April 2: The “B” Word

As I explained yesterday, I am going to be taking on a poetic device a day, from The Poet’s Dictionary: A Handbook of Prosody and Poetic Devices by William Packard, in celebration of National Poetry Month. You are invited to play along.

Yesterday, the device was Alexandrine.  Because I wrote one alexandrine (one line), I later posted a poem, because I did also promise a poem every day this month.

Working with today’s device, however, will involve making the effort to draft a complete poem.  Now might be a good time for a Warning!  I am not afraid to post “bad poems.”  Remember – in my world, “bad poems” are known as “drafts.”  I am embarking on an exercise here.  Revisions will be in order, certainly; I am transparently starting at the beginning of the process, and inviting you to start with me.    Have at it!

Today’s device is:

Ballade:  Early French form with twenty-eight lines divided into three octave STANZAS, each stanza having a RHYME scheme of a/b/a/b/b/c/b/c with the final line as a repeated REFRAIN line; the ballade ends with a four-line ENVOI rhymed b/c/b/c with the final line being the refrain line.

[all caps indicate another poetic device that is defined in the book].  What follows is my first draft of an attempt at a ballade.  There are many things wrong with it, but I would prefer to let you find them on your own.  Thanks for reading!

Woman: 1952
(by Suzanne Baldwin Leitner)

She thought of Sarai, Abram’s wife,
years after Sunday school was behind
her; she had made her way into her own life
without once consulting her own mind.
Here is a secret about the ties that bind:
Good girls are told what to do, and do them.
She had walked into marriage without a fight.
And then she walked out again.

Her own hands were strange and white
her palms taut and lined.
She stared at them and silently recited
the verses she learned as a child.
Not quite a prayer, but it passed the time
while she waited for the physician.
He told her the news. She briefly cried,
and then she walked out again.

She knew that good girls never cut ties,
even the ties with a strangling bind.
She thought of her mother, the Pious.
She wondered how it was “going to be fine,”
as the doctor had said, though his eyes
were vacant and false, like his grin.
She told her estranged husband, watched him cry
and then she walked out again.

She disappeared for a long time
and let the years pass without explanation.
She made her way back into her own life
and then she walked out again.

4 thoughts on “April 2: The “B” Word

  1. Oh no , a for real poet.

    With skills and schemes, and humor and courage.

    I want no part of this. I might learn something. Might find out there’s more to it all then just rank wordplay.

    I need to keep my hack status, you understand.

    So I read the poem and all the aaa-bbbin’. More then once in fact. And then read it aloud to my long of leg cutie.

    I got the narrative, I think. And the rhyme scheme.

    And enjoyed it immensely.

    Thanks ..I think.


  2. suzanneleitner

    Doug, I read your “rank wordplay” earlier today, and you’re no hack! When I read your poem Razor Wire Paladin, I thought of Declan MacManus (a.k.a. Elvis Costello), whom I believe to be one of the greatest song lyricists of the 20th century. So there.

    Your comment actually has brushed up against the secret lesson I mentioned yesterday, but it’s too early in the month to let that cat out of its bag.

    Thanks for reading and commenting. I look forward to more back and forth. As for the aaa/bbb’n, sorry you had to see that – there’s a reason I mostly write free verse!


    1. I didn’t make my self clear. I’m sorry. I thought your rhyming was fine and worked.

      My mention of the aa/bb stuff was to say I had read your explanation concerning the type of poem: that I was trying to dig the device.

      There. You aaa and bbb nicely.

      And I’m a big fan of Costello. Have been since “aim is true”

      And you write politics. Which stripe?

      1. suzanneleitner

        Doug, I didn’t take your comment as a slight at all; I am just not comfortable with writing rhyming poetry (say that 3 times fast).

        As for my politics, I lean left, which looks much lefter than it used to look because, in my opinion, the conversation (so-called) has skewed so much right lately. I like good ideas. Period. And I wish we could discuss them rationally and a little more dispassionately in this country.

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