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.

The first and last line reappear (not always exactly, which is common in this form) throughout the poem.   Note the paradoxical theme as well - waking to sleep, learning by going where he has to go.  That second idea is something poets often pursue in the course of their writing: writing in order to find out what it is you want to say. 

Incarpaliar rock

Incarpaliar rock

The train cheats through the desert.
My elbow is warmed from its resting on the window.
What a fuss I left behind!
That singing brick, making music to soothe the papoose.

I might as well have a sandwich – so-called –
though the railway doesn’t know what a sandwich is.
Why can’t I sleep on trains?
That would stop me feeling hungry.

It’s worse on a plane – the cramped carpal tunnel.
It’s like your dreams are cheated when you try and sleep
on a plane.
On trains, I doze....

A train has rhythm  - (rhythm,
what a stinker of a word to spell).  Rhythm.  Rhythm.
On trains the rocking motion reminds you of being a papoose
listening to your mother’s music,
warmed up from inside out by her oh-so-familiar voice.

Not the voice that later would say, Get it? Get it??
when plainly I didn’t. 
As though she’d seen what sort of a fool she’d brought up.
What a fuss she’d make over it.

No wonder I’m dreaming of being on a train,
streaming through the desert.
cheating her, somehow. 

This poem, (not autobiographical, by the way), is the result of working out one of the exercises in The Exercise Book, edited by Bill Manhire and others. 

Friday, February 10, 2012

Montezuma’s Revenge

I got The Exercise Book out of the library yesterday - it's edited by Bill Manhire, amongst others.  It's a grab bag of ideas to stimulate your writing, and the poem below is the result of one of these stimulations...this is a first run at it - there may be improved versions still to come.   

Montezuma’s Revenge

One of the blankets I hung out to air
was dry when I first hung it out.
It’s now wet from the spitting rain,
so I’ve hung it in the glasshouse
to dry again.

The tomatoes in the glasshouse are a
very few red; the remainder green.
The blanket is child’s blue, green, red, a
child’s blanket kept to cover the dog’s
cage, where he sleeps at night, in the
kitchen, with the curtains closed, to
shut out the extra light.

We’ve been up in the night the
last three nights, letting the dog out
in the dark at least three times a
night – he’s had the backdoor trots,
(our back door rattles in the wind
as I write), Montezuma’s Revenge –
the runs, the summer complaint,
though for eating what I know not what.

Montezuma’s Revenge: why does a
Dutch a cappella rock-pop group
name itself after a South American
loosening of the guts? 
But they did just such.
They’ve called it quits once –
not the loosening, though most would
call quits (including the dog) on that as
quickly as. Three years ago
they quit, but last December
were touring as if detachment never
happened, their Dutch phizogs
bouyant on a poster for
Montezuma’s Revenge
Strikes Back: an a capella

Google translates the revival:
“It buzzed for a while in the
corridors and it is trueAfter a
number of theatres with the
question of Montezuma was 
again not what we could do the 
heads together. Such a chance will
not let you lie...a fall or winter or 
summer break depression is
now time for a spring cleaning.
That sounds like we have met 
once the broom by the occupation.”

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Lying on one side

Lying on one side

Half my hair heats against the pillow.

One eyelash, linked to the lid, lies caught in linen.

One nostril breathes less freely than its brother.

One cheek is concave under cranial weight.

Half my chin presses to the pillow.

My left ear is flat beyond flattening.

A shoulder has its flagrant arm flung out, angular.

The other arm, not to be outdone by its brother,
finds a home across my wife’s breasts.

An awkward elbow, fitting nowhere, develops pins and needles. 

Fingers fit as finials, some under, some over. 

Some chest rests, with ribs partially crushed.

An arch beneath the bridge from chest to hip
and then the thigh, bastion of the lower half,
curls over, as my joystick, hardened,
postulates the holding up of my frame.

The thigh has that fame, and rolls down towards
the knee locked under the other knee, crossed under,
awkward huggings, impractical when walking.

Ankles, sticklers for the most convenient place to
place themselves, shift shiftily, knobble slips off knobble. 

Toes keep pace with the quietly shifting space:
those toes (unlike the ankles) soft and less defined,
grubs of differing heights set as extremities,
shift around each other, nuzzling in amongst each other,
comfort spaces betwixt between, sensuous with each other,
revelling in their sockless, shoeless freedom.