Nocturnes and Aubades

This week I had the pleasure of attending a lunch-time workshop with Shutta Crum (a Michigan friend and writer whom I have long admired) on writing nocturnes and aubades. The workshop was sponsored by Hope at Hand as part of the Jacksonville Poetry Fest.

If you are like pre-workshop me, you might have little to no idea what a nocturne or aubade is. But now I can educate you: a nocturne is a poem set at night, and an aubade is a song to the dawn, often a lament because of a leave-taking of a loved one. Shutta inspired us with some gorgeous nocturnes and aubades (you can find links to those that she shared on her blog, including this dawn poem by Poetry Friday friend, Irene Latham.) The forms do not have any prescribed meter or rhyme scheme.

The workshop included time to write two quick drafts of either a nocturne or aubade. The aim of the first poem was to include some sensual details/specific elements. The spouse and I walk the hound down to the lake every evening, so my first poem was pretty much a re-creation of those nightly walks. For the second draft, we were asked to turn the nocturne/aubade on its head, changing it from a positive to a negative experience, or to find one or two images that could be turned into a simile or metaphor. I glommed onto one stanza of my first poem, inspired by observing woodcock courtship a couple of weeks ago, and stirred in a few star/planet references from another stanza (here’s a very fun video of woodcock courtship:)

Nocturne in the Marsh

The woodcock peent, peent, peents
over the marsh,
wings whistling, twittering

twirling, swirling
higher and higher 
into the sky.

Choose me, he commands.

I am Mars. 
I am Jupiter.
I am Orion.

I am the only hokumpoke for you.

Hidden in the dusk,
crouching in the muck,
a female woodcock watches.

Is she swayed by 
his aerial acrobatics,
convinced by his nocturnal swagger,

to mate and build
warm and nurture
raise and release?

Or does she turn away, 
unimpressed by his 
timberdoodle dance,

burrow her long bill
into the marshy muck,
pull out a tasty worm,

spend the night
in glorious 
bogsucker solitude?
--Buffy Silverman

I’m not sure that I exactly followed directions, and I don’t want to suggest the female woodcock’s musing as a metaphor for anything in my own life (really!) But it was a happy poetry month workshop.

If you’re looking for more Poetry Month goodness, head over to Jone Rush MacCulloch’s blog. Jone is this week’s Poetry Friday host and is also hosting a Classic Found Poem Palooza.

18 thoughts on “Nocturnes and Aubades

  1. O, Buffy! Appreciations for bringing this light.
    “timberdoodle” & your other poet-creating words, a beginning understanding with music, actual birdsong & sights, for a creature I didn’t know.
    And WoW about your nurturing workshop with Shutta Crum! She is a wonderful new leader to me – I enjoyed a poetry prompt session she gave for a North Florida poetry group [different from the JAX event you describe] but a group also beautifully connected to Hope at Hand.
    Wonderful post.

  2. Decisions. Decisions. Ha! What a delightful read. Thank you also for all of the background information to the poem. I have some new things to think about.

  3. Well done, Buffy! I love all those verbs in the first stanza, and that timberdoodle dance is a riot! Thank you for introducing me to Shutta Crum and reminding me of nocturnes and aubades.

  4. Delightful poem (esp. love timberdoodle dance)! Wonderful blend of story and science. Thanks for bringing a smile to my day. 🙂

  5. I’ve seen one of these woodcocks, happened upon one up close as he did his little dance and swirled up and up. Quite fun! Love you poem, Buffy…the Mars, the Orion, the “only snipe for you.” Priceless! Thanks so much.

  6. That fella has got the moves! His “peent” and “nocturnal moves” remind me of Bert from Sesame Street doing the “Coo, Coo, Pigeon”.) Your poem captures this fascinating dynamic culminating with the female woodcock having choice – yes! I signed up for Shutta’s newsletter, thanks for the introduction. 🙂

  7. Buffy, fun poem, especially after watching the video. I love the agency of the female to take his advance or go on and spend the night in solitude. Nice nocturne, and I did learn two new types of poems from you. I love the cheekiness of the male: “Choose me, he commands. / I am Mars…” Very effective!

  8. What a treat your nocturne poem is, and “timberdoodle” is fantastic! I have a special connection with the woodcock and it’s shimmying movement as it’s included in a poetry book I’ve been working on over the last year on birds and poetry–the woodcocks movements always make me smile, thanks Buffy. Oh, and I was in an SCBWI workshop with Shutta Crum pre-pandemic which also was a treasure!

  9. I love this. The personification mixed with real science is beautiful…I hope the pair makes it against all the odds! Love v. yummy food is a tough choice for all of us. LOL.

  10. Love seeing the shenanigans of that lovely male; the body movements made me smile. Your poem captures what are the imagined feelings, wondering if she is content with the tasty worm. You’ve created a wonderful story poem, Buffy.

  11. I attended Shutta Crum’s workshop, too, and I’m still thinking about the possibilities. You certainly found sensual details! I love “I am the only snipe for you” and the specifics of her two options.

  12. Buffy–Thank you so much for your kind words about my workshop. So glad to hear you, and others, got some ideas/inspiration/lines to work with from it. And I love your poem. That word: timberdoodle!!! And I love the contrast between the male and female. Very nice! Here’s a link to a post I did about nocturnes and aubades:

    Also, a shameless plug: Folks may want to check out my monthly newsletter THE WORDSMITH’S PLAYGROUND in which I put links to articles about writing poetry and books for young readers. Also there’s a monthly prompt to play with. To subscribe:

    Cheers! And Happy National Poetry Month! Shutta

  13. Your poem is delightful! “Timberdoodle” was a new word for me– I love the way it sounds. The the sheer confidence of the bird naming themselves a list of deities gave him such character! Happy Poetry Friday!

  14. Lovely, Buffy! I love his I am Mars I am Venus swagger, her two choices, the paired words, her love of solitude.


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