"One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture
and, if possible, speak a few reasonable words." ~Goethe

~ also, if possible, to dwell in "a house where all's accustomed, ceremonious." ~Yeats

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Desolation of Abode and Boy

A HOUSE WHERE ALL'S ACCUSTOMED, CEREMONIOUSWaiting for the Moving Van ~ June 2004


This picture of Sam polishing the kitchen tiles
was taken in August 2001, on the day we moved in,
pre-figuring the above photograph of Ben,
taken three years later on the day we moved out.

For today, I have pulled together yet another moving day blog post, this time featuring a poem by my son Sam, written back in 2007, when he was a freshman in high school. At the time, I thought he did very well, and I still think so. I am honored to feature him today as my guest blogger.

I confess, it was my idea (interfering mother) for him to experiment with the pantoum style, thinking that the repetition would capture the echo of the gradually emptying house; but all the rest was up to him.


The barren house deserted and devoid,
The home depleted of its frills and friends.
The desolation of abode and boy,
Packed up and sent off to another place.

The home depleted of its frills and friends,
Who will replace the boy that loved her so?
The lonely house cries out; it wants to shout,
“Come Back, Come Back! I can’t be left like this!”

Who will replace the boy that loves her so?
The boy that laughed and cried within her walls,
Humming and thrumming through welcoming rooms,
Now stripped down to bare bones and skeleton.

The boy meanders far from all he loved.
The desolation of the house and boy
Like Tara and Scarlett, separate and sad,
Their barren hearts deserted and devoid.

by Sam McCartney, age 14

To accompany their completed poems, the students were also required to submit an explication of their poetic process. Sam explains:

In my poem "Farewell," I used alliteration, internal rhyme, literary allusion, personification, simile, and hyperbole . . .

Alliteration is definitely my favorite poetic device, so I started my poem with "deserted and devoid" and continued with "frills and friends," "bare bones," "separate and sad" . . .

The lines in which I use internal rhyme are 7: "out / shout"; and 11: "humming / thrumming." Internal rhyme, for me, is a really effective way to enforce an idea. For example, on line 7, I really want to personify the house and enforce the idea that is is crying out in anguish; and on line 11, I really want to enforce the idea of the boy joyfully running through the house.

Finally, I chose an allusion to another work of literature. I think the placement of this device in line 15, which is near the end, really ties the poem together. The whole relationship that is being described throughout the poem between the boy and the house is similar to the feelings that Scarlett, the main character in Gone With the Wind, has for Tara, the house she lived in as a child. She was separated from that house during the Civil War and several years after.

As for the process that I underwent to complete my poem, it was a tough process that caused me a lot of stress and panic. I was trying to write my poem when my mother asked me to download pictures from her camera for her. As I completed this task, I started looking at the photographs from the day I moved from my house in Philadelphia. There was my brother, stretched out forlornly on the kitchen counter - top in our wonderful old house. As I looked at this picture, a flood of memories came to me and the poem wrote itself after that.

When I got the poem written down on paper, I went through a thesaurus to sophisticate* my poem by using words like "meanders" instead of "walks around." Also, I let my mother read the poem to add her insightful ideas. She showed me one of her favorite poems (see below), written in the form of a pantoum, thinking that I might like to experiment with this poetic pattern, in which line 1 of each stanza is an echo of line 2 in the previous stanza (until the final stanza, which can rearrange the pattern in a variety of ways). She also helped me keep the poem in blank verse by using her vast vocabulary** to keep all the lines 10 syllables long.

For example, in line 3, I could not get the line longer than nine syllables. She suggested that I replace the word "house" with "abode," which added one more syllable. Earlier that day, my teacher had suggested that I consider the word "abode" as a synonym for "house," so I knew it was the right choice for my poem.

Using the devices of alliteration, internal rhyme, and allusion taught me a lot about how the sound and sense of a poem go together to create the final impression. In my case, I wanted to capture the sad, hollow feeling of moving day, when residents say farewell and every stray sound echoes bleakly through the empty rooms. I hope my readers experience this feeling when they read my work.


: at this point, Sam's teacher has written in the margin of his final draft: "Is this a real word?" I think the correct answer would have to be: "It is now!

**vast vocabulary
: I swear I did not put Sam up to saying this!


Here is the other poem Sam refers to, the one that I had suggested he read to get a feel for the pantoum:

Always the One Who Loves His Father Most

Always the one who loves his father most,
the one the father loves the most in turn,
will fight against his father as he must.
Neither knows what he will come to learn.

The one the father loves the most in turn
tells the father no and no and no.
but neither knows what he will come to learn
nor cares a lot what that could be, and so

tells his father no and no and no,
is ignorant of what the years will teach
nor cares a lot what that could be, and so
unties the knot that matters most, while each

is ignorant of what the years will teach,
they'll learn how pride -- if each lives out his years --
unties the knot that matters most, while each
will feel a sadness, feel the midnight fears.

They'll learn how pride -- if each lives out his years --
will lose the aging other as a friend,
will feel a sadness, feel the midnight fears.
The child and then the father, world without end,

will lose the aging other as a friend.
And then the child of that one, too, will grow --
the child and then the father, world without end --
in turn to fight his father, comme il faut,

will fight against his father as he must,
always, the one who loves his father most.

by Clement Long

Long's poem can be found on pp 116 - 17,
in Patterns of Poetry: An Encyclopedia of Forms
by Miller Williams

Our Third Floor Landing, like a drawing by Escher!

Even Harry Potter says,
"It felt most strange to stand here in the silence and know
that he was about to leave the house for the last time. . . .
It gave him an odd, empty feeling to remember those times;
it was like remembering a younger brother whom he had lost."
~ J. K. Rowling ~
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, 44

Next Fortnightly Post
Sunday, August 14, 2011

Between now and then, read
my shorter, almost daily blog posts

Looking for a good book? Try
my running list of recent reading

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