Once again I find myself writing a parody. This Halloween, I've been rereading Edgar Allan Poe's poetry, particularly Ulalume, which is a haunting poem, but also, I think, funny, because of its melodrama and rhyming pyrotechnics.
As I pondered this poem, I remembered one Halloween which was kind of interesting. A friend and I had spent Halloween hiking at Maudslay State Park in Newberyport. In our enjoyment of the beautiful fall day and without a sign of any trick-or-treaters, we had forgotten it was Halloween. On our way home to Cambridge, we decided to stop in Salem for dinner. We parked, walked into the heart of the city, and encountered a procession of witches dressed in black capes and carrying candles. I kid you not. Laurie Cabot, herself, led the procession, which was headed for a graveyard. They asked us to join them and offered us candles. Needless to say, we begged off.
I took some liberties with this story in a short parody of E.A. Poe's Ulalume. I'm not sure this is finished, but here it is:
The skies they were ashen and sober;
The leaves they were crispèd and sere--
The leaves they were withering and sere;
On the thirty-first night of October,
The scariest night of the year.
It was hard by the witches’ own city
In the mad, misty city of Salem
It was down by the witches’ brick city,
In the ghoul-haunted center of Salem.
I met a procession of witches
Who said, “To the graveyard we’re bound.
To the vine-covered tombstones we’re bound.”
They said, “You can carry this candle.”
You will have an encounter profound.”
I said, “No, I won’t go to the graveyard.
No, I would rather be drowned.”
But the witch fixed her eyes just beyond me
And I fell in and marched with that crowd.
So I walked with that gloomy procession,
And the witch cackled low in my ear.
Yes, the witch babbled low in my ear.
She spoke of the graveyard in Salem,
The decrepit old graveyard called ‘Mere.’
“You remember the graveyard, my pretty,
Where late in October last year,
A group of men carried your coffin--
A casket of black so severe.
(c) 2013 B.J. Lee All Rights Reserved
Here is the poem I've parodied, Edgar Allan Poe's Ulalume (or, as The Poetry Foundation names it, To -- -- --. Ulalume: A BalladTo -- -- --. Ulalume: A Ballad
By Edgar Allan Poe 1809–1849 Edgar Allan Poe
The skies they were ashen and sober;
The leaves they were crispéd and sere--
The leaves they were withering and sere;
It was night in the lonesome October
Of my most immemorial year;
It was hard by the dim lake of Auber,
In the misty mid region of Weir--
It was down by the dank tarn of Auber,
In the ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir.
Here once, through an alley Titanic,
Of cypress, I roamed with my Soul--
Of cypress, with Psyche, my Soul.
These were days when my heart was volcanic
As the scoriac rivers that roll--
As the lavas that restlessly roll
Their sulphurous currents down Yaanek
In the ultimate climes of the pole--
That groan as they roll down Mount Yaanek
In the realms of the boreal pole.
Our talk had been serious and sober,
But our thoughts they were palsied and sere--
Our memories were treacherous and sere--
For we knew not the month was October,
And we marked not the night of the year--
(Ah, night of all nights in the year!)
We noted not the dim lake of Auber--
(Though once we had journeyed down here)--
We remembered not the dank tarn of Auber,
Nor the ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir.
And now, as the night was senescent
And star-dials pointed to morn--
As the star-dials hinted of morn--
At the end of our path a liquescent
And nebulous lustre was born,
Out of which a miraculous crescent
Arose with a duplicate horn--
Astarte's bediamonded crescent
Distinct with its duplicate horn.
And I said—"She is warmer than Dian:
She rolls through an ether of sighs--
She revels in a region of sighs:
She has seen that the tears are not dry on
These cheeks, where the worm never dies,
And has come past the stars of the Lion
To point us the path to the skies--
To the Lethean peace of the skies--
Come up, in despite of the Lion,
To shine on us with her bright eyes--
Come up through the lair of the Lion,
With love in her luminous eyes."
But Psyche, uplifting her finger,
Said—"Sadly this star I mistrust--
Her pallor I strangely mistrust:--
Oh, hasten! oh, let us not linger!
Oh, fly!—let us fly!—for we must."
In terror she spoke, letting sink her
Wings till they trailed in the dust--
In agony sobbed, letting sink her
Plumes till they trailed in the dust--
Till they sorrowfully trailed in the dust.
I replied—"This is nothing but dreaming:
Let us on by this tremulous light!
Let us bathe in this crystalline light!
Its Sybilic splendor is beaming
With Hope and in Beauty to-night:--
See!—it flickers up the sky through the night!
Ah, we safely may trust to its gleaming,
And be sure it will lead us aright--
We safely may trust to a gleaming
That cannot but guide us aright,
Since it flickers up to Heaven through the night."
Thus I pacified Psyche and kissed her,
And tempted her out of her gloom--
And conquered her scruples and gloom:
And we passed to the end of the vista,
But were stopped by the door of a tomb--
By the door of a legended tomb;
And I said—"What is written, sweet sister,
On the door of this legended tomb?"
'Tis the vault of thy lost Ulalume!"
Then my heart it grew ashen and sober
As the leaves that were crispèd and sere--
As the leaves that were withering and sere,
And I cried—"It was surely October
On this very night of last year
That I journeyed—I journeyed down here--
That I brought a dread burden down here--
On this night of all nights in the year,
Oh, what demon has tempted me here?
Well I know, now, this dim lake of Auber--
This misty mid region of Weir--
Well I know, now, this dank tarn of Auber--
In the ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir."
Said we, then—the two, then—"Ah, can it
Have been that the woodlandish ghouls--
The pitiful, the merciful ghouls--
To bar up our way and to ban it
From the secret that lies in these wolds--
From the thing that lies hidden in these wolds--
Had drawn up the spectre of a planet
From the limbo of lunary souls--
This sinfully scintillant planet
From the Hell of the planetary souls?"
First, I’d like to thank Laura Sassi for having me as a guest blogger this past Monday on her blog, Laura Sassi Tales. I blogged about the poetry/music connection and I was delighted that many poets in the Poetry Friday community stopped by!
In honor of the season, I’m posting a scary poem today. This poem was first published in the online zine, Underneath the Juniper Tree in June, 2011, along with the artwork shown. I just recently learned that literary agent, Bree Ogden, is the co-founder and managing editor of Underneath the Juniper Tree.
This poem is a roundel, a form with an interesting history. First devised by Algernon Swinburne, it is the Anglo-Norman form corresponding to the French rondeau. It makes use of refrains, repeated according to a certain stylized pattern. A roundel consists of nine lines each having the same number of syllables, plus a refrain after the third line and after the last line. The refrain must be identical with the beginning of the first line: it may be a half-line, and rhymes with the second line. It has three stanzas and its rhyme scheme is as follows: A B A R ; B A B ; A B A R ; where R is the refrain (from Wikipedia). I know it sounds complicated but it's really not too bad once you get going. The roundel is another favorite form of mine.
This poem also fits into the category of speculative poetry. Speculative poetry is comprised of science fiction, fantasy, and horror (The Science Fiction Poetry Association). For children, that would be mild horror. I love to write speculative poetry. And now, the poem:
artwork by Underneath the Juniper Tree
The Things I Saw
By B.J. Lee
The things I saw when I was lost
and followed signs for "Devil's Claw."
I took that road at such a cost--
the things I saw!
Through forest trees I peered in awe
at witches standing in the frost,
who handled things -- an ear, a paw,
then quickly, in their cauldron tossed
these objects with a birdie's craw.
I turned and fled. My eyes had crossed--
the things I saw!
(c) 2011 B.J. Lee All Rights Reserved
It's time for another episode of The Mortimer Minute!
Mortimer's been trying to jump through that Blue Window with little success, since he is such a big bunny and that's such a little blue window. He has befriended the cat, however, and they are getting along famously.
A big thank you to Renee La Tulippe at No Water River for tagging me last week!
I've posted the bios of the poets I've tagged at the end of this post, along with the dates they plan to hop.Here’s how to hop “Mortimer Minute” style!
Ready? Let’s hop!
- Answer 3 questions. Pick one question from the previous Hopper. Add two of your own. Keep it short, please! This is a Blog Hop, not a Blog Long Jump. This is the Mortimer Minute – not the Mortimer Millennium!
- Invite friends. Invite 1-3 bloggers who love children’s poetry to follow you. They can be writers, teachers, librarians, or just plain old poetry lovers.
- Say thank you. In your own post, link to The Previous Hopper, then keep the Mortimer Minute going – let us know who your Hoppers are and when they plan to post their own Mortimer Minute.
Mortimer: Is there a children’s poem you wish you had written?
BJL: Yes, “Walk Softly” by Alice Schertle. This poem is from Keepers. It also happens to be an appropriately ‘spooky’ poem for this time of year!
in this wood,
where little wispy things
in gown and hood
slide down the dark
and fold their wings.
Shy and hidden
of pipe and ring
and strange remember power.
high and thin
quiver in the wind
this witching hour.
Little fragile fading things
turn watchful eyes
upon me as I pass--
a sudden rustle in the grass
as something flees
before my awful
bone and blood.
in this wood.
~ Alice Schertle, Keepers
Every time I read this poem, I just can’t get over Alice Schertle’s mastery: her voice, her phrasing, her line breaks, her rhyme, and her alliteration and assonance. To me, this is one of her very best poems, although I am in awe of all of her poetry.
Mortimer: Do you have a silent mentor?
BJL: Yes, that would be Alice Schertle. I have other silent mentors, but I have to say, I’ve learned more about poetry from reading and studying Alice Schertle’s poetry collections than from any other poet.
Mortimer: What got you started writing children’s poetry?
BJL: One word – injury. Don’t get me wrong, I had been dabbling in poetry for a long time but I was more into writing fiction and had, in fact, almost completed a novel when I was stopped in my tracks by shoulder surgery. My recovery was marked by a long period of bicep tendinitis – we’re talking two years. I couldn't type; I could barely write longhand. So there went my dreams of becoming a novelist. I turned to poetry because of its brevity, reading all the children’s poetry I could, and then I started writing children’s poetry. And I have to say, I love it even more than writing fiction. So, although I couldn't see this at the time, some good did come out of that painful episode in my life – a reawakening of my poetic skills and a new-found love of children’s literature, especially poetry!
That’s the end of my Mortimer Minute! Here are the poets who will hop in coming weeks.
Buffy Silverman‘s curiosity about the natural world inspires much of her writing. She is the author of more than 60 nonfiction books for children and has written poems for Ladybug, Spider, Cricket, Highlights for Children, and Know magazine. Buffy is lucky to live near a lake and woods in Michigan where inspiration abounds. Buffy will be posting on October 11, 2013. www.buffysilverman.com LIANA MAHONEY is a nationally certified teacher from upstate New York who writes children’s poetry, educational materials, and non-fiction. Her first picture book, FOREST GREEN, a rhyming non-fiction circle story, is forthcoming from North Country Books. She has numerous poetry credits, including the SCBWI Bulletin, various children’s magazines, online publications, and a poem in the award-winning sports-themed anthology AND THE CROWD GOES WILD. Liana’s poems also appear in various curricular materials with School Specialty, superteacherworksheets.com, and the Core Knowledge Foundation. She believes that a walk in the woods is one of the best cures for writer’s block, second only to teaching kindergarteners. Liana will be posting October 25, 2013. www.lianamahoney.com
I guess I'm on a roll with poems about the sea!
Living in Florida, we see bottlenose dolphins on a regular basis in the Intracoastal Waterway, and almost always when we go to the beach (Gulf of Mexico). It's always a thrill to see them, especially if there is more than one and they are up to some kind of shenanigans. One time I saw, perhaps, five or six dolphins swimming and leaping in a circle. It almost seemed choreographed and, certainly, dreamlike. Dolphins seem joyful to me in their expression and the sounds that they make. We sleep with the windows open and I can hear them in the darkness, blowing out through their blowhole as they surface and go back under. It is magical to hear them in the darkness and knowing they are out there while we sleep!
Gazing out to sea,
I used to think the horizon
was just a line,
but now I understand
that somewhere beyond it
is where the farthest wave
begins its journey
to break at my feet.
I realize the salt air, here,
makes me breathe more deeply
than anywhere else,
and that the hot sand
fills my whole soul with warmth.
Now I can hear the music in the waves,
and pause to reflect that the sunlight far out
on the wild sea might be shining
on the backs of whales or joyful dolphins.
© 2010 B.J. Lee All Rights Reserved
first published in Long Story Short, November, 2010
Happy Poetry Friday, everyone! Tabatha has the roundup at The Opposite of Indifference.
Yesterday a friend told me one of my poems published by Highlights was viewable on the Highlights website. The poem is titled, "The Sense-sational Sea" and you can view it HERE. I love that Highlights not only presents the poem visually, but has an audio of two young girls reading it, since it is a poem for two voices.
I grew up going to the Jersey Shore: Asbury Park, Ocean Grove, Point Pleasant, Seaside Heights, and Beach Haven to name a few. Me and my brothers always tried to climb as far out on the jetties as possible and still maintain a foothold, while looking in the nooks and crannies for starfish and other sea creatures. It was a balancing act because you never knew when a giant wave was going to crash over the jetty and the jetties were usually slick with sea slime. Ah, those wonderful childhood days of living dangerously!
I also wanted to mention the illustrator for this piece. Highlights did a wonderful job of pairing my poem with a fabulous illustrator, Len Ebert. I wrote to Mr. Ebert, when my poem first appeared in the July issue, because I was overwhelmed at the beautiful art he had been inspired to create for my poem. He said that very rarely do the writers get in touch with him and it made him so happy that I had taken the time to search him out on the internet. I found this very sad, actually. I am always so excited to see my work brought to life by an inspired illustrator. HERE is a link to Len Ebert's website should you choose to view more of his work.
Today I'm sharing a parody entitled "The Passionate Stallion to His Mare." This is a parody of Christopher Marlowe's 16th Century poem, "The Passionate Shepherd to His Love." Parodies can be a lot of fun to write!
A parody is defined as:
a piece of writing, music, etc., that imitates the style of someone or something else in an amusing way.
~ Merriam-Webster online dictionary.
Here is the parody:
The Passionate Stallion to his Mare
Come live with me and be my mare
And we will every pleasure share.
I’ll save my treats and give you all
The apples when they start to fall.
And we will graze in glorious grass
And I’ll not let a moment pass
When I am not as close to you
As I can be through chomp and chew.
We’ll share the stable past Duck’s pond
And there we’ll strengthen our deep bond.
I’ll give you first dibs on the hay
And I will never say thee neigh.
So if this life seems good to you,
Then bid your former life adieu.
And if you smell love in the air,
Come live with me and be my mare.
(c) B.J. Lee 2012 All Rights Reserved
first published on David L. Harrison's blog on August 24, 2012 (link below)
And here is the poem I'm parodying:
The Passionate Shepherd to His Love
By Christopher Marlowe
Come live with me and be my love,
And we will all the pleasures prove,
That Valleys, groves, hills, and fields,
Woods, or steepy mountain yields.
And we will sit upon the Rocks,
Seeing the Shepherds feed their flocks,
By shallow Rivers to whose falls
Melodious birds sing Madrigals.
And I will make thee beds of Roses
And a thousand fragrant posies,
A cap of flowers, and a kirtle
Embroidered all with leaves of Myrtle;
A gown made of the finest wool
Which from our pretty Lambs we pull;
Fair lined slippers for the cold,
With buckles of the purest gold;
A belt of straw and Ivy buds,
With Coral clasps and Amber studs:
And if these pleasures may thee move,
Come live with me, and be my love.
The Shepherds’ Swains shall dance and sing
For thy delight each May-morning:
If these delights thy mind may move,
Then live with me, and be my love.
If you want to see a parade of parodies by current poets, you'll find them at David L. Harrison's blog, where J. Patrick Lewis suggested an exercise of writing "parroties" and many poets complied. It's great fun reading through the many "parroties" by poets such as David L. Harrison, Jane Yolen, J. Patrick Lewis, and Joyce Sidman, to name but a few.Jen has the Poetry Friday round-up today. I'll see you back at the corral!
We currently live on the Intracoastal Waterway in Treasure Island, FL. We have been in our this house for nine years and every year around this time, we are joined by an osprey (also called a fish hawk) who sits on the cross of the church, across our little finger of the Intracoastal, with his eyes on the water below. I’ve tried taking pictures of him (I always imagine it to be a him), but since I don’t yet own a camera with a telephoto lens, it's hard to see the osprey in the picture. Nevertheless, here he is, looking like a finial atop the church cross.
We have named this osprey Ozzy (very original, I know) assuming it was the same osprey coming back year after year. But last year we had a surprise because the osprey had a different call or keen. It still keened but it was slightly higher and the end part was different too. OMG, we thought, it has been a different osprey every year! And this year has proven our theory to be true: this year's osprey is gigantic, so much so, that at first, we thought it was an eagle. You can clearly see a great patch of white on its neck and head. In former ospreys, this white patch was hardly noticeable from this distance. Breaking with tradition, we call this year’s osprey, Big Boy instead of Ozzy, because a big boy he certainly is. His keen is different too. It sounds like he struggles to keen, we have joked, because he is obese and so it is an effort to make his trademark sound.
I have read a lot about ospreys and one fact is quite startling. Sometimes, when the osprey dives for a fish, it miscalculates the size and, if the fish is too large, the fish will pull the osprey under and carry it along. The osprey, of course, drowns. Sometimes fishermen will later catch the fish with the osprey talons still embedded.I find this to be quite amazing and it makes me marvel on the often perilous nature of living.In any case, here is a poem I wrote about the osprey, a somewhat dark poem since we had just moved to this townhouse community and nature seemed less than wild, trimmed as it was, to the very core of its existence. Being on the water is nice, but even our inlet is man-made. We like our nature a little wilder and we often drive to wilderness areas to get our fix of wild nature. But the ospreys hunting near our home have totally saved us year after year. In any case, the juxtaposition of wild nature (osprey) vs. humans editing wild nature in our complex, is what prompted this poem.The Osprey
We tamed the world, I know.
It needed to be done, because…
well, there must have been a reason.
It frightened us, perhaps.
December comes in with mild air,
soft breezes over a captured inlet
of still water.
Somebody rolled the sun in gauze,
its fire muted; a clever bit
Sit quietly, listen:
machines hum behind the scenes
keeping it all in place.
Twilight descends across the inlet.
A lamppost’s gentle glow
unfurls over shadowed depths.
An osprey perched on the post
beats its wings powerfully,
then plunges toward the water’s surface--there are no screams
while the world shatters in unstrung fragments.(c) B.J. Lee All Rights ReservedFirst published in Long Story Short, December 2010
Here's a link that tells a little bit more about the osprey.
A big thank you to Betsy at I Think in Poems for hosting Poetry Friday today!
I enjoy writing in forms and learning about forms and have written several ballads. The ballad is defined as:
“a form that comes in four-line verses, usually alternating between four and three beats to [the] line. The word comes from ballare, the Italian for “to dance’ (same root as ballet, ballerina and ball). ~ Stephen Fry, “The Ode Less Travelled.”
Another important aspect of the ballad is that it tells a story.
This one is about my naughty toy poodle, Lulu, may she rest in peace.
The Ballad of the Naughty Poodle
By B.J. Lee
I’ll tell you a story of a dog in her glory--
the naughty toy poodle named Lulu.
But first let me say, do not get in her way
or she may put one over on you too.
Although she’s petite and may strike you as sweet,
believe me, her mind’s always cooking
up schemes to sneak by and eat my potpie
the minute she sees I’m not looking.
I tell her to stay but she does not obey
and makes her way down floor by floor.
She shreds paper towels with claws like an owl’s.
When spotted, she speeds out the door.
She’ll stretch and she’ll yawn but then once I am gone,
Lulu tips over the trash.
On the floor I find mustard mixed in with the custard.
It’s clear she’s been having a bash!
She lands with a leap in the composting heap
no matter how loudly I yell.
I shout, “You're in trouble, come here on the double.”
I hold my nose--wow--does she smell!
I give her a scrub in the claw-footed tub.
She splashes the suds in my face.
When I grab for a towel, she lets out a howl
and runs away like it’s a race.
Yes, this small, dirty dog redefines the word ‘hog.’
She’s always escaping my clutches.
And as hard as I try, the house is a sty--
just some of the little swine’s touches.
© 2010 B.J. Lee All Rights Reserved
First published in “Umbrella Journal’s Bumbershoot Annual” August, 2010
Here's the little stinker. She looks all innocent, but she is definitely thinking her Machiavellian thoughts and plotting her next dastardly scheme!
The ballad comes to us from song and folk traditions and many, many popular songs are ballads. Here is the first stanza from “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” by Gordon Lightfoot:
The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
Of the big lake they called “Gitche Gumme.”
The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead
When the skies of November turn gloomy.
Read the rest of the poem here
© 1976 by Gordon Lightfoot
photo courtesy of NOAA
Typically a ballad will rhyme either abab or abcb if it is in quatrains. Gordon has chosen the latter and so have I.
Some books and websites define ballads as being typically written in iambic meter
but Gordon broke that rule, giving us anapestic meter:
dadaDUMdadaDUMdadaDUMdaDUMda (with an extra syllable at the end— a feminine ending)
My poem, above, is also written in anapestic meter (with some feminine endings as well as internal rhyme).
I have also seen ballads arranged in sestets (6 lines to a stanza) . A good example is ”The Walrus and the Carpenter” by Lewis Carrol (this one is iambic):
The Walrus and the Carpenter
were walking close at hand.
They wept like anything to see
such quantities of sand:
“If this were only cleared away,”
they said, “it would be grand.”
Read the rest of the poem here
And, I have seen ballads written with seven beats to the line, although arguably, each line could be broken down into two lines of four and then three beats. Here is a stanza from Robert Service’s “The Shooting of Dan McGrew” (anapestic):
A bunch of the boys were whooping it up in the Malamute saloon;
The kid that handles the music-box was hitting a jag-time tune;
Back of the bar, in a solo game, sat Dangerous Dan McGrew,
And watching his luck was his light-o'-love, the lady that's known as Lou.
Read the rest of the poem here
No matter what decision you make regarding format and meter, ballads are a fun choice if you wish to tell a story in your poem!
Since August is quite the sweltering month in Florida, I’ve been finding myself day-dreaming about our sailing days on the Parker River in Newbury, MA, many years ago now, but still fresh in my mind - the cool ocean breezes full in my face.
I love to write poetry using forms. This poem is a mask poem, where the poet takes on the persona (wears the mask) of an inanimate object or animal. Enjoy!
By B.J. Lee
Do not keep me
tied at this mooring.
My rope strains
while green water whispers
against my hull.
Let’s be off to the deep places
where I can feel
the wind at my back,
the sun on my white face,
and I’ll give you
the ride of your life.
This is my first blog post. You may wonder, why Blue Window? I’ll tell you. I was once in a rock and roll band, believe it or not, and one of the songs our band sang was “Helpless” by Neil Young. I loved these lyrics, especially:
Blue, blue windows behind the stars,
Yellow moon on the rise,
Big birds flying across the sky
Throwing shadows on our eyes….
Very nice! Thank you, Neil!
Several years later, I was reading, “A Writer’s Diary” by Virginia Woolf (edited by Leonard Woolf) and I kept finding haiku in her words. For example:
A very fine skyblue day--
my window completely filled
with blue for a wonder
Lovely! Thank you, Virginia!
This prompted me to write my own blue window haiku:
First day of spring--
filled with blue
Then, on a trip to the South of France, I became obsessed with photographing windows with blue shutters.
And so, always being inspired by “blue” windows, I chose it for my blog title.
© B.J. Lee, 2011 all rights reserved
originally published in “Berry Blue Haiku,” March, 2011