James R. Whitley’s
poetry has been published in numerous literary journals including 42Opus, Controlled Burn, Poetry Southeast, The Pinch, and Wheelhouse.
Whitley’s poetry has been nominated for both the Pushcart Prize and the Best of the Net. His first poetry book Immersion won the 2001 Naomi Long Madgett Poetry Award. His second full-length collection This Is the Red Door won the Ironweed Press Poetry Prize and will be published soon.
Whitley lives in Springfield, Massachusetts.
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Someone Fell: A Calendelle
Though flawed, wings are rarely a bad idea. Think of the aviary:
[Originally published in Texas Poetry Journal]
how the stately crows and crown pigeons seem to never worry
about the ravenous raccoons skulking nearby—safety, just an arch
of a back, an urgent splay of feathers away. At my lonely table,
a man is sulking, ignoring the artifice of this bistro’s name: Chez
Plaisir. Bathed in waning candleglow, his face is a scarred moon,
anguish pooling in two of its craters, angst clouding over the sky.
Perhaps regret is the burnt chicken he just ate or the nonplused
moth stuck in orbit around the dim streetlamp. Still, I remember
soaring like Icarus, an overeager sparrow chirping how I got over
even as the naïve wax melted and fell, even as fate, once so tender,
revealed itself to be an abyss none can fly over, a sad spent ember.
fter a decade or so of writing solely free verse, I made an effort a few years back to focus on writing some form poems. In the years that followed I wrote several successful form poems, including sonnets, ghazals, tankas, sestinas, etc., but none seemed particularly enjoyable to write. I felt constrained while writing them, rather than adventurous or innovative as I had hoped I might when I began seriously tackling form poetry. For a brief while I thought I might try my hand at the paradelle, Billy Collins’ fanciful parody of French forms, but didn’t find it a congenial exercise. Then I happened upon a definition of a form I had never encountered before: the calendelle.
The calendelle is an American-born form in which each of the poem’s twelve lines ends with a word rhyming with a month of the year, as well as the same number of syllables as there are days in that particular month. Although I completely ignored the syllable restriction, I liked the idea of this lesser-known form and played with it until I crafted “Someone Fell: A Calendelle,” which was great fun to write despite the somber mood of the piece. The poem gave me a renewed sense of experimentation and possibility for working in form poetry.