1. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    New to poetry

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by OurJud, May 21, 2009.

    I wasn't sure where to post this, so apologies if it's in the wrong place. I have seen the poety section, but as that seems to be reseved for the poems themselves, and not help on, I thought I'd better stick my question in here.

    I've been writing short stories for many years now, but I've never really tried my hand at poetry - at least not with any conviction.

    The reason I've been put off for so long is down to the rules of poetry. I've always thought and presumed that they are far more strict for this art form than they are for the short story. If you read someone's short story, you soon get a fairly good idea as to whether they can write (in the most basic sense). But this is usually because of their sentence structure, timing, pace etc, and not always because they're 'breaking rules'. However, I have this idea that if a poetry 'expert' were to read one of my efforts, he would be able to tell immediatley that I don't know anything about the subject, because - just for instance - I used too many lines in the first verse, or that the last word in my third line rhyms with the last word in my first line, when it should actually rhyme with the the last word in the second line, etc etc.

    What I'm trying to say here is that the 'there are no rules' viewpoint which applies to general writing, doesn't apply so well to poetry.

    So lets say I wanted to write a short, rhyming poem. How many verses should it have? Which words need to rhyme with which? Or are there, even for poetry, no rules?
     
  2. sophie.
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    sophie. Contributing Member

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    I'll try and help you with your questions, but I am probably not the best person to ask.

    Poetry can have rules, and techniques, such as iambic pentameter, rhyming couplets, etc. Punctuation is also normally used. However some very famous poems do not observe these rules, though normally the poet would learn the rules before they break them (like Picasso)

    Your question 'how many verses whould it have' - that is up to you entirely. I mean, if you were writing a sonnet it would traditionally have 14 lines in rhyming couplets. But otherwise, you should just experiment and learn along the way.

    There are the famous poets like Browning and Wordworth, on the other hand contemporary poets with an unconventional approach include for example John Agard, who writes really effective poems that don't necessarily follow your interpretation of the 'rules' (for example Half Caste) One of my favourite contemporary poets is Carol Ann Duffy.

    If you want to learn more about poetry, the best thing to do is read it, and experiment :)
    Hope I helped, in a mo a poet with more knowledge may come along, you never know haha
     
  3. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    Thanks very much, sophie.

    Iambic pentameter, rhyming couplets, Half Caste... terms that fill me with dread :D

    How about this idea - would this be cheating? I've just been studying WB Yeats's When You Are Old and discovered the template used is:

    • 3 Verses long
    • 4 lines to a verse
    • Last word of the third line rhymes with the last in the second and the last word in line 4 rhymes with the last in line 1

    I suspect this is a very traditional formula, as Yeats died in 1939, but would it work to use that structure (using my own words and ideas, of course) or would someone reading it be thinking, 'Cheat, that's the exact same structure WB Yeats used to use!'
     
  4. sophie.
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    sophie. Contributing Member

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    No I don't think so. They should be focusing on the poem itself, not picking at the technique. A poem can be all technique and no point, ending up just a flat rather contrived attempt - for example, when people force something to rhyme, resorting to words that are awkward or irrelevant, which takes away the flow. This doesn't mean rhyming is bad, of course, when it is used well it is wonderful. But it isn't always necessay - if it is ill fitting, it shouldn't be used.

    (Note this is only my own opinion, take it with a pinch of salt :D)
     
  5. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    I have to disagree with you, OJ. Poetry is such an open form that you can get away with practically anything in terms of spelling, grammar, syntax, structure, length, rhyme, rhythm...Obviosuly if you're writing a sonnet or a haiku or some specific poem form then there are conventions you need to be familiar with, but free verse poetry is totally free from rules.

    The only thing that really seperates poetry from prose is that in poetry the writer controls where the line ends. I can't think of any other qualifier that could consistently seperate the two. So yeah, bear that in mind when you're writing! Good luck!
     
  6. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    On the other hand, a lot of crap gets passed off as poetry. Some people will call anything a poem if it is written in incomplete sentences, wit line breaks every few words.

    There are elements that define poetry: structure, imagery, rhythm, rhyme and other tonal devices, layers of meaning, etc. Poetry can omit some of the elements, but eliminate all of them and all you have is verbal spew.

    Creating poetry tends to be more subtractive than prose. Most of tre effort in constructing a piece of fiction is starting with something simple and building it up to a finished piece, like creating an oil painting.

    Poetry more often begins with a rich metaphor, or scene, or emotional tableau, and then carving away at it to reduce it to its essence. It is more like carving a block of marble down to a statue.
     
  7. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    Verbal spew is rather subjective, Cog...
    I agree that good poetry should have rhythm, structure, etc, but you can't define a poem in those terms, there are simply too many exceptions.
     
  8. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    If it lacks all the elements of poetry, then why should it merit the label? If there are additional elments you would propose, by all means do so.

    I refuse to acknowledge "poetry by default." If there are no metrics, no standards, then how do we differentiate between jewels and junk?

    Or are you suggesting that we discard scales of quality along with all the elements that define poetry?
     
  9. Sphi
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    Sphi Member

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    I always wondered what a poem exactly was, like... what's a poem and what's not?
     
  10. Castlesofsand
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    Castlesofsand Banned

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    poetry is an individual taste.

    what could be short clipped sentences, could be poetry to someone and so saying that is not poetry is just stating its 'your opinion' that it isn't. it doesn't make it a rule or a guide to follow.

    write and post, read and review

    you learn from doing, not just talking about it.

    CoS
     
  11. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    You see, this is why I've found poetry so daunting. We now have Cogito and arron in complete disagreement as to what constitutes poetry.

    I think for now I'm going to stick to using templates, such as the one I outlined in my second post, at least then it can't be doubted that (structurally, at least) it's a poem. It may still be verbal vomit, but I'll let others tell me that :)
     
  12. sophie.
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    sophie. Contributing Member

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    That's what I was trying to say (very ineptly!)
     
  13. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    poetry is the most refined of the writer's arts... unlike prose, where there are virtually no limits, a poet must put across his/her thoughts/emotions/ideas in the fewest words possible, using each and every word to its maximum advantage... thus, it takes much more talent and skill to master it than does its opposite number, prose...

    i'm a full time 'serious' poet of long standing and mentor many aspiring ones, so if you want any help along the learning/development path, just drop me a line any time...

    as far as rules and regs go, there are no limits in that area... you can either follow established structures, or devise your own... if it works, it works and if it doesn't, it doesn't...

    as you can see from the hundreds of works on my website, although i don't go by anyone's rules but my own, each of my poems nonetheless does have a structure... i pretty much let them decide how they want to be arranged and whether they want to be rhymed, or not...

    love and hugs, maia
    maia3maia@hotmail.com
     

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