December 31, 2009


I'm happy for any attention that the media can bring to poetry. The new film, Invictus, gets its title from a poem that inspired Nelson Mandela.

"Invictus" is a poem by the English poet William Ernest Henley. It was a poem that gave strength and courage to Mandela while he was incarcerated.

Henley, at the age of 12, was a victim of tuberculosis of the bone. The tuberculosis attacked his foot and caused his leg to be amputated below the knee. He was told by his physician that amputating the leg was the only way to save his life. While hospitalized, he wrote "Invictus." He lived nearly 30 years after his release from the hospital.

...It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

Invictus: Nelson Mandela and the Game That Made a Nation by John Carlin

December 11, 2009

Try A Triolet

We did a triolet prompt back in 1999 on Poets Online using that 8-line form.

Diane Lockward posted recently about a little contest for triolets at Allison Joseph's blog, The Rondeau Roundup. That's a blog that is self-described as being for "the exploration, appreciation and publication of the rondeau, rondel, roundel, rondeau redouble, rondolet, triolet, and ballade."

Want to give it a try? Look at our earlier prompt, Diane's post and Allison's contest.

December 5, 2009

Winter Haiku

Because Poets Online fell a bit behind last month, we are offering a second prompt this month.

Quite simply, write one or more winter, year-end haiku.

Traditionally, haiku (in English) have 3 lines: first line is 5 syllables, second line is 7 syllables and the third line is 5 syllables.

In Japanese, haiku also has three parts but can be written as one line. Instead of counting syllables, the Japanese count sounds.

Haiku is required to suggest a single season. It might be directly, by using a word like snow or ice for winter, or indirectly, by tone or imagery. In our English translations, many times the season word is actually used, but it would probably not appear in the original.

The deadline for haiku submissions is January 3.

3 haiku by Basho

The sea darkens.
The voices of the wild ducks
turn white.

Winter seclusion:
once again I lean
against this post.

Grasshopper— you
be the cemetery watcher
after I die.

Winter haiku by Issa

The older we get,
the more easily tears come
on a long day.

The winter sun-
on the horse's back
my frozen shadow.

Awake at night,
the lamp low,
the oil freezing.

First winter rain-
even the monkey
seems to want a raincoat.

When the winter chrysanthemums go,
there's nothing to write about
but radishes.

First snow
on the half-finished bridge.

The winter storm
hid in the bamboo grove
and quieted away.

December 4, 2009

T.S. Eliot Reading "The Waste Land"

T.S. Eliot reading "The Waste Land." Nothing much visually, but interesting to hear the poet reading.

It has been called "one of the most important poems of the 20th century."

The title alludes to the wounding of the Fisher King and the subsequent sterility of his lands.