Friday, December 29, 2023

Poetry Sisters Write Elfchen

The challenge this month was to write an elfchen. An elfchen is described as a "German cinquain" poem. Instead of using syllables, this poem has 11 words, the lines having 1-2-3-4-1 words, respectively. Wikipedia calls this an elevenie (German Elfchen – Elf "eleven" and -chen as diminutive suffix to indicate diminutive size and endearment).

I'll admit that I wasn't particularly thrilled with this challenge. Don't get me wrong, I think Adelaide Crapsey's cinquain poems are genius. I love her work so much that I even visited her grave when I stopped to visit the graves of Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony at Mount Hope Cemetery in Rochester, NY (my hometown).
In its simplest form, Crapsey's ciquain follows a syllabic pattern of 2 / 4 / 6 / 8 / 2. 

However, the cinquain has long been used by (some) classroom teachers to "teach poetry" and in this form, it is most didactic and unpoetic. Yes, I said it. The Wikipedia entry on the elevenie reads like all those cinquain handouts I so loathe. This is the structure they recommend for this form.

Row Words Content
1 1 A thought, an object, a colour, a smell or the like
2 2 What does the word from the first row do?
3 3 Where or how is the word of row 1?
4 4 What do you mean?
5 1 Conclusion: What results from all this? What is the outcome?

Here is the way the cinquain is taught in schools. The purpose is generally "to help learners stretch and develop their creative writing skills in a structured formula while reviewing parts of speech." Instead of syllables, it uses word count, so it looks just like the elevenie.
Image from Free Cinquain Poem.

Here is a cinquain of Crapsey's. Note that it follows none of the conventions described above.

Seen on a Night in November

How frail
Above the bulk
Of crashing water hangs,
Autumnal, evanescent, wan,
The moon.

I really don't understand how this beautiful poetic form morphed into a tool for teaching parts of speech. Suffice it to say that in calling this poem a "German cinquain," I was not very excited and a bit nervous about this challenge. At first, I tried to tell a story with my poems, but that approach generally didn't work for me. I also played around with adding German words. I wrote a lot of crap, but I also wrote a few poems I'm relatively pleased with. I'm sharing three poems, and because I like to break the rules, one of them is a reverse elfchen (1-4-3-2-1). The first poem is about my dad.

Our answer
to his loud
full-bodied and thunderous

Not yet.
Some say never.
Pray. Don't lose faith.

Climate change is real.
Life is short.
I love

Poem ©Tricia Stohr-Hunt, 2023. All rights reserved.

You can read the pieces written by my Poetry Sisters at the links below. 

    Do take some time to check out all the wonderful poetic things being shared and collected today by Michelle Kogan. Happy poetry Friday, friends!