Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart

form, poetry, and the empty cup

imageI spent the day researching obscure poetic forms.  And it was enormous fun — thinking about what to pour into those elegant white cups of structure. Along the way, I wrote this poem for my sisters (the least structured of women). But we’ll get to the poem in a moment.

Because what’s important is this whole cup thing. How the shape of the container/ vessel impacts what goes inside. I don’t drink tea (or coffee) from ugly containers — and don’t go making more of that than I’m saying. :)


Anything worth writing deserves the best possible — and most appropriate — presentation. Forms also help us give shape to the booming chaos within, especially at times of grief, or even great joy. I have written elegies and eulogies (and yes, there is a difference), and the shape of a poetic elegy is no more difficult than a spoken eulogy, sometimes easier.

Form, after all, is just shape. It’s drinking green tea from the celadon tea set my husband brought me from Korea, not from the Aynsley pot my tea conspiracy gave me.

author's photo

author’s photo


That’s reserved for when I need to remember I’m loved, and have overcome difficult times.

A sonnet (at least in my hands) is rarely funny, although that can have its own appeal, the subversion of a form. Any more than I’ve ever seen a tragic limerick. The form (and all its cultural readings) doesn’t go there.

It’s why I don’t drink juice from a teacup, or hot chocolate from a goblet. The forms war w/ the content.

This may be more than you ever wanted to hear about form, structure, and cups. :) But it’s important. Honest.


Because people AREN’T cups. And our ‘form’ needn’t dictate (or even seriously impact) our ‘content.’ I don’t have to wear old person clothes — I needn’t eschew my beloved jeans. Any more than I had to wear a dress to my son’s wedding. :) I can reject form, up to a point. (I’m NOT going to a funeral in pyjamas, despite how many students turn up for class that way!)

But in poetry? I’m sticking to my initial claim: form is a great way of enabling content. :)

septolet for four sisters

younger still
our lives stairstep

each sister a tread
family the risers

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