Monthly Archives: October 2012

Substitute Pilot – Notes

Background Notes for Substitute Pilot

A close friend I once had – Nancy (memorial blog where I’ve posted some of her poems) – used to work with a sonnet form based on two 5-line stanzas separated by a 4-line stanza with the sonnet’s volta folding over midway through the poem. Among the numerous variations with which she played, she would add a 15th line, giving herself three 5-line stanzas, while still thinking of her poem as the 14 lines making up her original sonnet, that 15th line sometimes even rendered invisible via HTML coding she had a companion do for her.

I recall those experiments of hers whenever I write the terza rima with which I feel most comfortable: 4 stanzas plus one final line swinging back — reminiscent to me of Nancy’s experimentations because I frequently start with a terza rima sonnet, then chop my poem down to the 13 lines I decide to keep. This poem is one of those: I originally drafted it with an additional line.

For those readers who feel they need to know what a poem “means” before they decide whether or not it works for them, think of the airplane in this poem as being our Heptahedron. Then think of Sara as our pilot and Cynthia as our co-pilot. We’ve got David, Dean and Denise along as our first class passengers; then they let me come along on a budget discount ticket. Our seventh one on board acts as our flight attendant. Take it from there — that’s not actually what this one’s meant to say, but you won’t wind up too far from where we all land if you read it as though it were.

— Maggie


Last Times – Notes

Background Notes — Last Times

Early drafts of this included a lot of other last times. Some have already happened, for instance the doctors she is done with. Some will be coming up soon, like the last time she writes one of her favorite poetry forms. Some last times will never happen, like one friend she had wanted to kiss but probably now won’t. Some last times will never end, like the kiss she will give her child before she leaves.

She saw some of that drafting and said it would work better if I just simplified it all down to what started me on it. The beets.

I’ll take her word for it. To my tongue, beets only go but so far, even with her secret recipe. At least she knows all of what I was thinking. If the version she recommended doesn’t go past the beets, maybe she had something in mind in keeping it so.

— David

Our Public and Private Faces

When I make love, nothing is held back or hidden. That doesn’t mean I have to make love with everyone I love, just to prove to them I truly love them.

Every person I love may see me naked, sometimes even if I am making love with my lover. I’m not shy with those I love. That doesn’t mean I have to strip down for everyone I care for as a friend, just to prove to them that I do truly care.

Every person I come in contact with at all, even the most remote stranger, may see my eyes, sometimes even when they are crying over my most secret pain. I don’t mask myself, not ever. That doesn’t mean that I have to open my door to let someone come spraypaint graffiti all over my home, just to prove I do believe in free speech.

And even people who pretend to ignore me out on the street, that’s their choice and they are still always free to see me as I am in public. I’m no different just because I’m clothed and keeping intimacies reserved for those I love most dearly. I’m not one way in bed then a liar out on the street – it’s the same me, private or public.

That’s how it is for this public face we’ve begun posting for our collaboration. Our group shares a very active private poetry blog that serves our purposes quite well – think of it as all seven of us in bed together at once, metaphorically speaking but every bit as open as if we truly were so. This comment blog and its associated poetry blog are the “street” version of that. Everything we say in the public version is just as true and as real as the bedroom version, and our words won’t change direction based on audience or venue. It’s just that there are certain things we will only share with those who are prepared to take responsibility for complete and honest intimacy.

So look, I’m married to Dean, so quite obviously it might seem a little silly or even pretentious or some other thing our detractors like to insult if I exchange comments with my own husband here, when we all know I whisper “what I really mean” every night making love with him. What I really mean? Hey, talking with my husband when I make love with him doesn’t mean I ignore him and don’t speak with him when we’re together out at our favorite poetry club downtown, does it?

Ditto Sara, married to David. And ditto Cynthia, who lives with Denise. And every one of our group has met each of the other ones face to face. And although we now live in separate geographies, we have video calls and phone calls and chats and e-mails and very active discussions in our private poetry blog each and every single day. Anyone else out there who has such private contact with any close lover, friend or colleague knows that when you’ve got such heavy private conversations going on, then anything you say to each other in public is said knowing it might be heard by someone else, or sometimes is even said to your loved one knowing it will be shared by someone else. That is so commonplace as to be downright universal. Think that it’s still truthful for you but not for me, and yours is a hypocritical truth. The point being that what we say here is as truthful both to us and to everyone else as it is when we say it in our most private moments.

– Maggie, speaking for all of us

My Scissors – Notes

Background Notes — My Scissors

I know I didn’t write it like it was supposed to be written.

When most all of my memories except for my words have been lost, the words I try to use try to act like replacements.

Like a lover one settles for because the real one got lost, that never really does work out. The real thing can’t ever be replaced or reinvented. I shouldn’t even pretend to try.

But this much I meant exactly as I have said: This one is not about my scissors.

— Sara

Petrified Limerick – Notes

Background Notes — Petrified Limerick

The author of this one isn’t interested in providing any background notes, but has told me he doesn’t mind if I do.

His contribution to our collaboration might alienate a reader in any of at least three groups —

  • Personal Detractors — Some have taken it on themselves to find fault with about anything he does, so don’t be surprised to see his part in our collaboration mocked or disparaged relative to the work of the others in our group. None of that will have come from any of us. We respect everything he has had to add, no exceptions.
  • Prudish Types — Traditionally, limericks were by definition bawdy. We might at times share some that are nonsexual in nature — like, the form flies well with political satire as well, not much a surprise given how lewd most of political discourse actually is — but if bawdy topics offend the reader, simply avoid walking through the door of any of our poems identified as a limerick. That’s not our way of refusing to accept responsibility for our writing, as some seem to think having a personal blog relieves them of – quite the contrary, we stand by our word, even when bawdy.
  • Poetic Caste Prejudice — Too many scholars and readers seem to think the limerick to be less serious a verse form than any of the other verse forms of the same “caste” as a sonnet. We don’t happen to believe that. Try writing one yourself sometime — it is actually the mark of an advanced writer to be able to pull off a good one. Sure, just about anyone can get the basic pattern and rhyme scheme down, but as with any verse form it takes a whole lot more than that to make it actually work.

Already we’ve seen several dozen limericks from this author in our backstage private blog – it’s almost been the only verse form in which he seems comfortable. Some of them have been better than the one posted here in our public blog. A few have made me snort my coffee with how practiced he can be catching me offguard with his concluding line, even when I think I see it coming because of the seemingly obvious rhyme. Like, how you think you see it coming if a limerick writer speaks of someone from Nantucket, but even then the better writers will display their wit in completely unexpected ways.

The best compliment I might give our colleague here would be for me to say that although there’s not a single verse form I dislike writing, and although I myself have been known to write a limerick now and then, I would not want to go up against this friend in a limerick-writing contest. …Then again, sure, why not?—it would be a blast, but I would fully expect to lose to him or someone even better.

— Maggie

Left Unknown – Notes

Background Notes to Left Unknown

Don’t worry that there will always be things left unknown.

Some things I speak of in my poetry, I won’t want to talk about. It won’t mean there’s anything bad I’m hiding from you. Please don’t fill the void with anything.

The major repeton of the first triolet returns as the minor repeton of the second triolet. The result almost echoes the tap-tap-tap of a villanelle but in contrast to the left-right-left-right marching out of the repetons in a villanelle, this linked double triolet gives its repetitions more of a woven loop.

That was how I described this form to Tilt-a-Whirl when I submitted A Simple Request Asked of My Doctors for publication as a “linked double triolet.”

Maggie says I should maybe be calling this what we’ve tagged it here: a “Triolet Redoublé.”

I’m going with her advice. I don’t remember any of this from before, only what I can figure out from having David reading it all back to me since. But from that and all my notes, I was exploring this extension of the triolet after Maggie had posted poems such as Partly Over You, which took the idea of linked triolets to a deliciously extreme edge.

– Sara

Somewhere North of Pittsburgh – Notes

Background Notes for Somewhere North of Pittsburgh

Most of the credit for this belongs to Sara. I’m not good at writing poetry like she can be. I had been trying to work on some poetry with the encouragement of Sara and the others in our group’s private blog. Then I said some of what is in this poem when Sara and I stopped just after 2am for a break at an all-night mart on a dark stretch of road in northwest Pennsylvania a few weeks ago. So Sara reminded me that any moment has poetry and worked with me to express what I had told her into what is here in this poem. So it was what I said and felt, but the poetry part of it would not be here without a lot of help from her.

Now they’ve been telling her more of what they told me and her family last year. They’re not giving her very much more time. It’s really a very rare miracle she has had this time back with us now.

So I am giving her any time she wants to have of me, and we are going anywhere she wants to go and seeing anything she wants to see and doing anything she wants to do. And we won’t look back and be sorry for any of it.

— David