"Brain, shake out thy water, dog-like." -- Ron Padgett

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Class 6: On Form

Is the form something that you fit content in or is it part of the content?

What opportunities does the form provide - for 'shape of thought,' for drama?

What does the form itself say about the world-view or the assumptions of the writer/speaker?

How can the form and its implicit assumptions be played with/against?

David McGimpsey on the 'chubby sonnet':

DM: "I’ve always written sonnets. Sonnets and other fixed, sequential forms are helpful when you are possessed of many thoughts but are too high on them to give them shape and identity. The very first publication I had (in a small literary journal associated with McGill called Rubicon) were part of a sequence called "batman sonnets". Since my first book Lardcake I've always fooled around with a 16 line sonnet that I called a "chubby sonnet" and that this book would be all in that form is really, where it all begins. I'm interested in the relationship of form to sequence; how episodes create plot arcs (as in TV shows) but how narrative expectations are thwarted by character limits (as in a TV series where, say, if the boys in Big Bang Theory all decided to stop being nerds there would be no Big Bang Theory). "
I’ve used this sixteen-line structure in my first three collections of poetry and it definitely came out of interest in writing sonnets. When I was in my twenties, I was writing sonnets in a fairly intent and disciplined way and that was how, for better or worse, I developed the rhetoric of my poetry. I call it a ‘chubby sonnet’ not just because I’ve always been fascinated by the comedic betrayals of weight gain – but that’s part of it – but because I’ve always liked the episodic structure of the sequence of regularly paced poems. The sonnet’s speaker doesn’t end the condition of his care with rational dispersal: the sonneteer doesn’t just figure out their love or pain is not worth it and say, ‘Aha! Problem solved!’ The condition of the speaker’s personality continues and persists. Like a sitcom, the characters do not ‘change.’ Removing these poems from the traditional strictures of the sonnet with a capital ‘S’ hopefully gives enough relief from the more material expectations of that tradition – while engaging that tradition with more bluster and demand. The regularly paced sonnet-like sequence is, furthermore, my homage to John Berryman’s 
Dream Songs and Robert Lowell’s History, two books of poetry that had a strong influence on me.

A variety of forms:

Bhanu Kapil: Definitions in Urban Dictionary 



Haiku: Lynn Crosbie, Carrie Leigh's Hugh Hefner Haikus

Jo Harjo: She Had Some Horses

Jon Paul Fiorentino, The Report Cards of Leslie Mackie

Matthew Rohrer, Greater Forces

Matthea Harvey, Lamb

Theodore Roethke, The Waking

David McGimpsey: The Chubby Sonnet: Here's one: here!

Ghazal:  https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/text/ghazal-poetic-form
https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/wwe (Fatimah Asghar)
The Canadian Ghazal\

John Thompson: from Stilt Jack

Dorothea Lasky, Monsters.

Lunes, other forms



1. Hay(na)ku: write five (or more!), linked or unlinked.

(also: see Lynn Crosbie's haiku above.)

2. Write some "definitions" for dictionary words, made up or re-visionedized. See Bhanu Kapil's examples in Urban Dictionary (above)

3. Write a Chubby Sonnet (see David McGimpsey above)

4. Seventeen lines about ________ (Include the word each line.) See: David W. McFadden's "34 Lines about Horses," and Jo Harjo's "She had Some Horses." (above.)
or Ghazal (the refrain repeats the same word/phrase)
[see Lasky's Monsters, above, for poem which more freely repeats the same words.]

3. Same Lines Sonnet. No rhymes except for the final couplet.  Each line a version of the one before. See this. Also, Stuart Ross's Sonnet (Hey, Crumbling Balcony, p.110)

3. Write "Short" Villanelle (in class & homework). The last three stanzas of the form. Rhyme only the last two lines, i.e. the two refrains. See here.

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