Friday, June 26, 2015

Culture in Poetry

Being partly Irish, I am drawn to the overall culture and all things Irish.  I love music so I listen to Irish tunes quite often.  I have an extensive collection of Irish poetry and stories and love to let my eye wander over pictures of the Irish landscape.  Oh, I neglected to mention my love of Irish food!

I’ve been reading some of the Irish poets lately, W.B. Yeats, Thomas Moore, Patrick Kavanaugh and Oscar Wilde to name a few.  In my poetic contemplation over these beautiful works I began to notice a great sense of the Irish culture itself within them.  Each piece gave me a different sense of who the Irish are, what is important to them and how they live, think and believe. 

Some themes I’ve culled from the works I’ve read are the importance of family and relationships, love of the land, the importance of history to everyday life, strength of spiritual belief and a great love of life and living.  The Irish are a very proud and expressive people.  They carry their hearts on their sleeves and live every moment as if it’s their last.  Humor sustains them through thick and thin and their ability to survive is second to none.  All of these qualities of the Irish come through when reading their poetry.  I consider them to be some of the strongest poets our world has produced. 

If you’ve ever wondered why the Irish are so much in love with their homeland, then you’ve never been there or lost yourself in pictures of the beautiful, magical landscapes and architecture of this incredible island. 

In his poem The Lake Isle of Innisfree, W.B. Yeats expresses his desire to return to the peace and beauty of his home from the wild and raucous streets of London. 

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet’s wings.”

Poet Patrick Kavanaugh expresses the deep love of a man for his mother in his poem In Memory of My Mother. I love his optimism for seeing her once again when he, himself, passes into heaven and his wonderful memories of her very essence. 

And I think of you walking along a headland
Of green oats in June,
So full of repose, so rich with life –
And I see us meeting at the end of a town.

On a fair day by accident, after
The bargains are all made and we can walk
Together through the shops and stalls and markets
Free in the oriental streets of thought.

While these are only a couple of examples of great Irish poetry, you can find many sources for them in your local bookstore or on various websites like the following:

Find some beautiful images of Ireland here:
Christian McLeod Photography:
Inishowen Photography –
Images of Mayo Landscape Photography of County Mayo, Ireland by Eamonn McCarthy–
Irish Dew Landscape Photography –

Try an Irish dish from:

Perhaps you have a favorite culture or are from a particular culture that also has beautiful poets.  Do some reading and see if you also find that the culture of the poets home is carried into the work of the poet.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Word Choice

When writing in any format or genre your choice of words is important.  This is likely quite obvious to most, but perhaps not to everyone.  In my experience, when editing or even writing the first draft of a poem, I choose words carefully.  Some of the things I consider are meaning, flow, sound, rhyme, rhythm, and sometimes even spelling.  

Each choice depends on what effect or meaning, images or thoughts are behind the work I’m creating.  For instance, in my poem “Smoke” I took quite a long time to decide the words to describe the smoke patterns and qualities.  

“Clinging to the air, fluctuating,
Gradient translucence shifts in silent grace.
Amorphous fog, ethereal silk
Drifts away then subtly coils and spins.”

The word ‘amorphous’ was selected because of its meaning, as well as its sound.  Likewise, the word ‘ethereal’ has a sort of fantasy quality to it (at least to me) and it was fitting for the images I was describing.  I chose silk because its movement as a fabric was mimicked by the movement of the smoke.

There are times when my vocabulary needs a boost while writing.  At these times I turn to a dictionary or thesaurus for ideas.  Keep in mind that too much reliance on these tools can be obvious in your writing.  If I get really stuck for words I like to write out a list of possible choices then insert them into my piece.  It’s like trying on clothes to see what fits and looks the best.

The most important part of word choice is that you find what works for you and for the piece you’re creating.  Having the words flow with your voice is crucial to success for your writing.  I have friends or my father read my works in progress.  They’ve always been able to tell if I had been through the thesaurus too heavily.  

Enjoy writing and playing around with words to complete your writing pieces.