Formal & Rhyming Poetry with Vera Ignatowitsch
Words as Weapons
One day at recess in second grade a kid
who tumbled from the monkey bars yelled “Fuck!”
I’d never heard the word, or if I did
it hadn’t stuck. The children were thunderstruck.
— This was in the fifties, don’t forget:
The f-bomb was atomic, but TV news
would leave unbleeped a racial epithet
to blaze from coast to coast in interviews. —
An outraged teacher dragged the boy away
to Mr. Armstrong’s office by the ear.
But seeing my classmates galvanized that day
made an unintended lesson clear:
Whatever the rules of etiquette allowed,
a word can make you the center of a crowd.
Richard Wakefield’s first poetry collection, East of Early Winters (University of Evansville Press), won the Richard Wilbur Award. His second collection, A Vertical Mile (Able Muse Press), was short-listed for the Poets’ Prize. His poem “Petrarch” won the Howard Nemerov Sonnet Award.
Winter. Dark dead days. Anger
sparks out greedily among us.
Each word holds danger
of attack. A man on the bus
snaps at the driver, who flings back
a sharp answer. In the office
we crouch like ferrets tracked
by wolves through dead ice.
Slowly, a thin strong string pulls
the winter sun back from its solstice.
Careful! The child’s orange ball could miss
and fall into the sea. There’s no stranger
tale than this: to hear the child call,
laughing, two months from a manger.
Arthur Powers is author of two collections of poetry published by Finishing Line Press, The Book of Jotham, winner of the 2012 Tuscany Novella Prize, and two volumes of short stories set in Brazil: A Hero for the People and Padre Raimundo’s Army.
Li Po on Changping Mountain
Because he knew the Tao, Li Po could hold
his hands out and the birds would flutter down
from branches in the nearby trees; would fold
their wings and rest in safety having found
a place that centered heaven’s harmony;
a peaceful haven sending out the call
creation sang—no different from a tree,
roots going down in that which upholds all.
David W. Landrum’s poetry has appeared widely in journals and anthologies in the US, UK, Canada, and Asia.
Time in Eternity
When you were as an angel in my arms,
Had laid your bare head just below my chin,
Your length pressed up to mine, entrusting charms
My whole youth’s starward longing could not win;
With still the murmur of your love in me,
Miracle-tones of all my lifelong hope,
I wished that there might start eternity
And seal forever that sweet envelope;
And as it did, my thoughts are now for you
As every star is blotted by the sun,
And so the sun itself
Has perished too,
And with it, every dream of mine
Poems by Tom Merrill have recently appeared in two novels as epigraphs. His latest book, Time in Eternity, can be purchased from Ancient Cypress Press.
A Moment White
You lit upon the land one night,
a night of drifting lightness
when earth became, beneath the flight
and fall of superincumbent white,
a lintel for your brightness.
You seemed at first, like first love, pure,
too pure for any boot print,
then through a window’s aperture
I saw a rabbit’s telltale spoor:
tri-footprint; jump; tri-footprint.
So out I walked and broke a track,
a track through our own Yukon,
where trees were bowed with bended back
and branches seemed about to crack;
I climbed a creek to look on
its frozen headwall waterfall,
a fall of pools and plunges;
arrested in a timeless stall,
it hung in air devoid of all
the movement ice expunges.
The creekside path was buried deep
by deepness with no bottom:
black waters roiling in their sleep
below the ice panes would not keep
the wintry vows of autumn;
the icicles would, tear by tear,
in tears dissolve, transforming
to waterfalls again and spear
the air, and you would disappear
in watersheds of warming.
But while you lay by me we two,
a twosome, still and glowing,
were one; your beauty chilled me through—
I wished that I could blanket you
and ease you in your going.
John Beaton writes metrical poetry. His work has been widely published, won numerous awards, and he recites it in spoken word performance. Raised in the Scottish Highlands, he now lives in Qualicum Beach on Vancouver Island.
Today’s a day we won’t get back again,
Once gone it’s gone—there is no bringing back.
You may have done your best to seize it then
Just when you think it’s yours your grip goes slack.
For some it’s the feel of running water—
For me more like that ancient myth-turned-dream
In which you’ve chased your love and almost caught her
When she shapeshifts—Ovid’s favorite meme.
You try whatever works to carpe diem
And yet tomorrow fades to yesterday
Moving from the a.m. to the p.m.
Till you yourself will finally blow away
Without a trace, like you were never here.
Mere absence—now there’s a thought that’s queer.
Donald Carlson lives in Texas. His poems have appeared in The Windhover, The Lost Country, The Pawn Review, Chronicles, and more. His collaborative volume of poetry, with Timothy Donohue and Dennis Patrick Slattery, is Road Frame Window, published by Mandorla Press.
She stands on the corner with her sign,
cars grumbling, waiting for the green,
their drivers jittery jays, the line
eternal. Visibly unseen,
she eyes their windshields. Now it turns
and all, from van to limousine,
tear out as if the city burns.
She clings to her soggy cardboard, blinking
at pellets pelting roadside ferns
as cold as her toes. The day is sinking.
More cars pull up with holiday gifts
(no, not for her). Exhaust fumes stinking,
belching billows, a Chevy shifts
to second. While others follow after,
she shivers in the swirling drifts,
wincing at the blizzard’s laughter.
Martin Elster, who never misses a beat, is a percussionist with the Hartford Symphony Orchestra. He finds contentment in long walks in the woods or the city and writing poetry, often alluding to the creatures and plants he encounters.
Cold enough to freeze the balls
off a pool table. The temp falls,
“wind-chill factor” kicks in, hard,
dog squats before she hits the yard.
“Keeps Out the Riffraff,” our t-shirts say.
(Who dreamed up “wind-chill,” anyway?)
Any ass out in all this weather
deserves three toes and skin like leather.
We snowmobile to jobs and bars,
let our taps drip, plug in our cars,
bundle our kids till they can’t bend over,
curl up with Jim Beam and Russell Stover.
All of this—and the cold still wins.
We’re being punished for our sins
puff the dour preachers stiff with fear.
Well, Armageddon outta here.
Jane Greer founded and edited Plains Poetry Journal in the 1980s. Her poetry collection, Bathsheba on the Third Day, was published in 1986. Her new collection, Love Like a Conflagration, is looking for a publisher.
Remember, darling, you are no one else.
That constant murmuring inside your head
pours out a stream of story no one tells
but you. And pretty soon when you are dead
you’ll take it with you, going underground,
a dry bed where there was a river once.
For now, although you aim for sense in sound,
comparatively speaking, you’re a dunce.
But never mind. The smallest seepings flow
together, unimagined and unseen,
and these white pines are sucking far below
to lift the darkness up alive and green.
And nothing is original or new
but you. There’s ever only one of you.
Barbara Loots has been published over five decades in many poetry places. Her collections are Road Trip and Windshift, a finalist for the 2019 Thorpe Menn Award for Literary Excellence.
for Brandy Poiry
“If a man knows to do good...”
Everywhere but here is hell.
Hips circulate in crimsoned light
to trumpet flares and trombone swells.
I burn through cash like it’s a blight:
whiskey for me, cocktails for friends,
and generous tips for all the staff.
Elsewhere, tonight, a young life ends.
A sax emotes. Our waiter laughs.
I’ll lounge around tomorrow morning,
enrobed in white, peruse the news.
Its details sanitized for story:
Deceased is black. The shooter, blue.
I’ll close the page, step out for air,
return my neighbor’s wave and smile.
But for God’s grace, we’d be elsewhere.
Everywhere but here is hell.
Richard Porter is co-founder of Pub Hound Press, an independent publisher dedicated to writers from Joplin, Missouri. His work has appeared in The Asses of Parnassus and the occasional bathroom stall.
I dream of whispers in a distant wood
And search philosophy for life’s design.
Is it myself I have misunderstood?
I light a scented stick of sandalwood,
then pour a glass of cheap Australian wine
and dream of whispers in a distant wood.
Listen and drink: a solvent livelihood.
Listen and think: the sound is anodyne.
Is it myself I have misunderstood?
Of what we cannot speak (like pain) we should
treat silently, said Ludwig Wittgenstein,
before he dreamt of whispers in the wood,
of language, loss and loneliness withstood,
of words that seem far more than just a sign.
Was it the self that he misunderstood?
Who seeks the beautiful, the true, the good?
Or is it poetry we should decline.
I dream of whispers in a distant wood
It is myself I have misunderstood.
Conor Kelly is an Irish writer who has had poems published in Irish, British, American, and Canadian magazines. He curates the Twitter site @poemtoday dedicated to the brief poem.
On this page we publish selections of metrical poetry from our contributors. Submit your blank verse, metrical rhyming poems, villanelles, sonnets, and other formal poetry to betterthanstarbucks2@gmail. We love both traditional and experimental forms and subjects, and please do submit limericks and lighthearted verse as well! Vera Ignatowitsch
A Bibliophile’s Pipe Dream
(After visiting the Cornish National Trust property on its tidal island)
St Michael’s Mount commands Mounts Bay –
The castle, that is, I should say,
Which soars above the circling spray.
And there old books in leathery rows
Laugh at the wind-whipped breakers, those
That deal the rocks great thudding blows.
Its library has a window-seat,
A situation hard to beat
In winter with a log-fire’s heat . . .
To read . . . then wait, all warm within,
For tea and toast and biscuit-tin
Or tonic with a splash of gin . . .
Ah, no! I find to my disgust
Such visions dismally non-plussed:
‘Closed now till spring. The National Trust.’
Jerome Betts edits Lighten Up Online in Devon. His verse has appeared in Light, The Asses of Parnassus, The New Verse News, Parody, Per Contra, Snakeskin, The Hypertexts, and various anthologies.
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