Poems, Prayers, and Promises: the poetry begins

Gentle readers! How I have missed you!

And how glad I was for the break – it would have been unwieldy to write while moving to my temporary digs on Nantucket, where I am doing a two month sabbatical ministry. But now I am settled, a service and several meetings under my belt, and I only got lost once so far, thanks to the streets here being like Boston on steroids. (Seriously, look at a map.)

Now, on to the practice.

I have begun working with Stephen Fry’s book The Ode Less Traveled – a humorous yet intensely serious book on poetry, part text, part how-to, part revelry. The first time I read it, I thought “now I need to go back through and do all the exercises and start writing poetry.” It only took about eight years, but I am finally doing it.

Fry starts us off with iambic pentameter, and he uses this most excellent form to explore other elements of poetic writing. The thing about iambic pentameter is… it gets in your bones once you start writing it. Sentences all start having the dee-DUM dee DUM dee DUM dee DUM dee DUM rhythm – and soon you cannot help but speak like this / iambic plus pentameter feels good / and “can you pass the salt and pepper, please” / becomes the way you utter everything.

For real. I had to resist it in a meeting yesterday morning.

Yet I can see how it’s helpful for a poet, to begin to feel the rhythm, so that a less pedantic verse can emerge. Like this pretty sorry excuse for a Unitarian Universalist Ash Wednesday verse – my first submission in this new venture.

‘We are of dust, and dust we shall return’ –
A common line Ash Wednesday rituals use
To note with great humility our fate:
A dark and dirty end to this great life.
And yet, as dawn reveals this coming day,
Sun glistening upon ice covered roofs,
I wonder if humility’s a farce;
I wonder if regretting who we are –
a planetary pilgrim, born of earth –
Obscures the grand potential of our lives.

Yeah. This is why it’s called a practice, folks.

As noted in the run-up, I may not post every day, because some days (like yesterday) the exercises were simply writing lines, and before that it was reading and marking lines. Also, some days will be early drafts of terrible poetry that I want to burn in the grill, not subject you to. Yet I suspect there will be posts fairly frequently, if you can stand it.

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