Playing Rook

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Great Aunt Evelyn taught us to breast our cards, slant

from prying eyes, and manners—leave the card where it lies

until the dealer’s sign; and when we felt delight

with our success in taking the bid, how quickly she’d surprise

us with a run of trumps and tricks. We were not eased

into losing to her black-hatted squint—her brutally kind

lessons often spurred us into whines, but the hands grew gradually

gentler, and we played ’til she went blind.


“Playing Rook” seemed like a good poem to record—it has a nice mouthfeel. (I’m an audio novice, so please forgive any sound quality issues.)


This poem sprang from an exercise in the Sharpened Visions poetry class on Coursera (mentioned in a previous post). The conceit was to use another poem’s end rhymes. I chose Emily Dickinson’s famous poem “Tell all the truth but tell it slant.”

Tell all the truth but tell it slant

Tell all the truth but tell it slant —
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth’s superb surprise
As Lightning to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind —

My goal was to maintain the rhyme while not mimicking the sing-song rhythm. I took Emily’s cue to emphasize the long “i” sounds and added short “i” sounds as well—as internal rhymes and slant rhymes throughout. But I also worked with her short “a” from slant and gradually—manner, black, hatted, hands. I also notice “u” sounds of “uh” in the first half and more “oo” in the second.

I am quite satisfied how this exercise came out. The lines run through my head regularly, which seems to me to be a good sign.


P.S. Happy Birthday to The Mother. Consider this your birthday present, Mama! 🙂

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The Golden Haired Maiden (NaPoWriMo Day 3)

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Today’s poem comes from two prompts: NaPoWriMo‘s “write a sea shanty” and Adele Kenny‘s “yesterday.” In a nutshell, a sea shanty is a maritime work song used to set the rhythm of the labor (hauling, heaving, and what-have-you). The form is often verse-and-chorus or call-and-response, allowing variation in the lines used and the length of the song to fit the work.

According to Wikipedia, the practical function of the song was given priority over lyrics or musicality. In other words, please lower your expectations, people! It’s time for some “veriest doggerel.” (Try it more or less to the tune of “Cockles and Mussels.” I’ve given you accents to get started on the chorus and first verse.)

The Golden Haired Maiden (sea shanty)

(Chorus)
When will she come in?
When will she come in?
When will The Golden Haired
Maiden come in?

She came yesterday
to Chesapeake Bay,
The Golden Haired Maiden
all purty and gay.

When will she come in?
When will she come in?
When will The Golden Haired
Maiden come in?

She comes in today
to Chesapeake Bay,
The Golden Haired Maiden,
so do not delay.

When will she come in?
When will she come in?
When will The Golden Haired
Maiden come in?

She planned on the morrow
but then to her sorrow
The Golden Haired Maiden
met the wailing storm’s roar–Ohhh!

When will she come in?
When will she come in?
The Golden Haired Maiden
will never come in.

***

And for those fearless few of you who made it this far, my very own recording of my NaPoWriMo sea shanty. (This is the first time I’ve tried embedding an audio file. Took me a while. Let me know if there are problems accessing it. But please don’t let me know about any problems with my voice. Thank you very kindly.)