The form I use in these poems is not a traditional one, but one suggested by Susan Mitchell in the book The Practice of Poetry, where Mitchell suggests:
"Write an eighteen-line poem that uses diminishing, or nesting, rhyme. Order your eighteen lines into six three-line stanzas. Each stanza will take its end rhymes from a single word" (174).
Mitchell points out that the 17th century poet George Herbert used diminishing rhymes, which Mitchell has dubbed "nesting rhymes" after the nesting dolls. I prefer the term nesting also because sometimes I begin with the one syllable word and build to the larger rhyme rather than diminishing.
I spent a year working to draft about 10 poems in this form, sometimes diminishing, sometimes augmenting, sometimes combining both in a particular pattern. In addition to Mitchell's invention, I also worked to shape the poems by means of line lengths, another device used by 17th century poets. So, for example, "Two Nesting Poems" have wing shapes.
Two Nesting Poems
On Saturday, we chose to shun
our front door. We sensed two birds’ tension
at the hanging South African Impatiens, as if they paid attention
to our porch from their perch next door on the suspension
wire. Our absence, like a missing monthly pension
check’s, left them anxious but free to shun
the more usual tree for the magenta blooms, there bestowing
the white pot with curly grasses, stowing
the stuff quickly, taking wing
noisily, that sudden stutter of their wing
our cue. We asked the paperboy if he’d mind stowing
the daily at the end of the drive because we are bestowing
our stoop to them, and so our door,
as ones with no impatience who would say, “Oh, we’d adore
it if you’d come to stay while, without us, you first-class stevedore,
and bring the wife and kids, just till the seven of you restore
yourselves ship-shape. If you prefer, stay, store
the fat and then ship out. Either/or.”
Within ten hot July days without us, the porch plants expire.
The Impatiens’ leaves and stems droop in a black spire
at the hanging basket base, a funeral pyre,
and a certain sign we’ve erred
to try in aviary ignorance to host this bird
family. Except now four hatched heads have spurred
us on to proprietary notions again, a reconversion--
really back to believing our earlier version
that if we just shun
them....But now a week we peer
in from our far outpost, the four fluffy heads appear
half-dead, unfed, silent. No wonder: the parents disappear
for five days. We debate and waver on infanticide.
Why did we ever let them build this side
of the house? Next time, I’d
sooner at the start just roust them out.
Suddenly three fly. One, now spike-haired, stays as if to pout.
The three return. The basket rocks. The four stream out in a whiffling spout.
Diane Kendig, a poet, writer, and translator, is author of three chapbooks, most recently Greatest Hits, 1978-2000 (Pudding House). Her poetry and nonfiction have appeared in the journals Colere, Ekphrasis, Minnesota Review, Mid-America, U.S. 1 and Slant, among others, as well as the anthologies Broken Land: Poems of Brooklyn and Those Winter Sundays: Female Academics and their Working-Class Parents. A recipient of two Ohio Arts Council Fellowships in Poetry, a Fulbright lectureship in translation, and a Yaddo Fellowship, she currently lives in Lynn, Massachusetts. Her website is at http://dianekendig.com/