Michaeline: A Season for Poetry

Amanda Gorman, youth poet laureate, in front of the Library of Congress in 2017. The 22-year-old recited her poem, “The Hill We Climb”, at the 2021 presidential inauguration. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

I think Amanda Gorman’s poem at the inaugural (“The Hill We Climb” here at CNN) is going to revive an interest in poetry in the mainstream. She did an excellent job both in the composing and in the reading. I love her use of alliteration, and the striking images: “. . . Every breath from my bronze-pounded chest . . . .” And I really like the allusions, both the ones I caught, and the ones I only suspected. And the repetition? Yes, I like the repetition. I like the way it emphasizes her points, plays with the words and turns the meaning from one shade to another like a light show on a winter’s evening.

I have to admit, I’m picky about poetry, which feels weird to me because I’m very undiscriminating when it comes to prose. I can enjoy the back of a tissue box. Poetry is harder than prose. You have to read each word, and you often have to think about those words on many different levels. And so much of it is about depressing topics. But when poetry works for me,

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Michaeline: Sestina Fever!

I like short projects, but I also have a creative tendency to complicate them and turn them into puzzles that sometimes can only be tied to the original project parameters by very tenuous links.

For example, I’m the October Birthday Tixie for my reading list, and the job is relatively simple: look at a spreadsheet, then send birthday greetings to list members who have signed up for it on or near the day they’ve indicated (we’re a world-wide group, so we can have real or fictional time lag problems that graciously forgiven).

Image via Wikimedia Commons

But, it’s a creative group, and there are such fun things done with the idea! My most memorable birthday greeting involved a trek through the wild roses of Barrayar, and I believe there was Ma Kosti cake involved. (If you don’t know Ma Kosti, all you need to know is that her “little chocolate thingies” have the density of plutonium, and grown-ass warriors have been known to divert their plans in order to experience a Ma Kosti luncheon. Chef and food business entrepreneur extraordinaire.) I have the Head Birthday Tixie to thank for that!

My method is to choose a theme (cakes, or treasures, or fictional animals that need scientific names), write down on cards about 14 or 15 possible ideas (I have 13 people on my list), and then choose a card at random to spice up the greetings, and tie it into the Authorial Canon that my reading list enjoys.

This month, I decided to do different forms of poetry, and boy . . . I face each birthday with a combination of terror and thrill. Will the muse pull through? She’s done a decent job so far, although the scansion may be off and the syllable-counting not quite as precise as one would like.

So, the first trick was finding 13 different poetry forms; I got nervous as the first hits on Google were “the five different poetry forms” – but as I scrolled down the page, I saw “10 Poetry Forms You Must Know” and finally found one with 22, I think it was. Good enough! I started my cards – haiku, limericks, tanka, sonnet, etc.

Then it was time to write the first poem for October 1, and to my dismay, I got sestina. My first try, I have only an hour or so, and I’ve got to come up with a sestina! Continue reading