Tuesday, June 11, 2013
This week I reviewed two books I wish I’d had when I first got serious about poetry. You'll find both reviews by clicking the ads below, but to give you a one-sentence review for each here:
Reading Talk Poetry felt like having the private tutoring and coaching contestants get from professionals on The Voice.
Christian Literature: An Anthology can help religious poets and writers see how they have at least a thread of thought to weave into the rich tapestry of literature written from a spiritually-minded perspective. The poems, essays, stories, books, and articles of faith highlighted in this book unfold the development of Christian thought, literature, and, indeed, the whole English language!
Christian Literature: An Anthology
©2013, Mary Harwell Sayler also recommends what might be the first ever poetry dictionary for kids – the Poetry Dictionary For Children and For Fun available in the Kindle store on Amazon. (Teachers in your local schools will want to know about the book too.)
If you write religious poetry, you might also welcome the Christian Poet’s Guide to Writing Poetry, e-book version of the correspondence course Mary wrote when no other poetry home study course existed then used for years with other poets and poetry students.
Wednesday, June 5, 2013
From ethnic histories to hymn lyrics to words in a country music song, the ballad has been a favorite for centuries and continues to provide a vehicle for contemporary story-telling and narrative poems.
To discuss this highly popular literary form, I’ll post the entry from my Kindle e-book, the Poetry Dictionary For Children and For Fun. [Note: The capitalized words in the text below let you know you’ll find A to Z entries on those subjects too.]
ballad [Rhymes with salad.] Some of our oldest English poems were written in this FORM. Often ballads told the history of a person, place, or event. To help people remember, the poem might include RHYME. Sometimes one or more lines were repeated in a REFRAIN. The ballad also had a strong BEAT. Some became lyrics to a song or HYMN. As people sang a ballad, another poet might add a verse. Then the next poet might change words in a REVISION. Usually, early ballads had unknown or ANONYMOUS writers. Later poets began new ballads but kept the same form. As you read aloud the following, listen for the beat on each line. Keep count of each strong beat by clapping your hands or tapping your foot.
Where The Pelican Builds
by Mary Hannay Foott (1846-1918)
The horses were ready, the rails were down,
But the riders lingered still—
One had a parting word to say,
And one had his pipe to fill.
Then they mounted, one with a granted prayer,
And one with a grief unguessed.
“We are going,” they said as they rode away,
“Where the pelican builds her nest!”
They had told us of pastures wide and green,
To be sought past the sunset’s glow;
Of rifts in the ranges by opal lit;
And gold beneath the river’s flow.
And thirst and hunger were banished words
When they spoke of that unknown West;
No drought they dreaded, no flood they feared,
Where the pelican builds her nest!
The creek at the ford was but fetlock deep
When we watched them crossing there;
The rains have replenished it thrice since then,
And thrice has the rock lain bare.
But the waters of Hope have flowed and fled,
And never from blue hill’s breast
Come back—by the sun and the sands devoured—
Where the pelican builds her nest.
Like most ballads, this one repeats a LINE, "Where the pelican builds her nest." That refrain adds to the poem's RHYTHM. The ballad also follows the typical pattern of 4/ 3/ 4/ 3. That means each verse has four beats in the first and third lines. Then three beats go on lines two and four. Here's another way to show a common ballad pattern:
Line 1 = 4 beats
Line 2 = 3 beats
Line 3 = 4 beats
Line 4 = 3 beats
Some ballads have four beats in every line. That's TETRAMETER. Three beats make a line of TRIMETER. What difference does it make? Maybe none! However, the more you know about poetic terms or TECHNIQUE, the more choices you have when you REVISE.
To write a ballad, start with research. Ask a parent, teacher, librarian, or elderly neighbor about interesting people or events in your town. Or ask someone to tell you a lively story about your ancestors. Write that story in a poem with rhymes and a strong beat.
To hear and feel the typical beat of a ballad, read the above poem again. Then write to that rhythm. Read your FIRST DRAFT aloud. Check the beat by clapping your hands four times for each four-beat line and three times for a three-beat line. If a line loses its beat, change your WORD CHOICES or rearrange words as you revise.
©2013, Mary Harwell Sayler, all rights reserved. Please do not use without permission, but please do order the Poetry Dictionary For Children and For Fun from the Kindle store on Amazon. Teachers in your local schools might want to know about the book too. Thanks!
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Some poets self-publish. Some find a compatible book publisher as I did (thank You, God!) Either way, most of us need good reviews to get our work out there where readers can find our poems, relate, buy, and tell their poetry-loving friends.
We’ve talked before about the importance of “Poets Helping Poets Helping Poetry,” which we can do as we review, especially if we review unto others as we’d like them to review our work too. So, this time let’s focus on what goes into a review.
First, an attentive reading. Actually, a thorough review requires more than one reading, but you can cut the time without cutting attention if you scribble notes to yourself as you read.
Note your reactions and how you interact with each poem. If none of the poems move you in a positive way or you just don’t connect, give the book to someone else, and spend your time reading and reviewing only those books you truly like.
Revisit poems that trigger strong reactions. What personal opinions, insights, experiences, or interesting anecdotes can you bring to the review as a thoughtful response to the poems?
Consider your readers. Who might enjoy this particular book? Is it for a scholarly group awaiting your assessment of the poems, or perhaps a poetry class ready to compare two or three books on the same topic? Or are you writing for general readers trying to decide which book to buy online?
Study journals, e-zines, and websites who publish book reviews. If one of them sent you a free reviewer’s copy of the book, you’ll have to submit the review to that outlet. If, however, you bought the book or a poet-peer sent you a well-written book, you can pick a publication that suits your style of writing and the book too.
Follow the guidelines. Regardless which journal or website you choose for your book review, your work will be welcomed again if you carefully follow their guidelines. For example, some journals will want you to include basic information such as the name of the publishing company, the physical address, and web address (URL) along with the poet’s name, the ISBN number for the book, the total page count, and cover price. Editors and readers will also want to know whether the book comes in hardback, e-book, or paper.
©2013, Mary Harwell Sayler. For an e-book of reader-friendly definitions of poetry terms, order the Kindle e-book Poetry Dictionary For Children and For Fun. If you write Bible-based or religious poetry and devotionals, try the Christian Poet’s Guide to Writing Poetry, the e-book version of the poetry home study course I wrote and used for years with other poets and poetry students. Yes, I’d welcome good reviews of those and my print book, Living in the Nature Poem, traditionally published by Hiraeth press but available, too, on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Thanks and happy reading.
Wednesday, May 1, 2013
During National Poetry Month, we discussed accentual verse then syllabic verse. Combined, they make accentual syllabic verse, which uses feet as the basic means of measuring lines for the ever-popular forms of traditional metered poetry.
To define this classical but versatile measuring stick often used for sonnets, villanelles, and other fixed forms of poetry, I’ve tried to make it simple enough for me to remember and elementary school children to learn. Hopefully, you fit somewhere in-between and might enjoy other entries in the Poetry Dictionary For Children and For Fun as shown by the capitalized words below.]
accentual syllabic verse [Pronounced ack-SIN-chew-uhl suh-LAB-ick.] This type of poem has been a favorite for hundreds of years. Yet accentual syllabic verse is not the oldest poetry. ACCENTUAL VERSE is older. SYLLABIC VERSE is too. Those names sound hard at first, but they mean just what they say. In accentual verse, you count the ACCENTS on each line. In syllabic verse, you count the SYLLABLES. Put the two together like peanut and jelly, and yum! You have accentual syllabic verse.
To write your poem in accentual syllabic verse, count the accents and the syllables on each line. The problem is, it's hard to count two things at once! So someone began to measure in FEET. Hopefully you have two, but poetry uses six feet to make its sounds.
The most common foot in accentual syllabic verse is the IAMB. That foot has two syllables. The first syllable is not stressed. The second one is. So an iambic foot is UPBEAT: ta DA!
Much of our TRADITIONAL VERSE has five iambs on each line. You can learn more about that in the entries for BLANK VERSE, IAMBIC PENTAMETER, and SCANSION. For now though, let's use two iambs per line to make our example easier to count.
i AM/ too GLUM./
you ARE/ a CHUM!/
this RHYME/ is DUMB!/
See how each foot has one syllable that is stressed and one that is not? A slant mark / divides the feet. Capital letters show the accents. That's it! For practice, think of two-syllable words to make a single iamb. Or think of two one-syllable words for iambic feet.
© 2012-2013, Mary Harwell Sayler, all rights reserved. This post comes from an entry in my e-book, the Poetry Dictionary For Children and For Fun, available from the Kindle store on Amazon.
Monday, April 29, 2013
Accentual verse poetry, which we discussed last time, counts on your counting the accents in each line, whereas syllabic verse relies on an account of every syllable.
Either means of measuring off each line in a poem will add rhythm to your work, but if you put those two together, you’ll have the accentual syllabic verse that measures most of the traditional verse forms written in English.
Many, many, many poets get hung up here, which leaves only free verse in the toolbox, but none of this needs to be hard! To show you what I mean, here’s the “syllabic verse” entry from my Kindle e-book, the Poetry Dictionary For Children and For Fun, which “big people” poets just might enjoy too.
[Note: Capitalized words indicate other entries in the book.]
syllabic verse [Pronounced suh-LAB-ick.] For this type of poem, count the number of syllables you place on each LINE.
Some poets use a FORM with a particular number of syllables. For example, HAIKU has a count of 5, 7, 5 syllables on three lines. A CINQUAIN has 2, 4, 6, 8, 2 syllables on five lines.
Follow those patterns. Or design your own.
Your syllabic verse can have any number of syllables you choose. And, that number can change from line to line or stay the same.
As you keep count, the words may break, but that can add a WORDPLAY. For example, these lines have been broken as the title says:
Learning To Leave Well Enough
Alone In Five Syllables Or Less
by Mary Harwell Sayler
In the edited
edition of a
collection of me-
start to pile up like
with missing labels
and dog-eared corners
of worthless products
of the I-magi-
nation with full words
yielding an index
that no one wants to
find who wins the cash-
ew crumbs wedged in the
inside cover of
this otherwise closed
© 2012-2013, Mary Sayler, all rights reserved.
Tuesday, April 23, 2013
For musicality almost any poem counts on a beat, but an accentual verse form counts heavily on a fixed number of beats per line.
To give you a user-friendly definition of this early form of poetry, the following comes from my Kindle e-book for kids of all ages: the Poetry Dictionary For Children and For Fun. I’ve left the typing intact with capitalized words to show other entries in the A to Z book that might interest you too.
accentual verse [Pronounced ack-SIN-chew-uhl.] This very old type of poem counts each ACCENT in a LINE. If the first line has four accents, the other lines need that many too. As you read, clap your hands to the BEAT.
In the accentual verse below, the number of words and syllables changes from line to line. Yet all have two accents as shown in capital letters:
Up The Wall
WHY does the FLY
WALK up the WALL?
if I were to TRY,
i’d CER-tainly FALL.
but WHY does the FLY
WALK up at ALL?
WHY does the FLY
© 2009, Mary Harwell Sayler
In accentual verse, it does not matter how many words are on a line. It does not matter if a word has one SYLLABLE or more. Only the accents count. So decide how many accents you want. Then have that number on each line.
©2013, Mary Harwell Sayler, all rights reserved.
Yes, I wrote the above definition for kids, but why make learning hard? For a light and friendly e-book of poetry terms, order the Poetry Dictionary For Children and For Fun from the Kindle store on Amazon.
If you write Bible-based poetry, devotionals, or religious poems, you might also like a Christian Poet’s Guide to Writing Poetry, an e-book version of the poetry home study course I wrote in the early 1980’s and used for years in working with other poets and poetry students.
Wednesday, April 17, 2013
National Poetry Month (NaPo) encourages poets and poetry lovers to discover forms, terminology, and technique, so we can enjoy those qualities in poems by other people and use them on purpose as we write (or, more likely, revise) our own poems. This needn’t be hard however. In fact, learning about forms, practicing poetic techniques, and just having fun with poems can seem like child’s play!
To ease poets and people of all ages into learning about poetry, here’s the entry for “abstract poetry” from my Kindle e-book, the Poetry Dictionary For Children and For Fun. Capitalized words within the text indicate A to Z entries on those subjects too.
abstract poetry [Pronounced ab-STRAKT.] In an abstract poem, thoughts and ideas make sense but cannot be pictured. For example, the word, "freedom," does not give you a clear photo of that word, but the CLICHÉ, "As free as a bird," shows what freedom is like. That bird in flight can be a SYMBOL of freedom too. If, however, you capture that bird in a LINE of poetry, your poem will no longer be abstract.
Abstract poems depend on haziness. So be vague! Avoid any NOUN that names a person, place, or thing. Go for an idea noun. Or write about your fuzziest thoughts and murkiest feelings. For example, words such as "fun" or "friendship" stir up feelings that cannot be easily pictured. Just remember though: With nothing to picture, a poem gets boring – fast!
To keep your poem interesting, turn up the sound! For example, RHYME adds MUSICALITY. RHYTHM does too. So, to give your abstract poem a rhythmic BEAT, hum a tune. Listen to your favorite music. Then put the melody into similar-sounding words. For example, read aloud: la-LA/ la-LA/ LA-la. If you stress only the capital letters as you read that LA-line, you'll hear the same beat as "i HOPE/ you LIKE/ MUSic."
To give you a bigger example of an abstract poem, I wrote this one just for you:
An Abstract Poem for You to Name
What fun we had!
Nothing went as bad
We even laughed the same –
like a real, true rhyme.
I wish we'd had more time.
© 2009, Mary Harwell Sayler
Notice the fuzzy picture? Yet you can still feel what it means. Another TITLE could make the poem clearer but change the meaning. For instance, the title, "Dad Days," might be about the feelings of someone whose father is away from home. Another title, "Our Last Forever," might mean someone died, and the "I" of the poem remembers their last time together. The title, "Carnival," could be about a fun time with a friend.
Read the poem again. See how its meaning changes to fit each title? That's the fun of abstract poetry. Like an abstract painting, an abstract poem can become almost anything you like!
© 2012-2013, Mary Harwell Sayler, all rights reserved. If you have a Kindle, great! If not, you can read the Poetry Dictionary For Children and For Fun and other e-books on your computer by downloading free software for e-book reading from Amazon.