Earl Gray

Earl Gray
"You can argue with me but, in the end, you'll have to face that fact that you're arguing with a squirrel." - Earl Gray

Thursday, March 2, 2017

The Asolg

Poet/Activist Susana Chávez.
     Are you a poet trying to find inspiration for a great novel?

     An asolg is the polar opposite of a glose (or "glosa"), a Spanish form that prepends a stanza from a source poem (called the "cabeza") and then inserts an iteration of them among the author's verses ("texte"). 

     For example, "¡Ni Una Más!"  is a glosa derived from "Sangre Nuestra" by slain civil rights advocate Susana Chávez (1974-2011).  It is macaronic;  Susana's "Sangre Nuestra" (the cabeza) was written in Spanish, while the texte is in English:

Sangre mía,
de alba,
de luna partida,
del silencio.

Blood of mine, a stream that traces back
through mother's womb to Spanish hunger. It
reminds the body of velvet dreams that track
along the yearning neurons, sand, and grit.

Blood of sunrise,
burning crimson, light
these walls, these towns, these lands, these words on fire.
Now, nourished by my last appearance, fight
to leave our stains until we both retire.

Blood of a broken moon
that brings no child
to bear mute witness to its mother's fate:
this aging news, this tale of life defiled
that only apathy can mitigate.

Blood of silence trickled as you swore:
"Ni una muerta más."
"Not one death more."

       The asolg appends the verse (or dramatic speech) as the climactic finish, filling in the rest with prose.

       Start by writing a finale which is a dramatic speech or poem.  Now "backfill" it with a novel that serves to add context to the phrases used in the final scene.  (You could formalize this foreshadowing, having Chapter One refer to line one, Chapter Two an explication of line two, et cetera.  Or not.)

      There is no finished example to show you but the novid, "Love is a Weakness",  illustrates the concept.  We begin with the ending.

     Now we write the novel:  A 27 year old runaway, Kemla, meets a community organizer, Todd.  Despite pressing schedules, they begin to fall in love, notwithstanding her insistence that romance is a sign of weakness.  She admires his demeanor and sensitivity.  He tries to draw her out but Kemla is not forthcoming, especially about her past or her health.  Permanence is not in her tarot cards.  In the final scene, at an open mic with their friends gathered around, Todd surprises Kemla with a marriage proposal. 

     Kemla's response was originally written as her wedding vow.  Now it serves as her farewell.

Kemla's Aloha

You showed me how to wait
in Capistrano.
You showed me love
is a weakness
stronger than power. 
You showed me grace
is the present
tense of sorrow
but what time
can take from us
was never ours.


You showed me home
is a person
not a place.
I fear a thing
I'll never leave,
a crime recorded
in watercolors
on your face,
the minutes whispering
in the voice of time.


You said there cannot be a little candor;
the truth, once trimmed, can never last.
You swore you'd never flatter,
never pander.
I promised you an unregretted past.
If chance is kind you'll understand
this vow, this wish,
a thousand happy nights
from now.


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