Back on the wagon…

All righty, well, I’m feeling good because, after a few days of food poisoning, and then another few of parental visiting for the holiday, I’m back on the poem-a-day wagon. I actually collected a few fragments during my off days, so it wasn’t a complete loss – and now I’m feeling peppy and ready for more poems! I might even write another one today!

It reminds me a little bit of dieting – even if you blow it by eating pepperoni pizza and a sundae in one night, you can always go back to your virtuous skinless chicken breast with apple the next day.

NaPoWriMo – Poetic Asides Column Poem-a-Day Challenge

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the Poetic Asides Poem-a-Day Challenge – where you follow writing prompts, leave your poems in the comments, and eventually poems are chosen for an e-anthology. The judges include Dorianne Laux, Mark Doty, Nick Flynn…and me, among others. Anyway, check it out:

Poetic Asides announces Poem-A-Day Challenge

Incidentally, I’ve already started – and I’m using the periodic table of elements as my list of prompts. Think I’m kidding?

How do you classify a platypus? or Hybrid Forms

Mary brought up an interesting point a couple of posts ago, about how to know a poem is a poem. In these days of prose-poems and flash-fiction, microfictions, visual poetry, and flarf (poems generated by Google searches,) how indeed do we define a poem?

It made me think of my training for my first degree, in biology, which is really a science of classification. How do you classify an animal that lays eggs but feeds its young with milk? That has webbed feet and a beak but is clearly no bird?

In my classes, it is sometimes difficult to explain to students, some of whom remain stubbornly attached to the kind of poetry they were exposed to as youngsters: typical 17th century, rhyme and meter, regular stanzas, etc. They just refuse to believe free verse is poetry, or they get frustrated when I show them a poem by a conversational poet, like Frank O’Hara, or, say, a prose poem from Matthea Harvey, or an almost broken-prose piece like Louise Gluck’s “Telemachus’ Detachment:”

“When I was a child, looking
at my parents’ lives, you know
what I thought? I thought
heartbreaking. Now I think
heartbreaking, but also
insane. Also
very funny.”

A genius of tone and unexpected line break, Gluck uses this character’s utterance to show how simple a poem can be.

I use the analogy of a poetry toolbox. There are tools that poets use, that Mary mentioned: rhyme, meter, rhythm, metaphor, imagery, alliteration, line breaks, onomatopaiea…perhaps there are others – jumps in narrative, dream-like tone. But how do you know a poem is a poem? It usually declares itself when you read it out loud.
I was introduced to prose poetry in my very first poetry book, which was my mother’s textbook for her first Freshman English class in college – Introduction to Poetry, by X.J. Kennedy. In the 1969 version, he includes a poem by Karl Shapiro called “The Dirty Word.” Later, in grad school, one of my teachers taught Baudelaire’s prose poetry. How did I know these were poems? Instinctually, I think, the way we learn everything. When I teach prose poetry to my students, I often use examples of haibun by Basho. His haibun combine prose and haiku in an elegant, sometimes disjunctive way. What makes these poems? Well, do they use tools from the poetry toolbox? Do they look like prose, but act/sound/read like poems? Does it lay eggs like a duck or alligator, but is warm-blooded and milk-giving, like a mammal? What are the defining characteristics of “poetry?” What is the poem’s DNA?

Introducing Jeannine Hall Gailey

Hey everyone! My name’s Jeannine Hall Gailey, and I’m excited to be a part of this blog project. I’ve just moved from Seattle to San Deigo and started teaching a poetry seminar at National University. My first book, Becoming the Villainess, was published by Steel Toe Books in 2006. Poems from the book were featured on NPR’s the Writer’s Almanac with Garrison Keillor, Verse Daily, and in 2007’s The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror.  I’m working on two new books, one on fairy tale characters trapped in sleep, towers, and coffins and another on Japanese pop culture and folk tales. I volunteer at Crab Creek Review as a consulting editor and write poetry book reviews and essays on a regular basis. My blog is listed in the links, if you want to keep up with my goings-on, readings, etc, and you can learn more about me at Hey, this post is peppered with links!
I think it’s really important for people to have fun with poetry. To paraphrase an old evangelical saying, it’s a sin to bore people with poetry. So, to that end, I write a lot about popular culture – the culture that binds me and my x-er generation together! Let’s see, what else…I have a very supportive, poetry-loving engineer husband and two less supportive cats, do a little journalism on the side, and spent ten years as a web and technical writing manager before I became “serious” about poetry. I’m looking forward to doing more with this blog collective!