Monday, May 18, 2015

Monday Poetry Stretch - Abandoned Barn

On a drive in a rural county this week I saw several abandoned buildings. Those sights got me thinking about this week's writing prompt. I don't often use photos for stretches, largely because Laura has been doing this for years so fabulously with her 15 Words or Less prompt.

However, I couldn't get those images out of my mind, so this week I offer a photo as a prompt. I won't hold you to a word count or form, so feel free to explore.

If you are interested in photos to inspire your poetry, check out the book Picture Yourself Writing Poetry: Using Photos to Inspire Writing by Laura Purdie Salas.

I hope you'll join me this week in writing a poem for this photo. Please share a link to your poem or the poem itself in the comments.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Monday Poetry Stretch - Chueh-chu

Forgive me for being a bit late today. I normally write these posts on the weekend, but this one was filled with graduation activities. So, after a day of meetings, my 21st year at the university comes to a close and I finally have some time to call my own ... until summer school starts next week. Well, enough about me, let's get on with this week's stretch!

I am still reading and pondering the forms in Robin Skelton's The Shapes of Our Singing: A Comprehensive Guide to Verse Forms and Metres from Around the WorldHere is the poem Skelton wrote for this form and his explanation of the Chueh-chu.

Full moon:
     a white light
 carves shade:
     the warm night,
dream tamed,
     fears the dawn's
hard noise,
     the sun's bright

trees green
     not pearled gray,
walls grey
     not bleached white,
mind trapped
     as time's dream
feels time
     and takes flight.

The name Chueh-chu means, literally, "sonnet cut short." ... It consists of eight lines with the rhyme scheme A A B A C A D A or the rhyme scheme A B C B D B E B. A further variation is A A B A A A C A.    
This example is in the Wu-yen-shih metre, which consists of five monosyllable lines with a caesura after the second syllable. Each syllable is a complete word. 

I hope you'll join me this week in writing a poem in the form Chueh-chu. Please share a link to your poem or the poem itself in the comments.

Friday, May 08, 2015

Poetry Friday - IF ...

Graduation weekend is upon us at the University of Richmond. I always find this a bittersweet time.  While I am happy to have successfully navigated another academic year, I am saddened to say goodbye to the many students I have forged bonds with in their time here. 

In the spirit of commencement, new beginnings, and endless possibilities, I am sharing this poem and dedicating to all the students graduating this weekend, especially those in my corner of the world.

If—
by Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you   
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,   
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too;   
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:



I do hope you'll take some time to check out all the wonderful poetic things being shared and collected today by Michelle at Today's Little Ditty. Happy poetry Friday friends!

Monday, May 04, 2015

Monday Poetry Stretch - Burns Stanza

When I interviewed J. Patrick Lewis last month (read it here) he said in response to a question on forms he wanted to try, "I’m endlessly working my way through Robin Skelton’s indispensable The Shapes of Our Singing: A Comprehensive Guide to Verse Forms and Metres from Around the World. For any poet eager to experiment, there is a surprise on every page." That was endorsement enough for me, so I ran out and bought a copy. I am still reading my way through it, but I thought this was as good a time as any to try out something new.

Here's what Skelton says about the Burns Stanza.
The Burns Stanza is so called because Robert Burns made brilliant use of it and it was through his work that it became familiar. It is also called Standard Habbie, the Scots stanza and the six-line stave. Each stanza has six lines rhyming A A A B A B. The A lines are usually of eight or nine syllables and the B lines of four or five. 
To a Mouse by Robert Burns is a great example of this.

I hope you'll join me this week in writing a poem that uses the Burns Stanza. Please share a link to your poem or the poem itself in the comments.

Friday, May 01, 2015

Poetry Seven Share Pantoums

During the month of April the Poetry Seven spent their time working on the pantoum. Here is a description of the form.
The pantoum is a poem made up of stanzas of four lines where lines 2 and 4 of each stanza are repeated as lines 1 and 3 of the next stanza. The final stanza of a pantoum has an interesting twist. Lines 2 and 4 are the same as the 3rd and 1st of the first stanza, thereby using every line in the poem twice. 
Keep in mind that this form of poetry is of an indefinite length. It could be 3 stanzas, 4 stanzas or 20! 
(Adapted from The Teachers & Writers Handbook of Poetic Forms.)
There was no theme this time around, just two words--certainty and flight.

My very first thought was the phrase "certainties of flight." This made me think of birds and later, baby birds. I ended up writing many, many versions of a wood duck poem. In the first draft I shared with my sisters, the 2nd line of the 2nd stanza was "in trees that stretch so tall." I disliked "so tall" and wanted something like towering trees, but couldn't find a way to say it. Then it hit me that I was describing one nest and needed only one tree. So, I changed it to "in a tree that stretches tall." I still wasn't happy with the description, but wanted to keep the end rhyme because I liked where it took the poem. In the most recent version I picked a specific tree and chose the word sky for my end rhyme. This one change, of course, meant changes elsewhere. Without further ado, here are both poems, the first shared draft and my most recent revision.

Untitled Pantoum Draft V.1

Do wood duck ducklings dream of flight
when huddled in the nest together?
Picture the world from a dizzying height
while from the ground untethered?

Huddled in the nest together
in a tree that stretches tall
from the ground untethered
soon they’ll leap and fall

In a tree that stretches tall
high above the forest floor
brave young ducklings leap and fall
uncertain drop before they soar

High above the forest floor
looking down from a dizzying height
uncertain drop before they soar
wood duck ducklings dream of flight


Untitled Pantoum (Semi-Final Draft)

Do wood duck ducklings dream of flight
while huddled sleeping in their nest
the world below a glorious sight
the urge to jump for now suppressed

Huddled sleeping in their nest
red oak stretching toward the sky
the urge to jump can’t be suppressed
soon they’ll fall before they fly

Red oak stretching toward the sky
high above the forest floor
ducklings fall before they fly
uncertain drop before they soar

High above the forest floor
the world below a glorious sight
uncertain drop before they soar
wood duck ducklings dream of flight

Poems ©Tricia Stohr-Hunt, 2015. All rights reserved.

My writing of the above poem was inspired by something I saw several years ago while watching the BBC series Planet Earth. Of course, these are Mandarin ducks, but wood ducks have the exact same experience, and this jumping/falling from a great height stuck with me.

While working on the wood duck poem, the phrase "flight risk" kept popping into my head. When it took root and wouldn't leave, I started thinking about escaping small town life and began working on a second piece. Here is an early draft of this poem, also still a work in progress.

Flight Risk

She was a flight risk from the start
with dreams too big to be restrained
small town girl, big city heart
she sought an honest life unchained

With dreams too big to be restrained
by certainties of rural life
she sought an honest life unchained
wouldn’t be some farmer’s wife

Forget the certainties of life
she was reaching for the moon
refused to be some farmer’s wife
and disappeared one afternoon

She was reaching for the moon
small town girl, big city heart
she disappeared one afternoon
fled to chase a brand new start

Poem ©Tricia Stohr-Hunt, 2015. All rights reserved.

You can read the poems written by my Poetry Seven compatriots at the links below. 

I do hope you'll take some time to check out all the wonderful poetic things being shared and collected today by Ellen at Elementary Dear Reader. Happy poetry Friday friends! 

Thursday, April 30, 2015

NPM Project: Jumping Into Form - Writing Poetry

On this last day of the month I thought I would wrap up this year's National Poetry Month project by highlighting books that focus on form and the writing of poetry.

When I was in high school I wrote free verse, largely because that's all I knew. While I recall writing the occasional haiku as a English assignment, I was never instructed on how to write poetry. Oh, how I wish I had been! Poetry can be so much fun to play and puzzle with. Trying to make your ideas and favorite words fit into a structured form can be a daunting task, but one that gives much satisfaction upon its completion.

Today I rely on a varied collection of books while writing poetry. In addition to the "adult" books on poetry reading and writing, I often turn to books for children and young adults to help me think about form and process. Here are some of the books I use with regularity.
A Kick in the Head: An Everyday Guide to Poetic Forms (2005), compiled by Paul B. Janeczko and illustrated by Chris Raschka, begins with an introduction about poetic forms. It reads:
Why, you may ask, do poems have rules? Why 17 syllables in a haiku? Why 14 lines in a sonnet? The answer is: rules make the writing of a poem more challenging, more exciting. Think of a game you enjoy, like baseball. Imagine how much less intriguing the game would be if there were no foul line or limit to the number of outs in an inning. The rules often ask, "Can you do a good job within these limits?" Knowing the rules makes poetry—like sports—more fun, for players and spectators alike.
What follows are 29 poetics forms. Each form is accompanied by some kind of visual clue in the top corner of the page. For example, the page for couplet shows two birds on a wire, epitaph shows a headstone, and ode shows a Grecian urn. Once the form has been identified, readers find a short informational description and poetic example. Here's what you'll find on the page for Riddle Poem.
The beginning of eternity
The end of time and space,
The beginning of every end,
The end of every place. 
Anonymous 
A riddle poem indirectly describes a person, place, thing, or idea. The reader must try to figure out the subject of the riddle. A riddle poem can be any length and usually has a rhyme scheme of abcb or aabb.
This volume not only contains many familiar forms, such as haiku, cinquain, acrostic and limerick, but also forms such as aubade, pantoum, villanelle, and double dactyl. At the end of the book readers will find a bit more background information on each of the 29 forms.
Getting From Here To There: Writing and Reading Poetry (1982, OP), written by Florence Grossman, is a book I pulled out of a discard pile years ago, but one that I still crack open. If you can find a copy, it is an informative volume to have. Here is how it begins.
Most people have never written poetry, yet most people, at one time or another, have had the vague sense of a poem lurking somewhere, something they had experienced that had to be told in a special way. This book is addressed to you if you have ever wanted to write a poem and did not know the place to begin, or if you have not trusted yourself because you thought you did not know the language of poetry. 
... And rhyme? Most beginning writers are boxed in by rhyme because they're busy thinking about the word that will rhyme instead of allowing words and ideas to bounce off each other. For now, forget about rhyme. Focus on rhythm. When you begin to listen to yourself, the poem will find its own rhythm. It will find its own length. Once you get rolling, the poem will assume a life of its own. It will tell you what it has to say.
The book is organized into the following chapters: (1) Lists; (2) Then; (3) Things; (4) Signs; (5) Image; (6) People; (7) Clothes, etc.; (8) Sound/Silence; (9) Persona; and (10) Dreams and Fantasies. What I love is that in the introduction to each chapter, Grossman gives readers a perspective and an insight into writing poetry that is often profound. Here is an example from the chapter "Things."
Paper clips, rubber bands, a book of matches, these small things that go about daily business of their lives—most people would never think of them as subjects of poetry. But as walls have ears and pillows have secrets, each of these things has its own story. It has been places and done things. For the poet it's a matter of tuning in, of holding the spool of thread until we have heard what it has to say. Look long enough at a pencil and the poem will begin.
In addition to these insights, each chapter contains numerous example poems, thought prompts, and writing suggestions. The text ends with a section entitled Some Notes on Self Editing. There are 10 bulleted items here that are pithy and helpful. Here are a few.
  • What we are after here is honesty.
  • We all have our own words, words that we've carried around with us for years, words that we've tried on and we're comfortable with. These are the words of "our voice" that tell the reader someone has written this poem. Be true to those words.
  • Honest also means the exact word rather than the well-that-will-do word. Poetry is concise—no time to fool around with approximations. "The best words," says Wallace Stevens, "in their best order."
A Crow Doesn't Need A Shadow: A Guide to Writing Poetry From Nature (1994), written by Lorraine Ferra with illustrations by Diane Boardman, focuses on the "integration of our inner and outer landscapes. Through nature field trips, children and adults are invited to reflect on their personal place in the world." Sections of the book include: (1) Poetry Field Trips; (2) Building a Nature Wordscape; (3) Keeping a Nature Journal; (4) Other Explorations (which includes such topics as finding a companion in nature, creating a landscape, colors in the natural world, dreaming up a place, nature in your hand, and more); (5) Anthology--a sampling of original poems by young authors; and (6) A Note To Educators (written by Mona Hirschi Daniels). The book begins this way.
Open the Door
An Invitation to Readers 
Over three hundred years ago, the poet Matsuo Basho said, "To learn about a tree, go to a tree." Basho was considering more than the scientific facts you learn about trees. He was suggesting that the creatures of the natural world speak a language, one perhaps different from yours, but one you can understand if you listen with your imagination. 
...Every chapter of this book, every poem, is a different door you can open to the natural world. Choose any of these doors, open it, and step quietly outside with your pencil, paper, and imagination.
In the section Creating a Landscape, Ferra shares a recipe poem by a twelve year old boy and guides readers through the process of writing their own. Here's an excerpt.
Look through a cookbook. As you read the directions for several different recipes, write down the verbs which tell you what to do with the ingredients. Make a list of about ten or twelve different verbs. Keep in mind that you probably won't use all the verbs you find. Be selective for your poem.

Some possible subjects might be a recipe for a cave, foggy morning, a bird refuge, a season or particular month, a moonlit field, a river, or a sunset. Once you decide on your subject, start listing some ingredients.
While there is no emphasis here on form, this is wonderful book for encouraging close observation, a skill so vital to the poet's craft.
 
Fly With Poetry: An ABC of Poetry (2000), written and illustrated by Avis Harley, uses the alphabet to organize 26 different poetic forms (two for the letter A and none for Y). Each page includes a poem written in the named form with information at the bottom of the page describing the form. Additional poetic forms are included in the end notes.

Leap Into Poetry: More ABCs of Poetry (2001), written and illustrated by Avis Harley, is a companion to FLY WITH POETRY that uses the alphabetic format to introduce a variety of poetic forms and techniques. Each letter introduces an arthropod in a poem that uses the stated form or technique. Facts about each animal are included in the end notes.
Write Your Own Poetry (2008), written by Laura Purdie Salas, is a book that provides a thorough introduction to the process and tools of writing poetry. There are chapters on poetic forms, language of poetry, imagery, point of view, meter and rhyme, and more. Jam-packed with sample poems, helpful tips and advice from poets, this is a comprehensive introduction to writing poetry.
Immersed in Verse: An Informative, Slightly Irreverent & Totally Tremendous Guide to Living the Poet's Life (2006), written by Allan Wolf and illustrated by Tuesday Morning, is a how-to guide on becoming a poet for middle grades and young adults. The book begins this way.
Have you noticed how rhythm makes you move? How heave bass vibrates the door panels of passing cars? Have you noticed the colors of a rainbow? How the stench of fireworks burns your eyes? How you cold winter hands sting under warm water? To be a poet is to notice.
...
Poems are all around us, waiting to be written. The world teems with words, images, ideas, sights, sounds, colors, anecdotes, notions, and emotions. Just as water is the stuff of life to a fish, the world is the stuff of life to be a poet. all you need to do is dive in.
The book is divided into several sections, each color-coded for ease of use. Poetry & You offers readers a quick guided tour of poetry, nine habits of successful poets (such as get gonzo over words, write every day and play), a writing pledge and more you. Your Poetry Toolbox explains the tools of the trade, such as poetic devices and the anatomy of a poem. The Poet's Decisions delves deep into the process of writing, providing lessons on point of view, tense, form, playing with structure, revising and much more. Always Something to Write About provides ideas for journaling and writing prompts. The last major section, Ta Da!: Presenting Your Work is about reading, performing and publishing poetry. Liberally sprinkled throughout the text are examples and lots of poems from a range of poets.

One of my favorite sections is entitled Your Best Revising Tools. Having just spent a significant amount of time revising a poem, I can tell you how much these ring true. Here they are in abbreviated form.
  1. Time - It's very difficult to read a poem objectively on the day you wrote it. It's best to let it age—a day, a week, a month.
  2. An Audition - With poetry, there's no room for words that aren't pulling their weight. Make those words work for you. Make them prove they belong where they are.
  3. A Sense of Fearless Tinkering - Don't be afraid to take apart what you've done. . . . Take your poem apart and put it back together. Don't worry about the extra parts still on the floor.
  4. Highlighting the Poem's Golden Moments - Use a yellow highlighter to designate your poem's top three golden moments (be they a single work, a partial phrase, or an entire line) that are vital to the poem's life. . . . Once you've highlighted the poem's golden moments, examine the remaining words with a critical eye.
  5. Vivacious Vocal Cords - Poetry is ultimately a spoken art. . . . but it's also a great revision tool. It helps flag a poem's awkward phrases, blips, bleeps, and blemishes.
The book ends with appendices of selected poems and poets, as well as publishing resources for young writers.
 
How to Write Poetry (1999), written by Paul Janeczko, is a Scholastic Guide that organizes the poetry writing process into easy-to-follow steps. The chapters on starting to write, writing poems that rhyme, and writing free verse poems all offer a wealth of information, sample poems, and "try this" suggestions. Different poetic forms are introduced along with checklists to keep writers focused on important features. Includes an extensive glossary.

Poetry from A to Z: A Guide for Young Writers (1994), written by Paul Janeczko, is a collection of 72 poems arranged alphabetically by subject. Also included are 14 poetry-writing exercises that show how to write specific types of poems and advice from more than twenty poets on becoming a better writer.
Poetry Matters: Writing a Poem From the Inside Out (2002), written by Ralph Fletcher, is a good guide to writing poetry from the heart. Chapters deal with imagery, rhythm, crafting poems, wordplay, and more. Major poetic forms are defined and there is a section on ways to share your work. Interviews with Kristine O'Connell George, Janet Wong, and J. Patrick Lewis are included. A number of poems written by Fletcher are included as examples in these chapters.
 
Seeing the Blue Between: Advice and Inspiration for New Poets (2002), compiled by Paul Janeczko, contains a collection of letters and poems by children's poets. Written to and for aspiring writers, this volume provides advice and inspiration.

The Place My Words Are Looking For: What Poets Say About and Through Their Work (1990), selected by Paul Janeczko, is a collection of poems, advice, anecdotes, and recollections of 39 poets. Following their poems, poets describe their inspirations, memories, where they get their ideas, their writing processes, and how they go about translating their ideas into poetic form.

If you are looking for additional resources on poetry writing, try these sites.
April may be ending, but that doesn't mean the poetry goodness must stop. I hope you'll revisit some of the posts from this month as you incorporate more poetry reading and writing in your classroom. You can find a list containing all this month's posts at NPM 2015 Poetic Forms.

Thanks to everyone who has stopped by this month. It has been a joy sharing poetry with you.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

NPM Project: Jumping Into Form - Michael J. Rosen on Form

While Michael Rosen and I connected over a possible interview, we had a series of interesting conversations about this project and my interest in form. I was thrilled when he offered to write a piece on form, so I gladly accepted. That is what I am sharing today.

I had to resist the temptation to highlight the points that struck a chord as I read, but I realized they may not be the same points that stand out for you. This is an important piece and part of a larger conversation. I hope teachers, writers, and poetry lovers alike will take these wise words to heart.
 
The Problem with Poetic Forms? Not Thinking of Them as Solutions
—Michael J. Rosen
(You can learn more about Michael at his web site.)

After 35 years of teaching kids poetry (this would be some series classes and many visiting author workshops), I can report that writing poetry is way too easy for kids. And way too hard. Rhyme is too easy; and too hard. So are syllabics such as haiku. Dare I say that poetic form—any one—is both too easy and too hard. And these troubles (and there are many) stem from a fundamental absence of the very opportunities that poetry is supposed to provide for a writer: the rewards of challenging work, the gratification of a new perspective or appreciation, the stumbling upon breakthroughs and surprises. 

Consider these fragments that follow “corrective measures.” Consider them notes—to myself, to my colleagues, to young writers—that aim to reframe the way we offer forms of poetry to children. 

*    *    *

Form is structure. It’s support. It’s solidity. It’s what words and lines and sentences and narrative and images and ideas are build upon or within. Form keeps writers (kids and adults) from just saying the first words that come to mind, from being okay with (done!) whatever sentiment, observation, word choice, etc., hits the page first. We all need a challenge to our thoughts. Indeed, the poet W. B. Yeats said that poetry was a writer arguing with himself. 

We need to let poetic form be the ring in which young writers can wrestle with their thoughts. 

*    *    *

Think of the role that gravity plays in dance. It’s what makes lightness remarkable. Just how thrilling would a lift be in ballet, say, if gravity weren’t an issue? If a dancer could float across the stage in a leap. Dance would be an entirely different art if weightlessness were a factor.

Poetic form is gravity. It’s what adds weight to our words. It’s what adds bravura, boldness, and originality to our ordinary expressions.

*    *    *

Even if a poetic form—sonnet, tanka, ballad, limerick—possesses, by some definitions, a standard pattern or a required structure, it can’t be an ice-cube tray into which words are merely poured, frozen, and dumped out. That form has to be an ice sculpture in which the writing reveals something remarkable. 

If we simply describe the structure of a form and agree that anything that “fits” it, is, indeed, a successful use of the form, that’s like saying that reading the progression of letters in a series of words is the same as comprehending what that sentence means. 

*    *    *

Instead, poetic forms uncover possibilities. They don’t take “what we know” and simply add rhymes or break up lines. They take “what we don’t know,” and inch us, revision by revision, toward knowing. They take impressions and memories and general topics and things we’re curious about, and put them under pressure so that all the words begin interacting—banging into one another, ricocheting off the “walls” of the form—and, thereby, create heat and light. Yes, too often, we never give kids a chance to feel that illumination, that charge of power! 

*    *    *

Another trouble: Ideas. In my book, we shouldn’t expect that what a kid writes about is going to be…wow! brilliant! truly inspired! utterly remarkable! And we shouldn’t set them up with that expectation. (That’s why the library isn’t filled with the work of kids, right?) So what’s our job as teachers? To help them master the forms? Oh, sure, to some degree. But more importantly, it’s to create exhilarating experiences, to afford enormous and unexpected pleasures, to make the writing of poetry a practice that nourishes and enlivens. A kid who loves the act…will continue it. Will get better at it. Will eventually master forms. And, eventually, will write poems of substance and significance. The great 20th century poet W. H. Auden believed that “hanging around with words,” was more crucial for a young person’s development as a writer than having something to say.

Give kids a chance to feel the rewards that come from concentration and struggle, the fulfillment that comes from puzzling, repeated attempts, and invention. See if you can’t remove the pleasure (that’s mostly just “relief”) from that initial coming up with something. And remove it from the “relief” of quickly turning in something, with its coincident pleasure of getting to go on to whatever’s next. 

Sustain the pleasure of right now…for as long as possible. 

*    *    *

For a reader or listener, rhyme can lift a poem into music, insinuate lines into memory, and afford the intrinsic pleasure of repetition. But for the writer, the role of rhyme is to challenge and, therein, elevate the language of the poem. Rhyme’s role is to be unrelenting, so that the writer must search for that just right word, adjust the line breaks or description or content or phrasing, in order satisfy the rhyme scheme…in a pleasing way. 

Rhymes confer an aural emphasis on certain words—typically, end words, which are already cued up in that important terminal position. Ideally, rhyming words are important ones…that produce more than just a repetition of a syllable or vowel sound. And to that end: It’s key to remember that the first word in a rhymed pair doesn’t rhyme. It sets up the second word, so that  I T   R I N G S  O U T…and, most often, we let kids work in a way that allows them to force a match to the first word in a rhyming pair with an unimportant second word. So the second word merely sounds—and sounds lame or illogical—rather than reveals something as it echoes. 

So changing the whole way of composing rhymes is vital. Pry loose words that offer hackneyed or obtuse rhymes. Use a rhyming dictionary. Generate a pool of possible rhymes. Use a thesaurus to try a different word that might generate a whole new set of options. 

*    *    *

Likewise, counting syllables, as in haiku or tanka or other forms, creates a similar trouble: That process should involve uncertainty, not certainty. It’s so easy to let kids feel the contentment of being quick and being done…rather than the genuine contentment with the work itself. Counting syllables should happen LAST. It, too should be part of the argument with the content itself. It should create tension. (Ah! Think of a line of poetry as a string on a violin or guitar. In order to resonate, that line has to be taut, not simply stretched out.) Syllabics causes compression and expansion that should initiate a new flow of words, options, and subject matter. The way kids are typically given the form, they stuff words into a syllabic form like tepid leftovers into a Styrofoam clamshell (that is typically left at the restaurant or in the car or in the back of the fridge…forgotten because, well, it really wasn’t that good in the first place!). [You must block that metaphor, and yet that goofy overextension does hint at why students  lack motivation to revise or illustrate or read aloud something they drum up so easily and execute so hastily.] 

*    *    *

One other trouble. When it comes to poetry, we don’t give kids enough time to dive in, come up for air, dive in again. And then we typically give them one chance. Try this form. Great! Now, let’s move onto some other form. And even writing poetry of any sort is typically confined to one unit or just a once-in-a-while treat (or torture). And this survey approach—one form after another—doesn’t let any familiarity or efficiency or experimentation kick in. So it’s like doing a preliminary sketch, and then adding the finishing touches and the frame…even before the perspective, the composition, the details, or the colors have been thought through. 

Think of anything you’ve learned to do well—casting a fly-fishing rod, crimping the edges of a perfect pie crust, floating up into a yoga head stand. If you only had one chance to try these “forms,” your success is going to be limited. As will be the pleasure in the…frustrating? slapdash? improving?...accomplishment. How do we improve except by repetition? 

Let me leave you with this: Practice doesn’t only make perfect. Along the way, practice makes for possibilities, including the possibility of enjoying the craft enough to…one day…master it. 

*    *    *

Thank you, thank you, a million thank you's to Michael J. Rosen for providing us with such rich food for thought on form.