If you could write your life or someone else's in an abbreviated form, what would it look like? This is the question I ask myself every time I read Paul Violi's poem "Index." You can read the poem at The Agonist. You may also be interested in Violi's words on the poem.
While thinking this might be an interesting form to try, I came across some "table of contents" poems.
So, I'm imagining this as something of a biographical (or autobiographical) list poem. Let's see what kind of poetry we can make of this, shall we? Leave me a note about your poem and I'll share the results here later this week.
Kate: The Convoluted Tale of a Woman of Perilous Wit, Occasional Charm, and Dubious BeautyReplyDelete
First Chapter: I am born and am given away in short order
Second Chapter: I am joined by a large number of small siblings
Third Chapter: I spend numerous lunches and recesses consorting with books in the school library
Fourth Chapter: I join the band, betraying the clarinet for an oboe of thin and treacherous reeds
Fifth Chapter: I toy with the idea of becoming an artist, though I am utterly lacking in narrow, fey, or Bohemian qualities
Sixth Chapter: I succumb to my inner nature and study English
Seventh Chapter: I pass 18 months in Argentina, where I eat facturas and learn to speak of religion in vos
Eighth Chapter: I earn a master's degree for no memorable reason and subsequently survive an earthquake
Ninth Chapter: I fancy myself an editor of coffee table books
Tenth Chapter: I bypass marriage and children as if I had missed a freeway exit
Eleventh Chapter: I move to Chicago and perforce fancy myself an editor again
Twelfth Chapter: I attempt to teach pot-scented collegians aimlessly covered in body piercings and dark forebodings how to write
Thirteenth Chapter: I sell six children's books and wait about rather peevishly for them to be published
Fourteenth Chapter: I attempt to teach kindergartners to act civilized with no help whatsoever from Professor Henry Higgins
Fifteenth Chapter: I drive from house to house through the city of Los Angeles, instructing children who are ill and wishing for all sorts of things other than algebra
Sixteenth Chapter: I defy expectations by moving to Utah, where I get yet another job as an editor
Seventeenth Chapter: Snow falls, winds blow, and I am inclined to write quilts made of poetry
--Kate Coombs, 2011
all rights reserved
That is absolutely brilliant, Kate.ReplyDelete
Here;s my attempt, alas, quite flatfooted.
1. Inked whorls at the Beth Israel Hospital in New York, right one smudged, even then a kicker.
2. First step in an apartment, Central Park, no one remembers. Or no longer cares.
3. Dances to Daddy's guitar, though he has eyes only for the strings. Photo by a besotted uncle. Mother's smile is slow.
4. Kicks a slinky down the stairs from the fourth floor on into a tangled mess. Daddy gets me another.
5. Wearing skates, falls down a step, cuts open chin, first scar.
6. Climbs the slide to recover a friend's snow shovel, gets hit with the edge. It's Yom Kippur no neighborhood doctors available, second scar.
7. First toe shoes, bloody mess, third and fourth and fifth scars.
8. Trips over tongue, over lindy-hopping heartless boy. Sixth scar.
9. Kicks self.
10. Dances at wedding with a man who cannot dance but can love.
11. Hikes Greek mountain pregnant loving every kick.
12. What do scars matter when life itself is taken one foot at a time.
©2011 Jane Yolen all rights reserved
Kate, we have something in common! (You'll see what when you read mine.) Love your last line.ReplyDelete
Jane, love number 12. And number 10, which reminds me I have one of those.
Thanks to both of you for sharing.
Here's my poem.ReplyDelete
Part 1 – Unknown Origins
December 1964 – Free love isn’t free
August 29th, 1965 – Finally out
Days later – The social worker asks, “Do you want a baby?”
THEY SAID YES!
September 1965 – Homeward bound
Part 2 – The Early Years (1966-1970)
Older brother and sister think I’m too skinny
Only milk, but corn on the cob for dessert
Constantly moving, always outside
Corralled by chicken wire
No one wants to call me for dinner
Dad carries me by one arm, I carry my bike
Stubborn doesn’t begin to describe me
Part 3 – School and Then Some (1970-1988)
Reading all the time
Stealing books off my brother’s shelf
The Pushcart War, The Phantom Tollbooth, The Hobbit
Love school, hate routine
Math and science speak to me
Play sports, sing, sing, SING
Write angsty teenage poetry
1983 - Graduate, operation, gap year
New London and summers on the Eagle
New school, new studies
Part 4 – The Real World (1988-1994)
New city, new job
Love the kids, hate the kids
Middle school is a roller coaster I ride for free!
Sleep eludes me
Morning wedding, double rainbow
Back to writing, writing, writing
Part 5 – I Live Where? (1994-2009)
New city, new job
South of the Mason-Dixon line
Civil War or War of Northern Aggression?
I’ve entered the Twilight zone
Love my job, love my job, LOVE MY JOB
Ruled by the academic calendar
Baby at 35
Work and motherhood, a balancing act
Where do the days go?
Baby is a growing boy
Part 6 – Life Changes (2009-present)
Home isn’t home anymore
More time with mom
Racking up frequent flyer miles
How did I get here?
Wondering what’s next . . .
Thanks, Jane! I love the combination of feet, scars, and kicking--not a passive life by any means!ReplyDelete
Aha, Tricia--I like how you said it. "THEY SAID YES!" People who watch too many after-school specials don't realize that an adopted family is, for some of us, ours heart and soul. (You also have something in common with my father, who was a UCLA professor for 32 years and love, love, LOVED HIS JOB.)
Julia’s Tale… or is that Tail?ReplyDelete
Table of Contents: The Early Years
1. Artless child of modest girth and quaint simian-like features arrives at St. Mary’s Hospital two weeks late, three endearing, life-long traits.
2. Mother seeks psychiatric advice two years later, secretly afraid a second Julia (often-spotted swinging [via prehensile tail?] from local trees) is on her way.
3. Precocious child, reading by age three (according to her fanciful mother), shows signs of true intellect when she asks pregnant black woman on city bus if her baby will be black, too. Father disputes both claims.
4. Spends years 5 – 17 under the auspices of series of psychopathic nuns, emerging none the worse considering her initial state of entry.
5. Fearful she is headed for the nunnery herself, Julia is banished to remote Catholic College by loving parents in their somewhat tardy attempt to quash torrid love affair between Julia and her high school homeroom teacher.
6. Year in which Julia flunks out of Holy U. to her parents’ dismay, but is partially redeemed by inappropriate boyfriend dumping her at same juncture.
7. Following in quick succession, several rag-tag years in which Julia wallows in severe self-pity and anorectic symptoms in wake of unexpected jilting.
8. Julia claws her way back to college after period of mental lethargy, thus beginning eight year stint at various universities in pursuit of BA, MA, and PhD in English.
9. Year in which Julia flings herself with blind faith (via self-same tail?) into marriage, NYC and soon thereafter, a life in Paris, where, true to form, she abandons doctoral dissertation and embarks on career of full-time motherhood for next twenty-five years.
10. Second chapter in Julia’s life begins in which she rekindles love of books after raising four little monkeys of her own and, forgoing all attempts at erudition, somewhat belatedly :) attempts to pursue career in art.
Under pressure: allow content’s air to escape
without distraction by imagining a candle flame
or the air itself upon a wheel.
Do not shake or drop,
as contents will quickly sour.
To prolong shelf life,
place contents on a fallen oak limb
in the morning sun and allow to ripen.
Aging at room temperature,
will also bring out the rich spice and fruity flavors.
If the contents spill out and create a sudden disaster,
try speaking words that start with l and s,
such as loblolly, lentils, lakes and loons,
then sweaters, succulents, and simplicity.
Do not expose the contents to rain,
electrical storms or the sight or sound of young animal pain.
If the contents are lost then found,
leave alone if contents are pickled.
If a sugar coating appears,
give a good quick rinse,
as this coating may have a slightly bitter flavor.
Contents will reach full maturity without much care
and should be shared
with others in a small settings, happy gatherings.
May be simmered on a warm stone,
near the phlox in August,
A damsel fly stirring gently over,
and music somewhere in the brush,
This prompt brought me to package contents. Such is the writer's task. Charles Simic once said something like, writing a poem is a little like heading off to church, soon you wonder how you arrived at the racetrack.ReplyDelete
Tess--great interpretation of the prompt! I love all the details, from loblolly to Sibelius. Love how they reveal speaker's (your) personality. JulieReplyDelete
I love Paul Violi - he's a genius at this. Here's my contribution -ReplyDelete
INDEX TO A HISTORY OF THE HICCUP
absolution, papal - ix
accidents involving h. 1-13, 27, 29,43, 45, 49, 57, 60, 62-66, 84, 86, 88-102, 107, 114, 118-119, 123, 142, 146-149, 157,160, 169
bowling during 88-102
breath, holding - see fainting mishaps
chewing, fast and slow 9
fainting mishaps 27-39
fingers, ears in 5
Kissinger, Henry, resignation of 18
magneseium, not milk of 170, not gargling with 71
mantra, personal, ineffectiveness of 8
meditation, impossibility of 17
nerve, vagus - surgical removal of 38, side effects of 39-68
Nixon, Richard, erased tapes, 18
paper bag - see fainting mishaps
prayers, ineffectiveness of 173
silly, getting scared 82 unforeseen consequences of 83-88
Stein, Gertrude, poetry of 40
t'ai chi, during 65
The Artist Formerly Known as Prince, career vii
tickling, unintended addiction to as a result of h. 127
tongue, holding of 14, unforeseen consequences of 15-17
vinegar, gargling with 79
water, gargling with 78
weight loss and dieting during 159
whiskey, gargling with 80, 84, 86, 92, 99, 103, 143, 166
zen, art of the z. hiccup 172
Julie, how very cool! (Now I'm afraid I'll get the hiccups just from having read your poem.) :)ReplyDelete
Julie--funny, funny, funny!ReplyDelete
Julie, intriguing and delightful, the perfect vehicle for Gertrude Stein to appear. The index form seems a cataloguer's heaven.ReplyDelete
I want to say how this blog is important to me. I love the voices here. Even if I don't always contribute, I love reading the prompts and seeing the fine results.