Poetry Friday: I is for Imagery

The Destruction of Sennacherib
by Lord Byron (George Gordon)

The Assyrian came down like the wolf on the fold,
And his cohorts were gleaming in purple and gold;
And the sheen of their spears was like stars on the sea,
When the blue wave rolls nightly on deep Galilee.

Like the leaves of the forest when Summer is green,
That host with their banners at sunset were seen:
Like the leaves of the forest when Autumn hath blown,
That host on the morrow lay withered and strown.

For the Angel of Death spread his wings on the blast,
And breathed in the face of the foe as he passed;
And the eyes of the sleepers waxed deadly and chill,
And their hearts but once heaved, and for ever grew still!

And there lay the steed with his nostril all wide,
But through it there rolled not the breath of his pride;
And the foam of his gasping lay white on the turf,
And cold as the spray of the rock-beating surf.

And there lay the rider distorted and pale,
With the dew on his brow, and the rust on his mail:
And the tents were all silent, the banners alone,
The lances unlifted, the trumpet unblown.

And the widows of Ashur are loud in their wail,
And the idols are broke in the temple of Baal;
And the might of the Gentile, unsmote by the sword,
Hath melted like snow in the glance of the Lord!

Or if you don’t care for Byron’s use of simile and metaphor, try Ogden Nash’s send-up of Byron, Very Like a Whale.

Michelle H. Barnes has the Poetry Friday Round-up today at Today’s Little Ditty.

H is for Haiku

“When poets put away childish things, they will put away poetry.”
“The poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese.”
~Gilbert K. Chesterton

haiku: a Japanese verse form of three unrhyming lines in five, seven, and five syllables. Haiku usually aims at creating a single, memorable image.

'Rosemary Apple Butter Grilled Cheese Sandwich' photo (c) 2012, Kitchen Life of a Navy Wife - license: Not for the Cat
by Jack Prelutsky

If not for the cat,
And the scarcity of cheese,
I could be content.

More cheesy haiku.

Grilled Cheese Haiku
by Matt at Mental Floss

golden delicious
warm cheese melts me to my soul
i’ll have another

Did you know that April is National Grilled Cheese Month? What do you put on your grilled cheese sandwich (besides cheese)?

G is for Glosa

“Poets help us by discovering and uncovering the world-its history, culture, artifacts, and ecology, as well as our identities and relationships.” ~Wallace Stevens

Glosa: an early Renaissance form that was developed by poets of the Spanish court in the 14th and 15th centuries. In a glosa, tribute is paid to another poet. The opening lines, called a cabeza, is by another poet, and each of the cabeza lines are embedded elsewhere in the glosa.

This poem takes me back to my days of studying and reading in Spanish. I’m a little rusty, but I enjoyed trying to understand this Spanish poem, Glosa de el mismo (Poem of myself) by San Juan de la Cruz.

'fire' photo (c) 2005, baronsquirrel - license:

Sin arrimo y con arrimo,
sin luz y a oscuras viviendo
todo me voy consumiendo.

Mi alma está desasida
de toda cosa criada
y sobre sí levantada
y en una sabrosa vida
sólo en su Dios arrimada.

Por eso ya se dirá
la cosa que más estimo
que mi alma se ve ya
sin arrimo y con arrimo.

Y aunque tinieblas padezco
en esta vida mortal
no es tan crecido mi mal
porque si de luz carezco
tengo vida celestial
porque el amor da tal vida
cuando más ciego va siendo
que tiene al ama rendida
sin luz y a oscuras viviendo.

Hace tal obra el amor
después que le conocí
que si hay bien o mal en mí
todo lo hace de un sabor
y al alma transforma en sí
y así en su llama sabrosa
la cual en mí estoy sintiendo
apriesa sin quedar cosa,
todo me voy consumiendo.

I found this translation:

'Replica of St John's Cross outside Iona Abbey' photo (c) 2012, Andrew Bowden - license:

Without support yet with support,
living without light, in darkness,
I am wholly being consumed.

My soul is disentangled
from every created thing
and lifted above itself
in a life of gladness
supported only in God.


So now it can be said
that I most value this:
My soul now sees itself
without support yet with support.


And though I suffer darknesses
in this mortal life,
that is not so hard a thing;
for even if I have no light
I have the life of heaven.
For the blinder love is
the more it gives such life,
holding the soul surrendered,
living without light in darkness.


After I have known it
love works so in me
that whether things go well or badly
love turns them to one sweetness
transforming the soul in itself.
And so in its delighting flame
which I am feeling within me,
swiftly, with nothing spared,
I am wholly being consumed.

Here’s another translation I found at First Things, by Rhina P. Espaillat.

F is for Found Poem

There is poetry in a porkchop to a hungry man.” ~ Philip Gibbs (NYT, 1951)

Found Poem: “Found poems take existing texts and refashion them, reorder them, and present them as poems. The literary equivalent of a collage, found poetry is often made from newspaper articles, street signs, graffiti, speeches, letters, or even other poems.” Found Poems at

Book spine poems are a kind of found poem, and Travis Jonker at 100 Scope Notes is collecting submissions from readers for National Poetry Month.

I tried to make a poem of all of the T-shirt slogans I read at the mall one day, but I lost my scribbled notes of what I found.

So I thought I’d check my twitter feed for a found poem:

Don’t Look Back
Live Through This
God’s Not Dead
Recognizing Truth.

Have you found any poems lately?

E is for Elegy

Pain is filtered in a poem so that it becomes finally, in the end, pleasure. ~ Mark Strand

elegy: In literature, an elegy (from the Greek word for “lament”) is a mournful, melancholic or plaintive poem, especially a funeral song or a lament for the dead.

David’s Elegy or Lament for Saul
II Samuel 1:17-27

A gazelle lies slain on your heights, Israel.
How the mighty have fallen!
Tell it not in Gath,
proclaim it not in the streets of Ashkelon,
lest the daughters of the Philistines be glad,
lest the daughters of the uncircumcised rejoice.
Mountains of Gilboa,
may you have neither dew nor rain,
may no showers fall on your terraced fields.
For there the shield of the mighty was despised,
the shield of Saul—no longer rubbed with oil.
From the blood of the slain,
from the flesh of the mighty,
the bow of Jonathan did not turn back,
the sword of Saul did not return unsatisfied.
Saul and Jonathan—
in life they were loved and admired,
and in death they were not parted.
They were swifter than eagles,
they were stronger than lions.
Daughters of Israel,
weep for Saul,
who clothed you in scarlet and finery,
who adorned your garments with ornaments of gold.
How the mighty have fallen in battle!
Jonathan lies slain on your heights.
I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother;
you were very dear to me.
Your love for me was wonderful,
more wonderful than that of women.
How the mighty have fallen!
The weapons of war have perished!”

D is for Dramatic Monologue

“Well, I think maybe people who write poetry are different in their thinking, to begin with, and how they translate what they experience into writing or maybe what they experience is somewhat different from what others do.” ~Lisel Mueller ~

Dramatic monologue: a poetic form in which a single character, addressing a silent auditor at a critical moment, reveals himself or herself and the dramatic situation.

Shakespeare (450 years old this month) was the quintessential poet/dramatist. Hamlet’s “To Be or Not to Be”, Macbeth’s “Tomorrow and Tomorrow”, King Lear’s insane and yet curiously apropos ravings, are all a part of our Shakespearean heritage.

But this monologue by Portia from The Merchant of Venice is one of my favorites:

'Blind Justice' photo (c) 2013, Tim Green - license: quality of mercy is not strain’d,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath: it is twice blest;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:
‘Tis mightiest in the mightiest: it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown;
His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty,
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;
But mercy is above this sceptred sway;
It is enthroned in the hearts of kings,
It is an attribute to God himself;
And earthly power doth then show likest God’s
When mercy seasons justice. Therefore, Jew,
Though justice be thy plea, consider this,
That, in the course of justice, none of us
Should see salvation: we do pray for mercy;

And that same prayer doth teach us all to render
The deeds of mercy. I have spoke thus much
To mitigate the justice of thy plea;
Which if thou follow, this strict court of Venice
Must needs give sentence ‘gainst the merchant there.

Other masters of the dramatic monologue in poetry: Robert Browning (My Last Duchess), Edgar Lee Masters (Spoon River Anthology), T.S. Eliot (The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock), Rudyard Kipling (Gunga Din and others), Edgar Allan Poe (Annabel Lee).

C is for Cento

I have never started a poem yet whose end I knew. Writing a poem is discovering. ~ Robert Frost ~

cento: “a poetical work wholly composed of verses or passages taken from other authors; only disposed in a new form or order. The term comes from the Latin cento, a cloak made of patches.” ~Wikipedia, Cento (poetry)

Let’s build our own cento, discover our own poem. I’ll post a couple of my favorite lines of poetry, and anyone can add, in the comments, one or two lines from another poem that you think feed into the cento. We’ll see what we have by the end of the day. Be sure and tell us the source of your lines.

Cento for April Third, National Poetry Month

It was many and many a year ago
In a kingdom by the sea

'The Two LIghthouses' photo (c) 2011, Anita Ritenour - license:

B is for Ballad

Poetry is music written for the human voice. ~Maya Angelou

Ballad: ‘A ballad is a form of verse, often a narrative set to music. Ballads derive from the medieval French chanson balladée or ballade, which were originally “dancing songs”. Ballads were particularly characteristic of the popular poetry and song of the British Isles from the later medieval period until the 19th century and used extensively across Europe.” ~Wikipedia, Ballad

'Gypsy Mellodee AHR# 106548' photo (c) 1985, Virginia  Hill - license: Taggle Gypsy

There were three old gypsies came to our hall door
They came brave and boldly-o
One sang high and the other sang low
And the Lady sang the raggle taggle gypsy-o

It was upstairs and downstairs the lady went
Put on her suit of leather-o
T’was a cry all around the door
She’s away wi’ the raggle taggle gypsy-o

It was late at night when the lord came in
Enquiring for his lady-o
The servant girl replied to her lord
She’s away wi’ the raggle taggle gypsy-o

Oh then saddle for me and my milk white steed
My big horse is not speedy-o
I will ride and I’ll seek my bride
She’s away wi’ the raggle taggle gypsy-o

Then he rode east and he rode west
He rode north and south also
But when he went to the open fields
It was there that he spied his lady-o

I love Celtic Thunder. Sadly, when I retrieved the above video, I read the news that George Donaldson, the anchor and father figure for the group, died on March 12, 2014 of a massive heart attack. He will be missed by the fans of Celtic Thunder and by his colleagues.

A is for Anaphora

Most of the time, poetry enjoys the visibility of other minor cultural subcultures like chess or quilting. ~ Anita Diamant

April 1st is, of course, April Fool’s Day, a good day to turn the world upside down and notice poetry. Have you been fooled yet today?

For the month of April, in addition to my regular book reviews, I’m going to be posting some of my favorite poems: anaphora, ballads, cento, an abecedarian collection of poetic forms and types. April is National Poetry Month, and I intend to give you a gift this month: a poem a day. If I miss a day, forgive me. If my poetical selections displease you, again forgive. If you enjoy deceptively simple poetry, and light verse that’s not always so light, and meaning cloaked in the language of poetry, you might have a good time celebrating Poetry Month with me.

For today, I thought I’d kick off this series with A is for Anaphora.

Anaphora: a type of parallelism created when successive phrases or lines begin with the same words, often resembling a litany. The repetition can be as simple as a single word or as long as an entire phrase. As one of the world’s oldest poetic techniques, anaphora is used in much of the world’s religious and devotional poetry, including numerous Biblical Psalms.

A List of Praises by Anne Porter

'Sunset behind pine trees' photo (c) 2010, Ula  Gillion - license:

Give praise with psalms that tell the trees to sing,
Give praise with Gospel choirs in storefront churches,
Mad with the joy of the Sabbath,
Give praise with the babble of infants, who wake with the sun,
Give praise with children chanting their skip-rope rhymes,
A poetry not in books, a vagrant mischievous poetry
living wild on the Streets through generations of children.

Give praise with the sound of the milk-train far away
With its mutter of wheels and long-drawn-out sweet whistle
As it speeds through the fields of sleep at three in the morning,
Give praise with the immense and peaceful sigh
Of the wind in the pinewoods,
At night give praise with starry silences.

'Humpback Whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) lunge feeding' photo (c) 2012, Mike Baird - license:

Give praise with the skirling of seagulls
And the rattle and flap of sails
And gongs of buoys rocked by the sea-swell
Out in the shipping-lanes beyond the harbor.
Give praise with the humpback whales,
Huge in the ocean they sing to one another.

Give praise with the rasp and sizzle of crickets, katydids and cicadas,
Give praise with hum of bees,
Give praise with the little peepers who live near water.
When they fill the marsh with a shimmer of bell-like cries
We know that the winter is over.

Read the rest of this anaphoric poem at

Favorite Poets: Dante Gabriel Rossetti

“A Sonnet is a moment’s monument,—
Memorial from the Soul’s eternity
To one dead deathless hour.”

~Dante Grabriel Rossetti

Hidden Harmony

THE thoughts in me are very calm and high
That think upon your love: yet by your leave
You shall not greatly marvel that this eve
Or nightfall—yet scarce nightfall—the strong sky
Leaves me thus sad. Now if you ask me why,
I cannot teach you, dear; but I believe
It is that man will always interweave
Life with fresh want, with wish or fear to die.
It may be therefore,—though the matter touch
Nowise our love,—that I so often look
Sad in your presence, often feeling so.
And of the reason I can tell thus much:—
Man’s soul is like the music in a book
Which were not music but for high and low.

“The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. These things—the beauty, the memory of our own past—are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshippers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.”
― C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory

Mary Lee Hahn is hosting the Poetry Friday Roundup at A Year of Reading.