#AU where Mick finds Len in a bar #and lusts after him from afar #before approaching him at a table for two #where Len’s eyes are saying “I’ve been waiting all night here for you” #on the stereo they’re blasting the softest of rock #and above them in neon hangs the word… #hey #yo #now wait a second… #[Obi Wan Kenobi voice] #”That’s no AU”
Before I start, I just want to make it clear that I am in no way an expert on this - but recently I’ve been doing poetry for a creative writing class at uni, and I’ve really enjoyed learning more and thought you all would too! So let’s get started:
1) Think about form, but don’t be afraid to switch it up - I used to be obsessed with archaic structure, but even if you don’t use iambic pentameter you can still have a good structure. Writing with traditional forms is great, but you’ve got to remember that with these forms come a lot of assumptions and you might be making your life harder than it needs to be. Without a traditional form/metre, you could use structure to exemplify meaning by establishing your own simple structure and then changing it at an important point in your poem.
2) That being said, don’t be afraid to use rhyme or any sort of old form. It can be really fun and really test your vocabulary - at this stage in the poetry world, poetry takes a lot of forms, but that doesn’t mean we need to forget old forms.
3) At the same time, never just rhyme something for the sake of it. Everyone knows if a word is just there for the sake of the rhyme - if it doesn’t work in the poem, find a rhyme that fits or drop it completely.
4) Take out every word you can and have it still make sense. You’ll have heard this one before, but it’s still one of the most useful things I’ve ever heard for poetry.
5) Think about how the poem sounds. If you’re writing about waves crashing on the seashore, it might be cool to use words that sound like that - lots of ‘s’ and ‘sh’ sounds might work for that. In the same way, if you’re talking about something falling, lots of quite blunt sounds like ‘b’s and ‘d’s would have a really cool effect for that.
6) Make sure to read your poem out loud. Some things just don’t sound as right out loud as they seem on paper. That’s okay, but reading it out loud lets you identify and fix that.
7) Sometimes it might not work as poetry. That’s okay! Sometimes a story is more suited to prose, and that doesn’t mean you’ve failed, it just means you need to adapt.
8) Don’t be scared of concrete poetry. Concrete poetry is where your poem looks like what you’re talking about. This can look so cool, but again, don’t do it for the sake of doing it. Do it to give your poem more meaning!
9) Get rid of cliches. Phrases like ‘love’s embrace’ should be hacked out of your poem. Those are other peoples words, what do you have to say?
10) Let other people read it. Not only is it great to show other people your work, letting other people read it means they might see things you’ve missed, and your poetry will be better because of it.
11) And most of all experiment! You’re never going to write an amazing poem if you don’t try. Poetry can seem terrifying, but you don’t need to have a master in English Literature to write poetry - you just need words, some emotion and your own personal style.
I miss you.
I miss your touch,
I miss looking at your face,
I miss the way your face light up whenever you got too excited.
I miss our phone calls.
I miss our “good morning” and “good night” texts.
I miss our long conversations about anything and everything.
I miss your kisses.
I miss your lips.
I miss your brown eyes that always reminded me of milk chocolate.
Its strange because I never thought brown eyes were beautiful until I saw yours.
I miss our laughs, and tickle attacks.
I miss being in your arms.
Feeling like no one can do no harm.
I miss sleeping next to you.
Feeling as though I was in my own little heaven.
Between the little arguments, and the happiness I felt.
I wouldn’t have asked for anything more.
life had a different plan.
Your feelings changed, and you thought you weren’t ready.
Leaving me broken hearted.
Although, you have moved on.
I can’t help but sit here writing this.
how much I miss you.
I miss the kissie attacks.
I miss holding your hand, and exploring the city.
I miss our adventures.
And our silly little jokes that only we understood.
I miss your dorky laugh, and the way you corrected my words whenever I messed up.
I miss your hugs,
I miss your smile,
I miss being the reason for it.
I miss all of the memories we made.
Maybe these didn’t make a big impact in your life.
But for me?
These are the memories I will hold on like treasures.
For I have learned,
That no matter what happens in the future.
You had made a big impact in my life.
Teaching me lessons that I will forever be grateful for.
Thank you for everything you have done for me.
For I have learned that if you love someone sometimes letting go is for the best.
So to my bubbas,
This is my final goodbye.
is like remembering a dream.
like soft whispers,
blowing on the edge of your mind.
like stifled laughter,
dancing on the tip of your tongue.
like sweet caresses,
kissing the right side of your brain.
and your smiles
like crystals, shining on your creativity.
is like escaping a nightmare
like violent jerks
wrenching the wits from your senses.
like sharp needles
piercing the back of your eyeballs.
like iron chains
squeezing the oxygen from your lungs.
and your tears
like fire, burning your creativity.
you don’t learn to love her. because learning to love her is like turning her into a routine you get used to, like you’ve been trying and you’ve just now seen parts of her you’ve never noticed before or maybe didn’t pay attention to. like the bad habit you’ve picked up and only just now become aware of the burning cigarette between your fingers, the money you’ve lost, the need for a fix, the jagged edges of your nails. no, it doesn’t work that way.
so, let me tell you what she’s like.
she’s always. not just coming to. not just on her way. you love her by means of night and day. she’s constant. you trace forever on her skin when she sleeps, the expanse giving you a universe that waits for you in it, just under your fingertips, and you want to explore the things that have inherently existed there. beautiful things, you’re sure. and so you don’t teach yourself to look for all the ways you can love her because you just do, like things that begin and end only to begin again— always the sunset, always the sunrise.
Do you have any advice for using rhythm to craft pleasant prose?
There’s just one, really.
You can, and should, read lyrical and poetic prose as well, but this approach by itself is like looking at the rain and thinking that’s all there is to water. In reality, there are oceans, rivers, lakes, and clouds. Water takes many different shapes, flows in many different ways.
Understanding words requires the study of words.
Poetry, good poetry, is all about studying words. Words individually. Words separately. The function and impact of a single sentence. The impact of a word. The impact of punctuation. Where the emphasis is in the sentence, and you craft it so you draw more attention to your intended point.
Read poetry. Read all the poetry.
The more you read, the more you absorb, the better you’ll get as you learn to replicate the form and structure for yourself. You can apply all the theory learned and perfected in poetry to your prose. All those lessons about the impact of a poem’s visual shape and the usage of white space are still applicable.
A poem can teach you why you must be careful to never make several paragraphs in a row the same visual size and shape unless you intend to lull your audience into a sense of security/boredom/complacency.
As a writer, you should be studying all different kinds of writing even if it’s not what you want to do. From journalism, to creative non-fiction, non-fiction, various fictional genres down to poetry, there’s plenty to be learned from all different disciplines. The more you read, the more you absorb, then the better the writer you’ll be.
Second, you need to practice. Rhythm is one of the more advanced aspects of writing and, if you don’t have a natural knack for it, one of the most difficult to track. Practice is necessary. Even if you have a natural “ear” for rhythm in your prose, it will suck in the beginning. That’s okay. Let it. Rhythm is crafted as much, if not more so, in the editing phase as it is written on the first draft. Well-crafted rhythm is crafted. It may (and probably will) take multiple drafts and careful attention across the entirety of the piece in order to get the flow right. Be patient. Be kind to yourself.
When looking at writers whose styles you want to imitate, avoid the surface level. Look at the structure of the sentences. The word choice. More, challenge yourself to figure out the why. What purpose does the rhythm and structure serve. Assume the impact you received from the piece was intentional.
Writing is often like looking at a puzzle. You have many pieces that fit together to create an often beautiful whole. The neophyte writer, with no skill in analysis, simply seeks to steal pieces and slap them into a different setting. They assume all writing is modular, that if it had one impact over here then it will have the same elsewhere. They see the end, but not the beginning. The big picture, but not the details. They take and use a trope, a twist, a rhythm, or a technique without trying to understand the connective tissue which informs why it worked within the story and had the impact it did. Some of it is intentional, some of it is accidental, but stepping beyond the what to learn why and how is key to moving past imitation.
We cannot force our audience to experience anything, but we can invite them down the garden path.
When looking for rhythm, begin at the beginning. Start small. Look at poems before moving on to prose. When you grasp the concept behind four lines, you step forward into studying two hundred pages.