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Thirteen Blackbirds
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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in Thirteen Blackbirds' LiveJournal:

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Tuesday, July 15th, 2008
1:44 pm
"A successful poem is, as Williams said, a machine made out of words; if it is properly constructed it cannot fail to perform its function, which is to control its reader, by its selective and stylized processional means, that the reader 'cannot choose to hear.'" -- Helen Vendler, Contemporary American Poetry (9th ed.), p. 9.
Friday, April 11th, 2008
12:02 am
Assignment: Sevenling
What Is a Sevenling?

The rules of the sevenling are thus:

The first three lines should contain an element of three--three connected or contrasting statements, or a list of three details, names or possibilities. This can take up all of the three lines or be contained anywhere within them. Then, lines four to six should similarly contain an element of three, connected directly or indirectly or not at all. The seventh line should act as a narrative summary or punchline or as an unusual juxtaposition. There are no set metrical rules, but being such as short form, some rhythm, metre or rhyme is desirable. To give the form a recognisable shape, it should be set out in two stanzas of three lines, with a solitary seventh, last line. Titles are not required. A sevenling should be titled Sevenling followed by the first few words in parentheses. The tone of the sevenling should be mysterious, offbeat or disturbing, giving a feeling that only part of the story is being told. The poem should have a certain ambience which invites guesswork from the reader.

Write a sevenling.
Monday, March 31st, 2008
6:12 pm
I apologize for letting this community lapse again; real life continues to intrude.

I wanted to alert you to the fact that Poetry Free-For-All is participating in NaPoWriMo, as it has for the last couple of years. There's still time to join in the fun.
Wednesday, February 27th, 2008
12:16 pm
I heart poetry!
I was inspired by novapsyche's latest poetry assignment.    

Of Mushrooms and People
Humans, like my kind
Are all over the place
On water and earth
From poles to tropics
Silly hominids
Tread the surface
Shallow creatures
Lacking depth or breadth
While down below
The really fungi
Think deep thoughts
Through mycelium
I can think
For miles and miles
break down garbage
cleanse the soil
While upstairs
all you seem to do
is breed like rats
and make a mess
I've been here
10 times as long
as your precious
United States
I'll be here still
feasting on the bones
of your children
millenia from now 

Current Mood: amused
Tuesday, February 26th, 2008
3:47 am
Assignment for March 4
Write a poem from the perspective of someone who is other than human. This could be another supposedly Earth-dwelling being, such as a fairy or leprechaun. It could be a vampire, a ghoul, a succubus. Or it could be an otherworldly being altogether. Have the speaker wax about humans, how they're faring in the world/universe.
Friday, February 15th, 2008
6:45 pm
Prompt for week of Feb. 17
I'm behind, so I'm posting this ahead of time. (Did you catch that?)

Write a poem about a childhood disease. This could be one that actually occurred to you or something completely fictional.

When composing, consider carefully the point of view of the speaker. Also, think about the difference between topic (what the poem is ostensibly about) and theme (the underlying meaning).

Hope you had a good Valentine's day. Feel free to post any love/romantic poems you wrote this month in belated honor.
Tuesday, February 12th, 2008
1:45 pm
Recurring Dream (Black sheep assignment)

I’m in church again

Orange upholstery beneath my thighs

Dark shining wood at my back

The stink of self-righteousness in my nose.

Even the back of their heads look smug.


The preacher’s words

Set me off.

I stand,

Head filled to bursting

Like an angry balloon

Hissing out its air, my ire.


I leave, or try

But I can never get far.

The car is locked or

The tire is flat,

The walk too long.


I fumble and fume



But never making it home.

Sunday, January 27th, 2008
10:11 pm
My poem for this week's assignment
She rose on downy wings, flying
into the face of rose dawn, while
breakers rose and crashed onto
a beach of rose stones on black
sand. Bunches of roses wilted
on the rose marble table, still
set. Rose reflections play on cut
crystal from the rose tablecloth.
She lands there, rosy eyes dart
from glasses, to untouched rose
water bowls, then rose again to leave.
11:28 am
Assignment for week of 1/27/08
My apologies for being late; I was out of town, and then I took ill. I hope to be more prompt about prompts!

This week, write an eleven-line poem that uses a color word (the same word) in each line.
Thursday, January 10th, 2008
10:04 pm
This is my first draft in response to All One Sentence. Having worked hard to restrain a tendency to the run-on sentence, it seems an appropriate first exercise to post :). At the moment, it's only 46 lines: Read more...Collapse )
11:57 am
Assignment: All One Sentence
This exercise comes from Richard Jackson and is called "Breathless, Out of Breath".

This is a formal exercise in developing and stretching syntax. The assignment is to write a poem of considerable length, say fifty to sixty medium-length lines, that consists of one sentence. A good preparation is to read a syntactically intricate poet like [Wallace] Stevens (say, "Prologues to What is Possible") or [John] Ashbery, or a prose writer like Henry James or William Faulkner. The point is to try to keep the sentence pushing ahead, grammatically correct, and draped across the lines in variable ways.
Thursday, January 3rd, 2008
3:19 pm
Assignment: Ten-Minute Spill
This assignment is late, late, late! My apologies. I can only blame the holidays.

This is something I've assigned several times, both here and when the group met in real-time. It's an assignment that is quick but effective. It was devised by Rita Dove.

Write a ten-line poem. The poem must include a proverb, adage, or familiar phrase (examples: she's a brick house, between the devil and the deep blue sea, one foot in the grave, a stitch in time saves nine, don't count your chickens before they hatch, someday my prince will come, the whole nine yards, a needle in a haystack) that you have changed in some way, as well as five of the following words:

cliff                    blackberry
needle                   cloud
voice                    mother
whir                     lick

You have ten minutes.
Sunday, December 23rd, 2007
11:20 pm
This week's assignment: "The Black Sheep"
To perhaps spur you, here is a poem titled, interestingly enough, "The Black Sheep," by Karen Finley.
Tuesday, December 18th, 2007
4:40 am
New Assignment: The Black Sheep
I hope everyone enjoyed the revision fortnight. This week is still open to posts from the project.

I've a new assignment from The Practice of Poetry. It comes from Kenneth Rosen, and it's called "The Black Sheep".

I call a written assignment that often provokes an unexpectedly deep emotional and visceral response The Black Sheep. Write a poem about or from the voice of someone who has been cast out or has voluntarily left the family: the drunkard, the thief, or the perpetrator of the otherwise unforgivable. The poem should confront the unforgivable deed and its mystery, as well as confront the judgment of those who determined to say no more and to turn their backs, which may be mysterious too. Our deepest feelings draw on our childhood expectations of unqualified love and acceptance, our terror of rejection and abandonment, intellectually incomprehensible but emotionally all too familiar. Ultimately, though not autobiographical, the poem should draw on your own dread of expulsion and exclusion, though it may be appropriate and desirable to side with the "black sheep."

While the poem is still in rough form, sort out the sounds, the high-pitched and intense or crying vowels, the swift quick ones, the low ones of woe, the awesome and august, the ludicrous or comically gruesome, the aggressive gutturals, the lusciously musical labials, the hideous sibilants, and the combinations that suggest strength on the one hand, little smells and smirks on the other.

Ask yourself what kind of sound pattern exists, where your poem begins on the vowel register, and where it ends, what consonant accumulations seem significant. Consider the extent to which the transgression and the family remedy are realized in images. Notice how internal rhymes, assonances, and alliteration expand sounds and create emphasis.
Friday, December 14th, 2007
7:34 pm
Ongoing assignment: Revision
Well, the fortnight is up. How is your poem looking? Ready for feedback?

Today's assignment: Tie up any loose ends, then post the latest major draft of your poem.
Wednesday, December 12th, 2007
10:04 pm
Ongoing assignment: Revision
The day got away from me! I apologize for updating the community so late in the evening.

Today I want us to focus on rhythm, cadence, measure, pitch, stress (something touched on earlier this week) and duration.

quotesCollapse )

I will direct you to these resources: Rhythm and Sound in Poetry

Meter in Free Verse

Rhyme, Meter, Stanza, and Pattern

Today's assignment: Remember when you read your piece aloud four times? Think about what you noticed. Consider how any standard poetic devices (such as metrical feet) might alter particular phrases or lines.
Tuesday, December 11th, 2007
7:33 pm
Tonight: The line
The line is one of the basic elements of a poem. It's inherently part of its structure. The line is a given.

Poems, being what they are (brief moments in time), need to catch the reader in its first few lines (the fourth at the very outset). If the reader hasn't seen or felt something new, striking, startling, surprising, charming, enticing, she isn't wont to keep reading. She'll turn to the next poem.

quotes about the lineCollapse )

I will direct you to these resources: Lines and Linebreaks

Denise Levertov--"On the Function of the Line"

Good line breaks

Today's assignment: Count how many lines are in your poem. Consider what would happen if you drew some lines into others or, alternately, broke some lines into smaller ones. How would that affect the read--the notation--of the poem?
Monday, December 10th, 2007
9:14 pm
Ongoing assignment: revision
Yesterday we thought about words, the literal stuff that poems are made of. Today, I ask you to consider the image and its relations, the symbol and figures of speech.

imagery, symbol, tropes, allegory, metonymy, synecdoche, motifCollapse )

Two poems by Wallace StevensCollapse )

Today's assignment: Peruse your piece and identify the images, symbols and figures of speech. Consider if and how they strengthen the poem or, alternately, how their absence might alter it.
Sunday, December 9th, 2007
3:48 pm
The stuff poetry is made of
Today I turn your attention to words. A poem is a symbol whose meaning is transferred through words. As such, words are critical elements of a poem, and much care must be taken when utilizing them.

I have collected some quotes from various sources to help you consider the weight of each of your words. At the end, I include a poem of my own, "Uncoupled", which may help illustrate how word choice and tone can create inherent tension.

diction, word choice, vocabulary, syntax, denotation, connotation, toneCollapse )

UncoupledCollapse )

Today's assignment: Consider the subject of your poem. Write down all of the words that would be in its vocabulary. (These invariably will be nouns and verbs.) Contrast this list with the words that are currently present in your poem.

Further resources: Diction or word choice in poetry
1:51 am
Revision assignment: First Week
Well, I've taken things fairly slowly, and I apologize for that. This next week might prove to be a bit intensive. But we have gotten to a very necessary stage, which is being able to pick apart a poem (your own or someone else's). Explication is a skill that improves with use and will certainly enable you to revise more effectively in the future.

todfox asked whether or not redrafts should be done at this stage or if one should wait until the finale of the project. I think it's up to you, the writer. If you are itching to have a rewrite now, after the explication, and would like some community feedback, go ahead and post a draft here. Members should be free to respond with what they see as places for improvement. Or, if you would like to wait until the very end to do one major revision, that is fully your choice.

In fact, if you revise your poem each day and would like feedback, you can post it. But on-the-fly revisions are sometimes not to the poet's advantage. It often behooves one to accept much criticism from all corners and ruminate for a while.

Later today, I will post another nuts-and-bolts entry (I meant to do that yesterday [Saturday], but the day got away from me).
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