traditional challenge

Hello there, poet. Since you are reading this, I’d like to propose a challenge: write something in a traditional poetic form that is new to you and submit it to the Joanna Catherine Scott Award.

Why should you accept this challenge? For one thing, writing in a traditional form is wonderful practice for writing in any form whatsoever. Working within the strictures of a form hones your facility for language. It strengthens your technique. (Rebecca Hazelton has a nice piece about this on the Poetry Foundation website. You can find it here.)

For another, traditional forms contests typically attract fewer entries than open or themed contests. The odds of your poem winning a prize are therefore increased.

Personally, however, I have a grander reason. I want us all to write the very best poetry we can. In order to do that, I believe we must engage all of our being. The creative, visionary side, yes, but the pragmatic, realistic side also.

The side of you that knows how to organize your sock drawer deserves a say in your poetry.

The thing is, that side gets bored easily and tends to wander off. Give it a fresh technical challenge, however, and it will light up like a Christmas Tree. So why not use this contest to give it a jolt?

If you need some guidance to get you started, the Academy of American Poets has a solid glossary of poetic terms on their website. Also, Robert Lee Brewer has a list of 100 poetic forms, with links to more information, available on the Writer’s Digest website.

As I wrote in my post about sestinas, I wouldn’t feel right about challenging you to write something without taking on the challenge myself, so I decided to try my hand at a triolet.

My current focus is on haiku, so the brevity needed for the triolet came naturally. Direct observation worked well also. However, rhyming is avoided in haiku, which made working out the rhymes an interesting challenge.

One thing I read about triolets suggested they were witty and perfect for sending with flowers or chocolates, so my inner contrarian wanted something with a touch of grimness.

Here is my traditional effort, good luck with yours!

one more day till winter

pine grove in a city park
one trunk lit by the setting sun
something stashed for when it gets dark
pine grove in a city park
unanswered prayers leave their mark
as do dreams made undone
pine grove in a city park
one trunk lit by the setting sun

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