Grad School Homework (II).

March 28, 2010 § 2 Comments

In forms class, we have to invent a form & turn in its rules & an example poem so that one of our classmates can try it.  I’ve been writing poems for a few weeks for which I gave myself a particular set of guidelines, which I guess means I did my homework before I realized I was doing it.  I bring this up not to brag about how awesome it is that I did my work early, but because I’ve been using these constraints in a practical way (to the extent that writing poems is practical) & not just to fulfill the assignment.  Also, this isn’t really invention, I just find this particular set of constraints, which other people likely already do in some form or another, to be helpful.  So.  Demonstration of dorkitude or no, here it is.  Try it.  Tell me how it goes.

I Made Up A Form That Other People Probably Already Use, & Better (& It Goes Like This):

*  The poem should consist of between twelve and fourteen lines.

*  Each line should contain two halves that are separated by caesura (a vowel-y word that means blank space used to indicate a break).  Instead of syntactically connecting the halves, allow the halves to exist as separate units missing the connective tissue between them.  This means you shouldn’t begin chunks that follow the caesura with words like “so” or “like” or prepositions that relate to the other half of the line.  The halves should, hopefully, speak to one another/reverberate but not necessarily force a causal or linear relationship between them.

*  Some example lines (pulled from a few poems I’ve been writing): “the fan marshals the air / a series of slices”; “something rips into flying / I helped”; “you say look at you / one foot in its plant;” “there’s push all night quick to the edges / a light dusting.”  (Where / = caesura.)  My guess is that most people will, when reading this kind of poem, favor a linear/causal relationship in their reading, but some might not, or some might see both, & that may make for a more complicated or interesting poem on the page.  At least, that’s what my braintank hopes for.

*  Really, more than anything else, this form should serve as an opportunity to practice tamping down on a tendency to over-explain, or over-explain through comparison, which is a tendency I have in spades.  Sometimes it’s nice to just allow things to sit next to each other.

*  The poem should have no punctuation.

*  The poem’s first line should also be its title.


The thing has a look                 a big rift cuts a shape

a badger cuts a shape         Mount Rushmore

this piss-poor example               the field fills with dumb-words

some people will read it aloud bad           kick some people


It occurs to me that this caesura business may be doing work that’s no different from regular line breaks in a poem.  & also, that despite not allowing myself a certain syntactical continuity, linear/causal/narrative sense-makings seem to be creeping into these poems in other ways.  That’s how strong a tendency.  Ugh.

(Now’s maybe a time to point out that I’m throwing around the words “linear,” “causal,” “narrative” & “sense” like I have any idea of what it is they mean.  I don’t.  I use them because [                   ] isn’t as much of an option when blogging, though it’s generally the road I take in poetryschool.)

I often wish I didn’t have a brain that would kill a poem to make sense (& uninteresting sense, at that).  This is, maybe not surprisingly, a habit that bleeds over into my non-poem decisioning, too.  Michael Jackson’s dead because I over-thought him, etc.  (Too soon?)  Sometimes I think having that kind of brain means I’m not really an “artist,” & that I should probably go somewhere where I can make bar graphs & spreadsheets til I die.

Up next: stem & leaf plot of my future attempts at spontaneity.


§ 2 Responses to Grad School Homework (II).

  • Amy Ponomarev says:

    Love the line ‘there’s a push all night quick to the edges”

    Thanks for this post. I love reading your thoughts Laura-Eve

  • Amy Ponomarev says:

    Re the kind of brain thought …. I think you’re definitely an artist

    FWIW Da Vinci designed a helicoptor, so I’m thinking he probably had a grid and spreadsheet kinda brain too.

    Paul Klee, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Mondrian … deifinitely graph paper guys

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