Traditional "Roses are red / Violets are blue" poetry has undergone a transformative shift. While the Canadian poetry scene respects the time-honoured stylistic conventions of the past, it also embraces the use of inventive styles. This evolution is welcoming of other disciplines—some quite unexpected. I therefore would like to share my poetic practices in terms of how I weave these intersections into my craft and how these connections have contributed to global causes—a poet’s superpower!
Poetry does not have to be married to poetry. It can partner with different fields without being gimmicky. Rather, this encourages a broader audience by attracting people who don't usually read poetry but appreciate the commonalities associated with various disciplines such as music, science, math, and medicine.
Two points should be emphasized here: First, I'm not just referring to poems about these subjects but additionally to poems that are physically transformed into the essence of these domains. Second, while I have composed ekphrastic poetry (i.e., poetry describing works of art such as sculptures, paintings, etc.), which is intersectional in its own right, I nevertheless would like to focus here on visual/concrete poems.
Poetry need not be associated with the written word in stanza form alone. There is poetry in music, and I am not referring to song lyrics. For instance, I wrote my poem, “Cool Jazz”(1), onto music staves with treble and bass clefs in order to resemble a page of sheet music. Meaningful to me as a pianist, my hope was to have this piece resonate with other musicians. If you'll excuse the pun, it did strike a chord and was nominated for a Pushcart Prize by The Worcester Review.
I've written many science poems which are a blend of traditional and non-traditional forms. An illustrative example is “Balanced + Well Well → Balanced”(2) which is comprised of a series of two-column, two-line stanzas. Each stanza consists of chemical equations along with their corresponding rhymed transliterations, transforming science into poetry and vice versa:
Of course, sometimes an infusion of humour can draw people toward science as in my poem, “Witches' Brew”(3): “Incantations cackled over a roiling cauldron / stirred by warty hands – / the bubbling brew not so sinister a potion / as the three black and midnight hags(4) intended”. This tongue-in-cheek poem uses science to disprove the ill effects of the ingredients added to the witches’ cauldron in Macbeth.
Math is another area where poetry has the potential to attract people who might be intimidated by it. For “The Fickle Nature of the Parabola”(5), I wrote my poem in the shape of two parabolas graphed onto a Cartesian plane. Although the poem was traditional in the sense that it rhymed, its format and content were explanatory, teaching a lesson in algebra and geometry.
The intersection of poetry and psychology is profound. Two of my poems that immediately come to mind are “Ghosts”(6) and “Ransom Note”(7). The former, an exercise in negative space art, is written in a square shape wrapped around the image of a ghost at its centre. “Ghosts” deals with the memories of people who have passed on and muses, “Like them, we too will become shadows – / our unfamiliar images haunting / the yellowed photos / of someone else's dust- covered album.”
“Ransom Note” is composed of coloured letters cut out of magazines and pasted onto a poetic kidnap note sent by Depression. It alerts people that their mental state can literally hold them hostage. Perhaps psychologists might consider using this type of poetry to supplement counselling.
Writing and translating poetry in six languages provides me with multiple opportunities for poetic intersections. It affords access to a larger readership as well. While I generally write a poem in one language at a time, I prefer to be more linguistically playful. For instance, I enjoy writing poems with alternating non-English, calligraphic-type alphabets which require a line to be read from left to right and then the next line from right to left. Another technique I like to employ is side-by-side translation formatted into columns, each in a different language, as in my poem, “Incertidumbre / Uncertainty / Incertitude”(8).
Poetry is a means of remembering past atrocities. Philosopher George Santayana's saying, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” epitomizes the intersection of poetry and history. Accordingly, two of my long poems deal with the history of social injustices never to be forgotten. “Misogyny at Its Best”(9) examines the brutal treatment of women spanning the years from the Spanish Inquisition to the Salem witch trials: “I implore ye, good sirs! I am innocent! / Do not thus seal my fate! / Ye know me not! By what leave / possess ye so much hate?” “The Devil”(10) chronicles the Holocaust and the valiant struggles of its victims: “yet smoke still belched from crematoria / with tell-tale acrid smell, / unable to camouflage the flames / of those who burned in hell.”
One of the most important poetic intersections, though, is the convergence of poetry and advocacy. I would encourage writers to support charitable causes with their craft whenever possible. Not only can they contribute their work to peace exhibits, but they can seek out socially conscious publishers. Instead of providing payment in the form of cash or complimentary contributor copies, these publishers earmark payments to be directed to various charities.
Why not proudly represent Canada via these humanitarian poetic intersections? The opportunities are plentiful. In fact, my poetry has helped support global causes such as medical aid, animal welfare, scientific research, literacy, and child advocacy.
Although poetry is considered a solitary art, it does not have to be so. A poet's reach extends far beyond the pen or computer. The possibilities of poetic convergences both for the entertainment and betterment of societies around the world are many. Perhaps these intersections are somewhat unexpected, but therein lies their appeal.
1 Shards of Crystal (book by Fern G. Z. Carr), Silver Bow Publishing – New Westminster BC,
Canada; The Worcester Review – Worcester MA, USA; The Art of Music – Del Mar CA, USA
2 mgversion2 – Le Reposoir, Haute-Savoie, France
3 White Wall Review – Toronto ON, Canada
4 Macbeth (4.1)
5 Windsor Review – Windsor ON, Canada
6 Montana Mouthful – Helena MT, USA
7 The London Reader – London, England
8 Triadae Magazine – Madrid, Spain; and Toulouse, France
9 Legal Studies Forum – Morgantown WV, USA
10 Poetry Super Highway – Los Angeles CA, USA
Fern G. Z. Carr is a lawyer, teacher, and poet. She composes poetry in six languages, including Mandarin, and has been published extensively worldwide. One of her poems is orbiting the planet Mars on NASA's MAVEN spacecraft. Her book, Shards of Crystal (Silver Bow Publishing 2018), is available on Amazon. Find Fern at ferngzcarr.com.
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