Tag Archives: NaPoWriMo

Stretching Out: Trying Different Forms and Genres

What makes April PAD/NaPoWriMo challenging is writing a new poem every day. Making time for writing on a regular basis is already difficult for most people! And sometimes we end up cycling around the same themes, the same phrases, the same types of poems. Poetry that’s new and different, every day – that’s the tough part.

I personally love that part of the challenge – precisely because it forces me to face my clichés, and break away from them. I step outside of my usual forms and themes, challenge myself with new ones, try writing with new voices, fresh styles.

If I have enough time on my hands (perhaps a couple of hours) I test myself by writing in form. I wrote about this during last year’s challenge, as well, and one of my milestones then was how I’d managed to write my first-ever sonnet (or two). And I’ve written quite a few Haiku by now, but this April I stuck as closely as I could to the original form — in fact, I wrote two of them in Japanese!

Writing in form, traditional or modern, helps hone our craft. Plus, subject matter and theme can be further supported by writing in specific forms or meter that suit them. It’s not just in the message, after all, it’s in how it’s delivered. A poem is obviously more than the meaning it makes: it’s in how it makes meaning.

Image

I found the image here; do give the article a read!

 

If you choose your form and meter wisely enough, they could add new layers to your poem! Also, you could use forms just as effectively to break stereotypes, or even satirize common trends like this lovely sonnet by Shakespeare does (Sonnet 130):

My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips’ red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damasked, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground.
   And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
   As any she belied with false compare.

 

If your form works with your poem’s theme, the overall effect is that much greater. That’s why we hear so many poets warning us not to default to free verse. Personally, I don’t find anything wrong with free verse – as long as it suits the context. What if the poem is all about non-conformity, breaking out of confinement – that sort of thing? Perhaps free verse makes sense. Even better, you could show the gradual development in the poet pesona by working within form/meter and having a break in form/meter later on in the poem.

In fiction-writing, too, we choose between genres and forms. You shouldn’t default to a form (novel, short story, novella) or genre because it’s a trend, but because it makes sense for your story. Make sure you know all the whys and wherefores.

The last time I stepped out of my genre for fiction-writing, I found I was pleasantly surprised by the result! I had a novella unlike any I’d ever written before, fresh and even a little shocking — and it never would’ve come to be if I hadn’t let myself try something new.

Writing Prompt: (Try) Something New

If you haven’t been at it already, try composing in different poetic forms. Perhaps you’ll find one you really love! Mr. Brewer’s list over at Poetic Asides is a very convenient and comprehensive resource: I hope you’ll find a form in there you haven’t written in already!

You could also try new styles, if not forms. Perhaps a different voice, like you would in a dramatic monologue. Explore characters and landscapes you haven’t before.

Before I sign off, I offer this as a writing prompt for anyone who’s looking for one: (try) something new.

  • The poem/piece itself could be your exercise at trying something new.
  • It could be about how you’re trying something new.
  • It could be about something new in your life, or maybe something new in someone else’s life
  • It could perhaps be something new and alien to the ecosystem (like plastic!)

Take the prompt where you will in your thoughts!

Happy Writing!

Have a great day folks, and keep writing! Just ten more days of fierce poeming to go, stay strong 🙂

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Friday Reflections: Windows

Hello, folks! 🙂 I hope everyone’s been keeping up with their challenges — we’re more than half-way to the finish line! (Don’t let it fool you though — there’s no real finish line, only milestones along the journey!)

Today’s Reflections topic is Windows.

“Strange things blow in through my window on the wings of the night wind and I don’t worry about my destiny.”
-Carl Sandburg

Windows

I don’t want to put any more thoughts into your head before you brainstorm — you might have more creative images popping out of there than what I’ve got! Just take five, ten minutes to jot down your thoughts. Do you imagine a scene? Note down what you see; then consider why that image might have come to you. What does it have to do with “windows”? What significance does “windows” have?

It’s entirely up to you whether you want to write about Microsoft’s famous Operating System, or these wonderful glass-fitted openings in rooms:

Image Courtesy: Wikipedia

Image Courtesy: Wikipedia

You could even read through this Wikipedia article and take a look at the many different kinds of windows!

The word “window” could also refer to those rectangle cut-outs with transparent sheets, in envelopes, through which we can read the address.

You could observe what’s outside your window right now (or perhaps what’s outside the window of your favorite Cafe), and write about the kinds of people, happenings, and encounters you see.

Just take your pick and write away!

(It might help to know that the word “window” comes from Old Norse, combining the words “wind” and “eye“.)

There are so many interesting phrases we use today incorporating this word:

  • out the window
  • window-shopping
  • window to…(e.g., imagination)
  • a window on (something)
  • window, as an interval, i.e., time window/window of four minutes…

The phrase ‘window-shopping’ is always fun to work with! Though this quote always comes to my mind:

“I went window shopping today! I bought four windows.”
-Tommy Cooper

Apart from phrases like these, windows often take on symbolic or metaphoric meaning in a lot of writing. Windows are interesting in how they are often transparent, and could let in wind and light, but are still barriers.

“Many a doctrine is like a window pane. We see truth through it but it divides us from truth.”
-Khalil Gibran

A character confined to the space of one room, the window that he/she gazes out of takes on a very different meaning. We have characters smashing open windows to enter/exit buildings – it could be for a robbery or even after a robbery, as the last resort/getaway strategy; it could be to run away from one’s wedding; it could be to get inside one’s own home — perhaps he/she had locked him/herself out!

One may open a window to let in a breeze – the breeze may carry in with it fluttering leaves, inspiration, or some scent that invokes memories for the poet persona. Glass windows also let in lightwhich may be metaphorically significant. Does the character/poet persona open or close the window? What about curtains or blinds?

You could choose to be extremely concrete, or completely abstract; you could choose to dance somewhere between the two, or back and forth.

Here’s an excerpt from the poem I’ll Open the Window by Anna Swir (you can read the entire poem here), to give you an idea:

I will open the window
and the large, frosty air will enter,
healthy as tragedy.
Human thoughts will enter
and human concerns,
misfortune of others, saintliness of others.
They will converse softly and sternly.

Another poem: From a Window by Charlotte Mew.

Many have written about what they see outside their window, or why they’re looking out the window (instead of just going out the door?). Perhaps the very idea of looking outward is a positive one, signifying that someone, who has been withdrawn for a long time, is finally opening up, moving out, moving on… Perhaps they yearn for freedom — to go out, to experience the world, or be with nature.

While we’re on the topic of “windows”, I’d also like to share this lovely, very touching video (and the music):

 

In the spirit of National Poetry Month…

I’ll share one more poem today; it may not have windows (but I think poems themselves are windows, in a way), but it’s one of my personal favorites.

Mother to Son by Langston Hughes

Well, son, I’ll tell you:
Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.
It’s had tacks in it,
And splinters,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor—
Bare.
But all the time
I’se been a-climbin’ on,
And reachin’ landin’s,
And turnin’ corners,
And sometimes goin’ in the dark
Where there ain’t been no light.
So boy, don’t you turn back.
Don’t you set down on the steps
’Cause you finds it’s kinder hard.
Don’t you fall now—
For I’se still goin’, honey,
I’se still climbin’,
And life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.

Happy Writing!

I hope this helped you get your creative juices flowing, if they weren’t already. Good luck with your NaPoWriMo/Poem-a-Day challenges! Have a happy weekend,  folks — I hope it’s full of writing/poeming 🙂

Friday Reflections & more!

Hello, folks! I wasn’t able to make posts thanks to a few exams that occupied my first two weeks of April — but here I am, to join in on the National Poetry Month fun! I’m ten days late into the game, but better late than never, eh? I have been keeping up with the Poem-a-Day Challenge. In fact, most days I’ve been able to write more than the required one 😉

For anyone who’s new to the whole event: April is National Poetry Month! (I’d peg it as international now, actually.)

There’s generally a lot of poetry awareness around this time, so if you can help it, try to read a new poem every day. Better yet, spread the word! Get others to read more poetry, share your favorites, spread the joy!

For those who enjoy writing poetry, April’s even more fun! April for poets is as November is for novelists: it brings with it the NaPoWriMo (National Poetry Writing Month) challenge: writing one poem a day, every day, for the whole month! Anyone who’s participating can find a great many blogs full of prompts and poems this month. Be sure to check out NaPoWriMo.net, where they offer many suggestions and a prompt every day.

Mr. Brewer over at Poetic Asides also conducts a Poem-a-Day Challenge during April, so do participate if you’re interested! This year, it’s even more interesting with an anthology being released including submissions for the challenge, as well as with various judges coming in for the event.

NaPoWriMo 2014

A Poem for the Day

I’ll kick off with a poem, to spread the Poetry Month joy 🙂

The Poets light but Lamps— by Emily Dickinson

The Poets light but Lamps —
Themselves — go out —
The Wicks they stimulate
If vital Light

Inhere as do the Suns —
Each Age a Lens
Disseminating their
Circumference —

Friday Reflections: homebound

Take a few moments to brainstorm on the topic: “homebound”. Jot down all of the ideas that come to you, make a note of the kinds of things you see in the images and scenes that the word brings to your mind. Take a moment to think about who is in that scene and why things are happening that way in the scene.

The prompt came from the poem I wrote yesterday, of the same title. There are two definitions for this particular word, and in my poem I took advantage of that duality of meaning:

home·bound
adjective
1. Going homeward: bound for home
2. Confined to the home

(Definitions courtesy Merriam-Webster)

You can question what we mean by the word “home” – how does your character or poet persona (or self, if you’re the one speaking) think of “home”? You can also play on what we mean by “bound”. It can be seen in a negative light, that is, being bound or confined to a thing. In which case, is there a sense of wanting to break away from there?

Put together, the words interestingly have this definition: “going homeward“. Does it recall the phrase, “home is where the heart is”?

Does your character/poet persona happen to not have a definition for “home” because of unique circumstances? Do they perhaps form one by the end of your piece?

Home could be the earth. Home could mean a tent or cabin at camp, a single-bedroom apartment, a two-storey house, a mansion – anything. It could even be a hovel (like Yoda’s, on Dagobah!).

Yoda's Hovel

Home also happens to be a very common button on websites, directing people to the homepage! Just for a little twist, in case you feel like writing something about computers or the internet!

Hope that gave you some food for thought!

Happy Writing!

For those of you taking on the challenge, we’re already a third way through! Stay strong, keep poeming, and most importantly, have fun 🙂

Even if you’re not attempting the PAD Challenge/NaPoWriMo, you’re welcome to start even ten days late, or just spread some love for poetry this month! I’ll be updating more frequently (now that I’m free from my exams!) with more poems and prompts.

Happy writing, folks!

Friday Reflections: Honesty

I’m back for this Friday’s Reflections! I feel bad that I could never get around to last week’s reflections post, but I had exams in the way. Now they’re all done, and I’m done just “squeezing” writing in – now it’s time to buckle down, kick things up several gears, and WRITE! 🙂 And read, of course. Lots of reading to do.

I hope everyone’s been keeping up with NaPoWriMo! We’re almost at the finish line! But we’ve still got a handful of days, and that means everyone’s got to hang in there a little longer and keep poeming!

I hope this prompt helps you out for the home stretch of the challenge!

Today’s Prompt: Honesty

So they say…

Honesty is the best policy.

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think about that splendid virtue, Honesty?

I was thinking about all the lies we say in a day; small, white lies, or the big, ugly ones that might even get us into trouble later.

And then I wondered why it was that the first thing that come to mind when I thought of honesty, was the act of lying.

Of course, we get many images in our mind, apart from that. There’s always Honest Mr. Abe (which probably struck me second because I happened to read “O Captain! My Captain!” again last week). And then there’s this image:

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This gets me thinking about Law & Order (not just the show, of course) – and about honest citizens; it also gets me thinking about how many of break that promise after swearing to honesty.

But there’s more to it than that.

The way our society is, sometimes it seems really difficult to get by without saying even a single lie. As everyone asks the disbelievers – well, what would you do when she asks you if she looks fat in that new dress?

Believe it or not, there are people who just say the truth. Out with it. No qualms, no hesitations.

And that means catastrophe for some…but means perfect safety for others! Heck, appreciation, even!

Then I stumbled upon this thoroughly amusing graphic:

Well, that’s inspiring! 😉

No, seriously…

So, there’s clearly a lot to think about when it comes to honesty. Sometimes, not being honest can tear people apart, tear relationships apart. Sometimes, choosing to be honest could be painful.

Sometimes, it’s not even about being honest with others – it’s about being honest with yourself.

And sometimes, honesty is a life-saver! I have a particular friend whose best quality I believe is this; I know whenever I ask him any questions, I’m going to get his straightforward, honest, no-sugar-coating kind of answer. We need more of that in our lives, I always think after he’s had his word. More frankness. More of people just telling us what is, rather that what we want it to be.

Perhaps people would be better off knowing they look fat in that dress?

Another thought, do you always relate the truth with honesty?

Blunt force trauma? (pun intended!)

Are honest answers always blunt and raw?

Apparently some people do have tact and can pull off telling the truth without breaking a heart! What’s the most skilfully delivered honest-but-not-pretty reply you’ve ever heard?

Write away!

So there are a few cents on Honesty, I hope they provided some food for thought! This prompt came from a poem I wrote just five days ago titled ‘In Denial, Sort of’; the poem is narrated in the first person, and the narrator begins the first few short stanzas with the phrase “I lied about…”, and goes on to confess the things he’d lied about to a particular friend. In the later stanzas, he provides the reasons for which he lied.

Here’s a song I remembered just now, something like that poem! (I happened to read its lyrics individually before hearing it, which really helped! When I have just plain words, without a voice, it helps churn out my own words easier.)

Those are just a few more ideas on the topic. I’m sure you’ve all thought of many other interesting honesty-related (or perhaps, lack-of-honesty related!) incidents to poem about! Maybe, in Ella Enchanted style, you want to write a story about someone who has been cursed – only, not with obedience, but rather, with being honest, and is therefore compelled to tell everyone the truth! Or something like that. (There could already be a story like this, and I, pleasantly unaware of it! It does sound familiar.)

Well, folks, write away 🙂

Wish everyone all the very best for the last few days of NaPoWriMo!

This Friday is special: 20 Prompts!

I only realized yesterday that we were more than half-way through National Poetry Month 🙂 To all those who have been working at the challenge, great job! You’ve almost made it to the end!

To celebrate having come nearly two-thirds way through, I wanted to make this Friday’s post a little different; I thought I’d make a prompt-list using the themes behind the poems I’ve written this month!

Of course, the weekly “Reflections” post shall come in due time (translate to: tomorrow or day-after)! But here’s a load of prompts for everyone to take the ones they like and poem away – for the rest of the month, if it fuels you that long! – but at least for the weekend 🙂

(I have excluded some prompts which I have mentioned in posts earlier this month.)

Here are the prompts!

1. Enough love (this was the title of my first poem this month!)

2. Nothing lasts forever

3. Destiny

4. Light/Darkness

5. “Good to see you again”

6. Remembrance

7. Open your eyes

8. Numbers

9. The wind

10. Trapped in a photograph

11. Wives

12. Hunger

13. Silence / 14. Breaking (these two were a pair, written from the POVs of protagonists from one of my short stories)

15. A bridge is burning

16. Someone walks away at last

17. Empty house

18. Dreaming / Incomplete

19. Old Faithful

20. Partner

Take these prompts and interpret them as you will! In my case, ‘Enough love’ had been more about there not being enough love between two people‘Old Faithful’ was about a person, not the geyser. Somehow, I imagine a dog when I say that, too! Numbers’ was about how I feel people should treat “numbers” when they handle them.

I’m sure plenty of ideas have infested your mind by now 🙂 Have a great weekend and good luck with the last stretch of NaPoWriMo! We’re almost there, folks!

Happy writing 😀

The Big “Little Song” – a lesson in poetry-writing

So the 14th day’s prompt (I got to it a day late) over at Mr. Brewer’s blog was to write a sonnet. I’ve long since loved this form of poetry, but had never dared to attempt it – for several reasons. First of which being: I’m terrible at sticking to form. I’ve tried many times and failed miserably. I was convinced the only way for me to go was free verse. The second reason was that I was frightened of the legacy behind this particular form.

Shakespeare-116

the first sonnet I ever read

The sonnet is one of the oldest forms of poetry, particularly in English, and having read a lot of it, I was unsure of whether I could ever attempt such a perfect construction of poetry. I was used to breaking my lines as I pleased, used to not rhyming if I didn’t wish to, used to not following rules.

But in giving into these thoughts, I failed at one important thing as a poet.

Stretching out. Trying new things, including new genres and new formsTesting myself.

To grow as a poet and a writer, I have to step out of my box, outside my comfort zone. Attempt things I’ve never attempted before.

I may make a mess of my first sonnet. I may not adhere to the “rules”. But to think of it that way is to forget another essential thing about poetry – the freedom. I take Mr. Brewer’s advice gladly:

Some contemporary sonnet-eers even ditch the rhymes and just write a 14-line poem. Go with whatever feels right.

To me, poetry’s always been about the musicality of the words, what I want to say, and, yes, “whatever feels right”.

This is not a new lesson for me; I do, however, keep revisiting it in different ways. I have been trying new things with my poetry for two or three years now, but I’ve always been a little unready to try some forms which appeared to me as “set in stone”. Having learnt about the traditional structures of sonnets, I felt it was beyond my capacity.

Not today, it wasn’t.

I sat myself down with my poetry notebook, uncapped my pen and pondered about what would be the subject matter of today’s poem.

I’m pretty sure it had to do with the twelve-odd hours I spent losing myself in Shakespere’s works (for an exam).

When I started writing, archaic language found its way out. I’m talking “thee”, “thy”, “bosom” and the like. It’s very unlike me. I mean, I’ve always loved archaic English – it had this musical, poetic quality about it; but I didn’t use it much at all (few do!). I think I’ve written a poem or two employing it, at the very maximum.

I kept writing and found myself working on…well, take a guess!

A sonnet!

I kept going. I completed it. I set it aside.

I felt like writing another poem, so I took my notebook up again. And started writing.

Another sonnet!

Thank you, Mr. Shakespeare! Next I’ll be thanking my semester exams 😉

Like most sonnets, these two are about love (not unrequited, however). I can’t say they’re perfect in form; I can only vouch for the rhyme scheme and the number of lines.

But that’s all right.

A sonnet doesn’t even have to be in archaic English; it just so happened in my case that the language helped trigger my writing in this form.

So here’s an exercise (it’s pretty famous, but this experience demands I reiterate it)

For those of you struggling with writing in any particular form, don’t doubt this method, just give it a shot: Read as much literature in that form as possible. We tend to imbibe structure and rhythm. Don’t worry about your work ending up as imitations of others’ styles and language. Just read. Read. Read. Read some more. And try writing. Maybe you’ll surprise yourself. Maybe you’ll surprise yourself twice, like I was pleasantly surprised today 🙂

There are plenty of poetic forms to try. The sonnet. The haiku. Ghazals. Here’s an extremely useful page (more thanks to Mr. Brewer!) over at Poetic Asides. It’s a link to all posts tagged with “Poetic Forms”. Try something new today 🙂

And two prompts

Apart from the exercise, I thought I’d just suggest a couple of prompts – we always have use for these during writing challenges!

One is the title of this post: The Big “Little Song” (“Little Song” being the translation of the Italian word sonnetto, the origin of the English sonnet). For me it was “big” because it was a “first” – a first I had not expected; and also because I hold the form in high reverence. You can make anything you wish of this prompt 🙂

The second form is based on the theme of one of the sonnets I wrote today: patience (with relation to love).

Happy writing, everyone 🙂 I hope you have a great time writing something new!

Friday Reflections: Parting

How’s the poeming coming along, folks? I hope everyone’s had a productive week! I’ve been keeping up, though yesterday’s was a close call (I only got around to it late at night, at around 11:30 p.m.!). Days like those really make the challenge a challenge! In contrast, I churned out today’s poem right in the morning, fresh out of bed 🙂

Here’s your weekly Reflections post to give you some more to think about and some more to write about!

Today’s prompt: Parting

“Parting is all we know of heaven,
And all we need of hell.”
-Emily Dickinson

We’ve all experienced some form of parting or the other; it may not necessarily be the same as the one Ms. Dickinson has spoken about – it may be something not so final as death, it may be just a “see you tomorrow” casually muttered to a friend at the end of a school day. It could be death, also.

An Ending

For some reason, though, the word “parting”, or even “goodbye” or “farewell” seems to ring the bell of tragedy, for me. Maybe it’s my fault, maybe I shouldn’t have committed Ms. Dickinson’s poem to memory! I’d once took the very phrase, “see you tomorrow”, and scribbled a tragedy out of it. One could guess, the characters didn’t get to see each other “tomorrow”. Or, well, maybe they did, in afterlife?

Another phrase from a poem I am reminded of is from Thomas Gray’s famous Elegy: “…knell of parting day”.

You could consider “parting” as an ending, as I did for that short story. In my case, it was an abrupt, unexpected ending. You could talk about “goodbye” in general – consider the various circumstances in which people say these phrases that are used in place of it:

Image

I see potential for a list-poem 🙂

Try digging into the etymologies for these commonplace phrases and situations may play through in your mind – entire narratives, perhaps – of people going different ways forever, people expressing the hope of meeting again, people saying “hasta la vista, baby,” in the most nonchalant way possible… Or maybe they’re completely serious, and with knitted eyebrows and longing eyes, say, “Until we meet again…”

“Sayonara” – if it is to be that way…

Every language seems to have various ways of saying “goodbye”, and the history behind each is very interesting (I find it reveals a lot about the culture and the people). Goodbye, for instance, is a contraction of God be with ye.

“Sayonara”, of Japanese origin (now used rather commonly in English the way Hasta la vista is), is one of my personal favorites. It translates directly to, “If it is to be that way…” and comes from more complete phrases, such as one translating to, “If it is to be that way, I will be leaving.” I’ve always felt like this hints at a reluctance to leave. One does not really wish to leave, does not really wish to part, but it must be so, and therefore, one leaves. (Which reminds me of this lovely piece of music.)

I also love some of these French phrases: au revoir (which literally translates to to the seeing again), à demain (until tomorrow) and à bientôt (see you soon).

Farewell and godspeed, on the other hand, seem to suggest a journey of some sort, perhaps one that is long and arduous, or a mission that someone must rush to complete.

Cheerio, then! (here’s a music-prompt)

I hope that gives you something to write about tonight 🙂

I’ll add one more music-prompt here before I sign off:

This Étude, by the great poet of the piano, Frédéric Chopin, was one which the composer himself believed to be his most beautiful. Though he never gave it any title, it has also been identified as “Tristesse” (Sadness), “Farewell”/”L’Adieu” and in Japan as “Wakare no Kyoku” (Song of Parting).

Dig deep, my fellow writers. All the best for the rest of NaPoWriMo, my fellow poets – we’re nearly at the half-way point! Happy writing!