dispersing & reflecting light through poetry

Posts tagged ‘list poetry’

Smelling ORANGE

One of the first poems completed for ORANGE is another list poem. This list is a bit different in a couple ways. First, each line describes a distinctive scent of fall, at least from my western Michigan youth. So as you read through take your time with each line. If you’re familiar with the odor, try to recall it. They say that memories are strongly connected to our sense of smell.

Secondly, the list actually has story. There is some progression. It’s not a true story from my life, but it does convey truth.

The Scent of Autumn

the air first thing in the morning
wet leaves in the gutter
seats on the school bus
dry corn stalks
fresh cow manure
chalk dust and pencil shavings
cafeteria food
sweat suits and running shoes
          left in the locker room
paraffin and charred pumpkin
candy corn
a blend of Gatorade®, heat rub,
          and muddy, torn-up turf
burning leaves
instant coffee
Thanksgiving dinner
wool letterman jackets
Miller High Life® in aluminum cans
a freshly opened condom
dirt roads after the rain
rotted apples under the trees
leaking coolant, oil, and gas
moist earth from an open grave

Copyright © 2015 Scott Daniel Massey

ORANGE You Glad I Didn’t Say RED

Since the colors of the spectrum have no distinct delineation (at least to the naked human eye), I thought I’d throw in a poem from the next series, ORANGE, to allow the thoughts to bleed into each other.

It’s a list poem. I plan to start each series this way. I think it’s a good way to get focused in on the specific color. What I’ve been doing is jotting down things of the color, varying shades of the color, things that elicit the color; looking for the common and the unusual, the obvious and the odd. I then select the items that strike me, that stand out, that I see some possibility of spiritual and/or poetic connection, orthodox or obscure.

The final stanza is put together from interesting facts about the color or related to cultural or thematic aspects of the color; and those may lead to an overall theme.

At least that’s how I’ve done it so far.


autumn leaves and pumpkins
egg yolks
the flesh of cantaloupe and mangoes
     converts to vitamin A in the liver
Viceroy and Monarch butterflies
Baltimore oriole
Honduran milk snake
Okeetee corn snake
Panthera tigris tigris
terra cotta soldiers
construction signs
safety cones
the Golden Gate Bridge,
     it blends well with its natural setting
children’s aspirin
Amber alert
penal jumpsuits
flight data and cockpit recorders
Oompa Loompas
Irish Protestants
US Army Signal Corps
Thursday in Thailand
herbicides in Vietnam

The CMYK composition of a version of orange:
     0% cyan, 69% magenta, 100% yellow, 6% black.
The composition of pumpkin pie filling, from scratch:
     1 c. cooked pumpkin, ½ c. sugar, 1 t. cinnamon, ¼ t. ginger, ¼ t. nutmeg, ¼ t. cloves,
     1 t. vanilla, 1 c. milk, 2 egg yolks, beat until stiff 2 egg whites.
The composition of Orange, VA in 2011:
     70.7% white, 22.8% black, 3.5% Hispanic, 2.3% mixed, 0.3% American Indian,
     0.3% Asian, 0.04% Hawaiian, 0.02% other, 0.04% unknown;
     that’s a total of 2 Hawaiians.

Copyright © 2015 Scott Daniel Massey

Listing “Red”

Red” is a list poem. Now to the casual observer that would be obvious. So is a list poem simply a random listing of items, things to do or that are done? A good list poem should be more than that; it should contain things that are somehow related and/or tell a story or create an image. Once at a poetry reading, a university English professor told me she really enjoyed the list poem I had read that evening (I believe it was “Red“) because it wasn’t merely a list, it built up anticipation. I enjoy writing list poems. There’s a simplicity to the form and yet putting items in an order that gives the poem complexity and depth can be a challenge.

I don’t believe I set out to tell any kind of story with “Red“. I created a list of red objects or things that elicit a red image, some immediately recognizable, others that were out of the ordinary, hoping to give you a sense of the color inside and outside of normal experience. Not every line has significant symbolic meaning other than to give a bold display of color.

I also researched various cultures in my search for meanings of red. For instance, in India a common color for brides is not white, but red; it also indicates being highly favored. To the Cherokee it is sacred. To the Christian as well, symbolizing the blood of Christ.

The ending stanza sums up the overwhelming theme within most cultural views of the color red–it is a remarkably passionate color. This is seen in two intertwining extremes often symbolized by red, love and war. Love can be war; war fought for love. Both extremes are boldly proclaimed at the cross of Christ; but those central poems of the RED series will be discussed later.

Copyright © 2015 Scott Daniel Massey

RED: an introduction

I was born Scott Daniel Massey. There was no christening or baptism, that was not a part of our family tradition. Just a name on a birth certificate qualifying my moniker for all purposes public and private. I believe I have been a poet most of my life. It is only recently that I have taken it seriously.

I don’t normally share the process; I like to wait until a piece or project is complete and I am satisfied with it before anyone else sees or hears it. With this chapbook project, RED, I would like to start showing readers what I’m working on, what’s currently done, and some of how I got there. In this blog, I will not only spotlight some of the poems to be included in the chapbook, but I will discuss some of the forms I use, the themes within the poems, and some of the research I used.

I don’t believe I have ever seen a book of poetry in which the poet discusses their own work. It’s usually just left for the reader to figure out. And I suppose that’s okay for those who get delight from meditating upon the words and the process of determining meaning. But I think that is also why more people don’t enjoy poetry. We don’t get it, don’t know how to get it, and don’t have the time to get it.

One of my goals as a poet is to write poetry that is accessible without being trite. I would like my readers to find enjoyment in the poem the first time they read it without having to dig too far for meaning: the emotional impact, the rhythm and music of the words, the imagery–something; and yet have more within the words to uncover, to explore.

I would also like to be up front with you. This blog and the proposed chapbook contain explicit Christian topics. If the discussion of God, Jesus, the Bible, the cross, sin, or any other openly religious or spiritual theme offends you, read no further.

Enough chat. I give you the title poem, “Red“:

by Scott Daniel Massey

cinnamon imperials and Atomic Fireballs
cheap Valentines
puckered lips
a slapped cheek
ink and tape
capsaicin, present in the placental tissue
     that holds the seed
     of the habernero
fire alarm bells
     in middle school hallways
luna de sangre
Madagascar tomato frogs
the words of Jesus
ripe apples hanging
Rosse Buurt
tail lights
STOP signs
spilled blood
the feast of martyrs

The speed of red: 400-480 THz.
The heart rate during sex: up to 180 beats per minute.
The span of man: 70-80 years if lucky, mid 20’s during war.
The time it takes blood to oxidize: instantaneous.

Copyright © 2015 Scott Daniel Massey

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