Tag Archives: sonnet

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.

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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 🙂

Friday Reflections & Some Prompts for your November Challenge

Hullo, folks! How are your November challenges going? You’re already half-way there! That’s 50%! You’ve done half of it – so you know you’ve got it in you to do another half…don’t stop now! 🙂

I have to say, I’m doing pretty well so far on my Poem-a-Day Challenge. For the past few days, I’ve been cranking out two poems a day; yesterday I was so inspired, I wrote three! I love it when I’m into a challenge full-swing.

If there’s one thing I could never get enough of during a poetry-writing challenge, I’d vote for prompts. So in addition to today’s Reflections topic, I’ll be listing a handful of prompts towards the end of this post based on the poems I’ve written so far in this month, just in case someone needs the words/sparks to set off their creativity.

Friday Reflections: Peace

I’m sure this dove famously carrying the olive branch would’ve put an idea into your head, but apart from this image, what else do you think of when you read/hear the word “peace“?

Maybe you could come up with a piece explaining why a dove and why an olive branch? It doesn’t have to be logically reasoned – just be creative!

Do you immediately think Warpeace talks, treaties, the UN, and the like? In that context, do you believe that “peace” is possible? What exactly would “peace” be – how would you define it? Is it some kind of utopian ideal?

Or does peace mean something closer to home for you? The chaos/peace binary pops out to me every time I think of the word “peace”. It leads me to: finding peace of mind (which recalls that hilarious scene at the beginning of Kung Fu Panda 2 with Master Shifu’s “inner peace“). Peace has different connotations when it comes to martial arts or yoga, as it does with religion (as in phrases such as “peace be with you” or “peace be upon you“).

Also, I’m always envious of people who can write in any kind of atmosphere, because I always need a relatively peaceful surrounding to be able to produce anything worth reading!

There is always, of course, the “peace out” v-sign slang, for which I see great potential in a poem or short story (perhaps as a symbol or refrain), maybe even a novel for characterization.

Go ahead and brainstorm for more ideas and maybe you’ll discover a poem or story along the way! 😉

Prompts for your November Challenge

Here are some prompts based on what I’ve written in this month so far:

Hope that gives you something to write about, if you were looking! Good luck for the rest of the November challenges, folks! And always, always: 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!