Ashley Lister’s Exercise at the ERWA blog – the kyrielle

Ashley Lister has his exercise up. He posts at the ERWA blog on the sixth of each month.  This month he introduces the Kyrielle.  I’d also add that the only additional commentary from Turco’s The Book of Forms (University Press of New England, Hanover & London, Third Edition, 2000, pp. 197-198)9781611680355

is a French normative syllabic poem form written in quatrains.  All lines are octosyllabic (in English meters, tetrameter)…

is that reference to tetrameter.  Longman Dictionary of Poetic Terms doesn’t have the form, neither does Bob’s Byway,, etc. This article out of Arizona State University expands even further than Lister’s article with a reference to the Encyclopedia Britannica.  More importantly, I think, it specifically notes the use of quatrains which both Lister and Turco show in their rhyme scheme, but don’t specifically spell out.  It also goes into greater detail about the refrain:

characterized by a refrain that is sometimes a single word and sometimes the full second line of the couplet or the full fourth line of the quatrain.  (Encyclopedia Britannica)

Enough with quoting today, time to go write.

Love, Lust, and Sex after Sixty

is posted in the Summer 2015 Gallery of Poetry at ERWA – The Erotic Readers and Writers Association. That and Hic Sunt Dracones were picked up.  More importantly, I wrote about the process of drafting the poem on my May 11th blog entry on revisions.  It’s wonderful to have a venue for explicitly sexual work.

I’ve been writing about aging and sex for awhile because, well, I’m aging.  Sex does not belong to just the young and the beautiful.  And my very wise husband once asked why the men always had to be bossy and responsible for shooting a load the size of a cannon.  So, I enjoy writing works which don’t fit the tropes.  The cliches in erotic poetry are easy to break out of because the grooves are so well-worn that you can see to avoid them.  There really is so much material which has never been covered poetically with a high degree of craft so that explicit poetry could compete with non-sexual, or less explicit work of literary quality.

Yet, it’s difficult for me to write erotica when I have such limited experience – and frankly6a010534b2fc89970b015435ed988d970c-500wi – will continue to be limited for the foreseeable future.  There are topics I seem to be able to write about through others eyes.  I particularly love working with M/M work because I do find the idea of that arousing.  D/s – I’ve really only been able to do ekphrastic works, like robert and Robert.  BDSM, I’ve done a little bit, but I find this difficult because I, myself, have a hard time understanding the pleasure of pain and I have no experience.

It’s during periods like NaPoWriMo where I feel I can let myself explore, just let my imagination go.  Other times, I know there are so many rules that it becomes inhibiting.  I can read and read and read, but my head still gets filled with the criticism of “not knowing” what I’m talking about and fear of backlash.  This is a big reason why there’s freedom in being anonymous.  I’d have to pay someone to write my defense.  I doubt I could keep up with the way arguments fly across the internet, the way reputations tumble and fall.

So while I’ve “mildly” come out – i.e., I’ve posted pieces under both my pseudonym and “real” name because I’m not ashamed of what I’ve written, I can’t say that I have successfully engaged in internet arguments.  I also don’tindex interview well. There are other writers who can clearly argue.  I can only empathize.

My one passionate point would be the necessity of clear critical commentary as an important literary tool for improving work.  I’m not saying, “kind,” or “compassionate.”  Actually, I’ve found through moderating and being on the poetry boards for the past fifteen years that kindness does not help the writer kill their babies.  It’s an interesting paradox for the writer – what to keep, what to edit, what to outright kill.  It’s the writer’s responsibility to take in the advice, but to keep their cool.  Remember their manners.  Especially these days and times where a shitty response will get you notoriety – and not the good kind.

Having been harshly reviewed myself, I know how dismaying it is.  Yet, it’s been necessary for me in the development of my own writing.  On the receiving side, it’s helped me internalize what others find offensive by virtue of being bad writing.  Just as importantly though, by learning to write criticism, I’ve been able to look at my own work through the drafting process and “see” what needs to be tossed, rearranged, reworded, and what I’ve chosen to save.  By learning how to express myself to others through critical commentary on their pieces, I’ve been able to focus on someone else’s work and try to describe how to make it stronger, better.  I might not be right.  But I do spend my time trying to understand why I was bored, why I didn’t believe, why I didn’t like the piece.  And frankly, I find that I needed more support learning to write criticism than writing a poem.

And so I do respect those who know more about topics like BDSM, or D/s than I ever will.  I think I need to find an instructor to talk to before I leave the draft stage.  hmmmm….

Let me repeat myself

My morning newsfeed from Brain Pickings presented me with Amanda Palmer reading the Polish Nobel Laureate Wislawa download (12)Szymborksa’s poem, “Possibilities,”  The poem is written using a poetic device called “repetition.”  The repetition is obvious,  at the start of each line Szmborska is using the very same phrase.  After a while, the repetition sets an expectation much like metrical predictability.  Variation from the expected length is noticeable, but a nice break from the shorter lines.  Still, the poem’s length, and the absolute focus upon the phrase, “I prefer” drives the reader into a sense of knowing what to expect which feels “safe.”  This safety feeling, in my opinion, is an interesting juxtaposition to some of the brave risks she talks about within the poem itself.

While a reader who is unfamiliar with non-rhyming, non-metrical works as “poetry,” might not necessarily classify this work as 1318947739_Colourfull-dragonflya poem, the work fits many of the definitions of what a poem is.  This piece qualifies as a poem because it is using sonic devices, such as repetition, to “achieve an incantatory effect.”  It’s using this musical quality to balance the fearsomeness of some of the ideas Szmborska presents.  It twists language a bit, like the phrases “the time of insects and the time of stars.”

These are some of the reasons I wanted to make sure I brought this device, as well as her poem, to your attention.  But onto some of the technical details, like what repetition as a poetic device is, and how it’s used.

Repetition as a poetic device which Bob’s summarizes quite nicely:

A basic artistic device, fundamental to any conception of poetry. It is a highly effective unifying force; the repetition of sound, syllables, words, syntactic elements, lines, stanzaic forms, and metrical patterns establishes cycles of expectation which are reinforced with each successive fulfillment.

Sidelight: Repetition is so important to poetry that a large number of poetic devices are based on its different applications. Sometimes variations from the expected repetitions can also achieve a significant effect.

And here are some links on the use of repetition in poetry.

a blog called udemy
Literary Devices
Al Filreis’s Uni of PA has a lot of references and poems where the device is used

The Poetry Foundation doesn’t have a direct reference to the word “repetition,” but has a definition for “refrain” which one should be familiar with as that is a specific implementation of repetition in a formulaic manner.


And before you get to the poem, I’d like to remind you of Robert Lewis Stevenson’s famous quote from his Inland Voyage because when I read Szmborska’s poem it came immediately to mind.

To know what you prefer instead of humbly saying Amen to what the world tells you you ought to prefer, is to have kept your soul alive.

So here is Amanda Palmer reading Polish Nobel Laureate Wislawa Szmborksa’s poem, “Possibilities” and the Brain Picking’s article with the poem embedded, but here it is and cited from the Nobel site:


I prefer movies.
I prefer cats.
I prefer the oaks along the Warta.
I prefer Dickens to Dostoyevsky.
I prefer myself liking people
to myself loving mankind.
I prefer keeping a needle and thread on hand, just in case.
I prefer the color green.
I prefer not to maintain
that reason is to blame for everything.
I prefer exceptions.
I prefer to leave early.
I prefer talking to doctors about something else.
I prefer the old fine-lined illustrations.
I prefer the absurdity of writing poems
to the absurdity of not writing poems.
I prefer, where love’s concerned, nonspecific anniversaries
that can be celebrated every day.
I prefer moralists
who promise me nothing.
I prefer cunning kindness to the over-trustful kind.
I prefer the earth in civvies.
I prefer conquered to conquering countries.
I prefer having some reservations.
I prefer the hell of chaos to the hell of order.
I prefer Grimms’ fairy tales to the newspapers’ front pages.
I prefer leaves without flowers to flowers without leaves.
I prefer dogs with uncropped tails.
I prefer light eyes, since mine are dark.
I prefer desk drawers.
I prefer many things that I haven’t mentioned here
to many things I’ve also left unsaid.
I prefer zeroes on the loose
to those lined up behind a cipher.
I prefer the time of insects to the time of stars.
I prefer to knock on wood.
I prefer not to ask how much longer and when.
I prefer keeping in mind even the possibility
that existence has its own reason for being.


By Wislawa Szymborskadownload (15)
From “Nothing Twice”1997
Translated by S. Baranczak & C. Cavanagh

Copyright © Wislawa Szymborska, S. Baranczak & C. Cavanagh




Poetry Readings – Carol Ann Duffy’s works

I’ve often found that a bad poetry reading can ruin a poem.  I, myself, do not read my poems as well as someone who is an actor.  I’m sharing links to videos and recordings for readings I’ve particularly enjoyed.  But a good reading, or a brilliant one – well, if you do not like poetry, this is a great way to browse, taste, and experience a beautiful poem which otherwise might not make sense to you on the page.

Carol Ann Duffy is the Poet Laureate of Britain.  Her works are accessible because her language is stark, her imagery clear.  Yet, the works are layered.  The connotations, the references, bring to mind unsaid ideas and themes.  Here are a few of her pieces I particularly love.


Yet, Duffy does a wonderful job reading her own work and talking about it.  This is her poem, Premonitions.

If you ever get a chance to read her “World’s Wife” there are some amazing pieces in them. Again, this is a great video which is a prime example of what a good poetry reading looks like. The poem is, “Mrs. Midas

Let me introduce you

to Timothy Steele. His book, all the fun’s in how you say the thing was one of the first books on  prosody I ever read.   “Prosody is the study of the meter, rhythm, and intonation of a poem.”  I was taught how to scan (determine the metrical “character” of a line of poetry”) from friends I met on the internet in the “earlier” days of the bulletin board system.  There was one specifically who took the time to take me to a “black area” off a private bulletin board and run me through Alexander Pope, and spent the time to break down the confusion I suffered from too many badly taught English classes compounded by my very tin ear.

My approach to scansion is quite mechanical.  I have “friends” on the internet who are much more natural than I am in their approach to prosody.  Still, I have no reputation to uphold.  I make no scholarly claims.  The only claims I do make is that I occasionally attempt to write a good critique.  So, in the interest of sharing information from people who know much, much more than I dbroccoli braino, I’d like to introduce the interested student to Mr. Timothy Steele.  Wikipedia him.  Google him. him.  He’s an accessible instructor and there’s a lot of his technical information littering the web.  They’re well worth reading.

Here are two of his technical pieces:  one on rhyme and stanza and this piece on meter.  If you’re going to do some broccoli reading (reading which is good for your head), this stuff won’t put you to sleep.

I also ran across this old document, notes really, from my “early days” of trying to figure this stuff out:

Basics of accentual-syllabic prosody

Lewis Turco, The Book of Forms,

1st count all syllables
2nd count stressed syllables
3rd count verse feet


  1. Every word in English two syllables in length or longer will have one strongly stressed syllable.
  2. The general rule for stressing words of a single syllable is this: Verbs and nouns generally take a stress: action words, subjects, or objects.
  3. Exceptions:
    1. verbs that we generally elide: “Have” (I’ve), “are” (you’re), “am” (I’m)
    2. articles (a, the)
    3. prepositions (of, to, on, in, etc.)
    4. coordinating conjunctions (and, but, or, nor, for)
    5. certain pronouns such as “I” and sometimes “you,” which we tend either to use in an elision or merely to slide over
  4. In any series of 3 unstressed syllables in a line of verse, one of them, generally the middle syllable, will take a secondary stress through promotion and will be counted as a stressed syllable.
  5. In any series of 3 stressed syllables in a line of verse, one of them, generally the middle syllable, will take a secondary stress through demotion and will be counted as an unstressed syllable.
  6. Any syllable may be rhetorically stressed by means of italics or some other typographical ploy.


There are FOUR standard feet in English prosody:
(u = unstressed, / = stressed)

  • iamb – 2 syllables – u /
  • anapest – 3 syllables – u u /
  • trochee – 2 syllables – / u
  • dactyl – 3 syllables – / u u

minor feet:

  • headless iamb – foot of 1 stressed syllable (/)
  • tailless trochee – same

One can tell these two feet apart only from their position in a line of verse. They occur, for instance when the unstressed first syllable of an iamb is dropped in order to vary the rhythm of a line of verse, or when the unstressed 2nd syllable of a trochee is dropped for the same reason.

(For the most part, besides the double iamb, I have ignored the “minor” feet which have more than a single strong stress.  At that point, I resolve to one of the more common feet.)

  • spondee – 2 syllables – / /
  • amphibrach – 3 syllables – u / u
  • double iamb- 4 syllables – u u / / – equals 2 iambs in a line of verse. (Oliver, Rules, p. 27: There is something called the pyrrhic foot, which is composed of two light stresses. The pyrrhic foot appears in Greek and Roman poetry; in English verse it occurs only when immediately followed by a spondee, and the two feet together are called a double ionic.)
  • double trochee – 4 syllables – / / u u
  • amphimacer – 3 syllables – / u / – does not exist in English. It is either a headless iamb and an iamb, or a trochee and a tailless trochee.
  • antispast – 4 syllables – u / / u – iamb followed by a trochee
  • tribrach – 3 syllables – u u u – 3 unstressed syllables does not exist in English
  • molossus – 3 syllables – / / / – 3 stressed syllables does not exist in English
  • bacchic – 3 syllables – u / / – iamb & tailess trochee
  • antibacchius (antibacchic) – 3 syllables – / / u – headless iamb & a trochee
  • choriamb – 4 syllables – / u u / – trochee (choree) followed by iamb
  • paeon – 4 syllables – in the following of 1 stressed, 3 unstressed combinations:
    • / u u u
    • u / u u
    • u u / u
    • u u u /
  • epitrite – 4 syllables – in the following of 1 unstressed, 3 stressed combinations
    • / / / u
    • u / / /
    • / u / /
    • / / u /

Who wrote this amazing, mysterious book satirizing tech startup culture?

Creating interactive works in meatspace


A mysterious little book called Iterating Grace is floating around San Francisco right now. At least a dozen people have received the book in the mail—or in my case, by secret hand-delivery to my house. (Which is a little creepy.)

The artifact itself consists of a 2,001-word story interspersed with hand-drawn recreations of tweets by venture capitalists and startup people like Chris Sacca, Paul Graham, Brad Feld, Sam Altman, and others.

The story’s lead character, Koons Crooks, goes on a spiritual quest by contemplating the social media feeds emanating from the startup world. It leads him to a Bolivian volcano and a chillingly hilarious final act with some cans of cat food, a DIY conference badge, and a pack of vicuñas (which are sort of like llamas).

“For him, the tossed-off musings and business maxims of these men (they were almost all men) shimmered with a certain numinous luster. He…

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