Saturday, March 27, 2010

(back to) Shaped Poems

OK, I know it is sort of silly to write poems in shapes, like angel wings or diamond rings. I get that it has the tang of the effete, as in a goose quill humanist script penned by a hand encased in an ink-flecked flocked-velvet cuff. The words locked in the vise of a vase or crammed in a crate... but... I digress...

I can't stop. 

Calligrams. Word warps. Shape shifters. Visual poems. What would you call them?

And like anything I take time with, the obvious is fading and I'm considering my rules of play with this enterprise. I won't call it "form" since the form is the shape. So what are my rules?


1. Like a joke, move beyond the obvious punchlines and tame set-ups. Go ahead, write the first ideas that come to you and agree they are lame and write more. And more after that. Riff on a shape. Aim for exploring the unexpected.
2. Use meter, rhyme (both internal and slant), and pauses to make the poem read aloud as if it existed full and complete outside it's assigned shape.
3. Accept that line breaks are more arbitrary once the poem is packaged, so build suspense in other ways.
4. The "thingness" of the shape must be used to flavor the poem but not direct it.
5. After many a rewrite, give up when the foot won't naturally fit the shoe, it just won't be worth the blister.
6. Accept that only 1 in 25 shaped efforts will be worthy to move on for consideration for publication or inclusion in my as yet unnamed chapbook (soliciting title ideas from friends).
7. Consider the folly of assigning cookie cutter shapes to ideas; shrug, write more.

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