Friday, May 9, 2008

Friend Friday - back and forth Crown Sonnet!

Wow, this is no small back and forth project. I'll let the writer, Liz Garton Scanlon take it from here. Sit back and enjoy! Thank you Sara, Laura, Tricia, Liz, Andi, Tanita and Kelly for sharing this amazing piece!

"Six months ago, seven bloggers – most of whom had only ever met virtually – came together to write a poem collaboratively. A back-and-forth poem, if you will. The bloggers, all women, live across the country and beyond. They are authors and teachers and mothers and poets, and they are either brave or crazy because they decided to write a Crown Sonnet together.

A Crown Sonnet uses the form like a bead on a necklace – stringing together seven in all. The last line of the first sonnet is used as the first line of the second sonnet; the last line of the second sonnet is used as the first line of the third sonnet, and so on. Those repeating lines are the thread the necklace hangs on and, in the end, what ties the whole piece together. The final sonnet starts with the last line of the sixth sonnet and ends with the first line of the very first sonnet. A circular feat, in rhyme and iambic pentameter to boot.

So the Poetry Seven (who also called themselves Poetry Princesses because they were sufficiently charmed with one another and this epic task) drew straws and began – each writer working at her own pace, with ample time granted for fear and denial. Along the way they agreed the poems would be about teens – and for a teen audience. And they agreed to embody the themes of tribe and identity. Beyond that, they were left with the proscribed form and the blank page.

When the first writer wrapped hers up, she passed it onto number two, and it moved this way for months – growing by fourteen lines each time until finally, it was finished. Or was it? These are writers, after all. Endless tweakers of all things wordly. And if they were going to share their efforts with the world, they were going to revise their efforts.

So they dumped their Crown into an interactive Google doc and went at it. And this is when the real back-and-forthing began. They questioned and commented and praised and suggested. Meter was corrected, rhymes toyed with, voices refined. Fear and denial were nowhere to be seen! No time for that, with sweat on their brows and hand tools chipping away at things.

Until, before they knew it, they were satisfied. And they donned the necklace and trotted it out on their blogs. Liz shared the entire Crown – in celebration of national poetry month. Kelly explained the mechanics, Tanita - the theme , and Tricia and Laura discussed the process. All seven were almost giddy with accomplishment, see Sara and Andi's here and here.

But it was more than that. Sure, they’d completed a crown and were already contemplating the launch of their next project, but there’d also been the added, unexpected delight of intimate connection. Sara, Laura, Tricia, Liz, Andi and Kelly had been wallowing in the joy of their own literary salon – virtually. They’d each amassed fat email folders full of hilarity and critique and friendship, and they’re not giving any of that up anytime soon…"

Cutting a Swath
Sara Lewis Holmes, Laura Purdie Salas, Tricia Stohr-Hunt, Liz Garton Scanlon, Tanita S. Davis, Andromeda Jazmon and Kelly Fineman

As shoes untied, you drag frayed words in trail
Behind your name; unlooped, they flop up steps
And trip your stride, and blacken blue the depths
Of day; from light to dark, from deep to pale,
Undone, you fall; unknown, you pass or fail.
In halls, you thread the holes between your debts
Unpaid, and those who shove your name in reps
Against the rails of crowded stairs. Inhale
The stench! Keep true your shoes! The ups and downs
Will yield a path to out beyond, to where
The mirror turns, and those who hid their marks
And stumbled most will dress and march in gowns
On paths unfound, on tracks, unnamed, a pair
Of laces, ends unbound, leaps free as sparks.

As lacy skirts, unbound, leap free and spark,
the prom girls surge in silk through streamered space.
They orbit round in endless tethered chase
and ride the DJ’s pounding sound through dark
around a nova. Can you see the mark
she brands on planets trapped in her embrace?
There’s just one sun. You risk her hot disgrace
unless you dance in place along her arc.
I can’t revolve and spin in cosmic time.
I won’t resolve to tread another’s trail.
I’m blasting free, eclipsing all my past.
I’m leaving stars and velvet queens behind.
I’ve torn away my atmospheric veil
to fly through life’s grand chaos, bright and vast.

Flying through life's grand chaos, bright and vast,
the tide of days leads down a path unknown.
I know not who I'll be when I am grown,
but want to live a life that's unsurpassed.
I wish to speak in words both true and fast
(when sideways glances make me feel alone
or handsome smiles imply I've won the throne),
while keeping every secret to the last.
But I commit my heart with pen to page,
my feet to races not yet known or run,
my life to every opportunity.
These dreams I hold are bound to come of age,
cannot be stopped and will not be undone,
because they live and breathe to be set free.

Because I live and breathe, to be set free
from each presumption of my proven name,
released from excellence and bland acclaim,
is neither choice nor possibility.
Embracing expectations hungrily,
I place each gaping hour in a frame
and persevere beyond the reach of shame
within this endless valedictory.
But quantitative claims define one bit
of me. Much deeper, stretching ‘gainst my skin
with all the effort of the waxing moon,
the greater self to whom I must commit.
It’s time for me to feed what’s been starved thin –
my name will be too small to hold me soon.

My name will be too small to hold me soon.
Unnamed, traversing now this darkling plane
called school. Fey, fickle, Royalty arcane,
Bequeathed with charm and crowned with mystic runes,

Their sorcerous hold upon the madding crowd
Points social scepter, friend or foe to choose.
Those Named hold sway: I do hereby refuse
To be so owned; stand rowan-straight, unbowed.

Swift, fleeting, “Shadow” is my sobriquet.
Invisible. To none allegiance owed,
My scholarship I practice, moments seize.

Small magics my cold iron will displays,
Four years I serve. I pace this treacherous road,
My eyes, now disenchanted, my soul free.

My eyes now disenchanted; my soul frees
one stifled cry – then peace behind the door.
My room, my sacred space above the floor
is all that shields me from their strident pleas.
They've chosen out the path of life for me;
their scholarship a prize I would ignore.
I spurn the grind of their required score.
I cut them off. I beg them. Let me be!
I mark the time and hide myself away,
no greater plan than lay about and dream
within the walls that guard my fractious will.
My music pounds. The restless shadows play.
Light curls across a ceiling cracked and mean.
My window opens past a well-scarred sill.

Through open window, past a well-scarred sill,
on gritty shingles sheltered under eaves,
I take in cool night air; my anger leaves
with every ragged breath that I exhale.
Your words, a thousand stinging papercuts,
lose power underneath the watching stars.
I see your reigning planet, red-light Mars,
horizon-bound and fixed. Your self-made ruts
preclude adventure or a change of course.
Is this the future that you want for me?
A mediocre life filled with travail,
a boxed-in life of sameness and remorse?
I choose to free myself of your debris:
I’m not afraid to leave you in my trail.


TadMack said...

"Fear and denial were nowhere to be seen!" That has got to be my favorite line.

Tricia said...

Woohoo! The sonnet lives and breathes again! Thanks so much for profiling the project. It was a wonderful experience to work with such amazing women.

Liz in Ink said...

Thanks, Shannon and Kathie, for featuring us. It feels all new again...

Cloudscome said...

What a thrill to see my name listed with these wonderful poets! I still get a jolt when I remember that I really was part of this magic. Thanks for sharing our excitement.

Anonymous said...

How cool! Thank you for featuring our project. It is starting to feel like so long ago, so it was wonderful to read about it from a distance and with fresh eyes. I think we were all both brave AND crazy!

Kathie Sever said...

you guys are awesomeeee! that sonnet is amazing.