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Writing Poetry

Writing Poetry. Beth Swann, M.F.A., C.J.E. Nation Ford High School. Writing…. … is supposed to evoke sensation in the reader— not the fact that it is raining, but the feeling of being rained upon. 

 ~E.L. Doctorow. Show, Don’t Tell.

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Writing Poetry

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  1. Writing Poetry Beth Swann, M.F.A., C.J.E. Nation Ford High School

  2. Writing… … is supposed to evoke sensation in the reader—not the fact that it is raining, but the feeling of being rained upon. 

 ~E.L. Doctorow

  3. Show, Don’t Tell • Through description, a good poem may simply evoke a tone and mood a new way. • Originality is the hallmark of art.

  4. Don’t say, “I’m sad.” The outer landscape (scene) is a mirrorof the inner landscape (emotion).

  5. Imagery & Diction = Mood Do you see sunlight streaming through emerald leaves? Or do you see a harsh glare, leaves like blades? Or in do you see the flower beds, blood red pansies wilting in the heat?

  6. Mood? What’s the mood or emotion?

  7. READ, READ, READ • Writers are readers. • Reading contemporary poetry, is CRITICAL to your own success as a writer. • Start a scrapbook of poems you like, use them as a kind of mentor text, a guide.

  8. My personal “perfect” poem check list… • It’s IMPOSSIBLE to do all of this, all of the time, in every poem – though I’ve seen some that do: JEWELS!!!! • See how many you have used or can use in your poems. Think about your own list and what that might include. What turns YOU on in a poem?

  9. #1 Does your poem set a mood? Is the tone consistent and obvious? • Even a LIST POEM – a mere list of items can set a mood: With carefully chosen words can evoke a feeling in the reader (and express a feeling in the writer – tone)

  10. What’s Brokenby DorianneLaux The slate black sky. The middle step of the back porch. And long ago my mother’s necklace, the beads rolling north and south. Broken the rose stem, water into drops, glass knobs on the bedroom door. Last summer’s pot of parsley and mint, white roots shooting like streamers through the cracks. Years ago the cat’s tail, the bird bath,

  11. the car hood’s rusted latch. Broken little finger on my right hand at birth— I was pulled out too fast. What hasn’t been rent, divided, split? Broken the days into nights, the night sky into stars, the stars into patterns I make up as I trace them with a broken-off blade of grass. Possible, unthinkable the cricket’s tiny back as I lie on the lawn in the dark, my heart a blue cup fallen from someone’s hands.

  12. Does your poem include IMAGERY? • IMAGERY is more than sights/colors, but a sound (onomatopoeia, perhaps) and/or smell, texture or taste?

  13. ANGER by Mary L. Barnard Too small to contain the words spoken that night but I cram and cram till the clasp groans when I try to close it, once and for all, close it. With that tiny click al1 memory of you stuffed inside the silk lining. I don’t need your money or the handkerchief you flapped open.

  14. The prompt for that… I was given a card with the word Anger on it. Then I chose from a variety of items:rolling pin, man’s tie, Monet scarf, beaded bag from France, fake diamond ring, a hole-punch, dog collar, etc. Then I wrote a poem “connecting” the two, but while “showing” the emotion, we could not tell the name of the item in the poem.We also had a line limit. I loved the beaded bag so I chose it, though at first I had no idea how to use a beautifulpurse in a metaphor for anger.

  15. Does it include figurative language? • metaphor, simile, personification • synecdoche (a part to represent the whole) • symbolism and so on…

  16. Simile • Linda Pastan’s comparison of a red flower in winter as unnatural as makeup on child

  17. Extended Metaphor:Unable to Disembarkby Gwendolyn Brooks Years now, she’s been searching for the exit, crawling along a maze of lit paths, each end deader than the last. A mirage of neon signs hang high above ghostly portals, their fade timed at her arrival – mirrors, smoke, a wall no fly can scale. She’s a captive in the world of the living grief.

  18. Do you include vivid, particular details? • You have to get exactly what is in your head into the mind of the reader • You must choose every detail carefully to convey the feeling behind the poem, even if it is a narrative poem • “A poem is shining a light on a moment of intensity” – Cathy Smith Bowers

  19. If your poem tells a story, did you really tell it so that the reader understands what happened to whom in all it’s glorious detail – or at least enough that the reader can re-experience the poem?

  20. Groceries I had a boyfriend once, after my mother and brothers and sisters and I fled my father’s house, who worked at the Piggly Wiggly where he stocked shelves on Fridays until midnight then drove to my house to sneak me out,take me down to the tracks by the cotton millwhere he lifted me and the quilt I’d brought into an empty boxcar. All night the wild thunder of looms. The roar of trains 

  21. passing on adjacent tracks hauling their difficult cargo, cotton bales or rolls of muslin on their way to the bleachery to be whitened, patterned into stripes and checks, into still-life gardens of wisteria and rose. And when the whistle signaled third shift free, he would lift me down again onto the gravel and take me home. If my mother ever knew she didn’t say, so glad in her new freedom, so grateful for the bags of damaged goods stolen from the stockroom and left on our kitchen table. Slashed 

  22. bags of rice and beans he had bandagedwith masking tape, the labelless cans, the cereals and detergents in varyingstages of destruction. Plenty to get us through the week, and even some plums and cherries, tender and delicious, still whole inside the mutilated cans and floating in their own sweet juice. --Cathy Smith Bowers

  23. Use strong, vivid nouns & action verbs • AVOID ADVERBS ie. Give me one verb for: Walking slowly

  24. The Cave PaintersExcerptBY EAMON GRENNAN Holding only a handful of rushlight they pressed deeper into the dark, at a crouch    until the great rock chamber flowered around them and they stood in an enormous womb of flickering light and darklight, a place to make a start. Raised hands cast flapping shadows    over the sleeker shapes of radiance. They've left the world of weather and panic behind them and gone on in, drawing the dark    in their wake, pushing as one pulse to the core of stone. The pigments mixed in big shells  

  25. Is the poem provocative in some way … Does it interest the reader with an original thought or original way of seeing? An unusual comparison, perhaps?

  26. Does the poem avoid sentimentality? (avoid words like heart, soul, tears, etc.) ComaWhat if I told youeach time you whisperedmy name it felt like a doorI could place my hand against,feel how warm it was, as ifthe world on the other side,yours, was the one on fire?—Jon Pineda

  27. Eliminate unnecessary words? Poem hold together as a whole? • Even when writing DRAMATIC MONOLOGUE, (sometimes called a “persona poem”) where the poet speaks as a character, fictional or real Write tight – eliminate every unnecessary word

  28. Violet's Wash by Diane Gilliam Fisher You can’t have nothing clean. I scrubbed like a crazy woman at Isom’s clothes that first week and here they come off the line, little black stripes wherever I’d pinned them up or hung them over—coal dust settles on the clothesline, piles up like a line of snow on a tree branch. After that, I wiped down the clothesline every time, but no matter, you can’t get it all off. His coveralls is stripy with black and gray lines,

  29. ankles of his pants is ringed around, like marks left by shackles. I thought I’d die that first week when I seen him walk off to the mine, black, burnt-looking marks on his shirt over his shoulders, right where wings would of folded.

  30. Can I delight in the langauge? Late September by Ted Kooser Behind each garage a laddersleeps in the leaves, its handsfolded across its lean belly.There are hundreds of themin each town, and more sleeping by the haystacks and barnsout in the country – tough old day laborers, seasoned and wheezy,drunk on the weather,sleeping outside with the crickets.

  31. Does the poem sing? Music! Alliteration Assonance Rhyme – slant rhyme, eye rhyme, end rhyme Repetition Rhythm Onomatopoeia

  32. Am I moved? Ask: Does the poem pick me up and transport me so that I arrive in a different place emotionally or intellectually? Am I changed or amazed because the poet names a truth/experience I’ve known, too? Did I learn something? Better understand? See in a new way?

  33. The Night of the Big Wind in Ireland, 1839 All along Ireland’s western seaboard people made peace with their God, as I try to do now after my son calls again drunk, this time to say he’s taking off for the woods, that I should come gather whatever I want from his narrow loft with its wide bed and ragged rubber tree. I sit frozen in my chair and continue reading about Ireland’s Big Wind, when, on the evening of Saturday, January 5th, snow fell dense and heavy, and by morning, a sky loaded with motionless clouds.

  34. That afternoon, a stillness so profound they say voices floated between farmhouses more than a mile apart. I like to imagine my voice floating to my son when he wakes from this binge. Are you still alive? I whisper to air, and hear him reply: I can’t go on like this. Today’s the day I stop. But within hours, he’s drunk again and hope melts as fast as the snow on the 6th, when a band of warm air shoved the cold east, followed at dusk by wind,

  35. rains mixed with hail, more cold. Sometimes he’s wretched with regret, admits he’s made a mess of his life, though by now we’ve lost all trust, even when he’s sober— those short runs of fair weather, stars clicking into place. I rarely heed the warnings that he‘s at it again: edginess, that sketchy beard, a hoary film of worry that descends. Then the dreams—he’s fallen off a mountain or into a stream and lies broken somewhere under branches. By midnight of the 6th, the wind spun

  36. into gales and raged until dawn. Next morning, sun glazed a wasteland, orchard walls down, slate roofs picked clean, sea water streaming inland, flooding houses and shops, gardens and barns, the smell of salt insinuating itself for weeks. I know all about such smells, how they swim every tributary of your being and render you senseless. If my son won’t stop this time, if he takes to the woods, I’ll do as I always do—climb his stairs, bucket and brush in hand—and scrub as the Irish scrubbed, down on my knees.

  37. Does your poem SHOW … • Does your poem SHOW and allow a reader to experience rather than you TELLING the reader what to feel or what you feel? • The idea is that a reader wants to COME BACK to the poem again and again, not just put it down and move on. I’ll share some I keep coming back to…

  38. Ekphrastic Poetry • https://freefuninaustin.com/2015/04/celebrate-poetry-month-with-a-free-printable/

  39. Good poetry is evocative It stimulates/promotes emotions and/or thoughts. A good poem will evoke any/all of the following: •feelings •senses (sights, sounds, tastes, textures, smells) •thoughts: a “truth” or original way of thinking about something (NOT cliché) •original use of language •music (sound and rhythm) •figurative language

  40. Practice: Ekphrastic • Respond to a photograph or artwork –

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