Monday, September 7, 2015

the trifecta


Today, I got it in my head to write a poem. But a dreadful urge to make it perfectly constructed, flawless — tight, yet free and easy sounding — caused a waking nightmare like a stomach-ache to start inside me.

Could I do it?

Oh, sure, I was able to, back in my super-smart teen sighing days, when I could just let fly with mopey tributes to some nerd-girl crush, and have it come out word-perfect, with faultless scansion, rhyme, and big emotions: gushing, chiming masterpieces of teen alt-romance.

But that’s all past. I’m halting. Now I just want to impress, but don’t know how.

(I’m such a mess!)

Should I rhyme? Should it be quick, spiffy couplets of tetrameter, or a balanced and classic sonnet? Or both?



Today, I got it in my head
To write a poem. But a dread-
ful urge to make it perfectly
Constructed, flawless — tight, yet free
And easy sounding — caused a wak-
ing nightmare like a stomach-ache
To start inside me. Could I do
It? Oh, sure, I was able to,
Back in my super-smart teen sigh-
ing days, when I could just let fly
With mopey tributes to some nerd-
Girl crush, and have it come out word-
Perfect, with faultless scansion, rhyme,
And big emotions: gushing, chim-
ing masterpieces of teen alt-
Romance. But that’s all past. I’m halt-
ing. Now I just want to impress,
But don’t know how. I’m such a mess.



Today, I got it in my head to write
A poem. But a dreadful urge to make
It perfectly constructed, flawless — tight,
Yet free and easy sounding — caused a wak-
     Ing nightmare like a stomach-ache to start
     Inside me. Could I do it? Oh, sure, I
     Was able to, back in my super-smart
     Teen sighing days, when I could just let fly
With mopey tributes to some nerd-girl crush,
And have it come out word-perfect, with fault-
less scansion, rhyme, and big emotions: gush-
ing, chiming masterpieces of teen alt-
     Romance. But that’s all past. I’m halting. Now
     I just want to impress, but don’t know how.



Ha! I've been wanting to do that since my senior year in high school, when I thought it would be a blast to write an essay for Mr. Naegelin's English class, totally understandable as modern prose — no high-flown rhetoric, no thees and thous, no reversed subject and predicate, none of the markers of "poetic" poetry — but perfectly renderable in verse.

A few years later, in Professor Ann Miller's English Poetry Since Burns class, I thought that it would be even cooler to write a poem in rhyming couplets of tetrameter that was also perfectly renderable in pentameter. Better yet: sonnet form!!

But I didn't do it, either time. It sat there, as a cool idea that occasionally came to my mind, as decades came and went.

Just over and just under thirty years later, today was the day. The trifecta!