All posts by Constance

Villanelle – A Racy Import With An Interesting Form

If you’re a sucker for poetic homework, expand your horizons by working on a villanelle.

A villanelle is only 19 lines long, but has a strict form. The lines can be of any length, contain five tercets and a quatrain in the last stanza. The rhyme scheme is aba with the same end-rhyme for every 1st and last line of each tercet and the final two lines of the quatrain. You must repeat two of the lines, the first line of the 1st stanza is repeated as the last line of the 2nd and the 4th stanzas and as the second-to-last line in the concluding quatrain. The 3rd line of the 1st stanza is repeated as the last line of the 3rd and the 5th stanzas, and as the last line in the concluding quatrain.

Got that? Good.

(You know the most famous of the villanelles. Think eccentric Welshman.) Remember, it’s only aba in rhyme scheme, arranged as follows:

A1
b
A2

a
b
A1

a
b
A2

a
b
A1

a
b
A2

a
b
A1
A2

The first five lines are the tercets (3 tercets x 5 lines = 15) and the last line is the quatrain (4 lines + 15  lines  = 19 lines). The last two lines of the poem make a rhymed couplet. It’s not as stodgy as it sounds, you can use enjambment to break up the lines, you can modify the rhymes slightly for effect, and you can bend the rules to suit your style. So why even bother if there are so many rules to the form? Because it’s like scales in music. Working within the constraints is sometimes more freeing than free verse.

Finding the right combination of lines that doesn’t sound, well, stupid when repeated is a challenge. Not to mention that it’s damn near impossible to create a narrative poem within a villanelle. So to keep yourself from getting stuck in a ditch and writing only one thing, play with this and other forms, and thank the French, who gave us not only the villanelle, but mayonnaise and the gyroscope.

(The most famous example? Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night by Dylan Thomas. Google it.)

The Waking
— Theodore Roethke

I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.
I learn by going where I have to go.

We think by feeling. What is there to know?
I hear my being dance from ear to ear.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Of those so close beside me, which are you?
God bless the Ground! I shall walk softly there,
And learn by going where I have to go.

Light takes the Tree; but who can tell us how?
The lowly worm climbs up a winding stair;
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Great Nature has another thing to do
To you and me; so take the lively air,
And, lovely, learn by going where to go.

This shaking keeps me steady. I should know.
What falls away is always. And is near.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I learn by going where I have to go.

 

 

Essay previously published by Constance Brewer

Share

The Underground is Coming Up!

Here it is halfway through October and I’m still wondering where summer went. This year seems to have gone swiftly. But one thing Gyroscope Review is doing slowly is adding more options for our readers. Months ago, we were proud to roll out a print edition for those of you that prefer the hands on experience. It involves extra time to create, but we think the end result is worth it.

This month we are also proud of our newest accomplishment. We now have a Kindle edition available for those of you that prefer an electronic version. I know I’m getting overwhelmed by books at my house, and have turned to electronic novels as a way of combating that. Sometimes the Kindle edition formatting leaves much to be desired, but it seems to have worked nicely for Gyroscope Review. Poems may take up two pages where in the print edition it’s only one, but that’s minor in the grand scheme of things. The print edition is in a large format at 8.5 in by 11 in. As always, the PDF version is available for computer, tablet and phone.

We are planning further changes in the upcoming months, including an overhaul of the website to bring you the freshest look and features. Gyroscope Review has come a long way from its humble beginnings, and we are excited about that. We are open to readers’ suggestions. Hit us up on Facebook or Twitter and let us know your thoughts. A future poll is possible. Technology is a wonderful tool.

Meanwhile, we’d like our submitting poets to focus on the upcoming Winter issue. If you’ve got any poems about the ‘underground’, (a loose interpretation) send them our way. Also in our Winter issue we will be trying something different. See if you can spot the change. Hope to read your work soon.

Poetry is not Dead!

Share

Interview with Poet Ace Boggess

Ace Boggess
Ace Boggess

CONTRIBUTOR INTERVIEW

  1. Thanks for agreeing to let us interview you for Gyroscope Review. We’re pleased that you are one of our contributing poets. Will you please begin by telling us where you’re from, where you write, and why poetry?

I’m from West Virginia—Charleston, currently, but I’ve lived in many parts of the state. I write wherever I happen to be. I’ve been writing in bed a lot lately for some reason. As for why poetry, well, that’s complicated. Until a few years ago, I never thought of myself as a poet. I considered myself a novelist and just wrote poetry along the way. Then, while my novels were out there floundering under the weight of rejection letters, my poems were popping up in journals and e-zines all over the place. It got so bad that everyone I knew referred to me as a poet. It took me a while to accept that. Now, I write mostly poetry and call myself a poet, so of course I have a novel out. Funny how that works.

  1. Who, or what, are your poetical influences?

Early on, I loved reading Neruda and Ferlinghetti. An odd mix, I know. From there, I started reading whatever I could get my hands on. Probably the two books that have had the biggest influence on me though are David Lehman’s The Evening Sun and Without End by Adam Zagajewski. The way I like to describe is that when I’m reading those two books, I can feel the tone of my own writing shift—more kinetic and chaotic in terms of Lehman’s book, and more serious and subtle, almost soulful, with Zagajewski’s.

  1. How do you decide what ‘form’ a poem should take?

I rarely do until the poem is on paper. When I’m typing and revising, I play around with the lines and stanzas until they feel right. I rarely write in traditional forms, and when I do it’s a conscious choice in advance. With my new book, Ultra Deep Field (forthcoming from Brick Road Poetry Press), I forced myself into a form just to see if I could do it. What I decided on was a series of poems in unpunctuated couplets. I tried to see how much could go in a line or a stanza without the missing punctuation causing a problem for the reader (I quickly learned that the one bit of punctuation you can’t live without is the question mark). I wrote almost exclusively in that form for three years, carving out about 400 poems, of which half didn’t work at all. The other half mostly found homes in journals, and the better of those are included in the book.

  1. What is your writing process like? 

I read for a while to get in the writing mood—usually half an hour to 45 minutes. That’s a habit I picked up years ago when I was a drug addict. I’d take my drugs and read until they kicked in, then write. The drugs are gone now, but the habit remains, and I find it an effective way to focus. When I’m ready, I write longhand in a little notebook, make a few corrections, then do all the revising and form-seeking as I type. After a poem has been typed, I revise it once and send it out. If it’s rejected, I revise again and submit again. I almost never send the same piece out twice without having tweaked it a bit. I repeat that process until the poem is either right and published or hopelessly broken and ready for assisted suicide.

  1. Do you belong to any writer’s groups – face-to-face or online? If so, are they part of your process?

I used to. Not anymore.

  1. What do you look for in the poetry you like to read? Any favorite poets?

I look for a sense of connection to the strange. I want to feel what the poets feel and experiences their lives as if my own. If they’re exhausted or fascinated or turned on, that’s what I expect to come away with. If they’re meditative, that’s the state I want to find myself in. If they’re looking at deer or rabbits or ax-wielding clowns, I want to see them too as if they’re standing in my front yard right now … which they very well might be.

  1. What is the most important role for poets today?

I think the best thing poets can do is to help strangers understand each other.

  1. Which poets have you had the opportunity to hear read? Alternatively, what is the most recent book you’ve read?

I’ve attending too many readings to remember them all. Some of the earlier ones were Ferlinghetti, David Rigsbee, Erin Belieu, Kirk Judd, and Mark Halliday. As for books, the one I’m reading at the moment is Ada Limon’s Bright Dead Things.

  1. Any future plans for your work that you’d like to talk about?

Right now, I’m excited about the publication of Ultra Deep Field, which will be my third full-length collection. In the meantime, I have three other full-length collections for which I’m trying to find homes.

  1. What other interests do you have beyond literature?

Music and movies, mostly. I used to be a news junkie, but I’m trying to break myself of that habit. It’s not good for my ulcer.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us. Please let our readers know where they can find more information about you or your work:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/1988292050/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1482608778&sr=1-1

https://www.amazon.com/Prisoners-Ace-Boggess/dp/0983530475/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1407071309&sr=1-1&keywords=ace+boggess

http://brickroadpoetrypress.com/

On Twitter: @AceBoggess

 

Share

Free Verse Is Not a Free For All

Since today is Memorial Day, and Freedom is on my mind —

Free Verse Poetry, what’s that all about?” A question from a friend who is often bewildered by modern poetry in general. She likes reading it, but was raised in the grand tradition of Poetry That Rhymes. Don’t get me wrong, I love Shakespeare, Emily Dickinson, Christina Rossetti and a plethora of other rhyming poets. I’ve just learned to widen my scope and dig for other influences. Most poets don’t spring forth from the head of Zeus, fully inspired. Neither do poems, although it would be grand if they did.

Wild Nights—Wild Nights!
Emily Dickinson

Wild Nights – Wild Nights!
Were I with thee
Wild Nights should be
Our luxury!

Futile – the winds –
To a heart in port –
Done with the compass –
Done with the chart!

Rowing in Eden –
Ah, the sea!
Might I moor – Tonight –
In thee!

Western poetical tradition (As opposed to Eastern or Oriental tradition) has a keen interest in poetical meter down to poetical feet per line. In the English language each foot usually has a syllable with a stress and one or two without a stress, presented in a pattern. Other languages may vary depending on the length of the vowels and the number of syllables in a word. Up until the last hundred years or so Iambic Pentameter was one of the most popular forms of meter in the English language. For examples, read Shakespeare. If you’re not interested, read him anyway, for the pure joy of how language should look on the page and sound in your mouth, or fall on your ear. At least listen to a good recording done by a British Shakespearean actor. Talk about rapt attention. Or maybe that’s just me.

Sonnet CXV
William Shakespeare

Those lines that I before have writ do lie,
Even those that said I could not love you dearer:
Yet then my judgment knew no reason why
My most full flame should afterwards burn clearer.
But reckoning Time, whose million’d accidents
Creep in ‘twixt vows, and change decrees of kings,
Tan sacred beauty, blunt the sharp’st intents,
Divert strong minds to the course of altering things;
Alas! why, fearing of Time’s tyranny,
Might I not then say, ‘Now I love you best,’
When I was certain o’er incertainty,
Crowning the present, doubting of the rest?
Love is a babe, then might I not say so,
To give full growth to that which still doth grow?

Popular opinion blames Walt Whitman for the downfall of rhymed poetry or the schism that occurred when he published Leaves of Grass and liberated poets to embrace free verse as a style. There was freedom to use poetry and language in a brand new way. Whitman wanted poetry to be ‘natural’, without the constraints of traditional meter and rhyme. I see the influence of Whitman on the Beat poets, on Ginsberg, and reading one then the other is an eye opening pleasure. We cannot escape our past, and as poets we need to mine the past for inspiration as much as we observe what is around us.

From a Wikipedia article: “Free verse is a term describing various styles of poetry that are not written using strict meter or rhyme, but that still are recognizable as ‘poetry’ by virtue of complex patterns of one sort or another that readers can perceive to be part of a coherent whole.”

Free verse is not totally without rules. Free verse poetry still has to hold together internally, to have cohesion and coherence, to make a point, to follow a pattern. In its own way, free verse is as rule bound as a sestina or villanelle. If you want to create a good free verse poem that is.

Kosmos
by Walt Whitman

WHO includes diversity, and is Nature,
Who is the amplitude of the earth, and the coarseness and sexuality of the earth, and the great charity of the earth, and the equilibrium also,
Who has not look’d forth from the windows, the eyes, for nothing, or whose brain held audience with messengers for nothing;
Who contains believers and disbelievers—Who is the most majestic lover;
Who holds duly his or her triune proportion of realism, spiritualism, and of the aesthetic, or intellectual,
Who, having consider’d the Body, finds all its organs and parts good;
Who, out of the theory of the earth, and of his or her body, understands by subtle analogies all other theories,
The theory of a city, a poem, and of the large politics of These States;
Who believes not only in our globe, with its sun and moon, but in other globes, with their suns and moons;
Who, constructing the house of himself or herself, not for a day, but for all time, sees races, eras, dates, generations,
The past, the future, dwelling there, like space, inseparable together.

Whenever I Saw You I Handed You a Bouquet, and
By Sharon Olds

what about those nosegays?! If you were to return
I would give you more, for all you have given us, for
your going first. Those posies might have a
peony, a freesia, a tulip — an eye snack
and nostril snack, I could not get enough of
giving you coronation bundles, handing them
and almost bowing, tongue-tied with
respectful adoring, with gobbling
the sight of you the sound, the bouquets saying mother-
— we would not be here, without your song, your eye.

Source: Poetry (February 2017)

Share