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AC Benus

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Everything posted by AC Benus

  1. Hi and Welcome! This is an open thread, intended for poets to help one another on GA. It's not tied to any one piece, but a forum where we can exchange ideas, get feedback on a project we're intending to post, or one that's already up. Questions and advice are always welcomed, so don't be shy about stopping by now and again to say 'hey.'
  2. You have the personal POV, and that is important. We can relate to what it's like to slip into "Mother Nature's" house, so no need to beat yourself up over the poem as-is. In general, the way you construct a Tanka should use the props of the world around you to be the mirror of what you are feeling. For this poem specifically, do you feel bound by the clothes needed to venture out, or you feel like you are in a safe cocoon, protected? Those might me sentiments to highlight if you want. Again, these are things other can relate to. Please let the examples in the prompt sink in a bit longer
  3. AC Benus

    Downy Woodpeckers and Nuthatches

    Delightful. I'd love to move a whole family of nuthatches to feed on the fleas waiting to spring loose in my garden. My dogs would thank them
  4. Yay! Glad the self-check list is proving useful. Looking forward to seeing your Tanka
  5. AC Benus

    Poetry Prompt 1 – Tanka

    Thank you, Parker ❤️
  6. AC Benus

    Poetry Prompt 1 – Tanka

    Amen! Choicely put
  7. Our dear friend @Lyssa has made a very important translation of Schiller. That men in 19th century Germany could be so open and free in their expression of same-sex love astounds me. Part of why it is so little known in the English-speaking world is due to homophobic censorship in the form of inaccurate translations meant to deceive.


    Please check out her rendering of Julius to Raphael. The nature of the 4th stanza was a revelation to me, and all due to a simple and powerfully accurate translations. Well done, Lyssa!!!




    1. Show previous comments  1 more
    2. Mikiesboy


      oh wow... that's amazing

    3. Puppilull


      I'm happy to hear from her, even from afar. I miss her POV here.

    4. dughlas
  8. AC Benus


    Thanks for your help, Mac. I will probably be calling on your services again for later prompts
  9. AC Benus

    Poetry Prompt 1 – Tanka

    Deep breath, and let inspiration settle your mind. Winter is a time of year where we feel strong things -- the cold, prickles of warmth -- so let them into your clam mind and bloom. I know you can do it, and I want to make Tanka an item of your poet's toolkit.
  10. AC Benus

    Zero to Hero, a Guide

    A step-by-step course to teach yourself the art of Writing Poetry
  11. AC Benus

    Poetry Prompt 1 – Tanka

    . Poetry Prompt 1 Let's Write a Tanka! It’s an impossible situation to be in, a role where I have to try and define a thing by saying what it is not. Tanka are not Haiku! This is a Tanka: Under the mountain, On the wild moor where we met, The wind batters me To look for what can be found And to think of you no more.[1] If I had a magic wand, I’d wave it to remove your preconceived notions concerning poetry before we go on. But it’s especially important you forget everything you learned in high school about Japanese poetry. For unlike the abstract thing we think of as Haiku, Tanka are direct and personable. You won’t ever find, or shouldn’t at least find, a Haiku using the words “I,” or “me,” or “my,” or “mine.” In examples like the Tanka above, they are essential. Tanka are emotional poems where the poet is present and guiding us through both the sights and feelings of the scene. A personal POV is all-important.[2] I can’t overstate that enough: Tanka are subjective poems rife with feelings, and because they’re not abstract, should be easy to relate to. This is a very ancient form of poetry. Fujiwara Sadaie edited an anthology in 1235 in which he collected only this style of verse and presented them sequentially. The first one dates to approximately the year 660 and the last from the year the anthology was collected. Hyakunin Isshu, or The Issue of a Hundred People, provides one Tanka each from one hundred poets. In the 20th century particularly, many fine Japanese writers have seen the potential in the Tanka's open form and revived it richly to modern tastes. [3] So specifically, Tanka consists of five lines, which are arranged in the following syllables: 5–7–5–7–7. This forms a cohesive stanza where one thought flows into the next with no periods or hard stops at the end of each line (commas, semicolons, dashes, etc. are not ‘hard’ stops but gentle pauses, which are perfectly fine). The stanza is the basic unit of poetry. Be it Couplet, Tanka, Elegy, or the Quatrain of a Sonnet, the stanza has to be one unified effort and not a string of chopped-up lines. Please remember that. Now let’s look at more examples, keeping the points just mentioned in mind. Here is a translation of No. 94 by Sangi Masatsune from the Hyakunin Isshu: Adrift Yoshino’s Mountain breeze, the autumn brings Sounds of honest work, And my cold family manor Becomes as supple as cloth. This poem puts you there with Sangi as he sits on his veranda writing and listening to the lively villagers doing laundry in a nearby stream. There is an impromptu feeling to the poem, but also a great and timeless connection to the way things are or have always been. Japanese poets seek this timelessness through references to nature (like the mountain breeze) and to indications of season (like this poet’s plainspoken “autumn”). Here’s another example: Say that love is like The wind-tossed boats of the sea; Say that they are like A pathless, rudderless thing, And your voice will have rung true. This is No. 46 by Sone no Yoshitada. With this poem, the seasonal word of “wind-tossed” is more subtle but still conjures images of springtime gales along the seashore. All traditional Japanese poetry and songs contain a seasonal reference, and your Tanka should too, but I want to show you it can be casual. For instance, summer can be brought to your Tanka with 'suntan lotion,' 'public pool,' '4th of July,' 'beach blanket,' anything that puts the reader in the heat of the season. Likewise, for winter, 'robin' (which is associated with Christmas in Britain), 'furnace grate,' 'road salt,' 'heating bill,' 'creaking roof,' 'tire chains,' and on and on can serve to put the reader where you are in the time of year. I hope you get the idea and are inspired. Anything that says season to you is fair game for a Japanese-style poem. In addition, I hope you were paying attention to the stanza form in the examples. The lines move the central theme of the poem forward without coming to a stop at any line except the final one. If you make a poem of five self-contained lines, each ending in a hard stop, you have not written a Tanka. This brings me to another wand-waving moment. When you come to write your Tanka in English, be sure to leave room for the connecting words and essential elements of grammar. Words like to, for, by, when, if; articles like a, an, the; subjects, objects, verbs, etc., for we wish to create a naturally complete stanza. They don’t cut out these words in Japanese, and it’s even more of a challenge to stay in the syllable counts in that language, but because of it, it’s considered a sign of poetic accomplishment. In English, Haiku has developed its own path away from the originals for a hundred years now, and our high school teachers bombarded us with poems lost in what I call “haiku-speak,” or a doggerel of choppy lines, missing words and hard stops to prevent flow. Don’t succumb to thinking ‘it’s abstract’ and okay. For Tanka, it’s not okay. Now, I mentioned Tanka has had a great modern revival, and so it has. Here are three examples by Saito Fumi; her work is incredibly good. Living through an age Making of base violence Something beautiful, I’ll keep singing all the days My too-childish lullabies. When there’s neither man Nor horse to be seen passing On top of a bridge, It’s at this time it can show The true nature of a bridge. Don’t resemble me – Please don’t – I tell the woman Whom I am sketching, Who has the beautiful grin Of a wanton seductress. Here’s another modern stunner by Okamoto Kanoko: The bursting cherries, Blooming with all their might, Bid me to please stop; To give them some attention, If not all of my power. I hope you find these motivating. Tanka may be a bit of a challenge to master, but once you do, the sky’s the limit with it, which is why I love the form. In my life I’ve written more Tanka than any other type of poem. Studying it now also sets up so much that’s needed later, like understanding line length via syllable count and the importance of thinking of a stanza as one thought progressing over the course of several lines. The Prompt: Write a series of at least five Tanka set in the season of the year where you are right now. Let small things inspire you as you go about your daily routine. Anything that makes you stop and consider your feelings is ideal. As final inspiration, here’s one written by Shuku Choku, but can you guess the season? Arrowroot blossoms Pressed down in the muddy ground Yet retain freshness: Some wandering soul before mine Has already walked my path. Self-Review: Now that you have written several Tanka, I ask you to perform a self-check against the following set of questions. If you answer ‘Yes’ to one or more of them, and this leads to feelings of dissatisfaction with your results, turn to the appendix List of Random Prompt Ideas and choose one to try the Tanka challenge again. Check this list of questions with your second attempt and wheedle those ‘Yes’s down to a comfortable level before going on to the Haiku prompt challenge. Ask yourself DID I: - Fall short or go over on the syllable counts? - Fail to place my personal POV in the Tanka? - Make hard stops at the end of each line? - Treat the poem as a bunch of random lines and not a stanza? - Regress to haiku-speak? - Fail to make my Tanka unified and flowing? - Sacrifice basic grammar to achieve syllable count? - Have a basic seasonal reference? (This one is more excusable if you feel you were aiming for a more modern Tanka.) Remember, this course is designed to build knowledge and confidence step by step, so please feel comfortable with Tanka before you proceed. For some final Tanka inspiration, here are a few brilliant translations of Saito Fumi’s work by Edith Marcambe Shiffert & Yuki Sawa. In case you think I am alone in avoiding the dreaded haiku-speak, take a look: http://www.readingbifrost.com/poem-of-the-week-tankas-by-fumi-saito/ [1] No. 58 by Dani no Sammi from the Hyakunin Isshu. All translations are mine. [2] In Haiku, the exact opposite is true: the poet’s POV is not there at all. Instead, the scene is only painted in words as if untouched by human sentiments. It’s just an image where the reader is expected to bring some meaning to the sight through his or her own experiences. [3] You will occasionally see the term Waka used interchangeably with Tanka, but Waka is more properly reserved for the entire genre of traditional poetry. Waka is an umbrella category simply meaning “Japanese Verse,” and we will be studying more of its forms later on. _
  12. AC Benus


    Hehe, there's a reason I waited to the middle of the month to start this new series. After the new years resolutions are left behind, it's time to focus again on day-to-day pleasures and challenges. Thanks, Merkin! First Prompt Challenge will be up soon.
  13. AC Benus


    Thanks, Def. I'm looking forward to getting back into the swing of writing and posting these prompts. It's a challenge/learning opportunity for me as well. Muah!
  14. AC Benus

    Warum ziehst du mich unwiderstehlich

    Thank you, Def! I do hate to see poems lacking female pronouns twisted and contorted through bad translations. The more poetry I read in translation, the more I question what's been censored. Surprisingly, a lot has. Thanks, as always, for reading my posts. You are the best!
  15. AC Benus


    Thank you for your kind support, Tim. Muah
  16. AC Benus

    Zero to Hero, a Guide

    Thanks, Backwoods Boy. The first prompt will be up tomorrow
  17. AC Benus


    Thanks for reading, Parker!
  18. AC Benus


    . by AC Benus Introduction – Hello! And Welcome! This book is intended for the passionate novice, perhaps the person who writes already but wants to learn more. It’s best to forget all preconceived notions about Poetry and pick up this ‘how-to’ guide with an open mind. The prompts are sequential and intended to build upon one another in the manner of a true course of study. In other words, you should take the challenges one by one and not move on until you feel comfortable with your results. To help you, I provide a self-check list of items at the end of each Prompt. Use it to review your work, and proceed to the next lesson only if you feel you’ve completed the task fully. The Prompts are meant to be inspiring. Sometimes they’ll be challenging and ask you to dig deep and truly examine how you see the world. Many people find inspiration in nature; others in urban noise and confusion. Whichever type of poet you are, first and foremost be true to your drive to reach out and connect to others via your words. For as Hart Crane said, you must be drenched in words to write poetry. For some of us, Poetry is suffused in everything already; inspiration comes from everywhere. We write because we live and cannot divide one from the other. This book is for you also. For you will not have trouble being inspired, or constructing your feelings in free-form verse, but the goal of taking these forty Prompt challenges is to built your personal tool box of form. Slowly, you will absorb the new techniques and have a way to let inspiration tell you the ‘perfect’ mode of expression for your work. The more you know, the easier it will be to connect to others via what you construct. So, what is Poetry? What is Verse? The distinction is important to keep in mind, for any single line can be poetic – that is, have melody coupled with meaning – and many writers were masters of Poetry through prose. Think of Melville’s “Call me Ishmael”, or Mark Twain’s “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.” These are pure poetry and delight or challenge in their own way by being memorable and melodic. But Verse is something much different. The best person to ever define it concisely was Edgar Allan Poe. In his own how-to book, The Rationale of Verse, he tells us “Verse, from the Latin vertere, to turn, is so called on account of the turning or recommencement of the series of feet,” by which he means, turning a single line of poetry into a second (or third, or fourth, or however many you need). Verse is all about turning that line at the appropriate place and leading the reader into deeper meanings within your poem; not to do it randomly, as the author of The Raven warned, but where it is most meaningful. Petronius was very hard on young poets, mocking them in the Satyricon as people who dribble some words on a page and are arrogant enough to think they’ve changed the world. For me personally, I have more hope, for even the likes of Sapho, Whitman, Homer, Longfellow, Shakespeare and Frost – and dare I add Petronius himself – were all young novices once. But after they had learned some and cut their teeth, they indeed did change the world with their poetry. I have faith you and I have the same potential. I have provided these inspiring quotes to begin your immersion into the liquid sea of words. For as you can tell, they have the power to transmit thoughts and feelings across time and cultures. We poets understand that best of all, and indulge in the enjoyment of knowing we can always improve the way our message is delivered. Please proceed into this book with the open mind I mentioned earlier, and add to it an open heart as well. Remember, you may be writing for yourself, but others will be moved too, that is, if you’ve done it right. But then again, I know you can do it right every time. Good luck and please enjoy this Poetry Prompt adventure with me as your guide. _
  19. AC Benus

    An Unkindness of Ravens

    I think all of us who suffer from or have suffered from depression can closely relate to this poem. "An unkindness of ravens" is a striking way to give form to the wordless feeling.... Hope you are putting those feeling aside soon, or at least by the time you see this As always, thank you for sharing your gift with us.
  20. AC Benus

    Warm January Skyscrapers

    Warm and inviting poems, even though written in the cold of January. Sometimes we all just need a comforter - safe and warm. Thanks for sharing with us
  21. *gaysome chatter from the milling crowd. "New book; new book; he's got a new book!"*


    Yes! It's here, at long last





  22. I'm getting ready to launch my how-to book on poetry. Ready as in like, in a matter of hours not days! hehe Many of the existing Poetry Prompts have been revised and greatly expanded, which is certainly the case for the first one. I hope everyone who's already participated in the Poetry Prompts challenges will take another look and get inspired all over again. In addition, I've been told the introduction I've freshly penned for the book is on the inspiring side too. I hope you will all join me. I plan on issuing the chapters once a month, on the 15th, so there is time to work on your offerings and post them in collections for others to track and follow. Periodically, I'll post little breather essays on various topics. These will appear more or less at the start of a month and hopefully further you along with your current challenge. I still have much work to do on it, but I'm looking forward to launching my Writing Poetry into the world; I hope you'll be happy to see it
  23. For topics and themes in Changes (I'm honored to create the first story discussion forum for Promising Author, Mikiesboy )
  24. ...thinking of my father this Sunday morning. He'd sing this song when we were in the car for long periods. He learned it from his mother singing it to him... 



    1. mollyhousemouse


      thanks for sharing that AC 💛

      was a beautiful rendition of that hymn

    2. Parker Owens

      Parker Owens

      Thanks, AC. Great memories to share. 

    3. Mikiesboy
  25. AC Benus

    The Party

    So we're off on another adventure with our boys. You never know what life will throw at you, and I think you paint this fact very true to life here

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