Through the devising and resourcing of online lessons, I have managed to rediscover nonsense poetry again. As children we are exposed to the wonderful world of abstract thought and communication but then as we get older, rules come along and start beating us into conformity and such.
Nonsense poetry is incredible. It's like reading or listening to poetry in another language, where you might catch the odd word you know but everything else flies over your head. Some nonsense poetry is so good at obscuring the meaning that you'd get more sense discussing the Highlander film series with an a Martian called Alan.
The great thing about that is it forces you as a reader or listener to fill in the blanks (most good poetry does this anyway!) Nonsense relies on the interpretation of rhythm, rhyme, assonance, oddity and general silliness, to get a feel for what the writer was trying to convey.
I've written a few examples below and I'm putting the challenge out there to have a go yourselves. As always, share what you make and I'll post it to the Poetry Club wall. - Thom
Ghaster fan the simm,
zighs an oblescroot blode,
bunds fark as a frouse,
shanks lautie fanner noad.
Note: In this one I summoned Lewis Carrol. The original poem was comprised of four lines of hyperbole. I substituted the words for nonsense words that I felt sounded or conveyed the meaning of the original words.
She spakes to his farce smile,
'act naturally when we're alone together'
a deafening silence sits under the carpet,
'will you?' escaped her passive aggressive mouth,
'definitely maybe' he befogged, clearly confused by the way she was standing.
Note: In this one I used oxymorons to add nonsense, whilst playing with the verbs to make them seem awkward (the whole vibe of the conversation).
During the current crisis, I have had the wonderful honour of working with Abby Davies at BBC Radio Devon. Abby and I have been in contact via the marvels of modern technology and somehow managed to organise a regular poetry feature each week. The feature (which we've named Wednesday Writes) goes out at 11.15am on the mid-morning show, and is a great showcase for local writers. It is the chance for talented poets to share their own work whilst also helping to inspire and enthuse listeners to pick up the pen themselves. So far we have had Robert Garnham and Kat Savage take to the waves, and Abby has kindly shared some of the submitted work received from listeners following those shows. They are below so you can read them yourselves. - Thom
Poems submitted by the listeners of Radio Devon
In this article I will cover one possible approach to poetry that new writers (or those encouraging younger writers) might take as a step into writing poetry. Remember that there are countless processes and to not feel too rigid with any one method. Inject you and your rituals where possible, and leech from others so that you can develop your own style.
Where to start?
Start with a situation. Poetry is all about communicating ideas. The poet is trying to express their observations, comments, thoughts or feelings, whilst hoping to influence the readers in whatever way possible. Some poetry aims specifically but like paintings, it is all down to the perceptions of the viewer.
Think of a situation or put yourself into a situation. Sit with it. In my poem Love Speaks Not With Words, l took a simple breakfast at a cafe to write a love poem. There is no grandeur, just a moment in which I could unpack feelings. When you're writing ensure you have a situation to convey your idea.
Techniques after ideas!
Once you have an idea it is time to start making notes. Don't rush into clever lines (unless it comes naturally) just jot down any random thoughts and words as they come. This could be descriptive words or it may be unusual observations.
Look for what you wouldn't normally see. You've paused a moment, take it in and comment on it. You might draw or write key words, possibly even write the odd phrase. Remember there is no pressure in making notes. Make as little or as many as you want.
Now you have some notes it is time to use google! There are people with impressive vocabularies, people with smaller vocabularies, and those of us with a memory like a plank of wood. If, like me, you are a plank of wood, then google is your best friend. Poetry is about playing with language and the use of synonyms allows this. Find a key word that you want a better word for, eg shadow then type into google and search. Suddenly your brain will be jogged with a list of alternatives. I suggest using one that you know from the list but also allow yourself to discover words you haven't used before. When entering the example 'shadow' you get all sorts such as, silhouette, umbra, pall etc. From here you might discover a fantastic image you can use.
Take pall for instance, it has several meanings but one that really stands out is the fact it is a cloth used to drape over coffins. Suddenly you have a new image to use in your poem and it all came from looking up a word! Experiment with this but don't overuse synonyms. Clever words are not as important as content and imagery!
With some ideas in place it is time to start developing them into phrases for your poem. It can help to write a phrase with a technique in mind although you may find a phrase just develops on its own as your brain naturally plays with patterns and language. Below are a list of techniques by definition.
These are the basics and have no age restriction. Personally, I feel these are the best for young writers and new writers to start with as they are quite easy to attempt, yet they have the chance for depth as well.
simile - comparing one thing to another using the words like, as (try not to be cliche though)
alliteration - the use of the same letter or sounds with words in close proximity
onomatopoeia - a word that phonetically resembles the thing it describes
rhyme - commonly seen as the repetition of the final stressed syllable/sound (try and rhyme within a line like this)
personification - making something seem human when it is not
Keep it free. Some poets like a from but this can be restrictive and challenging (depending on the form). Stay in free verse as it allows more creativity and expression. One line may be only one word or you might go a bit 'prosey' and write a chunk.
Poetic licence means you can do what you want. I often feel that writing is like carving, sometimes it is better to go with the grain of the wood then force it another way. There I go with wood references again. Let's hope a pun doesn't show up at some point!
It is important to edit. No, scratch that, essential. Once you have a draft, leave it alone. Revisit the piece and read it again. See what works and what doesn't and don't be afraid to delete lines or add more. You need to be happy with what you produce but sometimes it is better to shave a 15 line poem down to 3 lines if everything else is just waffle or repetitive. Be cruel!
That's it for now. A beginning. This gives you the basics to start writing. And wood you believe it? I didn't add a pun! - Thom