Thursday, May 14, 2015

Reading to Write

Yes, I believe that you must read if you are to write.  You might ask why.  If you did, then my short answer is that there is much to be learned about an art by experiencing how others have produced their version of that art.  If you did not ask, then the previous sentence is of no importance to you.

Moving on, here are a couple things I’ve gleaned about writing by reading.

Style or Voice:
After reading some of my favorite poets, Frost, Whitman, St. Vincent Milay, Sandburg and Dickinson (to name just a few) I discovered that each has a different style, despite writing in the same poetic form.  For instance, if you read one of Shakespeare’s sonnets and then a sonnet by Sir Thomas Marlowe or Ben Jonson, the feel will be different.  They’re different people using the same poetic form.  However, they each write with their own style.

This realization made me want to find out if I have a poetic style and what that is.  My style is my own and I don’t know how to describe it to you.  If you’ve read my blog and the poems interspersed herein, you should be able to discern it.

Phrasing and Rhythm:
There is a rhythm to the way people write.  I see this plainly in Shakespeare's plays.  I can feel the movement and the scene unfolding by listening with my inner senses to the rhythm of the words. The way the words are linked together in phrasing has a certain feel that differs from his contemporaries.

Read with Diversity:
So, reading anything can give you information, inspiration, intoxication and increase your imagination.  Don’t become fixated on reading poems to try to improve your poetry.  Read anything that interests you.  Perhaps you like mysteries or Stephen King novels, but write very lyric poems.  Without judgment, go with the rhythm of the words fluttering around in your brain, heart and soul.  They will come forth in your own special style.  

Write with Diversity:
We are wordsmiths, are we not?  Just as a blacksmith must know how to make various tools and objects, so must a writer.  I dabble in several different forms of writing and differing genres.  Writing poems strengthens my writing skills for other forms and vice versa.  

Stretch your wings and see where reading can take you.  

Friday, May 8, 2015

Editing a Poem

As a girl, I loved reading poems, especially rhyming ones.  Back then, I didn’t realize that poems can be, and often are, edited to make them extra special.  In my youth, I had written a number of little poems, one about a leaf floating by my window and at least one about love.  I never edited them, I wrote them just as I thought them up. 

In 2010 I wrote a poem, and it was edited, a lot! 

It was August and, while driving to work, I was staring at the most beautiful configuration of clouds I thought I’d ever seen.  My first inclination was to hold that moment in time somehow to share it with others.  Not having a camera, and being in bumper-to-bumper traffic, I struggled to find a way to capture the image.  So, I started describing what I saw out loud to myself.  I broke down my thoughts over and over again until I had a piece that was very short and made me remember the exact scene I had witnessed in the heavens.

Once I reached my office, I rushed to write down the short verse.  It was never edited again.  At the time it was exactly what I wanted, and still is.  Here is that quaint, descriptive little poem: 

August 2010

Radiant tiers brushed with light
Fanned out across the sky
Gracefully reach for the earth

The way I edited this piece was all verbal.  I kept searching for the most descriptive words I could to paint this picture in my mind’s eye.  This is essential for a good poem; the reader should be able to imagine the same feelings or vision as the writer.  Some poetry is written for the writer alone, some to invoke feelings, others to tell stories, and some to bring an image to the mind of the reader (and…this is a short list).  Look for descriptive, vivid words, or phrases that bring immediate images or feelings to you.  If you are convinced, your reader will be also.

Try to use metaphors and similes in your poems.  (This is an area where I’m weak)  A metaphor is like a symbol for something.  For instance, a family is like a tree with each person representing a branch.  A simile is a comparison, like being ‘as black as night’ or ‘as white as a swan’ or ‘as happy as a lark’ to name a few.  These can be very powerful for creating an image for your reader, especially if you use a common one.