This is a form that I can only call a Chagall, as the only person I know who’s done it is Carlos Chagall at Alphabet City.  I stumbled across it with his poem Lithographs.  It involves stanzas made up of two haiku, but instead of 5-7-5//5-7-5 it follows a 5//7-5//5-7//5 pattern.  But there’s one stanza with an errant syllable that signifies the turning point in the poem:

A puff in the air?
A breath exhaled and then smoke writing in cursive
A Happy Birthday wish without a second thought;
Eyes wide, cut the cake.

Or a wise word shared
With a few friends gathered round the table to eat
Dinner together, a murmur of approval,
Then conversation.

Or a nervous shriek
Yelled out in desperation though no one can hear
Besides the screamer, a self-reassuring cry
To steel the senses.

A measure of time?
6:30–spread the mat out, repeat after me
11:00–time to spread the mat again,
Repeat after me.

Instead conversation
With God, Maker of heaven and earth and all men,
A time to reflect on His many attributes
In absolute awe

Listening closely
To His word and obeying not out of duty,
Rather out of love for Creator and creature,
Savior and sinners.

Expressing sorrows,
Expressing pain and anger and frustrations, too—
But knowing through all that Jesus is light and life;
He can be trusted.

No puff in the air,
Not a careless wish whispered and then forgotten,
Not just some words shared before mealtimes that disrupt
What was being said.

Not a silent scream,
Or loud scream on selfish ears meant for no one else,
Not a metronome or a compass pointing east—
Dialogue forms prayer.

P.S.  See Chagall’s comment below to see how I butchered his form (which he’s titled Chagallian Loku)–he gives a wonderful description of what it should actually look like.  Next time, perhaps, I’ll get it right!

13 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. A Voice
    Aug 06, 2013 @ 23:59:51

    You introduction is a bit misleading and I’d encourage you to clarify how the parts of the haiku form are being used. The individual stanzas are made of four lines with the following syllable pattern: 5/12/12/5. Ultimately, this puts the resemblance to the haiku form at 5//7+5//5+7//5, which shows the first and last lines being proper to the haiku form and the middle lines being a combination of the second and third and first and second lines, respectively, of a traditional haiku.

    A technical bit about the poem is my concern with the way the lines are used. The use of this particular structure strikes me as requiring a more strict approach to the individual lines. Thematically, you’ve done a fantastic job and the turning point in the first line of the fifth stanza is well done and striking from a technical aspect.

    What gives me pause is that the pattern the lines make in the stanza don’t themselves show this turning point, it is only a mere syllable count that is likely only to be recoginsed by those looking for it and thereby bringing the poem under stricter technical scrutiny. Consider the way the first and fourth lines flow together in the first section of the poem and the general shape made by the middle lines. One of think that a discernible change in structure would also come at that point, but it does not. The first and fourth lines continue to flow and that can easily demonstrate thematic continuity, however the last stanza is a problem due to it dropping the pattern. Attached to this is the lack of discernible pattern in the middle lines in the second part of the poem. When these two issues are combined it pushes aside any notion of the structure of the poem, something that was inarguably a focus for the poem, and it breaks down on on technical grounds.

    But that is where it breaks down, on technical grounds. When read simply for the words themselves and the thematic unity they they hold, irrespective of technical issues, it is a truly fantastic read. Several of the more common and arbitrary examples of ‘prayer’ are shown as mere noise or attempts at wish fulfilment. They are presented first and shown for what they are before the poem breaks to look at what a prayer actually is, culminating with the truth of the matter in the last line “Dialogue forms prayer.” It is something that reminds me of my graduate studies in Christian theology and the unique problem presented by using the language of dialogue. The answer was just as simple as the problem claimed to be: just because we can’t understand God doesn’t mean that God isn’t talking. The dialogue is more complex than we can ever know.


    • wordcoaster
      Aug 07, 2013 @ 09:47:25

      Thank you so much for your close reading and detailed response. I defer to Chagall’s comment in reference to your comments about the form, though you can see that I failed to hold to it in many ways.

      I would like to know what you mean by a “lack of discernible pattern in the middle lines in the second part of the poem” or how the last stanza drops the pattern. I’m wondering what pattern has been established that’s suddenly broken down–the only one I’m maintaining is the 5//7-5//5-7//5 pattern, which, aside from the errant syllable line, I believe I have maintained.

      I have, however, changed the errant syllable line in order to reflect more radically the shift, since the form itself remains the same. Also I edited a line that might have presented a syllable dilemma before: “a meal” might be counted as 3 syllables by some, particularly southerners. Therefore “mealtimes”, a more definitive 2, even by southern ears has been used.

      Although I was trying to stick as well as I could to this new form I was so eager to try, I am glad you found the content worthwhile even when I failed at the form. And I agree wholeheartedly with your last statements: “just because we can’t understand God doesn’t mean that God isn’t talking. The dialogue is more complex than we can ever know.” 🙂


      • A Voice
        Aug 07, 2013 @ 17:15:56

        Take a look at the way the first and fourth lines of every stanza meet one another. They match each other almost exactly in length, the fourth line in the first stanza to the first line in the second stanza. That first line in the second stanza is the same length as the first line in the first stanza and we see that this pattern follows all the way down until the very last stanza. It is a pattern shown within the way the stanzas appear to be formed.

        Now look at the middle lines (lines two and three). See the shape they make? See how that shape is carried through the first part of the poem? Now look at the second part of the poem, starting with the stanza including the turning point. See how there is no discernible pattern in those lines?

        When a pattern is discerned it’s either entirely arbitrary, perhaps even made by chance, or it is intended. In this poem a pattern in the structure of the stanzas is so evident it’s hard to avoid looking deeper.

        Work like this shows that you have so much talent! When I see what looks to be you hitting a home run I cringe when, instead, the ball hits the wall and you’re left with only a double. ^^


  2. A Voice
    Aug 07, 2013 @ 00:01:49

    “One of think that a discernible change in structure would also come at that point, but it does not.”

    Should read as: One would think that a discernible change in structure would also come at that point, but it does not.


    • Chagall
      Aug 07, 2013 @ 02:02:55

      First, my gratitude to wordcoaster for experimenting with the form, and for the great exchange in evolving the form.

      More important, congratulations on a wonderful piece of writing, regardless of the form! Totally awesome.

      🙂 wordcoaster’s Prayer is not in strict Chagallian Loku form. 🙂
      or at least not as it is envisioned

      Some detail about the form:
      I call the form Loku, an obviously play on the word haiku, with a little bit of “loco” thrown in.

      Loku is intended to be 17 haiku, a total of 289 syllables, with 1 additional syllable thrown in, at any point in the Loku, as a symbolic gesture to mar the otherwise standard form.

      The poet should think of the Loku as 3 sections, the first 5 haiku long, the middle section 7 haiku, and the last again 5 haiku long. The haiku to the Loku form is as syllables are to the haiku.

      There are 2 volta in the form, separating the sections, similar in purpose to the 1 volta found in a sonnet. These are the turning points, at the start of haiku 6 and 13.

      The 3 sections take shape on the page as (8) four-line stanzas, and a final two-line stanza. The four-line stanzas are made of (2) haiku, in 5/12/12/5 form, as you have mentioned. The final stanza is a concluding haiku in the form 5/12. (Again, somewhere in the sections is an errant syllable, for the reason mentioned earlier – a gesture of humility and out of reverence for that which is Perfect; it may or may not be a third volta, and may or may not coincide with one of the 2 intended volta).

      Visually the volta mentioned above will occur midway in the 3rd and 7th stanza. The 6:30 prayer and the 11:00 prayer are potential set-ups for those in Prayer.

      When I construct Loku, I write them as 17 haiku and then form them, rather than try to write stanza of 5/12/12/5. This helps to retain the haiku spirit of the verse.

      See and
      for other poems in the Loku form.

      My thanks again to wordcoaster, and to you, Voice, for the good dialogue. Definitely the most interesting comment exchange I have had here in blogland since posting. Much, much appreciated. —–Chagall


      • wordcoaster
        Aug 07, 2013 @ 09:53:59

        Thank you so much for this full explanation of the form–I will certainly try it again and next time will hopefully adhere to all of its requirements! 😀


  3. Chagall
    Aug 07, 2013 @ 02:19:44

    Love the lines
    No puff in the air,
    Not a careless wish whispered and then forgotten,

    and how those rejoin the earlier stanzas —–Chagall


  4. readinpleasure
    Aug 07, 2013 @ 14:00:15

    A great try, WC 🙂


  5. Chagall
    Dec 07, 2016 @ 12:57:39

    1st draft of the 2 themes very mechanically intertwined. Very exciting. Starts rough and then gets to a point where the Reader is not sure where one theme starts and the other ends. That’s the meat right there (or for our vegan friends – the heart of the palm 🙂 ).


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