Saturday, August 27, 2016
What is a poem? Answers will vary, depending on whom you ask, but basically, a poem is a poem because the poet calls it a poem or because someone recognizes some sort of poetic quality in it.
Occasionally poets have called scrambled lines or incoherent phrases a poem without fear of having their poetic license revoked. However, if you want your poems to be appealing to you and other readers too, think of the characteristics that long-cherished poems often have in common:
EMOTION-APPEAL – Stirring poems address a topic or situation you care about – one with which most people can identify. In other words, your subject matter matters – not only to you but others as well.
MIND-APPEAL – A memorable poem clarifies a concept, often using a comparison to bring an abstract subject into clearer view or sharper focus. You make the unknown better known – to yourself and to your readers.
EAR-APPEAL – A well-tuned poem composes syllables and word plays to sound and resound with echoes and rhythmic beat. As maestro, you set the pace and call the tune to which many others sway.
EYE-APPEAL – A well-formed poem uses words, punctuates thoughts, and breaks lines to clarify a picture or to spotlight something you want to stress. With fine-tipped artistry, you show precisely what you intend to communicate or reveal.
SPIRIT-APPEAL – A lasting poem speaks truths that ring true and stay true. Your reception of love, justice, empathy, and forgiveness provide real wisdom and unbiased truths for you to compare, contrast, or re-present.
Memorable poems have timeless connections to the spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical natures people experience themselves or encounter in others. Such lines, drawn from common interests and concerns, bring fresh insights or conclusions you easily could have missed without the poem to coax you toward a longer, deeper, closer look.
• Poems are meant to be seen. They're meant to create mental pictures and re-create physical scenes.
• Poems are meant to be heard. They're meant to be read aloud – in public or in private.
• Poems are meant to be felt – to have a strong impact on emotions, mind, senses, and spirit.
Unfortunately, some feelings erupt from misunderstandings. Some sounds merely make noise. Some sights are not worth seeing. However, when you have a single theme and a clear purpose in mind as you edit or revise, your poem will be more apt to become a cohesive, artistic unit.
by Mary Harwell Sayler, (c)2016, 2012, 2005, 1983 from poetry course now as the Kindle e-book, the Christian Poet's Guide to Writing Poetry
Tuesday, August 2, 2016
In the book, Haiku and Senryu: A Simple Guide for All, which was kindly sent to me to review, the poet-author-teacher Charlotte Digregorio conversationally discusses these two favored forms as one who avidly reads, writes, and teaches other poets and poetry students. One chapter even addresses “Teaching Haiku and Senryu” with practical suggestions and checklists non-teachers will also welcome.
While most of us might not be leading classes on syllabic verse, this book gives us a deeper appreciation of two minimalistic yet highly expressive and impressive forms. In the first chapter, for example, we learn:
“Haiku are from the heart, and they can touch the reader by evoking any type of emotion, from sadness to happiness. Effective haiku is thoughtful, insightful and intuitive, and it captures the moment.” To do this, “it must be written in the present tense.”
The present helps us to “show, not tell,” thereby engaging the senses as we write, so our readers can experience the moment with some of the wonder we felt or the beauty we noted in as few words as possible.
Traditionally, haiku has three lines with 5/7/5 syllables per line, respectively, which some poets and I still prefer as a unique challenge for combining imagery and musicality. However, many other American poets use a 4/6/4 syllabic count or 3/5/3, which “may yield more lightness and flow to the poem.”
Reading each draft of your poem will help you to hear which you prefer. Also, omitting “words that reveal too much of the meaning,” deleting adjectives, and cutting unnecessary articles such as “the” or “an” may reduce the size of your poem while compressing content.
The same principles work well for senyru too, which focuses on human nature rather than the seasonal elements and natural environments of haiku. Both forms can amuse, but “Senryu should always be light and playful humor – not insulting or offensive. It can even be satirical.” For example:
“Season’s Greetings” …
braggart’s annual letter
fuels the yule log
Senryu and haiku rely on strong verbs and nouns with “a reason for each word that is used.” Nothing abstract or redundant works in poems where every character counts. This compression, along with an “understated element, which is typical of senryu and haiku, makes the poem powerful.”
If, though, you prefer more lines to express an insight or retain a fleeting moment, the chapter on “Haiku and Senryu Sequences” offers these tips:
“A haiku or senryu sequence is a series with a certain theme or tone. You can take a theme and look at it from various perspectives. While individual haiku and senryu have no titles, sequences do.”
The poems in a sequence can build on one another or follow “a chronology of moments that you have captured. The poem should, of course, move forward smoothly and effectively through its imagery” as do the examples presented throughout this highly recommended book.
Mary Harwell Sayler, poet, author, reviewer, © 2016
Haiku and Senryu: A Simple Guide for All, paperback
Friday, July 15, 2016
This newly updated list of resources can help you enhance the writing, revising, and submitting of your poems to appropriate poetry journals, anthologies, and e-zines. Once you have placed a number of poems with editors of print or online publications, you'll be better prepared to approach a publisher of poetry chapbooks or books of poems.
American Academy of Poets – Searchable archives on poets and poetry
American Verse Project – A to Z listing of poets with hotlinks to classical poems to read aloud and study
Children’s Poetry – Famous poems and poets of interest to children
Christian Poet's Guide to Writing Poetry - e-book version of poet-friendly home study course on scansion, poetry forms, free verse, terminology, and techniques
Christian Poets and Writers - Group on Facebook with posts relevant to Christians who write in all genres
Christian Writer's Guide - e-book on researching, writing, revising, querying, and submitting all genres of manuscripts to editors of periodicals or book publishing companies in a professional manner
Copyright information – Directly from the U.S. Copyright Office
Duotrope’s Digest – Numerous poetry markets open to your poems
Electronic Poetry Center – Archives of international poets
EnglishVerse.com – Archives of classical English poetry and bios of poets
Guide to Grammar & Writing – Interactive articles, definitions, parts of speech, and English grammar guides
Haiku Society of America - Nonprofit membership organization dedicated to excellence in haiku
International Writing Contest – Annual competition for poetry (which I’ve chaired for many years) and all genres of writing
Library of Congress – Poetry page
Nobel Prize in Literature – Prestigious poetry prize
Online Resources for Writers – Articles, hotlinks, and full texts for classical works on writing
Poetry Daily – Featuring a poem, poet, and journal each day
Poetry Editor -Professional feedback for a minimal fee on your poems, chapbook, or book of poetry written in free verse or traditional forms on almost any subject told with clean language and respect
Poetry Foundation - Poems, resources, and Poetry magazine
Poetry.org – Resources for poets, terminology about poetry
Poetry Society of America – Articles and awards
Poetry Society of America, Poetry for Children – Links to resources
Poets House – National poetry center and library
Poets & Writers – Archives and articles on all aspects of poetry
Poets & Writers – Classified ads from journals, e-zines, anthologies
Poets & Writers – Grants, Awards, and Contests
Poets & Writers – List of literary publications open to poetry
Poets & Writers – Small book publishers of poetry
Publishers Weekly – Updates on all genres in the publishing industry
Pulitzer Prize – List of previous winners of this highly prestigious award in poetry, which also gives you an immediate list of poets to study
Rhyme Zone – Rhymes, synonyms, and word search
Resources provided by Mary Harwell Sayler, poet, poetry editor, and writer in all genres.
Friday, July 1, 2016
In the last post, we discussed “Micropoetry and Minipoems,” which led me to look for short forms devoted to devotional poetry. I thought maybe the senyru would do, but the more I studied that syllabic verse form, the more I realized it has its own niche as does haiku. To explain:
. Both haiku and senyru involve three lines with 5/7/5 syllables respectively. That’s assuming, of course, you want to adhere to the traditional haiku form. Both also work well with humor or surprise.
. However, haiku focuses on a seasonal look at nature, and senyru focuses on human nature, typically with a touch of irony.
Since I often see minipoems by members of Christian Poets & Writers on Facebook, I knew that many poets have begun to use the standard haiku structure to focus on God or an inspired look at our spiritual nature. Consequently, it seemed to me that we needed a more pliable syllabic verse or unique short poem form to let readers know what to expect, and so the aahcoo was born.
As explained in my post “What’s New? Aahcoo” the name came from the familiar sound of awe and wonder – aah, whereas the coo came from the sound of a dove, often used to symbolize the Holy Spirit. Put them together, and you have aahcoo, which sounds similar to haiku but never, never the sneeze of achoo!
. Aah + coo = aahcoo, a God-centered poem of a spiritual nature
Writing an aahcoo is simple but has options:
1. You can write an aahcoo with a 5/7/5 syllabic count on three lines, respectively, so aahcoo looks like haiku.
Wind and water shape
the magnificent mountains.
Air and spirit rise!
by Mary Harwell Sayler, © 2016
2. You can write a praise poem, mini-devotional, psalm, prayer, or spiritual insight in three to seven syllables on three to seven lines.
Why those numbers for a minimum to maximum count? Lord willing, they'll be easy to recall!
Three reminds us of the Trinity.
Seven symbolizes the weekly Sabbath Rest God wants us to have as a minimum.
To give you an example of the longer possibilities to experiment with as you write or revise, this aahcoo maxes out the number of syllables and lines with an optional touch of humor:
Who reads instructions
before priming old walls
to paint or paper? Who reads
rules before assembling
something new? Thank You,
Lord, for giving us Your Word
on living beyond the pew.
by Mary Harwell Sayler, © 2016
If you look over the micropoetry you have written, you might find you were already writing aahcoo instead of haiku as supposed, or perhaps you’ve been writing minipoems that could easily fit the flexible aahcoo form with a little tweaking of the number of syllables.
Regardless, when you post an aahcoo on Twitter, Facebook, or your own blog, be sure to add a hashtag, and your #aahcoo will appear in an Internet search of this new, tailor-made-for-you form.
Saturday, June 25, 2016
What’s new? Aahcoo! | Mary Harwell Sayler
Thursday, June 16, 2016
Thanks to Twitter and mobile phone users, poets have developed micropoetry as a poetic form with no particular rules except brevity.
To be precise, a micropoem has a maximum of 160 characters to fit a mobile phone, but the more common length maxes out at 140 characters since that’s the limit on Twitter.
Does it matter? Well, yes. Chances are, you might send a micropoem on your cell phone only to a friend, whereas a poem you tweet could potentially be seen by thousands, especially if you use a hashtag such as #micropoem or #micropoetry.
Those hashtags will also help you to find samples of micropoems with countless possibilities for subjects, tone, purpose, or style.
Other examples can be found on my previous post “Micropoetry and More” and also on The Micropoets Society website where you’ll find me under Christianpoet.
While all haiku can be classified as micropoetry, not all micropoems are traditional haiku – nature poems of three lines with a reference to a particular season and syllabic count of 5/ 7/ 5.
Many micropoems have no known form, whereas others might be classified as a traditional English couplet (two lines of metered verse with end-line rhyme) or a quatrain (four metered lines with rhyme.) Sometimes poets simply devise a poem with short lines or a set number of words that stay within the 140-character limit for tweeting.
Similar to and sometimes synonymous with micropoetry, minipoems have become increasingly popular too. These poems might go over the lines drawn by Twitter but, nevertheless, remain concise. For example, nursery rhymes, short psalms, and quatrains with no rhyme or meter might be too long to tweet but still fall into the minipoem or short poem category.
Mini or micro, the idea is to focus on brevity, beauty, and insight as you experiment, invent, or commemorate an event worth taking note and passing along to others.
Mary Harwell Sayler, © 2016
Friday, June 3, 2016
The poems in True, False, None of the Above by Marjorie Maddox take us on a unique journey of reading, writing, and encouraging literature, which the poet-author believes “is not an escape from, but rather a confrontation with reality, a reality that includes the overarching struggles of the soul.”
Anyone who has felt the influence of literature in their formative years and beyond surely appreciates the power of the written word, whether approached as teacher, writer, or reader. We enter worlds unlike our own and people unlike ourselves, who overcome conditions we’ve never experienced, yet we identify with their humanness and expand our way of viewing life from perspectives we most likely would not have seen on our own.
By broadening our experiences and engaging us in thought, literature helps us to develop empathy and understanding of others. If we also happen to be poets or writers, literature enlarges our understanding of what works well in our writings and what does not. As Maddox said in a recent interview, “I am a firm believer that writers first need to read good literature,” which, as an English professor, she certainly has -- as her own work exemplifies.
In her Preface to True, False, None of the Above, which Cascade Books kindly sent me to review, the poet-author tells us, “This is a book on the intersection of words and belief, on what it means to be a poet of faith, on how books mark and mirror our lives, and how sometimes the journey we experience on the page leads us to faith.”
For most of us, that’s a slow process of growth. As the opening poem “On Defining Education” describes in its last verse:
Please, feel free to confront.
I’m not talking about who you should be
but are. Let’s start with the essence of seed
and see what sprouts from there.
Some writers might have gone on to sermonize about mustard seeds and their strong biblical connection to the growth of faith, but Maddox seems to be searching for more subtle marks of faith as we see in “Bookmark.”
Let the lines and Spirit speak for themselves without
sounding brass or tinkling cymbals.
The poems discover and demonstrate that lighter, quieter touch as shown, for example, in “Fishing for Sestinas.”
At first, there is only paper
as plain as sleep without the dream,
as flat as the sea without its waves,
no sound, no ripple, no fish
slipping in and out so
suspiciously. Ah, now write
that, not worrying about wrong or right
but only what floats up to your paper,
what your fishing pole of a pencil tugs so
deliciously toward your eyes.
Those lines illustrate beautifully what we hope to experience as we write in any genre. The last poem, “Belief and Blackboards,” does this too and, more, as it presents a classroom setting where the poet sees “flakes of manna in the unexpected snap/ of chalk” and brings the essence of reading, writing, and experiencing literature into these closing lines:
And this is all we need:
the real, the spiritual, the Real;
the thin laughter in the background;
the crescendo of the poem rising, covering each desk,
each tile: floor and ceiling.
Book review by Mary Harwell Sayler, © 2016
True, False, None of the Above, paperback