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