Tips for the Lonely Free Verse Poet

Free Verse is a tricky.

Many people think that free verse poetry is a collection of random phrases. You can write emotional sounding sentences and expect that others will feel that your free verse is genius. This is not the case. There must be some definitive, connecting element. Structure is a must. In the following poems I use alliteration to create my structure. Other ways to create structure include: syllable matching (think iambic pentameter), graphic design (using space and shaping words into pictures or designs), ending each line with a similar characteristic (a letter or punctuation), or even using italics or bold or various fonts and colors to separate elements. A near rhyme every once in a while won’t hurt anyone either.

I recommend using alliteration to further the imagery in your poetry. Show how slick, slippery, and slimy, something is with a repetitious sound. The “sl sl sl” combination makes the poetry come alive when it is read aloud.

And now for my own, simple poems.

 

Day Reborn

Below, Beyond, Beneath the Cloud,

A glow, a glimmer, a glimpse of warmth.

Mighty, Majestic, Merging Mountains,

Underline the Unborn Sky.

Slowly, swelling, steadily,

The warmth takes on visible form.

Soon a circle shall be seen.

At dawn- the day reborn.

(Photo from an early morning hike I went on.) 

 

On Spindly Spokes

Time turns slowly on spindly spokes

Laced in gossamer threads.

Rocking chairs on porches sway in ticking time.

Creaking on the stairwell

– hush –

Footfall treads.

Thickness in the shadows.

Dust obscures the air.

The dirges of the midnight hour

Summoned of nowhere.

 

 

-M.M.

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Blame it on the Cats

In reading the first quarter of Pride and Prejudice this week, I came across a myriad of rich words. Some are old friends long forgotten, others are new friends not to be discarded. I have attempted to properly incorporate a majority of the following words into a mini story, which can found towards the bottom of this post. How many of these words do you know off the top of your head?

caprice-     a sudden, unpredictable change, as of one’s mind or the weather

ostentation-     pretentious or conspicuous show, as of wealth or importance; display                          intended to impress others

candor-     the state or quality of being frank, open, and sincere in speech or   expression

supercilious-     haughtily disdainful or contemptuous, as a person or a facial expression

piqued-     to affect with sharp irritation and resentment, especially some wound to pride

insipidity-     without distinctive, interesting, or stimulating qualities; vapid

effusion-     the act or effusing or pouring forth

tete-a-tete-     a private conversation or interview, usually between two people

indolent-     having or showing a disposition to avoid exertion; slothful

witticism-     a witty remark or sentence

piquet-     a card game played by two persons with a pack of 32 cards, the cards from deuces to sixes being excluded.

panegyric-     a lofty oration or writing in praise of a person or thing; eulogy

celerity-     swiftness; speed

expostulation-     remonstrance; earnest and kind protest

alacrity-     cheerful readiness, promptness, or willingness

approbation-     approval; commendation

propitious-     presenting favorable conditions; favorable

laconic-     using few words; expressing much in few words; concise

filial-     of, pertaining to, or befitting a son or daughter

obsequiousness-     characterized by or showing servile complaisance or deference; fawning

 

Blame it on the Cats

                 Mrs. Harmon was just dusting off an old grandfather clock in the hall which read one o’clock when she heard a rap on the front door.  Mrs. Calder, a life-long friend of Mrs. Harmon’s, had arrived on the doorstep of number 8, Ashwood Park, dressed in a multicolored, light cotton dresses. Though prone to occasional effusions of thought, Mrs. Calder was generally an amiable woman whose general insipidity allowed her to fade into the humdrum background of life. At least that was what most people who knew her thought. Not Mrs. Harmon. Mrs. Harmon knew that Mrs. Calder secretly led a very interesting life.

                Mrs. Harmon invited Mrs. Calder inside and led her to the backyard where a table with a yellow, striped umbrella was set for four. Would she like some lemonade? Of course she would- lemonade was a favorite. Why must she even think of asking? How was her health? Same as ever- healthy and uneventful. The tete-a-tete continued until Mrs. Harmon nearly choked on her glass of lemonade.

“You can’t be serious.”

“Oh! but I am,” replied Mrs. Calder knowingly, taking a slow sip from her glass, “and it’s all my fault.”

“Mr. Bronston! In the hospital of all places! By your actions! I always considered him with general approbation. He seemed such a fine, healthy salesman. What can have happened?”

“That is precisely what I hoped you would ask.” Mrs. Calder’s chair creaked as she leaned back and began her story.

“As you know well, I have had the propitious privilege of taking care of my mother’s seven cats this past week. She has a filial bond with them, and the cats respond with alacrity to any whim of my mother’s. However, I have observed that they have no such love of me. They are full of caprice. They stalk my home indolently; I have never observed a more supercilious display of ostentation in my life. They lounge wherever they choose- on the sofa, on the table, in the closet- and glare at me as I walk by.”

“After breakfast today, I decided to try to make amends with the little scoundrels. I procured seven leashes, left by my mother for the sole purpose of walking the cats, a notion I found utterly ridiculous. I told my mother so when she gave them to me, but she started in on one of her panegyric lectures, extolling the health benefits of ‘cat-walking’.”

Here, Mrs. Harmon interjected. “That is ridiculous! I’ve heard of walking a dog, but walking a cat! The thought! Let alone seven of them!”

“Yes, I couldn’t agree more.” Mrs. Calder adjusted herself in the chair. “The leashes immediately piqued the cats’ interests. Before long, all seven of them were gathered around my legs, purring and rubbing against my ankles with obsequiousness. I harnessed each one, and as soon as I opened the front door, the cats bounded outside with such celerity that I nearly lost my grip. We zipped out onto Sheffield Street and rounded the corner onto Carrol Road.”

Mrs. Calder paused, squinting in the afternoon sun. “Would you be a darling and adjust the umbrella for me? Thank you, Helen.”

As Mrs. Harmon stood to adjust the umbrella Mrs. Calder continued. “The cats seemed to know exactly where they wanted to go. They made a bee-line for several ragged heaps of old blue carpet on the curb. The cats scratched and clawed and stretched and meowed all over the heap. I chided them with gentle expostulation, but the cats were obliviously blissful by that point. Since the carpets were clearly trash, I didn’t mind much.”

“Once the cats were done basking in the glory of those ratty carpets- a good fifteen minutes mind you- the cats seemed completely satisfied to follow me home, and they have been most kind to me ever since. As I locked the front door of my house I heard the distant siren of an ambulance, but thought nothing of it at the time.”

“And…” prompted Mrs. Harmon.

“And it was all my fault!” Mrs. Calder looked sheepish. “It turns out that Mr. Bronston is a very successful carpet salesman who happens to be deathly allergic to cats.”

Mrs. Harmon shook her head. “Poor Mr. Bronston. Will he be well soon?

“Of course he will. I called the hospital and they assured me that he is going to be fine and probably home, safe and sound, in an hour or two.”

“Are you going to tell him what happened?”

Mrs. Calder shrugged and answered with a final witicism. “I do not intend to, but if he does ask, well … I’ll blame it on the cats.”

 

-M.M.

 

*Photo courtesy of the WordPress Blog “Eco-Mentalism”

Long Distance Love and a Ukulele

“Get to You” is a song I wrote on the ukulele. As with all songs, the words are rather lifeless without the music. Music has the ability to portray emotions and subtle nuances that the spoken word cannot. Due to the fact that this was the first song I ever wrote of any merit on the ukulele, it uses simple chords. (CM, GM, FM, and Am with melody or sub-melody finger picking added in.) Each song I write goes through a different creative process. This one started as a desire to write a short, folksy, cheerful song, and ended up that way. This is highly uncommon. Usually, a song starts one way and ends up another. I once wrote a piano song attempting to recreate the mood of the music in a Sherlock Holmes movie I watched and it ended up sounding like something out of Carmen. Go figure. Now I present to you my short ukulele song “Get to You.”

Get to You

 

Jimmy was a young boy down in Minnesota,

Wonderin’ if she’d gotten all the letters that he wrote her.

‘Cause just last May,

She moved away,

To a city on the sunshine coast.

But that’s just life-

It cuts in like a knife,

When it hurts the most.

 

Chorus:

When the goin’ gets tough the tough get a-goin’

When it seems love’s away.

And when the road gets rough the rough keep a-rollin’

Lovin’ on anyway.

Love so bright

-A shining light-

Will find you through the darkest night.

Love true.

Will get to you.

 

Annie Marie in her house by the sea,

Painting pictures of the seaside scenery.

Her thoughts wander back,

To the envelope stack,

And Jimmy’s “Happy Birthday” card.

She sings their song,

And tries to stay strong,

‘Cause leavin’ love behind is hard.

 

Chorus

 

A letter arrived in the mail today,

Jimmy just smiled at what it had to say.

“Though I miss you a ton,

I know you’re the one,

That can understand and see,

That though we’re apart

You’ll be in my heart.

I love you. Love, Annie Marie.”

 

Chorus

 

Love true.

Will get to you.

 

-M.M.

Adventureous

(painting by Richard C. Moore,  The Clipper Ship)

Adventurous

The Pirate stood on the Black Fear’s deck,

A spyglass to his eye,

High above, Her sails billowed

Boisterous to the sky.

His boots clacked as he paced the deck,

His sword upon his hip,

He ordered the skull and crossbones flown,

But he never loosed his grip,

Upon the map he held so dear,

A treasure to his heart,

Oh how the captain dearly loved

That weathered wrinkled chart!

Soon enough the anchor dove

To seek a sandy hold,

This island was the place alright,

It smelled of richest gold.

Through the jungle, on they trekked,

Hacking through the lush,

Until the jungle swallowed them whole,

With hungry vines and brush.

Soon enough they reached the cave,

And with their torches bright,

Ventured on into the dark,

Their fiery pitch cast light.

And then ahead- It couldn’t be!

There sat an ancient chest,

Locked with chains all rusted o’er,

The cave’s own lonely guest.

The captain kneeled reverently

And then his hand stretched out

The secrets that reside within

He could only dream about.

He broke the chains quite easily

With a creaky, cracking crunch,

And. . .

Jimmy, please stop playing now,

Come down and eat your lunch.

-M.M.

An Opening Sentence to Remember

I am beginning reading Jane Austen’s masterpiece Pride and Prejudice this week. I plan on posting my commentary and thoughts about the book, as time and occasion permit. If you would like to join me in my reading adventure, I am reading chapters one through nineteen this week. Today, I have decided to focus on the novel’s opening line.

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.” (page 1, chapter 1)

The opening sentence of Pride and Prejudice is quite an attention grabber. It introduces the idea of marriage and the part money can play in the process of marriage. The reader knows from the start that the story will probably involve one or more women vying for the hand of a rich man. The speaker of the first sentence seems to have an underlying motive. The speaker is most likely a woman, eager to marry off her daughter to some rich gentleman. Thus, the speaker attempts to convey her words as “a truth universally acknowledged” to either motivate the man to seek a wife or to motivate the daughter to seek a rich husband. Either way, the first sentence introduces the reader to Austin’s witty style and also to a central idea of the novel.

What do you think of the opening line? Is it successful and meaningful?

-M.M.

Dickinson, Short and Quickenson

Emily Dickinson (a poetess of some local renown, I’ve hear tell) wrote some of the most densely packed poems I have ever come across. They are rich in meaning, though judging by their length, one would never suppose it. I respect her for her precise word choice and clever use of punctuation and symbols. After studying several of her poems, I deemed to write my own. Though no where near as mature or deep in nature, I feel they get my point across.

 

Much to Say and None at All

 

Much to Say and None at all,

The sticky Shell is shrinking,

Time uncovers Cracks within,

Hollow Foundation’s thinking.

 

 

 

Too Long is Thought

 

Too long is Thought,

And short is Time.

When reversed,

-Behold- a rhyme!

 

 

What’s your favorite 4-liner poem?

 

-M.M.

Snape, a Raisin, and Comic Relief

Sometimes life is too full of the drab, the dull, the dank, the dark, the damp, and the dusty. Sometimes we need a little pick-me-up. We need a little miracle called laughter.

Prior to the release of the final Harry Potter book, fountains of theories about the reason Snape killed Dumbledore popped up on the internet. Each theory came back to one central question: What was Snape’s motivation? Did he do it because Dumbledore asked, or was it merely his final act of betrayal?
Years after the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, I composed a short, humorous scenario to explain Snape’s actions. Now, in times of unsolicited sadness or inexplicable melancholy, I turn to this simple poem to make me smile.
It is based off of Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven” (which is highly ironic template for a source of comic relief).

The Raisin (A Harry Potter Parody)

 

Once upon a midnight dreary, he was napping weak and weary,

Oh so done with pesky students- What a dismal chore!Startled by a sudden tapping, at the dungeon door a rapping,

The teacher wide awake came snapping, briskly to the dungeon door.

“ ‘Tis late for students to be prowling out upon this floor.

It must be this, and nothing more.’”

 

Opening the door a crack, wary of a sneak attack,

He was quite taken aback, to see a certain something he had never seen before.

‘Twas a puny hopping raisin, it bounced inside; it was amazin’,

Thought he, Someone’s charmed this raisin, to try to fright me to the core.

He passed his hand through greasy hair, Is this all or is there more?

Of course there is- there’s always more.

That’s when the raisin started singing, streams of verse toward heaven winging,

Tiny voice so clearly ringing, singing things he would remember always evermore.

“You’re dreadful as a potions master, and your hair is a disaster,

Your brain is really not much faster, than a baby dinosaur

Ever heard of soap before? You lazy, snooty, hooked-nosed bore.

And I’m not done, there’s so much more. . .”

 

Then the professor interjected, as is now to be expected,

And to the raisin he directed, “What are all these insults for?”

The raisin commenced in quick succession, to continue his quick procession,

Of insults brash with no discretion, while hopping on the dungeon floor.

As time passed he couldn’t take its hopping songs on dungeon floor.

No longer could he just ignore.

 

“Crazy raisin quit your dance, and answer me perhaps, perchance,

Who sent you here to taunt and prance- who sent you to my door?”

Never a beat the raisin skipping, in his tiny voice came slipping,

In betwixt some jumps and flipping, came the answer, “Dumbledore.”

In his rage the teacher swore that he would ‘kill that Dumbledore. . .’

The rest is hist’ry, evermore.

 

 

-M.M.

More Than A Story About Spoons

I took it upon myself to write a piece illustrating a personality trait I admire. A sort of parable, if you will. See if you can figure out which trait I am talking about.

 

Ere Ves Rep

 

A mountain of a wall.

Intimidating. Thick.

A behemoth and leviathan.

Polished, black, and slick.

 

“Ere Ves Rep! Ere Ves Rep!”

Came the Captain’s call.

A call to work. A call to work.

Soldiers one and all.

 

The Captain’s orders clear enough:

The wall must be undone.

Commencing in the morning,

The soldiers and the Sun.

 

“We have not tools to do the task.

Lo, Battle loometh soon.”

“Have ye none?” the Captain asked.

“We each but have a spoon.”

 

“Ere Ves Rep! Ere Ves Rep!”

Came the Captain’s call.

The task must be completed,

Though the means are small.

Like one-thousand feathers,

Against a wall of brick,

The men did battle with the wall,

Polished, black, and slick.

 

“Fruits have we not and ne’er shall have,

If we continue thus.”

One soldier said unto his Lord,

“I speak for all of us.”

 

“Ere Ves Rep! Ere Ves Rep!”

Came the same reply.

And all throughout the army’s camp,

The men all pondered “Why?”

 

The Sun returned for seven days,

And still the men scraped on,

Pushing forward with their might,

With motivation wan.

 

Progress little had they made,

And every soul confessed

As the moon set down the night,

The outlook grim at best.

 

“Ere Ves Rep! Ere Ves Rep!

At dawn the Captain’s call.

And at His voice, the wall did crack,

And crumble down and fall.

 

“Ere Ves Rep! Ere Ves Rep!”

A victory to all,

Who tackle the impossible,

And heed the Captain’s call.

 

The words “Ere Ves Rep” in reverse spell “Persevere.”

 

-M.M.

No Need for Calculophobia

 

If I say the word ‘calculus’, most people I know disappear behind a mental shield as if to say, “Ahhhh! Confusing word! Don’t hurt me!” but calculus really isn’t that scary. Silly waves of arithmophobia can be easily overcome with some simple explanations. As Hermione once said, “Fear of a name only increases fear of the thing itself.” (Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets).

Back to calculus. A long, long time ago there was a Greek guy named Archimedes. We’ll call him Archie. Archie lived back in the time before life was exciting, so to keep himself occupied, he did math. He started with a square. He gave himself a pat on the back when he learned that he could multiply the length times the width and find out a square’s area. Soon, Archie had graduated to bigger and better shapes- Octagons and Hexagons and Nonagons of all sizes. Then he hit a bump in his mathematical frolicking.

The circle. How could he find the area of a shape with no flat sides? He was stumped for a while, but he decided to start working at the problems. He took a circle and drew a hexagon inside of it. He thought to himself, “Well, Archie, you know that the area of the circle must be more than the area of the hexagon.

Then he drew another hexagon, this one larger than the circle. “Well, now I can find the area of this hexagon and I know it must be larger than the area of the circle.”

So now Archie had a range. He knew the area of the circle existed somewhere between the area of the hexagon inside the circle and the hexagon outside the circle. He was happier, but still wanted a better answer. He decided he could use a shape with more sides and create a closer approximation of the area of a circle. Archie calculated the areas of octagons, nonagons, and crazy-name-a-gons of which you have never heard, inside and outside of the circle. Eventually, after hours and hours of what he considered highly entertaining math, Archie’s approximation became so close to the real answer that  it didn’t really matter that he still didn’t have the answer. The difference between his range and the actual value became negligible. Thus, calculus was born.

Calculus allows you to figure out things (such as the area under a curvy line) that ‘normal’ Algebra or Geometry don’t allow. By getting so close to the answer that the difference becomes negligible, Calculus allows math-gurus everywhere to solve problems that don’t have a simple way to arrive at a solution.

So the next time someone mentions the word ‘calculus’, don’t shrivel up inside your comfort shell and quit listening. It’s not as scary as it seems.

Isn’t that cool? I think it is.

-M.M.

Writing Tips for the Author of a Bored Audience

Jeremy said, “One of the most difficult aspects of writing is crafting sentences that really engage the reader.”

Jenny, a close friend of Jeremy’s, disagreed. “No. It’s really not that hard. All you have to do is make it more interesting.”

“But that’s my problem, making it interesting,” said Jeremy.

“Exactly,” said Jenny.

Let’s see what can be done to make this small bit of writing a tad more exciting, shall we? First, let’s add some background. Characters floating in an empty space in your mind is hardly intriguing. Let’s have Jeremy trying to write an essay at a desk. Let’s make Jenny another kid in the class. Second, let’s change ‘said’ to something more expressive. Possibly an action. (This is a good idea as long as it keeps the flow of the writing; too much can be distracting.) Create some action. Show what the characters felt rather than telling how they felt. You can add interesting details into your writing using this technique.

Staring at the blank page on his desk, Jeremy remarked, “One of the most difficult aspects of writing is crafting sentences that really engage the reader,” speaking more to himself than anyone else.

Jenny, to Jeremy’s right, tossed her bouncing blond curls. “No. It’s really not that hard. All you have to do is make it more interesting.”

“But that’s my problem, making it interesting,” Jeremy sighed.

“Exactly,” replied Jenny nonchalantly  as she turned back to her own essay.

Make sure you proofread for mistakes. Subtle mistakes can weaken a reader’s trust in what you have to say. (Blonde with an ‘e’ is for girls and blond without an ‘e’ is for boys.) Also, experiment with deleting phrases. Sometimes saying more is less. If you don’t need to say who said something- don’t. Experiment with punctuation. A dash and a comma are similar devices with completely different effects on the writing.

Staring at the blank page on his desk, Jeremy remarked, “One of the most difficult aspects of writing is crafting sentences that really engage the reader.”

Jenny, to Jeremy’s right, tossed her bouncing blond curls. “No. It’s really not that hard. All you have to do is make it more interesting.”

 Jeremy sighed,”But that’s my problem- making it interesting.”

“Exactly.”

 

 

I hope these small tips help you in your future writing. It takes a long time to become a successful writer, a process I am realizing I am just beginning.

Until next time,

Adieu.

-M.M.