Slow down, breathe easy, make a poem of your life. Don't let life rush by; reflect. Look for beauty and rejuvenate your soul.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Stretching The Poetic Muscle

With all this sketching and painting filling my free hours, my poetry writing has just about dried up. My thoughts are elsewhere with pretty-faced girls and art journal pages. I am not sitting still for long enough with pen and paper and a jumble of words in my head.
I need to rectify this. So this week I have written two short poems. They were written quickly and fall far short of the masterpieces I would like to write (!!), but they serve their purpose in just flexing those poetry muscles a little in preparation for some more serious exercise in the hopefully near future.
I share them with you because their simplicity allows us to ask some questions about poetic technique. I would love to know your thoughts on the points I make below.

The house I grew up in had a line of poplars at the end of the garden, a lasting image of my childhood scenery that came to mind as I racked my brain for a starting-point image:

Standing Sentries

Poplars stand sentry
As the field is ploughed
As the soil is turned
As the seed is sown

Poplars stand sentry
As the crop is grown
The harvest taken
As you come home.

And as it is painting that is keeping me from the poetry, I took the hindrance and charged it to be my muse:

Hidden Portrait

Painting your portrait
I take care
As my brush sweeps the tender
Curve of your nose,
As I colour your eyes
With the shine of experience.

Painting your portrait
I swirl joy
Into the curls of your auburn hair,
But at your cheek
My brush slows to uncover
The tear I know is hidden there.

How about a little analysis?

Do you notice how each of these poems repeats the first line in each stanza? I used this as a simple technique to lengthen the poems, by building on the same ideas a couple of times.

Do you notice how there is a slight twist at the end of each? This provides a reason, a justification, for capturing these scenes in poetry in the first place: they are not quite as ordinary as they seem. Having these changes at the end of each poem also provides a proper end, a completion, without which the poems may have just petered out unsatisfactorily.

The first poem is not very creative in its use of language: "the seed is sown" is unoriginal and an automatic, common description of the activity. Should the seed have been "flung" instead?  Or perhaps it should have been "bedded?" But neither of these would have created the uneven rhyme with the later word "grown".
"The harvest taken" is a very minor improvement on "the harvest gathered", not because it is a better word, but just because it is slightly less obvious. Do you think the use of familiar descriptive language is sometimes helpful to the reader, or does it simply make for a poor poem?

The inspiration for the second poem came from the drawing you can see here. This one I posted without the tear, but I have a copy of this girl in my sketchbook, with a tear on her left cheek. Hence the hidden tear. However the poem changed the girl substantially: the poem paints her in colour and curls her hair. What do you think of these developments? Should I have disciplined myself to describe what I first saw, or was it better to let the poem go where it would?

I would love you to let me know what you think of these ideas.
And why don't you follow similar inspiration to write a simple poem or two of your own? Again I'd love to see.



  1. Hi Louise - Let the poem go where it wants to! I think that it adds to the creativity of the work. (Unless there is a serious reason why the poem must remain true.)

    I love your poetry "lessons"! As far as ordinary wording, in some instances I think it helps the reader and lifts the weight of the work. Of course, that depends on who your readers are! It changes the depth of the visual when you expand your wording. (I enjoy which ever way you express it!) Also it depends on the importance of the poem - you know what you want to say!

    I hope you don't feel like you have to adhere to a standard - only if you want to - it's your creation! I love your work! You encourage me to try more poetry. I don't have a clue as to what I'm doing, I just know what I like! Jess xox

  2. What a wonderful post! I read them both - and LOVED your piece on art and beauty - I too started my blog without ever expecting to be here. So, the poet turns to art - and visa versa :) Perfect!
    My head is full, but I really connected with your second poem and was very moved by the thought of her having a tear in the initial peice - you captured it perfectly here and I agree with Jess in that the poem is strongest when it takes you where it wants to go! That is the definition of being an artist to me! You are an inspiration, xoxo

  3. Hello Louise, thank you for visiting my blog and leave me a comment!
    So I thought "why not visiting Louise?"
    What a nice person you are (I think I can see that by reading and scrolling trough your blog...)
    Verry nice, I'll come back again!

  4. Ladies, all three of you are so kind. You encourage me so much. Thank you!