Experimental Poetry Form: forwards and backwards

Today’s experimental poetry form is called forwards and backwards.  The form consists of two stanzas each with five lines.  The stanzas are mirror images of each other.  The first line of the second stanza is the same as the fifth line of the first stanza.  The second line of the second stanza is the same as the fourth line of the first stanza.  This continues with the rest of the lines.  The pattern looks as follows:

A
B
C
D
E

E
D
C
B
A

In writing the form, both stanzas should make sense.  To help with this, it might help to write both stanzas simultaneously, writing the matching lines at the same time and making sure they make sense.

Other than both stanzas making sense and the pattern above, the form has no other requirements.  Here is an example poem written using the form:

The rain did fall
upon the ground
while the lightning struck
and the thunder roared
as the sky darkened.

As the sky darkened
and the thunder roared
while the lightning struck
upon the ground
the rain did fall.

A photograph to inspire poetry: a gnat on a mirror

gnat on a mirror

Above is a photograph of a gnat on a mirror.  It can inspire poetry.  Here is a poem inspired by it:

think of this,
you know your face,
you’ve seen it thousands of times,
and yet,
you’ve never seen it directly,
you’ve never seen it just with your eyes,
the way you’ve seen your hand,
or your foot,
you’ve only seen it,
indirectly,
through a reflection,
through light that bounced back,
through some type of transfer,
through some type of transformation

despite its closeness,
there is a distance

Experimental Poetry Form: mirror

Today’s experimental poetry form is called mirror.  The poem has two stanzas, one on the left and one on the right.  Each stanza has three lines.  Each line has five words.  Each line in the right stanza, has the same words as the corresponding line in the left stanza, except the words are in the reverse order.  If each word is represented by a letter, here is what the form looks like:

A B C D E                                                            E D C B A
F G H I J                                                               J I H G F
K L M N O                                                          O N M L K

The trick to the form, is finding lines that make sense both forwards and backwards, and also make sense in stanzas.  It can help that poetry doesn’t always have to follow grammar rules.

Here is an example poem using the form:

Wilbur left Susan crying softly,                             Softly crying Susan left Wilbur,
rain and darkness surrounding all,                     all surrounding darkness and rain,
emptiness and sorrow covering quietly.            quietly covering sorrow and emptiness.

Poem with an explanation: closing a medicine cabinet door

Who knew,
closing a medicine cabinet door,
could be so horrifying?

 

In some horror movies there is a sight effect that is shown.  In the effect a character is looking at a mirror that is on a door.  They see themselves and the background behind them.  Everything looks normal.  The character then opens the door, does something, and closes it.  When the character closes the door, they see something horrifying in the mirror.  It might be something behind them or it might be a change in how they appear.

This effect is the idea of the poem above.  In the poem, a person is reflecting on an experience.

The person in the poem just saw a horror movie with the effect mentioned.  After it is done, they go to the bathroom.  While there, they open a mirrored medicine cabinet door.  Then they remember the scene from the movie.

All of a sudden they become afraid.  They all of a sudden feel something behind them.  They all of a sudden have the sense that something ominous is about the happen.

In this moment, a simple act, closing a medicine cabinet door, has become frightening.  Something that was a thoughtless act, now has an immense amount of thought with it.  The person very much feels a moment they otherwise would not have noticed.

This basic idea – that of being scared of something that normally isn’t scary because of some experience – is something that can be applied to a number of situations.  In this case, the previous experience was based on fiction.  A poem could be written though where a previous experience was real.  For example, a person may have shocked themselves when they plugged something into an outlet.  The next time they plug something in, they might pause with fear.  The person would feel fear at what normally isn’t a frightening situation.

Poem with an explanation: Hello Sandy

Hello Sandy,
it’s nice to meet you,
you look familiar,
where did you come from?

 

This poem is about a person looking in a mirror and realizing they have aged.  The person was of course aware that they have been aging over the years, but they never stopped to really notice it.  In the poem, the person looks in a mirror and has a moment where they realize how much they’ve aged.

In the poem, the individual the person in the poem meets is named Sandy.  This name is an allusion to the mirror.  Mirrors are made of glass, which contains silica, which is found in sand.  Sand = Sandy.

In the poem’s second line, the person says, “it’s nice to meet you”.  This implies that they see their reflection as a stranger.  They don’t recognize themselves.

In the third line, the person says, “you look familiar”.  This alludes to the fact that the person remembers how they used to look when they were younger.  They also remember being younger.  They can see their younger selves in the person they see in the reflection. (Even though they don’t recognize themselves.)

In the last line, the person asks, “where did you come from?”  This alludes to the idea that age sneaks up on a person.  The person did not feel themselves get to this age.  It is as if it happened all of a sudden.  They are surprised to be where they are.

Poem with an explanation: the weight of sand

Looking in the sand,
and seeing,
the imaginary reality,
for all the suns,
and all the moons.

Standing there,
silently speaking,
reflecting on sand,
and wondering.

In the corner,
a tally is made,
in the thoughts,
an inverse of worth.

The equation is simple,
so the figures say,
reduce x,
increase y,
reduce z.
Adding the numbers,
the answer doesn’t match.

In the cave,
thinking of sand,
and wondering if,
someone else,
will ever be there.

 

This poem is about a person struggling with their weight.  It is about the negative feelings a person can have as they have this struggle.  It is about the emotions a person can go through as they stand in the bathroom, look at themselves in the mirror, and weigh themselves on a scale.

At the start of the poem, the person looks in the mirror (Looking in the sand), and sees their reflection (and seeing).  The image they see is real, in the sense that it is what they really look like, but it is also distorted by their perception of themselves (the imaginary reality).  They have stood in front of the mirror on a regular basis for years (for all the suns, and all the moons) and looked at themselves like this.

The person stands in front of the mirror (Standing there), and they talk to themselves aloud.  They see their reflection speaking even though it isn’t making a sound (silently speaking).  They talk about how long they have been overweight (reflecting on sand – sand representing time and their image in the mirror), and they wonder if they will ever be able to change how they are (and wondering).

The person is in a bathroom.  In the corner (In the corner), there is a scale.  The person weighs themselves (a tally is made) and the person feels that the higher their weight the less their worth (in the thoughts, and inverse of worth).

As the person steps off of the scale, they think of the often repeated advice (The equation is simple, so the figures say): eat less (reduce x), move more (increase y), and weight will go down (reduce z).  The person thinks of their reality where they have done this (Adding the numbers), and thinks about how it hasn’t worked for them (the answer doesn’t match).

The person stands against their bathroom door (In the cave), and they think of time and how their reflection looks in the mirror (thinking of sand), and they wonder if (and wondering if) they will ever change how they are (someone else, will ever be there).

 

If you like poems with explanations, please consider purchasing a copy of M. Sakran’s self-published eBook, Understanding: poems with explanations.  It contains twenty original poems, with explanations of each of them.  The main purpose of the book is to help readers expand their understanding of poetry through the explanations.

Understanding: poems with explanations is available for a current price of $0.99 (plus tax where applicable).  It is also available in currencies other than the U.S. dollar.  It can be purchased with British Pounds, Euros (1, 2, 3, 4, 5), Japanese Yen, Brazilian Reals, Canadian Dollars, Mexican Pesos, Australian Dollars and Indian Rupees.

 

Poem with an explanation: the mirror of many years ago

looking into the mirror
of many years ago
and wishing to speak
so the words would be different

 

This poem is about the idea of a person talking to their past self.  It is based off of the thought that people sometimes have where they wonder what they would tell their past self so that their current life would be different than it is.

In the poem, the person is looking at a photograph of themselves.  The photograph is “the mirror of many years ago” in the poem.  When a person looks at a photograph of themselves, it is like they are looking into a mirror, except the image is from the past.

As the person looks at themselves, they wish they could give their past self advice (and wishing to speak).  They want to give their past self advice so that their current situation would be different.  In other words, they would tell their past self to make different decisions than they themselves actually did.

If the person were able to do this, and their past self took the advice, then they would be currently living a different life.  If that were so, the words they would say to their past self when they look at their photograph would be different than the words that they said at this time (so the words would be different).  They wouldn’t be giving their past self advice, at least they hope, rather they would be telling their past self that they made the right decisions.

This poem is about looking back on the past and wishing it were somehow different.

Poetry topic idea: mirror

Today’s poetry topic idea is mirror.  A mirror can be used in poetry in a number of ways.  Some ideas include using a mirror:

  • To show an alternate universe or as a portal as might be done in science fiction or fantasy.
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  • As a way to discuss issues of body image.
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  • As a way to show vanity.
  •  

  • As a way to show self-reflection (on an emotional, life examining level).
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  • As a way to show the true self of a person, as might be done in fantasy fiction.