Saturday, 12 June 2010

Lullaby for Andrew

Go to sleep my baby
close your little eyes
round your bed a hundred colours
point towards surprise.

Darling Andrew, smiling,
take a little rest,
before tomorrow’s reckoning
of chaos at its best.

Mess and muddle, mayhem,
a smile beyond the glum;
intensity, intensity,
sleep now, let it come….

Sunday, 28 February 2010

How to write a sonnet

Sonnets are fourteen lined poems, traditionally split into stanzas of 8 lines and then of 6 lines. The rhyme scheme may vary, depending on your taste. Traditional sonnets would have clear end-rhymes and be written in iambic pentameter, although modern poetry has moved away from a strictness of form. Also, traditionally, sonnets would be written about love or philosophy – but that seems no longer the case, modern poets write sonnets about anything!

The key to a classical sonnet is the ‘turn’; which occurs at, or around, the point where the two stanzas separate and the idea is that the exploration, or argument, in the first eight lines should ‘turn’ or be viewed differently – or at least from a different angle – in the second stanza. This has the effect of creating a polarity, or ambiguity, for the reader and their internal resolution of such tension can generate an ‘aha’ moment which is subjective, pleasurable and creative.

The ‘turn’ is often signaled linguistically by the word ‘but’ or ‘and’, ‘however’ etc. although, if you read a few sonnets you will find that poets use a plethora of subtle, and not-so-subtle ways of embedding a signal for the turn within language. Here is a sonnet I wrote about my son - with a very unsubtle turn!!!

The real Down’s question

Hiding’s not possible when he decides

to talk to you; to ask a question like

‘have you a beard?’:- and everything falls still,

or ‘Are you mad?’:- and you pause in the void,

or ‘are you bovvered?’:- and silence abounds

catching your breath because spotlights are on

and you might say the wrong thing:

bearded, or bovvered or mad – Well??

And it’s ridiculous how quickly you blush

just because it’s not so easy to answer

routinely. Beyond the question

lies a sly question, a poke

bringing you live to connection, ‘can you connect?’

and there’s a boy laughing and doing his work.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

How to write a ballad

A ballad is a traditional story – poem, often written in 4 line stanzas with lines 1 and 3 having 4 beats and lines 2 and 4 having 3 beats. In this kind of meter, and with some traditional line-end rhyming, the ballad has a kind of singing quality. In olden times, they were used to pass news or yarns around from place to place.

Opening to Mr Bleaney – by Philip Larkin

'This was Mr Bleaney's room. He stayed

The whole time he was at the Bodies, till

They moved him.' Flowered curtains, thin and frayed,

Fall to within five inches of the sill,

Whose window shows a strip of building land,

Tussocky, littered. 'Mr Bleaney took

My bit of garden properly in hand.'

Bed, upright chair, sixty-watt bulb, no hook ….

A ballad can be funny, whimsical, ironic, bawdy, drunken. Ideally, it needs to be a rich, lifelike, compelling read. Other pointers are;

· have a plot

· have characters

· include dialogue

· contain some sort of drama

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

How to write Haiku

What to write about?

Haiku-poems can describe almost anything, but you seldom find themes which are too complicated for normal recognition and understanding. Some of the most thrilling Haiku-poems describe daily situations in a way that gives the reader a brand new experience of a well-known situation.

The metrical pattern of Haiku

Haiku-poems consist of respectively 5, 7 and 5 syllables in three units. In japanese, this convention is a must, but in english, which has variation in the length of syllables, this can sometimes be difficult.

The technique of cutting.

The cutting divides the Haiku into two parts, with a certain imaginative distance between the two sections, but the two sections must remain, to a degree, independent of each other. Both sections enrich the understanding of the other.

To make this cutting in english, either the first or the second line ends normally with a colon, long dash or ellipsis.

The seasonal theme.

Each Haiku contains a kigo, a season word, which indicate in which season the Haiku is set. For example, cherry blossoms indicate spring, snow indicate winter, and mosquitoes indicate summer, but the season word isn't always that obvious.

Sunday, 14 February 2010


The traditional cinquain is based on a syllable count.

line 1 - 2 syllables
line 2 - 4 syllables
line 3 - 6 syllables
line 4 - 8 syllables
line 5 - 2 syllables

The modern cinquain is based on a word count of words of a certain type.

line 1 - one word (noun) a title or name of the subject
line 2 - two words (adjectives) describing the title
line 3 - three words (verbs) describing an action related to the title
line 4 - four words describing a feeling about the title, a complete sentence
line 5 - one word referring back to the title of the poem

Here's an example


brightly still

heating, stirring, rising;

one cauldron is today's


Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Writing a Sonnet

Learn to write a sonnet in iambic pentameter, just like Shakespeare did. Discover the rhythm and rhyme scheme of the quatrains and couplets that make up a Shakespearean sonnet.

Here are the rules:

  • It must consist of 14 lines.
  • It must be written in iambic pentameter (duh-DUH-duh-DUH-duh-DUH-duh-DUH-duh-DUH).
  • It must be written in one of various standard rhyme schemes.

If you're writing the most familiar kind of sonnet, the Shakespearean, the rhyme scheme is this:


Every A rhymes with every A, every B rhymes with every B, and so forth. You'll notice this type of sonnet consists of three quatrains (that is, four consecutive lines of verse that make up a stanza or division of lines in a poem) and one couplet (two consecutive rhyming lines of verse).

Ah, but there's more to a sonnet than just the structure of it. A sonnet is also an argument — it builds up a certain way. And how it builds up is related to its metaphors and how it moves from one metaphor to the next. In a Shakespearean sonnet, the argument builds up like this:

  • First quatrain: An exposition of the main theme and main metaphor.
  • Second quatrain: Theme and metaphor extended or complicated; often, some imaginative example is given.
  • Third quatrain: Peripeteia (a twist or conflict), often introduced by a "but" (very often leading off the ninth line).
  • Couplet: Summarizes and leaves the reader with a new, concluding image.

One of Shakespeare's best-known sonnets, Sonnet 18, follows this pattern:

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate.
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date.
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimmed;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature's changing course, untrimmed;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest,
Nor shall death brag thou wanderest in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou growest.
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

The argument of Sonnet 18 goes like this:

  • First quatrain: Shakespeare establishes the theme of comparing "thou" (or "you") to a summer's day, and why to do so is a bad idea. The metaphor is made by comparing his beloved to summer itself.
  • Second quatrain: Shakespeare extends the theme, explaining why even the sun, supposed to be so great, gets obscured sometimes, and why everything that's beautiful decays from beauty sooner or later. He has shifted the metaphor: In the first quatrain, it was "summer" in general, and now he's comparing the sun and "every fair," every beautiful thing, to his beloved.
  • Third quatrain: Here the argument takes a big left turn with the familiar "But." Shakespeare says that the main reason he won't compare his beloved to summer is that summer dies — but she won't. He refers to the first two quatrains — her "eternal summer" won't fade, and she won't "lose possession" of the "fair" (the beauty) she possesses. So he keeps the metaphors going, but in a different direction. And for good measure, he throws in a negative version of all the sunshine in this poem — the "shade" of death, which, evidently, his beloved won't have to worry about.
  • Couplet: How is his beloved going to escape death? In Shakespeare's poetry, which will keep her alive as long as people breathe or see. This bold statement gives closure to the whole argument — it's a surprise.

And so far, Shakespeare's sonnet has done what he promised it would! See how tightly this sonnet is written, how complex yet well organized it is? Try writing a sonnet of your own.

Poets are attracted by the grace, concentration, and, yes, the sheer difficulty of sonnets. You may never write another sonnet in your life, but this exercise is more than just busywork. It does all the following:

  • Shows you how much you can pack into a short form.
  • Gives you practice with rhyme, meter, structure, metaphor, and argument.
  • Connects you with one of the oldest traditions in English poetry — one still vital today.

Read more:

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Write an Instant Verb Verse Poem

Directions:For this three line instant poetry activity, first think about something you do. Then brainstorm six verbs that go with that action. Then just fill them in the blanks below to make your instant verb verse.


Line 1: Verb One Verb Two Verb Three

Line 2:
Verb Four Verb Five Verb Six

Line 3: Write a
sentence here that shows how you feel about this activity

YOU HAVE A POEM, Here's one.....


choose, flicker, click,

look, puzzle, edit

it's almost complete.

Thursday, 4 February 2010


The sound in poetry plays a vital role which gives it musical rhythms and therefore poems are recited with genuine interest. Alliteration is such quality that gives beauty to the poetry. There are alliteration famous poems that really appeal to the lovers of literature.

What Makes it Alliteration?

Well, it is nothing but a recurrent repetition of a speech sound presented in a sequence of close by words. It's generally applied to consonants when the recurring sound starts a word or stressed syllable within a word. In the opening line of "Piers Plowman" by William Langland, every four stressed syllables are alliterative by nature:

"In a somer seson, when soft was the sonne..."

Examples of Alliteration in Later English Poetry:

In the later English poetry, the application of alliteration was meant for achieving stylistic effects and to reinforce and intensify the meaning. For instance; the repetition of the sound /s/, /th/, and /w/ consonants in the following Shakespeare's Sonnet 30:

"When to the sessions of sweet silent thought
I summon up remembrance of things past"

There are special speech sounds, called assonance and consonance, repeated in alliteration. Assonance means the repetition of similar type of words (particularly in stresses syllables) in a sequence of close by words. For instance; the recurrent /i:/ is repeated in the opening lines of Keats's "Ode on a Grecian Urn":

"Thou still unravished bride of quietness,
Thou foster child of silence and slow time..."

Consonance means the repetition of a sequence of more than two consonants but a slight change in the prevailing vowel for instance; lean-alone, live-love etc. Moreover, it can be seen in W. H. Auden's following poem:

"O Where are you going?" said reader to rider...
"Out of this house" - said rider to reader,
"Yours never will" - said farer to fearer,
"They're looking for you" said hearer to horror..."

This device of alliteration in poetry provides rhythm and rhyme.

By Rakesh Ramubhai Patel Platinum Quality Author

Sunday, 31 January 2010

What’s the big deal about verbs anyway?

I cannot stress enough how important verbs are in a poem. Here’s an example of excellent verb use in a well-known poem:

from Ariel

Black sweet blood mouthfuls, Shadows. Something else  Hauls me through air—— Thighs, hair; Flakes from my heels.  White Godiva, I unpeel—— Dead hands, dead stringencies.  And now I Foam to wheat, a glitter of seas. The child’s cry  Melts in the wall. And I Am the arrow,  The dew that flies, Suicidal, at one with the drive Into the red  Eye, the cauldron of morning.   Sylvia Plath 

This poem uses verbs very effectively. “Something else / hauls me through air.” “Thighs, hair; / Flakes from my heels.” “I unpeel” “I /Foam to wheat.” “The child’s cry / Melts in the wall.” [my emphasis]

The resulting effect of using active verbs in a poem is that your reader will be able to experience the action of the poem in their head, rather than just hear about it. So many poor poems are reported. “This happened. That happened. Something else is happening.”

The reason using “being verbs,” adverbs, and adjectives to depict the images in your poetry is ineffective is that it unnecessarily removes the reader from the experience of the poem. When a poem is reportedrather than enacted the poet serves as an intermediary between the poem and the reader.

Think about it this way: would you rather look at a beautiful sunset or have someone describe one to you?

This will be covered in greater detail in an upcoming installment (this phrase is becoming a mantra of this series).

For the remainder of this article we’re going to assume you’ve completed a poem and want to make a first-pass at improving it.

Jough Dempsey is a poet & critic and the webmaster of Poetry X

Saturday, 30 January 2010

Do's and Don'ts from Ezra Pound

- Poetry should be written at least as well as prose.

- Language is an instrument for expressing and not for concealing or preventing thought.

- Go in fear of abstraction

- Use no superfluous word, no adjective, which does not reveal something.

- Don't use such an expression as 'dim lands of peace'. It dulls the image. It mixes an abstraction with the concrete. It comes from the writer's not realising that the natural object is always the adequate symbol.

- A narrative is all right as long as the narrator sticks to words as simple as dog, horse, sunset.

Thursday, 28 January 2010

How to Write a Poem

originated by:Lucy Lake, Nathan Wong, Travis Derouin, Tom Viren

Writing a poem is all about observing the world within you or around you. You can write about anything from love to the rusty gate at the old farm. As long as you are enjoying it or finding it releases something from inside you, you're on the right track.


  1. 1
    Read and listen to poetry. Whether someone who has never seen a sonnet nor heard haiku can truly be a poet is an open question. It is almost certain, though, that any poet who has been published or who has garnered any following enhanced their skills by reading or listening to good poetry, even if they later scoffed at conventional notions of what was "good." "Good" poems fall into three categories: those that are recognized as classics, those that seem to be popular, and those that you personally like. Poems typically being short, there is no reason not to explore plenty of both.

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  2. 2
    Original manuscript of Longfellow's "The Village Blacksmith."  The revisions on the page give us an idea of how the poem evolved.
    Original manuscript of Longfellow's "The Village Blacksmith." The revisions on the page give us an idea of how the poem evolved.
    Find a spark. A poem may be born as a snippet of verse, maybe just a line or two that seems to come out of nowhere. That's what's usually called inspiration, and once you have that beginning you simply need to flesh it out, to build the rest of the poem around it.

    At other times you may want to write about a specific thing or idea. If this is the case, do a little planning. Write down all the words and phrases that come to mind when you think of that idea. Allow yourself to put all your ideas into words.

    It may sound difficult, but do not be afraid to voice your exact feelings. Emotions are what make poems, and if you lie about your emotions it can be easily sensed in the poem. Write them down as quickly as possible, and when you're done, go through the list and look for connections or certain items that get your creative juices flowing.
  3. 3
    Think about what you want to achieve with your poem. Perhaps you want to write a poem to express your love for your boyfriend or girlfriend; perhaps you want to commemorate a tragic event; or maybe you just want to get an "A" in your poetry class. Think about why you are writing your poem and who your intended audience is, and then proceed in your writing accordingly.
  4. 4
    Decide what poetry style suits your subject. There are a great many different poetic styles. [1]. If you see "Winter icicles / plummeting like Enron stock..." perhaps you've got a haiku in your head. As a poet, you have a wide variety of set forms to choose from: limericks, sonnets,villanelles ... the list goes on and on. You may also choose to abandon form altogether and write your poem in free verse. While the choice may not always be as obvious as the example above, the best form for the poem will usually manifest itself during your writing.
  5. 5
    Try to fit into a particular scene you want to write about. For example, if you want to write about nature, try to visit a park or a small forest nearby. The natural scenery will make you write a few lines, though they may not be perfect.
  6. 6
    Listen to your poem. While many people today have been exposed to poetry only in written form, poetry was predominantly an aural art for thousands of years, and the sound of a poem is still important. As you write and edit your poem, read it aloud and listen to how it sounds.
    1. This is where poems can become songs. It is easier to find a tune for regular meter, so maybe you want to cut words out or put some in to get the same number of syllables in each line. Memorize it. If you believe it, then maybe someone else will learn it and love it before it is a song.
  7. 7
    Write down your thoughts as they come to you. Don't edit as you write, or do edit as you write - the choice is yours. However, you should try both methods at least a couple times to see what works best for you.
  8. 8
    Choose the right words. It's been said that if a novel is "words in the best order," then a poem is "the best words in the best order." Think of the words you use as building blocks of different sizes and shapes. Some words will fit together perfectly, and some won't. You want to keep working at your poem until you have built a strong structure of words. Use only those words that are necessary, those that enhance the meaning of the poem. Choose your words carefully. The differences between similar sounding words or synonyms can lead to interesting word play.
  9. 9
    Use concrete imagery and vivid descriptions.

    • Love, hate, happiness: these are all abstract concepts. Many, maybe all, poems are, deep down, about emotions and other abstractions, but it's hard to build a strong poem using only abstractions - it's just not interesting. The key, then, is to replace or enhance abstractions with concrete images, things that you can appreciate with your senses: a rose, a shark, or a crackling fire, for example. The concept of the objective correlative may be useful. An objective correlative is an object, several objects, or a series of events (all concrete things) that evoke the emotion or idea of the poem.
    • Really powerful poetry not only uses concrete images; it also describes them vividly. Show your readers and listeners what you're talking about--help them to experience the imagery of the poem. Put in some "sensory" handles. These are words that describe the things that you hear, see, taste, touch, and smell, so that the reader can identify with their own experience. Give some examples rather than purely mental/intellectual descriptions. For example: "He made a loud sound" versus "He made a loud sound like a hippo eating 100 stale pecan pies with metal teeth".
  10. 10
    Use poetic devices to enhance your poem's beauty and meaning. The most well known poetic device is rhyme. Rhyme can add suspense to your lines, enhance your meaning, or make the poem more cohesive. It can also make it prettier. Don't overuse rhyme. It's a crime. In fact you don't have to use rhyme at all. Other poetic devices include meter, metaphor, assonance, alliteration, and repetition. If you don't know what these are, you may want to look in a poetry book or search the internet. Poetic devices can make a poem or, if they bring too much attention to themselves, they can ruin it.
  11. 11
    Save your most powerful message or insight for the end of your poem. The last line is to a poem what a punch line is to a joke--something that evokes an emotional response. Give the reader something to think about, something to dwell on after reading your poem. Resist the urge to explain it; let the reader become engaged with the poem in developing an understanding of your experience or message.
  12. 12
    Edit your poem. When the basic poem is written, set it aside for awhile and then read the poem out loud to yourself. Go through it and balance the choice of words with the rhythm. Take out unnecessary words and replace imagery that isn't working. Some people edit a poem all at once, while others come back to it again and again over time. Don't be afraid to rewrite if some part of the poem is not working. Sometimes you just can't fix something that essentially doesn't work.
  13. 13
    Get opinions. It can be hard to critique your own work, so after you've done an initial edit, try to get some friends or a poetry group (there are plenty online) to look at your poem for you. You may not like all their suggestions, and you don't have to take any of them, but you might find some insight that will make your poem better. Feedback is good. Pass your poem around, and ask your friends to critique your work. Tell them to be honest, even if it's painful. Filter their responses or ignore them altogether and edit as you see fit.