Poem #1: BEATTY; Prompt #1: Passacaglia


Because everyone asks time to yield,
yeomen teach eternity. Blessed are thieves –
they abscond behind you. Earth trips,
etymology, archeology: thick yearbooks that bear
emblems. The younger age begins there.

Beaches alter expectations. Tides yo-yo together,
breaking apart eventually. Yesterday’s tales tier
top to bottom. Awls enter, you
yowl: those bitter tears. End and
begin again. Errant trust tears youth.

Aren’t you taking this back? Eggs
empty, artificial yolks: breakfast terror. Triumphant
enterprises built towers around yonder towns,
abandoned. Every ticket torn, yards barren
and yellowed. The boom ends today.

Black exhibits: art that trumps Yahweh.

@NBF 4.12.2009

NY Pier

NYC, 2007



I enjoy creating poetic forms based on musical ones. In 2000, I wrote my first “passacaglia” poem. The musical form of the same name originated in Spain and is often marked by a grave character and the presence of a bass-ostinato. I adapted the form for poetry by enacting a few challenging restrictions. First, I turn my subject’s name into the ostinato – here, BEATTY – and treat each letter of the name as a note that must be played once per line. As a result, I am limited to using only words that start with the letters, and using each letter once. As an added challenge, I make sure the letters appearing in the first and last lines occur in order. Lastly, I try to adhere to a 5-5-5-1 stanza pattern, with each of the first three stanzas telling distinct stories, and the last line a remark about my subject. The form is challenging, but a lot of fun. Give it a shot.

This poem is a tribute to Paul Beatty, covered here earlier.


3 Responses to “Poem #1: BEATTY; Prompt #1: Passacaglia”

  1. Very impressed with all this, Nick. Didnt know it was your scene. Particularly like “every ticket torn” (though I thought at first it was about Warren Beatty). Keep fighting the good fight.

  2. […] poem is another example of a passacaglia. I wrote it about Michael Jordan when he made his second comeback with the Washington Wizards. I […]

  3. I like this form! Here’s a first draft of a first try:


    Cry, rocks! and inspire greatness:
    in good alone can redemption
    change grapes into restorative alcohol;
    reward caperers in glitzy apparel;
    imprison all repulsive charitable graces.

    Caged animals remember glimpsed incinerators.
    After incarceration, rescued carrion gulp
    gusts, concede as rancor ignites
    iron, copper rivulets gripping abstractions.
    Researchers credit ghastly academic interest.

    Real crime is glorious atrocities:
    cancerous glamors revealing insidious addictions;
    carelessly ignoring ghosts and raising
    a rage; grimly concealing insatiable
    gurgling curiosity; recognizing at its
    core roiling a’a, igneous gold.

    (It’s for the poet Craig Arnold, who is currently lost on a small Japanese island, where he went to write about volcanoes.)

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