THE LAST FIFTH GRADE OF EMERSON ELEMENTARY

THE LAST FIFTH GRADE OF EMERSON ELEMENTARY
April 12, 2016

Friday, July 16, 2010

Poetry Friday: No-ode

I am a huge fan of "Not" and "No" poems.

They are often lists: things the speaker has never done or tried, remarks unsaid or unspoken, qualities someone doesn't have -- as in Shakespeare's Sonnet 130. 


My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips' red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;


It's a neat trick. By writing what you're not willing to do (eat red meat, ride a roller coaster), you can reveal as much -- more? -- than coming at the subject head-on. That also makes these poems a good lesson for middle and high school writers who want to work on subtlety.

I've been working on a middle-grade novel-in-verse. One of my characters, a fifth grade joker named Jason, thought it would be funny to write an anti-ode. His No-ode lists all the things he hates about indoor recess.

I decided to try the form myself. (Jason says pronounce it like node.) Here is a rough draft. If you're balancing working and parenting at home this summer, I know you feel my pain. 

Summer No-ode


by Laura Shovan
June brought me the end of school.
It handed summer to me on a stick,
as if the season were a burned marshmallow
that I was supposed to cover with chocolate
and call delicious.

Summer, I fight through your ten weeks
like a triathlete who tackles the local lake,
slimy algae on the bottom
and god knows what – goose poo? –
in the thick water.


These are violent days.
My quiet routine gasps.
Your hours are cacti I know carry juice
but I can’t drink for the thorns,
which look an awful lot
like my two un-busy children.

Summer, you are heat
and drought and no one
wanting to play outside.
You are miles in the car
driving the children to camp,
a rushed hour of chores
and picking them up again.

Don’t think you honor me
with all this free time.
I don’t know what to do with it,
so I do nothing. We all do nothing.

My son wants to play video games
and blow things up.
I blame you for his violence.
You’re a poor role model, Summer,
with your lightning gunning for trees,
downpours flooding roads
and booms louder than the cartoon tank
that just exploded on my TV.

You are people thinking they are handsome
in tank tops. You are sunburns and riptides.

I resist the temptation to give in
to your languidity, to dragonfly float
from movies to board games, swims
at the neighbor's and ice cream stand visits.

I keep the crust of burned sugar
on my tongue and speak from it, unkindly
to everyone I live with.
This ode has no moral.
It’s just summertime
and nothing feels easy.

Let me know if you try your own No-ode. You  might like to check out one of Pablo Neruda's simple odes first. I re-read his "Ode to My Socks" while drafting my No-ode.

There's more poetry at wonderful Heidi's blog My Juicy Little Universe -- stop by for a list of all the Poetry Friday posts.

22 comments:

Tabatha said...

Powerful no-ode, Laura! "Your hours are cacti I know carry juice
but I can’t drink for the thorns" -- great imagery! I particularly like the first verse, too.

Does saying, "Only six more weeks!" help?

Didn't think so...

Author Amok said...

Hi, Tabatha! I'm hopeful that the second half of summer will be better. We had a family meeting last night -- everyone brainstormed how to get Mom three hours a day to write.

Heidi Mordhorst said...

I'm with Tabatha--that cactus image is the heart of the poem, although there are a multitude of other riches here.

There's a mysterious no-poem that inspired me which I'll look for and send you, but I'm jealous that you can get inspired by your own fictional character!

I have to say that the outrageous amount of money we spent to have both kids out in the Potomac river from 8:15 am to 4:30 everyday for two weeks has been utterly, utterly worth it...I think I can hack the rest of the summer now.

Author Amok said...

Hi, Heidi. I'm thinking about sleep-away camp for my teen next year. He's doing service hours for the Maryland Food Bank in August. Lots of them, I hope. If I can get my 3 hours in, I can enjoy playing in the afternoon.

Author Amok said...

Oh, Heidi, I'd love to read that poem. You can email to me at mrs poems at gmail dot com.

My friend Jean Meyers wrote one of my favorite not-poems. I'll try to post it this afternoon or tomorrow.

jama said...

Wonderful No-Ode, Laura! "My quiet routine gasps." "I keep the crust of burned sugar on my tongue and speak from it, unkindly . . ."

So many great lines, and it's cool how Jason inspired you.

Author Amok said...

Thanks, Jama. I'm laughing to myself because the character is named after my brother -- who is not a poet, but who is a funny guy. Some of his voice comes through his namesake.

Andromeda Jazmon said...

I think this is my favorite summer poem today. It is stinking hot and all I do is drive the kids back and forth and think I should be doing something with all this free time. But what is worthy of it? huh.

Author Amok said...

Thanks for that! It makes me feel better to know I'm not the only one. I much preferred this winter's blizzards.

Mary Lee said...

Here's hoping you get your 3 hours of writing each day for the rest of the wretched summer!

all things poetry said...

I agree that there are so many good points in this poem. So I have to pick something different. I love the rhythm/sound of:

give in to your languidity, to dragonfly float from movies to board games,

I salute any mom that can combine work and children. Aren't those terms "work" and "children" synonyms? But they pull you in (at least) two different directions. I feel your pain, so this is what they mean by "love hurts." (just kidding)

Laura Evans

Author Amok said...

Hi, Laura. That pull comes with so much guilt. I should be enjoying the time with my kids, right? So much happier when I can get that writing time in -- and when Mama's happy, everybody's happy.

Linda said...

Don’t think you honor me
with all this free time.
I don’t know what to do with it,
so I do nothing. We all do nothing.

Oh boy, is this ever true! I get less done in the summer when I'm off school then when I'm working 10hour days, why is that?

Loved your poem, much truth in it!

Author Amok said...

Thanks, Linda. I'm glad you liked it. I have a writer friend -- retired from teaching -- who says the same thing. Could budgeting our time be good for us?! Egads.

Toby Speed said...

Laura, I love the dark, acerbic voice in this poem, the goose poo, your son blowing things up, the fact that there's no moral and it's summertime and nothing feels easy. I guess what I like best about this poem is its completeness -- not too long, not too short, covers the topic and plays it out, and throws out a lot of great images from beginning to end. Like hailstones.

Boy, can I relate! My kids are grown, but I used to spend summers with three girls who were two years apart, and when they were bored, they took sides, two against one (always a different combo) until I screamed, "Separate!" or took them to the library or bagel store or pool. Anywhere! And no "me" time.

This, too, shall pass....

Author Amok said...

Hi, Toby. Thanks for the feedback! I grew up as the eldest of a threesome and remember all of those triangulations. Ugh. Luckily, my two get along well. I just didn't plan well (that or I'm working more) this summer.

Robyn Campbell said...

Fantastic poem and all this free time. FUNNY!

I'm feeling the pain. Only I home-school during the off summer time. And in summer is spent getting lots done, working the farm. UGH

Dear hubby helps and this summer he has worked his butt off so's Mama (that's moi) could finish her MG novel and make it all sparkly and polished.

I might try a No-ode. If I can find another hour on the clock.

Thanks for visiting Putting Pen To Paper. I loves me some visitors.

laurasalas said...

Laura, this is fabulous and my favorite Poetry Friday poem today! This captures my summer perfectly. Especially the poem about the violence of summer.

I don't have the problem with not knowing what to do with the free time when I get it, but other than that, I could relate to this whole thing. Wonderful defiant voice!

Author Amok said...

Thanks, Robyn and Laura. I'm glad I'm not the only one. I've been writing in every free little chink of time I get. Two big projects this summer, which was ambitious and one of the sources of my summer-bile.

Defiant -- yes, moms need to go there once in a while. Robyn, let me know how your no-ode turns out.

Amy LV said...

Oh, Laura. How did I just find this now? You make me smile and laugh and feel so-not-alone! Thank you. One more reason to keep circling the Poetry Friday wagons, that's for sure. You made my night.
A.

Author Amok said...

Hi, Amy! Glad the poem brought a smile to your face. Hey -- being a stay home/working parent has its tough days. It's good to help each other with a laugh. (A good friend and I send each un-birthday cards -- always questionable taste. Somehow they always arrive when the other person most needs a hug.)

Author Amok said...

Hi, Amy! Glad the poem brought a smile to your face. Hey -- being a stay home/working parent has its tough days. It's good to help each other with a laugh. (A good friend and I send each un-birthday cards -- always questionable taste. Somehow they always arrive when the other person most needs a hug.)