Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Tea steeped sunrise (inventing a flock of lunes)

Just before
dawn, rain. The peepers
stop singing.

Wan light seeps
through the window, shakes
me awake.

Cold air on
my toes. I toss logs
on the fire,

open blinds, set
water to boil. Tea
steeped sunrise,

loon calling.
How do they know how
soon the rain?

Notes: (inventing a flock of lunes) 

Anyone who knows much about loons, the birds, as opposed to lunes, the poetic form (more on that in a moment), knows that loons rarely flock; they tend to appear as loners. Still, we have sometimes seen them gather on the open water off of Quoddy, out among the islands, as the seals do. And in the summer now and then, we hear them playing call and response with the coyotes on the hill. The lune, on the other hand, a poetic form also known as "American Haiku," can be multiplied and assembled in what poet Craig Santos Perez calls "flocks of lunes." He stretches his out sideways, as if in flight; my lunes, on the other hand, float, as if isolated on the water, rather more like loons.  Here, in Nova Scotia, it is said that the loons' cries predict a change in weather: rain, or the end of rain. 

Typically, lunes come in two forms. One, invented by the poet Robert Kelly, consists of a 13 syllable verse, divided into three lines thus: 5 syllables/ 3 syllables/ 5 syllables. The other form, invented by poet Jack Collum, is composed of 13 words, divided similarly into three lines: 3 words/ 5 words/ 3 words.  While lying awake two nights ago, and thinking about Craig Santos Perez's flocks of lunes, (which work on the Kelly syllable system), I began to compose the poem above in my head. Perhaps because it was the middle of the night, I scrambled the organization of the syllables, and composed instead according to a schema that runs 3 syllables/ 5 syllables/ 3 syllables. When I realized my error, I tried out a number of revisions, but in the end, preferred the simplicity and spareness that my stripped down version of the lune gave me. Who says mistakes aren't generative? And why can't we invent novel forms of lunes? What is poetry for, if not such small, but sublime, pleasures?

Image note: The photograph is of the view from my front windows, overlooking West Quoddy Bay.

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