Throwback Thursday: How to Write Poetry

I’ve been asked for feedback on poetry a few times, a task I found amusing since I’d begged others for the same in the past. Art is very subjective. Art is also only so when the majority of people agree, when it takes skill, and when it’s not someone peeing in jar and taking a picture of it.

On that note, please enjoy my informative blog post on how to write poetry, first published October 1, 2017.

A Muse, The Blues, Some Clues -AKA How to Write Poetry

 

Lo! What light, what cackling sun
Burns your eyes?
It laughs as you run;
Jumping, grasping, to
Catch the poem…

If you thought that was bad, you were right. I literally wrote that without any thought, direction, or meter. I took about fifteen seconds.

Don’t get me wrong -sometimes people like that crap. Sometimes the Crap Off the Cuff really isn’t bad. However, poetry is just like any other crafted item: the more practice you have at your skill, the better anything you make will be.
Translation: those who are experts can write a decent impromptu poem, and the stuff they worked longer on is even better.

So, *ahem.* Let’s stop mucking about and finally jump into A Few Steps for Writing Poetry:

1. Don’t.
Seriously, there are already a lot of good poets out there who have already written your idea in a better way. Thanks to Google, you can probably find it.
There are also a lot of terrible poets who have murdered your idea and now it’s bleeding by the side of the road begging people to stop clicking that they Like it.

2. Still determined? Good! You’ve passed the first test: that of true motivation for verse. I feel that motivation, a muse, hangover, emotional distress, late-night deadlines -whatever your name is for it- are vital to writing a poem.
Even if you don’t have a clear subject or good structure, the sheer determination to express what you feel will squeeze something out.

3. Actual Guidelines
So… there is this type of meter I poked fun at initially. It’s called free verse. Let me tell you, from my extremely limited experience, that freely versing can be a BAD idea. It’s the commando version of creative writing, and needs a brave, strong, experienced writer to handle it.
My recommendation, therefore, is to follow a meter. No, you don’t have to go full-out iambic pentameter. Only do so if you wish to be counting on your fingers and looking up rhymes for “depressed” all evening.
A good start is to come up with a few lines in your mind, then count the syllables (and pattern of stress/non-stress) and roughly follow that for the remaining lines.

4. Stress and Non-stress
Really quickly: this is where we put the emphasis on our words when we speak. I threw it in here because I mentioned it in the previous step, and you might be scratching your head over it.
Sometimes, I write a poem and there is one line that is really bugging me. Usually, it’s because I followed my syllable count, but did not follow normal speech rules of emphasis.
Because of that, the syllable count is actually off. Readers (including you) will do a mental glottal stop to be able to stress the words where we are accustomed to.

5. To Rhyme, or Not Some Thyme?
This one is up to you. I mostly rhyme for mine, every other line.
The length of each line and how often you rhyme (every single ending word, halfway through, every other, or randomly) will determine whether your poem feels like a poem, Dr. Seuss, or a rap song.
Keep in mind that even Seuss mixed things up a bit. One of my favorite stanzas in The Cat in the Hat is:

So, as fast as I could,
I went after my net.
And I said, “With my net
I can get them I bet.
I bet, with my net,
I can get those Things yet!”*

Try it; it’s fun to read through.

6. Word Choice
Let’s say you want to emote about love and loss of said love. You are going to make us all feel something different than affection if you literally use the word “love” more than about three times. Sometimes, my limit is even one.
This is where your friend, Mr. Thesaurus, comes in. I mentioned this in my How to Not Suck at Writing rant as well, because it’s really important.
Let’s say you’re not that into synonyms. Too much woooorrrrkkk.
You will sound way more mysterious and intelligent if you do it. Like, “I loved and lost and lost my love” could become “Adored, then absent; Carelessly cherished.”

7. More Word Choice
Poetry is all about obscurity. Even when it’s a straightforward tale of a path diverging in the forest, everyone still says the poem is about something deeper.
So, use your new thesaural friend to obfuscate your terms, or make the simple description of your plush tiger on the shelf sound like it represents your childhood memories of being abandoned.

8. Practice and Preparedness
This goes for anything, but especially creative writing.
Read other poets, and copy their style. Keep a notebook to jot down random lines that come to you on the train. Try, try, try again. Everything you read and write will give you experience.

Now, go! Make the world a poetic place.

 

©2020 Chelsea Owens
*from The Cat in the Hat, by Dr. Seuss. All rights and copyrights, etc. apply

WINNER of the Weekly Terrible Poetry Contest

Another week, another round of great entries! You all free versed enough to set iridescent butterflies wafting round a blushing summertime rosebush.

Yet, there can only be one winner. And that is:

Untitled piece

by Deb Whittam

latitude and longitude, dormant darkness
of desserts concaved with sand. frosted
waves pounding cliff faces rugged
as gulls mournfully cry their solemn
lament. giants rustle leaves in hollow
reproach, as winter exhales. in a basement
a cheerless rodent sneezes, a whirlwind of
dust. below grim encrusted tunnels feet
scamper, fleeing the angry beast, who bellows
its angst in short blasts three. The umpire shouts TIME.

Congratulations, Deb! You are the most terrible poet of the week!

All the entries this week were fantastic! Deb’s poem won for how well she took traditional free verse and destroyed it. The icing on the cake was her “a cheerless rodent sneezes.” Well done!

If you thought hers was terrible, see if you can get through the rest:

Sugar cubed

by Bruce Goodman

You are the teaspoon that stirs sweet sugar in my cup of tea;
imagine how yucky the tea would be without you
to stir the saccharine cubes in the beverage for me to drink.

That is why you are my honey-bee hovering near my cup and saucer,
my stirring implement that is wild and free
and goeth round and around all syrupy with glee and delight.

My teaspoon! My teaspoon! from A to Z*!
(*pronounced ZED because we’re not allowed to rhyme this week)
Every time I come back from having a pee
there’s always a further five or six sugared hot cups of tea waiting to be imbibed.

Thank you for being my sugar cube agitator, adorable Constantia.
When I see you dissolve sugar I dissolve into a sticky mess.
Will you take time out from stirring my sugar cubes to marry me?

—–

Hola

by Peregrine Arc

Goldfish, mirrors of angelic happenings
Twittering ’round my pâté
and never I did I want to become a bat.
A florid, Florida bat with a floral dress
Flowery, shimmer, summery.
Striking Cover Girl poses at a laundromat recycling bin.
But alas here I am, at a restaurant poking a salad at a beach
80 years old, playing Bingo with Uncle Mingo
A flowery, fruity, in more ways than sooth
Ol’ bat.
Cha, Cha, cha. Ole!

—–

Untitled piece

by Gary

In our darkest times you bring unbroken sunshine
With a bouquet unrivalled amongst the finest wine
Like a fragrant flower sat below the finest red pine
How can something so small be so life enriching
Your smell, your taste so utterly bewitching
Just one drop is so completely uplifting
You shine out on our world like the stars of the southern cross
You are as wondrous and spectacular as the wandering albatross
You paint the world with a sparking diamond jewel embossed gloss
In the kitchen you are the unrivalled boss
Riding across the sky like the ancient god Helios
You are our light oh Great Tabasco Sauce

—–

Ode to Doublemint

by Ruth Scribbles

Elixir of arousal
Enticing my buds to
Long for the burst of delightful
Flavor
My orifice masticates
Releasing angst and queasiness
You are fettered for my sustenance
My perseverance in chasing you
Is made worthwhile

—–

Untitled piece

by Trent McDonald

Ah, fast and furious
Flicking around
You scurry to and fro
Like a drunken apricot
Charlie Chaplin on speed
Multiplied by two
On your long thin legs
So gloriously gorgeous
That you have six
For how can but two do
Or even Charlie’s three
Including his cane
For his cane is part of him
Isn’t it
But you have six
Naturally
And you don’t have a mustache
But the mandibles
So roundly curvaceous
Sweeping, sexy mandibles
And antennas
Or is it antennae
Let me look closer
With this magnificent magnifying glass
Shape, clear crystal for seeing
Ooops
I didn’t mean to
Burn you up
Sorry ant

—–

Thanks to everyone for poeming! If he’s game, I’m thinking of having a guest judge. We’ll see how that goes. Regardless, come back at 10 a.m. tomorrow for next week’s prompt.

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Deb: D. Wallace Peach created this graphic that you can use (if you want) for a badge of honor as the winner:

The Weekly Terrible Poetry Contest

May I be the first sentence to welcome you to the 37th Terrible Poetry Contest? Excellent.

You may think writing horrendous verse is difficult. It’s not; people do it all the time! Just in case you’re nervous, however, I’ve written up a brief description here. Read it, or pick a random poem from the internet and alter it to fit the prompt.

-Which may be found in the specifics below:

  1. Our Topic is Anything. You choose.
    The catch? Whatever subject you select has to be way too flowery and/or descriptive. Adjectives and adverbs are your new best friends, closely followed by metaphor, simile, hyperbole, synecdoche, and personification.
    The other catch? The type of poem is free verse.
  2. Length? For the judge’s time and sanity, keep things under 250 words.
  3. For the first time, you may NOT Rhyme! What could be more poetic than free verse? Most people think that’s true and who are we to add rhyme to their meter?
  4. As always, make it terrible. Poets who take themselves way too seriously must applaud your efforts, worried to be the first to point out the emperor has no prose.
  5. Although a bawdy free verse poem is likely to exist somewhere, most stay around PG or cleaner; you can as well.

You have till 8:00 a.m. MST next Friday (August 9) to submit a poem.

Use the form below to be anonymous for a week.

For a more social experience, and to guarantee I see your entry, include your poem or a link to it in the comments.

Please enter and please have fun!

 

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Photo credit:
Unsplash

The Power of the Word

I love words, and I always have.

Whilst pregnant; my mother swallowed Agatha Christie and James Herriot and Ogden Nash, sending their formatted prose intra-umbilically to my formatting body. After I was out and able to lay still; the fare included A Child’s Garden of Verses, Shel Silverstein, Ramona Quimby, and Twig. Once literate by my own merits (and from my mother’s example); I devoured Laura Ingalls Wilder, Arabian Nights, Bruce Coville, and Anthem.

I vowed to read every book ever written. I thought my goal an attainable one.

In the meantime, my literary diet supplemented my grammatical learning. Unlike many writers, I do not have a degree in the craft. My teachers were Charlotte Brontë, Mary Shelley, and Douglas Adams. They taught me by example and expanded my lexicon to precocious measures.

In this way, I blame them for my problem.

I love words and am not afraid of them. I play with adjectives, verbs, and nouns like a small child with a treasure chest of his favorite playthings. Yes, I sometimes smash them together and finger paint a Jackson Pollock-worthy story. Yes, I sometimes roll terms into shapes like Play-Doh and end up with noun-verbs and adjective-nouns.

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Every now and then I step back from my mishmash meter, sigh with contentment, and behold a magnificent mural.

Between times, however, my words have a tendency to cause mischief. I’ve used strong words to accurately describe my feelings, and inaccurate words in feeling ways. I’ve intentionally poked and stabbed to incite a reaction. A handful of times, I have drawn on The Power of Words to move a people to action.

I am, naturally, a novice at wordweaving. I worry at trying a spell when I haven’t passed all the levels. I tell myself not to dabble until I become a master.

I have also ticked some people off.

And yet, I cannot stay away. The bubbling brew of prosaic verse simmers warmly, invitingly, lovingly. Come hither, it tempts, I will not harm thee

What say ye, wordspellers? How do words speak to you, how do you listen, and how (in turn) do you release the power that builds as you chant your incantations?

—————

We’ve crafted for another week. Here’s what I created:
Wednesday, February 20: Is Harry Potter a good book? Read what I thought and what many insightful comments determined in “To Potter or Not to Potter?
Thursday, February 21: “The Cure for Depression: Don’t Be Hatin’ on Medicatin’,” another suggestion in a series originally posted over at The Bipolar Writer Mental Health Blog.
Friday, February 22: Winner of the Weekly Terribly Poetry Contest. Congratulations to Peregrine Arc!
Saturday, February 23: Announced the 14th Weekly Terrible Poetry Contest. We’re doing parodies of pop songs. PLEASE ENTER!
Sunday
, February 24: “Dot on the Brown,” my poem response to the famous Frank Prem’s “speck on the blue.”
Monday, February 25: “Wilhelmina Winters, Eighty-Three.”
Tuesday, February 26:  An inspirational quote by Maya Angelou. Smile at home, everyone.
Also, noted that I now have 500 Followers! Thanks again, everyone!!
Wednesday, February 27: Today‘s post.

I also posted all this week at my motherhood site. My favorite (and the internet’s) was my poem, “A Poem About Socks.”

And, I wrote a piece for Kids are the Worst titled “12 Fun and Easy Cabin Fever Fixes.” Don’t worry; there’s plenty of my good, old-fashioned sarcasm to keep things interesting.

 

Photo Credit:
Amaury Salas

Purple Prose

Aesthetically adorablely beautifully brilliantly characteristically curiously dirtily damningly energetically eagerly flauntingly flowery genuinely genially hopefully hauntingly ignominiously ickily jauntily junkily kleptomanically knowledgeably laughingly lovingly Lula

meets

Mysteriously masterfully naively nefariously ostentatiously odiously paternally politely quietly quickly respectfully randomly selectively seductively thoroughly tremblingly undyingly undressingly viriley violently wretchedly wealthily xenophobically xeriscapedly yearningly yuckily zealously zanily Zach.

Makes one wonder what their offspring will be like.