Tuesday, January 31, 2006

V Day 2001...Counting it down...

For those of you who care about these sorts of things, ballad measure tends to be my fallback when composing poetry. For traditional examples , most experts point to Emily Dickinson. I remember in an old episode of "The Head of the Class" (remember that show??) that one of the kids, Brian Robbins' character (the "toughie" who's mom put him in the class because of his bent for poetry), pointed out to the teacher Mr. Moore that all of Dickinson's poems could be sung to the tune of "The Yellow Rose of Texas". And it's true, because ballad measure is named precisely because balladeers found it easy to right music to it, and almost all popular music loves the 4 beat, pause, 3 beat tempo that ballad verse is known for. As for me, Dickinson is too modern for my tastes, so I usually point out Ben Jonson and Robert Herrick (yes, I'm a Renaissance bigot) and watch people's eyes glaze over.

Strictly speaking, you don't have to be a stickler for quatrains of iambic tetrameter first and third lines and iambic trimeter second and fourth lines to write in ballad measure, but if you're a poet, you think "Perfectly written meter equals the number of beats". I leave the sloppy beat writing to the songwriters. Just for amusement, though, try to sing my poem from 2001 to the tune of "The Yellow Rose of Texas".

A Valentine's Complaint 2001

What day is this that makes men fret?
A pressured harried time
For beaus to find that perfect gift
That sings out "Please be mine!"

The cues are posted everywhere,
The signs are counting down,
Three days, two days, one day to shop!
Some guys feel like they'll drown.

Is heart-shaped candy a propos?
How 'bout a plushy bear?
Are marked up roses just the thing
To prove they really care?

Sometimes a word or well-timed kiss
Is all it seems to take.
Surviving Valentine's unstressed
Can be a piece of cake.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

The countdown continues...V Day, Year 2000

I'm not sure what kind of place my mind was in when I wrote this particular poem...but a lot of the guys who read it reacted mostly with a thumbs up, and a "You tell 'em" kind of attitude. The women, though, reacted as if it were autobiographical, and wanted to know who dumped me and made me so bitter. I had to set the record straight quite a few times at the office (I was still working at Kaiser Permanente at the time). But the dudes, they just nodded.

Valentine's Day 2000

Ah Valentine, that day of woe
And wages lost has come.
A day of dread and great expense,
Or, at least it is for some.

Are teddy bears and sappy cards
The harbingers of bliss?
Should heart-shaped boxes, dripping red,
Be traded for a kiss?

Who dictates this macabre exchange,
Those industries of Love?
Does Hallmark have the final say?
Is FTD enough?

It's hard to think when time is short
Of more creative ways
To represent just how we feel
Beyond the hokey craze.

But try we should! Why not discard
The tacky and the lame?
'Cuz when you're dumped like last year's rose
You've no one else to blame.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

The Countdown has begun...V Day

Sigh...We all know it's coming. That sound you hear in the distance is the inexorable march of the padded plushy feet of stuffed animals with hearts stitched all over them like bloody scarlet letters. That roar is the flapping of so many greeting cards being opened as trite aphorisms from raw gaping wounds ooze out...Valentine's Day...here we go again. It seems like I just turned my back on this torturous holiday a second ago, and it pops back up like a hardy weed, or toe fungus, or the brother-in-law you avoid during family get-togethers, you know, the creepy one whose breath smells like day old garlic as he corners you with his plans for fixing up his basement *shudder*
Anyway, the only good thing about the fake holiday is that it forces me to focus on being a poet at least once a year, if only to create yet another diatribe about my least favorite of days. But before I launch into another polemic about the day (insert your choice of these key words: commercialism, cheesiness, co-option, sentimentality, etc), I thought I'd start posting from my anthology of V Day poems. Here's the first one I ever wrote, back when I was steeped in the origins of the Sonnet during my grad school days. I purposely wrote it with a nod to Gerard Manley Hopkins "sprung rhythm" to resist sing-song rhyming, even though the poem actually follows Shakespearean sonnet form. See if you can't identify the rhyme scheme. For you readers with even deeper knowledge of the sonnet form, try to find the part of the poem where another sonnet convention is stretched, creating even more tension against established norms (Yes, I used to live and breathe this hoity-toity high falutin stuff...yep, you're detecting a little nostalgia):

St. Valentine's Day 1997

O Valentine! Flow'rs and the Saint I sing!
This day fills florists' coffers but to mark
With roses, choc'lates, fuzzy bears the sting
Of Death, a martyrdom for Love! Yet hark!
An ancient Christian priest hath giv'n his heart
That Christ's disciples wed. But O! Cruel Fame,
To twist that time of grimful hope, to part
From Christ and worship Cupid's bow whose aim
May lead to mortal bliss, but nothing more.
Can martyred buds fresh cut before first bloom
Commemorate the pains that Christian bore
For Love? But not the pagan's god, whose doom
Of heavy hearts and baleful sighs seems small
Compared to His who suffered for us all?