Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Ana-, Epi-, Repe-

Light Drawing
Photo by D.R. Wagner

—Robert K. Johnson, Needham, MA

After our first kiss ends
we open our eyes in a woods

where the sunlight slowly descends
steps made of ivy leaves,

and all the bark-bright trees
stand straight as palace guards

while clusters of branches swell
the air with their green silence,

and we, too, have no need for words.


—Robert K. Johnson

As fast as a quick breath,
we chuck our household chores,

plop in the car and drive
to a book store's abundant shelves

where we browse hour after hour
or drive to a restaurant

whose lingering smells we'd failed
to savor in over a year

or to a sweep of meadow
filled with a new spring's green

and leave back at the house
our awareness of timeless Death.


Thanks, Robert, for the poems! Robert K. Johnson, a retired English professor at Suffolk University in Boston, has had poetry published in The New York Times, Webster Review, Main Street Rag, South Carolina Review, and elsewhere. His latest collections of poems are From Mist To Shadow and Flowering Weeds.

And thanks to D.R. Wagner for his poems and the arresting photo. Is everybody keeping their cool out there? It's plenty hot in Northern California these days!

It's Tuesday, Seed of the Week Day:

Anaphora: A repetition device where the same expression (word or words) is repeated at the beginning of two or more lines, clauses, or sentences. For example:

—Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Water, water, everywhere,
And all the boards did shrink ;
Water, water, everywhere,
Nor any drop to drink.


Poets.org says: The term "anaphora" comes from the Greek for "a carrying up or back," and refers to a type of parallelism created when successive phrases or lines begin with the same words, often resembling a litany. The repetition can be as simple as a single word or as long as an entire phrase. As one of the world’s oldest poetic techniques, anaphora is used in much of the world’s religious and devotional poetry, including numerous Biblical Psalms. Elizabethan and Romantic poets were masters of anaphora, as evident in the writings of William Shakespeare, Sir Philip Sidney, and Edmund Spenser. Shakespeare frequently used anaphora in both his plays and poems. For example, in Sonnet No. 66, he begins ten lines with the word "and":

Tired with all these, for restful death I cry,
As to behold desert a beggar born,
And needy nothing trimm'd in jollity,
And purest faith unhappily forsworn,
And gilded honour shamefully misplac'd,
And maiden virtue rudely strumpeted,
And right perfection wrongfully disgrac'd,
And strength by limping sway disabled
And art made tongue-tied by authority,
And folly—doctor-like—controlling skill,
And simple truth miscall'd simplicity,
And captive good attending captain ill:
Tir'd with all these, from these would I be gone,
Save that, to die, I leave my love alone.

Allen Ginsberg's Howl, Walt Whitman's "Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking," Section V of "The Waste Land" by T. S. Eliot, and "From a Litany" by Mark Strand are all excellent examples of how modern writers have found inventive ways to use anaphora. Joe Brainard used anaphora in recalling his Oklahoma youth in his book-length poem, "I Remember", by starting each phrase with "I remember". A frequent teaching device is to begin poems with “I Am”.

I asked SnakePal Carol Frith (watch for her rattlechap, coming in December) if an anaphora has to appear at the beginning of a line, and here's what she said:

The short answer seems to be, when the repeated word or phrase appears at the end of the line (or prose clause) the correct title is epiphora—or epistrophe. I 'way prefer "epiphora" for two reasons: 1) It's an identity rhyme with anaphora and 2) even better, epiphora ALSO means an excess of tears—and we poets are always crying in our beer....

Repeater lines: I always have to double check the meaning of repetend—it is a single line repeated several times throughout a poem—at random. Then there is the repeton, a single line repeated only once in the poem after its initial appearance. Finally, the refrain is a line that is repeated at regular intervals—as in the villanelle, etc. I usually forget these definitions immediately, and wind up calling them all repeater lines!

Thanks, CF! Poetry (and all art, as in D.R.'s photo today) is often about the skillful use of repetition, isn't it? For our SOW, let's go past the simple anaphora and write poems using any repeater words or lines, either at the beginning of the line or wherever it suits you and your muse. Villanelles, pantoums, single words or lines repeated at random—just try to see where repetition leads you, or even repetition that is slightly varied, as in this poem by Howard Moss (italics are his). Note also that D.R. uses the repetition of "here" in his poem that follows the Moss one, plus he repeats the opening line at the end. And, if you look closely, you'll see that there is a definite pattern to D.R.'s use of "here".

Send your results to kathykieth@hotmail.com or P.O. Box 762, Pollock Pines, CA 95726. No deadline for SOWs.

—Howard Moss

Where are you going that I want to go?
You have disappeared where I cannot follow.
There are new ghosts that come by daily.
Evening snow is coming down slowly.

Now I am staying where I always stay,
Between the truth's twilight and the half lie,
Which are the same and not the same, oddly.
Evenly snow is coming down slowly.

Did I ever tell you what I meant to say?
Or was I silent as this snowfall? Was I?
How can I take your sudden darkness lightly?
Heavily snow is coming down slowly.

The world is being shut away now. Surely
You felt what I felt, Lately, early,
In the morning you rise up from the earth. Unearthly,
Heavenly snow is coming down slowly.


(For Lillian Elliott)
—D.R. Wagner

Here are painted birds.
Here is the fly shuttle.
Here are the floats
High over the warp.
Here is the morning
And its unusual shape. The
Selvages are gathered and overspun.
Here are the reeds, even and full,
The canals of heddles between here
And the moon. Here are the villages
And the rivers poured through them.
Here is the hand and here too, the eye,
Caught in the pattern, framed in the making.
Here is the loop and here is the needle.
Here is time, ignored for centuries,
Left on the edge of the jungle.
“We’ll be right back. We have
Gone to gather raffia. Wait here.”
Here is the blue sky or perhaps
It is the indigo from the hole, which
Reflects the tops of the tree.
Here are painted birds.


—D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

Sounds come from the radio.
They are old, have echoes of ‘One Man’s Family’,
'Inner Sanctum’, ‘Straight Arrow’ about them.

Birds have their own part.
Trees full of sparrows,
Short, urgent twittering,
Then a rush of wings, and silence.

I sit in a chair in the yard.
The day is hot. The trees grumble.
Water is the biggest subject.

Father Dan primes the pump.
All of Ireland spills into the delta
Caught in words and the onslaught of electrification.

Packages are delivered to my life.
The wrappings are plain and tied with twine.
There is no return address. Today
I do not want to open them.


Today's LittleNip:

—Frank O'Hara

It really is amusing
that for all the centuries of mankind
the problem has been how
to kill enough people
and now
it is how
not to kill them all



SnakeWatch: What's New from Rattlesnake Press:

NEW FOR JUNE: Walt Whitman Orders a Cheeseburger, a rattlechap by Bob Stanley; Mandorla: A Prelude; a littlesnake broadside from frank andrick; and a brand-new issue of Rattlesnake Review! All at The Book Collector, 1008 24th St., Sacramento.

COMING FOR SUMMER: There will be no rattle-read in July, while the Snake enjoys a little summer hibernation. (Stay current on Sacramento poetry, though, by way of Medusa's Kitchen.) Then join us Weds., August 12 to celebrate Joyce Odam’s birthday month with two new books from her: a collection of prose poems (illustrated by Charlotte Vincent) and Rattlesnake LittleBook #2 (Noir Love). That’s at The Book Collector, 1008 24th St., Sacramento, 7:30 PM. Free!

RATTLESNAKE REVIEW: Issue #22 is now available (free) at The Book Collector, or send me four bux and I'll mail you one. Or you can order copies of current or past issues through rattlesnakepress.com/. Contributor and subscription copies will go into the mail this week. Deadline is August 15 for RR23: send 3-5 poems, smallish art pieces and/or photos (no bio, no cover letter, no simultaneous submissions or previously-published poems) to kathykieth@hotmail.com or P.O. Box 762, Pollock Pines, CA 95726. E-mail attachments are preferred, but be sure to add all contact info, including snail address. Meanwhile, the snakes of the on-going Medusa are always hungry; keep that poetry comin', rain or shine! Just let us know if your submission is for the Review or for Medusa, or for either one, and please—only one submission packet per issue of the quarterly Review. (More info at rattlesnakepress.com/.)

Also available (free): littlesnake broadside #46: Snake Secrets: Getting Your Poetry Published in Rattlesnake Press (and lots of other places, besides!): A compendium of ideas for brushing up on your submissions process so as to make editors everywhere more happy, thereby increasing the likelihood of getting your poetry published. Pick up a copy at The Book Collector or write to me and I'll send you one. Free!

WTF!: The second issue of WTF, the free quarterly journal from Poetry Unplugged at Luna's Cafe that is edited by frank andrick, is now available at The Book Collector or through rattlesnakepress.com, or send me two bux and I'll mail you one. Next deadline, for Issue #3, is July 15. Submission guidelines are the same as for the Snake, but send your poems, photos, smallish art or prose pieces (500 words or less) to fandrickfabpub@hotmail.com (attachments preferred) or, if you’re snailing, to P.O. Box 762, Pollock Pines, CA 95726 (clearly marked for WTF). And be forewarned: this publication is for adults only, so you must be over 18 years of age to submit. (More info at rattlesnakepress.com/.)

Medusa's Weekly Menu:

(Contributors are welcome to cook up something for any and all of these!)

Monday: Weekly NorCal poetry calendar

Tuesday: Seed of the Week: Tuesday is Medusa's day to post poetry triggers such as quotes, forms, photos, memories, jokes—whatever might tickle somebody's muse. Pick up the gauntlet and send in your poetic results; and don't be shy about sending in your own triggers, too! All poems will be posted and a few of them will go into Medusa's Corner of each Rattlesnake Review. Send your work to kathykieth@hotmail.com or P.O. Box 762, Pollock Pines, CA 95726. No deadline for SOWs; respond today, tomorrow, or whenever the muse arrives. (Print 'em out, maybe, save 'em for a dry spell?) When you send us work, though, just let us know which "seed" it was that inspired you.

Wednesday (sometimes, or any other day!): HandyStuff Quickies: Resources for the poet, including whatever helps ease the pain of writing and/or publishing: favorite journals to read and/or submit to; books, etc., about writing; organizational tools—you know—HandyStuff! Tell us about your favorite tools.

Thursday: B.L.'s Drive-Bys: Micro-reviews by our irreverent Reviewer-in-Residence, B.L. Kennedy. Send books, CDs, DVDs, etc. to him for possible review (either as a Drive-By or in future issues of Rattlesnake Review) at P.O. Box 160664, Sacramento, CA 95816.

Friday: NorCal weekend poetry calendar

Daily (except Sunday): LittleNips: SnakeFood for the Poetic Soul: Daily munchables for poetic thought, including short paragraphs, quotes, wonky words, silliness, little-known poetry/poet facts, and other inspiration—yet another way to feed our ravenous poetic souls.

And poetry! Every day, poetry from writers near and far and in-between! The Snakes of Medusa are always hungry.......!


Medusa encourages poets of all ilk and ages to send their POETRY, PHOTOS and ART, as well as announcements of Northern California poetry events, to kathykieth@hotmail.com (or snail ‘em to P.O. Box 762, Pollock Pines, CA 95726) for posting on this daily Snake blog. Rights remain with the poets. Previously-published poems are okay for Medusa’s Kitchen, as long as you own the rights. (Please cite publication.) Medusa cannot vouch for the moral fiber of other publications, contests, etc. that she lists, however, so submit to them at your own risk. For more info about the Snake Empire, including guidelines for submitting to or obtaining our publications, click on the link to the right of this column: Rattlesnake Press (rattlesnakepress.com). And be sure to sign up for Snakebytes, our monthly e-newsletter that will keep you up-to-date on all our ophidian chicanery.