Monday, March 28, 2011

How to Write a Juxtaposition Poem

When I write poetry I like to write what I call juxtaposition poetry. It's a little like found poetry, except that you 'find' the raw materials from three different sources--- books, newspapers and the like. It's not only interesting of itself, but is something that can get your writerly juices going when you have writer's block.

Your three sources need to be very different from one another--- in 'nuclear sainthood profits' from my book Where the Opium Cactus Grows I used a Catholic prayer book, a book about nuclear war, and something by Karl Marx.

What you do with your sources is 'point and click'. Open each one at random and point, without looking, at the text. Copy out words or phrases from that point. Do this one after another until you have enough material for the poem at hand.

A pure juxtaposition poem just uses this material as you found it. But the secret to writing a good juxtaposition poem is to cheat like hell. Fudge a bit when you are pointing to select your source material, and add, subtract and re-arrange the material to help it make more sense. Or less sense, depending on your writerly goals.

I might point out that my 'nuclear sainthood profits' is not an average example of my juxtaposition poems, but one I feel is one of my best efforts in that direction. Most juxtaposition poems are choppier and don't have unified themes (whatever themes are, I try to avoid them). 'nuclear sainthood profits' is what happens with juxtaposition poetry when your Muse is in the building.

Here is the complete text of 'nuclear sainthood profits' from 'Where the Opium Cactus Grows'.

nuclear sainthood profits

wages after the labour, we beseech you, o limited nuclear war
a son is given to us, testing increasingly smaller warheads
if this limit is overshot, ground zero will accumulate debris
o mary conceived without sin, detonate a nuclear weapon
in the presence of mine enemies

behold, a virgin shall declare war on the soviet union and china
the market price of our pope, our bishop, and all true believers
includes mutual assured destruction when wages and prices are high
and large numbers of intercontinental ballistic missiles
now and at the hour of our death

This poem was written 21 years ago--- wow, a poem that's old enough to drink! At the time I wrote it I was NOT a Catholic, and I WAS a Marxist. But I never meant it as in any was anti-Catholic. It was more like a nuclear-war-drives-us-all-to-pray thing. And of course there was the 'blame-capitalism' reish going on as well. (Did you know that capitalism is responsible for the lack of life on Mars?)

The sharpness of this poem is a result of using sources with high emotional impact. You don't have to do that all the time--- I've used a local newspaper as a source many times, both for juxtaposition poetry as I've described it here, and for single-source found poetry.

These blander sources are essential for school teachers using juxtaposition poetry in the classroom, since in a school setting one WANTS a bland result. In homeschooling, a wider variety of sources are possible, whatever the homeschooling mother thinks is acceptable.

In my experience, some juxtaposition poems are finished after the first day's work, and others need more work. In addition, any type of poem benefits from being 'aged' in a file for a few months and then being given a bit of polishing if needed--- or even a complete re-write.

YOUR ASSIGNMENT: write a juxtaposition poem of your own. (If you post your poem on your blog, do post a link to it here in a comment.)

Related Post:
Blogging 'Where the Opium Cactus Grows'

Featured Books:
The Poetry Home Repair Manual: Practical Advice for Beginning Poets
Modern Korean Poetry
Where the Opium Cactus Grows

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Thursday, March 10, 2011

Read the Bible in a year--- and the Catechism

There are a lot of plans out there for reading the Bible in a year, and now that I am a Bible Christian instead of an Odin-worshipping Neopagan, I see the value of them. It's harder to get in the discipline of Bible-reading if you always are wondering which part of the Bible to be reading on any given day.

Today I found a Bible reading plan with something extra--- it's based on the complete Bible, not one that omits the books tossed out of the Bible by most Protestants after the Reformation. And it ALSO includes daily readings of the Catholic Catechism, so that you will also read THAT in a year (if you so choose.) Read the Bible and the Catechism in a Year

The daily reading includes a chapter from 3 different books of the Bible each day. It's in PDF format and if you print out the 2 pages onto the same sheet of paper and fold it in quarters, you have a little leaflet you can keep in your Bible.

Some people might assume that only those Bible Christians who are Catholic would like this scripture reading plan. But nowadays Protestants and Evangelicals are often less than fully convinced that Martin Luther was inerrantly inspired by the Holy Spirit when he treated the Deuterocanonical books (the 'Apocrypha') as not really Biblical, since Luther also wanted to kick the epistle of James out of the Bible altogether (the Deuterocanonicals were included in the Luther translation of the Bible, but grouped together between the Old and New Testaments).

Even Pastor Arnold Murray of the Shepherd's Chapel TV Bible study program is not against reading the Deuterocanonicals and says good things about them, though he doesn't preach on them as he does with other books of the Bible. So this Bible reading plan meets the needs of many Bible Christians who are Protestant/Evangelical as well as the Catholics.

I'm starting with the Bible reading plan today. Another nice thing about it is that it doesn't have the months and days listed so you can start any time, and if you skip a week, you can just keep going with where you left off--- and you can read ahead when you are energetic. I challenge anyone out there to do likewise.

Kindle Bible (KJV with Apocrypha) (best navigation with Direct Verse Jump)
Kindle Catholic Bible (D-R) (best navigation with Direct Verse Jump)