This is a talk on tools used in poetry

The Poet’s Tool Box

Poems thread through our lives. They’re on things like birthday cards, funeral wreaths and on the radio. Writing poems won’t make you rich, but having the ability to put the hopes, dreams, joy and, at times, sorrow into words is a balm to the soul.
What makes a ‘good’ poem? And what’s needed to put emotion into words? There are tools that I’ve used…I would never call them rules…to put what I feel, or see, on the page.
There are many people who write wonderful poems on this site, I hope you will share.
What are your tools, or knowledge you use to write poems, or, if you don’t write poems, your questions?
If you can give an example, please do, as this will help.
To start writing a poem, it helps to make notes, do a word web, or just try a few lines out.
If you have never heard of a word web (it used to be called brain storming), it uses word association of get words onto the page. Put the key word or phase down in the centre, then put words associated with the keyword around the outside. Then put words associated with each these words around to build up the web.
For example: ‘snow’ has associations; cold, white, winter, warm clothes, and winter sports.
Choosing a form? Some of the forms are; free verse, blank verse, the recipes of formal poetry and concrete.
Free verse is to a large extent can be very formless and can range from near prose to almost blank verse. This type often has; lines of differing length, usually none rhyming, and can express a single idea or situation.
Blank verse is used for epic poems, or plays (Shakespeare used it) . The ten syllable lines(give or take one syllable) and the walking pace of the iambic lends itself to stories.
If the exercises (word web) throw up rhymes, then the idea might lend itself to a more formal rhyming form. There are hundreds of these. Such as, sonnet , Rondeau, Terza Rima, and Villanelle are some of the popular ones.

Concrete poems are more visual…. they are done in the form of what the poem is about. I once saw one in a spiral: it was about a snail!

There are others like Haiku and Acrostic that are fun to do.

Some people become confused when first learning about metre. So just in case there are beginners reading this I’ll explain. In speech we say some words or parts of words more clearly than others. This is called stress. In ‘today’ the stress falls on the second syllable, in ‘doing’ on the first, as the ‘ing’ suffix of verbs are always unstressed,, but words like ‘bring’ ‘sing’ and’ ring’ are usually stressed….
How these stresses are put together in a line alters the mood of the poem…
Poets divide up a line into feet of a certain number of syllables.
Iambic has a two syllable foot and the stress falls on the second.
Trochaic has also a two syllable foot with the stress on the first.
Then there are three syllable feet of the Dactyl, and Anapaest( there are more I know 😉 perhaps these will be discussed later.)
I have spoken to several poets and they said they write the poems first and only if the poem doesn’t work will they analyse it. But as tools it is good to be aware of the mood changing ability of different stress patterns. Combinations of different types of feet will create even more effects…
But if you are trying to do a formal poem like a sonnet, be mindful of the iambic parameter form of the lines, otherwise it becomes a free verse with the rhyming structure of a sonnet.
Rhyme: comes in several flavours, everyone knows full (or perfect) rhymes. Snow:show, back:snack, and breeze:sneeze. Because in English we don’t have as many full rhymes as Italian does other types of rhymes are used; half, and slant rhymes fill the gap.
Fun:bungling, try:hiding etc are half rhymes. Slant rhymes are even less close bring:sung, find:tend. This also adds interest, and can delight if used well.
Rhyming scheme; most poem recipes have a rhyming scheme.
Alternate rhymes and Rhyming couplets, are both used In sonnets…
Then there are internal rhymes which are used in the body of the poem. You’ll find these in blank verse and free verse.
This brings us to;
Alliteration repetition of consonants; ‘see the sand on the sea shore’.
Assonance: the repetition of vowel sounds; ‘bring the gift for Lyn’.
Both was put together in Baa, Baa, Black Sheep.
Line: length, as said above, line length depends on the type of poem. Free verse goes with the needs of the subject and how the poem evolves, and so has lines of varied lengths.
Line breaks, can add interest to blank verse or long lines etc.
Some poets avoid punctuation and only use it for clarity.
The rhythm of the last line changes, often by adding an extra syllable to formal poetry to form an ending cadence…. without it the listener expects more to follow.

Metaphor and Similes work in poems if used sparingly…
The only real rule is to read your work out load and if it’s difficult to get the words to flow edit….
Feel free, to disagree, with any of the above, as it’s based on my tool box….
Do you use any of the above? If so, which ones, why and how.


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