WordPress Writing 201: Poetry Class, Day 4

The Day 4 assignment offers these challenges:

  • Prompt: animal
  • Form: concrete poetry
  • Device: enjambment

Concrete Poetry

Also known as shape poetry, the idea here is to arrange your words on the screen (or the page) so that they create a shape or an image. The meaning of the image can be obvious at first glance, or require some guesswork after reading the poem.

Enjambment

when a grammatical sentence stretches from one line of verse to the next.

Writing Process

I was glad to see enjambment as today’s device because it’s just about inevitable when you’re playing with a demanding form. In fact, I used this device in a couple of lines of yesterday’s acrostic because I needed the second line to begin with a particular letter:

Unless the day is sunny and clear, when
Nothing her beauty shrouds.

Grammatically and conceptually the second line here should begin with when, but the form required me to fudge a bit. And I expect the same thing will happen with today’s poem when I need to sculpt the line length to create the visual pattern I want.

The Giant Pacific Octopus

The giant Pacific octopus, one of nature’s most intelligent creatures,
Lives an average of three to five years in the wild before she
Reproduces. Then she holds on to the male’s sperm packet
And hunts for a suitable cave wherein to lay her
One-hundred-twenty thousand to four-hundred
Thousand eggs, which she lovingly tends.
She attaches her eggs to the walls
Of the cave, then splays her
Eight arms to seal it.
For six months she
Bathes the eggs,
Never eating,
Until she
Finally
Dies.

Then
Her offspring
Swim out into a
Brave new world, like
Tiny  grains  of  rice,  to
Grow and become the legacy
Of their mother’s self-sacrifice.

The Seahawks

The Seahawks
Became in 1975 the
Name of the new Seattle
National Football League team.
This name was chosen from more
Than one-thousand-seven-
Hundred entries
By fans.

This second one looked more like a football in my word processor than it does here.

OK, this one’s corny.
It uses the form
Of the day but contains
Not very much poetry.

WordPress Writing 201: Poetry Class, Day 3

The assignment for Day 3 offers these three parameters:

  • Prompt: trust
  • Form: acrostic
  • Device: internal rhyme

Acrostic

Acrostics have been around for millennia: they’re a creative way to give order and convey multiple meanings at once while staying fairly subtle.

There have been two prevalent ways to create acrostics. In one, you follow the sequence of the alphabet, beginning each verse in your poem with a different one from A to Z (or to whatever letter you choose to reach — you’re not obliged to cover the entire ABC). This type of acrostic emphasizes the idea of seriality, of accumulation, or of a preset order.

The other type of acrostic is one in which the first (or last) letter of each verse together spell out a message: a short sentence, a word, a name (for example, medieval poets loved writing love poems with acrostics spelling out their beloved’s name).

Some interesting ways to use acrostics include writing a poem that asks a question to which the answer is the spelled-out word; one in which the “hidden” message contradicts or otherwise complicates the content of the poem.

Writing Process

I’ll start with a simple acrostic, a poem that spells out its subject matter.

Mount Rainier’s white head appears
Out of her bed of clouds.
Unless the day is sunny and clear, when
Nothing her beauty shrouds.

To see her in her majesty
And mystery
I find to be
Necessity.

This includes the acrostic form and the device of internal rhyme, but not the concept of trust. It also sounds a bit pretentious. I would probably never use the word shrouds, except when it’s necessary to rhyme with clouds.

But look: The first line in my second stanza must start with t. There’s an opening for trust:

Mount Rainier’s white head appears
Out of her bed of clouds.
Unless the day is sunny and clear, when
Nothing her beauty shrouds.

Trusting in her majesty
And mystery
I find to be
Necessity.

There’s still that pesky shrouds, but the more I read this poem, the less that word bothers me. I’m trying to convey the image of stateliness and reverence, and this old-fashioned word contributes to that imagery.

What do you think? I’d love to hear your comments.

WordPress Writing 201: Poetry Class, Day 2

Here’s the assignment for Day 2:

  • Prompt: journey
  • Form: limerick
  • Device: alliteration

limerick

Limericks are traditionally composed of five lines of verse. The traditional rhyming scheme of a limerick is a a b b a — the first two lines rhyme, then the next two, and the final verse rhymes with the first couplet.

Write a limerick — or two or five, if you wish to create a narrative cycle — and inject this form with something personal and surprising. Break the pattern if you need to — and if it serves the purpose of your poem.

alliteration

Use of the same consonant multiple times in proximity.

Writing Process

I managed to come up with two different starts. In both cases the first four lines came fairly quickly, but that final line, with its rhyme to the initial couplet, eluded me. I ended up with these, which should be read as separate, not part of a narrative cycle (although the concept of a narrative cycle intrigues me):

For two thousand miles I drove,
Ever forward I strove,
To reach my new home
From one I’d outgrown,
In a new place I knew I would love.

Writing all over the place,
Trying this memoir to ace.
“Slow down,” said my brain
In a constant refrain.
“Life writing should not be a race.”

But then there came the challenge of alliteration. I tend to use frequent alliteration in my writing. I usually don’t consciously write it, but I do notice it when it appears on the page or the screen. But where was it when I needed it?

So I put this project aside and moved on to another one. And, as so often happens, I found an alliterative line in something else I wrote:

Why in the world would …?

What happens if I start with this as a final line and write the previous four lines around it? So I completed the line, compounding the alliteration:

Why in the world would I wait?

Now for the rest of the limerick, incorporating the concept of a journey.

Rhyming words (for the opening couplet):

  • hate
  • date
  • late
  • fate
  • mate
  • straight
  • trait
  • gate
  • great
  • grate
  • state
  • rate
  • bait

Life’s journey is not always straight
Because of our fickle friend, fate.
But a journey circuitous
Is uplifting, not ruinous.
So why in the world would I wait?

And notice the alliteration in the second line!

WordPress Writing 201: Poetry Class, Day 1

Today begins WordPress Writing 201: Poetry Class. How great it is to have such a resource available for FREE!

I write strictly nonfiction, so this class is a big stretch for me. But I’m determined to work on my writing this year, and what better way to do that than to dabble in something WAY out of my comfort zone? The course offers an assignment every weekday for two weeks. Each daily post includes a prompt (topic), a poetic form, and a poetic device. We are instructed to use whatever—or nothing—we find inspirational in these suggestions.

I’ll be working on these daily assignments and hope to publish the results of my attempts here. I’ll probably follow the suggestions in each daily prompt fairly closely, since my purpose here is to practice with types of writing outside of my usual work.

Thanks for playing along with me. I’d love to hear your comments. Since I’m not a poet by nature, I could really use some constructive criticism.

So please leave a comment if you’ve found your way here.

And here’s my attempt for Day One

  • Prompt: water
  • Form: haiku “three lines containing five, seven, and five syllables, respectively”
  • Device: simile

Waves roll in to shore
Like nature’s breath from the wind
Unceasing, always

Wow, that wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. I’m stoked!

Blog a Day Challenge: January Report

I admit that when I set this challenge up for myself near the end of December, I did so with trepidation:

  • Would I be able to find something to write about EVERY SINGLE DAY?
  • Would I be able to do all the research necessary for each post during a single day?
  • Would I be able to find enough overlap between the three areas of my current life (reading, writing, retirement) to make all three areas interesting?
  • Would I neglect other areas of my life in order to get a post written and published every day?

I did manage to write a post a day for the first month. Here’s what I’ve learned from the challenge so far:

  • It was easy to find topics to write about once I began paying attention to what goes on in the world around me.
  • Not every post needs to be a research project. (Since I tend to approach everything new that I come across as a research project requiring a lot of background investigation, this lesson was perhaps the most difficult but important one for me to learn.)
  • The various areas of my life do cross-pollinate each other once I begin to think that way.
  • So far I have not felt that I am neglecting any important parts of my life, probably because I’ve made an effort not to compartmentalize the several aspects of my life but rather to see them as complementary parts of a whole.

One challenge I still have to face is how I’ll keep up with writing and posting when we travel.

But overall, I’ve found this first month of the blog post a day challenge in 2015 to be enlightening and rewarding.

Here are my January stats:

Number of posts written: 31

Shortest post: 55 words

Longest post: 1,360 words

Total words written: 19,115

Distribution of posts across my three blogs:

The total of posts here may not equal the number of posts written last month because I occasionally publish the same post on more than one blog. However, I have included each post only once in my total word count.

Last month’s featured posts:

1. 8 Lessons College Bowl Season Teaches About Writing

I’m featuring this post because it resulted from the first time I saw how something in one area of my life (personal experience) applied to another part of my life (my writing). I see posts like this all over the internet and often find them interesting, but in the past I just didn’t think this way. But this one appeared out of nowhere while I was watching college football, an example of how synchronicity happens once you open yourself to the possibility of it.

2. Flow

I’m featuring this post because it’s my first attempt at defining a technical term for a general audience on my blog.

I’d appreciate it if you’d take a look at this post and then leave a comment telling me whether you think I’ve succeeded.

In Celebration of Older Authors

Recently I came across a 2015 reading challenge (which I didn’t sign up for) that had as a category “a book by an author age 65 or older.” This category prompted much discussion, as many people didn’t know any books that fit.

And, as synchronicity would have it, I immediately came across four articles about older writers.

8 Authors Whose Biggest Successes Came After The Age of 50

Not all of these authors fit the “over 65” category, but it’s still a joy to celebrate their late-in-life success:

  • Charles Bukowski
  • Laura Ingalls Wilder
  • Richard Adams
  • Mary Ann Evans/George Eliot
  • Jose Saramago
  • Frank McCourt
  • Nirad C. Chaudhuri
  • Mary Wesley

Q&A: Alan Bradley, author of Flavia de Luce series

Alan Bradley was 70 when his first novel, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, was published in 2009. Read here what he has to say about how his character, 11-year-old Flavia de Luce, and her story came into being.

For Writer, Talent Finally Succeeds Where Chance Failed

Meet Edith Pearlman, who “is enjoying a commercial breakthrough at 78, after five decades of writing short stories, some 200 of them, nearly all appearing in small literary magazines.”

Her latest book, Honeydew, is her fifth story collection and the first to be published by a major house.

Watership Down author Richard Adams: I just can’t do humans

From Richard Adams, 94, author of beloved children’s book Watership Down:

He began writing in the evenings, and the result, an exquisitely written story about a group of young rabbits escaping from their doomed warren, won him both the Carnegie medal and the Guardian children’s prize. “It was rather difficult to start with,” he says. “I was 52 when I discovered I could write. I wish I’d known a bit earlier. I never thought of myself as a writer until I became one.”