First thing a writer must understand is that the concept of (show vs. tell) is different for Poetry than it is for short stories or novels. Not so much that they become totally different concepts, but enough to say they are like two different species of dog. Sure, they’re both dogs, but a Great Dane needs different care than a Jack Russell Terrier.
Time in ones life
Several years ago I was in a creative writing class that had a difficult time thinking in metaphors. I was, in turn, having a hard time sharing my thoughts on the subject. It was when I was listening to the radio on the way to class that a spark hit my brain, like it did Frankensteins monster.
I was listening to Billy Joel’s Piano Man, which is full of Imagery, and I was inspired by how he showed age. Instead of saying he was in his twenties or some other such generality or even a specific age, he wrote: ‘When I wore a younger man’s clothes’
Heres the difference. Telling is saying an age or age category, like 22 or in his twenties. Showing is giving us this image of a man in his youth.
I toyed with this idea for a while and came up with this line, ‘When she first learned the difference between noun and pronoun’ which gives the impression of early school-age.
Then I also came up with this line: ‘As she became armed with drivers license, keys and immortality’ leads the reader to a teenage image.
Passage of time
Remember I said I was inspired? After having tried those two images, I decided to try something a bit different within the realm of time. I wanted to show the passage of time as well as showing age and I came up with this line: ‘One day she woke to find the pages of forty calendars littering the floor at her feet, like confetti.’
This line not only indicates the approximate age of the woman but also shows some time has passed since the last stanza.
Other examples of showing an (image):
her hair was a mess
(tangles and snarls sprang from her head)
I hate the smell of roses.
(one whiff of any rose and I am sick)
he couldn’t wait to see her again
(a second seemed an eternity without her)
you always change your mind
(your mind quickly shifts with the wind)
the moon is full
(like an un-cut round of cheese, the moon begs to be devoured)
I refuse to give up
(in all my quests I am steadfast)
I feel weak
(I could barley lift the spoon to my lips)
I am Blind
(It’s a beautiful day but I can’t see it)
Set a timer for 3 minutes, and write continuously until it ends. Don’t stop for anything. Then edit!
As always, remember ‘Show don’t tell’, pay extra attention to ‘Title / First line / Last line’, and remember your goal is to evoke emotion through metaphors – by showing a detailed scene the reader can experience and feel the emotion intended.
In the Greece of Sappho, Homar Pindar and Sophocles,
In the England of Shakespeare ,Milton and keats
Poetry experiencing the pleasures of Art and justice,
And to be considered
A noble practice,
But now- generations later-
The faults and follies are called
A poetic Art.
Devoid of any form and pattern
Lesson . Structure
What separates poetry from other kinds of writing?
There are many answers to that question. One answer might be that poetry organizes ideas and images in a way that gives more information, tells us something about the way the poet is thinking, helps us to focus on particular words and phrases to give us a new and different perspective on the world.
The poet’s choice of how long to make each line and where to break thoughts from one line to the next creates a poem’s structure.
In open form poetry (also called free verse), the poet is free to write poetry with lines of varying length, choosing the best way to convey a particular message. While at first glance, it might seem that the lines are randomly arranged.
The best free verse is carefully crafted to isolate ideas and images to make them stand out individually, at the same time they are taken together to express a complete story or perspective.
Line breaks and stanza breaks are very important; you want the reader left with a strong impression as they go from one line to the next.
It is best to never end a line on a preposition or word that is not strong. You want your last word to be something that will hit hard and carry throughout the poem.
In free-verse lines can be of any length, but it’s often best to keep them short, and stanzas are best made in groups of two, three, four, or six lines, and are often little paragraphs or phrases.
Make sure your line break leads to the reader wanting to go to the next line to see what happens.
Note that the poem below uses some enjambment: which is when a line leads to the next without punctuation at the end of each, or without a complete thought within each.
Example of free-verse:
I dream of suitors; faceless entities
who try to win me over.
each kiss is a cold tongue
wet and unctuous; uninviting.
why should I dream of such things?
what does it mean – these frigid mouths –
that they illicit such unease.
am I the one who’s cold?
having frozen them with my touch
no warmth I hold inside
that can reach any man; unable,
even in my reverie to betray my heart.
Example of syllabics verse:
On the Sonnet by John Keats
If by dull rhymes our English must be chain’d,
And, like Andromeda, the Sonnet sweet
Fetter’d, in spite of pained loveliness;
Let us find out, if we must be constrain’d,
Sandals more interwoven and complete
To fit the naked foot of poesy;
Let us inspect the lyre, and weigh the stress
Of every chord, and see what may be gain’d
By ear industrious, and attention meet:
Misers of sound and syllable, no less
Than Midas of his coinage, let us be
Jealous of dead leaves in the bay wreath crown;
So, if we may not let the Muse be free,
She will be bound with garlands of her own.
Free verse is an open form of poetry. It does not use consistent meter, syllable count, patterns, rhyme, or any other musical pattern. It thus tends to follow the rhythm of natural speech. A rule of thumb is that any given line should not go over 20 syllables long as not to be considered prose poetry.
Syllabic verse is a poetic form having a fixed or constrained number of syllables per line, while stress, quantity, or tone play a distinctly secondary role — or no role at all — in the verse structure.
Lesson I: The Five Senses
LESSON 1 — Welcome to the class! I am your teacher, Karen. There will be a few questions in the assignment below to tell me a little about yourself.
First of all I would like to clarify what poetry is and isn’t. Writing poetry is best described as a composition that uses literary techniques and is not prose. Writing Prose is best described as writing that uses ordinary speech or language, such as a story or letter. However, there is such a thing as prose poetry that does use poetic devices, but it is still written in journal, letter or paragraph or story form. Poetry is written with a certain poetic structure of line breaks and stanzas. We will get more into the structure of poetry later in the course. Now that we have that cleared up, let’s forge ahead.
1. Before writing a poem you should have an idea of what you are going to write about. Capture your muse on paper before starting, and build around that as a central point. You should know if you want to give imagery to provoke the senses, the emotions, or both before all other things. Once you have that decided, every word becomes a brick in the wall until you have built a solid poem. The concrete use of the senses makes a poem come to life.
2. What do you want readers to feel?
Do you want to put them at ease, make them irritable, make them cry, confuse them, make them laugh, make them think, excite them, put them in a dreamy mood etc…? Figurative language controls not only emotions, but the five senses. Well placed figures of speech are the very essence of poetry! For example, the use of simile is a good way to bring in the senses without having to use them directly if the senses are not being used directly. An example of this is, ‘the anger within her churned like a thunder storm rolling in.” This is using the sense of sound, as well as imagery, to give a metaphor to how someone feels. It is giving a concrete use of a sense as a comparison to something more abstract.
3. Which senses will you need to focus on?
To get the emotional response you want, will you appeal to any or all of the reader’s 5 senses: sight, sound, taste, smell, or touch?
The five senses:
We are going to use two of the senses for the assignment below: touch and sound.
Touch — She runs her fingers through the dog’s coat,
as static electricity tingles her hand.
Sound — Music floats from the meadow;
soft flute notes, carried by breezes …
Notice that writing in the present tense makes the scene more real and vivid to the reader. Try to use tangible and concrete examples either through the use of the senses directly or through simile, which is comparing something to another things
Lesson II: Figurative Language
Figurative language is a poetic technique using figures of speech, especially metaphor, which is a comparison of two separate things. It is a word or phrase used in a nonliteral sense to add rhetorical force of artistic effect and persuasion to a spoken or written passage.There are many types of figurative language. We will focus on two for now;Personification and Simile.
1. Personification is giving human qualities to animals or objects.
A poet will use personification when one wishes to ‘humanize’ the world around us. Animals, nature, Earth, the moon are all objects and creatures that poets personify with human qualities. In a way it draws comparisons between humanity and the world around us. Personification helps the reader understand and relate to what the poet wants to share with his/her reader.
a smiling moon, a jovial sun
In ‘Mirror’ by Sylvia Plath, for example, the mirror–the “I” in the first line–is given the ability to speak, see and swallow, as well as human attributes such as truthfulness.
“I am silver and exact.
I have no preconceptions.
Whatever I see I swallow immediately
Just as it is, unmisted by love or dislike.
I am not cruel, only truthful–”
In John Keats’ ‘To Autumn’, the fall season is personified as “sitting careless on a granary floor” (line 14) and “drowsed with the fume of poppies” (line 17.)
2. Simile is the comparison of two unlike things using like or as.
He eats like a pig. Vines like golden prisons.
Poetry is, first of all, a communication – a thought or message conveyed by the writer to the reader. Poetry not only creates a vision of what the poet wishes to show, but shares that vision with the reader. It is an interactive art that brings the poet and his/her reader together. To help the reader understand what the poet is sharing, it is important to understand how the poet writes. The poetic and figurative language that he/she will use. How the poet can give new meaning and make the reader draw certain comparisons between thoughts, ideas, and things that they would not normally see.
Comparison is one of the simplest and most recognizable ways of sharing ideas and thoughts. It is also a very effective way to give new meaning and understanding to the mundane. In poetry, the two basic uses of comparison are the use of metaphor and simile.
We will look at simile: the comparison of two unlike things using ‘like’ or ‘as’ (there are others, but we will use these for now).
Examples of Simile;
“fresh as a daisy,” “tough as leather,” “comfortable as an old shoe,” “it fits like the Paper on the wall,” “gay as a lark,” “happy as the day is long, pretty as a picture.”
These are all recognizable similes; they use the words “as” or “like.” These are also clichés, and it is always nice to take old adages and come up with a fresh, new way of expressing them. For example; ‘comfortable as an old shoe’ could be ‘comfortable as an old pair of jeans.’