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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Summer (the season) (07/09/09)

TITLE: Variations on a Theme (Cyclical or Not): Summer
By Steve Fitschen


Author’s Note: Below is a collection of poems. They are designed to be read either as a poem cycle or individually. Of course, poems in all poem cycles can be read individually, but they are intended to be part of a cycle. These poems are intended to be both part of a cycle and individual poems having nothing to do with the cycle. I will provide a few examples of how this is so and leave it to the reader to discover the rest.

First, with regard to the poems forming a cycle, the reader will notice that the poems are presented from longest to shortest (in terms of line count). This represents the cycle’s events starting during summer’s longest days of the first poem (“summer’s height”), moving chronologically, and ending during summer’s shortest days of the last poem, which occurs when the rubrum lilies are in bloom (late summer).

Second, with regard to the poems not forming a cycle, only the first poem explicitly involves a young teenaged couple. The second poem involves a couple, but it could one of any age. The other poems are even less tied to the characters in the first poem. For example, the third poem could be about a mother and her children, an entire family, or a group of friends. The forth poem most naturally reads (outside the cycle) as if the characters are younger than teenagers. Similarly, the last poem could be about, among other people, someone who is separated, divorced, or widowed.

To assist the reader in encountering the poems from both perspectives, no poem except the first tells the reader the age or sex of the main character. Furthermore, several of the poems used are of types that—by the nature of the type—intentionally require the reader to read much into the poem.

Finally, a word about the types themselves. The poems are (in order of presentation) a villanelle, a Shakespearean sonnet, a roundel, a triolet, a Crapsey Cinquain, and a haiku. I have followed the traditional “rules” for each. Enjoyment of the poems will be enhanced, I believe, by briefing learning these “rules,” which are easily found on the Internet.


First Kisses at Thirteen (1964)

I met you at the summer’s height.
I thrilled at every bright long day
And cherished every too short night.

The maiden and her shining knight:
Sir Galahad—I’ll always say
I met you at the summer’s height.

Each day my hope of love grew bright.
At dusk two children stole away
And cherished every too short night,

Your hand found mine ’neath pale moonlight,
As much a child as on the day
I met you at the summer’s height.

One night you turned and held me tight.
’Twas then I gave my heart away
And cherished every too short night.

Next night your lips brushed mine so slight.
“O, let him kiss me more,” I prayed.
I met you at the summer’s height
And cherished every too short night.


Fourth of July Thrill

The bombs bursting in air illuminate
The Fourth of July crowd, which aahs and oohs.
A sea of blankets form a quilt, ornate
Beneath concussive bursts of greens and blues
And reds and whites. Small children run between
The blanket-patches squealing with delight.
And laughter rises from families unseen
Whose voices ring with joy this special night.
Teenagers roam around rambunctiously
But no one cares—it’s Independence Day!
The grand finale booms thunderously.
With hearty cheers the crowd dwindles away.

We linger, cuddling, calm, contented, still.
These sublime moments give the bigger thrill.



Beside the stream we came and sat,
Without a care, with time to dream.
We spread our blanket and our mat
Beside the stream.

The grapes and berries and whipped cream,
The watermelon, big and fat—
The very best we’d ever seen

We played and laughed and after that
We made our plans, a simple scheme
To once again spread out our mat
Beside the stream.


Dances of the Fireflies

The fireflies do dance and dart!
They glow and fade, now here, now there.
In imitation play the part
The fireflies do. Dance and dart
Around the yard as through the air
The fireflies do dance and dart.
They fade and glow, now here, now there


Summer Vacation is Over

This year
I visited
Like many years before.
This year’s different. This year, we met.
I cry.


Hand-in-hand walked two.
Woodland path; rubrum lilies:
Now walks one alone.

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This article has been read 618 times
Member Comments
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Sara Harricharan 07/18/09
Very interesting format and eplanation. Thanks for sharing this.
Stephanie Craig07/20/09
Nice job with the poetry. I don't think you needed the explanation at the top. The poetry below stood by itself.
Carol Slider 07/20/09
Beautiful poetry! I'm not sure if the explanation was absolutely needed, but it was interesting to know the background. This is an ambitious achievement... I'm impressed!!
Christina Banks 07/20/09
Interesting and ambitious piece. Thank you for sharing these poems with us.
Seema Bagai 07/20/09
Honestly, the first time I saw this piece I skipped over it because of the long explanation at the beginning. After seeing your hint, I reread the entry. I think the beautiful poems stand by themselves as examples of wonderful writing. The images and word choices are great.
Chely Roach07/20/09
Very lovely poetry. I agree that they did not need the opening author's note...made the piece feel like a lesson from a English text book. I think the single line that listed the types of poems would have been an appropriate author's note at the very end.
Beautiful work.
Mariane Holbrook 07/20/09
I learned something from your intro for whatever that's worth but your poetry was spot on. I love your style (all of them!) Kudos!
Jan Ackerson 07/21/09
WOW!!!! I loved these, and I learned a lot from them. Gorgeous, gorgeous writing. I'm thinking that you should be the conference speaker on poetry, not I. I need to go look some of these up...
Karlene Jacobsen07/21/09
I love this.

Thank you for the explanation of a cyclical poem. Although I do agree, the poems themselves stand well without it.
Dee Yoder 07/22/09
Wonderful collection! Each could beautifully stand alone, but together, they make a delightful summer picture!