Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2015  v14n1
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Plays Well with Others

With the triolet, there’s the opportunity to play with the tension(s) between circularity/repetition and progression—all within a few lines. Theoretically, a series of linked triolets adds another layer of complication and using “repurposed” lines yet another. The effect I was going for in “P’town Triolets for the Poet Maisel (1942–2006)” was a kind of layered complication/complexity that reads simply. An interesting challenge, I think.

Lately I’ve been more and more drawn to working within the “constraints” of triolets and villanelles. A few months ago I heard another poet say she had taken up writing sonnets to surprise herself (in a pleasurable way). Content she hadn’t expected showed up—despite, or maybe because of, the strict rules of the form. Something similar is happening for me in my “Miss Jane Repurposes” series, currently underway. Starting with lines I admire by other poets and novelists provides a kind of framework—almost as if those lines serve as the “walls” of a room inside of which Miss Jane (and I) get to play and explore. When I reread some of my earlier poetry now, it seems to be trying to discover and nail down a worldview, my worldview. And although my worldview is no longer a mystery to me, there remains the struggle to express it in a way that is both insular enough to be particular and sufficiently outward-looking to address something of the human predicament.

My preference—if I can manage it, time-wise—is to work on a poem for hours in crazed, obsessive fashion, then let it be for a while. I sometimes print out lines I’m not satisfied with and tape them around the house—to the stair banister, the bathroom mirror, etc.—hoping that a glance in passing will suggest a “solution.” Occasionally that happens. Regardless, I like seeing those word strips hanging out and about, “liberated” from my computer screen.  end  

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