What is it about the circle that suggests itself as a poem form for a sacred season?
I'm thinking here of a beautiful Christmas "garland" by Marilyn Hacker, called "A Christmas Crown." It begins, "Son of the dark solstice descends the tree/into the winter city" and ends six sonnets later with "The children sing/below our gossip. Roast and fruit and wine/and smoke mix in the air near dinnertime./The guests file foodward while the darkening/sun of the dark solstice descends the tree."
Long ago last spring, when the season was all shoots and ladders, poetry correspondent Mitch Sisskind posted a Poetic Term of the Day. He instructed us that Serpentine Verses are poems comprised of lines that begin and end with the same word. BAP leader extraordinaire, David Lehman, then demonstrated with a serpentine verse of his own in the Comments section. Such poetry circles make little loops out of each line; links in a chain disconnected from each subsequent link. Mirror poems, by contrast, are one bigger Circle: their end words repeat in reverse order, iterating themselves on the way in and the way out.
So here in the Spirit of the Circle is a modified depiction of both these poetic shapes by long-dead genius, George Herbert. His "A Wreath" turns the serpentine line progressive, connecting each chunk of chain to the one that follows, and finally clasping it around with a complete mirror. Here it goes:
A wreathed garland of deserved praise,
Of praise deserved, unto thee I give,
I give to thee, who knowest all my ways,
My crooked winding ways, wherein I live,
Wherein I die, not live: for life is straight,
Straight as a line, and ever tends to thee,
To thee, who art more far above deceit
Then deceit seems above simplicity.
Give me simplicity, that I may live,
So live and like, that I may know they ways,
Know them and practice them: then shall I give
For this poor wreath, give thee a crown of praise.
So, Writers, as we shoot and ladder forward into 2009, here's my wish for you all: a season that circles as it climbs, that mirrors only the best. As the short days fade, Writers write: write and bloom.