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A Poet’s Toolbox

I had to write a poem for a workshop this weekend. I haven’t written poetry in at least twenty years, and I had no idea how to even begin, so I just played with the words, and ended up writing a poem about writing a poem.

As I said to my classmates, when I’m not confident, when I’m afraid of being found wanting, I go for the laugh. And this made my classmates laugh, as I’d hoped. They liked and praised it, which was unexpected and gratifying. I’ve incorporated a couple of their suggestions — more playing with the capitalization, and keeping the first-person narrator throughout the poem — but other than those minor tweaks, this poem is just as I presented it yesterday.

The Poet’s Toolbox

I called upon the Muses, but they are all at a symposium

(the Greek root for which means ‘drinking party’), to no one’s surprise.

Thus abandoned, I brave the dark basement and pull out the toolbox.

Blow off the dust, wince at the rust, and remember I must not

put the rhymes at the ends of the lines but keep with the times,

and put them in the middle, if anywhere at all.

Forms and Rhyme Schemes, impractical and unstylish,

I shift to a lower shelf, should they come back into fashion.

Limericks are so frivolous, Haikus very short

I could try one of those, I suppose, and I ought,

but the freedom of free verse is making me reverse

my outdated learning and embrace modern action.

Rhythm, Rhyme, Repetition, Assonance, Alliteration,

Synonyms, Homonyms, Metaphor, and Meter

Poems are the sweeter for their judicious inclusion.

I remember some terms like anapest and dactyl and iamb

And spondees like “the cold hard shore”.

(How we laughed at ‘feet metrical’ while becoming bilingual in metric and imperial!)

Anapestic tetrameter, iambic pentameter; Chaucer and Shakespeare;

or was that Bacon? (Mmm, bacon.)

Cadence, Meter, Measure, Beat are more important than the feet are.

(Trochaic tetrameter, for those keeping score,

in prosaic a-a, less sharp underfoot than volcanic aa.)

Meet her meter; met her for metaphor.

Alliteration and alteration allowed,

playfulness permitted, even encouraged.

The penitent was reticent, the elephant irrelevant;

and that it some firm, round Assonance.

I’ll try Dissonance, its opposite, if apposite,

like a symphony testing reeds and bows, mouthpiece blows,

the placement of fingers, the voices of singers

ere the First Violin corrals them with an A.

Five silly stanzas

should fulfill this assignment.

Oh look, a haiku.

©Wendy Barron 2014

Every time I write poetry, I remember how much I enjoy writing poetry. I need to read and write a lot more poetry.

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