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Apophasis, or the Power of ‘Not’

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blue woman L.L. here for Random Acts of Poetry. Thinking negatively, in a positive sort of way-- thanks to a random tweet of Marcus Goodyear's. Somehow he got caught in a glossary of rhetorical terms (watch out, you might get stuck in there too if you're not careful), and seemed to be tweeting his way out starting with the a's. I ignored the S.O.S. of aposiopesis and apostrophe, but somehow got sucked in by the plea of apophasis; though this sounds vaguely like an incurable heart condition, I assure you it is a terribly fun way of exploring what something is by explaining what it is not. In other words, upon hearing the tweet, "apophasis," I went off in search of a Billy Collins poem I seemed to recall. You can watch Collins read it here, which gives the poem a rather more humorous turn (he begins the reading by discussing poetry theft, "I take the first two lines of someone else's poem and rewrite it for them out of courtesy.") And yet when I read the poem in the silence of my room, from the pages of Nine Horses: Poems, it had a far more poignant feel, which I preferred. Here is an excerpt; note the appearance of apophasis in stanza two... You are the bread and the knife, the crystal goblet and the wine. You are the dew on the morning grass, and the burning wheel of the sun. You are the white apron of the baker and the marsh birds suddenly in flight. However, you are not the wind in the orchard, the plums on the counter, or the house of cards. And you are certainly not the pine-scented air. There is no way you are the pine-scented air... One of our featured poems this week relies slightly on apophasis. And if we are lucky, more of next week's will. (That's shorthand for, "This is our new prompt... describe a person, place or thing in terms of what he or she or it is not. Post your poem on your blog by Thursday, June 25 for definite links and possible feature. Please send me the link by leaving it on my blog.") Still feeling that pull towards the poignant (maybe it's this incessant rain we've been having), I wanted to start by featuring a poem from Sara, excerpted here... I learned that sometimes there isn't one answer I can think of for this question. And I learned that Michaela and Noah and Eli are not coming back next year (and the rest will never come), and I learned that someday I might want to go across the log and I learned that you can't sun-cook with aluminum foil and an empty orange juice bottle, wild mustard leaves, in the woods and I learned that I keep trying to write about the... I was also impressed by Monica, who tried her hand at a sonnet, with His Delight, His Applause. Here's an excerpt... The blue-sky sunlight teases guarding clouds. I turn my back on kitchen-window view When sudden shift envelops sky in shroud Of clouds now gray and darkened. Thunder, too... Mom2Six's Connecting tickled me with this opening phrase... My life is a sequence of dots… Not really a series of starts and stops… Now I'm off to think apophasistically (is that a word? smile. Oh, and if you would be so kind, perhaps you could rescue our friend from the glossary of rhetorical terms... that, or bring along your crystal goblet, your bread and some wine and provide a little camaraderie. ALL RAP PARTICIPANT'S Monica’s His Delight, His Applause Mom2Six’s Connecting Sara's Before it Was Gone Laura's Red and yellow... Deb's The Verse LL's Holy Writ Joelle's Sacred Heart Abbey Erica's Silver Coin Simple Country Girl's I Spied God... Blue Woman by nAncY. Used with permission. Post written by L.L. Barkat.

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