larryhammer: a low-fidelity picture of a man, label: "some guy" (maps are sexy)
So there's a writers' meme going around LJ* of taking the opening (or any other) passage of a work in progress (or a published novel) and line-break it into poetry. This was started as a diagnostic tool, because lineation has a way of highlighting the strengths and weaknesses of words and phrases -- weak prose makes for bad verse. I'd take part, but what I'm actively working on is already in verse.

So I'm doing the reverse-meme -- here's the opening passage reset as prose:
Already! -- here, another moon is gone, or will have slivered away from me come dawn, and I've not written as I promised to. I swear this term, which seemed so long, just flew -- classes transmute slow Time to something faster than thought. (Speaking of classes, Spellcraft Master insists we practice rhymes at every chance: even our letters home should chime and dance -- I know, Jem, you won't mind (much) these words' clothes, and for the Elders -- summarize in prose.)

Which, hmm, does highlight that the parenthetical part is indeed much more prosaic than the rest. I should probably do something about that,** even if the narrator says she's too unimaginative to write poetical.


* I caught it from [livejournal.com profile] dancinghorse.

** Not to mention: "chime" "dance" "clothes" bah -- pick one metaphor and stick with it.


---L.
larryhammer: a low-fidelity picture of a man, label: "some guy" (maps are sexy)
So there's a writers' meme going around LJ* of taking the opening (or any other) passage of a work in progress (or a published novel) and line-break it into poetry. This was started as a diagnostic tool, because lineation has a way of highlighting the strengths and weaknesses of words and phrases -- weak prose makes for bad verse. I'd take part, but what I'm actively working on is already in verse.

So I'm doing the reverse-meme -- here's the opening passage reset as prose:
Already! -- here, another moon is gone, or will have slivered away from me come dawn, and I've not written as I promised to. I swear this term, which seemed so long, just flew -- classes transmute slow Time to something faster than thought. (Speaking of classes, Spellcraft Master insists we practice rhymes at every chance: even our letters home should chime and dance -- I know, Jem, you won't mind (much) these words' clothes, and for the Elders -- summarize in prose.)

Which, hmm, does highlight that the parenthetical part is indeed much more prosaic than the rest. I should probably do something about that,** even if the narrator says she's too unimaginative to write poetical.


* I caught it from [livejournal.com profile] dancinghorse.

** Not to mention: "chime" "dance" "clothes" bah -- pick one metaphor and stick with it.


---L.
larryhammer: topless woman lying prone with Sappho painted on her back, label: "Greek poetry is sexy" (greek poetry is sexy)
So the SFPA has started up a new online magazine: Eye to the Telescope edited by [livejournal.com profile] samhenderson and Deborah P Kolodji (whose LJ I ought to know). One of the benefits of an online magazine is that it can include long poems, or at least longer than the usual for magazines. The inaugural issue is up, and it includes my "Myrmidons in Calydon."

This is another Greek myth sex farce -- specifically, a sequel to "The Myrmidons." Or to put it another way, the second chapter of an epic cycle of which three and a third chapters are written. In this installment, the titular Ant-girls "help out" with the hunt for the Calydonian Boar. The plan is to travesty write a secret history version of Greek mythology through to Troy. (Which means finishing the long-stalled "Seven Myrmidons Against Thebes.")

Anyway, the first issue is up and ready for readin' in your copious spare time. Go, have fun digesting, because in addition to my bit there's some good stuff there. No direct link to the Myrmies, sorry -- you'll have to scroll down past a lot of good verse along the way. And when you're done, continue on to tastiness by [livejournal.com profile] stillnotbored.

---L.
larryhammer: topless woman lying prone with Sappho painted on her back, label: "Greek poetry is sexy" (greek poetry is sexy)
So the SFPA has started up a new online magazine: Eye to the Telescope edited by [livejournal.com profile] samhenderson and Deborah P Kolodji (whose LJ I ought to know). One of the benefits of an online magazine is that it can include long poems, or at least longer than the usual for magazines. The inaugural issue is up, and it includes my "Myrmidons in Calydon."

This is another Greek myth sex farce -- specifically, a sequel to "The Myrmidons." Or to put it another way, the second chapter of an epic cycle of which three and a third chapters are written. In this installment, the titular Ant-girls "help out" with the hunt for the Calydonian Boar. The plan is to travesty write a secret history version of Greek mythology through to Troy. (Which means finishing the long-stalled "Seven Myrmidons Against Thebes.")

Anyway, the first issue is up and ready for readin' in your copious spare time. Go, have fun digesting, because in addition to my bit there's some good stuff there. No direct link to the Myrmies, sorry -- you'll have to scroll down past a lot of good verse along the way. And when you're done, continue on to tastiness by [livejournal.com profile] stillnotbored.

---L.
larryhammer: a woman wearing a chain mail hoodie, label: "chain mail is sexy" (chain mail is sexy)
Found in a file, a fragment from The Faerie Ringe by J.R.R. Spenser:
A Gentle Hobbitt walked on a waste,
   Ycladd in ragged cloathes and elfen cloke,
   Wherein with rents of hard weare were defas'd,
   The cruell markes of many a steppe foresoke;
   Yet journey till that time he never toke:
   His angry guide did chide his captaiv rope
   As much disdayning to be pull'd and choke:
   Full weary halflinge he, and try'd to cope
As one for mighty giusts, tho he was without hope.

But on his hand a golden Ringe he bore,
   The foule remenmant of its evil Lord,
   For whose dreade sake that daungrous round he wore,
   Who living wights he ever had abhor'd:
   Upon his chest a wound was also scor'd,
   That never healed, tho kinges his help he had:
   Right faithfull true king was in deede and word,
   But kingesfoill ne could ease him dollefull sad;
And Morgulle did he dread, and ever had ydrad.

Upon a dyre adventure he was bond
   That goodly Gandalff Grayhame to him gave,
   That greatest wizard of the Middle Lond,
   To wreck the ring, and free menns deathes to stave,
   Which of all earthly things he most did crave;
   And ever as he trudg'd, his hart did burn
   To feare despaire would not then hold him brave
   Upon the crack, and needefull force would learne;
Upon the crack of Doome, most horrible and stearne.
I don't know whether "remenmant" was intentional or simple misspelling. Always a problem with faux archaicism.

---L.
larryhammer: a woman wearing a chain mail hoodie, label: "chain mail is sexy" (chain mail is sexy)
Found in a file, a fragment from The Faerie Ringe by J.R.R. Spenser:
A Gentle Hobbitt walked on a waste,
   Ycladd in ragged cloathes and elfen cloke,
   Wherein with rents of hard weare were defas'd,
   The cruell markes of many a steppe foresoke;
   Yet journey till that time he never toke:
   His angry guide did chide his captaiv rope
   As much disdayning to be pull'd and choke:
   Full weary halflinge he, and try'd to cope
As one for mighty giusts, tho he was without hope.

But on his hand a golden Ringe he bore,
   The foule remenmant of its evil Lord,
   For whose dreade sake that daungrous round he wore,
   Who living wights he ever had abhor'd:
   Upon his chest a wound was also scor'd,
   That never healed, tho kinges his help he had:
   Right faithfull true king was in deede and word,
   But kingesfoill ne could ease him dollefull sad;
And Morgulle did he dread, and ever had ydrad.

Upon a dyre adventure he was bond
   That goodly Gandalff Grayhame to him gave,
   That greatest wizard of the Middle Lond,
   To wreck the ring, and free menns deathes to stave,
   Which of all earthly things he most did crave;
   And ever as he trudg'd, his hart did burn
   To feare despaire would not then hold him brave
   Upon the crack, and needefull force would learne;
Upon the crack of Doome, most horrible and stearne.
I don't know whether "remenmant" was intentional or simple misspelling. Always a problem with faux archaicism.

---L.
larryhammer: a low-fidelity picture of a man, label: "some guy" (for you)
In retrospect, an acknowledged incomplete poem is not the best thing to offer for International Pixel-Stained Technopeasent Day, with or without added bardolotry. So to make up for it, another sonnet. Title is with apologies to Flanders & Swann.

"Now 1608, If You Cast Your Minds Back, Was a Very Bad Year for the Theater"

The task: you have a time machine that's stuck --
It jumps four centuries exactly: who
To rescue from Jacobian moil and muck
To poetize for us? Whose death undo?
Will Shakespeare's lines are getting crabbed by then;
Ben Jonson was, now, barely getting going;
There's Beaumont/Fletcher -- but they're boring men --
Or Middleton, or Dekker -- both weak showing;
Sidney and Spencer are Right Out -- both quite dead
As Kit (who'd soon as knife you as perform);
There's Daniel, with his virtues (here I "meh"ed),
And Drayton's lack of vice (and I'm lukewarm) --
So none of these will do; yet -- here's the one:
'Tis by John Donne our verse today's undone.

---L.
larryhammer: a low-fidelity picture of a man, label: "some guy" (for you)
In retrospect, an acknowledged incomplete poem is not the best thing to offer for International Pixel-Stained Technopeasent Day, with or without added bardolotry. So to make up for it, another sonnet. Title is with apologies to Flanders & Swann.

"Now 1608, If You Cast Your Minds Back, Was a Very Bad Year for the Theater"

The task: you have a time machine that's stuck --
It jumps four centuries exactly: who
To rescue from Jacobian moil and muck
To poetize for us? Whose death undo?
Will Shakespeare's lines are getting crabbed by then;
Ben Jonson was, now, barely getting going;
There's Beaumont/Fletcher -- but they're boring men --
Or Middleton, or Dekker -- both weak showing;
Sidney and Spencer are Right Out -- both quite dead
As Kit (who'd soon as knife you as perform);
There's Daniel, with his virtues (here I "meh"ed),
And Drayton's lack of vice (and I'm lukewarm) --
So none of these will do; yet -- here's the one:
'Tis by John Donne our verse today's undone.

---L.
larryhammer: topless woman lying prone with Sappho painted on her back, label: "Greek poetry is sexy" (poetry)
Of my NASFic panels, the one I prepared for the most had none of the intended audience -- it was part of the Young Adult track and no teens showed up (just the other panelist's friend and, after 40 minutes, Rich Horton) and we ended up talking around the subject for a while. So here's a slightly expanded transcription of my shorthand notes of advice for young poets.


Along Genre Lines: How Poetry Works in Writing

References:
  • How Does a Poem Mean?, John Ciardi (good beginner stuff)
  • A Poet's Guide to Poetry, Mary Kinzie (excellent)
  • Rhyme's Reason, John Hollander (wonderous)
  • All the Fun's in How You Say a Thing, Timothy Steele (sometimes misleading, but has some good bits)
The mechanics of poetry are tools for shaping how a reader responds to the poem. Every poem/fiction is a rhetorical act -- you have to convince the reader of what you're trying to convey. Authority (which is part of voice) is essential, and every break in your control damages that. Some mechanics:
  • Rhyme and other sound echoes (alliteration, assonance) create associations between the concepts.
  • Rhythm (meter) creates expectation -- which you can then break, to create emphasis.
Can use to give emphasize or undercut: for oversimplified ex, with an unreliable narrator, try breaking from regular meter at each lie.

Tricks-n-tips: Never stretch syntax (say something in a way you wouldn't in ordinary speech) to fit a rhyme scheme or meter. Or if you do, use it to make the first line of the rhyme, not the second. Sestinas are good form for a narrative poem on an obsessive topic. Villanelle - variation.

Form enforces concision -- if you master it, rather than let it master you.

Write, write, write. Even the failures teach. Read. Learn. Engage. Be convincing.

---L.
larryhammer: topless woman lying prone with Sappho painted on her back, label: "Greek poetry is sexy" (poetry)
Of my NASFic panels, the one I prepared for the most had none of the intended audience -- it was part of the Young Adult track and no teens showed up (just the other panelist's friend and, after 40 minutes, Rich Horton) and we ended up talking around the subject for a while. So here's a slightly expanded transcription of my shorthand notes of advice for young poets.


Along Genre Lines: How Poetry Works in Writing

References:
  • How Does a Poem Mean?, John Ciardi (good beginner stuff)
  • A Poet's Guide to Poetry, Mary Kinzie (excellent)
  • Rhyme's Reason, John Hollander (wonderous)
  • All the Fun's in How You Say a Thing, Timothy Steele (sometimes misleading, but has some good bits)
The mechanics of poetry are tools for shaping how a reader responds to the poem. Every poem/fiction is a rhetorical act -- you have to convince the reader of what you're trying to convey. Authority (which is part of voice) is essential, and every break in your control damages that. Some mechanics:
  • Rhyme and other sound echoes (alliteration, assonance) create associations between the concepts.
  • Rhythm (meter) creates expectation -- which you can then break, to create emphasis.
Can use to give emphasize or undercut: for oversimplified ex, with an unreliable narrator, try breaking from regular meter at each lie.

Tricks-n-tips: Never stretch syntax (say something in a way you wouldn't in ordinary speech) to fit a rhyme scheme or meter. Or if you do, use it to make the first line of the rhyme, not the second. Sestinas are good form for a narrative poem on an obsessive topic. Villanelle - variation.

Form enforces concision -- if you master it, rather than let it master you.

Write, write, write. Even the failures teach. Read. Learn. Engage. Be convincing.

---L.
larryhammer: a wisp of smoke, label: "it comes in curlicues, spirals as it twirls" (what tangled tales we weave)
I'm currently reading The Mountain Men, being an omnibus of the first half of John Neihardt's self-conscious epic of the westward expansion, A Cycle of the West. As you might guess from the title, this is technically a sequence (of five poems), covering events from the first Ashley-Henry expedition to Wounded Knee. This is a program I have some sympathy for, so I regret to report it's not a success. It's not exactly bad poetry -- but it doesn't really work.

Unlike most bad poets, Neihardt isn't deaf, or at least not to sound -- lines rarely clunk, though not as many sing as he seems to think. No one with enough control to break couplets across all chapter breaks and between most verse paragraphs is entirely deaf. But he is tone-deaf. An example would explain better. From the description of Mike Fink, the riverboatman of folklore:
They say his voice could glorify a song,
However loutish might the burden be;
And all the way from Pittsburgh to the sea
The Rabelaisian stories of the rogue
Ran wedded to the richness of his brogue.
And wheresoever boatmen came to drink,
There someone broached some escapade of Fink
That might well fill the goat-hoofed with delight;
For Mike, the pantagruelizing wight,
Was happy in the health of bone and brawn
And had the code of conscience of the faun
To guide him blithely down the easy way.
A questionable hero, one might say:
And so indeed, by any civil law.
And yet it's a remarkably civil description. We have here a massive disjoint between manner and matter. And it's like this all the way through. This is what I meant by a self-conscious epic. The Matter of The West can be turned to epic poetry -- see Michael Lind's The Alamo, for one -- but not by elevating the diction. The way is by treating seriously the adventure yarns of larger-than-life heroes,* and let the epic come through as a matter of course.

Which brings me to the other major problem, which is that Neihardt isn't much of a yarn-spinner. In "The Song of the Three Friends," we travel 10 pages up the Missouri to near the Platte before we're introduced to the titular three, whereupon all forward motion stops for pages of descriptions (more than 50 lines are spent admiring Mike Fink's physique), after which we return to a sort of corporate POV for the expedition. No immediacy, wonky pacing, and, despite a talent for startling compressed images,** no verve.

Neither of these is an insurmountable flaw. Together, though, the going is almost as rough the wagon trail from Fort Laramie to the Salt Lake.


* Being careful, of course, not to slip into the voice of tall tales.

** Such as Iseult's reflection in "the contemplated cup of everlasting thirst." Not that she belongs in an Indian village in the Black Hills.


---L.
larryhammer: a wisp of smoke, label: "it comes in curlicues, spirals as it twirls" (what tangled tales we weave)
I'm currently reading The Mountain Men, being an omnibus of the first half of John Neihardt's self-conscious epic of the westward expansion, A Cycle of the West. As you might guess from the title, this is technically a sequence (of five poems), covering events from the first Ashley-Henry expedition to Wounded Knee. This is a program I have some sympathy for, so I regret to report it's not a success. It's not exactly bad poetry -- but it doesn't really work.

Unlike most bad poets, Neihardt isn't deaf, or at least not to sound -- lines rarely clunk, though not as many sing as he seems to think. No one with enough control to break couplets across all chapter breaks and between most verse paragraphs is entirely deaf. But he is tone-deaf. An example would explain better. From the description of Mike Fink, the riverboatman of folklore:
They say his voice could glorify a song,
However loutish might the burden be;
And all the way from Pittsburgh to the sea
The Rabelaisian stories of the rogue
Ran wedded to the richness of his brogue.
And wheresoever boatmen came to drink,
There someone broached some escapade of Fink
That might well fill the goat-hoofed with delight;
For Mike, the pantagruelizing wight,
Was happy in the health of bone and brawn
And had the code of conscience of the faun
To guide him blithely down the easy way.
A questionable hero, one might say:
And so indeed, by any civil law.
And yet it's a remarkably civil description. We have here a massive disjoint between manner and matter. And it's like this all the way through. This is what I meant by a self-conscious epic. The Matter of The West can be turned to epic poetry -- see Michael Lind's The Alamo, for one -- but not by elevating the diction. The way is by treating seriously the adventure yarns of larger-than-life heroes,* and let the epic come through as a matter of course.

Which brings me to the other major problem, which is that Neihardt isn't much of a yarn-spinner. In "The Song of the Three Friends," we travel 10 pages up the Missouri to near the Platte before we're introduced to the titular three, whereupon all forward motion stops for pages of descriptions (more than 50 lines are spent admiring Mike Fink's physique), after which we return to a sort of corporate POV for the expedition. No immediacy, wonky pacing, and, despite a talent for startling compressed images,** no verve.

Neither of these is an insurmountable flaw. Together, though, the going is almost as rough the wagon trail from Fort Laramie to the Salt Lake.


* Being careful, of course, not to slip into the voice of tall tales.

** Such as Iseult's reflection in "the contemplated cup of everlasting thirst." Not that she belongs in an Indian village in the Black Hills.


---L.
larryhammer: a low-fidelity picture of a man, label: "some guy" (La!)
   It's not like designers at Penguin Classics are lacking
          the knowledge
Of how to handle hexameters. Why then their failure
          to use it
In Raeburn's recent translation of Metamorphoses?
On an average page, there's barely three verses that's
          typeset within
A single line, with all others continued with vast
          indent—
And most roving over a single word. The pages are
          ugly,
Everything awkward to read. The font size is generous,
          though,
So why not reduce it a point and gather more verses
          together?
   Nor does it help that the poem is written in thumping
          sub-Longfellow,
With all of the beats but now with just one third the
          sonority—
Dietetically versed. Avoid this volume. Feh, and more
          feh.

---L.
larryhammer: a low-fidelity picture of a man, label: "some guy" (La!)
   It's not like designers at Penguin Classics are lacking
          the knowledge
Of how to handle hexameters. Why then their failure
          to use it
In Raeburn's recent translation of Metamorphoses?
On an average page, there's barely three verses that's
          typeset within
A single line, with all others continued with vast
          indent—
And most roving over a single word. The pages are
          ugly,
Everything awkward to read. The font size is generous,
          though,
So why not reduce it a point and gather more verses
          together?
   Nor does it help that the poem is written in thumping
          sub-Longfellow,
With all of the beats but now with just one third the
          sonority—
Dietetically versed. Avoid this volume. Feh, and more
          feh.

---L.
larryhammer: a low-fidelity picture of a man, label: "some guy" (book book book)
Because I'm feeling in need of self-indulgence, the opening of "Seven Myrmidons Against Thebes," the fourth story in the cycle:

figleaf to hide the (gasp) line-breaks )

Rough first draft, but there's some good stuff in there. Makes me want to get back and write the rest. Incompletely civilized ant-women rip up the Oepidus cycle -- what's not to love? Well, aside from the clunking of dialog against verse. I rilly need to learn how to handle that better. By doing it.

---L.
larryhammer: a low-fidelity picture of a man, label: "some guy" (book book book)
Because I'm feeling in need of self-indulgence, the opening of "Seven Myrmidons Against Thebes," the fourth story in the cycle:

figleaf to hide the (gasp) line-breaks )

Rough first draft, but there's some good stuff in there. Makes me want to get back and write the rest. Incompletely civilized ant-women rip up the Oepidus cycle -- what's not to love? Well, aside from the clunking of dialog against verse. I rilly need to learn how to handle that better. By doing it.

---L.
larryhammer: a low-fidelity picture of a man, label: "some guy" (Default)
Or verse fantasy novel, or fantasy book-length poem -- whatever you want to call it. The promised solemn specious nonsense. Notes to myself, really, but should anyone with ambitions to uselessness find it useful, here they are. Consider this a partial manifesto of the Well-Versed Skiffy movement.

Story, setting, and other fiddly bits. )

ObFluffy: Ignore this as just silly. Except for the warning -- that's spot on.

---L.
larryhammer: a low-fidelity picture of a man, label: "some guy" (Default)
Or verse fantasy novel, or fantasy book-length poem -- whatever you want to call it. The promised solemn specious nonsense. Notes to myself, really, but should anyone with ambitions to uselessness find it useful, here they are. Consider this a partial manifesto of the Well-Versed Skiffy movement.

Story, setting, and other fiddly bits. )

ObFluffy: Ignore this as just silly. Except for the warning -- that's spot on.

---L.
larryhammer: a low-fidelity picture of a man, label: "some guy" (pretty good guy)
Speaking of shameless self-promotion, my hard SF romance, "Her First Affair," is in the current issue of Abyss & Apex. I like to think of it as an Analog story in couplets.

It's another example of Well-Versed Skiffy: good storytelling, good meter, good speculative fiction.

---L.

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