Thoughts on Craft and Process
In each quarterly issue of GLEAM, a member of the editorial staff will share a cadralor poem and talk through their process and craft of writing cadralore. We will answer frequently-asked questions and offer personal advice on writing poems in this deceptively challenging form.
Inaugural Issue Editors’ Workshop: Lori Howe, Editor in Chief, GLEAM
By Lori Howe
Published by MacQueen’s Quinterly: Knock-your-socks-off Art and Literature
Hi, everyone. Thanks for reading and visiting the Editors’ Workshop. I’ve shared one of my favorite of my cadralore, Ocean, Ocean, and I’m going to frame this by responding to some frequently-asked questions. I’ll start with Process and then move on to Craft.Lori Howe, Editor in Chief, GLEAM
QUESTION: If cadralore are non-narrative poems, how do you create five, contextually-unrelated stanzas that belong in the same poem? How do you know they will turn into a successful poem if they don’t have anything to do with each other?
ANSWER: That’s a very good question, and I’m afraid the answer might not be very satisfying. The answer is: you don’t know for sure that your five stanzas will work as a poem, not until you write them. I write the stanzas in no particular stanzaic order, just as they come to me. I number them 1-5 as I write them, but with the full expectation of changing the stanzaic order. The fifth stanza has to bring the whole poem together into coherence as a sort of love poem. If I don’t have a stanza that does that, the poem isn’t finished. I may need to put one or more stanza in the compost pile and write another fifth stanza to act as the crucible. This is fine. It’s a wonderful thing to have a reservoir of stanzas from which to draw for future cadralore.
QUESTION: How do you choose subject matter for each stanza, given that each stanza has to function as a poem on its own?
ANSWER: All cadralore have, at their heart, a deep sense of yearning. I consider what pulls me most strongly: travel; art; scientific theories and principles, specifically physics, but all science of the natural world; cooking and communion with others over food; water of all kinds; love and desire. If you read my cadralore, you’ll see these themes appear over and over in individual stanzas. The context is always different, but the themes are there. I build stanzas based on these and other themes that resonate with me; they represent my yearnings. I start with a central image or experience that forms the nucleus of a stanza and sit down, type 1. And build the stanza around that nucleus until I have 5 stanzas. Then, I read them as a poem to see if they cohere; is there a thread? Does the fifth stanza illuminate it? If not, do any of the other stanzas work better as stanza 5, or do I need to write another one? So far, my cadralore have come out whole, but I have a pile of stanzas I can run my fingers through if I need a new one. This process involves a lot of “feeling one’s way” and is, by nature, imprecise. Because cadralore are non-narrative, there’s a lot of risk-taking involved. In general, the more risk-taking, the stronger the cadralor.
QUESTION: How do you know that your poems will resonate with the reader? Aren’t our own yearnings unique to us?
ANSWER: Sure, not all poems or stanzas will resonate with every reader; that’s just a reality of life for writers of all kinds. The context of a stanza on, say, traveling to Iceland, like #3 in Ocean, Ocean, might not hold specific resonance with a reader who has never been to Iceland or isn’t interested in Iceland. Still, the imagery and the sense of longing and richness of experience, the detail, are what open the door for the reader, what remind the reader of a longing they feel for a place they have been, like a scent can bring back a memory. Individual yearnings might be unique to us, but yearnings for travel, for love, for community, for music, etc., are universal. They are the human condition. You have to trust that your cadralor will evoke something personal and meaningful for the reader through this combination of imagery and longing.
QUESTION: How do you know if the fifth stanza is successful? What does the fifth stanza do?
ANSWER: When we editors read a successful cadralor, we must agree that the poem “sticks the landing.” In other words, the fifth stanza fulfills its dual purposes: it is, at once, a poem in its own right, AND it illuminates the thread you might not have noticed running through the previous stanzas. It offers a sense of culmination, of satisfaction, even if it isn’t tangible, but felt. Put simply—even though it really isn’t simple–the fifth stanza offers a sensory experience that communicates a kind of satisfaction of the yearning that runs through the poem.
Ready to write your own cadralor?
Gleam is a journal wholly devoted to the new poetic form, the cadralor. Co-created by three of Gleam’s editors, the cadralor consists of five short, unrelated, highly-visual stanzas.
Get In Touch
If you are interested in submitting your own cadralor poem or if you have questions, you can reach out to our Gleam email. We look forward to hearing from you!
Meet the Editors
The cadralor was co-created by:
Lori Howe, Editor in Chief
Christopher Cadra, Senior Editor
Mary Carroll-Hackett, Contributing Editor