Dumbly and Divinely Stumbling*

listen children
keep this in the place
you have for keeping
keep it all ways

we have never hated black

we have been ashamed
hopless tired mad
but always
all ways
we loved us

we have always loved each other
children all ways
pass it on

— Lucille Clifton


And more Sonia:

And into my desire to keep negotiating some kind of peace with the rhyme royal, Raivenne introduces me to another form, the nove otto (a nine-line poem wherein each line has eight syllables.).  It’s another rhyming form (a/a/c/b/b/c/d/d/c), so I suspect it would give me as much heartache as the rhyme royal … but I’m intrigued now and want to give it a try.  We’ll see.  For tonight, it’s still rhyme royal:

 It’s a lie —
deep in the bone
I feel it — the idea that I
have set myself apart, alone
in my head, a buffer zone
so broad nothing touches me.
It’s a lie only the careful see.

Feh.  Despite Raivenne’s kind words yesterday, I’m still frustrated.  The title of this post is a half-accurate description of my process and progress with this form.  I’m trying to do what Sanchez suggested — using form to bring something chaotic under control — but I just don’t care for the results.  I’m not giving up yet, but I’m far from love yet.


*  Thank you Dylan Thomas and “The Seed-At-Zero”

4 thoughts on “Dumbly and Divinely Stumbling*

  1. I think your frustration is in the limits of the form itself. You have so much more to say, but can’t. You also have this daily time limit so you can’t let it simmer until you find a phrasing that pleases you as the writer as well. Just let the divine flow recklessly for now and walk away. You may find you like your original words much more with some distance. You may find a better way to say it later and change it. The words are yours to say and change as you please. At least until you publish that first book, as I’m in the midst of, then your words are what they are for all poetic eternity. 😀

    As for other poetic short forms, don’t get me started, I worked with several. There are plenty of styles to frustrate the living daylights out of you, trust me! You want pain? Try a “Novem” after you’re more comfortable with rhyme royals and nove ottos.


    1. Thanks, Raivenne! This is an excellent reminder for me. I tend to lock myself into things unnecessarily. I did it last year with the tanka, but that was an easier form for me to be locked into.

      I had no idea you were in the process of putting out a book of poetry! Congratulations! I am now officially that much more flattered that you’re taking any of the poems I post here seriously. But don’t you lock yourself into anything unnecessarily: just because a poem is in print doesn’t mean it can’t be changed. I love hearing musicians rework songs they’ve recorded in the past. Why can’t writers do the same?

      I looked up Novem, but couldn’t find it. Could you tell me what that form is?


  2. Don’t fret about the Novem. It is a nonce form, by some one whose name I can’t recall, if ever I knew it. There are enough world recognized forms to dabble in. But since you asked…

    The Novem consists of three line stanzas, with three words in each line. Only one word per line has two syllables, the remaining words are one syllable. Further the two syllable word is placed as follows; It is the third word in the first line, second word second line, first word third line. Consonance is a suggested part of this form too, there needs to be a repeated consonant sound four or five times per stanza. Granted most of the few uses of form that I have seen tend are not a stickler for the consonance part.

    I’m rarely 100% satisfied with my writes and am forever “tweaking”. I want to think if I’m putting out there for the world to see in hard-copy (and/or e-copy to keep up with the times) it’s as good as that thought is going to get and I should leave it alone. A re-mix for me is not re-working the same poem, but taking the heart of that poem and creating something new based on that thought. That’s just one of my many artistic quirks – go figure.


    1. Oh my. I think I’ll set the Novem aside for the moment (though I’m mightily intrigued!). I’m committed to sticking with the rhyme royal for a while, giving it the kind of focus I gave the tanka last year.

      I hear you about tweaking and about being finished. It’s such a hard call for me. The only reason I’ve ever been “finished” with any of the pieces I’ve published is because they had to leave my hand in order to get published. I don’t know that I could ever go back to any one of them and truly do a rewrite. The subjects do come up again and again, however.


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