Updated 14-Sep-2023

This page is about my on-again, off-again preoccupation with poetry. It started out innocently enough, but then I fell in with the Poets of the Open Range (when living in Denver in the 1980s) and occasionally stalked the poetry readings with the nom de plume Radical Milquetoast.

In any case, my father has a much more storied career as a published writer of haiku and tanka, yet not having ever published a book of his own (he certainly has enough published material for a collection). My guess is he will wait until posterity for such an event.

Waka Line and Poem Length

I generally do haiku, senryu, and some tanka, but also dabble in slightly longer stuff, nothing epic. Also, the constraints of haiku and tanka I follow but not strictly (e.g, 7-5-7 or 5-7-5-7-7). There are other Waka forms that might better fit a topic or mood, such as choka, sedoka, and katauta. In any case, poems can be endlessly reworked.

Waka line lengths and names

  • Haiku and Senryu 5-7-5
  • Tanka 5-7-5-7-7
  • Katata 5-7-7
  • Sedōka 5-7-7-5-7-7 (two Katata, sometimes a dialogue)
  • Bussokusekika 5-7-5-7-7-7 (a Tanka with an extra 7 line)
  • Chōka 5-7-5-7-5-7...5-7-7 (alternating 5 and 7 length lines ending with two 7 lines)

Playing Tennis with the Net Down

I remember distinctly many years ago when I showed some early poetry to my father (in the form of a letter) that his reply was a misquoted Robert Frost retort (erroneously attributed to Longfellow):

> Writing free verse is like playing tennis with the net down.

This statement should also be understood in a different way, namely, not condemning free verse, but indicating a lack of ability to demarcate how the ball should be ruled (or, I presume, the words must not go out of certain lines). In any case, this has lodged in my craw and over the decades resembled more or less the divide between the modern and the post-modern. It isn't that we don't know the rules, but that the ghostly apparition of rules still exist nonetheless, and that other dimensions -- allegory, antinomy, alliteration, as examples -- can be brought to the fore.

Alliterative Verse

I consider reincorporation of alliterative verse as the pure pursuit and at some future point hope to spend time on this form. In particular, the strict syllable length of Japanese forms (as understood by English speaking reception), combined with a more engaged form of words (think Rilke's Das Rosen Innere).

Poetry on Twitter

Many of these poems, over the past several years (since 2008) have been placed on a twitter account @mcneillpoetry (unedited). At some point in the future I will migrate them to their own publication on this website or another.