Friday, May 6, 2016

Poetry Friday: A Tritina for Dickey Chapelle

The challenge this month was to write a tritina. It's a form with no end rhyme; instead the last words in each line repeat in a compact, cyclical way.  All three words appear again in the last, stand-alone line. Like this:




A B C (in any order)

The only restriction was that we had to draw our three end words from this common pool: stone, cold, mouth, hope, thread, sweet. 

Other than that, the poem could be about anything. (Which, frankly, only makes things harder. Where to begin? What to say in such a short form?)

Fortunately, I was being haunted by an idea already. It was a story I'd read in the Washington Post about Dickey Chapelle, the first American female photographer killed in action.  She covered Algerian rebels, Fidel Castro, the Vietnam war, and WWII, including Iwo Jima, Okinawa, and Guam. She died in Vietnam, accompanying a Marine patrol.

I could've written a poem inspired by any one of her photographs in the Post article, but the picture of men digging a grave on Guam sparked an opening line first. It made me think of how she lived, photographing death over and over.

I'm honoring Chapelle's copyright by not posting the photo on my blog without permission. So...

Please go look at the photo here before reading the poem. (Thanks.)

A Tritina

There’s nothing cold
on Guam, even the mouth
of a grave sweats, my sweet

boys; shutter the body, tout suite;
Dip the film in chemicals, cold;
It’s death to fill LIFE’s glossy mouth

but do not swear, when your mouth
burns mine, caramel sweet,
that it’s easier to die from a cold

than sweet rot, cold fame, war’s mouth.

---Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved)

Here's the full piece in the Washington Post.

Many more photos are here in the archives of the Wisconsin Historical Society.

And this story--which rings true, but lists only two books as source material-- reveals what a complicated person she was.  

***One note on the poem: as far as I can tell, Chapelle may never have sold a photo to LIFE. Still, I believe the use of the magazine's name here is accurate because she submitted her work to them (and was rejected) several times.

My poetry sisters wrote tritinas pulled from the same set of words. Wow. The interlinking themes and images and ideas are as good as the stark differences in how we each used those words.

Go see:

Poetry Friday is hosted today by Sylvia at Poetry for Children.