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In Lieu of an Elegy

My great aunt Lois passed away this week and Cara left town for a training, which meant there was more time for writing but also more of a chance for that writing to just be bad—sentimental and stereotypical themes. So it’s been a mixed bag, which is frankly how I felt about Lois, as well as this week’s poetic form, the lune.

Robert Brewer introduces the lune as “the American Haiku” and it fits. At thirteen syllables, the lune is shorter than a traditional haiku, but like a terse Hemingway sentence, somehow still carries the same weight as a much more flowery phrase while being refreshingly light. However, like any haiku, I find it to be annoyingly predisposed to rendering bullshit Kerouac-style koans. I’ll leave it to you to decide which way this week’s poem fell.

In Lieu of an Elegy

Death does not exist
anymore
than open spaces.

I experimented with the variant that Brewer ascribed to Jack Collom. At first, it seemed more appropriately Westernized as it measures words, instead of syllables (a tercet with 3 words, 5 words, and 3 words per line, respectively). Ironically, I think by providing the extra space to work, it loses the American feel of the previous form. Take the example below:

Lune No. 4

At the sink
arms crossed, talking—Midwest kitchens
work like spiderwebs.

Maybe I was in the wrong head space and using it wrong but I kept wanting to spread the poem across multiple stanzas as soon as I had the extra room Collom’s version provides.
Now, if you are here, near the end of the post and wondering about some of the hanging threads (What about Lois? What’s with the dinky poems?), some of the writing is just on a the cutting room floor, some might be popping up elsewhere, and if we’re friends on Facebook, you can see my thoughts on Lois more explicitly. Photo credit goes to my wife, Cara Eandi, for a great shot of Bayan Olgii, Mongolia.

Breaking Rules and Making Too Many References to Pop Culture

Poem three is out early this week! I set out this week to write a triversen but the internet and inspiration conspired against it. First off, I had an idea for a poem bouncing around in my head over the weekend, which sparked while scrolling through Facebook.

If that sentence, or at least the last part horrifies you, that’s fair. Social media is railed against (and rightly so) for being designed to inspire jealousy—Instagram posts of perfect meals, vacation updates on Facebook, and so on. The only thing worse than the jealousy it inspires is the navel-gazing. Add to that the ephemerality of the platforms (baked in, like Snapchat, or unintentional, like Myspace) and any piece of writing that references social media will probably feel self-involved and out-of-date in months.

But in the immortal words of Icona Pop, I don’t care, I love it. And I got this feeling that that reference will make sense forever. Which is a good jumping off point for the poem, so before I get to the second point, here it is:

Not Mutable

We’re not friends
on Facebook
but I
know you

because of her
repetitive posts
and pictures
and you

always look
the same-age
won’t touch you
like us

So the Facebook inspiration is up front, but the second conspirator was my internet connection, which went down while I was getting ready to write. Here in Ethiopia, though, I’ve learned to assume I probably won’t have internet when I want it so I was prepared. I couldn’t look up the exact definition of a triversen because I had only bookmarked the link but I did have some William Carlos Williams poems lying around in shelved collections.

As a result, you might notice some similarities to “This is Just to Say” and “The Red Wheelbarrow.” When internet returned, I looked up the rules of triversen and found out that neither actually qualified. I thought about re-writing this but ultimately came to the conclusion and theme of this post, I don’t care, I like it.

Not a Resolution: 52 Poems for 2018

Last week, I kept deflecting when people asked about my New Year’s resolutions. When Cara asked, I finally caved in and said that I don’t like to make resolutions, they’re just meant to break you or be broken. Bouncing the question back to her, she admitted that her first thought was to resolve to work out more, but she made that resolution last year and nothing came of it. I think she instinctively hit the nail on the head—resolutions have become repetitive, required, and offer no real rewards.

So, fuck the resolutions, I’m going to do what I want to do in 2018. I didn’t stay up till midnight on New Year’s Eve because I was tired and I wasn’t feeling it. Cara and I drank Guinness with shots of Bailey’s (unfortunately the whiskey ran out over Christmas) instead of champagne and it was delicious. We made a plate of charcuterie (well, slices of salami) and cheeses Cara brought back from her last trip stateside and binged on Supernatural Season 11 because we’re behind and frankly, every episode of This is Us was an emotional spin cycle on high heat that left us wrung out and dry. And I spent the first day of the new year talking to only the people I wanted to talk to, which may be a little misanthropic or introverted or thoughtless but this next year is going to be hard and I’m not going to make it harder on myself.

I’m not making resolutions so much as focusing on how to make this next year easier, or at least more enjoyable.

After the fanfare of the first wound down, and I had read a great screed against selflessness, I had a chance to think about what I wanted to do this year. I want to drink a lot more coffee. I want to spend more evenings on the balcony outside my bedroom with Cara, a hookah, and Obie barking through the railing at the Embassy guards making their rounds. I want to write more poetry.

I’m not making resolutions so much as focusing on how to make this next year easier, or at least more enjoyable. I won’t feel bad if I don’t manage to fulfill any of these, except for perhaps some caffeine headaches. Along those lines, to jumpstart the poetry, I’ve decided to give myself a form challenge each week. Maybe I’ll end up with 52 poems or maybe just this first one.

For the first week of January, I’m immediately breaking the rules I never set down and instead of using that list of 50 (that’ll be my back up) I’m using Writer’s Digest’s December challenge to write an ottava rima. WD states that William Butler Yeats and Kenneth Kock used the form and provides the following rules:

Ottava rima are 8 lines with an abababcc rhyme scheme, most commonly written in iambic pentameter (or 10-syllable lines). The form can work as a stand alone poem, or be used as connecting stanzas.

Yes, ottava rima, from the latin “to pretentiously rhyme eight lines.” But I immediately found an example from Yeats that resonates, Sailing to Byzantium:

“That is no country for old men. The young
In one another’s arms, birds in the trees
– Those dying generations – at their song,
The salmon‐falls, the mackerel‐crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unageing intellect …”

Friends have remarked that my good taste in literature is equaled only by my terrible taste in movies, and this poem has spun off works in both that I like. It goes on for another three stanzas, illustrating how the ottava rima form can build. But that’s enough exposition from me for this post, on to the poetry. I’ve tentatively titled this, “Christmas in Ethiopia.”

Around the corner Gena lurks and on
The sidewalks are scattered feathers as when
A bird escapes in a childhood cartoon
By leaving a pile of plumage and wind.
In Addis they have thirteen months of sun
And no snow on Christmas, but still is seen
The Christ in a manger, a reminder
Of what lies in wait around the corner.

It’s hard to just hit publish on this first one. I want to add a stanza or two, at least a footnote*, if not erase it and start over. This certainly wasn’t what I intended to write when sitting down earlier this week. But this is about letting go—one down, let’s see how many more to come.

*As you can see, I give in a little and added a few hyperlinks. I can hyperlink my poetry if I want.