Linda J. Austin
Have you ever heard a Salutiferous Salometer Song? Are you familiar with the Radish Reindeer Revolution? Did you know that Narcissus nannies never nap when ordained osprey offer ostentatious pickled pancakes? Are you aware that Fury flings fierce frivolity?
Whether you want to sing your own songs, create your own revolutions, expound upon secrets you've uncovered or focus the serious - a Flume provides the mold. If you want to try writing for children and don't know where to begin, Flumes can create characters and situations for you. Free Form Flumes wander through the surreal creating vivid imagery. The more serious minded may find inspiration in a Focused Flume. This is the most challenging Flume because no connecting words are allowed. The poet must select the best four or five words allowed for each letter of the alphabet. Every word, as in imagist poetry, must do its job. This exacting form polishes the poet - helps to develop uncluttered writing.
Flumes are not relics of poetry past. You will not find Flumes in the dictionary or in a poetry text so read on to learn more about my Flume creation. Perhaps it's best to begin by reading a Flume. (You'll find two Focused Flumes in the Poetics Presents section: A Flume of Hostility and 9/11/2001.)
Did you notice the building momentum and intensity of the Focused Flume? The single stanza places the reader in the midst of the activity; batters the reader with crashing images that don't stop until the 26th line. While this is disconcerting and does not allow the reader time to pause (or take a breath) it evokes emotion. The reader is tossed into the mayhem to experience the avalanche that is hostility. Stanza breaks would allow the reader to look closely at what is happening, but then the reader becomes a bystander and does not feel the impact of hostility.
The Flume Pattern
Flumes generate their own alliteration and enjambment
Each letter of the alphabet is allotted 4 - 5 words (see exceptions for X,Y,Z). The optional 5th word allows the expansion of a thought or more clarity.
The first line will have five words and succeeding lines four words unless you opt for the optional fifth. Here's the first & second lines of Hostility:
Arrogant agitation airs. Anger blossoms
bury buffalo boneheads. Critical
Word pattern: a a a a b/b b b c/
Each line ends with one word introducing the next alphabet letter.
Punctuation determines meaning, but not always. Even with a period after airs, blossoms is still going to be read as a verb until the next line is read. Dual meanings are good. The poet has no say in enjambment other than through word choice.
Compound words are acceptable as long as they are hyphenated in the dictionary. The second part of the hyphenated word does not have to have the same letter that begins the compound. Here's an example from Hostility:
Wishy-washy whore-mongers, wither Xanadu.
X,Y,Z Exceptions: It is hard to stay focused with limited choices but do the best you can with these 3 letters. Here are the requirements:
X - 1 word
Y - 3 words
Z - 1 word
Getting started: List your topic. On the left side of the page write/type the alphabet (one letter per line) this is the starting point for each line.
You will need a good dictionary (I have a 1986 vintage Webster’s Collegiate) and a space for it to lie open as you work.
A Thesaurus may help get your brain warmed up. If you choose to write about an emotion (like anger) read what the thesaurus has to say, study the words. Think about what your topic means to you. Free associate. Make notes. Write down any words you want to include. (Otherwise once you start looking at other words, these thoughts may get pushed out of your brain.)
Making Sense: Gather all the words first, arrange them and use whatever punctuation necessary to form meaningful sentences. You may find yourself changing some of the words, or the order of words. Thoughts, images, action should naturally flow from one to the next. When complete you should have a 25-26 line stanza. (Remember we exempted some words for X, Y, Z).
Free Form Flumes
A free form flume is based on the same principles as a focused flume but allows the poet to add as many connecting words and verbs as necessary to complete the sentences. These additional words also keep the poem from being choppy. Connecting words may appear anywhere in the line except at the beginning of a line. Flumes have an abecedarian format that should be preserved.
Lascivious lanyard ladybugs use many
maple moose magistrates nation-wide to
nab naughty napkin nominees. Opportunistic
Flume Aberrations - begin the flume with a different alphabet letter. Start anywhere in the alphabet. Wherever you begin, you must still use all 26 letters of the alphabet. If you begin with the letter F, the last line of the flume would begin with letter E.
Break the flume into stanzas.
Make a list flume - 26 lines
1 letter per line, no carryovers to the next line
5-6 words per alphabet letter
does not have to be sentence structure
use connecting words if needed
My Wish List
fantabulous favonian faucet fantom
glabrescent gobbledygook graffiti gizmo
Readers may also wish to check the WVU calendar for the Poetry Trigger# P154: "Mastering Alliteration".
T-Zero: The Writer's Ezine