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Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Writing Queron

Queron is a new poetic form I developed during the November 2009 Poem-A-Day Challenge hosted by Robert Lee Brewer at Influenced by Rilke’s advice to “live the questions now,” I developed queron to support the way my mind engages questions—which is what it does when I write poems.

  • Counting syllables slows me down into a state of attentive curiosity.
  • Interweaving rhymes mirror the way the mind flashes back and forth as it grapples with questions.
  • The stanza breaks offer opportunities to shift the perspective of the poem and consider the central question from different angles.
  • The ending couplet can offer a sense of closure—whether an answer or a surrender to not having an answer.
Writing queron requires attention to meter, rhyme and content. Here’s the recipe:
  • Seventeen lines are grouped into three quintets and a final couplet.
  • Each line has an equal number of syllables.
  • Rhymes interweave in this scheme: ababa bcbca cdcdb dd.
  • The poem includes a question.

Having written about a hundred of these by now, I have found some insights that may be useful for newcomers to the form:

-- Syllable counts between six and fourteen per line seem to work best for me, though I have tried as many as twenty and as few as one. My friend Scooter (one of the very best poets I know) had better results when she loosened the syllable requirement so that syllable counts varied slightly from line to line.

-- Because the rhymes repeat four or five times each, I’ve found consonance and assonance preferable to “true” rhyme for their subtlety and versatility.

-- The question can be subtle. I used to try to make the first punctuate sentence a question, but that felt to rigid. Then I felt the poem should have a question mark in it. Now I feel that the questioning mood is the essential element, not the punctuation. So, I'm still questioning the questioning :)

An example of queron:

"Here ensconced"

This commute again: when San Quentin’s on the right
I’m going home. Tomorrow morning, the mountains
turning brown will lead the drive—if I can make it
across the bridge now without dozing off. Richmond-
bound traffic’s light. The exception confirms the rut,

but I would be disingenuous to complain.
Isn’t this the everyday scenery I choose?
Below these sweeping struts, barnacles raise their hands,
wave at the bay, then suck into their calcite rooms.
They emerge just far enough to feed and peep at

the deep beyond. We’re secure, enjoying fine views—
in truth, the view’s beyond beautiful. In my niche,
I muster acrimony as protective proof
for this tender bubble that could burst with a touch.
Saying “heaven isn’t much” serves as talisman.

We ward off becoming some leviathan’s lunch
pretending we suffocate in the life we clutch.


That’s queron. On the poetry-form spectrum from “get the recipe and go” (like clerihew or American-style haiku) to “meditate, craft and rework” (such as the sestina), queron falls on the slower, more deliberate end. It takes time and concentration to weave the rhyme and regulate the pace, and I find that this has often opened up new revelations for me as I explore the question. In short, this form offers what I like about poetry forms in general: a way to surprise my own thinking in the process of writing the poem.

PS: Here’s the TMI section with more background plus my bio, included for my own sense of completeness.

In looking for a new form, I wanted questioning to be a central aspect. Queron comes from query + sonnet. I was attracted to the length of villanelles, sonnets and John Berryman’s dream songs (18 lines split into three equal stanzas). Fifteen lines seemed about right, but as I developed the interweaving rhyme pattern, I found that a final rhyming couplet (as in Shakespearean sonnets) concluded the poems satisfyingly.

A few experiments that I’ve enjoyed with the form include:
- Extending it with extra stanzas following the interweaving rhyme scheme: ababa bcbca cdcdb dedec efefd … xx
- Attempting the one-syllable-per-line queron: “How / does / Dow / Jones / know // these / strange / trends / change? / Our // binge / and / purge / plans / rise // on / sand.”
- Receding the rhyming syllables back into the line with each repletion, so that the “a” rhyme, for example, is the last syllable of line 1, second to last in line 3, third to last in line 5, and so on.

Daniel Ari holds an MFA in poetry and has self-published 12 chapbooks since 1992. His poems have appeared in McSweeney’s, Pearl, Contact Quarterly, Chiron Review, Tattoo Highway, Jack Magazine, The Highest Number, and many more print and online venues. He has also recently co-created the poetry blog, IMUNURI (

Currently, Daniel is developing and presenting solo performances revolving around poems he loves including ones by Cummings, Millay, Yeats, Roethke, Oliver, and Williams. He has presented several pieces of this work at The Marsh Theater in San Francisco and The Julia Morgan Theater in Berkeley as well as his home in Richmond.

Daniel leads poetry and creative writing workshops at The Richmond Art Center (Richmond), Berkeley Tuolumne Family Camp (Yosemite), Improv Arts (Los Gatos) and at his home.

In the last quarter century, in addition to writing poetry, Daniel has written novels; published film, food and book reviews; performed original music, theater, and stand-up comedy; and written marketing copy professionally for a huge range of companies.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A poem by Mirabai

While the flowers grow,
the trees blow in the wind
and I say,
“Why do I see these plants
in bloom?
When it’s fall,
they won’t be blooming
anymore. They will be falling
and making the leaves fall.
But when it’s summer again
the trees will bloom.
the leaves on the flowers will bloom,
and the trees will fall in the wind.”

I look at them
quietly breeze through the air
when the trees blow.

I want to do a haiku:

While I see the flowers bloom,
they blow, and then
they’re done blooming.

Friday, March 18, 2011

I Knew a Woman / This woman I know

"I Knew a Woman"

by Theodore Roethke

I knew a woman, lovely in her bones,
When small birds sighed, she would sigh back at them;
Ah, when she moved, she moved more ways than one:
The shapes a bright container can contain!
Of her choice virtues only gods should speak,
Or English poets who grew up on Greek
(I'd have them sing in chorus, cheek to cheek.)

How well her wishes went! She stroked my chin,
She taught me Turn, and Counter-turn, and stand;
She taught me Touch, that undulant white skin:
I nibbled meekly from her proffered hand;
She was the sickle; I, poor I, the rake,
Coming behind her for her pretty sake
(But what prodigious mowing did we make.)

Love likes a gander, and adores a goose:
Her full lips pursed, the errant note to seize;
She played it quick, she played it light and loose;
My eyes, they dazzled at her flowing knees;
Her several parts could keep a pure repose,
Or one hip quiver with a mobile nose
(She moved in circles, and those circles moved.)

Let seed be grass, and grass turn into hay:
I'm martyr to a motion not my own;
What's freedom for? To know eternity.
I swear she cast a shadow white as stone.
But who would count eternity in days?
These old bones live to learn her wanton ways:
(I measure time by how a body sways.)


"This woman I know"

Could I paint that woman’s truth in a trillion strokes,
portray how her features—like white shorebirds in flight
skim over sand skin in fierce flocks—before I’m stuck,
transfixed on any bright detail—how she delights
us both losing her whole sense in just the right joke—

how she flies our lives in her whimsy’s winds, two kites
held aloft—and held fast—by the strings in her hand?
Hers is the private tide of points and counterpoints
at which I sigh, then rise to the acts of a man
until I tire, until we retire—thus, lucky.

She summons the council, advocates for the dance
with dances of lavender buds and sandpaper.
The same wind that whips her hair stills her turbulence.
A soul warrior must be her own enabler.
In this life, except for hiccups, everything’s right—

at the end of day to feel her rubbing the shape
of infinity on my back, kissing generations on my nape.