As you may know, I’m currently getting to grips with a Masters in Creative Writing with the Open University. As an exercise we were asked to look at lines in poetry and experiment with using different lengths. This is the lyric essay that I wrote as a result:
On Writing Long Lines
Well, I’ve never written a line this long
before, I’ve always gone the short route, yes
shorter even than this which seems to me to be
rather overlong, rather, you know, unnecessarily
wordy. It’s true, I’m not saying much, not capturing
your interest. See, I’m not fluent in this kind of thing, not
experienced in these long poetic pieces that successfully play
with language. Those lines that are musical, that live on in the ear
like a snapshot of a really good memory from years ago when you went
to the beach and laid prostrate for eight hours reading your favourite novel
of all time. Or that time when you danced until three under a full tropical moon
and, after the hangover wore off, you hummed the tunes for days on end never wanting
to lose that feeling of abandonment. But as you know, we all have to knuckle down and when
we’re asked to write in different lines, being creatures that need approval, we do as we are
told, even though its alien, it makes us feel weird inside, it makes our voices shake
and tremble towards the end as our breaths run out and our brains just can’t
take anymore. And so I’ve done it. I’ve written lines that maybe are not
poetry. Maybe they are. Who is to say? All I know is that in future
I’ll stick to my own little way and I’ll speak loud and clear
and in tiny lines of just three feet, no more than that,
and I doubt I’ll ever pen a poem using long lines
such as these, ever, no never, again.
Pearls in the garden
gleaming through the bawdy weeds
singing of the spring
Though there’s no blue sky
You can always find the sun
If you care to look
A bird in my hand
It sings its beguiling song
Then flutters away
A laden table
heavy with spring’s sweet nectar
is a gift to share
Ah well, I’ve just started the new year of my course, and I’ve seen the course materials and the assessment requirements, so anxiety is setting in big time. I decided to change my primary genre this year from fiction to poetry, ‘cos basically I like writing poetry more. Besides, it takes me ages to think of plots for stories but I can write a poem on practically anything you throw at me (it might not be a good poem, but it’ll be a poem – I give you ‘ode to my knickers‘…)
I do have the odd existential crisis around poetry though. I wonder what its for. Am I just writing it to show how jolly clever I am? To share a mood, an emotion? How my brain works in weird ways? (Certainly that last one is apparent in much of my work!)
I am thrown by some of the comments at my writers group too. I am one of only a few poets there, and some of the aspiring writers just don’t get poetry – ‘if it doesn’t rhyme it’s not a poem and you are not a poet’ was one memorable comment. And yes, I know, much as I love ’em all, they are heathens…. 😉
Of course, I can’t agree with that at all, I know it’s not correct. I read a lot of poetry both modern and classic and enjoy the free-verse and rhymes equally, as long as they connect with me in some way – make me think, bring a tear, make me laugh. And I love layers to unpeel, deeper meanings to uncover, thought provoking ideas, and beautiful use of language.
However, I have to agree, that for many people a quick ditty that doesn’t require analysis is the only poetry they understand and therefore, enjoy. For instance, who doesn’t like Pam Ayres and her ‘I wish I’d looked after me teeth!’, a poem many of us can identify with I’m sure.
On any creative writing course I doubt very much that this would be described as ‘good’ poetry, and I imagine I wouldn’t get a particularly high mark if I chose to submit something along those lines as part of an assessment. But hey, it makes us laugh, we understand it and empathise, and with it’s tumpty-tumbness, it’s memorable. Shouldn’t we appreciate that just as much?
But as I said, this was a brief crisis which has now been sat on. I work hard to write poems that require some reading between the lines. I like to find rhythm where there was none, and to play with words, spending hours finding the one that’s just right in that particular line making it delicious and dripping with meaning. I don’t often get that right of course, and some might say it’s not worth the effort, but I enjoy the process. And yes, I’m quietly pleased with myself when the whole thing comes together.
Last week I read an allegoric poem at the writers group which I was really pleased with, and the best they could say was ‘it’s good’ and ‘to the point’. I really wished they had had the time to check it out a bit further, given it just a little more thought. But in this world of rush and instant gratification perhaps allegory and metaphor are too time consuming and are a bit too much like hard work, so I’ll take the approval, albeit for what I consider to be, the wrong reasons. Of course, it might just be that the allegory is all in my head. At what point does it become clear to everyone I wonder? Its ok to have a blanket of layers but I guess it doesn’t need a whole bloomin’ duvet!
Oh dear, I fear all this studying is turning me into a bit of a thinker! I’ll keep on doing what I’m doing and work towards improving and expanding my writing and my thoughtiness… (and perhaps, my vocabulary!) 🙂
Hmmm…. just looking at me little blogs stats and realised that it’s been a dry year so far. Mainly, as I explained in an earlier blog (you remember… I’m sure you do…), that I can’t post any of my writing because of publishing restrictions on the course I’m doing (an MA on Creative Writing with the Open University since you ask). I actually daren’t post any just in case they’re half reasonable and I can fish them out when I’m in dire need halfway through next years module. But anyways…
Looking back I can see that actually when I first started this ‘journey’ I wasn’t posting that much creative writing stuff, more a mishmash of things I like, moany posts about life in general, and some photographs. The most activity was around the events hosted by wordpress, such as photo101 and writing101 which encouraged me to post every day. They were most excellent at keeping me on track and a lovely way to meet new online friends and get more followers. They were my most productive times on the site.
Oh I know I shouldn’t need that push and shove, but you know what it’s like, life gets in the way and there’s all sorts of excuses I could use – for instance, I have to take the dog to the vets in a mo’ and I’m busy bracing myself – it’s fair to say she doesn’t like it much! Anyone who’s met my dog knows she is a nervous sort and that’s enhanced a 100 fold on a trip to the you know where’s. It’s emotionally draining. No, not for her.. for me…
Anyhoo, I digress. One of the other reasons I haven’t been around here much lately is because I’ve taken on a couple of other sites (suttonartgroup and retwords) so have been busy making them look all pretty and alive whilst letting my poor flower die off a bit. This needs to be redressed methinks.
Therefore, I hereby promise to prattle on and post more frequently despite the limitations, and one day, when I eventually finish this darn course, I’ll be able to share that mountain of poetry and prose that is building up on my laptop.
Hope it’s worth the wait….
A verdant pansy
Flourishes pristine and bright
Against crumbling wall