Monday, April 11, 2011

Blank Verse Poetry: Iditarod 2011

I'm currently developing a poetry curriculum, and I decided to write a unit on blank verse. Blank verse (for those who don't know) is poetry that has meter (or rhythm) but no rhyme. The most common meter used for blank verse is the ubiquitous iambic pentameter. (If you don't know what that is, look it up or buy my curriculum when it comes out.)

Most of Shakespeare's plays were written in blank verse. I was pleased to discover that my favorite poet, Robert Frost, also wrote many of his poems in blank verse. I always thought they were in free verse, but that is not the case. A couple of my favorite poems--Mending Wall and Birches--are classic examples of blank verse. Some of the lines deviate from the meter a bit, but that is typical in blank verse. Whether the poet varied the lines on purpose to break up the monotony or just couldn't fit certain thoughts into the meter is still up for debate.

I decided to try writing some blank verse of my own.  Of course, I wrote about my favorite subject--the Iditarod. Here's my first attempt at blank verse. (Just a word of clarification: the two mushers discussed are named Lance Mackey and John Baker. I used the first name or last name depending on which fit the meter.)

Iditarod 2011

This year it seemed that Lance would win again.
The four-time champ was spoken of by all.
And at the mushers’ start on Willow Lake,
The Mackey fans were confident and proud.

But as the race progressed through ice and snow,
His sixteen dogs soon dwindled down to nine.
The other dogs were taken in a plane,
To meet their master when the race was done.

And as the “ninesters” plodded down the trail,
The fans were hoping desperately still
That through some magic that the champ possessed
The team would win and make them proud again.

But in the end a native man named John,
A quiet musher, humble and serene,
Inupiaq by tribe from Kotzebue,
Would win the Last Great Race in record time.

The native dancers at the finish line,
The drumbeats pounding out the victory march,
The cheering fans that crowded round the chute
Brought tears to people all around the world.

What of the Mackey fans that were so sure
Their favorite would win the race this year?
The all agreed that seeing Baker win
Was just as satisfying after all.