I am extremely grateful to all who nominated Echoes this year. Thank you!!!
I am so pleased to announce that Echoes, Neo-Victorian Poetry has been nominated for a Steampunk Chronicle's Reader's Choice Award in the Best Steampunk Poetry category! Voting has begun and runs until April 22, 2014.
I am extremely grateful to all who nominated Echoes this year. Thank you!!!
As I've intimated earlier, writing rhyming verse is a lot like toying with puzzle pieces; jigsaw puzzle pieces, to be more precise. Both of these "puzzles" rely on having a defined "frame," without which you cannot complete the image.
As Frank Zappa's once said, regarding The Frame: "The most important thing in art is The Frame. For painting: literally; for other arts: figuratively--" In the case of rhyming verse, both literally and figuratively apply.
5. What is the shape of your poem?
One of the distinguishing features of rhyming, metered poetry is the diligent adherence to rhythm, which is it's meter. This is the framework within which this style of writing functions. This is its skeleton, if you will.
By contrast, an alternative to rhyming, metered verse would be Free Verse, which "does not use consistent meter patterns, rhyme, or any other musical pattern. It thus tends to follow the rhythm of natural speech." Wikipedia.
"Natural speech" is quite distinct from metered lines that rhyme. This is primarily an aesthetic distinction. I have heard Free Verse and Prose Poetry read poetically, though the distinctive meter that we are after here is missing.
In order to better recognize what we're after here, a comparison of "non-metered verse" to "metered verse" is in order. Let's take a look at an example of each:
After the Sea-Ship by Walt Whitman
After the Sea-Ship—after the whistling winds;
After the white-gray sails, taut to their spars and ropes,
Below, a myriad, myriad waves, hastening, lifting up their necks,
Tending in ceaseless flow toward the track of the ship.
The Man in the Wilderness by Chris Stephens
The man in the wilderness said to me
How many strawberries grow in the sea?
I answered him as I thought good
As many as herrings grow in a wood.
There is a perpetuated rhythm in Chris Stephen's poem that does not occur in the poem by Walt Whitman. Both are beautiful poems in their own right, but the first poem meanders without an apparent skeletal frame.
Another difference between them is a lack of repeated rhyme at the end of the lines. Walt Whitman's poem employs a subtle, inverted rhyme with his use of ropes, below, and flow. This is often found in Free Verse and in Prose.
Another aspect to writing rhyming verse involves presentation. Some poets place their words on the page to resemble pictures. For example, Patience Agbabi's piece, Accidentally Falling, is written in the shape of a bottle.
How your poem appears on the page can affect how it is read and perceived. I tend to capitalize the first letter of every line, which emphasizes my meter, though I drop that aspect when a poem requires a more fluid visual quality.
I am giving you a simplified account of meter, citing heartbeats and such, but if you wish for a deeper and more thorough understanding of meter, I suggest you visit Cummings Study Guide, Meter in Poetry and Verse by clicking here.
What is crucial in rhyming, metered verse is that you NEVER force you words or lines to fit your meter. If you find yourself stuck for a rhyme that will work best for your poem, you can consult a Thesaurus, or a rhyming website.
However, many writers askew such websites as a cheat. As a young poet, you bet I'd use them. They can help you to develop a broader vocabulary, and can give you exactly the help you need early on. They are awesome "tools."
As to meter, our subject for this post, it can be as simple as a heartbeat, or as complex as a Bach fugue. Explore the possibilities by continuing to read the works of other rhyming poets, and see how they inspire you as you consider the line I gave to work with:
"Come and let us sit awhile..."
As always, feel free to leave a comment or a question by clicking on "Add Comment," below.
I often mention "The Muse" in my posts. That's because "she/he/it" is integral to my method of writing poetry ... and, this is where a large portion of the mystery of writing rhyming verse comes into play.
However you define it, (inspiration, intuition, the voice in your head), it is important to listen to your muse: to allow words and images to find their way to you. In other words, you must tune in.
4. Immerse yourself in your poem = muse = atmosphere.
As I begin to write a poem, I strive to focus on it from within the poem itself. For instance: What is the temperature in there? How bright/dim is the lighting? Is there a storm brewing, and etc.?
I need to know far more about the atmosphere of the piece than I will ever deal with in detail. This gives the piece a rather retentive power. In that vein, let's look again at the line I gave you last time.
"Come and let us sit awhile ..."
As you focus on this line, does a scene come to mind? Perhaps you see a cafe, a patio, or a bench in a park? Are you alone, talking to an ethereal "everybody," or are you with someone in particular?
If there is someone there, with you in your poem, what do they look like? Can you pick up a scent on the air from flowers and/or trees nearby? Does an image develop and expand in your mind as I ask these questions?
If so, you are now at the gateway to Immersive Writing, where the muse begins to fill you in on even more details than you might have otherwise found in that simple line. You are starting to "see" your poem.
This is akin to the images you yourself invent as you read someone else's novel, where your eyes scan the words but see scenes, you read dialogue but hear voices and other sounds. The imagination is a wonderful, powerful tool.
As you delve deeper into this line, begin to jot down everything that you see, hear, notice, as well as any ideas that come to mind. At this point, begin, also, to listen for a natural, recurring rhythm as you consider your word choices.
As a brilliant young woman, named Barbara, once noted regarding the rhythm of my poems, "It's like a heartbeat." Keep this in mind as you write down your insights, images, sounds, and so on, and allow for a "regular beat."
In the meantime, I am here should you wish to leave a comment, ask a question, or merely dialogue with me about any of this. If so, please avail yourself of the comment button on this page.
I am an ardent fan of Vicarious Learning, which "is learning that occurs as a function of observing, retaining and replicating behavior observed in others." Wikipedia. Oh, the mistakes I have avoided by using this cheat.
Those paternal poets, who navigated the paean waters ahead of us, left some wonderful soundings in their rhyming, metered verse, and have saved us a great deal of time and trouble. And now it's time to try a rhyme.
3. Begin with a line and see where it takes you.
Hmm... How does one begin this step? Ah! Worry not. I will employ a method that has opened the door for many a novice poet ... that is, I'll give you a line to start with:
"Come and let us sit awhile..."
(Dum ta dum ta dum ta dum...)
So, now you have the beginning of a poem. Let's explore some of the elements of rhyming verse: rhyme, idea, and meter.
Rhyme: think of a word that rhymes with "awhile." How about something like "smile,' or "compile," or "mercantile?" As you ponder a possible rhyme for the end of your next line, does an image or an idea come to mind?
Idea: why would we "sit awhile?" For instance, are you inviting a friend, who you've met by chance in the marketplace, to hang out with you? Or, have you and someone else been walking together for some time, and you would like to rest your feet? Where would you like to take this theme?
Meter: will the next line contain as many syllables as your first line, or will you vary it? Your choice in meter will establish the timing of your poem, but do not let it force you into a corner. I other words, never ever force a rhyme in order to make it fit your meter.
Now, it's your turn. Write down, (or type out), the line I've given to you. Observe it. Let it guide your thoughts and see what comes of adding more words. Think of it as a sort of puzzle. As always, I invite you to leave your comments or questions below, and I will respond ASAP. Have fun!
William Faulkner, author of The Sound and the Fury, had a dictum which went something like this: “Read, read, read. Read everything -- trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it." Hmm ... let's revise that a tad, shall we? Read, read, read loads of "good and great" rhyming poetry.
It is the work of the great poets who will teach you, and inspire, you best. With them as your benchmark, you will be better able to judge the caliber of your own work, as well as that of other rhyming poets, for yourself. Let us continue, now, with another key to writing in rhyming verse.
2. Immerse yourself in rhyming verse = READ!
Keeping company with seasoned, rhyming poets is not as daunting as it may appear. Within the two texts that I mentioned in Part 1, you will find a wealth of brilliant poetry. But, then the question is, "Where do I start reading?"
We will begin with The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. It is a lengthy yarn that accomplishes much more than merely telling a tale. It lures you, much as it does the Wedding-Guest in the poem, into an intriguing atmosphere that you were not quite prepared for.
It is a fairly long poem, which was written in seven parts. This gives you an opportunity to linger with Coleridge's unique voice, see his descriptive word choices, sense his rhythm, and to feel how he moves you through his tale.
Read the entire poem once to experience this epic story. Then, read it through again, with a now educated and discerning eye, and you will begin to notice more of the subtle nuances and movements in Coleridge's lines.
Once you have read it through twice, you will be well acquainted with his approach to writing in rhyming verse. That is all that is intended in this exercise. No study, no tests, no keeping notes. Simply read it through, twice.
Most of all, enjoy the journey. And, if you should have any questions, or wish to share your insights with me, please make use of the comments section on this page. I will be happy to respond to you ASAP.
Echoes, Neo-Victoriqn Poetry will be at FOGcon this weekend at the Marriott Hotel in Walnut Creek, California. I will be sharing an author table with Emily Thompson, author of the Clockwork Twist steampunk adventure series. If you're in the area, or fancy a day trip to Walnut Creek, come on by.
This year's theme is: Secrets. According to the FOGcon release: "Science Fiction, speculative fiction, has a long history with secret identities, secret hideouts, secret societies, even secret worlds. So who decides what is secret? How do we keep secrets? How do we discover what is secret?"
For more information about this event, please click here.
I have met many individuals over the years who thoroughly enjoy reading rhyming verse, and hearing it read aloud, but who sincerely wish that they, too, could write such pieces. Occasionally, someone will ask me "How do you write rhyming poetry?" and/or "Can it be taught?"
This generally places me in a position of inadvertent spokesperson for rhyming poetry. So, having decided to take up this challenge, I will attempt to teach an approach to writing in rhyme, here. Over the next few weeks, I will delineate, as best as I can, some steps to follow towards this end.
1. Seek out published poets who rhyme.
Where does one begin such a task? Though there are some present-day rhymers, such as me, I would prefer to steer you towards those who wrote in verse so well, so long ago. That is where I began my quest of trying to figure out how to write a poem.
I was fortunate to have access to my father's modest library, which I rummaged through in search of "Poetry." There I found the rhyming verses of Edna St Vincent Millay, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, William Blake, Thomas Hardy, (to name but a few), as well as many good anonymous works in verse.
Two books which I highly recommend reading are:
The Oxford Book of American Verse, by F.O. Matthiessen
The Oxford Book of English Verse, by Arthur Quiller-Couch
I endorse these two books as a way to get you started. Not all of the poems in these volumes are written in rhyme, (several of the pieces are examples of non-rhyming prose), but the majority the poems you'll find therein will help to illustrate two important aspects of rhyming verse: meter and rhyme.
In order to explain these two terms, I will draw from Wikipedia, where they are well described.
"Meter: Metrical rhythm generally involves precise arrangements of stresses or syllables into repeated patterns, called feet, within a line." An example of this can be found in my poem, Down The Narrow Ghetto Streets.
Line: Down the narrow ghetto streets
Rhythm: Dum ta dum ta dum ta dum
Line: Of noise and cobblestone
Rhythm: Ta dum ta dum ta dum
"Rhyme: A rhyme is a repetition of similar sounds in two or more words, most often at the end of the lines in poems and songs." Again, I will illustrate using my poem.
Down the narrow ghetto streets
Of noise and cobblestone
You found me lying at your feet,
My form reduced to bone,
Streets rhymes with feet. Cobblestone rhymes with bone.
There is a wide range of rhyme and meter schemes to choose from, but to be artful they need to work together with an innate harmony. They must bind the piece together while appearing to be quite natural, and never forced.
As you look through rhyming verse, either in the books I recommend, (above), or elsewhere, take special note of the use of meter and rhyme. They are the framework withing which this type of writing is formed.
As a skeleton gives shape to the body, whether human or animal, so do meter and rhyme help to shape rhyming verse. In each case, the frame is essential to the whole, though it generally lies well below the surface.
So, there you have a first key to my approach to composing works in rhyme. If you have any questions about this section, please let me know by leaving a comment on this page. I will respond to you ASAP. Enjoy.
I've written many poems over the years. This blog is a preview of my books: Echoes, Neo-Victorian Poetry (April 2013), Echoes ll, More Neo-Victorian Verse (May 2014), as well as my other books as they become available in published form.