Three of my poems were published in Startled by Joy, the second annual poetry anthology from Gabriel’s Horn Press. My contributions are:
- Confessions of a Non-Foodie: In this twenty-six line alphabet poem, I lament my inability to dive into cooking and exotic cuisines like so many of my friends, family members, and acquaintances.
- On Making Snow Angels with My Son: I wrote this sonnet to commemorate a special backyard winter experience with my youngest child, whom I knew would soon be too old to engage in such exploits with his mom.
- He Gets the Credit: One of many humorous “double dactyl” poems I’ve written, this eight-line formula poem offers a punny perspective on the Louisiana Purchase.
Now that I’ve brought up double dactyl poems, I’ll share some of them below. The poetic form was invented by American poets Anthony Hecht and John Hollander in 1967. I first learned to write these as a senior in high school in my Great Literature of the Western World class. Once I get started writing them, I have a hard time stopping. The strictly defined formula creates a challenge that is just too addicting.
Here are the rules for a double dactyl poem:
- It must be 8 lines long.
- Lines 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, and 7 must be dactylic dimeter (DAH-duh-duh DAH-duh-duh).
- Lines 4 and 8 must be one dactyl followed by a stressed syllable (DAH-duh-duh DAH) and must rhyme with each other.
- Line 1 must be a nonsense line.
- Line 2 must be the name of a person or other subject of the poem.
- Line 5, 6, or 7 must be a single six-syllable double-dactylic word.
- The poem should offer a humorous insight, preferably with a pun, about the poem’s topic.
- Syntactically the poem should be a single sentence.
Sounds easy, right? Try some yourself!
Here are some I’ve written over the years when the urge overtakes me.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Planted ideas for
Others to grow,
Leaving a legacy
To be conformed to by
H. D. Thoreau.
(Ralph Waldo Emerson was an American philosopher who popularized Transcendentalism, which advocated nonconformity. His most ardent student was Henry David Thoreau, who put Emerson’s ideas into practice On Walden Pond.)
While being painted how
Stiffly they stood!
Now suffer under the
Gazers who’d study them
More than Grant would.
(The painting by Grant Wood has become an American icon, studied and mimicked by many.)
Ode to the Dewey Decimal System
Dewey the Decimal
Got all our libraries
Now if you dare to speak
And someone shushes you,
Don’t be surprised!
(Note: The Dewey Decimal System, developed by Melvil Dewey in 1876, still determines the classification of books in libraries today.)
A Mystery Many Women
Would Love to Solve!
Gorgeous and glamorous:
How does it feel,
(Portrait of feminine
Kissing the rapturous
(Note: From 1982 to 1987, American actress Stephanie Zimbalist and co-star Pierce Brosnan played private detectives in the TV comedy series Remington Steele.)
The following verses need no explanation for (1) old movie buffs or (2) science fiction fans.
A Dactylic Review of To Kill a Mockingbird
Father called Atticus
Lawyered a black man to
Save his poor neck;
Southern injustice made
Beautifully acted by
And One for the Doctor
Fighting the Daleks who
He’s the new Dr. Who
‘Cos Paul McGann had to
Since I started this page with a “confession,” I’ll end with another one. I typically wrap up the semester of American Literature for my college students by sharing my double dactyls with them and offering them extra credit for writing their own. After deluging them with a dozen of my creations, I leave them with this one:
Poet Rebecca Hope
Wanted to give her lit
Students a buzz–
Only provided them
Proof of just what kind of
Addict she was.