Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Contemporary Life

Ink has another use! Writing poetry and Chinese Brush Painting 
are two of my favorite uses for ink, but here is another.
*Spotted about San Jose Town on Columbus Day.*
I like the drapey dress, but I was taught to conceal bra straps
(and to use safety pins for control if necessary) and am having trouble
with the new ways, where straps should be coordinated and
actually part of the outfit.

Here is a poem set in a much earlier time!
It is from that wonderful anthology, 
The Voice That is Great Within Us; 
American Poetry of the Twentieth Century;
edited by Hayden Carruth, Bantam, 1970, pages 616-617.

(This anthology only ever seems to have been offered in the mass market paperback edition, which is now sadly yellowed and fast
getting worse. Poets are arranged by birthdate and so is the 
Table of Contents. I can't figure out HOW the tiny-print credits are arranged, or maybe I could tell you which of Merwin's books contain this poem.)


There was always a river or the train
Right past the door, and someone might be gone
Come morning. When I was a child I mind
Being held up at the gate to wave
Goodbye, goodbye to I didn't know who,
Gone to the War and how I cried after.
When I married I did what was right
But I knew even that first night 
That he would go. And so shut my soul tight
Behind my mouth, so he could not steal it
When he went. I brought the children up clean
With my needle, taught them that stealing
Is the worst sin; knew if I loved them
They would be taken away, and did my best
But must have loved them anyway
For they slipped through my fingers like stitches.
Because God loves us always, whatever
We do. You can sit all your life in churches
And teach your hands to clutch when you pray
And never weaken, but God loves you so dearly
Just as you are, that nothing you are can stay,
But all the time you keep going away, away.

W. S. Merwin
(1927-     )

Most of these 22 lines have 10 syllables. with a couple of 8 syllable lines for relief, and a nine syllable line and an eleven-syllable line that does not break the two-syllable word at its end. The speaker is always the grandmother. There are no stanza breaks. There is some interior rhyming, and some end-rhymes, but they are not obtrusive. 

Your task: try to write a poem about this length where the speaker is of another generation 
than your own. Usually use 10-syllable lines, and make it at least sonnet-length (14 lines.)

As always, I would love to see any poems that result from these tasks. I am trying to also do them myself, gradually.

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