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
Wikipedia
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:

Possibilities

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

 

 

 

Why erotic poetry?

Death, misery, love, and joy have been written to dirt and commented upon endlessly, while analogy, allegory,  and connotative verse rim the poetry of human sexual experience.  Rarely is there poetic work which directly expresses raw human desire.  Prose at least has a history even though it is not, for the most part, well written.  Still, it exercised, criticized, read, and commented upon.  It’s alive, even if it is a battered genre being as it is steeped in gymnastics and lurid prose.  Still that makes those occasions where art rises even more brilliant.  Erotic prose has both sides of the equation:  readers and writers.Herculaum - hinds house - wall next to it with frescoes

Erotic poetry, well-crafted poetry, is more often sublime to the point of PG-13, suitable for those who could watch the Harry Potter movies.  The poetry is rarely explicit to hit the category of “R”, much less “X”.  Most work simply doesn’t qualify even as “soft-porn” to modern sensibilities. To find well-written, “transgressive” work?  That is even more difficult.  And while there are fewer writers, it might be difficult to find the readers as well simply for the fact that each magazine

While I am not an academic, and have no desire to be so, I can at least lay claim to the practical trade of engineer.  I read, I deconstruct, I write, I critique, I comment, I come to poetry as a crafts person with a low tolerance for boredom.  I will not spend my time reading work which does not intrigue me.  So, Byron is out for me, and I can barely tolerate Whitman.  Yet, I love many, many other poems and poets.  My intent in this blog is to address both the basics of the craft of poetry as well as the theme of erotica.  I will do what I can but I haven’t the conceit that “I know” shit all about either poetry or erotica.  I will do my technical best in maintaining this blog in the interest of others who might wish some reference to the craft of poetry as well as some considered thoughts about (what I call) “pornetry” or “whoretry” – erotic poetry.  This is my attempt at promoting poetry.

So first stop:  “read more poetry”.  I’ll start a collection of linked works as I find them.

Coming Becomes You, by Dennis Lee

Drafting and drafting rhythms

Often times people who are new to writing metrical poetry are curious as to the process.  These are my notes as to the development of the metrical piece.  I am the first to admit that my understanding of writing formal verse is mechanistic as opposed to “natural.”  I am not someone who grasped what an iamb was, or how to recognize the stress within the syllables of the word “banana”.  I have the natural rhythm of a tone deaf bull elephant.  While I’ll go further into the details of the rules of

These are the first and second pages of my drafts for the April 12, 2014 NaPo poem, “The Garden”. I begin working with the rhythm on the 2nd attempt. I signify stress with underlining the syllable. The numbers underneath the underline are where I’m tracking the stresses on a line.

pg1 pg2

At some point, I felt comfortable enough that I wouldn’t “lose” my word choices that I moved to typing my draft on the computer.  This is about draft 8 or 9.  The work is shown below.  I literally break each of the words into syllables and go through first highlighting & CAPping the stressed syllables of multi-syllabic words.  Then I take a “look around” and proceed with indicating stress on verbs, nouns, then modifiers and pronouns.  Then I begin implementing “The Rule of 3” (3 stressed syllables in a row, demote the middle; 3 unstressed syllables in a row, promote the middle)

There are intimacies of the body
which only come with ten thousand days.
The mechanics can be as trite as saffron crocus,
but a moment arrives and your lover leans across
your softening body, touches you

with unexpected appetite.  They bloom
a black trillium when they take your left toe
into their mouth – that soft wetness a surprise
to a part of the body which knows only work
and occasional pain.  Or maybe they stroke

the back of your knee with their tongue.  Your scent – long gone
to the bite of pepper as your own roses withered
and dried at least five years ago – draws them
to sniff then take a tiny bite; their breath
alive on your skin. It is not a sin –

but time has furrowed you blind, not indifferent.
And the field  which surrounds you with each passing night
draws you into that furrow and you forget you sleep with a stranger; rather it is
the depth with which squill roots and spreads which brings
the sea of blue to a dry land.

There are in ti mac ies of the bod y

which on ly come with ten thou sand days.

The me chan ics can be as trite as SAF fron cro cus,

but a mo ment a rrives and your love r leans a cross

your soft en ing bod y,  touch es you 

with un ex PECT ed AP pe tite.  They Bloom

a black tril li um when they TAKE YOUR left toe

in to their mouth – that soft wet ness a sur prise

to a part of the bod y which knows on ly work

and oc ca sion al pain.  Or may be they stroke

the back of your knee with their tongue. Your scent – long gone

to the bite of pep per as your own ros es with ered

and dried at least five years a go–  draws them

to sniff then take a tin y bite, their breath

a live on your skin.  It is not a sin

that time has fur rowed you blind not in dif fer ent

to the field  and you for gEt that each night you sleep

with a strang er; rath er it is the depth with which squill

roots and spreads which brings

the sea of blue to a dry land.

The last stanza would not conform to what came before.  I actually wasn’t happy with l5 of each of the stanzas being only 4 beats and I couldn’t get a fifth beat up onto that l5 of s1, so I scrapped this format and began considering words to cut, like “saffron” on l3.  This is how I scan the finished work.

There / are in / ti mac / ies of / the bod (y)

which on / ly come /with ten thou / sand days. / The me chan (ics)

can be /as trite /as cro / cus, but / a mo  (ment)

a rrives / and your love/ r leans / a cross your soft / en ing

bod  y,  /and touch /es you  /with AP /pe tite.

They Bloom  / black tril / li um / when they TAKE /your  toe

 in to / their mouth /- that soft wet / ness a / sur prise

to a part /of the bod /y which knows on / ly work

and oc ca/  sion al pain.  / Or may / be they stroke  / the back

of your knee / with their tongue E / ven though / your scent

has long gone / to the bite / of pep / per – your / own ros (es)

with ered / and dried / at least / five years / a go

still it draws / them to sniff / then take / a tin / y bite,

their breath / a live / on your skin.  / It is not / a sin

that time / has fur / rowed you blind / to the field  / and you

for gEt / that each night / you sleep / with a strang / er; rath (er)

it is / the depth / with which squill roots / and spreads

which brings / the sea / of blue / to a dry land.

Which works out like this:

There / are in / ti mac / ies of / the bod (y)
lame foot iamb (missing leading light beat) / iamb / iamb / iamb / hyper-syllabic iamb

which on / ly come /with ten thou / sand days. / The me chan (ics)
iamb / iamb/ anapest / iamb / anapest – hypersyllabic

can be /as trite /as cro / cus, but / a mo  (ment)
iamb / iamb / iamb / iamb (because of Rule of Three – promotion of “but”) / iamb – hypersyllabic

a rrives / and your love/ r leans / a cross / your soft  en ing
iamb / anapest / iamb / iamb / hypersyllabic iamb

bod  y,  /and touch /es you  /with AP /pe tite.
trochee / iamb / iamb/ iamb / iamb

They Bloom  / black tril / li um / when they TAKE /your  toe
iamb / iamb / iamb / anapest / iamb

 in to / their mouth /- that soft wet / ness a / sur prise
trochee / iamb / anapest / iamb (promotion of ‘a’ because of Rule of Three / iamb

to a part /of the bod /y which knows on / ly work
anapest / anapest / double iamb / iamb

and oc ca/  sion al pain.  / Or may / be they stroke  / the back
anapest / anapest / iamb / anapest / iamb

of your knee / with their tongue E / ven though / your scent
anapest / double iamb / iamb / iamb

has long gone / to the bite / of pep / per – your / own ros (es)
anapest / anapest / iamb / iamb /  hyper-syllabic iamb

with ered / and dried / at least / five years / a go
trochee / iamb / iamb / iamb / iamb

still it draws / them to sniff / then take / a tin / y bite,
anapest / anapest / iamb / iamb / iamb

their breath / a live / on your skin.  / It is not / a sin
iamb / iamb / iamb / iamb / iamb /

that time / has fur / rowed you blind / to the field  / and you
iamb / iamb / anapest / anapest / iamb

for gEt / that each night / you sleep / with a strang / er; rath (er)
iamb / anapest / iamb / anapest / hyper-syllabic iamb

it is / the depth / with which squill roots / and spreads
iamb / iamb / double iamb/ iamb

which brings / the sea / of blue / to a dry land.
iamb / iamb/ iamb / double iamb

So, all this technical work drove my word choices, line breaks, and then which imagery went where.  The final work looks like this:
The Garden

There are intimacies of the body
which only come with ten thousand days. The mechanics
can be as trite as crocus, but a moment
arrives and your lover leans across your softening
body, and touches you with appetite.
They bloom black trillium when they take your toe
into their mouth – that soft wetness a surprise
to a part of your body which knows only work
or occasional pain.  Then maybe they stroke the back
of your knee with their tongue even though your scent
has long gone to the bite of pepper – your own roses
withered and dried at least five years ago –
still it draws them to sniff then take a tiny nip;
their breath is alive on your skin. It is not a sin
that time has furrowed you blind to the field and you
forget that each night you sleep with a stranger; rather
it is the depth with which squill roots and spreads
which brings the sea of blue to a dry land.

Other Questions, Other Answers

I was working with the idea of trying to communicate gender neutrality in this piece.  For this year’s NaPo I’m writing 30 days worth of directly erotic work.  One of the things I want to address during the thirty days is the variety of ways in which humans can worship the body of other humans – the variety of sexual love that there is.
I specifically did not want there to be a M/F, M/M, F/F, he/she/it pronoun usage.  So, I chose to use the pronoun “they”, not to indicate polyamory, but to indicate a non-gender specific singular pronoun.  In the reading I did, this is controversial, but Chicago Style apparently is sitting back to watch how it all turns out.  I particularly disliked the s/he “pronoun” in this context, they/their seemed less intrusive, less self-conscious.