Leigh Williams & Melanie Klein

Leigh Williams

Stemwinder Sonnet

Melanie Klein

Two Poems Constructed Using Stemwinder Sonnet, Two Source Texts, and a Set of Rules

Watch-Stem-Drawing Poems: Rules for Construction

1. The shorter, narrower end of the stem is the pointer.

2. If the pointer falls between 12:00 and 6:00, the word
comes from text a. If it falls between 6:00 and 12:00,
the word comes from text b.

3. In the case of a drawn pointer, the word must be selected
from the sentence in which the pointer lies.

3. The default word-length is one syllable.

4. If two adjacent drawn pointers fall in the same text,
a two-syllable word may be selected from that text;
if three, a three-syllable word; and so forth.

5. In the event of honest ambiguity in any matter,
the poet chooses.

6. A three-dimensional pointer indicates a free choice of word:
any one-syllable word, or, in the case of adjacent three-dimensional
pointers, any words comprising as many syllables as are indicated
by the number of adjacent pointers.

Source Text A: a page from “Tenzo Kyōkun” (Dōgen)

Source Text B: a page from Moby-Dick, or, The Whale (Melville)

If the Unbent

Death whiskers spring in that winter surface.
Zones of low power call me moonflower.
So that joy in any reflected I
does not divide the heard,
break and drop what whale
the water wounded.

Dewdrop dart does find the moon stealing.
Depth, kitten-like, you long still,
fill your whole, and if
the unbent think the missing surface is
but air, you sail out, almost vapor,
and land in infinite ocean.

Floating like this,
dusty deeps tossed,
you pry beneath, plunge, reach.

Flukes must lie; nature, vibrating,
can shoot from the hip, rustle up
a short-order marvel, slip
the trap, ride momentum home.

Decide Now

You broken-in shark's tooth!
You work steady so some savage
will cook the soup spirit white.

With luck, eyes will carve
and not see bone;
construct a land, close-packed.
Take fine mind, honed
with particle patience; prepare
as do dark, joyful whales in no sea.

Cut out of poor brass,
your truth is not met
with much. Hung monks
best ancient knockers
for low and thorough hands.

Spires, sheet-iron—decide now
to be the distance one cannot yet jump.

Your horse will see a way:
broken cliffs step off
from forms, reflect plain surges,
all merged.

                               Thick-word wiring
so meaningless, once told, will roll
the languid harvest, molt, uncurl.

Leigh Williams is a professor at Dutchess Community College in Poughkeepsie, NY where she teaches English and Ceramics. She has worked as a teacher, poet and ceramic artist since the 1980’s, and in recent decades has begun to work in a variety of other art mediums. Her art, grounded in functional ceramics, explores the expressive possibilities of a variety of craft techniques. She works with words, clay, fibers, natural dyes, beeswax, and found objects. Since 2011, she has worked with The Visual Poets, a 5-person collaborative arts group that works together to create prompts and collective explorations each year. She has exhibited extensively in Hudson Valley art galleries.

Melanie Klein teaches in the English Department at Dutchess Community College, Poughkeepsie, NY. Previously, she taught English courses at Bergen Community College in Paramus, NJ, and art courses at Stanford University and at Rutgers University's Newark College of Arts and Sciences. She is active in The Visual Poets, a 5-person art-making group based in Poughkeepsie, and in the Rutherford Red Wheelbarrow, a poetry collective based in Rutherford, NJ; she has shown artwork and/or read poetry at various venues in New York, New Jersey, and California.

These pieces were made as part of a two-year Visual Poets project, Receive – Respond – Release, which was exhibited in the Mildred I. Washington Art Gallery at Dutchess Community College in spring 2017.
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