Writing the worst poem of my (adult) life

Yesterday I tried an experiment. I brought to my poetry group the worst poem I’ve written in my adult life. I warned them before they began to look at it that what I hoped they’d look at was the rhyme scheme. I wanted them to see if they found anything unusual in that. WELL… they were instantly all over the poem with critique. The poem was too full of “stuff, didn’t make sense, seemed to be two places at once, was not up to my usual, etc. etc.” What no one noticed however was the rhyme scheme. Not one poet recognized I’d rhymed the primary word of each line to the one following; in other words initial rhyme. I listened as each one tried to find something constructive to say about this very bad poem. I laughed inside as they struggled to be helpful.  The moral of the story:

try new things without fear

bring new things to your peers, without fear

throw very bad poems out, without fear

be grateful you have close readers!


Have you missed me while I’ve been gone?

Bad bloggie, bad bloggie. I have been such a bad bloggie. But I resolve to change this and do some serious postings this month.

It is 7:30 AM, the sun is out and who knows the temp…but I feel sunny. I am reading two new collections of poems by two of “my guys of poetry, David Mason and Sam (RS) Gwynn. Now before my feminist colleagues get all crazy on me, I must say that I am shameless over how much I love male poets (THESE poets in particular along with Richard Wilbur, BH Fairchild, Dana Gioia, et al from the New Expansionist school … which is my comfy spot). Oh yes, I have my fav women poets, much admired and their work revered. BUT I just plain LOVE these men and their words and ways.

Back to the thoughts I have on Mason’s and Gwynn’s books hot off the presses and in my hot little hands. 

One of the things that changed for me when, as a 50+ student giving the BA in English its due and it’s finish was that I no longer considered books too sacred to use as a note-taking medium. For decades I truly believed that writing in a book was vandalism. I was TOLD this by all of my favorite teachers. Now, I happily scribble notes in just about every book I read (not the library books!). These volumes contain notes and even small responding poems. One friend said a while ago “whoever gets your books when you die will have an amazing library of your mind and poetry.” Ha! I do love it when written martial does two things at once!

Back again to Mason and Gwynn, I diverted myself… do this so often I may be a human ping pong game! 

Both books are lush with great (yet simple) diction that brings the poems to new life. Both are (of course) formal in so many ways, yet do not hit the reader over the head announcing it. For Mason, in his book Sea Salt, there is a more emotional and serious tone than Dogwatch by Gwynn where humor permeates nearly every page (I think he can’t help doing this as he is such a purveyor of irony and guffaws (the readers’). His Texas brand of humor is sprinkled everywhere. Mason on the other hand is a lover… tender to the core over his relationships with women and his loyal love of his father and of the world of the less-than-perfect. Both books are rife with pretty-darned-good sonnets. I admire them, each and all. What stand out abut the sonnets of both these fine poet is that they don’t stand out there announcing themselves as such. Oh sure, adept close readers, and sonnet-loving readers at that, might well know they are sonnets. I suspect sonnets whenever I see a bit of a blocky look or a short poem that comes out of the gate with a rhyme scheme developing or when iambs or trochees hit the ground running in the first two lines. BUT it is the subtlety of the rhymers and the meter that cloaks these sonnets a bit like a lover under a street lamp. No overtness whatsoever. I cling to the images instead and then, and only then, do I mentally shout SONNET! Whether the form be Elizabethan or Petrarchan, no matter. The sonnets in both books divert attention from themselves by luxuriating in image. Another aspect separating their sonnets from the “normal” sonnet form is topic. Both these fine poets are great at applying everyday topics to the ancient form and thus freshening the whole.

I think I have said enough to perhaps convince you of two things: your reading life is not completely well-rounded if you are not reading  contemporary sonnets (especially Mason’s and Gwynn’s) and that you ought to give these two collections a try.

Read my reviews on amazon.com and get the details of what I find so appealing about both Sea Salt and Dogwatch. 

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