Since Colleen Chesebro’s weekly #TankaTuesday poetry prompts are so inspiring to me, I bought her book that describes the various types of syllabic poetry so that I could use that as a guide instead of the wonderful links she has on the Wordcraft website. This way, the book is right at my side when I need it.
Ironically, this week’s #TankaTuesday is to write in a form not in the book. We are to write a poem about a bird in the Japanese form Imayo.
The imayo is comprised of four 12-syllable lines. Each line is divided into a 7-syllable and a 5-syllable section, with a hard pause (or caesura) in between. The pause will generally be represented by a comma, semi-colon, or similar punctuation.
4 lines (8 lines permissible)
12 syllables per line divided as 7-5
make a pause space between the 7 and 5 syllables
use comma, caesura or kireji (cutting word) as the pause
no end of line pauses – the whole should flow together as though one long sentence
The Imayo is a literal poem so do not use symbolism, allegory etc.
I decided to write about the Great Blue Heron that showed up in my yard last year. In the photo, the coyote behind the heron is an inanimate metal coyote!
I glanced out the front window — the Great Blue Heron
stood motionless by the pool — it stared straight ahead
perhaps lost in the desert — perhaps it mistook
pool for a swamp or wetland — beauty or sadness?
Hmm not my favorite form. When the description mentions “literal,” it means the form is not to employ figurative imagery. In general, in English language poetry, literal poems tend to be for children whereas figurative poems (using metaphor, simile, etc ) are for adults. In a literal poem the focus is on a plain description or a simple point or philosophy.
This week’s #TankaTuesday is at the bottom of the post.
This past week we had two new animals show up in our yard. The first was an adolescent javelina. These are not pigs, but peccaries. Because they are very destructive to flowers and cacti, we eventually had to get permission to fence them off our property. But now this little one showed up alone. They travel in herds, called squadrons, and the babies are always twins. I think this one became separated from his people after the @#&*s had to have their fireworks.
Then we were visited by the king snake two days in a row. The first time the snake was climbing a wall. The next day he was near the pool. We love king snakes because they keep rattlesnakes away!
Today’s #TankaTuesday prompt by Colleen is to write a poem with imagery that incorporates the phrase Sun, Sand, & Sea and uses this photograph for inspiration.
This photo taken in San Diego is a far cry from my desert world, but I did used to live in California, not that far from San Diego. At one time, the gardener and I thought we would move to San Diego, but we changed our minds. I wrote a haibun about a different San Diego beach and something that happened not long after we moved to California.
How I Became a Californian
That first year in California, on a sunny late October day, we skipped our grad classes and pulled the kids out of school. The four of us lay on beach towels, mesmerized by the push and pull, the rhythmic crashing, of the waves as they broke upon the beach. My chin rested between my forearms, and the smell of my own warmed skin pleased me. The sun, sand, & sea of California, even enjoyed this late in the season, seemed unreal in comparison with all my Michigan winters. The flowers were so different, I thought, as I spied spiky orange bird-of-paradise flowers along the restroom building. A whistle sounded, and we all looked toward the road. There we saw a train rushing toward us. I only noticed then that the tracks were laid in the sand along the sidewalk. The train slid in to a stop right in front of us. Only three people alighted: young men in board shorts, each carrying a surfboard. They ran past us and straight into the ocean as we watched with our mouths hanging open. The train departed and with it my midwestern innocence.
This week, Colleen’s #TankaTuesday prompt is to write a syllabic poem inspired by your Celtic tree. I had never heard of this before. It seems similar to an astrological sign in that your birthday determines the tree. My tree is holly, which I had never thought about before. I mean, I know the holly berries and leaves design for Christmas decorations, but that is about it. I discovered:
HOLLY – THE RULER
JULY 8 – AUGUST 4
Among the Celtic tree astrology signs, the Holly is one of regal status. Noble, and high-minded, Holly signs take on positions of leadership and power. If you are a Holly sign you take on challenges easily and overcome obstacles with rare skill and tact. When you encounter setbacks, you remain vigilant to obtain your end goals. People look up to you and follow you as their leader as you are rarely defeated. You are competitive and ambitious even in the most casual settings. You are quite generous, kind and affectionate. Highly intelligent, you skate through academics where others may struggle. Holly signs may look to Ash and Elder signs for balance and partnership.
No doubt these descriptions are set up to flatter, but there are aspects of this description I can relate to. Taking on challenges, (trying to be) kind, things like that. But the ruler? My husband would laugh himself silly because we both agree that while some are leaders, some are followers, there are those like me that are neither. I don’t like being a boss as in: do this, do that, don’t do that, I’ll judge you, etc. I do like the “noble and high-minded” thing, though. Whether it’s simple flattery or something more, I can take a guess 😉 but one of my literary role models (and here I use literature to mean Broadway musical haha) is King Arthur in Camelot. He has to choose between the legal choice for the good of the country (meaning lots of people) or his love for his wife. Really really admire that character.
I thought I would try a tectractys today, and I’ll tell you why in a minute. So here it is:
must come from tact
and the ability to see both sides.
Tectractys is a five-line poem with this syllabic configuration: 1, 2, 3, 4, 10.
The literary journal Does It Have Pockets? has published a Red Riding Hood story of mine that is darker than anything found in my chapbook Our Wolves. “Why I Always Wear Red” is flash fiction that finishes with a tectractys, making it a hybrid genre. You can read it here:
You see a cup on a pewter dish and a thornless rose. Actually the rose looks like more of a fantasy rose whereas the cup and dish are realistic. I found watching the video to be an amazing experience.
I wrote a haibun.
The Realism of Winter, The Fantasy of Spring
In this portrait of a cup of water, I find my mind focusing on the slivers of light on pewter and pottery. I have to be directed to see the large shadow on our right that is so obvious once pointed out. Then I note its power. The water looks refreshing enough to dive into if only I could make myself smaller like Alice. In fact, I feel myself becoming both smaller as the scene looms bigger in front of me and also larger as the space in my mind that this painting inhabits grows. Eventually I have to recognize the two aspects that poke at me, pay attention to me, they say. One is the fantasy flower with petals so curvy they could be dying or so unreal as not to include thorns. The other is the handles of the cup are misshapen. They don’t match, and only a child’s fingers could enter their spaces. Only a fantasy child like Alice.
Shadows of winter
once greeted bring forth treasures
of fantastic spring.
My girl Kana is the Box Queen. She is the one of my five cats who finds a box or bag the minute it enters the house. The other day she went one better. I set a buckled belt I am using for an exercise on the couch. When I turned back to it she had climbed in it.
On another note, I had a banner/header made with my two full-length poetry books and my two chapbooks made by someone who knows what they are doing because I clearly don’t. It’s for this blog and my social media. What do you think?
Colleen at Wordcraft poetry suggested writing a syllabic poem about the mythological Phoenix or Thunderbird.
Because I live in Phoenix, Arizona, I wanted to write about the city. Phoenix was named after the bird of myth, but is often associated with it because of the extreme heat of the summers. In reality, it earned the name because it was a new city built on the ruins of the Hohokam civilization. I wrote a double tanka so I could work with both notions.
With flat-roofed houses
and white adobe mission,
they built a city
on the ancient vill ruins
of the Hohokam nation.
of the fiery eponym
the city’s named for,
every summer it burns
to ash, then rises in fall.
Fall brings perfect weather, new and colorful flowers, and relief after the hellish summers.
As we move into summer, though, we do have lovely cactus flowers.
When I take Theo out I try to walk in shade because I am very aware of the danger of heat to his paws.
Lion Scream by Robbie Cheadle is not a poetry collection or an expository nonfiction book about African animals. It’s not a memoir of personal encounters with wild animals or a picture book of animal photography and video links. The book is not a cautionary tale about the harm that humans are doing to our world’s animal populations. At least, it’s not just any one of the above—Lion Scream is all of these at once and is the most important book I’ve read this year.
By writing this book as an interactive casebook, alternating various approaches to the subject of wild animals and mass extinction, Cheadle grabs and holds the reader’s attention. She structures the book by the multitude of animals found in South Africa, from dung beetles to hippos. Within each short section are various brief approaches to the subject. Sometimes a poem that might be written “in character” as an individual animal introduces the topic and is followed by a knowledgeable description of the animal, its habitat, and some unique features.
In this way, I learned so much that I did not know. For instance, cheetahs are the fastest land animals in the world, but there are only 7,000 of them left in the wild! And a real dilemma is that they are in great danger in protected lands because they are prey to lions and other animals. Still, in unprotected land, they are under threat from the most dangerous, worst animals on the planet—humans. Likewise, I learned that wild dogs are very endangered animals. Cheadle says leopards are already “extinct in 67% of the country.” The information includes details such as that female hyenas have a penis-like appendage, and sometimes their babies suffocate in the birth canal. In addition, the female and infant hyenas eat before the males.
Underlying the book is a premise that makes this such an important book: we live in a time of the Sixth Mass Extinction. A mass extinction is when a large portion of biodiversity dies out. Natural events have caused previous extinctions, but the Sixth Mass Extinction is caused by human activity. If we think of what is happening with so many species endangered or becoming extinct in this long-view lens, we can see that this is a huge subject and one that we all have a hand in. If we are causing it, we ought to be able to fix it. The time to change this trend toward extinction is yesterday, but since we’ve already gone past that, it’s NOW.
Cheadle concludes the book with a short story, “The Nutcracker,” about a girl with extreme anxiety and depression over the Sixth Mass Extinction. The story is well-told and thoughtful. But Cheadle’s analysis of the story that comes afterward is particularly fascinating as both a push to the reader to read deeply into the story and as a summary of the importance of the book itself.
I am so glad I read this book, and now I want to make some changes in my life!
You can purchase Lion Scream at Amazon in either paperback or Kindle version. Note that there are photographs and links to videos in the book. I hope that will help you decide which version to go with. Here is the link: LION SCREAM AT AMAZON
I discovered Robbie because I started participating in Colleen Chesebro’s #TankaTuesday syllabic poetry fun, and I am amazed at all Robbie’s talents. In addition to being a prolific writer and baker/cook, she is a beautiful artist as well. Robbie is also a generous spirit to the blogging and writing community. That she also has published this important ecobook in an effort to help save the planet really warms my heart. Thank you, Robbie!
ROBBIE CHEADLE’S BIO
Award-winning, bestselling author, Robbie Cheadle, has published thirteen children’s book and two poetry books. Her work has also appeared in poetry and short story anthologies.
Robbie also has two novels published under the name of Roberta Eaton Cheadle and has horror, paranormal, and fantasy short stories featured in several anthologies under this name.
The ten Sir Chocolate children’s picture books, co-authored by Robbie and Michael Cheadle, are written in sweet, short rhymes which are easy for young children to follow and are illustrated with pictures of delicious cakes and cake decorations. Each book also includes simple recipes or biscuit art directions which children can make under adult supervision.
Robbie’s blog includes recipes, fondant and cake artwork, poetry, and book reviews.