Another Step Down the Road

Yeah, I seem to be writing a story told in verse as a succession of poems about these two guys …

Another Step Down the Road  ColdSnow

 

One foot in front of the other,

under dark sky as I seek.

The cold is becoming my lover

and hunger an enemy to cheat.

 

I set out in search of adventure,

escape from the burden of land,

freedom from all expectations,

and work I could take in my hand.

 

Instead I’ve  been cold, wet and hungry.

I sleep under stars all  alone.

Yet still open road’s voice will call me

while her breath leaves me chilled to the bone.

Another Step Down the Road

Yeah, I seem to be writing a story told in verse as a succession of poems about these two guys …

Another Step Down the Road  ColdSnow

 

One foot in front of the other,

under dark sky as I seek.

The cold is becoming my lover

and hunger an enemy to cheat.

 

I set out in search of adventure,

escape from the burden of land,

freedom from all expectations,

and work I could take in my hand.

 

Instead I’ve  been cold, wet and hungry.

I sleep under stars all  alone.

Yet still open road’s voice will call me

while her breath leaves me chilled to the bone.

A Token for the Train

I love writing in rhyme, and I have a large number of poems lying around that rhyme. I’m especially fond of this one, which I’ve worked over a number of times.

 

 A Token for the Train813235889_2877218121_0

 

I clatter down dim staircase

to seek shelter from the rain,

duck beneath a turnstile

as I’m kind of short of change.

Platform’s crowded with commuters

who all mutter and complain.

 

Lights first dim and flicker,

fade to black as rumbles sound,

faint at first, volume increasing.

Bodies crowded all around

push me one way, then another.

Cries and caterwauls abound.

 

Folks scurry for an exit.

but I forget which way is out.

I bumble, blind, in darkness

while folks wander round about.

There’s a thunk from on the train track.

Guys beside me scream and shout.

I hear a high-pitched whistle

then the echoing refrain

from the screech and scream of metal

as it protests from its pain,

squeals and squeaks of brakes engaging

while they work to stop the train.

 

The slap of footsteps echo.

A man’s jumped down to the track.

Listen to his grunts and groaning

as he pulls the jumper back,

heaves him on the platform.

My head’s spinning; things go black.

Someone hauls me upright,

electricity flicks on,

train doors close; it leaves the station.

Now the crowds of folks are gone.

I scamper up the stairway

to the street where I belong.

A Series of Limericks: tips included

Limericks are not my strength. Try as I might, I cannot spin them off the top of my head. It took me all day to get two decent ones. If you’re not familiar with the form, I found a good guide on About.com by Grace Fleming: How to Write a Limerick. Here are a few tricks I use to get through them:

  1. Do the first two lines (the setup) and the last line (the punchline) first. All these have the same rhyme, and gives you the frame to work with. Then fill in lines three and four (transition) which only have to rhyme with each other.
  2. Use a rhyming dictionary! I use The Scholastic Rhyming Dictionary. Helps for getting out of tight corners when you use a word with not very many rhymes.
  3. Along the last lines, sometimes you have this idea you want, but can’t find workable rhymes. Like in my second limerick below, I wanted to do “Sang for her supper” but could NOT get a decent follow up. Solution: find a synonym. A thesaurus is a handy tool for poets.
  4. If you still struggle coming up with something, give yourself a theme. Write about a friend, or a book character, or spin off a fairy tale. Have fun with it!

Without further ado, here are my two Limericks.

Little Red Riding Hood

Little Red Riding Hood (Photo credit: lllllT)

There once was a red-hooded girl
Who through the dark woods did twirl
‘Til a sound made her scream
And fall in a stream
Turned out it was only a squirrel

There once was a girl from Cancun
Who couldn’t carry a tune
Her song for a meal
Made a werewolf reel
And now she howls at the moon

My Voice

I’ve been thinking about voice a lot lately. Voice, as in writer’s voice, what is it, where does it come from, what influences it. As a writer, I love words and word play, have a good knowledge of English grammar, can speak, read and write French well enough to carry on a conversation, read a book, and appreciate some of the differences in the grammars. I enjoy humor and like writing all kinds of humorous poetry.

Many things have influenced me as a writer, but one of the biggest was my father. An attorney who appeared twice before the Supreme Court, he love the English language and was adamant about correct usage. Every time my sister or I would make a mistake, he would repeat the whole rule and its explanation. Not simply the correction. The whole, blasted thing. He also refused, generally, to give us the meaning of a word; he made us look them up ourselves. At the time I found the whole thing beyond annoying. Now I view it as one of the biggest gifts he could have given me.

He also encouraged us to read widely. I recall reading Damon Runyon and O’Henry among others at about age twelve, and having to look up about one word in every sentence. Talk about vocabulary building! And I can still recall discussions about points of grammar around the dinner table.

The New York Times crossword puzzle was another big influence, in that it led to my developing my own algorithm for generating rhymes. I am an auditory learner, and one day while doing the puzzle, searching for a word where I had the first letter, I realized that there were a very limited selection of sounds that could follow:
Consonant plus L sound: for example C plus L as in clap
Consonant plus R sound: for example C plus L as in crap
For some, Consonant plus W sound:   C plus W sound would be cwap — nope, that one’s not a word.
For S, C, and T: consonant plus H
For letter q: KW is the sound
Special case : S : S plus most of the others: S plus C , S plus C plus L, S plus C plus R…

But NOTE well.  We’re talking about SOUNDS, not spelling. I use C for the K sound.
If you’re visual and this throws you off, this system might not work for you. fat frat flat

I’ve used this algorithm for years. I love to rhyme, and although I now occasionally look up the rhymes using rhymezone.com, I can go through my own algorithm pretty quickly. I do better that way, because it forces me to contemplate each word and whether or not it would fit in the poem.

Although I love music and play the flute and the piccolo, I don’t listen to music as I write, nor do I see images when I listen to music. When I listen to music, I listen to music. It evokes emotions, but I don’t see pictures unreeling in my brain. I know some writers are inspired by music, like to write to music, and the like. I don’t, not in the way most people mean. I do find music to be very freeing when I’m letting my mind wander, contemplate plot, character, or whatever.

I have written several poems that were music-inspired. In  the cases I can remember, I was in my car listening to the radio when a particular song — or songs — got me started on a poem. Here is one of them. The first part of the first stanza was what was happening when the Kenny Chesney song started to play on the radio. I did have to go search out the titles of some of his other songs in order to fill out my conception of the poem. I’m nobly resisting the urge to revise it. It was published in an ezine:

Crack Up

Swish through car-lit darkness
Past squares of light,
street signs sparkling green and white.
Roll down your window,
feel the lemon air
ruffle what’s left of your hair.
Kenny Chesney blaring on the radio
loud enough to silence the thoughts in your head
waiting to be drowned in a cold beer.

Your wheels slide through ghosts of clouds,
past skeleton trees waving bare arms,
past lighted windows with families eating
roast chicken, green beans, potatoes
while the letter from your daughter
crinkles in your back pocket,
your seat belt chafing as
Kenny croons Who you’d Be Today.

The smell of leaf smoke drifts
through the window
as you drive at twenty-five miles per hour
past the cop in the turn-out on your left,
as the rain starts dripping down your windshield
and your windshield wipers quit.
You reach for a beer
as Kenny starts singing Keg in the Closet

Your car drifts into the center of the road
as you drop the empty on the floor,
reach behind you for another,
one hand on the wheel.
The car skids on wet leaves
going around that curve in the road
you forgot was there
and Kenny sings Steamy Windows.

The sweat drips down your neck
as you wrestle with the steering wheel,
brake on the empties,
your seat belt unfastened.
Skid into the tree.
Glass arrows your cheek your eye.
You’re bleeding from your ear.
Somewhere Kenny’s singing How Forever Feels.

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Taming the elusive Iamb

Note: In all of the following, I have indicated stressed syllables in bold.

Woods and Fields near my home

My woods and fields

An iamb is a two-syllable metrical foot where the stress is on the second syllable:

da dum

A trochee is a two-syllable metrical foot where the stress falls on the first syllable:

da dum

Robert Frost’s poem, “Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening” is composed of iambs:

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

For an example of dactyls check out Henry Wadsworth Longfellow‘s “Song of Hiawatha

Should you ask me, whence these stories?
Whence these legends and traditions,
With the odors of the forest,
With the dew and damp of meadows,

And now Michele’s first stanza:

We claim our fears and ghosts by what we do,
   paths drag us into, not by accident,
   territory steep in our deep taboo.*

*Note: there are several ways to read this line — this is one.

So, lines one and two consist of nothing but iambs, but line 3 starts with two trochees.

One way to figure out the meter is just what I have done above: read the lines aloud, then underline or bold the stressed syllables, then see what you have. Another is to clap as you read: clap on all the stressed syllables while at the same time keeping track of whether this matches your pattern.

Another is to imitate a well-known rhyme or song. One of the only successful rhymed stories I wrote followed the rhythm of a nursery rhyme (unfortunately I’ve forgotten which one). Here are the first couple of stanzas. Can you help identify the song or nursery rhyme I tried to follow?

Old Tom Troll
had a hole by a bridge,
not far from the River Dee,

a lonely hole
not fit for a Troll,
and full of damp debris.

So Old Tom Troll
went out for a stroll
to find new holes to see.

Old Tom Troll
had a hole by a bridge,
not far from the River Dee,

a lonely hole
not fit for a Troll,
and full of damp debris.

So Old Tom Troll
went out for a stroll
to find new holes to see.

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Lin's Focus on Villanelle

Cupid Cupid weather vane Pentlow, Essex.

Cupid Cupid weather vane Pentlow, Essex. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here is my first villanelle,  from 2009. I found it very interesting and challenging to work in a rhymed form instead of my usual free verse.  It was also a stretch to work to  a rhyming pattern, but I managed it. I hope to see some of your villanelles posted here!

Love’s Progress

– A villanelle-

By

Lin Neiswender

Love takes wing and flies away
Shy Cupid with arrows adrift
Leaves mere mortals to seize the day

Blushing glances longings betray
Pulses beating now more swift
Love takes wing and flies away

Stem by stem a sweet bouquet
Rose and lilac scents do lift
Leaves mere mortals to seize the day

Soft low voices fears allay
Giving fear a mere short shrift
Love takes wing and flies away

New lover’s whisper, a tender play
Hearts will meet then souls uplift
Leaves mere mortals to seize the day

One kiss may give passion sway
A final tender parting gift
Love takes wing and flies away
Leaves mere mortals to seize the day

©2009 Lin Neiswender

Previously published in Love and Other Passions, 2012

Lin’s Focus on Villanelle

Cupid Cupid weather vane Pentlow, Essex.

Cupid Cupid weather vane Pentlow, Essex. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here is my first villanelle,  from 2009. I found it very interesting and challenging to work in a rhymed form instead of my usual free verse.  It was also a stretch to work to  a rhyming pattern, but I managed it. I hope to see some of your villanelles posted here!

Love’s Progress

– A villanelle-

By

Lin Neiswender

Love takes wing and flies away
Shy Cupid with arrows adrift
Leaves mere mortals to seize the day

Blushing glances longings betray
Pulses beating now more swift
Love takes wing and flies away

Stem by stem a sweet bouquet
Rose and lilac scents do lift
Leaves mere mortals to seize the day

Soft low voices fears allay
Giving fear a mere short shrift
Love takes wing and flies away

New lover’s whisper, a tender play
Hearts will meet then souls uplift
Leaves mere mortals to seize the day

One kiss may give passion sway
A final tender parting gift
Love takes wing and flies away
Leaves mere mortals to seize the day

©2009 Lin Neiswender

Previously published in Love and Other Passions, 2012