e e Cummings famously wrote poetry with unusual page layouts, so it’s well worth looking at his work for options if you write poetry. In this example, he uses brackets (or parentheses) to structure the poem. There’s a good reading of the poem: “i carry your heart with me (i carry it in)” and then Nerdwriter shows us what’s going on in the structure.
Of course, in his day, the poet was using a typewriter, where there was a great deal of freedom with layout – as someone commented on this video, today’s word processors would try to correct idiosyncratic spellings, madeup words, and change lowercase “i” into “I” etc.
Proof positive that when you’re writing a powerful poem, its shape can be something as simple as a twist on an everyday voice/situation, or the banal pauses between events. And yes, it can include humour. And it can be great in a video.
(Video by Faber & Faber to illustrate poem “Thank you for Waiting)
Creative Takeaway Prompt
Do you have a very ordinary, boring situation/conversation/speech which you hear everyday? Take that form and write it so that you make it talk about something else, something you feel passionately about. Increase the strength of your words at the end to the extreme. (As Simon Armitage does, in this video).
Advanced – time how long you think it will take you to read your poem, allowing an extra 5-10 seconds. Have a friend video you on a mobile phone in that banal situation, then do a voiceover of yourself reading the poem. Finally, have the courage to put it on Youtube and publicise it in social media (this could be as simple as your personal Facebook page or Twitter.)
More video work – look at your written poems so far – is there one whose atmosphere could be videoed in a setting which reinforces the message?
Edinburgh, Scotland: Last night, I was at the book launch of a pamphlet book of poetry “Seen/Unseen” written in response to the artworks in an exhibition “Hidden Gems” at the City Art Centre, Edinburgh.
There was a brilliant turnout, in part due to the fact that there were 30 poets involved and most of them were there to read their poems. Kate Hastie mc-ed the event, having curated the book and the writers – all like herself drawn from the Scottish Graduate School for Arts & Humanities. Or, to put it another way, many doing Masters and PhDs in Literature or Writing. And to put it another way, rather likely to be our next generation of published professional writers.
Morris Grassie, The Sou’Westers, Arbroath, c.1957. Courtesy of the artist. (Photo: Antonia Reeve)
Vita Brevis, Ars Longa is a latin saying which means “Live is short, art lasts a long time” – and so it fits that an online writing magazine takes the name “Vita Brevis”.
I especially enjoyed this mix of writing by Christine Goodnough and picture by Bertha Wegmann… Have a look at it and see if perhaps you have a good, brief poem, which might fit their submissions policy. (To see the poem and picture together on the Vita Brevis website, just click on the coloured word “patchwork”, below.)
This weekend past, I was shown a beautiful and enjoyable way to start new writing – with a beneficial side effect of getting rid of writer’s block: begin by responding to a picture. The technical term for this is Ekphrasis – see previous blog post a year ago, here. And for me, it is hugely enjoyable, and a promising way forward.
This weekend’s workshop was called “Hidden Gems Open Masterclass: Ekphrasis: the art of writing about art”, held in City Art Centre, Edinburgh and tutored by Kate Hastie. We met to receive some practical guidelines on Ekphrasis – and then simply took the lift down, to select an artwork in the new exhibition in the basement, “Hidden Gems”, and write poem or prose lines about it.
“Every painting is a library of information” – Kate Hastie
Can you write a poem, today on the topic “NEW DAY“. This is day one of the PAD (Poem a Day) challenge for November.
If you’re taking part, interpret that how you will, and write a poem.
(If absolutely uninspired by this given topic – I know I’m finding it a bit obvious, cliched and bland – then do an experimental dip into Poetry Foundation online – lots of poets and poems to find out about – they also publish the American Poetry Magazine (front covers of it are featured image above this post). Dip and dive through the website till you find something interesting or pick something totally at random and see if it can be melded to the topic of New Day – and that’s you at the startline.)
If you still come up with banalities and no inspiration – how about working them into a form of poetry which you haven’t tried before? Then at least you’ll be learning and experimenting.
Robert Lee Brewster, setter of the Word Digest challenge – write a poem a day in November – has written his own example on that theme.
Robert Lee Brewster’s New Day Poem:
i had no desire for sugar
or processed foods or
anything else that might
taste good but tries to kill me
& i went for a run & lifted
weights & even sit ups
were not impossible & i
thought this is amazing
that i’m becoming this
version of myself that i
always thought i could be
until around midnight
when i gave in & had a snack
that turned into a meal that
transformed into a slide
that i hope someday will end