Friday, November 18, 2011

Ten Days of Thanks-Giving & New Forms to Try

Inspired by Esther’s invention of the thanku (a thank you note in haiku form), we Teaching Authors are celebrating our first annual Ten Days of Thanks-Giving with poems in that form and others.

When I thought about writing a Thanksgiving thanku, I started by brainstorming a list of possible topics—people, places, and things I'm grateful for. My gratitude list was impossibly long, so I decided to focus on that moment.

stillness before dawn—
recliner, cozy blanket,
coffee, notebook, pen

Although it fits the syllable count and describes something I'm grateful for, this one doesn't feel like a thank you note. I went back to my list. In my poetry class this week, two students introduced me to new forms, so I decided to try them.

The etheree has ten lines of 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10 syllables—or in reverse, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, and 1. An etheree with more than one stanza can include both.

This form seemed to suit my long list of things I’m grateful for, so I chose some that fit the pattern.

purple pens
soft yellow yarn
dogs with wagging tails
chances to start over
sunlight streaking through dense woods
crossing chores off my to-do list
kicking up crunchy leaves on my walk
old family photo albums, labeled

Notice how coffee appears in both poems? I like to write first thing in the morning. But not only did this feel more like a list poem than a thank you note, using the etheree form forced me to leave out some of the most obvious things I’m grateful for. I could certainly add more stanzas with the number of syllables counting back down and up again. And again and again. (As I said, I have a long list!)

The lanturne is shaped like a Japanese lantern: it has five lines with 1, 2, 3, 4, and 1 syllables. Mine, like the thanku above, focuses on a moment.

drive home
from night class
open the door

what’s in the pot?

windows steamed
homemade chili

(two kinds)
from your garden

(comfort food)
how you show your

This one hits the spot for me because it feels more like a thank you note. The end came as a surprise, which is one of my favorite things about writing. Sometimes I don't know what I'm writing about until it comes out of my pen.

Writing Workout: Write a Thanks-Giving poem. Teachers, invite your classes to join in! Try a thanku, an etheree, a lanturne, or another new form. See if you can express your thanks in 25 words or less. Then post your poems here or on any of our posts during our Ten Days of Thanks-Giving, November 20-30. Or send them to us by e-mail: teachingauthors at  gmail dot com.

Today's Poetry Friday roundup is at The Opposite of Indifference. Take a peek!

JoAnn Early Macken


Carmela Martino said...

Love your lanturne poem, JA. We wrote a single-stanza lanturne (or lanterne, as my text spells it) as a group in one of my young writers's workshop recently to celebrate the season. I can't get the shape right in these comments, but here are the words:

Leaves drop
Shorter days
Windy hayrides

Happy fall!

Joyce Ray said...

JoAnne, I really love the lanturne. The shape appeals to me -really looks like a Japanese lantern. I'll try one. It's a treat to have these new forms to play with.

JoAnn Early Macken said...

Marti & Joyce, I'm glad to hear from you both about the lanturne/lanterne. Marti, I think it would be fun to try with a class. I'll keep playing with it, too!

April Halprin Wayland said...

I love the way you walked us through your process, JoAnn. And your last poem made me hungry!