We’ve just started working on poetry in my writing class, and (meanie that I am) I decided that we would start with an ode rather than with free verse. Although I love the versatility of a free verse poem, I thought it would make an interesting challenge for my students to start with more, rather than less, structure. Also, considering the sometimes moody nature of teenagers, I wanted my students to really focus on a positive subject. Finally, I figured that I would cure myself of my antipathy for rhyme.
What I remembered while writing my own ode, is that rhyme is not easy and that conforming to an iambic pentameter rhythm sets certain constraints on how you express an idea. In short, writing an ode is no easy task. It is an intellectual puzzle. It requires patience, thoughtfulness, and skill. The emotion is still there, but, is dressed in more sophisticated garb. Also, I have learned to appreciate the subtlety of rhyme.
The Glacial Ishkinish
Adamantine, turbulent Ishkinish
Carving granite troughs through boreal groves
Of shadowed fir, mossy pine. Relinquish
Your leaping, swirling, foaming fandango,
And pool aloof amidst the opulent
Black-stockinged adiantum pedatum.
There, sing of pragmatic and poignant
Travels … serpentine, green and darksome.
Teal coated transient of veiled origin
Stay. Drink. Partake. Until elsewhere bidden.
Unspoiled, scarlet-tongued, dewy maids of spring
Growing to frilled, black-gartered madams
Of summer. Linger long in cascading
Syllables of effervescent freedom
Then furl your pinnate fans…
Impudent coquettes. Wayward tomboys. Dip
Your emerald skirts into depths unfathomed
And from glacial waters let earth acquit –
Oh, you red-shoed girls with faces aglow
Teasing cool Ishkinish to sweet furlough.
Curling round in a lazy promenade
Through sun-sweet shadow and dawn’s breaking mist
The colonial beauties his measure sought ~
All ~ to charm inscrutable Ishkinish.
Fruitful in part. The mighty river pooled
In shallow eddies on their fields of green.
Marshy maidens let down their hair – tenfold –
Then, the brackish beck, his solitary stream
Continued. . . Leaping, lunging, laughing
Into the adamantine spray…