Challenge Accepted: Learning something new

I’ve been a bit directionless recently. No idea what to do with my creative energy, so I’ve been shoving it down and watching Netflix instead (I’m rewatching Longmire, and it’s better than I remember from the first time around). (Side note: I need a Lou Diamond Phillips in my life.)

Back to learning something new. I decided I needed a direction, so I posted on social media and Twitter (Twitter is not social media, imo), asking for suggestions for my next poetry challenge. I didn’t promise to write, illustrate and publish another poetry book in less than a month, but I did indicate I might try.

Well, the challenge I got and accepted after some thought was a bit more complex than I’d anticipated. I don’t think I’ll manage another book in 30 days. It’s a whole new form to me and I’m loving it, hating it, cursing it—and learning it.

A villanelle is a sort of song poem with a rigid rhyme scheme that utilizes repeating lines, unlike most poetry. The best known one is Dylan Thomas’s “Do Not Go Gently Into That Good Night.” I have always loved that poem. I love the rhythm of it. I love the passion in it. I love the way you can almost unconsciously sing it without even meaning to.

The one thing I never loved because I never even noticed it was the rhyme.

How is that possible?? In multiple places “night” literally rhymes with “night”, “light” with “light”. How the heck did Thomas make his rhyme so invisible? It’s awesome that he did, because a poem with too heavy a rhyme will be singsongy and irritating. It may sound contrived. How did Thomas manage a poem with such a rigid rhyme scheme and make it sound natural?

The answer, of course, is that so much of the rest of the poem is more important than the rhyme. The passion, the theme, the message, the rhythm. All the things I’ve noticed that I love.

So that’s my new challenge. Write villanelles that don’t sound like they have a rhyme scheme. Or at least write villanelles where the rigid rhyme scheme doesn’t interfere with the message and passion of the poem.

Random picture of a perfect mushroom. Photo by Michelle Garren-Flye

Poem 25 (National Poetry Month): when you don’t feel the rhyme

Sometimes the words flow easily and sometimes not so much.

when you don’t feel the rhyme

by michelle garren flye

you say you’re down and just can’t

feel the rhyme

the world off its axis and fallen aslant

you haven’t the time

and life’s hours seem too scant

let the pain flow away instead

to hold us in sway

while an unjust world continues to tread

unless you stay

your hand and find the rhythm instead.

Photo by Michelle Garren Flye

Poem 14 (National Poetry Month): How to Write a Sonnet

How to Write a Proper Sonnet

By Michelle Garren Flye

First, find someone whom you can pledge your heart;

Second, you’ll want to make sure you can rhyme;

Next, make certain you’ve perfected the art

Of striking the beat and staying on time.

Taking the next step is a bit tricky—

Into your feelings you’ll need to dig deep.

Telling us how you feel can get sticky,

But trust me, get ready to take that leap.

Fill your lungs with all the air and desire

You are able to rouse on short notice.

Holler out your emotions with fire!

Then postpone to see who reads your opus.

Instead you could do what I have done here:

Follow the steps without getting too dear.

Photo by Michelle Garren Flye

Happy May Day! (Poetry Summary)

Happy May Day! I remember one particularly happy May Day in elementary school when our art teacher arranged for us to dress up in white and perform a maypole dance. I loved the pretty dress I wore and the colorful ribbons we wove around the maypole (which was actually a flag pole, I think). I’ve always thought it would be fun to do that with my kids, but I guess—like many fun things—the maypole dance is actually sort of a pagan ritual.

May Day and pagan rituals aside, I have completed my own ritual of writing a poem a day in April, and I am actually quite happy with the results. I learned a lot about poetry. It’s a totally different style of writing than writing prose, and especially different from writing a novel. I think my sense of rhythm improved this month and I know I got better (or at least more daring) at rhyme. But what really surprised me was the sense, when I completed a poem, that I’d created a piece of art. Like a sculpture or a painting. Much more so than when I write novels.

I don’t think it has to do with the length of the story. I believe it’s the skill required to combine rhyme, rhythm, structure and story all in a compact nature. Though I can write a poem in a matter of minutes, it requires more thought and planning than you’d think. So, in a way, it’s like sculpting words.

As it happens, I didn’t love every poem I wrote last month, either. But I am happy to note that I only resorted to a simple haiku three times, one of those being Easter. I chose haiku style for the three stanzas of “Headline Design” on purpose, but I don’t think it was a simple haiku. I’m not sure which is my favorite. Possibly “Living in Eden” or “In Over Your Head”. It’s hard for me to like “Self Portrait” because it feels sort of—too revealing. But at the same time, I think it is good. I really like “Beverly Cleary 101”, too.

So that’s it for my poem-a-day-thon. But I think I’ll still post poetry on here from time to time. And I definitely plan to keep writing it. That sense of accomplishment at the end of each poem is too satisfying to give up!