Thursday, July 19, 2012

Let's All Write a Calligram

The Calligram, as Ron Padgett explains in our text The Teacher and Writer's Handbook of Poetic Forms (for newcomers, I am attempting to write one poem in every form covered in the book), is a form named after the Greek terms for "beautiful writing."  The form is to make a poem in which the words form a picture.  By way of example, Guillaume Apollinaire was, perhaps, one of the most famous poets to employ this form.  Here is an example of one of his poems:
 The poem is shaped like the Eiffel Tower, you see.

And so, approaching this form, I thought about images that I could form into, especially images which I might be interested in composing a poem on.  My first thought was to make a poem in the shape of my dog Schubert, but when I latched onto that idea I found that I kept putting off writing the thing.  Upon examination I found that I feared that such a poem would be too folksy, too close to cowboy poetry (a form which is mercifully absent from this text and which I would likely scrap this project if compelled to attempt to ever write one).

Then I had a panic attack earlier today.  Or something like that.  Anyway, my mind was running in circles of fear and I was on the phone with Laurie at lunch trying to talk my way out of it.  That seems to help me sometimes.  After I got off the phone, I remembered that wonderful quote by author Neil Gaiman:
“Remember, whatever discipline you’re in, whether you’re a musician or a photographer, a fine artist or a cartoonist, a writer, a dancer, a singer, a designer — whatever you do, you have one thing that’s unique: You have the ability to make art. And for me, and for so many of the people I’ve known, that’s been a lifesaver, the ultimate lifesaver. It gets you through good times, and it gets you through … the other ones. Sometimes life is hard. Things go wrong — in life and in love and in business and in friendship and in health and in all the other ways life can go wrong. And when things get tough, this is what you should do: Make good art. I’m serious. Husband runs off with a politician? Make good art. Leg crushed and then eaten by mutated boa constrictor? Make good art. IRS on your trail? Make good art. Cat exploded? Make good art. Someone on the Internet thinks what you’re doing is stupid or evil or it’s all been done before? Make good art. Probably things will work out somehow, eventually time will take the sting away, and that doesn’t even matter. Do what only you can do best: Make good art. Make it on the bad days, make it on the good days, too.”
And so I went more abstract and made my calligram of my panic attack.  I call it  A) Lopressor, B) Metformin, or C) Ativan?  You will probably need to click on the image in order to make it large enough for you to read it.



  1. Nice! I remember doing one of these in high school. I'll have to scan it in if I can find it.

  2. I did a graveyard, don't remember the poem right now, it hangs in my mother's house for about 40 years now. Paul remember to look at it when you are down or maybe I can get Dad to take a picture of it.