by Christine Swint
Poetry is about the grief. Politics is about the grievance.
Each culture has within its collective memory those moments which call for heightened awareness. Sometimes we remember historic events with great joy, but all too often the events trigger grief and mourning.
Poets often write ballads, songs, odes, epitaphs, elegies and elegiac verse to commemorate significant historic events, as they themselves view them, on a personal level. For an overview of occasional verse, you can refer to ‘get the lead out: mark your calendars!’, my article from a few weeks ago.
Poets (website for the American Academy of Poets) details the specifics of the elegy, a type of formal verse we inherited from the ancient Greeks that originally was a sad song or verse written in response to the death of a person or group. The Poetry Archive also has a simple explanation of the modern elegy you might like to read, with sample poems.
Over time, in English, the elegy has evolved into what we now call elegiac verse. Poets have disregarded the more formal elements that traditionally were expected, and have instead chosen to write poems about loss, grief and lament, both for specific people, groups — and even the environment — in a wide variety of forms. (For more information on this topic, as well as a list of example poems, you can read about elegiac verse at Poets.)
The prompt this week is to write an elegiac poem for a person, a group, an event, a pet or even for having the blues – anything you choose. The poem can be a tribute, a lament, a farewell song or a remembrance of a past event.
If you’d like to collaborate, you can try one of these suggestions:
- With a partner, choose an event you both want to remember or mourn, and alternate verses.
- Write eight lines about a specific person or event. Your partner also writes eight lines about the same subject. Mix the lines together randomly, then revise to make an integral poem.
- Write a song. One poet can write the verse, the other the refrain.
- Choose a painting about an historic event with another poet, and alternate your lines, writing to the painting.
This week we will give you a little more time to compose your thoughts, to collaborate with a writing partner, to write your remembrances. Come back next Thursday, Sept. 18.
We are making a schedule change during this time, and if you can’t remember the specifics, don’t worry, we’ll leave a note in the sidebar for easy reference.