Wednesday, November 7, 2012

New Term of the Week: Mesostic Poetry

The energy surge I have had since the weekend is still sticking around!  Yeah!  I think a combination of things happened in the same couple of days -- (1) Getting sick of sitting around and whining about a dissertation that isn't getting done when I sit around and whine and worry, (2) focusing on some fabulous poetry that is making my head think in different ways, thus resulting in a new enthusiasm for the written word and language, (3) being more conscious about some of the activities I use in my writing courses creates some interesting writing and thinking on behalf of both the students and me, (4) re-connecting with a huge assortment of fabulous friends who energize me with their enthusiasm, passion and encouragement, and (5) getting back to exercising and yoga-ing on a regular basis.

So there you go.  I try to tackle each day for what it is and make sure I do a little of each of the five activities above (and I try not to beat myself up when it doesn't happen).  This plan doesn't always work out, of course.  Today, for example, I teach a late afternoon class as well as my day courses so there won't be time to hit the gym or go to yoga since I won't be home until late (though, I suppose I COULD go to the gym in our building if I really wanted to.  But -- I consider Wednesday my day off from working out!).  I already have a plan for what I need to work on today in terms of the dissertation -- try to finish editing/ playing with the results chapter and continue with the notes I have already made for the conclusion (the one chapter I still need to work on from scratch).  I have already listened to one video from my online Modern Poetry class -- a conversation on John Cage's "Writing Through Howl" and I even started the last essay assignment for the class.  For the last essay, we are supposed to create a Mesostic Poem using a computer program online.


So have I lost you yet?  (and believe me, I didn't know what this was a week ago myself!).  A Mesostic Poem is similiar to an Acrostic Poem, you know the one's that write a word vertically like "POEM" and then each line starts with the first letter of each of these words.  Here is a quick example (and please keep in mind that I am making this up as a I go along!):

Master writers!

The one I just made above is called an Acrostic Poem and the only difference between this an a Mesostic Poem is that the letters don't line up on the left.  The "spine letters" are in the middle of the word(s) -- see the picture above?  We were asked to use this great web site:  and then do two things:  Determine the spine word and then give a URL for a poem (either from the course or another one that we just happen to like) and have the computer program create a Mesostic Poem.  Then, we are supposed to show what we came up with after we used the program and then interpret what we think about "what happened" between the original poem and the created Mesostic.

Since I am not deeply immersed in reading Mona Van Duyn (see the blog entry below about my purchase of one her books at the recent St Louis Poetry Center Auction), I selected her poem "Earth Tremors Felt in Missouri" since I found this poem online and would then easily be able to put the URL in the program generator.  If you are interested in the actual poem, here it is:

The quake last night was nothing personal, 
you told me this morning. I think one always wonders, 
unless, of course, something is visible: tremors 
that take us, private and willy-nilly, are usual.

But the earth said last night that what I feel, 
you feel; what secretly moves you, moves me. 
One small, sensuous catastrophe 
makes inklings letters, spelled in a worldly tremble.

The earth, with others on it, turns in its course 
as we turn toward each other, less than ourselves, gross, 
mindless, more than we were. Pebbles, we swell 
to planets, nearing the universal roll, 
in our conceit even comprehending the sun, 
whose bright ordeal leaves cool men woebegone.

And once I put the poem in the program noted above, this is what I came up with:



Or Deal
Stumble Upon

If a line has an extra word or so (like "Stumble Upon"), then these are called "Wing Words" (according to Cage).  Something Al Frieis (the prof behind this fabulous free online course!) said in one of the video discussions recently was that poetry like this takes the pressure off creation (I mean, all I did was put a poem in an online program!) and then puts that pressure onto interpretation.  So, though I was scared about this type of "crazy language poetry," I think I get it now!  Well, not "I get it all -- ask me anything" but more like, "OK, interpretation!  I can do that!"  So this is what I have to figure out by this weekend (when this "essay discussion" is due):  What does this new take on Van Duyn's poem MEAN?  Any takers to help me out?

PS:  Here is my quick interpretation of the original poem from Van Duyn: The "quake last night," which the speaker refers to in line one, may involve a personal problem, or else a problem in the attitude of the listener toward the speaker -- we don't know the exact circumstances. But a problem was expressed and to the speaker it has assumed the magnitude of "earth tremors felt in Missouri."  I don't think Missouri here has to mean Missouri exactly (just a location).  Personal circumstances become earth shaking and what might seem to be no more than a "pebble" to the outside world has HUGE importance (in fact, including "the sun). 

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