Howdy! Happy Poetry Friday! Today's poem and your Poetry Writing Workout are below.
But hold on...there’s A LOT going on this week, including National Picture Book Writing Week, Mother’s Day, and Teacher Appreciation Week!
And I’ll bet there’s a mother reading this who's also a teacher and is writing a picture book a day for a week. So, Triple Threat, if you’re out there, we want to hear from you (but not until you’ve written today’s picture book!)
I can relate to those who are writing a picture book a day for a week. I took the National Poetry Month Challenge this year, writing a poem a day (many are birthday poems) for the month of April. I'm not sure if I'd call that a challenge...or insanity.
But is was life-changing. If you want to know why, you can read all my poems (or if the mere idea of reading all thirty poems exhausts you as much as it does me, just read the last poem, the one posted closest to the top.)
WRITING WORKOUT ~ writing a Zeno poem
I learned about Zeno poems from Greg Pincus’ fabulous blog, GottaBook. Greg learned about it from The Miss Rumphius Effect,
who interviewed J.Patrick Lewis, the inventor of Zeno poems. According to Pat, a Zeno is a 10-line verse form with a repeating syllable count of 8,4,2,1,4,2,1,4,2,1. The rhyme scheme is abcdefdghd.
Here's how I wrote a Zeno:
A) Pick a topic. I wanted to write about teachers and why I appreciated them.
B) Spill memories about this topic on paper. I wrote about Mr. Campman, my 10th grade biology teacher; about my father—how no question was a bad question, how he was always engaged and focused when taking about science with me; about my mother—how she helped me learn a violin piece and coached me for the Shakespeare competition; about my poetry teacher, Myra Cohn Livingston—how we rose to meet her very high expectations; about Professor Willis, who on a dare, taught all of Western Civilization in one quarter—the best college class I ever took.
C) Choose one of the memories.
D) Decide on the one-syllable word on which you’d like your poem to end.
E) List at least three one-syllable words which rhyme with the word you chose above and which could somehow be related to your subject. Find the rhymes by using your noodle, opening up a handy rhyming dictionary or using this one online.
F) Review the structure of a Zeno. It helped me to write out the pattern this way (the numbers indicate how many syllables, “A” indicates the same rhyme):
7) Get down in your mud puddle of form, ideas and words—and play! I changed my rhyming word several times. In fact, I'll show you three versions of the same poem. You can tell me at the end which one you liked the best.
All three are titled,
THANK YOU, DR. ROY WILLIS, PROFESSOR OF HISTORY AT U.C.DAVIS
by April Halprin Wayland
For walking into class on fire.
You sing, you don’t
What you relish
me. Your spark lights
TWO (note: you have to pretend that fire, higher and spire are all one syllable)
Your passion transforms me. You dash
into class on
Your bright spark makes
You’re a teacher:
This guy Willis? Man-oh-man!
He grabs you, he
Which version did you like best?
...and Happy Mother’s Day to ALL of us...and to my mother in particular.