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Chapter #18 - Poems in Paragraph Form

i. Try Your Hand at Writing Letter Poems: Look and See if You Have Already Written Some

Letter poems are poems that are written with the dual purpose of communicating with a friend by mail (or email) and creating an artistic form. There are poetry books containing letter poems written from one poet to another. If you look through letters you have written, or saved emails, you may find some that are worth salvaging as letter poems. If not, you might enjoy the challenge of writing letters with the dual purpose in mind. Some poets write all their correspondence in poetic form. A letter poem runs on, line into line, in a way that lends itself well to readings. Here is something similar to the form, but modernized, as it is obviously an email letter, also excerpted. It does not read much like a poem.

To BH May 27, 1997

Good cold tuesday.
It is 56 degrees here. I have the heat turned
off as the chimney cover is being repaired and the
chimney is covered with plastic in case of rain. I
am expecting a call from the sheet metal place
when it is ready. Hope it doesn't get colder, but it
looks like it is going to. We went to FS and
celebrated my mother's 94th birthday, then took
her to the cemetery where her parents, two sisters
and my dad are buried. It was a good day for
being outdoors. A little windy in FS but just barely
cool enough for sweaters. My brother, Larry, had
found an outcropping of sandstone with a lot of
the kind of stone that Indians used for face paint. I
have some of it already, but I got a piece of it to
give to a friend who is into re-enacting frontier life.
I think I told you of the Missouri Free Trappers
who re-enact the era of 1820-1835. We often do
music with them as part of their campfire
presentation to the public.
They have costumes of all the different ethnic
groups of the trappers. There are French, Scottish
and other ethnicities. Their presentation is far
more true to history than the usual muzzle
loaders. They tell stories of life on the frontier.
Their presentation is partly factual and partly
interpretive of the tall tales the trappers might
have told around the campfire. Some of their
stories are taken from historic documents. Others
are their own idea of what they would have done if
they were there. We only have one show coming
up with them this year.

We had a tornado watch but nothing developed.
I began getting the trailer ready for Pueblo
yesterday and will continue today. We really
enjoy camping in it, so it's a pleasure to get
going on it
We really enjoyed the one time we rented a
motor home and took it to a BG festival. It was
muddy and we almost got stuck but had help from
a lot of people in getting it into a tight place and
getting hooked up. It should be pretty easy to get
into the routine. It is no less work than dry
camping but sure brings along the conveniences.
We have been putting the Appalachain
appliances back in the house, tonight. Mim is out
in the garage, cleaning the oven and I am taking a
few moments for writing before time to move the
range and refrigerator. The kitchen is starting to
look like a kitchen instead of a workshop. All the
plastic sheeting covered with dust has been taken
down. The cabinets are unmasked. Who was that
masked cabinet? I think maybe I'll get to wear
some clean sox tomorrow. :) Actually we have
done pretty good on having enough clothes to
last. We have eaten out a little more than we had
been doing. We are not through, though. We have
tile to take down and new panelling. We are going
with a wainscoating and country kitchen look. Mim
is back in the house. Back to moving

It is cold and I am going to bed. Write if you
get work.


ii. Try Yanking Out Short Excerpts of Letter Poems

Don't feel you have to use a whole letter as a letter poem. Excerpts can be a lot of fun to play with. Letter poems usually have titles like April 15 Letter to TS Eliot or something impressive like that. You can do that form or something more original. Substitute the name of your friend. TS Eliot was once as unknown as him or her.

iii. Prose Poems May Flow Like Conversation: Use Clipped Sentences or Fragments

A prose poem is similar to a letter poem but makes no pretense or attempt to communicate specifically to a defined person. It is a cross between conversation, storytelling and poetry. Here is a medium length prose poem. Notice it has much more of a conventional poem tone than the email above.

Construction in 1999

Amid stacks of construction materials, men in
rough clothes, tools hanging on their belts,
carrying boxes, cutting on a brick saw, in a
sheltered area on the building site. Across the
street, women sitting in the window of a coffee
shop, nodding their heads at each other, backs
to the window, and the black man carrying four
bricks with his fingers. A heavy-set man takes
off his hard hat as he climbs into a pickup truck
and puts on a soft cap, backing out a driveway
streaming with water and littered with electric
wires. As the white pickup truck leaves, a black
one backs in with a winch on the front. How
many times have men joked about the winches
on their trucks? Dusty workers walking about
with rumpled hair and evidence of work on the
fronts of their legs, in worn areas and ragged
sleeves. A yellow Bobcat glides and nods as
four men sit in a shady spot, surrounded by
work, completed and yet to do. Music booming
in the coffee shop, not complimentary to the
construction site or my coffee and roll. The
two women have left, but sounds of voices
clatter from behind me, not sticking together in
words. The men on break make no move, as
men, still working, hustle through carrying
pipes and boxes. Strangely in 1999, of the four
men on break, none are smoking. The
Portapotty in light beige stands beckoning, but
none enter, and the four men are gone, break
over, as a man returns with a length of pipe,
and the Bobcat continues to load sand Into the
black pickup truck. My view is between parts of
the new building, looking into a driveway
entrance, where two black men toss bags of
cement on top of the load of sand, one tall and
one short, in their hard hats and long sleeves.
The short man backs the truck closer beside
the cement bags and they pull a mixer trailer
up, and connect on the back of the truck.
Construction goes on as long as poetry.

Don J Carlson

iv. Blend One Form With Another or Make Up Forms

Here is a poem that is a step closer to a simple free verse exercise but still in a block paragraph form which encourages the reader to run lines together with a more prose-like reading voice.

More Lonesome

What is more lonesome, more dead than
that plastic computer music? What is that
instrument? Not really a piano, kind of an
organ, but worse than at the skating rink.
There really is no one there, like the tech
support when you get the recording that
has been left on the job for the holiday
weekend, or the website that was last
updated many years ago.

Article written by Don J. Carlson. All Rights Reserved

For more information, please contact: Don J. Carlson

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