As a music student, I was introduced to the concept of musical forms such as the sonata, fugue, or symphony. My teacher felt that a study of form across disciplines plus a study of how to listen would provide a deep education for anyone who pursued that path. I became a better listener of music when I knew more about form.
Fast forward nearly 50 years and I am back in the study of form. This time poetic form. My task this week was to write a poem in a form created by Marilyn Singer called a Reverso. You can read about the form and her poetry here. I have struggled to write such a poem, but I did learn a practice technique that helped me.
First, draft your thoughts.
Next, write words, phrases, or sentences on strips of paper (1 line of poetry per strip).
Then, play with the strips. Change the sequence or tear it in half to make two lines. Discard unnecessary language. Add necessary language or revised language.
Finally, decide on the order that becomes the poem you want to write.
My poem-draft is too rough to share here, but below is a picture of my workspace. This practice technique took away some of the frustration and fear associated with writing a reverso. Maybe it will help you or your students with their poetry!
I’m taking a short course with Georgia Heard on poetic forms. Last night we talked about forms of poetry that are created by borrowing words from other writers. Some in the class said they felt like they were cheating by borrowing, but I found it really fun and stimulating. T.S. Eliot said, “Good writers borrow; great writers steal.” I didn’t know that he borrowed heavily from other writers when he wrote “The Wasteland.”
For my practice, I turned to one of my new favorite books, WORLD OF WONDERS, by Aimee Nezhukumatathil. Her writing about natural phenomena is gorgeous. I was sure I would find words to borrow there.
Here is my FOUND POEM after “Firefly” in WORLD OF WONDERS:
The first glimmer-pop of firefly light, electric dress, a small flame sputtering erratic flashes of light through the navy blue pause just moments after twilight.
Such a degree of tenderness the quiet reassurance their light rhythm recalibrates sending out their love-light signals a lime glow to the summer night air.