Thursday, June 16, 2016

The gift of life that we received, is quite a mystery;

Poets of Pennsauken
My mother is an award-winning poet and not for the first time. The people at the Pennsauken library are fans of her work, and this is at least the second time she's won in the adult division of the Pennsauken library's annual poetry contest.

Her 2016 award-winner begins:
The gift of life that we received, is quite a mystery;

The years we have remain unknown, whatever they may be.

My mother favors the AABB rhyme scheme in iambic heptameter. This is known as a Fourteener - a fact I discovered by Googling "iambic heptameter."
A Fourteener, in poetry, is a line consisting of 14 syllables, which are usually made of 7 iambic feet for which the style is also called iambic heptameter. It is most commonly found in English poetry produced in the 16th and 17th centuries. Fourteeners often appear as rhymed couplets, in which case they may be seen as ballad stanza or common metre hymn quatrains in two rather than four lines.
The term may also be used as a synonym for quatorzain, a 14-line poem, such as a sonnet.

I'm certain my mother isn't aware of this terminology either - she has no interest in the formal rules of poetry, she picks a theme and lets 'er rip - I don't think she edits her first draft either. Whatever comes out of her head on the first try, that's the poem. 

I came to poetry because I was interested in following the rules of a particular style of poetry, the Shakespearean sonnet. And I would usually do three or four drafts until I was happy with it.

Also I'm pretty sure my mother has never written a poem about the psycho-social implications of penile tumescence. Although you can see in my sonnet Amoureuse that I sometimes break the iambic rhyme scheme and even the meter - although I see now what a pointless affectation it was to use "blood-engorgéd" instead of just "blood-engorged" since it added an extra syllable which broke the iambic pentameter for no good reason.

I don't only write about male genitalia though, my first poem ever is about lady bits, inspired by Shakespeare's sonnet 151. I think it holds up pretty well, although only I can appreciate some of it - I had once visited the home of my unrequited love, which was in Oyster Bay, and I got both "oyster" and "bay" into the sonnet. And I used oyster as a metaphor for lady bits. The reference to "ill-starred forecastle" is about an injury to my love's head which he never mentioned but was clear to me when I zoomed in once to Photoshop his headshot for a theater production. I did think I was fiendishly clever in my reference to "Grafenberg the place" - this was a reference to the "G spot" which may or may not exist. My unrequited love's first name began with a G.

I'm not wild about the alliteration of "bottom of the bay" now though. And "quite insane" is hackneyed. I do enjoy the extended shipwreck metaphor though. Water-related imagery always works for me.

My hopes drown on the bottom of the bay.  
Brooding, I lie alone on a stark shore.  
Beaten down by the predictable fray,  
Prostrated I will never see you more.  
I blame myself for my poor judgement. How  
I dismissed any bad weather report;  
The ill-starred forecastle of your port bow;  
Your inability to find a port. 
 But still the white-foam-spraying dreams remain,  
Sweating a sad tormented yearning girl.  
Admitting that I may be quite insane  
Again I search the oyster for the pearl.  
No longer Gräfenberg the place will be -  
The letter will forever stand for thee.

It's hard to believe how obsessed I was with the man at that time. Eight years later, I rarely think of him at all. Which is some comfort to me as I suffer for other unrequited love, which is pretty much the only kind I've had for the past ten years.