A FEW WEEKS AGO I told Keith Jackson that I was done with sharing my memoirs of A poets’ journey.
This article tells otherwise, but much that I have learned has already been told by now, so I think of the next few articles as footnotes. And the first footnote topic is: Why write poems using structured forms?
Last year a number of writers and poets were fortunate to listen to Russell Soaba at a session during the Crocodile Prize writers’ workshop where he said ‘the mind that relaxes itself in form opens to experimentation…take the form and make it your own’.
I think that because poems encapsulate a specific topic, this also makes them like a short short-story, and therefore using a structured form provides a poem with a convenient outline of the beginning, middle and an end.
In much poetry we are relating a kind of encapsulated story. We want to express an idea; a single coherent thought, imagining, realization, emotion, situation, event, outcome, etcetera that has ignited our poetic furnace.
So the first rule may be: don’t mince words. Structure controls this. Structure enables this. Using structure can prevent your poetry from excessive rambling on and on and on and off, creating an often clichéd and boring lecture and losing your reader’s interest and attention.
It may appear at first to the novice that using structure will detract from their originality in writing. I believe the opposite is true. Structure demands creativity. You provide the originality with what you put in and how you build up the parts.
Poetry uses many more different techniques than prose writing so the door is wide open for experimenting. There are many different forms to choose from; see one useful resource and other links at http://www.poetrysoup.com/poems/.
Chose the ‘best’ words which are also the ‘right’ words, and may be in another language; use a thesaurus and a dictionary; write everything down then edit for punctuation and grammar where necessary; treat verses as paragraphs, containing only one idea which may be expanded on; count syllables but don’t crush your work; go for the simplest most powerful expressions, use verbs, save on adjectives; read around for ideas; and look at different forms that might suit your piece.
Here is a structured poem in quatrain. As an exercise; count verses, lines and syllables; check rhyme pattern (consonance or assonance) and rhythm; note grammar, punctuation, alliteration, and diction; consider the imagery and repetition which may enhance the theme. Is there simile, metaphor, metonym or allegory use? Most importantly, is the poetic tale revealing or intriguing?
Here comes the sun
In this cold place I know so well
Waves of warmth have finally come.
So I’ll wait with my tale to tell;
Over my world, here comes the sun!
Always after the rain it comes.
Why would I ever need to run?
When I can stand and bid welcome;
Into my arms, here comes the sun!
In the black of night before dawn,
When my dreaming has come undone,
Wanderlust, banished with a yawn;
Into my heart, here comes the sun!
In yesterdays shadows and shade,
Many things wrong I thought were fun.
Lying here in the love we made;
Open my eyes, here comes the sun!
Where did you come from my sweet elf?
How did you know I was the one?
You bring laughter into my life;
When you give love, here comes the sun!
A quatrain in five stanzas of anapestic tetrameter, created in Room 846 of North Residential Wing, Royal Adelaide Hospital on 17 February 2013 for Heather Ober’s Beetlemania poetry contest at www.poetrysoup.com
Interested readers may want to take a look at an excellent ghazal by Agha Shahid Ali, entitled Tonight here.
My second poem is a sonnet with an unusual syllable count, eleven, and most likely because it’s in broken English. In light of recent discussions about the appropriate language for literature, I thought this might also provide some fuel to add to the debate.
You can make up your own mind whether the poem has delivered on its intention or not. And if you feel the urge then write one yourself.
My unkol is a socca sta
Yu nou my unkol? He’s da bestest striker
An he don eva neva tell me no lies
Becoz he says like dis to me all da taims
U’m gonna be countin his namba wan dei
Becoz he gonna score meni, meni goals
I! – Gonna be countin his namba wan dei
Erywan nou’s my unkol is da bestest
He plays his socca game jus like Zidang
He nous all da triky-triks like Pele do’s
U’m gonna be his namba wan wata-boi
Becoz he gonna tich me dose triky-triks
I! – Gonna be his bestest namba wan fan
But dat’s lucky unkol don play basketball
Becoz I can’t count up to dat far at all!
An earlier version of this poem is to be published in a collection of my poems by the UPNG Press sometime this year
My next footnote will be on prose poetry. And I’m hoping that later on someone else will provide assistance on writing about slam poetry, which I have never tried myself, but which I’ve heard provides a very enjoyable poetic event.
In writing of any kind, including poetry, we are following in the footprints of other writers who have gone before us, but our experiences and interpretations are all different and unique. Learn from them. Use them well. Add to us.