30 August 2013

the our lost jungle poetry form challenge: challenge #4 results

OLJ Poetry Form Challenge #4 Results
Let me begin with a story: When I gave the "le stein" exercise to one group of high schoolers, they first had to read an essay by Gertrude Stein to get in the "stein mood." They were not allowed to talk as or after they read the essay; they were tasks to just soak it in, and let their feelings about, toward, and around the piece fill them up--when they felt "ready to burst," then they could start writing. One of the little darlings wrote the following Steinian line:

If I could hit you in the face or ear or throat or anywhere since as we both know since ever knowing a punch is a punch is a punch is a punch.

Whether you liked what you read of Stein or not, one thing that is hard to argue against is that her writing has an uncanny capability of making the reader feel. You really can't read Stein without having some kind of reaction ... and it's usually a strong one. Whether it's a strong desire to understand or figure out, or a strong desire to write something of your own, or a strong desire to read something more familiar or sensible, or a strong desire to hit something or someone or gouge out an eye or two ... there's a desire. This prompt was all about two things: the first, simply, letting go of over thinking things with poetry (whether it was line structure or sentence structure or word sense); the second thing was simply to see how writing from that letting go place can shift the style, rhythm, and in many ways overall understanding of poetry we often bring to the table. No matter how fun or frustrating you found Gertrude Stein, I hope you took something from a reading of her ... and from playing with her unique style.

This week's winning poem comes from Barbara Young. As you read this, I also encourage you to stop by her blog, where she gives us a little history on where the title came from, and some thoughts on Le Stein*.

First Word of a Sentence at 8AM

This is composed with one thing being now.
Is composed with the man's possession.
Is composed with an angular letter.

The music of this is sisterly. Is silver. Sighs
and whispers as the necks of sleeping
geese. Whistles through spaces in
dentine fences. Defenses.
A clarinet is this.
This is an oboe.

This is here. Right here. See.
This pokes. This is a bruise.
This bruise. Ouch!

This is one.
If this seems complex, you
are looking through this to
those and them. This
is singular.

* I received two emails about the name "le stein" for this exercise: one wanting to know where "Le Stein" came from and one questioning why it wasn't (the potentially more grammatically/linguistically correct) "La Stein." I promised both to address it: "Le Stein" is actually an honorific given Gertrude Stein by her inner circle of friends, which included writers and artists like F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Pablo Picasso, etc. ... as well as most of the members of the famous "Lost Generation," which was in fact a phrase coined by Stein. Her other primary "nickname" among this close group of friends was simply "The Presence."


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26 August 2013

our lost jungle poetry form challenge: challenge #4 - le stein

Welcome to the fourth challenge of the 2013 OLJ Poetry Form Challenge! This year’s challenge is all about stepping out of comfort zones and learning to play with poetry. It’s about sound more than sense, sneezes more than handkerchiefs and tiny bows, more butter than ice. (For more on what the OLJ Poetry Form Challenge is all about, check out this post.)

The OLJ Poetry Form Challenge #4: Le Stein

challenge 4: le stein

“Wait … more what than what now?” Butter. Butter came from bows (which made me think of bowls, and a sudden mind flicker of bowls and bowls of butter), which came from handkerchiefs tied into bows, which came from sneezes, which originated in the thought of what is the opposite of sense.

Someone out there is thinking it: “I don’t know what she’s talking about, and I don’t think I like where this is going.”

Anybody who’s even taken or taught a poetry workshop knows that the easiest way to make a group of poets hate you is to make them read an essay by Gertrude Stein. Famous for lines like “Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose” and “There is no there there,” these examples serve as some of the easier readings of Stein. If you’ve never read an essay or speech by her, take some time today to at least browse. It has been said that rather than trying to understand her work, one should try to “interstand” it: to “figure it in” rather than “figure it out,” and engage with it on a deeper, more active, level than simply trying to make sense of it.

Here’s just a section of one of Stein’s prose poems:

A BOX.

A large box is handily made of what is necessary to replace any substance. Suppose an example is necessary, the plainer it is made the more reason there is for some outward recognition that there is a result.

A box is made sometimes and them to see to see to it neatly and to have the holes stopped up makes it necessary to use paper.

You can read the rest of the poem, from Stein’s collection Tender Buttons, here.

jump in

Today’s task is to write a “le stein” poem: a poem written in the style of Gertrude Stein. What exactly is the style of Gertrude Stein? Here are a few "Steinian" poetic cues:

  1. Highly experimental
  2. Word associations, while avoiding words with “too much association” 
  3. Very much in the present (tense and otherwise)
  4. Repetition as a form of discovery
... and so forth. To get into the “Stein mode,” try looking at some cubist paintings, particularly the work of Cezanne (an artist highly admired by and influential to Stein). Consider this description of Stein’s work, from poet Judy Grahn:
“Stein in her work with words used the entire text as a field in which every element mattered as much as any other.” 

Let your consciousness stream and ooze, let go of sense for a while and just go with where your gut takes and rakes you. Be steined and steamed and stymied and shuddered. Go with it, and let it go with you.

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23 August 2013

the our lost jungle poetry form challenge: challenge #3 results

Today ends the second challenge of the 2013 Our Lost Jungle Poetry Form Challenge! This week's challenge was to write a "terza rima twist" poem, taking the traditional terza rima form and giving it your own unique "twist." This challenge was really about learning to put our own spins and twists on traditional forms in general. Remember: rules are made to be broken, and broken things are made to be beautifully reimagined.

You may wonder why I made you wait so long in the day to learn the winners. The short answer is: I'm a nerd. The longer answer is: I decided to make a "third rhyme of time." "Terza rima literally translates as "third rhyme." So for this prompt I decided to work in threes: thus the three winners. But I decided to go beyond that. You'll note that the time is 9pm (PDT). That's the third quarter of the day. It's also three squared. (Just for the record, I also considered posting at 3:33, but decided this was better.)

As noted earlier, I gave myself a personal "challenge" to choose three winners for this week's task. I'm breaking my personal "rule" about posting poems because the three winners today just kind of wowed me, and there's no easy way to pull a snippet that captures the full "wow" of each. (As a note, if any of the poets would like their poem abbreviated after today, please just shoot me a message and I'll do so!)

The first winner is a "sonically sensual" ... the sound of this poem was just riveting, and soothing, and surprising. The second was "sonically sexy"-- phrases within it literally made my heart skip a beat, like "I'm hungry, but I'm known." Finally, although the author of the third winner defined it as silly, I call it "sonically sentimental," or "sonically significant"-- it recalls memory, and awakens the imagination in a, yes, somewhat silly, but also very imaginatively powerful way. (Note: the third poem is now recorded in just a snippet.) Enjoy!



by Barbara Yates Young



Some dreams are flirts. Some, flings. Some are something else. Last
night was the best of one-night-stands, the one you don’t forget,
don’t let dissolve into the past.
I tossed and twitched and thought
about sleep and aches and crap until just after the train
moaned three a.m. at the river. Then a dream caught me,
cast me as its brilliant main
character, ingenue star of a scene about dueling dance.
Step dance, buck-and-wing, heel or toe, sweet, wild, plain-
Jane or crazy-fancy:
whatever my partner-antagonist dared me to kick,
I could lick. It was one-upmanship romance,
panting, lustful, helium-light, grinning and steaming.
My heart dancing lickety-split, I woke, beaming.

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by De Miller Jackson


Place your hands within this quiet sky
and breathe these phrases blown.
Hold my heart and take this crazy ride.
Shhh, don’t tell: I’m hungry, but I’m known.
No cloud is the wiser
as I steal its silver for my throne.
This ghost, a restless untamed tiger
(my unheld breath its den),
my lungs a cage for willing fighter
I barter six stars for bread, and then:
we feast, marked (mocked) by moon
and tumble spill it all loose again.
Mocked by moon, we had it. All too soon.
Mocked by moon, we had it all, too soon.
Mocked by moon, we had it all, too.
……………………………………………………….Soon.

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A Not So Little White Lie
A snippet of the poem by Linda Evans Hofke

It's big and it's round and it's white,
but from the earth you cannot see
that up in the sky at night

the moon's really a big marshmallow.

And if you don't believe me,
if giving my word's not enough,
then consult cow mythology

which states "The moooooon is marshmallooooow." [...]


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Congratulations to the three winners, and well done to all who participated this week! You all did extremely interesting and fun things with this form! Keep playing, and get ready for the next challenge.

Want to stay connected? I invite you to connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Please also sign up for the free email updates from Our Lost Jungle!

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Join in the 2013 Our Lost Jungle Poetry Form Challenge!

19 August 2013

our lost jungle poetry form challenge: challege #3 - terza rima twist

Welcome to the third challenge of the 2013 OLJ Poetry Form Challenge! This year’s challenge is all about stepping out of comfort zones and learning to play with poetry. Good luck with these fun and funky forms! (For more on what the OLJ Poetry Form Challenge is all about, check out this post.)

The OLJ Poetry Form Challenge #3: Terza Rima Twist

challenge 3: terza rima twist

In the thirteenth century, Dante Alighieri invented the terza rima form as the structural “landscape” of his three-part epic poem, The Divine Comedy. A terza rima is, traditionally, a poem written in tercets (three line stanzas) where the end rhyme of the second line in the first tercet determines the rhyme for the first and third lines of the following tercet (thus the rhyme scheme a-b-a, b-c-b, c-d-c, d-e-d, etc.). There are many theories as to how and why Dante invented the form, including the theory that the three-line stanza form was meant to symbolically mirror the Holy Trinity. Later poets, including Chaucer, Milton, and Hardy, experimented with and altered the form. One of the most popular interpretations of the form is the terza rima sonnet. Terza rima also tends to be a highly experimental poem form in that most modern poets who write in the form use slant or near rhymes rather than perfect rhyme. The form was founded in experimentation and innovation …

Which makes it a perfect form to play with during this challenge.

jump in

Today’s task is to take the basic terza rima structure and give it your own unique twist. (For a basic definition and examples of the terza rima form, go here.) Set your rule before you write. For example, “I’ll keep the rhyme scheme but my second line will always be twice the length of the first and third” or “I’ll use the rhyme scheme, but only with slant rhymes, and every fourth stanza will have four lines.” Be as simple as you’d like, or challenge yourself by making the form even more complicated than it already is. (It’s really deceptively “simple” in its standardly defined form, anyway.) Remember, a terza rima can be as long or as short as you like ... but for the sake of this challenge, please aim for more than two stanzas. If you’ve never written a tirza rima before, your “twisted form” may wind up looking very similar to a traditional poem in this style; if you’re feeling really loose, your poem may look almost nothing like a traditional terza rima! Either way, you’re okay!

Have fun, and don’t forget to share your attempts in the comments below or email them to ourlostjungle@kharahouse.com. This week I’ve “challenged” myself to choose three winners, in honor of the form’s name … so bring it!

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Join in the 2013 Our Lost Jungle Poetry Form Challenge!

16 August 2013

the our lost jungle poetry form challenge: challenge #2 results

OLJ Poetry Form Challenge #2 Results
Today ends the second challenge of the 2013 Our Lost Jungle Poetry Form Challenge! This week's challenge was to write an anaphora poem. I hope folks who are joining in are easing their way into the waters we're wading together ... remember, this challenge is all about thinking outside the box, playing rather than working, sixth-sensing rather than sense-seeking. It's all about discovering something new.

On a personal note, I must admit that anaphora tends to be one of my least favorite "forms" of poetry writing. It probably has something to do with my less than lengthy attention span, but I find that halfway through some poems that engage this literary devise I start to feel like I know what's coming. That's part of how this prompt developed the way it did; rather than letting folks choose words where they can easily figure out where to go next, we always do this prompt with the "gotcha" at the beginning. It's one thing to wind up with a word that you can easily do a lot with. It's quite another to wind up with words like the ones you all chose. It's fantastic when someone's favorite word is "mastication" ... where are you going to go with that? (Yes, that happened to a student once.) And it's amazing to see where people's brains will take them when they have to shut off the Familiar Zone.

This is also a prompt that I never gave without forcing myself to do it, too. The challenge was always picking a word when I, obviously, knew what was coming. One summer I did this with a group of teenagers, and one of them scoffed that I had an unfair advantage unless they got to choose my word for me. So I let them each give me a word, and the next day came back with over a dozen poems written using words like "butt," "gravy," "encyclopedia," and, *ahem*, "bullshit." Most of them were horrendous, but it was worth it to prove a point: you can work with anything. (It was also a lesson to maybe not let a group of people come up with any word they want to make you work with ...)

That said, this time around I opened the floor on Facebook for friends and followers to give me a word to write a poem with. I'll share my favorite after I share the winner!

This week's winning poem comes from Debi Swim, who, simply put, blew me away with an anaphora that is both haunting and ... just lovely. Debi posted the poem on her own site, and I always hesitate to snag a poem from an outside page without permission, so here's a snippet of the poem:

If You Could

You said, if you could,
you'd come back, you would,
just long enough to say
everything's OK.
Couldn't you?
I keep waiting for some sign...
thundering or meek,
maybe, on my cheek [...]

You can read the rest of Debi's poem here. Congratulations, Debi, and congratulations to all who participated ... you all did some fun and amazing things in the landscape of ... a word.

Stay tuned for the third challenge next Monday, and thank you all for sharing! Happy Writing, and Go Boldy!

(PS: You can see my anaphora attempt, based on the word "platypus," on my Facebook page and in the comments below!)

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Join in the 2013 Our Lost Jungle Poetry Form Challenge!

12 August 2013

our lost jungle poetry form challenge: challege #2 - whisper, whisper, whisper

Welcome to the second challenge of the 2013 OLJ Poetry Form Challenge! (For more on what the OLJ Poetry Form Challenge is all about, check out this post.) Before we get to today’s prompt, think of your favorite verb. Think of the most musical word you know. Think of your favorite sonic sound—think of a word that sings with that sound. Think of a question you’ve been meaning to ask: is it a what, or a who, or a where, or a when, or a why? Think of an answer you’ve been longing to give, in one word. Yes, no, maybe.

Think of that word, and jot it down. We’ll come back to it later.

The OLJ Poetry Form Challenge #2: Whisper, Whisper, Whisper


challenge #2: whisper, whisper, whisper

When I gave this prompt to a poetry workshop, I made them make a list of words that “tasted like candy on [their] tongues.” Of course they wanted to know what that meant; of course, I refused to tell them, but instead asked them to think on it (what does it mean for a word to taste like candy? Is it sweet? Is it just delightful? Is it like a kiss to say?) and then just make a list. They had five minutes. Next, we played “eeny, meeny, miny, moe” with those lists and got it down to just one. My word was “whisper” (thus the title of the prompt).

Then we came to the prompt.

Today’s prompt is to write an anaphora poem. Also known as epanaphora (don’t you just love the sound of that?), anaphora is the “repetition of a word [or words] at the beginning of two or more successive verses, clauses, or sentences.” A lot of poets consider anaphora just the repetition of the same word at the beginning of each line. However, anaphora can be a lot more diverse, and subtle, than that. Sometimes the poet uses the same word/phrase; sometimes they use one word for a while, and switch to another in the next section/stanza.

jump in

Remember that word you wrote down earlier? Today’s prompt is to write an anaphora poem, but today’s real challenge is to write your anaphora using the word you wrote down. If any of you are anything like any of my former students, I can picture your faces right now. one student had both the misfortune and fortune of ending up with “taco.” He started off writing something of an “ode” to a taco, but soon started playing with the sound of the word and began using phrases like “tic-tac, o” and “take on.”

If you’d like to see one of my favorite examples of anaphora, check out Louise Glϋck’s “October (section I)” here.

Have fun with this form, and don’t forget: share your poetic attempts in the comments below, or email them to ourlostjungle@kharahouse.com for your chance to be this week’s “challenge winner” and have your poem featured in a special post on Friday!


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Join in the 2013 Our Lost Jungle Poetry Form Challenge!

09 August 2013

the our lost jungle poetry form challenge: challenge #1 results

OLJ Poetry Form Challenge #1 Results
Today ends the first challenge of the 2013 Our Lost Jungle Poetry Form Challenge! This week's challenge was to write a "loose translation" poem. The results were fantastic; with several poems posted to this site, and a few delivered via email, it was great to see the many directions in which you all took this task. What was even more fantastic, though, was getting to read through some of your comments on what this challenge made you do in terms of your typical writing ... the bottom line was, it made many of you abandon your familiar and step into the foreign. Welcome to the Lost Jungle!

Whenever I did this prompt with a writing class, there were always a few who either found the task "too easy" or "too hard." "Too easy" usually meant "I can see words there, all I have to do is fill in the blanks," while "too hard" usually meant "I can't resist the need to know what it really means ... this feels wrong." To both of these groups, I'd offer an extension of the challenge, and I'll offer it to you now: pick a language that looks absolutely unfamiliar. These will usually be pictographic/hieroglyphic languages, or languages from the Middle Eastern and/or Asian regions. (In one case I gave a student my copy of The Dead Sea Scrolls, which were presented on little parchment pages that were rolled up and stored in a clay vase; her results were stunning.) When all you have is what looks, to your eyes, like "scribbles," you're not so much focused on "translating" as you are what I call "Rorschaching" -- the question is less "what does it mean" than "what do you see." Try this over the weekend to keep your brain working in the jungle zone! (Your texts don't even have to be poems: find an online foreign-language newspaper, or grab a copy of the Torah or Koran, or hit up a local museum with an ancient cultures exhibit, or check out some local cave drawings, or head into the city and "translate" all the graffiti you can find ...)

There are two featured poems this week! The first comes from  J.lynn Sheridan, who found some stunning words to put to a poem by Yao Feng:

“Little Bird”

We built our home to comfort our little birds.
A trellis of poems to drink with our tea
Bread rises in the oven A pond awaits your
warm limbs Sunfish to nibble your toes.
Hum sweet child when I wake you in the early hours
One delight after another is just outside your window
Take your sisters to the market Buy a silk cloth
Joy is waiting for you My little bird.

The second featured poem is courtesy of Debi Swim, who shared two versions of translation attempts. Here's the first version (I love the second, too, but follow me here):

Offering

Traces of potent promises
Seeds of champing possibility

You pretend it doesn’t matter?
You say now it’s too late?

I extend my hand, my heart
Meet me halfway, take a chance. 

The first version got my special notice especially because of the reminder it gives us about some of our hesitations with poetry. Remember: when it feels like you're doing it wrong, but you do it anyway, that's when you really stumble upon something. That's when there's something trying to come out that something else wants to doubt; let it out anyway! See what can come of it.

Stay tuned for the second challenge next Monday, and thank you all for sharing your works and mind-wanderings! Keep translating, get loose, get lost ... and happy writing!



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Join in the 2013 Our Lost Jungle Poetry Form Challenge!

05 August 2013

our lost jungle poetry form challenge: challenge #1 - loose translations

Welcome to the first challenge of the 2013 OLJ Poetry Form Challenge! As stated in the introductory post, this year’s challenge is all about stepping out of comfort zones and learning to play with poetry. Good luck with these fun and funky forms! (For more on what the OLJ Poetry Form Challenge is all about, check out this post.)
The OLJ Poetry Form Challenge #1: Loose Translations

challenge 1: loose translations

Today’s challenge is to do a “loose translation” of a poem in a foreign language.

A “loose translation” poem is simply a “form” designed to help poets liberate their minds from the need for logic or sense. So often, we as poets never let our work travel from our heads to the page simply because we spend too much time “thinking it through.” We think we have to find the perfect word, the perfect lines, the perfect stanzas, before we can commit anything to writing. The fact of the matter is, so much of the work of poetry is really about serendipity: letting words guide you rather than you trying to guide the words. The loose translation form asks us to forget form, forget sense, and just let our “sixth sense”—that part of us that is drawn to particular sounds, and our instinct for play—take over.

To write a loose translation poem takes so much pressure off, because the initial form of the poem is already set for us. We don’t have to worry about lines or finding the perfect word because the line structures and original words are already there … even if we don’t understand them.

jump in

Today, track down a poem in a foreign language—try to pick one that you don't know and have never studied—and translate it based on what you “see” in the foreign words and sounds. (Also try to avoid languages that might “feel” familiar despite the fact you’ve never studied it; i.e. if you’re familiar with Spanish, avoid Italian poems, too.) If you want to really have fun, translate a poem from Arabic or Armenian or Japanese (languages with characters that bear little resemblance to our familiar letters). Don’t think too hard about what you’re writing; just look at what’s on the page and jot down the first things that come to mind. The line “Icin I” might become “ice in eyes” or “icing, eyes” or “I sing myself” or “icing myself” or “I sin, I…” etc.

You can find a ton of poems to loose-translate at http://www.poetrytranslation.org/. Have fun, and don’t forget to share your efforts in the comments below (or email them to ourlostjungle@kharahouse.com); remember, each week there will be a “challenge winner” (or winners!) whose poem(s) will appear in a special post on Fridays!

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02 August 2013

olj poetry form challenge: introduction

Last summer, Our Lost Jungle challenged poets to get to “know where they came from” by exploring traditional forms and some of the “basics” of poetry. But you know what? This time around it’s not about getting back to basics. This time the challenge is all about the next frontier.

The Our Lost Jungle Poetry Form Challenge
the challenge

Unlike last summer, this year’s Poetry Form Challenge is all about experimentation and play. Each Monday in August and September, we will focus on a new playful poetic form. We’ll start with an exercise designed to get your mind working in different ways: instead of focusing on what you know and making sense, we’ll focus on taking risks and being guided into poetry by things beyond what’s already familiar. As we play throughout the next two months, we’ll learn how to twist familiar texts into our own creations, and end with a challenge to really make something of our very own.

You will have from Monday, when prompts are posted, through Thursday evening (by 10pm ET) to share your responses. You can post directly to the comments on the Our Lost Jungle page, share a link to your response on your own site, or share via email (at ourlostjungle@kharahouse.com)!

the goal

Unlike last year’s goal (“Know where you came from”) this year’s goal is: “Boldly go.” (Yes … I’m a Star Trek fan, guilty as charged.) We will be playing with both the familiar and the unfamiliar, in an attempt to really free our poetic voices.

the prize

Each Friday will feature some of the top submissions from each challenge as a post on Our Lost Jungle. At the end of the challenge, everyone who submits a “final portfolio” of the work they completed during the challenge will receive a special e-certificate and badge for their blog or website. More on the portfolio and challenge prize will come toward the end of the challenge!

the questions

This year’s challenge is all about having fun and playing with poetic form. Just because the forms are more experimental doesn’t mean they’re necessarily “easier” than more traditional forms. If you ever have any questions—whether about the particular form or anything else—feel free to shoot me an email at ourlostjungle@kharahouse.com.

the starting line

What’s more exciting than the prospect of playing with poetry? Getting started! Watch for the first challenge post soon, and as always ...


Happy Writing

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Check out some of the "fundamental" prompts from last year's challenge:

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