Garden Waltz

a terza rima sonnet in dactylic pentameter with a truncated foot at the end of each line

Radishes sway to the rhythm of sunlight and rainfall,
Carrots to minerals present in alkaline soil.
Onions, however, invite a due process most painful,

Opening eyes to the sting of their irritant oil.
Bergamot mixed with black tea makes a pleasant infusion,
Better than either one separately brought to a boil.

Comfrey leaves used as a poultice may help a contusion
Caused by a reckless encounter with gravel to heal.
Thinking a path in the garden’s a track is delusion

Common to those who’ve forgotten that gravity’s real;
Nevertheless, it’s okay to forego hesitations
Partly because a bruised kneecap is not a big deal.

Gardening’s not just a matter of potions and rations;
Flowers are requisite too—go and plant some impatiens.

 

Dreamscape

At night our mission is to go to sleep,
As simple an intention as can be,
But sometimes complicated issues keep
Us up and make repose a stormy sea.

A pang of conscience or a heavy debt
Are two examples of what well may cause
Insomnia and make our psyches fret
Throughout the night—distress without a pause.

Much worse, at least in daylight’s company,
Is sleeping when one needs to be awake.
It’s said that nothing in this life is free,
And that a person cannot have a cake

And eat it too. But one may argue that
The possibility exists whereby
An Ark that’s stranded on Mount Ararat
May grow a pair of wings and learn to fly.

Asleep, Awake: Are these such different states
That reconciliation can’t occur?
A dreamer in complete control creates
Whatever kind of world she might prefer.

 

C.B. Anderson was the longtime gardener for the PBS television series, The Victory Garden.  Hundreds of his poems have appeared in scores of print and electronic journals out of North America, Great Britain, Ireland, Austria, Australia and India.  His collection, Mortal Soup and the Blue Yonder was published in 2013 by White Violet Press.

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18 Responses

  1. Amy Foreman

    C.B., these were both enjoyable poems. I especially like the dactylic pentameter in your “Garden Waltz,” which rhythmically floats from fourteen-syllable line to thirteen-syllable line, swaying back and forth. We can truly “feel” the dance.

    The poem is lovely as is, but if I had to make a change, it would be to the last line of your ending couplet, which, I think, could be even more waltz-like if it were only thirteen syllables. Truncating that last line one more syllable would be the equivalent of ending the dance on a held note . . . giving time for the requisite bow at the “fine.” Just a thought . . .

    Reply
    • Joseph S. Salemi

      Yes, but the problem with that is Anderson would lose his carefully arranged alternation of feminine and masculine endings. In addition, the brilliant rhyme of “rations” and “impatiens” would have to be discarded.

      Reply
      • Amy Foreman

        It looks to me as though the couplet at the end, with two feminine endings, one after the other, actually disrupts the careful alternation of masculine and feminine, and that ending the poem with a thirteen syllable line would keep the meter true to the rest of the poem, in which a feminine line is always followed by a masculine line.

        But you are right: “rations” and “impatiens” may be too good to alter . . . 🙂

      • J. Simon Harris

        Mr. Salemi is right. Ending with a rhyming couplet is a common improvisation on terza rima; it allows for a bit of closure in a form designed for forward motion. The final line has to rhyme with the previous; otherwise, it has nothing to rhyme with (the previous trio of masculine rhymes has already been completed). This is a matter of form, quite apart from the brilliant rhyme on “impatiens”. While I get the desire to end on a masculine rhyme (for the sake of the dance, as Mrs. Foreman evocatively suggested), this could only be done by extending or truncating the poem. If you ask me, it’s just the right length, and it ends on just the right note. But you know, different strokes.

      • Amy Foreman

        Thanks, J. Simon, for explaining. I’m definitely not an expert on either terza rima or on ending couplets, and I see your point about not having any remaining rhymes to use for a final masculine line. I would want to fiddle with it, if it were my own, but fiddling with it might mess it up . . . and I wouldn’t want to mess up an already lovely poem . . .

  2. J. Simon Harris

    Both of these are wonderful poems. The first is very impressive from a technical standpoint. The title is very appropriate, as the verse indeed waltzes us through the garden. The second poem has a more mundane structure, but it suits the poem very well. As a graduate student with a one-year-old, I appreciate a poem about lack of sleep. And the last two lines are great. That’s kind of what a poet is: a dreamer in complete control. Well done.

    Reply
  3. E. V.

    Well, C.B., the 1st poem definitely showcases your gardening background. Both poems are exceptionally well done. Also, both poems “flow smoothly”; I.e., there are no “bumps” in the rhythm. I assume this is probably the impact of a poet who has mastered meter. Thanks for sharing these.

    Reply
  4. David Watt

    “Garden Waltz” is also my favorite, as a skillful and entertaining demonstration of dactylic pentameter.

    Reply
  5. Mark Stone

    Mr. Anderson, Good morning. I am not a poet, although I am trying to learn more about creative writing by reading SCP, Eratosphere and literary-devices.com. I do, however, do a lot of technical writing at work. So here goes.

    Garden Waltz. 1. L2 would make more sense to me if it had a verb. 2. In L3, “due process” doesn’t seem appropriate, since it is a legal phrase. It appears in the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. 3. L9 suggests there is a significant difference between a “path” and a “track” in a garden, which I don’t follow, perhaps because I’m not a gardener. 4. It sounds like you’re saying the reason the person fell on the gravel is that he or she forgot that gravity is real. However, that is not why people fall, so I do follow the story here. 5. L12 is fine, but I thought of a possible alternate ending: “will easily heal.” 6. I agree with Amy’s suggestion on L14. 7. I really like the combination of terza rima and dactylic pentameter. I don’t think I’ve seen that before.

    Dreamscape. 1. In L3, I don’t think “complicated” is strong enough. Many things are complicated, but don’t cause us to lose sleep. Perhaps “vexing” or “troubling” or “tormenting” or something similar. 2. The poem has two groups of words the removal of which would not cause any loss of content or meaning. They are: “Are two examples of what well” and “the possibility exists whereby.” If you remove these words, you’ll have room to add more splash and verve to the story. 3. For me, carrying a sentence from one stanza to the next is off-putting. I would try to express the thought in one line, something like: “One cannot have a cake and eat it too.” 4. I like the assonance with “kind” and “might” in the last line. 5. I like this poem. I sometimes have insomnia, so I can relate to the concept.

    Since these are my first comments on SCP, I hope they have some value to you.

    Reply
    • C.B. Anderson

      Mark,

      Although I made several comments on your comments (below), there are a couple of things I still would like to address. “Due process” is indeed a legal phrase, but it comes from our common language, and it can just as easily revert back to it. Trust me, you are due for a painful shock if you rub your eyes after processing onions. The difference between a path and a track is simple: the former is meant for strolling, the latter for racing. And when you become as old as I am, you will have a greater appreciation of gravity as a cause of mayhem, should one forget for an instant that one is no longer a spring chicken.

      If your ability to synthesize is half your ability to analyze, then you should have no trouble when you decide to start writing poems. Don’t put it off. To my great regret I waited until I was 54.

      Reply
  6. C.B. Anderson

    Amy,

    The comments by Joe & J. Simon explain the issues with the final couplet as well as I could, and Mark points out a number of issues I wish I had seen when I was writing the poem. Apparently he is a technical reader as well as a technical writer. Continuing a sentence past the end of a line is called enjambment, and there are differences of opinion on whether this is a good poetic practice. In line two the verb is implied by the parallel structure of the first and second clause. This is a common construction in English, though I’m not sure what it is called. E.g.:

    Everybody doubts his memory, but nobody his judgment

    In any case, dactyls are very difficult to deal with, and I promised myself I’d never try to do something like this again. Notice also how dactylic lines tend to transmute themselves into anapestic rhythms mid-line if one is not paying attention to the base meter.

    Reply
    • Amy Foreman

      Thanks for writing back, C.B. And I think you should definitely break that promise not to try dactyls again. You do them well, and I couldn’t find an anapest anywhere!

      Reply
      • C.B. Anderson

        Amy,

        The difference between a dactyl and an anapest is where you begin your scansion, and there were many opportunities in this poem to lose the way.

  7. Joseph S. Salemi

    Concerning enjambment — it’s a crucial tool in all European poetry, and always has been! Insisting that every line be end-stopped is the sign of an amateur. And enjambing over to the beginning of a new quatrain is perfectly acceptable, and has been practiced by scads of top-notch poets in English in the formalist movement. Also, Mr. Stone seems to think that the purpose of a poem is to express its content in as brief and as concise a manner as possible. That isn’t true at all, except in the more flagrantly extreme forms of modernism and conceptual verse.

    There is nothing at all wrong with Kip Anderson’s poem. And thank God somebody is paying attention to meters other than iambics.

    Reply
    • C.B. Anderson

      Joe,

      So do I. And I have often planted impatiens. Sometimes I have grown them from seed. I’m still a professional gardener, but nowadays I grow little from seed except sweet basil, lettuce, beans and summer squash in my backyard.

      Reply

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