Apr. 4th, 2009

the ramage

Apr. 4th, 2009 11:41 am
Have you ever heard of a form of poetry Robert Bly developed that he calls the "ramage"? At Half Price Books the other day, I happened upon a small illustrated book of poems by Bly called Turkish Pears in August, a reprint from Eastern Washington University Press of a book previously issued in a tiny letterpress edition. It is such a nicely done little book; I couldn't pass it up! I hadn't heard of this before, but Bly came up with a form where you have 8 lines, each of which with around 10 syllables, and the whole poem is centered around some particular sound/syllable like er, um, or, ah, etc. So the poem ends up having a series of usually subtle internal rhymes.

This blogger quotes
Bly's explanation from a Best American Poetry where one of the poems appeared. I like the idea in Bly's explanation about "the delicious flavor of the small sounds reappearing like raisins in a muffin."

The form reminds me of ottava rima but without the iambic meter and the end rhyme. I was interested in ottava rima in grad school, largely, I think, because I was really stuck writing-wise and the shortness plus the contraints of the form helped me to be able to actually finish some poems. It's kind of like a mini-sonnet. I was Googling to see if I could find my favorite poem in this form, "How Did It Seem to Sylvia" by Gjertrud Schnackenberg, but it doesn't appear to be online. I can remember several lines of it from memory, but not the whole poem; I'm pretty sure the last lines are: "The only one who understood the joke, / she slipped out well before the last glass broke."

Anyway, I think I might experiment with Bly's form as I like the size of it and the emphasis on sound in a somewhat quiet way. I thought some others of you might be interested in this form, too.

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