Invention delight

But what if you used every meter in your poem?

As I mentioned the other day, I’ve taken on a challenge to re-create a myth in poetic form. This in honour of the centenary of the publication of James Joyce’s Ulysses, itself an homage to Homer’s Iliad in which the Odyssey is recounted.

My chosen myth over the past weeks has been the Inuit tale of the Spirit of the Sea, the great and wise Nuliajuk (New-Lee-Aye’-yook), which I have already rendered in prose form. So I thought I would try to recast the myth, and its dreadful portent, in poetic form. But which format should I use? There are at least 168 poetic forms extant, suggested in such places as the

For whatever wonderful reason, I wondered if I could compose a poem with a regular, irregular meter. That is, I thought I would start with six feet, or iambs, per line, and progressively decrease throughout the stanza to a single foot. And then, for the next stanza, I would raise the ante (or the foot number), progressively back up through the six lines.

It was something of a delight to see that this sort of format fell out visually rather naturally as waves on the sea-side. So, a kind of serendipitous concrete poem which reflected the pervasive theme of my effort in myth interpretation. Anyway, I was about to discard my attempt, after I’d finished it, as encompassingly naff, trite and well, jejeune. No doubt it is, but still.

After all, Joyce himself loved experimenting with form and words. What better homage might I aspire to than to value my own experimentation in. form?

So my poetic effort has gone through another revision, and the waves do go up and down throughout the nine stanza piece. At six lines per stanza, the poem is well within the maximum 60 lines permitted at the SaveAsWriters ‘myth’ themed competition. And there’s meaning, I think, great sadness reflecting the myth upon which the poem is based.

I’ve searched and searched through stacks of poetic forms, and I can’t find anything that resembles my invention. Perhaps the closest is the so-called Nonce form, which is basically any idiosyncratic rule applied by an individual poet. Well.

Without, as they say, a snowflake’s chance in hell of winning in an erudite competition, nevertheless I’m delighted with my invention, with the found concrete format that conveniently appeared, and with the challenging exercise I’d set myself to make the meter rise and fall, throughout the piece. I hope I’ve avoided doggerel too.

I don’t quite know what name such a format might take, though. I’ll have to think about that, but in the meantime, where’s that entry form?

5 responses to “Invention delight”

  1. I’ve sent you a private view of my prose and poetic effort, Annie, and hope the ideas and format will be clear in that. Sorry to be so esoteric, just too pleased with myself I’m sure!


  2. Larry, Old boy, while reading Today’s Joy I went into a trance, a paralysis of the mind, at the mention of names for lines & terms such as meter, iambs, stanzas & the kind of talk with which poets so freely converse. The ghosts of literature teachers past converged into one frightening visage. While pounding on a stack of large textbooks Mr. Ross from Messiah was asking me why I failed to memorize Beowulf. I had no answer. I am condemned to never understand the writing of poetry & all the terms you poets so freely cast about while constructing poems. Nevertheless, Write on Bard of Sparty Lea, Regards Henry


  3. I can’t think there can be too many people around who have ever memorised Beowulf! Even a little part of it, though we have a good friend who studied early Anglo-Saxon Literature at Cambridge. I somehow suspect that this image of Mr Ross was a dream or a nightmare? He taught me Afro-American Literature, which was great but even so I suspect that he felt like the imposter he was as a white man. Anyway, sorry to wax on so enthusiastically about poetics — mostly I was just pleased with myself for having created a form that I can’t find anywhere else. I’m sure someone will disabuse me, however, and I’ll only have invented the wheel again, as it were. Still a delight to try something new. Keep thinking and smiling, eh?


  4. Larry, No worries. My comments were all tongue in cheek & I took “license” with the facts. My comments were a reflection on what I lack not on your writing. The fact however is that I was taught the basics about poetry somewhere during days in school or college. I’m afraid however that I have only retained enough of what I was taught to recognize terms of composing poetry. I am lost even trying to explain myself. I was attempting to use humor in writing about my lack. I was serious at the end when I addressed you as the Bard of Sparty Lea. Perhaps I should have deferred to your peers to bestow honors?


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