Sunday, September 26, 2010

Write a poem...

... of 5 lines where the middle line acts as a pivot, i.e. it can be read in conjunction with the first two lines, or it can be read as the line that leads into the final two. Here are a couple of examples of mine:

What it might be called

Two women
are sharing a beach picnic
in January
I breathe in the cold sea-air
and what I want to call, love.

First published in Modern English Tanka 2007

How the story ends

In myths the lost girl
is saved by a prince or eaten
in the forest
I will cut off my hair
paint my nails red.

First published in Simply Haiku Fall 2007

I've been reading Jane Hirshfield who says in an essay about short poems:
Whole fields of saffron pollen can be held in a one-ounce glass vial, acres of lavender in a few drops of oil. The same distillations occur in certain poems’ words.

Good luck!
L x


Keith Wallis said...

the weather turns
a door
hinged in time
begins again

Keith Wallis said...

a simple meal
field and vinyard
bread and wine
history recounted
in forgiving

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

She waited, each time
a train arrived
the clock inched round
hope stalled at the click
of her husbands footsteps

Kay Dawson said...

A child's painting -
red-roofed cottage,roses round
the door
an old man opens onto silence,
cobwebs, dust.

Lu said...

grass pushes
through the melting snow
in the breeze
listening to the birds
I miss your spring verse

a fresh wind blows
this long-awaited sun
along a creek
racing it
I leave winter behind

Glenn Buttkus said...

5 Is An Einstein Prime

the nostalgia is so thick
wandering in wrecking yards
decades are compressed
each time I turn the pages
of my high school annual.

essentially we are in lesson
as we experience art
immersed in celluloid darkness
I become thinner, braver, smarter
and get all the hot women.

to live in the Ring of Fire
and still adore those great peaks
defies logic, and yet
women still love outlaws
while good men go untouched.

old dogs and men
soak up warmth
wherever they can find it,
whether wealth or lust
men genuflect instinctively.

It was damned hard to abandon
the rush of sitting atop
350 horsepower V-8’s
are now merely esoteric pets
of the few die-hards.

Glenn Buttkus September 2010

Martin Cordrey said...

Sherwood Forrest! Yesterday
Robin Hood on t'le wit nippers.
On my car radio;
a new leader
of new labour

taking snapshots
of Sandal Castle's ruin
overhead nimbus
in the distance - sails
charter a new reservoir

gautami tripathy said...

I tried a few on my blog:

You ca check those here

Martin Cordrey said...

pylons straddle lush hills
through low mist
Angel of the North
eastwards, scaffolding grips
tower block brickwork

Leatherdykeuk said...

and the Dogs Huddle

rain patters from dark skies
making the gutters and downpipes sing
on an October morning
my feet tread horse chestnuts
into the soft, wet earth

Glenn Buttkus said...

Martin, really liked your 3 of 5
submissions; really had a sense
of place, and immediacy.

Lynne Rees said...

Hello everyone - there are some wonderfully accomplished poems posted to this prompt. Some manage to work more effectively than others with the pivot line, but I think the line restrictions forced/encouraged everyone to weigh and choose their language carefully. And the poems are stronger for that.

@ Keith: The pivot works better for me in the first poem, though the images of bread and wine in the middle line of the 2nd poem juxtapose well with the closing statement.

@ catherine: I love the break between the 3nd and 4th lines here - it creates a startling image that combines the pasage of time and hoping.

@ Kay: Lovely. Precise images that shift the reader from childhood to age, from the past to the present, from presence to loss. And all in 5 lines!

@ Lu: I think these are exquisite tanka, perhaps worth sending somewhere?

@ Glen: I like this series, the reflective voice that avoids any sentimentality, and some of the surprising imagery too - I love the 'wrecking yards' of nostalgia. I think 1, 2 and 4 are my favourites.

More comments in another message.

Lynne Rees said...

And a few more:

@ Martin: I like these three, Martin. I agree with Glen, there's a strong sense of place in each. Because you're working mostly with the juxtaposition of imagery, I wonder if these would suit a haiku form more? Particularly the first one. I've been talking to another haiku poet about iconic place names and how they can be so suggestive, and Sherwood forest has that quality. So it could be:

Sherwood Forest
on my car radio
a new leader of new labour

and let the reader do the work, and get the irony.

An idea anyway.

@ Leatherdykeuk - this is really evocative, and made me think immediately of TS Eliot's:

The winter evening settles down
With smell of steaks in passageways.
Six o'clock.
The burnt-out ends of smoky days.
And now a gusty shower wraps
The grimy scraps
Of withered leaves about your feet
And newspapers from vacant lots;
The showers beat
On broken blinds and chimneypots,
And at the corner of the street
A lonely cab-horse steams and stamps.
And then the lighting of the lamps.

Maybe it was the mention of gutters and downpipes which seem so quintessentially english. And perhaps the 4 beat lines too. I really like it.

@ gautami tripathy: I'll take a look at your site, but if you wanted to post one or two here for comment then please do so.

I'll be back after the weekend with the first prompt of October. Enjoy the days, wherever you are.
L x

anne basquin said...

Around us were a rowdy group of soldiers,
guns slung across their shoulders
sipping beer from cans
and perched on broken chairs.

Lynne Rees said...

Hello anne (basquin) - thanks so much for posting to AppleHouse. Your 5 lines are a tremendous opening stanza - they have it all: tension, drama, threat. I don't know if you were planning to carry on with it but it's definitely an opening that makes me want to read more.

anne basquin said...

Thanks for you great comments Lynne, I came across this site haphazardly the other day. I am 24 and about to teach a poetry club at my old high school (for the first time ever) and I was looking for some inspiration. These five lines are from a poem I wrote about Myanmar which I will try to post on here, maybe it will be too long, let's see. It seems I will have to post it in two parts, bear with.

Handprints and Love

All it took was a little money
and a stamp.

For an afternoon
we could enter a country
almost impossible to leave.

We were far away from anything
pacing through a small town
at the border
built for such visits.

Covered trucks drove past
in the opposite direction
filled to bursting with
people who were paid less
to work more,
brought back at dusk.

The only tall building was a temple
gold and clean
high above the street.
We saw it as we crossed the bridge,
a long expanse of hot, grey wire.

Below was a small boy
paddling a black inner tube with his arms.
Four people sat around him
faces hot but clean
shirts pressed, unmoving.

The boy struggled across the deep brown river
that hardly moved,
gaining little ground
and crossed below the bridge.
The bridge shone out of the water
a double,
a mask of itself.
Over the hot metal,
the boy pulled and pulled himself
and all that weight
arms straining,
t-shirt torn already at the sides,
the metal parted in ripples
to let him through.

The river wound out across a desert.
On one side the land was green,
crops grew,
cars shone in the midday sun.

On the other, the land was brown
and gasping for breath
dust coated our lungs,
people pulled wooden carts
behind them.

A high fence separated each side
signs warning us of drugs and penalties
hung from the metal wire
a criss-cross pattern
where only birds and insects could pass through
over and between.
Without stamps,
they flew.

Hawkers sold liquor, cigarettes
and Viagra pills
pictures of grossly distorted flesh
on the limp cardboard.
They sold these things on blankets
spread out around them.
The women rolled their eyes and laughed,
men clapped each other on the back.

Our anxiety vanished
as heads thrown back we laughed
no longer unsure of what could happen.
There would always be
a man, a woman,
who felt what you did
despite the heat,
the empty sky.

In this sun,
even our skin shone the same,
sweat and earth,
we could almost be called brown.

Almost at the other side
we waited behind cool glass
while men in blue shirts smiled
and turned fresh pages
to stamp and date.
We were told the hour
we must come back
as though there were a slim chance
that we wouldn’t.

Finally, they waved us outside.
Then, in no country,
we emerged.
Still caged between one place and another,
Still inside the wire fence.

There, we set off with trepidation,
afraid of what we were stepping into.
The same world we had been in for seven long months
now came up to meet us,
only here.

Normalcy composed of
poverty, sickness
and the desire to live.
Beating back death like dirty clothes
with a thrash and thud
on the cleaning stone.
Bent at the knee, arms lifted,
a twist and swing overhead
down onto the heavy slab,
of concrete, tile,
or stone step
thousands of years old.

We were close enough now,
small children looked in at us
grabbing at the wire
with small, wet fingers,
and hunger in their eyes.

But the language was different.
I could no longer decipher their simple pleas,
though I knew them.
Only the click of my camera was the same
the whoosh and shutter,
vacuum for souls.

anne basquin said...

Here is part 2:

We walked
through the shreds of the market
already picked over that morning.
Dogs scrounged at the edges
for rotten meat and fruit
blistered by the sun.
Large woven baskets
tried to hold back
mounds of waste
spilling out onto the street.
Dogs climbed the piles like ruined kings.
They looked at us
terrified and defiant,
mange covered them.

The alleys were slick with piss and lime,
that familiar stench
hiding around corners.

We drank black sludge in small cups
around us
a captive audience
of the family who owned
the empty restaurant.
We sat over red and white checked tablecloths,
unlit candles,
and picked at old skin
in silence.

It was the time of day
where people hid indoors
watching soap operas
or napping over cool tiles.
People peered at us from doorways,
cats slept in display cabinets
empty of merchandise.

As expected, we grew hot
and sipped beer from cans
paid for with foreign currency.
Perched on broken chairs
while someone else's child
played at our feet.

The child's face was smudged with white.
Handprints and love.
Some children had cracks
of white paint
around their smiles.

The sun lowered as we walked,
slowly, on a straight path west.
Our feet left the curb
and there was suddenly no more.
Only flat dust
red and blowing around our ankles.

Around us were a rowdy group of soldiers,
guns slung across their shoulders
sipping beer from cans
and perched on broken chairs.

I imagined holding a gun
without ceremony
or fear,
and couldn't.

They waved to us to turn back
and we looked at last
to the road carving
through the hills
towards the setting sun.
The land again became green jungle,
vines creeping and pulling back the earth
for themselves.
The town felt gouged from this,
nothing green survived
or was nurtured.

We turned back, heads dropping.
The soldiers laughed behind us
as we walked away from what we didn't know,
this jungle, this desert,
this country in rags.
There was too much between us,
no stamp or money could change that
for an afternoon.

Walking back
to the cool glass
and blue shirts,
the sky was cool and heavy,
the town exposed
without the deep shadows and highlights
of noon.
The cats rose sleepily
tails curling
from the dusty glass
stepping carefully onto the footpath.

People raised their hands to wave
rather than to shade their eyes
and see.

A young monk ran past us
breathing heavily
robed in deep purple
holding a plastic gun up into the sky
which shook with each of his
tired, heavy steps.
The dust moved as
he ran from us
towards the soldiers
and the sun.

As though it was not a real place,
I could only explain walking over the bridge
and into that country
with words I used for another,
that place being only like another.
There were reflections everywhere
of what I had seen before
though the differences were startling.
the quiet streets,
the jungle, empty of us.

A few hours could never lend a name to it.
though it rolls off the tongue
and calls out from the pressed pages
of my passport, Myanmar.