Nonets with Irene Latham

This week I spent a morning learning about nonets with Irene Latham. The nonet is a syllabic, 9-line form with each line’s syllable count ascending or descending. Irene’s book Nine: A Book of Nonet Poems is a collection that shows just how thoughtful and sophisticated poetry for children can be.

Here’s one of the poems that came out of the workshop. I was thinking about the revision history of a haiku that will be published next month. I was also playing with the title of Natalie Goldberg’s Three Simple Lines: A Writer’s Pilgrimage Into the Heart and Homeland of Haiku. Melissa Wiley said this may be her favorite Goldberg, and I agree! Part travelogue, part historical notes on haiku, altogether enchanting.

lines become
a rectangle.
Doorway, gate, portal,
a pair of slim couplets.
Mirrors, twins, both like and unlike,
still holding the turn, the surprise,
the way through the open door to God.

Here’s one more found poem built from my notes during Irene’s workshop, including the title of one of her forthcoming books!

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  1. Fascinating poem. I have reread it several times. I suppose the surprise began for me with three lines become a rectangle, but when I think of doors I can almost see it. Your poem is full of surprises to the end.

    Thanks for information about the nonet. I had just stopped at Irene’s blog and was scouring the internet to learn more — and you had all the answers I needed. What an interesting form and, in the case of your poem, so full of meaning.

    Thank you.

    1. Thank you for being such a careful reader, Cathy! My son and I were talking about clarity in poems–sounds like I might need to work a little to make that image more clear. Peace keep you.

  2. I gave Irene’s ‘Nonet” book to my granddaughter last summer; she was turning nine! It is a wonderful book! I am writing haiku, mostly, for this April so will enjoy Natalie’s book, though I’m also reading others. Your poem is lovely. I like the idea of “Mirrors, twins, both like and unlike” – pondering! Thanks for all you shared, Kortney!

  3. Hi Kortney,
    I was at the workshop, too. Glad to see your nonets. Your Jazz Keys was interesting, I’ve not see that “form” with the piano. How did you make that?
    I’ve not heard about this Natalie Goldberg book and it looks so interesting to me. I have always loved Haiku. My 2 /12 year old grandson’s favorite number is 9! We do not know why. If someone asks how many he wants of something or how many pieces to cut his toast into he always exlaims, “9,9!” I will share my copy with him, he loves books and seems pretty sharp but I am not sure if he will be ready for this or not. Can’t hurt to try.

  4. I am fascinated with the idea of surprise in a poem, “the way through the open door”. I would love to read Goldberg’s book. Congratulations on your publication!

  5. Love
    And true devotion
    It’s from such seeds as these
    Kortney’s artful poems bloom
    Planted deep in soil well prepared
    Budding in profuse luxuriance.

    1. In Irene’s class, she emphasized just how important that first word is when writing an ascending nonet. And your first word couldn’t be any better! Thank you for this poem, Tom. It feels like a blessing.

  6. “Love” is certainly the fitting and appropriate first word when it comes to describing the how, why and wherefore of your poetry. I would wish it were so in all cases. Thanks for blessing us and press on.

  7. Kortney — I have yet to write a nonet, but have enjoyed reading about them from everyone’s posts this month, including yours of course! I didn’t realize they could ascend. Good to know! I just popped Goldberg’s book into my Amazon cart. It’s been an expensive month, LOL.

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