Let’s All Write an Elegy!

by Paul Mathers

The Elegy is, indeed, an ancient form. The word comes from the Greek for “song of mourning.” The subject matter is a death or loss, a lamentation over said death or loss, and then how the poet has come to cope with the death or loss. Ron Padgett muddies the waters slightly when he introduces the concept of love elegies. For quite some time love replaced death as the common theme of the elegy. We are not writing love elegies.

In a universe of entropy, I don’t understand why the elegy is not the most popular poetic form.

There is no set form. There is such a thing as an elegiac stanza. It is four lines in iambic pentameter and rhymed abab. Which should sound familiar as that pretty much describes every third poetic form we’ve covered. Padgett grants us full permission to not do this again and I intend to seize the opportunity with all gusto.

I don’t usually use the same example that Ron Padgett uses of the poetic form in question, but in this case I really liked his example. He used “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d” by Walt Whitman, but he only used the first two stanzas because it is a long poem. I, being how I am, read the whole danged thing into this can:

So, here is my own elegy. I decided to go into free verse as well, in that sort of modern stream of consciousness “form.” I thought it complimented the material well:

Elegy for a Scent

by Paul Mathers

I took the dogs out into the yard

to go potty on a warm, late Spring night.

One of my neighbors was burning nag champa.

Fifteen years since I’ve smelled that and

the olfactory sense memory almost knocked me over.

When our biggest problems were love.

Red fabric over lampshades, cooing over jazz and poems,

Merlot and girls and unstructured time to fill with them.

Now trite and cliché to even say.

Mortgages and métier

beat beat beat

that smell out of my nostrils.

Like a sailor forever longing

for the taste of lotus

one more time.

But for a moment

I was back there.

I swear I am a slave to these synapses.

One day I shall be released.

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