Circadian Poems

A place to celebrate poetry, poets, and the creative spirit.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

22 Steps to Poetry -- Freestyle

22 Steps to Poetry - Freestyle
by: Sheryl Joy P. Olaño

First things first: What is Poetry?

Poetry, as I learned in my literature class, is a timeless and creative expression of beauty, humanity and reality. It is a language of the heart to the heart. It is a union of heart and mind. Writing poetry is like dressing up - you consider the style, the cut and accessory and harmonize them with a touch of good taste.

Here are 22 steps to make it right:

1. "Don't study an art, practice it." - Japanese Proverb
It is practice that can propel you to greater heights. And yes, natural talent wouldn't hurt either.

2. Charm - The success in writing poetry lies in the personality of the poet. You are coaxing readers to read a few words, go on reading until you win them over.
Charm in poetry requires:
A big heart - I'm talking about kindness, unselfishness, a sympathetic nature and humility and being fair.
A big imagination - for you to come up with your own string of words and manner of presentation, for you to be able to put yourself into certain situations.
Take a stone. How would you describe it? Consider where it came from, what it could be and with it will be. See. Feel. Imagine.
Honesty - with how you feel and what you think Make poetry your testament; make it yours.
Eloquence - Describe in any way you can, in any way you want…any way. Just make readers feel and see, make them experience.
Uniqueness - It is what sets you apart from other writers. It shows in the way you use words in writing. Just be your lovely self and everything will follow.

3. Write when you feel like emotions are about to overflow from your heart or, find your strongest emotion and use it. Being rich in emotions would help you go a long way in poetry. Emotions are powerful tools. Humans after all are also governed by them. If poetry could speak, it would probably say, "Judge me not with your mind but with your heart. Don't tell me I don't make sense, only tell me if I have touched your heart."

4. If you don't quite trust yourself, have an audience in mind. Know who to please or who to share. It gives you focus. Take sides - "pro" or "anti". Ask yourself what you want your readers to feel and think.

5. Have a reason. Why do you choose such topic? Why do you write your poem that way? Why do you want your readers to feel that way? But you can keep the answers to yourself.

6. The right environment. Although a silent environment is conducive especially when you write about tranquility or loneliness and lots of other things, you may write with noise all around you. Blaring stereos and people screaming each other can help fuel your writing especially when it is about anger and chaos. Keep it close to real.

7. Consistency. It is easier when you write only with one emotion or when you write about emotions that are closely associated such as anger and pain. I'm advising this to beginners. Shifting emotions (like from sad to happy or happy to fear) is quite a job to do. Do it when you are more able. For short poems, I discourage you to shift emotions but if you can find a way, the better.

8. Short poems are catchier than long ones. Having room for spaces eases the mind and makes you think of simplicity. The problem with short poems is, you tend to become unsatisfied especially when you could have written a lot.

9. Long-short-long-short or long-short-short-long - you've got the idea. This pattern may be modified according to what suits you. Like in paragraph rules, long-short patterns are also effective in lines and stanzas. You may follow a long phrase with a fragment. Play with the dots. But use them reasonably.

10. Punctuate to emphasize and to show. Ellipses, for example, can heighten and prolong emotions by giving the reader pause. It can cause doubts, reveal satisfaction, regret, doubt and confusion. Through ellipses you may make your readers "fill in the blanks".

11. Don't be too obvious. Make your readers think. Place a bit of mystery; play up the details. Play with your readers' minds. Grasp their curiosity. 12. Play with words; enjoy. Discover what you can come up. Make them dance, laugh, cry. Use sound effects and you may even put in your reactions. For example: Splash!

13. Be able to identify poetic words. There are words that sound dull in poetry such as collaboration, augment…business words. They're unromantic! But if you can't do away with them, do something with the phraseology or change the word. Instead of evening (sounds unromantic), use night - shorter, but gives you a picture of dark sky, shadows and stars. Leave evening to business correspondence or to formal writing. Trust your poetic ear - gut feeling, in other words. Read not only with your eyes but also with your mind's ear. Translation: the lines should sound good.

14. Accessorize, but not too much. Use adjectives sparingly. Prefer verbs. They are simpler, but they give you a clearer picture. Adjectives, on the other hand, make your lines bulky.

15. Be graceful. Don't merely tell it in plain language or what's the point of writing poetry when you can just write it as prose? Try not to be corny, please. Don't use word that bring no impact or that does not add weight and meaning to the line.

16. Allow your thoughts to wander. Follow the trail they make by writing whatever comes to mind. Be in a trance, and then be reasonable afterwards.

17. Use your innocence or innate goodness. Most people sympathize with that. But also, being someone knowledgeable or cleverly bad (whichever) is an advantage. Learn how to use whichever persona. With the innocent persona, don't overdo; with the knowledgeable, don't boast…never boast, period. You'll drive away your readers. In poetry, too much is too much.

18. Choose the mood. Cheerful? Gloomy? Anything you've got.

19. Be able to see beauty and appreciate it. There is poetry everywhere because beauty is everywhere. In silence, in tears looming (tears that hang from long, thick lashes), there is beauty.

20. Gentleness is the key. Even in anger and vengeance, the readers must be able to sense your gentleness and even vulnerability, consciously or subconsciously. Even in the vengeful, they must see innocence. Use the why or the how of the situation. Make them want to care for you.

21. Use symbols. What does a blanket give you? Comfort. Warmth. Protection from the cold.

22. Inspire! Make them believe. Move them.


Sheryl Joy P. Olaño is a journalism graduate and now working as a junior editor in publishing company CannonCreek Asia Incorporated, where she deals with business news writing. She is also a contributor to the Philippine newspaper Sun Star Daily Cebu, www.poetrypoem.com, www.writing.com, ezine and goarticles. She writes essays, short stories, poetry and sometimes novels, and she is a frequent contributor to Circadian.

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