Experimental Poetry Form: Five, Five, Five

This experimental poetry form is called five, five, five.  It consists of one stanza of five lines.  Each line has five words.  Each word has five letters.  Here is an example poem:

After night began, teeth awoke –
sharp teeth, clear above trees.
Death fills black empty skies.
Below panic.  Below forms dread.
Teeth gleam after night began.

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Poetry essay: Interpreting poetry

As a reader of poetry, you may from time to time try to interpret the poetry you read.  There are a number of reasons you might do this.

First, a poem might not be clear with a first reading.  You might read a poem and not fully understand what it is talking about.  This could motivate you to try to go through the poem to decipher the meaning.

Second, some poetry might appear clear in meaning, but could have hidden symbolism.  As a reader, you might be interested in trying to discover what this is.

Third, poetry sometimes has context.  For example, it could be related to a specific place or a specific time.  Looking into the poem with the context in mind, could enhance your understanding of it.

Fourth, interpreting poetry can help you write poetry.  By figuring out what poems mean you can learn how incorporate different meanings into your own work.

It’s a little difficult to describe how to interpret a poem.  In some sense, you simply read it and try to figure out what it means.  In some cases you might do research (for example, looking up a proper noun mentioned in a poem), but in other cases you might just be reading.

Rather than listing a methodology for interpreting a poem, it seemed like it would be better to simply show the process.  With that in mind, below is poem that will be interpreted.

The poem to be interpreted is Among the planets.  It appeared in the November 6, 2017 blog post on this blog.  It was written by M. Sakran.

While it may seem odd for a person to interpret a poem they wrote, this poem was chosen partially because of that.

This poem was a poem with an explanation.  The explanation of the poem is below it in the post.  As this is being written, the explanation has not be read since it was posted.  M. Sakran is not clear at this time what the poem means.

The idea was to interpret a poem for which the right answer was known.  This way, the effectiveness of the interpretation could be gauged.  If a poem by another poet was chosen (or one without an explanation) there would be no way to know if the interpretation was right.

This poem was written long enough ago, that at this moment, M. Sakran is not clear on its meaning.  This makes it a good candidate for interpretation.

Here is the poem:

Among the planets

There’s a counting,
is it a fortnight?
There’s a counting,
every other Mars.
But one is missed –
what is that,
a cycle of the Moon?

The sandy beaches,
of a moon of Jupiter,
an imagined place,
of forgetfulness.

Alone,
in the silence of a cave,
of Pluto,
as if transported,
from place and time,
watching the Sun,
go in circles and circles,
as night approaches.

 

Here’s an attempt to interpret its meaning:

The title is “Among the planets” presumably this has something to do with the sky.  It might have to do with patterns, as planets follow orbits.  It could have to do with time, as the sky is used to tell time.  It might have to do with large things.

There’s a counting, is it a fortnight?

This is the first sentence of the poem.  It asks a question.  Someone in the poem is gauging time, but is not sure how long that time is.  They are trying to figure it out, and think it might be a fortnight.  A fortnight is two weeks which is fourteen days.  The number fourteen might mean something or it could simply be that roughly that amount of time has passed.

There’s a counting, every other Mars.

This is the second sentence of the poem.  It repeats the idea from the first sentence.  Someone in the poem is trying to gauge time.  In this line, they seem to be gauging time by the orbit of Mars.  Mars might relate to Tuesday.  Tuesday in Spanish is Martes, which derives its name from the planet Mars.  This ties back into the idea of two weeks.  The person in the poem is noting something that happens every other Tuesday.  One Tuesday, to the one after the next, is one day over two weeks.

But one is missed – what is that, a cycle of the Moon?

This is the third sentence of the poem.  Again, there seems to be some idea that the person in the poem is having trouble gauging time.  They think it has been two weeks, or every other Tuesday, but something does not add up.  They might be missing a Tuesday.  Something in their time calculation is not working.

The poem says, a cycle of the Moon.  A cycle of the Moon would refer to a month, which is approximately one cycle of the Moon.  Maybe the person in the poem thinks two weeks have passed, but since the month changed, they are not sure.  They don’t seem to be sure how many days have passed because they can’t just subtract the current date number from the previous one.  This is because the days started over when the month changed.

The sandy beaches, of a moon of Jupiter, an imagined place, of forgetfulness.

This is the fourth sentence of the poem.  The first part The sandy beaches, seems again to go back to time.  Sand is in an hourglass and that could be the reference.  Maybe it means there is a lot of time because there is a lot of sand on a beach.

Of a moon of Jupiter, an imagined place, of forgetfulness seems to go back to the idea that the person is not sure of the time.  A moon of Jupiter is familiar, in that it is a moon like the Moon, but it is unknown.  The person in the poem seems to referring to the idea that they are confused.  The person’s thoughts might be somewhere else, which is why they are unsure of the time.

Alone, in the silence of a cave, of Pluto, as if transported, from place and time, watching the Sun, go in circles and circles, as night approaches.

This is the last sentence of the poem.  Alone, in the silence of a cave, of Pluto, as if transported, from place and time might refer to the idea that the person in the poem is lost in their thoughts.  They mind is on something far away (like Pluto) and this has caused them some isolation (Along, in the silence of a cave).  They are separated from where they are (as if transported, from place and time).  The person seems to have something occupying their thoughts.

The next part says, watching the Sun, go in circles and circles, as night approaches.  This again refers to the idea of time.  On the Earth, it appears that the Sun circles overhead.  This is how days are measured.  The person in the poem, who is lost in their thoughts, is watching the days go by.  The poem ends with as night approaches, which may refer to the idea that the person ends in darkness.  The person ends in confusion.

The main theme of the poem seems to be that a person is having trouble gauging how much time has passed because they have something on their mind.

So, the above is one interpretation of the poem.  Again, it was written before the actual explanation of the poem was read.  Below is the actual explanation of the poem form the original blog post:

This poem is about an elderly person in a nursing home.  The person is supposed to be visited by their family every other Tuesday, but their family missed the last visit.

In the poem, it is the fifth Tuesday.  The person’s family came on the first Tuesday.  They were supposed to come on the third Tuesday, but did not.  Now it is the fifth Tuesday, which is the next scheduled visit day.

The poem starts with a question, There’s a counting, is it a fortnight?  The elderly person is trying to think about how often their family visits.  They wonder what a time period name for every other Tuesday might be.  They have trouble counting the days, but think that it might be called a fortnight, which is fourteen days.  They are somewhat upset and aren’t able to focus and know how many days it really is.

The elderly person continues to think about the time between visits.  They describe “every other Tuesday” as “every other Mars.”  Tuesday, in Spanish is called Martes, which is a reference to Mars.  The idea of astronomy as a background idea continues in the poem.

They then describe the idea that one of the visits was missed (But one is missed).  Again, they are having trouble counting and wonder if that is a month between visits (what is that, a cycle of the Moon?).  This again is an astronomy idea in the background.

The poem then partially shifts perspectives.  In the next stanza, there is a blurring of the point of view of the elderly person and that of their family.

The elderly person imagines their family being somewhere fun and far away (The sandy beaches, of a moon of Jupiter).  Their thoughts are imaginary though (an imagined place).  Their family is just out living their lives as normal.  The place though, and this is a blending of the viewpoints, is one of forgetfulness.  The elderly person imagines their family forgetting them, and, for the most part, at least at times, their family does.

The perspective then shifts back to the elderly person.  They think of their reality as, “Alone, in the silence of a cave, of Pluto“.  The person is alone, as in the sense that they have no company.  They have no one to talk to (in the silence), and they feel hidden (of a cave).  The place the person is at is described as being of Pluto.  Pluto, at one time, was the farthest planet from the Sun.  This describes the person’s separation from their family.  Also, Pluto is no longer a planet.  This idea describes the sense of demotion the person feels in their sense of abandonment.  The detachment and separation the person feels is further described as if transported, from place and time.

The elderly person is in their room and they feel the days pass.  This is described as “watching the Sun go in circles and circles“.  The person has a sense that they will die soon (as night approaches).  There’s a sense of dejection.

 

This poem, in some sense, is about neglect by apathy.  The person’s family sees the elderly person as an obligation.  They see them as something that takes up time.  They feel the visits are a burden.  This is demonstrated in part by the fact that the visits are scheduled and sparse.

The person’s family isn’t mean in a sense.  They just feel detached from the elderly person.  They don’t feel a strong connection.  Seeing the person is almost viewed like completing community service to them.

The poem focuses on the perspective of the elderly person.  There is the idea, that a missed visit is very important to them, but not important to their family.

Astronomy was used in the poem as a descriptive tool.  The idea was to make the feelings of the person seem larger in a way.

 

As can be seen, the interpretation of the poem written for this post, wasn’t entirely accurate.  It did get a sense of the passage of time, but it missed the underlying meaning of the poem.  It was close in the sense that the person in the poem is concerned about time and they have something on their mind, but it missed the main idea of the poem.

This exercise is a good illustration in poetry interpretation.  It shows how some symbolism can be deciphered, but also how it can be difficult to sometimes truly understand the meaning.

While it might seem like the interpretation was unsuccessful, it should not be viewed as such.  The interpretation was an exercise.  It was an attempt at understanding.  Part of worked, part of it did not.  That being said, it still was a good learning tool.

In trying to interpret poems, a reader might have to accept that they will never know if they are right, and, they might have to accept that in some instances, they will be wrong.

This does not detract from the value of the interpretation though.  The exercise has value in itself, but also, as long as a person gains something from a poem, it was worthwhile.  Although they might not have interpreted what the poet intended, as long as the reader learns in some way, it had value.

M. Sakran recommends that readers spend some time trying to interpret poems. It can be a very good learning experience and it can improve a person’s ability to read and write poetry. If you are interested in practicing with poems that have detailed explanations provided, check out Understanding: poems with explanations.  It has twenty poems along with detailed explanations.  It can be a useful tool in learning how to interpret poetry.

A photograph to inspire poetry: dead curly tendril of a grape vine

dead curly tendril of a grape vine

Above is a photograph of a dead curly tendril of a grape vine.  The tendril is dead, but the vine is still alive in its roots.

This photograph can inspire poetry.  Here is a poem inspired by it:

the curls of her hair
seemed to spell a word
as the light reflected off
and the shadows moved about

Poetry topic idea: electricity

Today’s poetry topic idea is electricity.  There are a number of ways a poet could write about electricity in poetry.  A poet could write about:

  • Electrons. A poet could look at electricity at its fundamental level and write about the subatomic particles.  They could write about the nature and attributes of them.  They could personify them as well.
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  • Electricity as something that is used. Think of having lights, fans, computers, and other things in modern life.
  •  

  • Electrical components. A poet could write about electrical components such as resistors and capacitors.  A poet could apply the function of these components as metaphors to situations in life.
  •  

  • Electrical attributes. These include things like Ohms, Watts, Amps, and Volts.  A poet could learn about each of these and write about the ideas involved in them.  For example, a watt is a unit of power.  This idea could be used symbolically in poetry.
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  • Electrical fixtures themselves. These might include switches, outlets, lights, and fans.  Things that might be found in a home.
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  • Electricity as a metaphor. Electricity is sometimes used as a metaphor in everyday speech.  Think of the “electricity” of attraction as an example.  There are other ideas as well.  A poet could use electricity itself as a metaphor in poetry.

Here is an example poem:

when the electricity goes out,
it’s amazing,
how quickly,
your house,
starts to feel,
like a box,
in the woods

Poetry topic idea: crepe myrtle trees

Today’s poetry topic idea is crepe myrtle trees.

It’s almost that time of year.  People are going to be pruning their crepe myrtle trees.  Some though, rather than pruning their trees properly, will, for some reason, lop the tops off.  Don’t do this.  Don’t.  It’s not the way to prune a tree.  It’s not.  Don’t do it.

Crepe myrtle trees have been written about on this blog before.  You can read the posts here: crepe myrtle tree posts.  Please read the posts.  If you are the type of person who lops your crepe myrtle trees, change.  It’s not too late.  You can do it.  M. Sakran encourages all readers to learn proper tree pruning methods and to prune their crepe myrtle trees properly.

After learning about pruning, readers can also write poems about crepe myrtle trees.  There are a number of ideas.

  • Of course, you could write about pruning them. You could write about why lopping them is very, very, wrong.  If you used to do this practice, and have changed, you can write about this change, and how wonderful it is.  If you see lopped trees, you could write about their plight.
  •  

  • Crepe myrtle trees have bark that peels off. You could apply the idea of peeling off an outer layer metaphorically to other situations.
  •  

  • Crepe myrtle trees have many flowers. You could write about the flowers directly or use them symbolically in a poem.
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  • Crepe myrtle trees are beautiful trees (when pruned properly). You could write about how nice they look.

 

Here is an example poem:

Oh the poor trees,
with their tops cut off,
why?
Why?

They suffer,
and cry,
and plead,
that they will be spared,
this horrible fate.

Oh,
if only those reading this,
would prune their trees properly,
and encourage others to do so,
what joy would be felt,
what happiness.
Trees,
far and wide,
would cheer.

Please spare the trees.
Please.

Poem with an explanation: They all said the same

They all said the same,
“Stand bright and tall,
and as you do,
the birds will call.”

So hearing the words,
the squirrel did try,
it flapped its arms,
and tried to fly.

And looking to,
the trees so tall,
the squirrel did listen,
for the sparrows’ call.

But songs of joy,
it did not hear,
it was something else,
much like a jeer.

The sparrows sang out,
but the squirrel they did mock,
and there the squirrel stood,
so filled with shock.

The sparrows did laugh,
and jokes they did tell,
they poked at the squirrel,
and its countenance fell.

They said it was silly,
why did it try,
it was a squirrel,
and would never fly.

And the squirrel ran off,
and hid in the trees,
it started to cry,
and fell to its knees.

It then look at those,
who all said the same,
and asked them why,
but did not blame.

And they all stood,
with no words to say,
they thought they were right,
before that day.

And in the quiet,
the squirrel had a thought,
it would not try,
no matter what they taught.

 

This poem takes a look at a potential negative outcome that can come from well-meaning social advice.

In society, there is the well-meaning social advice that a person should put themselves out there.  That if a person wants to do something different, that they should and that their peers will support them.  This poem looks at a situation in which the positive outcome purported by the advice, does not come true.

In the poem, a squirrel wants to try to fly.  It encounters other animals in the first stanza that tell it, it should try this.  They say that if it does, that the birds who see, will support it.

In the second stanza, the squirrel goes into a clearing in the trees, stands in the middle, and tries to fly.

In the third stanza, the squirrel looks to the trees expecting to hear the birds cheer for it.

In the fourth stanza, the squirrel hears the birds, but instead of cheering the squirrel, they are making fun of it.

In the fifth stanza, the sparrows mock the squirrel’s attempt at flight and the squirrel is surprised by this.

In the sixth stanza, the sparrows laugh at the squirrel, tell jokes at its expense and poke fun at it.  This saddens the squirrel.

In the seventh stanza, the sparrows say the squirrel was silly, and that it would never fly.

In the eighth stanza, the squirrel is very embarrassed and sad.  It runs away, hides, and cries.

In the ninth stanza, the squirrel encounters the animals who gave it the advice.  It asks them why this happened, but does not blame them.

In the tenth stanza, the other animals are speechless.  They thought their advice was good; they thought it was well meaning.

In the eleventh stanza, the squirrel decides that it will no longer put itself out there in social situations.

The idea of this poem is to take a look at what sometimes can be a harsh reality.  Sometimes, when a person does something different, instead of encountering praise from their peers, they encounter ridicule.

Of course the ridicule is wrong, and the poem does not mean to imply that a person should not ever put themselves out there and do something different.  It rather, examines a situation, where this does not work out.  It examines a situation in which the positive view of the advice, does not match the negative reality that was encountered.

An example situation in life might be a person who wants to sew their own sweater.  They talk to some people about this who say it is a great idea and that their friends will support what they do.  The person takes the advice and sews the sweater.  When they wear it in front of their friends though, instead of their friends applauding what they did, they make fun of it.  They make fun of the appearance of the sweater, of the mistakes made in sewing it, and of the person making their own clothes.  The idealized outcome of the advice, did not match the reality the person encountered.

A photograph to inspire poetry: Heart of stone

heart of stone

Above is a photograph of a stone in the shape of a heart.  It can inspire poetry.  Here is a poem inspired by it:

your heart of stone,
will not hear the tone,
of pleading words,
and imploring sounds

 

Note: There will be no new blog post on the blog January 5, 2019 – January 7, 2019.  The next new post will be on January 8, 2019.

Poem with an explanation: Judgement

A penny taken.

“Into the cage!”
“Into the cage!”

A dollar in the pocket.

“No, it’s not the same.”
“It’s not the same.”

 

This poem is about judgment.  In the poem there are three people.

The first person is in the first stanza.  This person stole something small in value.  Symbolically, this refers to the idea that the person committed a small wrong.

The second person appears in the second stanza.  This person is judgmental.  They see the transgression of the first person and condemn them.  They want them punished severely.

The third person appears in the third and fourth stanzas.  This person points out that the second person is guilty of greater transgressions than the first person.  In the poem, the first person stole a penny.  The second person stole a dollar.  This symbolizes that the second person has done much worse, although it is hidden (in the pocket), than the first person.

The second person speaks to the third person in the fourth stanza.  They can’t see the connection.  They can’t see how what they did is wrong.  They can’t see how their condemnation of the first person, is a condemnation of themselves.  They think the first person should be judged harshly, but don’t see how they themselves should be.