April 11, 2008

Poetry Friday: Taking Up Swords

High school is... kind of a battle.

We all remember -- some of us more vividly than others. There are the daily skirmishes with academic entanglements offset by intermittent clashes with authority over real or imagined offenses. The subtle disputes over position within groups, the internal battles to hold the line, to not pout or whimper or weep at the wrenching disappointments and setbacks. It seems at every moment there's something to test the resolve, to challenge the dreams, to weigh down and hold back the dreamer.

High school.

A few of us set out to remember it from a new angle.

It started... with one insanely optimistic woman who was joined in both insanity and optimism by a group who jokingly began to call themselves Poetry Princesses. It seemed a good title for a group of women armed with the rules of poetic form, but not yet the power needed to make them work. Princesses aren't quite the heads of kingdoms, after all, but they know the rules, and can be counted on to take up arms to rigorously defend them.

And to continue with the strangely twisted metaphor, a princess is a not-yet Queen, like a high school student is a not-yet adult - full of the promise of what will be, armed with the determination to become. In honor of the high school students we know, and were, and wanted to be, we wrote a crown of seven interlinked sonnets. It was an amazing undertaking.

Our crown leaped into life with Sara Lewis Holmes, leapt into flight with Laura Salas, found its dancing shoes with Miss Rumphius' Tricia, waxed luminous with Liz in Ink (who has the whole crown at her site), became a mist-shrouded island here, then a rock in a stream at A Wrung Sponge, and finally hurtled off into space with Kelly at Writing and Ruminating.

Imagine the whistle of the épée as we salute you. The battle is engaged. En garde!



Cutting A Swath

Sonnet V

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.

The Poetry Princesses, © 2008, All Rights Reserved

Poetry Friday is hosted at A Wrung Sponge, where you will find myriad other lovely bits of poetry, though nothing like this original linkage of royalty. Happy Poetry Friday, and thank-you, Poetry Princesses, for lending me your shields.

15 comments:

laurasalas said...

Tanita, I love this. And what a gorgeous explanation of our Poetry Princess nickname!

Small magics my cold iron will displays,

Four years I serve. I pace this treacherous road,

You so completely captured high school for me, not because of school itself, but that time of my life. It was a sentence I served with "cold iron will," just waiting to start my real life.

I love the fantasy language of your sonnet, too. It works SO well.

Sara said...

I hope you already know how battle-worthy your sonnet is, but I'll say it again: your language is divine and mighty.

Tricia said...

For me, what hits home is:

Unnamed, traversing now this darkling plane

called school.

I suppose most high school students feel unnamed, or at least I did. I see those battles so clearly in your sonnet.

I am off to grade papers with your words in mind. I will display my cold iron will and "stand rowan-straight, unbowed" (particularly when they argue about grades).

Well done fellow princess!

writer2b said...

"Those Named hold sway: I do hereby refuse

To be so owned; stand rowan-straight, unbowed."

The part of me that remains in high school says, amen!

I like the explanation of the princesses, too. You all produced some amazing poetry.

HipWriterMama said...

I do hereby refuse
To be so owned; stand rowan-straight, unbowed.

So awesome. I've been re-reading a few of Jane Yolen's books and your piece made me think of her wonderful way of words.

Liz in Ink said...

OK, well. This makes me cry. Thank you so much for your take on what we were doing -- not so much poetically, but in terms of human understanding. I think you just articulate beautifully what we felt but did not know. Plus, your sonnet?!?! Small magics, indeed. (Folks -- what TadMack fails to mention when she talks about insanity and optimism and all is that she won the speed sonnet award in the group. While most of us sat on ours for weeks, hers arrived just about 24 hours after I'd finished mine?!?!? So I'm not sure if she's a princess or perhaps a sorceress. I'm just sayin'.)

jama said...

Love the sonnet and your remarks. The battle imagery is perfect, and all your strokes swift and clean. With "fey, fickle, Royalty arcane," I heard your voice. I would have known it was your sonnet even if it wasn't identified beforehand. You nailed it!

Kelly Fineman said...

I have told you during out poetry princess discussions that your sonnet is my favorite, and I'm saying it again here for the world to see. Your references to the works of other poets (specifically, the use of the "darkling plain", which hearkens to Matthew Arnold's poem, "Dover Beach", and the reference to Thomas Hardy with "madding crowd", plus your use of "small magics" and all the imagery of a tough, unbending tree (the rowan, which calls to mind for me some of the references to women in Tolkien's Lord of the Rings) inside the garb of a maiden completely knocked me down and, well, impressed the crap out of me.

I am delighted to have worked with you on this project, and look forward to reading more of your poetry in days to come.

Cloudscome said...

Hear, hear! With all the rest I have to say you bowled me over with your explosion of language and images. My favorite lines:

Swift, fleeting, “Shadow” is my sobriquet.

Invisible. To none allegiance owed,

My scholarship I practice, moments seize.

It called to my inner self-named high school poet spirit. "Sobriquet" - a word I should have learned long ago... but it came as a gift in your sonnet!

a. fortis said...

Woo hoo for the Poetry Princesses! Fabulous. But I just have to say...SOBRIQUET!!! ;D Anyway. I loved your introductory description of high school. I couldn't help thinking that things don't really change as much as we'd like to think they do from high school into adulthood, at least as far as social structures go...

Karen E. said...

I particularly loved this:

"Those Named hold sway: I do hereby refuse

To be so owned; stand rowan-straight, unbowed."

and this:

"Small magics my cold iron will displays,"

Fabulous! I'm caught up in the well-deserved giddiness of unveiling of this undertaking. I'll raise a glass of wine tonight to the Princesses of Poetry!

kristydempsey said...

Yes, I love

"I do hereby refuse

To be so owned; stand rowan-straight, unbowed"

along with the others who have mentioned it. It's been running through my mind all day!

Susan T. said...

Cool, TadMack. Rowan-straight, small magics, and all.

Mme T said...

I am thinking that you have been much influenced by all that Scottish history you are surrounded by over there. They've always been fiercely independent.
It was a pleasure to read your poem because you used so many words I haven't heard for a long time: madding, fey, swath! Wonderful words. My favorite line is the first. It's a perfect opening line.
"My name will be too small to hold me soon."

Mary Lee said...

Poetry Sorceress, indeed!