Wednesday, August 24, 2011

My Poetry Year: Entry #66

In which Your Humble Blogger goes back to form -- except that she's working in a form she's never tried before:

"She Always Has a Song on Her Shoulder"

She always has a song on her shoulder,
A bird of fantasy that visits her
And sometimes, along with other songs, waits
By her shell-curve ear until she listens.

And it's a sacred day when she listens.
She works bent like a tree at the shoulders,
At her piano until night finds her
And tells her that music will have to wait.

It's a life of compromise. Her clock waits,
But only so long before it listens
To calendars and lays weeks on her shoulders,
And seasons of rhythm change around her.

The moments of devotion allowed her
Are rarer beasts than the songs, and she waits
For them – for what, she wonders. Who listens?
Who pursues lonely lives in art above their shoulders?

Hours spent listening in a half-moon at her piano
Leave her shoulders aching.
But she dreams of the pain as if, like the songs that wait for her,
She, too, has wings.

* * *

I think I set my sights a little high with this one. At the beginning of the year, I was aching to write a very structured poem, as I felt that I'd been getting too loose and slackerly with my approach. One of the hardest forms I know to write in is a sestina. I'm not sure how well I can explain it here -- it feels like such a complicated thing to me, which is why I've included a link -- but basically, each stanza of a sestina except for the last one has six lines, and the same six words are used to end the lines of each stanza, though they're put in a different order each time around. The last stanza of a sestina is shorter, often three lines long, and it contains those six magic words within its lines, usually two per line.

Oof! Well, the concept I had in mind didn't seem like it needed to be developed over the course of a long, long sestina. So I instead used a similar but shorter four-line approach. I did try to be strict with it: I tried to keep each line ten syllables long except with the freer final stanza (though I failed -- some lines are longer), and I kept the four ending words in a specific order (the word that ends the last line of one stanza ends the first line of the next stanza, and the rest get shuffled down, which is how sestinas are supposed to be, but I've seen a lot of writers mess with that and not follow it strictly).

Masochism? Surely. But at the end, the thoughts fit my harebrained pattern better than I'd expected them to. I'm not sure how I feel about the way the lines of the last stanza fall, but I'm hoping that a better arrangement will occur to me.

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