Guide to basic poetry writing skills/reviewing poetry - Do Read
I did one for the fictions and now I'm doing one here for the benefit of everyone writing or reviewing poetry. Please note that I have taken this from here and have edited very little as I am no poetry expert and thought that it would be best to leave poetry writing tips to the experts.
Let me stress that this is by no means a "must follow" guide. But I hope you guys get a better grasp of poetry writing and learn something from this.
Poetry Explications/ Reviews
A poetry explication is a relatively short analysis which describes the possible meanings and relationships of the words, images, and other small units that make up a poem. Writing an explication is an effective way for a reader to connect a poem's plot and conflicts with its structural features.
1) Read the poem silently, then read it aloud.
2) Consider the poem as a dramatic situation in which a speaker addresses an audience or another character. In this way, begin your analysis by identifying and describing the speaking voice or voices, the conflicts or ideas, and the language used in the poem.
Ask these questions when trying to understand the poem.
· What is being dramatized? What conflicts or themes does the poem present, address, or question?
· Who is the speaker? Define and describe the speaker and his/her voice. What does the speaker say? Who is the audience? Are other characters involved?
· What happens in the poem? Consider the plot or basic design of the action. How are the dramatized conflicts or themes introduced, sustained, resolved, etc.?
· When does the action occur? What is the date and/or time of day?
· Where is the speaker? Describe the physical location of the dramatic moment.
· Why does the speaker feel compelled to speak at this moment? What is his/her motivation?
To analyze the design of the poem, we must focus on the poem's parts, namely how the poem dramatizes conflicts or ideas in language. By concentrating on the parts, we develop our understanding of the poem's structure, and we gather support and evidence for our interpretations. Some of the details we should consider include the following:
· Form: Does the poem represent a particular form (sonnet, sestina, etc.)? Does the poem present any unique variations from the traditional structure of that form?
· Rhetoric: How does the speaker make particular statements? Does the rhetoric seem odd in any way? Why? Consider the predicates and what they reveal about the speaker.
· Syntax: Consider the subjects, verbs, and objects of each statement and what these elements reveal about the speaker. Do any statements have convoluted or vague syntax?
· Vocabulary: Why does the poet choose one word over another in each line? Do any of the words have multiple or archaic meanings that add other meanings to the line? Use the Oxford English Dictionary as a resource.
As you analyze the design line by line, look for certain patterns to develop which provide insight into the dramatic situation, the speaker's state of mind, or the poet's use of details. Some of the most common patterns include the following:
· Rhetorical Patterns: Look for statements that follow the same format.
· Rhyme: Consider the significance of the end words joined by sound; in a poem with no rhymes, consider the importance of the end words.
· Patterns of Sound: Alliteration and assonance create sound effects and often cluster significant words.
· Visual Patterns: How does the poem look on the page?
· Rhythm and Meter: Consider how rhythm and meter influence our perception of the speaker and his/her language.
Meter (from the Greek metron, meaning measure) refers principally to the recurrence of regular beats in a poetic line. In this way, meter pertains to the structure of the poem as it is written.
The most common form of meter in English verse since the 14th century is accentual-syllabic meter, in which the basic unit is the foot. A foot is a combination of two or three stressed and/or unstressed syllables. The following are the four most common metrical feet in English poetry:
(1) IAMBIC (the noun is "iamb"): an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable, a pattern which comes closest to approximating the natural rhythm of speech.
(2) TROCHAIC (the noun is "trochee"): a stressed followed by an unstressed syllable.
(3) ANAPESTIC (the noun is "anapest"): two unstressed syllables followed by a stressed syllable.
(4) DACTYLIC (the noun is "dactyl"): a stressed syllable followed by two unstressed syllables
Meter also refers to the number of feet in a line:
Monometer - on
Dimeter - two
Trimeter - three
Tetrameter - four
Pentameter - five
Hexameter - six
Any number above six (hexameter) is heard as a combination of smaller parts; for example, what we might call heptameter (seven feet in a line) is indistinguishable (aurally) from successive lines of tetrameter and trimeter (4-3).
Rhythm refers particularly to the way a line is voiced, i.e., how one speaks the line. Often, when a reader reads a line of verse, choices of stress and unstress may need to be made. For example, the first line of Keats' "Ode on Melancholy" presents the reader with a problem:
"No, no, go not to Lethe, neither twist"
If we determine the regular pattern of beats (the meter) of this line, we will most likely identify the line as iambic pentameter. If we read the line this way, the statement takes on a musing, somewhat disinterested tone. However, because the first five words are monosyllabic, we may choose to read the line differently. In fact, we may be tempted, especially when reading aloud, to stress the first two syllables equally, making the opening an emphatic, directive statement. Note that monosyllabic words allow the meaning of the line to vary according to which words we choose to stress when reading (i.e., the choice of rhythm we make).
The first line of Milton's Paradise Lost presents a different type of problem.
"Of Man's First Disobedience, and the Fruit"
Again, this line is predominantly iambic, but a problem occurs with the word Disobedience. If we read strictly by the meter, then we must fuse the last two syllables of the word. However, if we read the word normally, we have a breakage in the line's metrical structure. In this way, the poet forges a tension between meter and rhythm: does the word remain contained by the structure, or do we choose to stretch the word out of the normal foot, thereby disobeying the structure in which it was made? Such tension adds meaning to the poem by using meter and rhythm to dramatize certain conflicts. In this example, Milton forges such a tension to present immediately the essential conflicts that lead to the fall of Adam and Eve.
Once you've read that, again I will repeat myself here. Please review a poet's hard work and poets, do put up the best you can here and take the time to check your work before doing so. Criticism should be taken with open attitudes. Do not be hurt if people don't like your piece. Poems are far more subjective than fiction/non-fiction work and thus, be prepared that some will say your stuff sucks or that they didn't get it. Afterall, how could a third person understand completely what you were going through while you were writing what you wrote. Having said that however, the ability to convey what you felt is what most reviewers and readers are looking for so do keep that in mind.
With that, lets all enjoy improving our work. A reminder that SPAG is important in poetry writing too and you can find those tips under the writing skills post I've put up in the fiction section.
Good luck writers :)
Re: Guide to basic poetry writing skills/reviewing poetry - Do Read
Nice guide! It has helped me construct a few different basic poems.