27 August 2012

Our Lost Jungle Poetry Form Challenge: Challenge #9

Good morning, poets, and welcome once more to the Our Lost Jungle Poetry Form Challenge.

Today marks both a beginning and an end. For me, it is the first day of a new academic year, meaning it is time once more to jump into the fray of teaching. I am at once excited and, as usual, fraught with nerves--- I’m anticipating a good semester, though without the certainty of continued employment into the Spring it sure is hard to be quite as excited as usual. Still, with the certainty of a blessed employment for the Fall, it sure is hard to let anxiety get the best of me!

And so with that, I introduce the end: Today is the last poetic challenge of the Our Lost Jungle Poetry Form Challenge. We’ve had eight fun weeks of playing with poetic form, re-familiarizing ourselves with some of the basics and experimenting with some modern adaptations of familiar forms. This week we branch further into the unknowns of poetic form, with a challenge that asks you step out on your own and play with form in a whole new way: Yours.

The OLJ Poetry Form Challenge #9: Your Form
Defining it

This week’s challenge is for you to invent your own poetic form … which means there isn’t much for me to define, now, is there?! However, there are some rules for you to follow in regards to your form:

1. Using what you learned from Challenge #1, incorporate some metrical rhythm into your form. This might mean your form demands iambic pentameter, or a syllabic pattern (i.e. 5-7-5, 1-2-3-4-5, 2-4-6-8, etc.)
2. Using what you learned from Challenge #2, incorporate some rhyme rule into your form. You might establish a rhyme scheme, or insist that the poem cannot rhyme, or must rhyme in the middle of the line, etc.
3. Thinking about the way many forms, like the haiku, have a “typical” theme (i.e. nature, seasons, etc.), establish a rule that states what (if any) theme your form includes (this could mean you define your form by saying it does not have to adhere to any particular theme)
4. Thinking about the Lento form’s stanza structure, define the format of your poetic form. Will it be one stanza, or should it be two? How long should each stanza be?
5. Thinking about the various adaptations of the Sonnet form, think of how you might adapt a familiar form and “make it new.” If your form is to be an adaptation of another, familiar, form make sure you give the original some credit!
6. Remembering the alliterative patterns of the Pleiades form, incorporate some kind of word play into your form—this might be alliteration or internal rhyme, or patterns based on word associations, etc.
7. Remember what Charles Simic said about the prose poem—that it is “a bit like trying to catch a fly in a dark room.” Use your form to try and catch your own fly---play with poetic elements, steal from other forms and patterns, and see what kind of poetic net you can create.
8. Remember that sometimes a poetic form can be as simple as a single line, or an adaptation of a familiar form. Think about how, and why, you might adapt a form you’re already familiar with to make it your own.

Doing it

With those eight rules in mind, take this week to create your own poetic form. Play with the rules as you work to invent, and see where your creative mind---now perhaps a little more attuned to the various ways poetic form can happen---will take you! When you submit your poems, you don’t have to include your rules; simply share the poem (or poems) that is/are born of your new form. A small caveat: make sure you are inventing the form before you go about writing it. I gave this assignment once to a group of students, and many of them tried writing a poem and seeing what patterns emerged in their own writing. While this can be a fun way to come to an understanding of how you write, it isn’t the same as working through the invention process and developing the form first, and then seeing where it can take you.

Fun it up!

Remember, you have from now until Thursday (8-30) to share your poems either here, via email (ourlostjungle@kharahouse.com), or on your own blog (with links provided here or through email … make sure I know where to find your fine form-work). Since this task is a bit more complicated than any other challenge we’ve had (understatement of the year, I know), I’m extending the submission deadline to 11pm EDT … I know, that’s only an hour, but maybe you’re one of those folks who, like me, works better burning the midnight oil. Have fun, and as always …

Good luck!


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It's not too late to catch up with the Our Lost Jungle Poetry Form Challenge!


  1. This should be interesting.

    Hope your first week lets you ease back into the fun and games.

  2. Hope it's a great year for you, Khara. Thanks for inviting us to play this summer.

    "One" A TriVail

    1. Loved it, jlynn. I'm going to have to try this one, too. Great form and lovely use.

  3. It's hard not to go all hog-wild, making up weird rules, isn't it? Probably because I see "form" that way--irrational strictures.

    The Dive

    She has redrawn her ligaments and become her own art work,
    beauty as form, perfected to its purpose.
    A thousand thousand thousand eyes catch her entering
    the upper atmosphere, the meteor, burning like a wish.
    She is Earth, Fire, Air
    and all stars are aligned as she touches the surface.

    squealer in a red bobber vest,
    I puppy-paddled; Daddy
    tossed me, untutored, into the sky
    and, failing to fly, I suddenly drowned

    Carrying silver mirrors into the blue-painted
    underworld, she taunts all
    paralyzing fears in their own element. Having fallen
    more beautifully than any star before her,
    and trailing air in globes of light,
    she flies, limber-limbed. The stone Gorgon sinks.

    Form: Sweet (Ego-Centric) Sixteen

  4. http://www.mapoetpoems.blogspot.com/2012/08/jazz-haiku-ensembles.html Thank you, Khara. Your students are so lucky to have you as their teacher!

    1. I loved it, Michelle, and left you a comment onsite. Great work.

  5. Oooo, I like it, Barbara. Wonderfully free poem with plenty of swirling movement and images colliding with themselves and others. Good work.

    Khara, I didn't begin the challenge until it was halfway through, but I enjoyed it tremendously. You'll do fine this year with your teaching. You do it very well from what I've seen. Enjoy it. I've certainly enjoyed this challenge you set us. Here's mine with explanation.

    Variation on a Mirrored Cinquain
    1. Syllabic rhythm runs 7,9,7,9,7 for each stanza

    2. The rhyming scheme runs 1,4; 2,3; 5 and 2,3; 1,4, 5

    3. No specific theme is required, though Nature must be a minor element in some way within the body of the poem. The poem is written to a photo prompt of some kind of nature shot.

    4. Two stanzas of five lines each

    5. This version of a mirror cinquain has specific requirements that can be tricky. I know I found it so.

    6. Alliteration comes both with each lines beginning words but also within at least two of the lines within each stanza.

    7. Each line of poem begins with the same letter of alphabet

    I created this form before I looked up anything having to do with cinquains, so any resemblance to existing forms is purely coincidental. It surprised me to see what was out there.

    Wondering Ways

    Whisper of air ceases now
    While willful memories move forward,
    Wending their lone way shoreward,
    Waiting for fishers to perch on bough,
    Where keen eyes watch for dinner.

    Whichever song comes forward,
    Whatever thoughts drive me now,
    Wield with reflected bough,
    Wisdom, to witness life’s slow shoreward
    Whirling joys, future’s spinner.

    1. What a creative concept: Mirrored Cinquain. It's also like an ekphrastic poem, because one of your rules is to write it in response to a photo. Like a story within a story. Love it!

  6. Here is my experiment in postcard poetry form. It's a variation of an ekphrasis.
    I'm blown away with the forms you guys have come up with.
    Best wishes, Khara on continued teaching.

    1. OK. The link thing isn't cooperating this week. Here's the long version.
      Sorry for the inconvenience.

    2. Kris, I left you a comment onsite. Such a wonderful challenge you present. Good for you. Loved it.


Thank you so much for your comments! Please feel free to share your thoughts here; I look forward to engaging in conversation with you!

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