Tag Archives: exercises

A Bead of Words

A little meme from Word beads on Sentence Strings:

For some reason that defied all logic, Stan chose to seclude himself in his workshop each Sunday afternoon. He would spend hours immersed on the internet, each keystroke part of an elaborate scan for that single byte of information that would provide him with clues on how to successfully rewire the mechanism of the entire crazy universe.

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LJ Interests Meme Results

Borrowed from Ed Book. After reading his results, I was intringued, but did not imagine that my own results would prove equally as insightful. I’m really quite surprised at how closely this set of ten selected interests REALLY sums up a good part of who I am.

  1. bukowski:
    Poetry, in a world that discounts art, that praises mediocrity, that devalues beauty by worshipping youth, is not pretty. That to me is the lesson of Bukowski. Combine that with his general philosophy that great writers are born, not made, and I’m hooked.
  2. dictionaries:
    Words, words and more words. For a time, I used to read the dictionary for relaxation. Words have power; to know the name of a thing is to control it. Likewise, to know the origin of a word is to understand your own history. I’ve always been fascinated with learning new words, new ideas, new facts.
  3. gil scott-heron:
    The power of the word to fuel a revolution. The tangible strength of the spoken voice to connect the earth to the sky and rumble the foundations of power. I remember the first time I listened to “Small Talk at 125th and Lenox” all the way through; it was not just the stuff of revolution, it was revelation. This was what poetry, when harnessed to will and a microphone, was capable of doing. This was slam without competition; this was performance.
  4. india:
    Apparently, my first word was “elephant”. I have always been drawn to India: her people, her languages, her diversity, her religions, her extremes, her history.

    Om namah shivaya

  5. lefty frizzell:
    Wow. So far, this interests grabber is right on the money. Lefty Frizzell represents the clarity, phrasing, intelligence, humor and lyricism of traditional country. He is one of my all-time country music idols, and paved the way for many others – Willie, Merle, George Jones, Roger Miller, and me.
  6. perennial philosophy:
    This phrase, used but probably not first coined by Aldous Huxley in his book, sums up my life’s spiritual quest: to find the common threads that run through all religious traditions; to seek the truth that does not fade although its names change from generation to generation; to learn to appreciate the journey spent along the shore communing with the ocean, rather than grasping for a single grain of sand to call the answer.
  7. revolution:
    To change the world by changing oneself; to call for a reinforcement of evolution; to participate in the world at the speed of now, moving with the spheres as they revolve. To constantly challenge the status quo; to resist the urge to stay self-satisfied; to never be satisfied with “because it’s always been that way” or “you can’t fight City Hall” or “no fish ever got caught, ‘cept it opened its mouth”.
  8. sonnets:
    So short, so simple, so compact, those fourteen little lines. Ah, you can take your Milton, Steven Vincent Benet, Longfellow, Poe, Pope and other such longwinded fellows; and give it to me sweet and intricate. To master the sonnet is to understand what it means to call poetry an art form. It is to appreciate the limitations of language, and at the same time, comprehend its infinity. That’s not an easy lesson to learn, absorb or accept.
  9. vedanta:
    Two of the most influential books in my life have been “The Gospel According to Sri Ramakrishna” and “The Complete Writings of Vivekananda”. It’s my understanding that these two sources form the basis for much of what is called “modern” Hinduism. Certainly, this was the form that reached the West, and has influenced so many of the writers and thinkers that I love and respect.
  10. zen:
    The first Eastern religion that I attempted to practice was Zen Buddhism. It represents, to me, cutting through illusion and simply living in each moment; applying the principle of Occam’s Razor to each and every act, each breath, each word.

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I will never deconstruct another poem
in search of hidden metaphor, by line
eviscerating some writer’s creation
to satisfy some professor of mine.

These exercises do not help the reader
connect to what is said, or truly why
in given circumstance one word is better,
or how one’s own perspective may supply

a wealth of connotations beyond measure.
Too many now who read seek just what caters
to their limits of taste or frame of mind;
and would have poets soft and built for leisure.
Why use the stairs, when there are elevators?
Because some things are NOT a waste of time.

17 FEB 2005

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The exercise this week relates to the poetic foot the dactyl, which is basically a stressed syllable followed by two unstressed ones. A typical waltz pattern, you could say. Here’s the example I used, with successive stanzas in dactylic monometer, dimeter, trimeter, tetrameter, pentameter and hexameter.

wandering —
what is the
reason for
being a

There can be questions that
tear at the fabric of
what seems so vital and
yet is not meaningful.

Knowing these queries can lead to the
answers, but only if asked with a passionate
selflessness, without an ultimate
motive or reason for seeking them.

That makes the seeking out answers more perilous;
often it leads to a crisis of temperment:
peace is oft lost in the battle for dominance,
forcing your hand as you make your way traveling.

Once in a while, though, the pathway is stunningly beautiful,
filled with an essence of wonder that speaks quite unconsciously.
These moments, glimpses of possible, reachable paradise
Give us the courage to press on in spite of our maladies.

Courage is needed for much of the journey to find out our destiny,
bravery wrought from the stuff we think commonplace, meaningless wandering.
Beautiful, gossamer dreams that as children we thought were reality:
These are the valuable ores that construct a world we find worth living in.

17 JAN 2005

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Optimistic anapestics

When the world
is so full
that it fails
to react
to the tears
of a child,
it has lost
any hope;

and when cries in the night
go unheard and are lost
in the noise of the street,
we have shut out the light.

There is much that we don’t understand,
yet we claim that we know truth from lies.
With our words, we explain many things,
but the truth is that we are not wise.

If you look out your door seeing just friend or foe,
you will find battle lines in each new place you go;
and you’ll fight, wrong or right, without end ’til you die
without knowing real peace or true friendship at all.

Yet a smile will repair many wounds, and may bring back the lost
from the dark, foul abyss where they wander and suffer in pain;
and they may find their sense, and return to their lives once again.
If a small thing like that can restore humankind, do it now.

25 AUG 2003

Continuing the discussion regarding rhythm, here’s my latest exercise result – taking an increasing number of feet with the anapest foot (da da DUM) in progressive stanzas.

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Iambs and Trochees


the world
to sane,
I will
not fail
to write.

These words, though just
small things, can burst
through walls; there must
be words of peace.

Inside my head the world
is pure, and thoughts, like rain
that falls to earth in spring
can cleanse the hearts of men.

To me, there is no better act
than this: to heal the wounds of hate
by writing of the joys of life
to feed the hungry soul’s delight.

Upon the page these words seem small and weak,
but in their pale disguise they hide a strength
that breaks the bonds of man’s insane desire
and lifts aspiring minds above despair.

How can these words release the world from strife and woe?
With what strange force does language steel our broken hearts?
A glimpse of hope for future times — strong poet stock
that with their arts, seek beauty and forsake the dark.

Perhaps it is just wistful whimsy, still it could yet come to pass
that the bold rhetoric of failure is replaced with song
and some new speech of love and beauty may dethrone the damned
expression of the cynic’s pen, and rule a juster race.


Can you
Hear that

Pound the drum, and
Light the signal
Fires! Tonight we
Fight for freedom!

On the field of valor
we shall triumph over
all that come to meet us.
Can you taste the glory?

Never mind the pain and bleeding
Suck it up and just keep swinging
Listen, if you stop, you’ll hear it —
Celebration for the victors.

Find your rhythm and stick to it bravely
Cowards never taste of life so fully
Just remember all your children growing
They shall take your torch and keep it burning

Don’t cry out, the enemy is drawing nearer
Bite your sword, the metal will revive your spirit
Give me your long knife, I’ll cut your tunic from you
And your family seal, I’ll give to your proud widow

They will toast your deeds there by the hearth fire’s glowing embers
Your young sons will lift aloft your bloody battle armor
History will keep your name alive and in our myths and legends
Longer than the seas are wide, until the mountains crumble.

17 AUG 2003

This week (and for the next few weeks) the emphasis is on rhythm. The exercise was to write a poem using iambic feet, with each successive stanza adding an additional foot (first stanza, monometer, last stanza, heptameter).

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If I Were A

If I were a month I would be: January
If I were a day of the week I would be: Monday
If I were a time of day I would be: 3:15 a.m.
If I were a planet I would be: Saturn
If I were a sea animal I would be: a humpback whale
If I were a direction I would be: north
If I were a piece of furniture I would be: a beanbag chair
If I were a sin I would be: pride
If I were a liquid I would be: white tea
If I were a stone, I would be: granite
If I were a bird, I would be: a mockingbird
If I were a tool, I would be: a sledgehammer
If I were a flower/plant, I would be: corn
If I were a kind of weather, I would be: a tornado
If I were a Musical instrument, I would be: a bass viol
If I were an animal, I would be: a badger
If I were a color, I would be: green
If I were an emotion, I would be: optimism
If I were a vegetable, I would be: a pumpkin
If I were a sound, I would be: a breeze in the trees
If I were an element, I would be: iron
If I were a car, I would be: a 1972 Olds Vista Cruiser
If I were a song, I would be: Page 43, David Crosby
If I were a book, I would be written by: Aldous Huxley
If I were a food, I would be: red beans and rice
If I were a place, I would be: Calcutta
If I were a material, I would be: flannel
If I were a taste, I would be: bittersweet
If I were a scent, I would be: patchouli
If I were a word, I would be: evanescence
If I were an object, I would be: a well
If I were a body part I would be: an ear
If I were a facial expression I would be: a smirk
If I were a subject in school I would be: english
If I were a cartoon character I would be: foghorn leghorn
If I were a shape I would be: a circle
If I were a number I would be: 7

23 JUN 2003

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