Poetic Tips II (I suppose slightly harder)

Poetry – like all artistic displays – has a myriad of rules as well as their designations when those rules are not followed, essentially: structural and counter-structural, fluid and stagnant, chaotic and orderly. It is necessary for me to stress that no form of composing elevates over another, and none yields better results among the general readers. The most important element of any form of art, for me, is it’s understandability, how accessible it attempts to be. Portuguese author José Luís Peixoto placed it best in an interview, I will attempt to translate as best I can:

“Eu acredito muito na escrita como alguma coisa que se dirige às pessoas, que não exclui ninguém e que procura, justamente, comunicar com todos, por isso, em relação aos seus veículos não coloco limites.”

I strongly believe in writing as something directed at people, it does not exclude anyone and seeks, precisely, the communication with all, therefor, I place no boundaries to it’s vehicles. 

Related to his writing being displayed on building walls of Lisbon, in an interview with Caras in 21 of March of 2011

Some years ago, I was confronted with the reality that my Portuguese poetry wasn’t always understandable (an example would be TEMPO, the only clear example of that published on this website), and it alienated a plethora of possibilities by being excessively confusing – not because of any attempt at brilliance, but because of obvious mental laziness at conveying my own creations clearly. I would just cast it off with any vocabulary I could muster, with any structure I could be bothered to envision.

Under beyond-the-grave mentorship of many authors, I was taught the importance of structure and how it deeply affects the reader, and how the common myth of overly-complex pieces being superior is just a trap aspiring authors tend to fall face-first into. There is nothing wrong about the humility of being understandable by all, as much as there is no class or poignancy in being understood by none.

SYLLABLES, SOUND, VISUAL ORDER

Metric lines in poetry have been used for centuries, but many people question: to what purpose? From iambic pentameters, latin hexameters, endecasillabo, an vast array of metrics were created with different purposes, but the one subjacent to most of them is the sonority of the composition. Many times, poetry wasn’t just a readers delight, it was also meant as a listeners glory. These poems could be considered similar to current songs, as they flew off the mouth straight to the chest, and they were meant as exhibitions of romantic beauty or full theatrical compositions.

Today, the device of counting syllables has fallen to disuse, and is often disregarded all together, but to anyone interested in the sonority or aloud readability of compositions, with or without rhymes, you should be wary of the syllables used while you compose. Not only do they fuel great sounds, but they also control tightly the visual order of your poem. For example, visual disconnects are not common, but they are odd constructions that should often be avoided, for the sake of the readability of a line:

(disregarding syllabic order) 

I could sense my mind flickering akin to the pinnacle of a candle’s flame,

The waver… a burning tempest of emotional apathy.

(regarding syllabic order) 

My mind flickers akin to a candle’s flame,

Wavering… whirling fires of inner apathy. 

(these lines are demonstrations and not part of any actual composition) 

The second version is a common use of the alexandrine meter, following twelve syllables in each line, one of my most common uses of a meter. Often, the syllables align the lines, but it’s not always the case (hence why my compositions often look so “orderly” in the length of each verse, it happens naturally most times).

Is it important, at all? I would not know. It is important to me, it allows me to express the feelings exposed in an understandable, appealing way, instead of the word mesh I used to create. It helped me greatly to worry about these things, and now, composing to me really feels like composing, I look at all these elements, I organise them, and a poem is born almost naturally, because as the paper suffers this structure, so do my thoughts and writing.

In a lighter tone, my Mother used to say that a messy room is representative of a messy life. I’ve always believe that this applied to many of common things, like poetry! This outer order I create allows my mind to clear further, like organising a desk.

Of course, if your jam is poetry that comes straight from the mind to the paper, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that either. This is mostly directed at people who hold much to be expressed and cannot do it when they attempt to write poetry.

I hope I helped someone, in any way, that would make me the happiest.

Santos is almost here, I’m a big celebrator of Portuguese folk parties, so poetry will be scarce. Let’s enjoy the first step into Summer with poetic incantations!


Johnny.

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

15 thoughts on “Poetic Tips II (I suppose slightly harder)

  1. “Is it important, at all?… It is important to me…”
    This. Right here. This is the root of composition, I believe. Keep doing it for that very reason — because it is important to you. The world is shaped by poets and speakers and musicians and artists and inventors and volunteers who are passionate about something that is important *to them.* Also, I’m a firm believer in the idea that if something is important to you, it is likely important to others.

    And… I love your example of Alexandrine Meter. You should write that.

    Pax, Johnny!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello Sarah!
      Thank you so much for the kind words, they mean much to me.
      On my last post, some people felt I was too pushy with these tips, almost as if you didn’t follow them, your poetry is of no worth. Hence why I stressed that this is important to me, and not necessarily important to anyone else, that’s beautiful to me. It feels refreshing to hear your words, the things that matter to us are the pillars of what we are and are willing to become, and comments like yours are very important to me.
      Again, thank you, you’re an angel.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. you had me at poetry should be understandable–clarity of form and function makes for crystalline verse! your explanation of the importance of syllabic order was enlightening. i continue to work to develop my metered poetry…maybe it would help if i focused on a particular form, as i have with the shakespearean sonnet form. do you have a suggestion for another type of formal construction that i might try?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello hello my dear Mariah!
      Shakespearean sonnets were mostly built with a iambic pentameter, which means they rely on decasyllabic verses (ten syllables each). I find this form to be somewhat restrictive, as it relies on a different form of english that was more economic in it’s syllables, as well as the incessant shortening of certain words with the use of apostrophes (something still very used in the Portuguese language), in order to cut off syllables and fuse connective codas.
      You may try it, but from my personal experience, it’s a bit fidgety nowadays.
      I would advise you to use your own meter±, write a couple of lines like you usually do, count their syllables, and try to replicate in the following verses as well as you can. If it’s one short or one off, don’t stress it, even Shakespeare broke his own meter plenty ‘o times.
      Oscillating compositions are also a great modern version of certain older meters, where you cross the syllabic numbers varyingly, as: (8,10,8,10 or 10,12,10,12). You will be surprised on how great it really sounds, specially if you impart crossed rhyming, or my favorites, imperfect rhymes and even assonances!
      Sorry for the lengthy response, I’m a bit nerdy with these things, haha!
      Thank you, as always.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I read your pointers with interest. What I very much appreciated was when you followed up with some examples. I guess the preference for examples makes me a visual learner.
    I’m glad you stressed that these are suggestions. There is a balance between using a structure to enhance clarity and not making the structure a strait jacket because sometimes the structure needs to be bend a bit to keep clarity.
    Thanks,

    Liked by 1 person

    • My pleasure Jasper!
      Just adressed here the basis of the balance you just mentioned, you are absolutely right. Balance is extremely important in anything.
      Thank you for coming by!

      Like

  4. “straight from the mind to the paper” Fortunately or unfortunately, this is me.

    “Nothing wrong about the humility of being understandable by all” I do think my poetry gets abit too literal sometimes.

    Great post, thought provoking

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mairi, always nice to see you around, truly!
      Being too literal is not *at all* a bad thing, there is a whole movement decicated to it within poetry circles (realism and neo-realism through existencialm) and it has been exceptionally sucessful for plenty of decades. Although poetry is it’s rarest form within the literary sphere, it can be very refreshing to feel real, to read a reality so humane it almost becomes tangible, much alike Russian Novels of the 20th century.
      You shant worry, if the day comes when your poetry needs to be less literal, believe me, it will find a way 🙂

      Like

      • Aww that’s a lovely thing to say Johnny. Thank you 😊
        I’m mostly literal. Every now and then the deeper me comes out as in “Watching father sky” and “Warming our Frost bitten toes” my two favourites..
        Love your blog. Immensely appreciative of your feedback.☺

        Liked by 1 person

  5. As someone who generally leans away from pre-specified structures and rules when it comes to writing I found this to be a pleasant little eye opener. Not only in the informative sense but also introspectively. I tend to let the words decide what form they take as they reach the page, being quite obsessive compulsive by nature I get very easily bogged down by consciously considering the implications of form. Reading this gave me a bit of a think on that as it is something I never really put into the forefront of my mind while writing. One might notice that I do prefer to write my poetry in a neatly composed manner but as something I never deeply consider I have begun to find weaknesses in my flexibility. Even to the point that I just posted a tidbit about it the other day. Anyway before I start drifting off topic, I found that this reminded me not only to remain open minded and be willing to try new variations but also that there is a splendid community out about to help whenever we might get stuck. Bringing words to life is something quite special and to help each other reach new understanding and realizations about ourselves and writing itself can only spread that joy further. Your insight and information is well appreciated sir, thank you for posting this.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello!
      Very warming comment, I was pleasently surprised. You adress something that I’ve missed in this post: balance. Being extensively flexible has a myriad of attributes, and being neat and organised has it’s own too, but the middle-ground between both often yields more results. I’ve seen plenty o’ authors who sacrifice content to keep a controlled structure, and others who sacrifice structure in an attempt to bombard the sensibilities of the reader: none are good, one relies heavily on a superficial literary-religion that is ultimately bounding and toxic in Art of any form, and the other overcharges the reader with a barrage of feelings that often get lost in the general confusion of human nature.
      Yes, we do have a great community among hobbyist writers (I’ve experienced), professional writers are not a group I’m very familiar with, therefor I cannot know.
      And please call me Johnny, I’m twenty-two, being called sir is haunting haha.

      Like

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