Write a Sequential Poem
As critics M.L. Rosenthal and Sally M. Gall have pointed out in their book The Modern Poetic Sequence, the sequence may be the most fruitful poetic form of the twentieth century. A sequence is typically characterized by separate but related sections of one poem. These sections are often enumerated or otherwise marked. The sequential form is a kind of verse collage, allowing poets to take spatial and temporal leaps without using more conventional transitions. In general, a sequential poem requires one or more narrative themes to carry the reader through to completion.
Sequential Example 1
You’re seventeen and tunnel-vision drunk,
swerving your father’s Fairlane wagon home
at 3:00 a.m. Two-lane road, all curves
and dips–dark woods, a stream, a patchy acre
of teazle and grass. You don’t see the deer
till they turn their heads–road full of eyeballs,
small moons glowing. You crank the wheel,
stamp both feet on the brake, skid and jolt
into the ditch. Glitter and crunch of broken glass
in your lap, deer hair drifting like dust. Your chin
and shirt are soaked–one eye half-obscured
by the cocked bridge of your nose. The car
still running, its lights angled up at the trees.
You get out. The deer lies on its side.
A doe, spinning itself around
in a frantic circle, front legs scrambling,
back legs paralyzed, dead. Making a sound–
again and again this terrible bleat.
You watch for a while. It tires, lies still.
And here’s what you do: pick the deer up
like a bride. Wrestle it into the back of the car–
the seat folded down. Somehow, you steer
the wagon out of the ditch and head home,
night rushing in through the broken window,
headlight dangling, side-mirror gone.
Your nose throbs, something stabs
in your side. The deer breathing behind you,
shallow and fast. A stoplight, you’re almost home
and the deer scrambles to life, its long head
appears like a ghost in the rearview mirror
and bites you, its teeth clamp down on your shoulder
and maybe you scream, you struggle and flail
till the deer, exhausted, lets go and lies down.
Your father’s waiting up, watching tv.
He’s had a few drinks and he’s angry.
Christ, he says, when you let yourself in.
It’s Night of the Living Dead. You tell him
some of what happened: the dark road,
the deer you couldn’t avoid. Outside, he circles
the car. Jesus, he says. A long silence.
Son of a bitch, looking in. He opens the tailgate,
drags the quivering deer out by a leg.
What can you tell him–you weren’t thinking,
you’d injured your head? You wanted to fix
what you’d broken–restore the beautiful body,
color of wet straw, color of oak leaves in winter?
The deer shudders and bleats in the driveway.
Your father walks to the toolshed,
comes back lugging a concrete block.
Some things stay with you. Dumping the body
deep in the woods, like a gangster. The dent
in your nose. All your life, the trail of ruin you leave.
Sequential Example 2
Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird
Among twenty snowy mountains,
The only moving thing
Was the eye of the blackbird.
I was of three minds,
Like a tree
In which there are three blackbirds.
The blackbird whirled in the autumn winds.
It was a small part of the pantomime.
A man and a woman
A man and a woman and a blackbird
I do not know which to prefer,
The beauty of inflections
Or the beauty of innuendoes,
The blackbird whistling
Or just after.
Icicles filled the long window
With barbaric glass.
The shadow of the blackbird
Crossed it, to and fro.
Traced in the shadow
An indecipherable cause.
O thin men of Haddam,
Why do you imagine golden birds?
Do you not see how the blackbird
Walks around the feet
Of the women about you?
I know noble accents
And lucid, inescapable rhythms;
But I know, too,
That the blackbird is involved
In what I know.
When the blackbird flew out of sight,
It marked the edge
Of one of many circles.
At the sight of blackbirds
Flying in a green light,
Even the bawds of euphony
Would cry out sharply.
He rode over Connecticut
In a glass coach.
Once, a fear pierced him,
In that he mistook
The shadow of his equipage
The river is moving.
The blackbird must be flying.
It was evening all afternoon.
It was snowing
And it was going to snow.
The blackbird sat
In the cedar-limbs.
SPECIFICS OF THE ASSIGNMENT
Draft a Sequential Poem, at least three shifts/sequences (CLEARLY MARK THE SEQUENCE DIVISIONS; USE A NUMBER, A LETTER, AN ADDRESS, A NAME, AN ASTERISK, YOU DECIDE), a minimum of ten lines, no rhyme.