Poetic Tips (I suppose)

A more fitting title would be: “a few points I’ve gathered from writing poetry”, yet, I’ve written in Portuguese since I was about 11 years old, and in English for about three months. If I already had a long way to go in my native language, that is multiplied by some dozens when it comes to English.

I believe poetry is a frugal thing, much in the ways of music: a powerhouse of conveying feelings directly that often falls flat on it’s face. I don’t have fingers to count my failed compositions, but I do have an excellent memory about how they failed:

MEANING VS. SUBJECT

One common trap of composing is to collide the meaning intended for the composition and it’s mechanical subject. The two mustn’t exist hand-in-hand, in fact, it’s preferable that they exist separately.

The meaning of a composition is to be left undecided, it’s not mine to hold, and the more I force it’s presence, the more it seems to dodge under descriptive words and imagined perceptions. In fact, a composition doesn’t need to mean anything, it’s a natural part of the process to allow itself the literary space to mean… whatever it wants to mean, really. A keen reader might break the veil and see clearly into the poets feelings at the time of writing, but even that can be arguably fallacious when it comes to understanding the poem at hand. Everything can be indicative of meaning, even the structure of a poem, but it shouldn’t take priority over the subject.

When I use the expression “mechanical subject”, I usually image a combustion engine working within the poem. It is the core propeller, the fuel for that composition to even exist. This could be the poetic subject or it could not. There are countless poems versing love and singing heart-break, those feelings are the mechanical subject of the compositions, even if the poetic subject might be the authors themselves, a fictional character, or the person to which the composition is directed. If you are familiar with any of my poems, you might have realised I use artistic displays as mechanical subjects, like guitars or grand dances:

These ghosted moves illuminated by yellow lamp posts,

These rhythms and notes guided by a Spanish guitar

Are but beautiful memories we hold, mi flor del mar.

(…)

Yet, the children still smile in those avenues in France,

The Spanish guitar backgrounds all my hopeful walks

Searching for you, waiting eagerly for our ghostly dance

Spanning my thoughts and the lights of these city blocks.

From “Avenues in France” by me, but unreleased. 

Some authors are able to smoothly shift their mechanical subject mid-composition, unfortunately I’m not that gifted. Not yet, at least. If I can convey one tip regarding this specific factor, I would advise you to be aware of it and attempt to make it clear in your mind before writing.

LANGUAGE AND [PRESS ENTER]

I’m often guilty of using ridiculous words in poetry, like halcyon or hecatomb. Now, of course, there is absolutely no issue with using any word you wish to, the more the merrier, but there can be a severe disconnect between the general language of a composition and a sudden eldritch word. Consistency isn’t always necessary, but connection is a key element of flux when it comes to poetry. It must flow, almost effortlessly, through you and through the reader. Sometimes, that flowing can be broken by an out-of-place heavy word, which is generally a common poetic technique nowadays (to which I’m a very big prey of).

The wording is, however, not the only problem with the flux of a lot of compositions, there is also the somehow puzzling [PRESS ENTER] effect many authors have criticised over-time.

Verses usually tend to

path

The way to a stanzaic

demonstration, much

like an instrument

Some poets do this naturally, others do it for some other confusing reason I can’t quite grasp. The problem here is not so much the fluidity of the poem, although it is often damaged by this process, but also the rational process behind reading a poem. It’s much like a math equation, each verse must contain something that leads up to a full stanza, once all have been read in the necessary order, the whole stanza will then contain the ultimate take-away. Not only is it important that the verses themselves are fluid, but that the stanza division follows the division of thoughts.

Poetry, after all, is that very action. Verses and stanzas are used to guide the thought behind the composition – the climaxes, the low-points, the expositions and breaks, all must be organised in a way to facilitate the message of the poem.

The general lyricism of the poems is also transformed greatly by the proper usage of verses. I can’t count the times where I’ve seen verse breaks where there was no necessity for a break to exist, or two verses that are supposed to be read continuously with no clear indication of division, making them essentially one verse needlessly separated by a line break.

Countering this mechanism is pretty easy, just experiment with classical structures. Tercets, quatrains, even sestets if you are feeling gutsy. They needn’t rhyme, although the usage of crossed rhyme and distichs is a great way to force you to shape up a thought, and to keep the poem within marginal lines. I will leave syllabic counting and coda structures to another sunny day.

 

Sorry for the bulky text, I tried shortening it as much as I could.


JOHNNY

 

 

Hoje sou tudo no nada que sou, amanhã serei outro.

38 thoughts on “Poetic Tips (I suppose)

  1. Fascinating take on poetry production, Johnny. I am not a mathematically-minded poet. I have written actively since age 13.

    It flows like water or not at all. I can’t ‘construct’ a poem the way you describe. I can write a sonnet, if a word salad that fits the structure counts. (It doesn’t make it in my book.)

    For me poetry is a sacred act. Almost a channeled gift that flows like water through my pen or keyboard. I can’t explain it. It sounds insane. The only thing that matters for me is being authentic, expressing what I perceive as accurately as possible.

    I’ve studied a lot of languages. None of them are capable of expressing the soul, in my experience. Though sometimes, the languages come close to doing it.

    I’m proud of your achievements in using English for poetry expression. Three months! Most native English speakers can’t write poetry after a lifetime of familiarity with their own language as well as you do.

    Your work is crystalline. Understand I’m not exaggerating. You say you fall short. Not really. Your inner critic (the rude fellow in your head committed to convincing you that his lies about you being an imposte, fake, not good enough, etc) is full of icky lies. Ignore him. Even better, don’t repeat his lies aloud.

    You are a Poet.

    Liked by 9 people

    • Oh, Maria, you are the sweetest human being, truly.
      The process of construction itself can be mathematical, spiritual, even elevating, regardless of what it is, it’s always right and deep-rooted into our beings.
      I know I’m generally an over-critic of myself, it comforts me somehow, keeps me grounded to the fact that I’m still just a young adult (or even kid), navigating through the often harsh literary world full of nuances and bellyful strikers.
      I should be kinder to me myself and more hopeful for the world around me.
      Thank you, truly.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I just realized, to my horror, that my comments might be perceived as mathematical things being somehow less sublime.

        This is emphatically not so. The language the multiverses are written in is mathematics! The literal music of the spheres (there are YouTube videos of what the planets SOUND LIKE, check it out!) is composed in mathematics.

        I even saw somewhere a rather rude limerick composed in mathematical notation.

        Scientists and mathematicians, engineers and architects – these are our fellow Artists! And they create beauty to rival our own creations as often as we produce our works!

        Hugs, all!

        Liked by 2 people

      • It is true – to many, math and overall science is a beautiful display with many intricate elements. I, too, am a softie for nerdy stuff and scientific theories, I even have a good amount of portuguese poems about quantum physics. Somehow, I find the ellusive nature of particles to be extremely poetic, not sure why, we are all a bit weird.

        Liked by 1 person

      • (Someday I gotta tell you about the angel’s wing comment I made about the double slit experiment that prompted a month long locked-in-the-office, text Toad for food bringing, do not acknowledge her, grab food, duck back in office, lock door episode that resulted in a 72 page equation that got my friend an award! Oh. I just told you. Well then. That’s done. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  2. (have to agree with M. T. Noah there about your prowess as a poet/writer, dear johnny, but i think you know that already!) your detailing of the technicalities of the poetry-writing process is very clear and much appreciated.

    i would add that i fell (and perhaps still do sometimes if i don’t check myself) victim to the enjambment problem (equals your PRESS ENTER here), and now that i know better (i was educated by my literature professor and published poet sister) i find that my poetry makes more sense and has better meaning. that’s why i always read my poetry aloud several times before presenting it to the audience here….not sure what others’ processes are while writing, but for sure, a read-aloud is a powerful thing.

    oh and the language, the language choice. i love learning new words, as i’ve expressed before. i want to curate my own dictionary of favorites that i should only use once. i wish there were a way to use new words without sounding pretentious or highbrow, but i guess there’s always the risk of insulting someone. i think the key is to use enough understandable language and insert the choice whizzbanger in there where appropriate so that its meaning may be gleaned connotatively…

    this lesson is spot on–please keep these kinds of posts coming!

    Liked by 4 people

    • Mariah! Sometimes I feel like you are a more peaceful version of myself. Every time you comment I this feeling of childish excitement, similar to how I feel when I listen to my Los Tres Reyes albums… I grew up with a lot of Mexican music.

      Yes, I actually should have contacted you for a free-verse example of pristine structure in this post. Different structures have little to do with the poem being structurally sound. You are at the other end of the spectrum from my obsessively organised poems, still, you maintain incredible fluidity and musicality. It’s truly a marvel.

      And I feel you so much on that word fixation. I too read words at times that I can’t wait to use, sometimes pulling the trigger too eagerly and making a word-salad-mess.

      It’s really beautiful to have you here, my poetic friend.

      Liked by 2 people

      • of course, the feeling is mutual. your gorgeous way with rhyming structure and my fixation on the goal of creating formless beauty…amazing how we found each other’s poetry and shared love of that opposite.

        Liked by 2 people

    • Oh I’m so sorry, I wasn’t aware!
      I will be sure to avoid it from now on. I thought it was interesting because it’s my second name (João Maria), didn’t mean to upset you.
      Again, very sorry.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I am not upset. I forget that my profile has all the legal names on it. I’m happy that we share a name. I’m sad that my experience of it is less positive than yours is of it. No sorries, dear friend. If you did not know, you have not wounded anyone. I did not intend to hurt your heart with my directness. Please forgive me.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I write poetry since I was a teen and to be honest in my humble opinion poetry has to come from the soul, when I write I don’t think about anything but the my very own feelings and thoughts, poetry doesn’t have to rhyme or to be mathematical, it has to flow otherwise it has no meaning.

    Liked by 3 people

    • One thing does not negate the other!
      Poetry doesn’t HAVE to do anything, generally, I’ve seen poetic proses fall into the category of poetry.
      These are tips mostly for beginner poets that wish to nurture singular styles and a firm poetic skeleton.
      Poetry may come from the soul, or the poet may not even believe that the soul exists (Verlaine had no troubles writing brilliant poetry).
      No matter the circumstance, the origin of any artistic work will always be up for debate, and that debate is fruitless to what I’m trying to convey here.
      To worry about fluidity, structure, word control, these are not pompous elements, these are devices poets have used for centuries in order to make their poetry have more than meaning, for it to be beautiful.
      Hope I helped ☺️

      Liked by 2 people

  4. I used to care a lot about rhyme and appearance of the poems I wrote but I guess I became more loose during time. I like to try stuff out and sometimes it’s just about the message I want to get across or I want to use a metaphorical language only. I love how poetry can be so diverse! That’s why writing is one of my favourite forms of art! Very enthusiastic over here haha. 😀
    I hope to learn some more still and I’m happy you posted this. I might actually start thinking a little more about the overall style of my poetry.
    I just started following you but I’d like to ask you how you started writing poetry?

    Sorry for the long comment.
    Anne 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • The enthusiasm is very much appreciated, as I’m also a complete nerd over literature and it’s many forms.
      I guess we had opposite paths, but believe me, they’re both equally beautiful. We are all trying to find our little ways to write and there is no wrong way to do it.
      I’ve started “versing” at eleven, but I only have actual complete poems from about fourteen.
      I’ve actually started writing a little “book” (if you can call it that), that explains the evolution of my poetry, but in essence, when I was younger I read a lot of philosophy and I was deeply enchanted by greek epics. I started trying things out, of course nothing close to those epics, but it took me where I am today.
      I started by distilling thoughts and digesting emotions into paper, and poetry was just the way I chose to do it, the way I was most comfortable with.
      You are welcome to write full essays in my comments, never apologise, it’s a pleasure to have you here Anne.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. The fact you’re not content, always trying to outdo yourself, be better than before; chasing perfection….that’s something driven people do, something that’s innate.

    I’ve never tried to figure out my process, never tried to plan anything step by step. It’s just something that comes to mind with poetry, moreso when I write lyrics. There’s music in my head, a rhythm my thoughts “dance” to.

    Sometimes it’s like that, sometimes I have to think before I let my fingers go, sometimes I have to force it. I don’t like to force it. And forget about rhyming.

    The simple fact you can speak multiple languages is impressive enough, let alone write multiple languages. Too often we focus on what we don’t have as opposed to the opposite.

    I won’t tell you to not be your own harshest critic as I’m the same. I want to do better, I want to make an impact, I want that perfect thing regardless of the scars it gives me. I’m of the opinion that’s not a bad way to be.

    Keep writing, I’ll keep reading.

    -Joey

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hejsa, Bo
      This comment hold such an amiable nature, I’m melting inside. I’ve always struggled a bit with general inadequacy (or fear of), as such, I’ve always made it a priority to seek excellence in anything I do. When those things are Art, however, my core is a bit more maleable, but the self-commiseration is always there.
      It is warming to have you here, and I’m sure to keep an eye on your work as well.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Very interesting, though I’m not sure poetry can be framed into predetermined models; poetry can also be incautious or wasteful not only frugal…As expression of human art poetry can be anything, as long as it hits with living emotions or enlights the inner soul of the poetic readers…

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes, poetry can be framed within predetermined models, as can all artistic displays. You know painting is so by analysing it’s predetermined elements, an object as a canvas, and paint. Of course anything within the bounds of such creation can be considered so, chaotic or not. Poetry also has those framework bounds, verses and stanzas, which are inherently frugal things due to their nature.
      Of course, what you say can be applied to anything, we are allowed to express living emotions however we want, but the objective of Art as a form of communication implies that such expression needs to be understandable by common somatic markers already present within the human mind, thats how we know a building is a building, a song is a song, and a poem is a poem.
      Poetry, although extremely tarnished by it’s lazy literary academia and watered down after the french movements of the XIX century, can take almost any form nowadays, yet little of them strike with readers. In fact, you can see that easily by researching the overall sucess of poetry nowadays, as it’s little and very disperse.

      This belief that poetry can be anything is a diservice to the reader, we don’t want to read anything and be left lazily scoping for bounds to apply and help us understand, we want to read what we came to read, and we should expect the same consistency out of poetry that we expect out of prose, since writing is a dual job by the writer and the reader.

      Regardless, this is just my view on it! Sorry for the wall of text haha, and thank you for commenting!

      Like

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