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.

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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

 

 

NAME OF WAR (english poetry)

This one is very special.

A little while back, I talked about my Caliath volumes and how the first four were disowned. For good reason, they contain all my poems from the peak of my depression from 15 to 17 years of age, meaning they have incredibly saddening and dark poetics that I don’t like getting back to. Recently, I decided to uncover them and attempt to read some. I didn’t get very far, but I decided to translate one of the poems from that time into English.

Disclaimer: This one, Name of War (Nome de Guerra in Portuguese), is not at all inspired by the racial induced of 1675 in New England, rather by a book of portuguese authorship, by José Almada Negreiros, which I was reading at the time. Despite being sad, I hope you enjoy it.

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JOHNNY

Poetics of Structure

Some people may know, and some people may not, but I’m full blown Portuguese. Pure bred, no ancestry anywhere else, my hair and eyes are raven-black and my skin is multi-colour.

That being said, it is natural that my poetry is heavily influenced by the Pantheon of Portuguese Poets, a very important group of figures in general portuguese culture, and with that, comes a certain stiffness very much our own. Portuguese people are known for their subtle and muffled speech, without melody or variations, and our culture deep-rooted in sadness and an overall sense of abandonment.

From that, many common feelings have bloomed in poets like Fernando Pessoa, Cesário Verde, Eugénio de Andrade, Florbela Espanca, Natália Correia, Sá-Carneiro, and many others, installing within their compositions a general sense of chaotic order. Although contradictory, it works well in our favour. Our poetics are strict, direct, respectful of the general laws of lyricism and composition and deep-rooted in the headwaters of emotion.

I would sooner stake my heart than compare myself to the Great Pantheon, but of course, like most aspiring portuguese poets, I have troubles discerning my style from these greats that came before, especially when they are regarded as the paragon of lyric and structured poetry. My education, however, was very english-based and anglocentric, exposing me to the vast beyond of chaotic chaos often present in many current and old English forms of poetry.

WordPress is a vast source for many of those poems – which I’m all for – and the contact I’ve had here with them gave me a lot of grasp about my vision of poetry, both future and past. As an attempt to clarify what I mean with chaotic order and chaotic chaos, I will use two examples:

The wind, into my wounds it bled,

In a striking weep of distilled pain

Through cobalt tears destiny has shed,

In a luck of the draw without gain.

This stanza from my own “Phagora” is a good example of the above mentioned chaotic order. It respects the common rules of crossed rhyming, lyrical consistency and syllabic composure, however, it is incredibly chaotic on what it attempts to display. This stanza was a far out allegory to say “pain of longing is a game of chance unending”, which would be equally lyrical if placed in the right setting.

But what of the river nymphs

with flowing hair of company,

good company

that springing love

doesn’t die with age

rather splashing into your eyes of prism

candour, my adored, I’m fiery demon

turning to steam the river within you

This improvised poem (not meant to be taken seriously), was composed without poetic structure in mind, but has a flowing divinity within it’s content. It’s followable, understandable, and retains some lyricism among it’s chaotic chaos. Unfortunately for me, I’m not gifted at writing well using free verse or zero-stanza formats, again, mostly because of my cultural origins and natural language.

I would like to, however, throw a challenge to anyone out there that would like to absorb poetics with me, to write in full structure like my first example. May you do so, I will attempt to use your poem as base for a more english “free verse” poem, and you would have my thanks.

Much love,

Johnny.

Within cultivated touches.


From the relatively short amount of people that have taken the time to explore my body of poetics, to whom I’m eternally thankful, one common theme among them seems recurrent. This small text is only meant to clarify certain subjacent elements of my writing, rather than explaining the poetics in full (something I could not do even if I wanted to).

The first element is the name of the blog, Caliath, often confused with a pseudonym I use for writing, although not at all meant to be seen that way.

Ever since my somewhat muddy beginnings writing, both in English and Portuguese, I would name all my notebooks Caliath (they all still exist, to this day, 16 of them), which means all of the poetry here is found in written form on Caliath XVI. There isn’t a clear reason to why I decided upon that name for them, I don’t even remember reflecting on what I should call them before actually naming them, and ever since, Caliath has been the name I generally give to all my poetry – good, bad or outright nonsensical, they all find common ground in a single aspect, which brings me to my second clarification:

There are four volumes of Caliath that I’ve disowned, the first four, to be precise. Now all compiled into one “poetry to burn under the sea”, they are all poems that I atribute to myself and my personal life and emotions, in contrast to all following Caliath volumes (5 and up), where I’m given to verse above a manufactured world. This has been highly valuable, since it allows me to experiment freely, feel the work to an augmented degree, and fully manipulate the subjects of my poetry without compromising it’s honesty. This manufactured world, or how I like to call it – wasteland, works in a similar way to a fictional universe, but with a bitter existencial-philosophical cultivated touch.

Although I claim to take inspiration from Ultra-Romance for my english poetry, a lot of it is soaked in a type of poetic existentialism very much my own, whereas the beauty of a certain question is elevated beyond it’s initial version, and then destroyed and broken apart by a rather senseless feeling of inadequacy. This general inadequacy is present throughout all my creations, from being inadequate or unequipped to love, to write, to understand or even to allow full emotion to course my words, and that same feeling waters my most candid and vulnerable poetics, for as long as I feel inadequate and reject my own creations, they take such a unique form in that rejection.

Regardless, that was a mess, hopefully it was a bit clear,

Much love,

Johnny.