Friday, July 16, 2010
Poetry Friday: No-ode
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.
by Laura Shovan
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.
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.