In my opinion poetry is one of the hardest things to write. Rarely do I feel some mystical spark fuelling a poetic fire within me and on the rare occasion I do feel the urge to write a poem I wrestle tortuously with my form and choice of words. Often times I can feel what I’m writing is contrived, as if I’m writing what I think a piece of poetry should be.
Fortunately this year’s workshops contains a large group of avid poets which has greatly informed and inspired my own attempts at poetry. When asking them tips on how a newcomer to poetry (such as myself) should tackle composing, they said to me: Write for yourself, as if no one else needs to read it. I found this advice very helpful as I feel now my attempts at poetry are more honest; they are not masking themselves behind a grand emotive presence, they are free and fluid.
I hope it is a piece of advice that will inspire you all.
In light of this I have decided to restructure the way we will be running Povember this year. Last year we ran the challenge in the same way as Flash Fiction February with daily prompt words however I feel this format is too constricting for composing poetry. Instead this year I have decided that we should devote each week of Povember to a different form of poetry and leave the theme/subject of the poem open to the authors interpretation. This way they will not be forced to fit their work to suit a contrived prompt work but instead they will be able to take inspiration from daily occurrences, ponderings and feelings and then mould it to a form.
Week 1: Haiku
A Haiku is a very sort style of Japanese poem that dates back to the 9th Century. Haikus are composed of three lines and follow tight syllabic constraints. The first line of a Haiku will have 5 syllables, the second will have 7 syllables, and the third 5 syllables. There is no necessity for a Haiku to rhyme but occasionally Westernised versions will have end-rhymes.
As a Haiku is very short it conveys a sense of immediacy and fleetingness, it is best used to capture a short moment which epitomises a broader and (perhaps) continuous.
For this challenge it may be helpful to write a cluster of three Haikus. Each one should be able to stand alone in its own right; however, the addition of further Haikus will build upon a cumulative event/ or theme.
Week 2: Sonnet
Sonnets are poems composed of 14 lines, and each line is written in iambic pentameter. An iamb refers to a metrical unit composed of an unstressed syllable, followed by a stressed syllable (de-DUM). Lines of iambic pentameter have 10 syllables in total, beginning with an unstressed syllable and then a stressed syllable, alternating uniformly.
Sonnets (usually) appears in 2 distinct forms: Petrarchan and Shakespearean.
This form was developed in Italy in the late 13th Century and the most famous user of this style in the early 14th C was Petrach, from whom the form now derives its name. A Petrarchan sonnet is formed of an octave (8 lines) followed by a sestet (6 lines). The octave introduces a question or problem and the sestet follows a volta (a turn) where there is either a resolution or a worsening, but most simply the original theme is viewed in an alternative light. The octave follows the rhyme scheme ABAB,ABAB. The sestet commonly rhymes CDE,CDE (it may also rhyme CDC,CDC).
This style of sonnet was developed in the early 17th C and is of course attributed to William Shakespeare. A Shakespearean sonnet is composed of 4 quatrains (4 verses of 4 lines in length) and a couplet. The rhyme scheme is ABAB-CDCD-EFEF-GG. In a Shakespearean sonnet the volta occurs in the sonnets final couplet and therefore needs to be more concise, but this makes it more impactful.
Week 3: Concrete & Acrostic Poetry
Concrete poetry is when a poem is constructed in a shape that is trying to emulate the subject the text of the poem is trying to convey. Concrete poetry is a collaboration of the aural and visual arts.
The most important part of a Concrete poem is its strikingly visual nature. Often times the meaning that the words of the poem are trying to convey are obfuscated until recognised alongside the constructed shape of the poem and then insight is given to poetical intention through the poems visual structure.
Week 4: Free Verse
Free verse poetry may appear the most simplistic when it is read however it is arguably the most difficult type of poetry to compose.
Free verse poems are not constrained by form, rhyme or meter thus they tend to mimic the natural flow of speech. However free verse poems must rely on alternate features to mark themselves from prose. In a free verse poem each chosen word is precious and deployed to convey a breadth of insight and emotion in a few short lines, therefore word choice is very important. Free verse poetry may also rely on wordplay such as alliteration, repetition and onomatopoeia. As free verse follows no lyrical pattern it is the sound of the poem- the intonation of carefully chosen words and the co-mingling of poetic and prosaic form- which is most impactful.
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