P&W Prompt: The Bop

Whew.  This has been a RUN!  But I am at the finish line, I can see the moment that will have me officially caught up and in synch with the weekly poetry prompts published by Poets & Writers Magazine in their installment titled, “The Time is Now.”  Maybe then I’ll be able to post something other than a writing exercise every now and then 😉  Until then, let’s get down to business.  Here’s the prompt from February 7:

The Bop is a form of poetic argument consisting of three stanzas, each followed by a repeated line or refrain. The first stanza is six lines and presents a problem; the second stanza is eight lines and further expands upon the problem; and the third stanza is six lines and either resolves or documents the failure of resolving the problem. Read a Bop poem by Afaa Michael Weaver, who created the form during a Cave Canem writing retreat, and then try writing your own. [Jump to the last draft]

Alright.  When I first read this prompt and then explored the form (isn’t this exciting?!?  A NEW FORM!!), I was immediately reminded of a poem I recently heard Roger Reeves read that is taken from a poem by Frank O’Hara.  Apparently, another poet, Ocean Vuong, also borrowed this idea (that’s what happens to really great ideas when you put a bunch of writers in the room), and so, my title was set before I even knew what I was going to write.  Here’s the first draft:

 

SOMEDAY I’LL LOVE GABRIEL SCALA

after O’Hara, Reeves & Vuong

Let’s hear it from a woman this time, shall we?

After all,

 

And this is where that draft died.  Literally.  I wrote that a week ago and completely stalled.  I’m thinking it’s because of the tone.  I’ve always wanted to write that really sassy poem (think Lucille Clifton and “Homage to My Hips“), but I inevitably get caught up in the forced nature of any such attempts.  It just feels forced and, therefore, inauthentic.  So, let’s try this again.

I began by lining out the form – 3 stanzas with 6/8/6 lines followed by a repeating refrain.  Then, I attempted to fill those lines with the problem (loving Gabriel Scala), an elaboration of the problem, and a resolution.  Here’s where that went:

 

SOMEDAY I’LL LOVE GABRIEL SCALA

after O’Hara, Reeves & Vuong

 

1  Despite her walled & quivering heart,

2  the eternal jiggle in her thighs, her belly

3  round and soft, her cockeyed boobs,

4  like a winking hoot owl, if you squint

5  and tilt, look only slightly askew, even

6  with that chipped front tooth,

someday I’ll love Gabriel Scala.

1  In spite of all evidence to the contrary:

2  not one disappearing father but three,

3  a missing husband or two (there’s no end

4  to the men who leave),

5

6

7

8

Someday I’ll love Gabriel Scala

1

2

3

4

5

6

Not today, but someday I’ll love Gabriel Scala.

Here, I abandoned (it’s an unintended pun, but ha!) the poem again.  I’m not feeling the rhythm, and despite the rather heavy content, it’s also missing a sense of urgency or emotional authenticity.  The first stanza begins in the tradition of “Homage to My Hips,” but doesn’t quite work and certainly doesn’t set up what appears to be following in the second stanza.  I’m going to give it one more go, this time with long lines and a different form (and this is where I’ll leave it ((for now))):

 

SOMEDAY I’LL LOVE GABRIEL SCALA

after O’Hara, Reeves & Vuong

in the cool blue of dawn, under the moon’s fickle glow, here

in the walled and quivering recesses of broken heart,

i’ll love her – despite the parts that have drawn hard gaze:

belly, soft & round, disheveled breasts, port wine blush,

in the face of ambiguous desire, reticent speech, solitary

walk, her hard lines & sticking points – granting all this,

someday i’ll love gabriel scala.

 

for now, though, there is work to be done.  a girl can only

stand in the still shadow of so much loss — the specter

of disappearing fathers, one by one, their stringed love

unraveling like vanishing shade, absent spouse, son —

until her knees should either flex or bend, her legs

either move or fold under this expanse of void,

i will love her nonetheless, until the day comes she

neither stands nor kneels, but shimmers in the sun.

someday i’ll love gabriel scala.

 

when all is said and done, the only way to love her is to love

her well, to love her whole, to hold gravity like a stone,

swallow and be bound – to her, to one, to say what you mean

and stand firm.  like loving anyone, it will take everything

and nothing at all.  i stand on the wall’s edge and look down

having fallen before and lived to tell the tale, i know

someday i’ll love gabriel scala.

 


Blah.  So….this is really, really rough and a lot more challenging than I at first thought it might be.  Here’s the post mortem on the last draft:

Line 1:  [I don’t like this opening – it’s only serving to get into the poem, and it’s obvious]

End of Stanza 1: [This first stanza is the strongest, in my view]

Line 11: [Originally, the 3rd stanza came after this line but it quickly became apparent that it was part of the “resolution” of the poem and, therefore, needed to be in the 3rd and not 2nd stanza]

Line 15: [“shimmers in the sun”??  Oh dear god.  That’s really bad.]

Line 20: [I’m most dissatisfied with the way this poem ends – especially from this line forward.  Lots of work to be done!]

But time’s a wastin’ and there are two more prompts already waiting for my attention, so I need to move on from this one.  I love the concept though, and the new form is fun (if demanding) to work with, so I suspect I’ll come back to this one at some point.  I encourage you to give it a go!  Until next time….

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