Tuesday, February 19, 2013

2013 WRITE: A short note from the Short Poetry Workshop

A short note from the Short Poetry Workshop 
Very virtual short poetry library
  • From Aphorisms to Zen
  • Odes, epic poems, and sonnets have their place in poetry
  • But to say much in few words requires a different skill.  
  • Attention to detail
  • Mindful writing
  • Selecting the right word
  • Skills every writer needs, and not just for short poetry
  • Every Tuesday at 7 pm SLT, INKsters holds poetry workshops on Cookie
  • http://slurl.com/secondlife/Cookie/160/134/21/
  • The focus is on the short poem 
  • Sunnie Beaumont hosts the workshop
  • along with various guest hosts from the INKsters community 

  • Writing Short Poems, 
  • 10 Rules of the Road, 
  • or at least Strong Suggestions.
  • By Sunnie Beamont, 
  • with a little editing by Selby Evans
1.    Read, Read, Read.  In order to become a better poet, it really does help to read.  Firstly, read lots of poetry, and try to find poetry that speaks to you, whether it is what is said, or how it is said, try to find poetry that resonates with you.  Don’t limit yourself to one time period, or to one type of poem, even to the type of poem that you are most interested in.  There is worth from Homer to Seamus Heaney, and you can learn from those who have gone before, as well as from your peers.  

Read aloud and listen to poetry too.  You can hear rhythm, meter, and the flow of language when you hear a poem read or read it yourself.  You will be hearing at a different speed and stress perhaps than with your ‘visual ear”   Read prose, laundry lists, street signs, letters, emails.  Be voracious.  Listen to the flow of speech around you.  Become aware of the many varieties of language even within the one where you liive.

2.    Be Inspired.  There are many things that can get us to write poetry.  If you have a desire, you have found a start, but that desire needs to be fed and nourished by other inspirations, just as you would feed a hunger.  Other poets can inspire us, as can nature, music, religion, family.  Find things that interest you, and choose times and places that can help you to write.  A poem may be born of a simple word that pops into your head, or an idea, or watching a movie, or sitting by a rushing stream.  Don’t  limit yourself.  Let thoughts and ideas swirl in your mind. Rejoice in the language, and let it say things to you.  Listen to your emotions, and your sensibilities too.  These are all droplets that you can then assemble into the flow of your poem.  

3.    Goal.  Find out what you want your poem to achieve.  Do you want to write to express your love for someone, your outrage at something that dehumanizes mankind, or a moment of whimsy that makes you smile?  Are you trying to be like a great poet you idolize, or want to learn new techniques just to learn them?  Poetry can say many things, and different things to different people.  Chances are your poem will never be ‘just yours,” the minute it appears on paper.  What do you want your poem to say?  Listen to your own head on this, and be aware that there are no real wrong answers, just more possibilities.

4.    Pick a Style!  There are nearly as many kinds of short poems as there are poets who write them.  You may wish to employ one of them to write your poem.  Do you sit and contemplate the way a dandelion grows, opening and closing its petals, popping up where you least want it?  You might wish to consider a haiku.  Are you interested in writing about your neighbors?  A senryu might do, or perhaps a limerick.  You might want to pick a free verse form of poetry.  Be aware of different styles, and  how each has elements that might or might not suit what you want to accomplish in a poem.   Don’t be afraid to abandon one style and pick up another.  And be aware that you will have your own voice, your own way of saying things that you will discover that is decidedly yours, regardless of the forms you may employ.

5.   Edit.  Pay attention to your poem and be your own editor..  Write it down and play with the wording.  You might wish to just let your thoughts flow, and edit later.  You might wish to edit as you go.  Both methods can work.  Find the one that works best for you, or devise your own methods and means.  Listen to your poem.  It helps to read your words aloud.  The brain stores things in a different way going through the ears than going through the eyes.  Use both, to enhance your memory, and to be aware of the nuances that exist in language.  How things sound and how they look are different things.  Be aware of both. 

6.    Your words.  Choose wisely.  Poetry is placing “the best words in the best order.”  There is a way that language flows, and poetry is an elegant part of that.  A poem can be gritty though as well.  A poem can be funny.  Be aware of the choice of words, how they fit together with others, how they are a part of the whole.  Use words that help your poem say what you want it to say.  In a short poem it often becomes more crucial to pay close attention to the structure of your lines.  Your words are your building blocks, and your poetry is your structure.  Whether that structure will be a chateau, a castle on a hill, a cottage by the sea, or a hovel in a poor part of the world is up to you.  The words you use, and how you string them together can be a vital element of your writing short poetry.

7.    Use concrete imagery and vivid descriptions.  Many of the idea of poetry are abstract concepts, such as love, hate, joy, despair, but abstraction is hard to present if concrete imagery is not used.  The image of a person leaning their head against an empty crib, for instance, can convey to us the feeling of the loss of a child more than can a hundred words just trying to say how lonely and heartbroken the person is.  We live in the real world, as well as in ideas and our minds, and imagery is crucial in a poem.  
  • Use strong nouns and verbs, 
  • only afterwards adverbs and adjectives
We can say that Johnny walked out onto the stage.  Or we can say Johnny strutted onto the stage, or Johnny strolled, or Johnny crept.   In each of these examples, there is much more of an expression of the potential mindset of Johnny than if he merely walks.  Cutting out excess adjectives and adverbs helps to tighten your poem.  Don’t be afraid to use them if they are necessary, and they often are.  But don’t be afraid either to eliminate if you must.  

8.    Learn to use poetic devices.  There are many elements of a poem that can stand out to enhance its beauty and meaning.  Rhyme is a good example.  Rhyme can add suspense to your lines, enhance meaning and make the poem cohesive, and give it a feeling of repetition and pacing.  Rhyme has fallen into disrepute in some circles, because of over use, and because the words chosen often seem plain and uninspired.  Moon and June.  But even the overused can have merit, if you are creative with it.  Consider this example.   
  • “And there was that moon/
  • Its fat face bright as a June day/
  • Like at the last company picnic/
  • Watching your boss work the grill like he worked you/
  • sizzling burgers and wieners alike, working/ 
  • Harder in his play than you had in your life.”  
The rhyme is off-rhyme, not end-rhyme and there are other internal rhymes in this poetry selection.  There are many other devices that can be used, such as meter, metaphor, assonance, alliteration, and repetition.  Learn about them.  Learn to spot them in others’ poetry.  Play with them.  Enjoy your poetry and make it humm!

9.    Give your poem a good ending!  The last line to a poem is often what a punch line is to a joke, something that evokes an emotional response. Even a short poem benefits with a last line that pulls all the thoughts of it together into a decisive finish.  With haiku and such, the brevity alters the significance of the last line, but even there a final word or turn of phrase in the last line is often what is needed to give the poem its impact.  The last line is often something that lingers in the mind, like a fine wine or cheese that stays with the palette after the meal is eaten.  

10.    Share and grow!  While it is true that we must write to please at least some part of ourselves, it is also true that we learn at an exponential rate with our interactions with others.  You can find people who will critique your poetry.  Don’t be afraid to seek out help with your poetry.  There are many accomplished writers who not only would be glad to help you if they can, but they learn from the experience of helping too.  It’s a win-win situation.  You can join writer’s groups and workshops, like this one!  Feedback is good.  Learn how to handle both acceptances and rejections.  Both will happen in the world of writing.  


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