Tag Archives: National Poetry Month

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: Memories

Good day, folks! 🙂 Hope everyone’s been gearing up for (Inter)National Poetry Month! It’s just a few days away, now.

To get you warmed up, in case you’re participating in the April Poem-a-Day Challenge–or any other Poetry-writing event, this Friday’s Reflections post has several references to other poems, books, songs, and related articles! 🙂

Without further ado, this Friday’s topic: memories.

by PARANOIA--7 at Deviantart

wonderful photography by PARANOIA–7 at Deviantart

Brainstorm!

Before my ideas clutter your thoughts, just take a few minutes and brainstorm around the topic “memory”/”memories”:

  • list out any words that pop in your head when you think “memory”
  • jot down any memories that strike your mind first
  • if you want to write about memories as such and their nature (not specific incidents in your life), you could brainstorm through the process of memory-making and remembering, and on how/why these happen

If you have a specific memory in mind already:

  • brainstorm note any and all details you can remember, down to names, places, clothes, colors, time of day, season/month, dialogue (if any) and even brand names
  • brainstorm as many sensory details as you can with regard to the scene of your memory; if what you’re going to write is going to recall a memory, you can create the scene most effectively by being specific
  • try to brainstorm words that capture the mood of the memory

All Kinds of Memories

When we say “memory” we can mean the power of the human mind to save and recollect information. We could also mean Computer Memory: RAM or hard-disk memory…could be a tech-y poem (I’ve written one, it’s quite fun)!

The mémoire (French for memory) is also literary form. It’s not, however, the same as the memoir (the better-known of the two).

Memory poems, and the theme of nostalgia, are amongst my favorite when it comes to writing. I love saving up many keepsakes and little trinkets, and when I go back to them, they almost always invoke a little poetry.


(The word nostalgia always reminds me of Yanni’s piece — this particular medley is all the more evocative.)

Often, these writings are bittersweet, because we’re talking about what’s already passed. Sometimes, they’re downright painful!

Some such famous poems include Lord Tennyson’s Tears, Idle Tears and William Blake’s Memory, hither come.

We talk about cherished memories, painful memories and childhood memories; we talk of short term and long term memory, and even memory loss. Many contemporary stories have protagonists who suffer from memory-loss — either temporary or permanent (think Memento). We talk about how some memories fade, or about how we’re either trying to remember or trying to forget something.

Sometimes, we’re trying to remember something, and it’s on the tip of our tongue, but not quite — a very interesting phenomenon!

We have all kinds of things aiding our memory now — Post-It notes, reminders and alarms, To-Do lists(potential list poem!) How do you keep track of/remember what has to be done? Do you have a system? Take a look at your system — if you don’t have one, see if any family member you know, or perhaps a friend, does. Observe. How often are these aides…required? A little too often for comfort? Or does the subject perhaps have extremely good memory? (I certainly don’t!) Perhaps photographic memory?

We could remember a person, remember an experience or even an object. We could remember our pasts, remember the people and things we’ve lost. We could even remember a culture — perhaps a dying culture — the remembering of it being its only means of survival.

A poem I wrote several years ago was written from the point of view of a woman who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease. I was able to create tension by placing her beside her daughter, whom she did not recognize, and also by filling the scene with items and ideas that were to evoke memories — but only cause the woman pain and confusion instead.

You could also write about recollecting certain memories with someone else who has experienced them. Or perhaps, being unable to do so.

“The worst part of holding the memories is not the pain. It’s the loneliness of it. Memories need to be shared.”
― Lois Lowry, The Giver

Photographs

It’s interesting how photographs used to be so rarely taken once upon a time, and often only in large groups, or in studios — and now we click! thousands of them with mere touches to our smartphones. Many of us still have that nostalgic feeling, though, when we go back to certain photographs we haven’t seen in a while. Sometimes, the memories seem so far away that we wonder if it really happened:

“Was it a dream?
Was it a dream?
Is this the only evidence that proves it,
A photograph of you and I–”
Song: “Was It a Dream?”, 30 Seconds to Mars

One of my personal favorite Memory songs is Memories by Within Temptation, and its lyrics give us an example of the effect one’s memories can have on him/her:

 

The Mind works how it will

This article on Memories, Photographs, and the Human Brain looks into the working of the human mind and how it captures memories and images.

It’s interesting how we remember things. How much of it is really as Mr. Márquez says?

“He was still too young to know that the heart’s memory eliminates the bad and magnifies the good, and that thanks to this artifice we manage to endure the burden of the past.”
(from Love in the Time of Cholera)

And then there is this lovely bit from Haruki Murakami‘s Kafka on the Shore:

“Most things are forgotten over time … There are just too many things we have to think about everyday, too many new things we have to learn. But still, no matter how much time passes, no matter what takes place in the interim, there are some things we can never assign to oblivion, memories we can never rub away. They remain with us forever, like a touchstone.”

Happy writing!

Try to put together the pieces of your brainstorm and flesh out the details of the memory you’ve chosen. Finally: what does it do for the poet persona/writing voice? It could offer some kind of progression or growth. Does it prove cathartic or epiphanic, or provide some sense of closure?

Give some thought into why that particular memory, and what its recollection achieves.

Hope that gave you some food for thought and hopefully helped to write a piece 🙂 Happy writing, folks!

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 😀

Happy Poetry Month!

Today’s officially the first day of (National) Poetry Month 🙂 Wish everyone a happy month of poetry reading, writing, and celebration!

The April PAD Challenge

For the past two years, I’ve been trying my hand at the PAD (Poem-A-Day) Challenge conducted over at Mr. Brewer’s blog, Poetic Asides.

It’s a lot of fun! But it’s not easy to write a poem every day; we can run out of ideas fast, and sometimes, at the end of a long day, we just don’t feel up to it.

I’m going to do my best, over here, too. I’ll put up prompts more often. Hope that helps everyone stay fuelled with ideas!

If you’re trying the challenge, don’t take it too seriously (especially if you higher priorities and you don’t do this for a living) or too lightly (otherwise we’d never get anything done!). Give it your all. If you miss a beat, and couldn’t help it, it’s all right. Just stay motivated and write on! 🙂

Suggestions

Here are a few things that always help me out when I want to do some regular, intense poeming!

– I go all over the place looking for poems. I randomly select poetry collections from the library and borrow them. I surf the net for hours, reading whatever’s out there. The more you read, the more you have to write about! Apart from Poetic Asides, Poets.org and Poets Online are also great communities. I also thoroughly enjoy Mr. Grove’s posts over at How Not to Write – they’re thought-provocative, so I usually leave wanting to write something right away.

– I have a separate notebook for poetry-writing. (I think most writers who write different genres probably do this.) Helps separate my poetry from my regular journal entries, short stories or ideas. I carry this book with me everywhere. It’s usually hard-bound or at least has a hard back cover, so I can write comfortably on any surface (often my lap).

Image– I have a place to jot down prompts. This is usually either the first few or the last few pages of my poetry-writing notebook. The point is to be able to carry the prompts around everywhere (a note-taking app on a phone would work well, too), along with the notebook, of course 😉

– A lot of people like dictating their “writing”, when they’re on-the-go. A voice-recording tool, like an app on a phone or a device itself, would be ideal. I don’t really do this (mostly because it’s still awkward for me to listen to my own voice) but I often end up thinking of how useful it would be if I did, since I come up with most of my stories’ dialogue by, well…talking to myself.

Finally, the crucial step when it comes to writing anything regularly:

Set a scheduled time for writing. Confession: I’m actually terrible at this, but I do my best! When I’m not able to stick to the same timing every day, I try writing for that much time whenever I’m clear for it. It’s a great way to stay regular.

Image

Today’s prompt (sorry I made you wait!)

I wouldn’t sign off on the first day without offering a prompt! But since it is the first day, and all, how about…

beginning

You could take that in any spirit. It could be a “new” beginning, a fresh start. It could be the beginning of something after the end of something else. It could even be the beginning of something’s end. Perhaps about a place where something important began, or begins, maybe begins every so often. Let the prompt take you where it will!

A great poetry month, to all! Happy writing! 🙂