dispersing & reflecting light through poetry

Posts tagged ‘sonnet’

RED Comment/Critique

I recently received a comment from asherblake, Lion’s Roar Sparow’s Twitter regarding InspiRED Again:

“Awesome. First let me say it mostly reads very smooth, and kept me interested. It was fairly formal and had some old fashioned notes like the first line of the third stanza and the first line of the couplet but it was still lively. I have three suggestions for you. The first line and 2/5 are not so iambic are they? My scansion’s not so good, and I know there is flexibility with iambs, but I thought you might want to start with the third line, revise a bit, but keep the rhyme scheme. (Though I love calling [Charleston] the Holy City and the presence of a park bench.) When you go into the second stanza I had a lot of trouble telling the connection to the first stanza, especially since they share a sentence. I think the speaker may be taking Valentine as an instructor–as to avoid sexual immorality. The lack of context, especially grammatical, leaves this buried. (The transition into the return of Christ also has a buried theme, which is not always bad, but you might consider making the connections between the reading of the Song, Valentine, and the return of Christ, more open.) Thirdly, do you want to say “spliced”? It has kind of a negative connotation? Well, I hope that’s not too much.”

I really appreciate constructive criticism. This shows me the reader cared enough about me and/or the work to comment, to help better the work. I get some of that within the writing group I belong to (shout out to the Christian Writers Network at Cathedral of Praise, North Charleston). I don’t think I can stress how important these people have been to me, not only as a writer, but as a follower of Christ. As a writer you will eventually have someone critique your work, even if you are totally isolated in your writing: a literary agent, an editor/publisher, the reading public. A good writing group gives you a safe and encouraging environment to grow as a writer. Our group has writers of various levels who work in different genres–poetry, inspirational, devotions, sci-fi and novels, we even have a cartoonist/satirist in the group. All these work together to help each other become better writers.

This relates to followers of Christ. Hebrews 10:25 tells us that we shouldn’t refrain from getting together with other believers. I don’t think this just relates to “church”. We need to get together frequently to encourage and uplift one another; to help each other in our walk with the Lord. Sometimes this may entail “constructive criticism”. If there is something in our life that needs to be corrected, wouldn’t you rather have someone who loves you and is concerned with your well-being point it out to you, than to have the world judge you (and you know they will). To have a group of people in various levels of their walk, with different points of view, can help you become a better Christian.

I had not intended to go in this direction with this post (and I seem to be using Hebrews quite frequently), but there it is. I did look at Asher Blake’s critiques. I tweeked a few things he pointed out, left some alone because I liked the way I had it (for now). But I appreciated the input and I hope I have a better poem for it. Here’s the updated version:

Solomon, St. Valentine, and the Coming of Christ

In the Holy City with faith’s fresh start,
on a park bench—alone; with blushing shame
I read Wisdom’s Song sung from sickened heart,
plagued with fever of most vehement flame.

Love’s perfect bliss banned by dark rule’s claim
that young soldiers be more stout if not wed;
yet embraced by stouter priest whose sole aim,
the union of man and wife, cost his head.

This flowered crown’s among many behead
by those lacking, who deem to quench Christ’s fire;
unending flame whose strength shall raise the dead
complete and whole, clothed in holy attire.

And I, one crumb this bread, one drop this wine,
shall ever consummate the feast divine.

Copyright © 2015 Scott Daniel Massey

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InspiRED Again

Inspiration struck again. This time from a different source and in a different way.

Kevin Rockwell, an old friend that I bunked with many years ago, showed up in town recently. We haven’t been in contact for 25 years or so, until recently on facebook. We got together for lunch this Saturday to catch up a bit. Kevin is an artist and has been doing pet portraits for individuals and pet organizations. We talked art and poetry longer than we planned. At one point, Kevin asked if I ever got writer’s block and how I dealt with it. I told him that I generally have to just sit down and write, write anything that comes to mind, regardless of whether I think it’s quality or not, to get past it.

When I got home I had some things to get done around the house. My wife was at work, so I might even have some time to write if all went well. And so it did. I thought I should take my own advice and try to throw together something on “The Sonnet”. Time to put in some perspiration.

And it paid off! I now have a completed draft.

Solomon, St. Valentine, and the Coming of Christ

In the Holy City with faith’s fresh start,
on a park bench—alone. With blushing shame
I read Wisdom’s Song sung from sickened heart
plagued with fever of most vehement flame:

banned by edict of darkened ruler’s claim
that young soldiers be more stout if not wed;
yet embraced by stouter priest whose sole aim,
the union of man and wife, cost his head.

This flowered crown’s among many behead
by those who deem to quench the fire of Christ,
unending flame whose strength shall raise the dead
all together whole, eternally spliced.

And I, one crumb this bread, one drop this wine,
shall ever consummate the feast divine.

This may get tweeked before final publication, but right now I’m fairly pleased with it. I constantly edit (perspire) as I write, which may or may not be the best way to get something on the page, but I can’t seem to help myself. The inspiration for this came from connecting (one of the themes of this poem is about connections). I don’t know how many times I’ve come back from a writer group session or a night of open mic poetry and want to sit down and write; write because I have thoughts and ideas to write about. Maybe not connected with the topics of discussion or the poems I heard read, but something creative gets joustled and nudged loose that needs expression.

Writing can be a lonely process, but human beings are not meant to be alone. I mentioned in a previous post that I like to reference bread and wine in some of my poems. The final couplet comes from 1 Corinthians 10:17. This is telling us that we are not alone in this. As many individuals connected together we make up that one bread, the body of Christ.

Copyright © 2015 Scott Daniel Massey

Still More RED Between the Lines

Continuing work on “The Sonnet” is a bit slow, but I have progressed more in the past week than when I first conceived to write this poem. I have a better sense of how to connect the subjects. That helps.

The obvious connections of love and marriage between King Solomon, the priest Valentine, and the return for the Saviour for His bride, the church, do not necessarily make it easy to pull them all together into one poem, one sonnet to be precise.

Occasionally I like to reference the bread and wine in my poems in some way that fits as a remembrence of what Christ did for us. I was thinking I would like to do that with “The Sonnet” as I don’t think that I have in any of the other RED poems. In one of my notes, I have I Corinthians 10:17 referenced for the last two lines. This refers to many believers making up the one bread, the body of Christ as it refers to the Church. But the many are individuals. I am one of those individuals.

Then I began to think about the first time I read the Song of Solomon. The US Navy had transferred me to Charleston, South Carolina. At the time, I was a new follower of Christ. I grew up in a small town in western Michigan with only one church in town. Charleston is often referred to as the Holy City because there is almost a church on every corner. I had no idea where to go.

So on my first Sunday in Charleston I went to The Battery, a park at the tip of the peninsula of Charleston, to sit and read my Bible. Sitting alone on a bench under the shade of the oaks, I opened to the Song of Solomon. I had never read it before, never actually heard any sermons on it. (I grew up in the one Baptist church in town; not that it was never referenced, I just don’t recall it.) And I know I blushed. I was a young sailor. I got the sexual references. And there by myself I blushed.

Thus I decided to start “The Sonnet” with me and try to conclude with the many as one.

Here’s the first stanza so far:

In the Holy City with faith’s fresh start,
on a park bench–alone, with blushing shame
I read Wisdom’s Song sung from sickened heart
plagued with fever of most vehement flame

Copyright © 2015 Scott Daniel Massey

InspiRED

Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration. –Thomas A. Edison

I sat down at my desk on Saturday (my morning outdoor projects were complete and I had the house all to myself) to work on “The Sonnet”. The poem that I have procrastinated, that has been a problem to write, that has plagued me. I pored over my notes about Solomon and The Song of Songs, quotes from those scriptures; the notes on Valentine, his resistance to Claudius, his beheading; the notes concerning the coming of Christ. I read through my lists of rhymes; I scoured them looking for connections. I drew lines at the top of a blank sheet to indicate iambic pentameter.  Back and forth between the three notebooks that contain a couple pages each of penciled notes and a file on Inkpad Notepad. How do I start? What words do I rhyme? Why am I doing this to myself?

And then I saw them. Two words. Two words that weren’t even on the same line. They were drawn to each other. The first just one blue line down and to the left of the second written in #2 pencil on legal pad yellow. “wisdom”. “song”. And the next word flowed out like it belonged. “sung”.

I HAVE THE START OF A LINE.

And then I notice a quote from The Song. “I am sick of love.” And the line almost finished itself.

“Wisdom’s song sung from sickened heart.”

But is it iamic pentameter? Close enough. Next line. What are some common elements of these three subjects? Fire? Plague? Losing one’s head? Where was that quote from Solomon?

Set me as a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine arm: for love is strong as death; jealousy is cruel as the grave: the coals thereof are coals of fire, which hath a most vehement flame.

Song of Solomon 8:6

Okay. Flame, also connected with end-time scenarios. How do I connect them? Plagues are also a part of the final days. Somehow St. Valentine is a patron saint of plagues. And there’s the line from Solomon, “I am sick of love.” How do I…

And then the next line just seemed to materialize from the tip of the pencil lead.

“plagued with fever of most vehement flame”

But the end words “heart” and “flame” aren’t even in any of my lists of rhyming words. There’s a new challenge. But now I have a direction. Now I have two lines that I didn’t have before. My 1% of inspiration. Back to perspiring.

Copyright © 2015 Scott Daniel Massey

More RED Between the Lines

“Solomon, Saint Valentine, & the Coming of Christ”. The as yet started (as in actual lines of poetry) sonnet, referred to henceforth as “The Sonnet”. I told you I would let you into the process of this poem, so here’s more process.

The following are my notes in one file concerning “The Sonnet”. (In front of me are two small legal pads with some notes, there’s the Inkpad file with the outline, and I know I have a few sheets of paper scattered around here somewhere with more scribblings for “The Sonnet”.) These notes are ‘as is’:

Solomon, Saint Valentine, & the Coming of Christ: A Communion

a.    Delights of human love/celebration of love
b.    Lost his head in love
a.     “sick of love”/”a most vehement flame”
b

b.    Flower-crowned skull
c.    Plague/epilepsy
b
c

c.    Loved not their lives to the beheading death
d.    Coming with fire
c
d.

e.    Bread and wine (1 Cor 10:17; )
e.    Consummate/Holy of Holies

The two small legal pads contain notes from scripture concerning Solomon and the coming of Christ, as well as some short historical notes on Valentine (I provided links in my post “RED, shall I compare thee…?“). There are also lists of rhyming words: marry, tarry, bury; married, parried, serried; fire, pyre, desire; faint, saint, restraint; plague, vague, egg; behead, dead, bread. The lists are much longer; these are some of the highlighted, more likely to be used from those lists.

So now I have to find the right rhymes to fit the thought of each stanza and fit those thoughts into iambic pentameter without sounding stilted or forced, natural. NO PROBLEM.

But pulling out the notes, looking at them again (and again…and again), explaining out loud on (I was going to type ‘on paper’) screen what I need to accomplish is one step closer to the completed poem.

Copyright © 2015 Scott Daniel Massey

RED Between the Lines

Okay. Let’s go back to “Solomon, Saint Valentine, & the Coming of Christ”. Since this poem is yet to be completed, I’ll let you inside the process as I go along. This will be a first for me, so it may not be pretty.

As I mentioned in my previous post, “RED, shall I compare thee…?“, this is planned to be a sonnet. There are several forms of sonnets: the Italian or Petrarchan, the English or Shakespearian, the Spenserian, the Miltonic, and modern. I have chosen the Spenserian form because the rhyme scheme (abab bcbc cdcd ee) is interlocking. I want to dovetail these three subjects, intertwine them. That’s what true love and marriage is about. The meshing of two lives into one.

Apart from that, I’m not sure what to tell you. So here are some of the notes and scribblings I have from my research:

These are my original lines for the final couplet. They show my intent of the “interlocking lines”. I probably won’t use them.
e:  And as the interlocking lines of this sonnet song
e:  So too through consummative act, two become one.

A quote from the second-century Jewish rabbi Aquiba concerning the Song of Solomon:

“All the ages are not worth the day on which the Song of Songs was given to Israel; for all the Writings are holy, but the Song of Songs is the Holy of Holies.”

According to Catholic.org, the flower-crowned skull of St. Valentine is exhibited in the Basilica of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, Rome. Apparently, he is the Patron Saint of affianced couples, bee keepers (?), engaged couples, epilepsy (???), fainting (at weddings?), greetings, happy marriages, love, lovers, plague (???!), travellers, and young people; and he is represented in pictures with birds and roses.

Perhaps my next post about this sonnet will actually contain lines of poetry.

Copyright © 2015 Scott Daniel Massey

RED, shall I compare thee…?

All but two of the poems for RED are complete: “Red: Revelation”, which will be a sort of summary of all; and “Solomon, St. Valentine, and the Coming of Christ”. The former is not complete because I want to wait until all other poems are finished. The latter is not done because I want to frame it in a sonnet, and for me that is not an easy task; strict forms are not what I normally do.

When one thinks of sonnets, one tends to think of Shakespeare, Milton, Spenser, Browning. Big names. The bar is set high. And so it should be. The topic–intimate love, marriage, consummation–is worthy of being set in such a lofty form. But, alas, I have never written a sonnet. Seventeen lines of iambic pentameter. With a rhyme scheme. And a volta (a whata?), or turn, that is supposedly essential to a sonnet. This is a heavy commitment for setting pen to page. As it should be. So is the topic.

I normally write free verse. No meter. No rhyme. Occassionally, when the topic merits, I will use an appropriate form. At least attempt the form. This poem will attempt to compare the “Song of Solomon“, a book about which the second-century Jewish rabbi Aquiba is quoted as saying, “All the ages are not worth the day on which the Song of Songs was given to Israel; for all the Writings are holy, but the Song of Songs is the Holy of Holies”; the martyrdom by beheading of the Catholic priest Valentine for performing marriages of young Christians in Rome; and the marriage feast of the Lamb, the return of Christ for his bride, the Church.

So, yeah. I haven’t got this one done yet.

Copyright © 2015 Scott Daniel Massey

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