Wednesday, April 16, 2008

'andy 'ints for 'opeful 'omers

I put together a short piece on writing poetry. It was possibly going in the mag. Then I found someone else, far better known, had written something and was happy for me to use it. But, as I was brought up to 'waste not, want not', I couldn't just throw mine in the non-recyclables. Yet.

  • Read it aloud and listen – you’ll hear the good, the bad and the ugly combinations of sounds. Choose the ones you want.
  • If you’re aiming for a regular metre, clap, bounce a ball, or tap your feet. Or sing your poem to a tune with a definite beat.
  • Use a rhyming dictionary if you’re really stuck – an unusual word could lead you to a new image or idea. It’s quicker than going through the alphabet in your head and trying out all possible rhymes.
  • Remove words that don’t work for their living, especially in free verse.

OK, what have I missed? There must be plenty.


Jane Holland said...

These are all great, don't know what you're worried about. Though I would say, about the use of a rhyming dictionary, that it's usually more helpful - certainly for me, at any rate - to go through the alternatives in my head, because part of the unconscious business behind searching for a rhyme will be pushing the poem forward in other ways. So a new word can lead to a new shift in ideas, and suddenly you see where the poem is going. Or where it's been, if you're nearing the end and need a powerful, significant closing rhyme.

I also find them hard to use. Maybe it's just me, but I end up spending far too long flicking through the wrong pages or getting sidetracked by other possible rhymes that I've spotted while flicking, and meanwhile the poem just dies on the page.

However, I know some good poets swear by the rhyming dictionary. I just swear at it!

aliqot said...

Cheers, Jane.
I've only used the online versions of rhyming dictionaries - a little less chance of being side-tracked there.

I also believe that little is permanently lost - those sidetracks may olead somewhere else equally interesting.

Rich said...

I just can't do the whole poetry thing. I've read a lot of Neil Gaimans stuff and all the sentences end in weird places??? Anyway, I'm keeping a copy of these rules and if you find any more I'll keep those too.

Then one day I'll have a go at poetry and see how it turns out!


aliqot said...

Cheers, Rich - they're not exactly rules. And Neil Gaiman is on my 'to read soon' list.