“To His Brooke.” Review

Edmund Spenser’s  “To His Brooke.”

For those of you who don’t happen to have a wonderful copy of The Yale Edition of the Shorter Poems of Edmund Spenser or those of you who have never heard of Edmund Spenser before you searched poetry on WordPress, here’s a copy of the poem I will be talking about.

To His Brooke.

Goe little brooke: thy selfe present,
as child whose parent was unkent:
To him that is the president
Of noblesse and of chevalree,
And if that Envie barke at thee,
As sure it will, for succoure flee
Under the shadow of his wing,
and asked, who thee forth did bring,
A shepheards swaine saye did thee sing,
All as his straying flocke he fedde:
And when his honor has thee redde:
Carve pardon for my hardyhedde.
But if that any aske thy name,
Say thou wert base begot with blame:
For thy thereof thou takest shame.
And when thou art past jeopardee,
Come tell me, what was sayd of mee:
And I will send more after thee.

Immeritô

With the text out of the way, I’d like to talk about the poem, but first, there’s one more order of business. I want to paraphrase the poem as well, so if you don’t want to read my paraphrase of the poem, skip the next speech box.

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Metaphorical Discussions

Hey guys, today I thought I’d look at metaphor since it’s something that is so heavily laced not only in poetry but in writing in general. Metaphors are something that are around us all day every day, but we never really pay them much mind. For instance, most idioms started out as metaphors. “The squeaky wheel gets the grease” comes from people having squeaky wheels on wagons. “Don’t rock the boat” comes from a time when fishing and boating was more prevalent.

So here are some things that school wouldn’t have taught you:

Metaphors are not always nouns related to one another. For instance “the truck washed through the traffic” is using a verb ‘washed’ for the metaphor. The truck can’t literally wash through anything, and washing out something is usually reserved for a river or a a washing machine of some sort. It still works as a metaphor because it’s descriptive and relatable. We often wouldn’t even qualify it as a metaphor because it’s so commonplace to use phrases like that. They often end up classified as personification too.

Metaphors are best used when relating very common situations. Think about one of the primary uses of metaphors, describing emotions, and consider some of your favorite. “My heart is a racehorse whenever I see her” is a good example of a metaphor with something abstract like love and something common like racehorses. Even if you’ve never actually been to the horse races, you know what they’re like. We’ve all seen them recreated on TV and in movies. We all know that concept. That’s what makes it a strong metaphor.

An entire poem can be a metaphor. Sometimes when writing a descriptive poem I find it fun to create a metaphor and stick with it for the entire poem. There is one I did recently about dust where I used the dust as a metaphor for my speaker throughout the poem. These can be enlightening because they give people a common object to look at and a complex object to relate it to.

Metaphors don’t always have to be bread and butter. By that metaphor I mean they don’t have to match perfectly every time. If I’m writing a longer metaphor, like the poem about dust, I like to work through the metaphor and lead the train of thought down the paths I need rather than the paths that don’t work. It’s all about finding a way to create an expectation away from notions that don’t fit with the metaphor.

You don’t have to use them! Even in poetry using metaphors is optional. If you don’t like them, you have their cousin similes which are just as useful as metaphors, although they don’t always pack the same punch. For example if we were writing a metaphor of someone’s life becoming horrible and saying it was like getting ripped apart by wolves, it’s a very different experience to literally have a man eaten by wolves, and to have his boss eat him like a wolf for a tension in a story.

Readers don’t have to understand or notice every metaphor. Not all readers are engaging with a story as something to analyze and that’s okay. Some of them just like to enjoy the pretty pictures. I know I do. That doesn’t mean you have to stop putting them in, it just means that you don’t have to be upset if they don’t see them. Also, sometimes metaphors come so naturally to a reader they won’t even notice you wrote it in. Those are the good ones.

It’s not necessary to only use real life things as metaphors. One of my favorite things to write are metaphors where the emotion or object we’re somewhat familiar with is actually describing an unknown new book specific thing in what feels like a reverse metaphor. For instance “His twisting mind was a jarraquin eating her lunch.” tells us more information about what “jarraquin” might be or mean rather than how his mind twisted. We know from personal experience what a “twisting mind” might look like and since we have a little context of “eating her lunch” we know this is probably an animal or a living thing of some sort. With “twisting” paired with it we can assume that it’s something that bends awkwardly and twists. This is one way we can clue in our readers using context clues in a very short description. We could even go on to say “his vivacious emotions are bright jarraquin plumage on his face” to add to a description of them using more vibrant words.

The last thing school might not have taught you about metaphor is that they’re great for arguments. If you want to argue with someone about something and you bring up a solid metaphor, oftentimes you can use it to support your argument through a wide variety of examples from the metaphor’s object and it will actually work until they realize they can say “yeah, but the man wasn’t eaten by wolves” to get out of it.

Do you have any tips for writing metaphors?
Do you have any metaphors you love to use?
Have you used a metaphor in a poem recently and you want to share?

Comment! I’d love to hear from you.

Taking the Dive

I can’t say I’m good at “taking the dive” in the figurative or literal sense. If you put me on a diving board, I’ll just stand there and wonder why the stairs aren’t a better way to enter the water. I’m frozen by my fears. My flight or fight response is broken. When faced with something that terrifies me, I do not try to fight it, because I am sure I will lose, and I do not try to run from it, for fear it will chase me.

In this way, I’m always on a diving platform staring down at the water from above, waiting for someone to push me in so I can go without needing the courage to jump.

I would talk at nauseum about what recent jumps I’ve been forced to take, or those I’m still waiting on, but this is, at it’s heart, a blog about getting better at poetry from one person who’s gotten only 3 poems published to millions of people who aren’t listening, and a handful of you who are curious enough to humor me. So instead, I think it would be more interesting for us few in the wings of millions, to talk about language.

That’s what we’re here for after all.

Figurative language is the art of finding something physical or so well known that when you say an example, the example doesn’t need any explanation. Usually these are all very old examples, and we’ve come to know some phrases over time rather than remembering the example, but the results are the same.

“Take the plunge”, “take the dive”, “take the jump”, they’re all the same example, leaping off of something either with or without knowing the results, and doing it with your full body, putting death on the line. People use this expression to say “go for it” or “don’t fear the results, do it anyway” and for me this can be a powerful encouragement, or a reminder of what I was avoiding in the first place. So how can we use figurative language to support our poems?

Simple, make our own. The idea of “take the dive” is the trepidation which stops us from moving forward, it is the human inability to perform when being faced with a challenge greater than they think is worth the risks. The saying is meant to say that “I took a chance” and even though I didn’t like the risks, I did it anyway with all of my effort.

From there, now that we know what it means, we can come up with our own. Think of something that stops you in your tracks every time, and ask yourself what you are least likely to do with that situation. Be careful now, we don’t want people dead, so if you’re thinking “pet the lion” or “step on the tracks in front of a train” back it off a step or two.

For me, my non-deadly thing I don’t do is touch spiders. I am creeped out by them with their long legs and quick movements. Because of that, instead of saying “take the dive” I could say “touch the spider.” I stood petrified until I touched the spider, and now, everything is fine.

There are a few things to be careful with. First, you don’t want to confuse people. If it isn’t clear why it is something which matches with the original saying, then add in context clues. Second, if it doesn’t fit with the poem you’re writing, add in context clues. If you’re not sure what I mean by context clues, restate your intent in another way, or give the reader a chance to understand by what else is being said.

Now, if you want to take me up on it, write a short poem with an idiom or phrase you replaced, and comment, give me a link or how to find it, and I’ll give you a review!

I look forward to reading your work.

Rap and Poetry

Today, English teachers try to engage their students with poetry by saying “it’s like rap” even though there are a lot of differences in the way that rap and poetry function. Poetry and rap are different because while rap has a beat or rhythm that it’s set to, poetry often creates a beat through word choice and meter. Also, rap is more prone to rhyming, or requiring rhyming than poetry. Lastly, rap and poetry differ widely when it comes to stylistic developments. The first one, and most obvious, is that rap has a beat pounded with it, and while that’s not always the case out loud, it usually is with motion.

Rap has developed over the time almost like a cousin to beat poetry, or the movement in poetry when it was more important to hit the spoken word aspect of sounds rather than presenting a story, or a clean reading. There’s a lot of interaction with both of them. With rap, there is dancing, singing along, and even rap battles. With beat poetry, they also have battles and audience jeering. This is the primary similarity between poetry and rap.

However, not all poetry is beat or spoken word, and while you could debate that all rap is poetry, you could also debate all songs are poetry, or all music in general, even instrumental, is poetry. To start kids off in poetry, this is great, but once you want to get into the more complex explorations of poetry, once you start developing an understanding of different forms, different eras, rap and poetry stop being similar.

Not all poetry relies heavily on the spoken word’s beat, or tonality. A lot of it has been morphed into something that can be read silently to yourself, although it always sounds more visceral out loud. Also rap tends to be a lot longer than most poems today. With the waning attention spans due to the wide variety of entertainment, it’s hard to keep someone around for a 5 minute read, so poems tend to be one page.

If you look at the length of a typical rap song, such as Eminem’s “Rap God” you can easily see it’s much longer than one page. [Warning: explicit language in Rap God]

If you look at a recent poem published by The Poetry Foundation, like “A French Piano Tuner & a One-Eyed Glassblower Walk into a Bar” you will see that not only are the lines much shorter, but the poem in general is small. [Warning: explicit language in A French Piano Tuner & a One-Eyed Glassblower Walk into a Bar]

In many ways that’s because rap is made to almost be a verbal plethora of language, to speak quick and combine tricky sounds. Poetry in general, is a slower sport. This helps build the next difference between the two.

Rap is more prone to rhyming than poetry. That is because rap tends to ride through the rhythm and rhyme of the words to speak faster and keep your tongue from twisting, while poetry is relying more heavily on meaning and inferred messages. It becomes necessary to remain slower so people can catch all of the words clearly.

This isn’t to say that rappers don’t speak clearly, they do. It’s just that their goal is sometimes to best the others in their field by pure eloquence of phrase and speed, whereas Poetry aims to obtain the most visceral, or emotional response. Both of them also have classes within their groupings. Some are more popular than others, some are easier to follow than others.

While I talk about Eminem, there are some audiences who are widely familiar with the more popular rappers of today’s generation which have different styles of rapping, just as I know of many styles unlike the poem I used as an example. For instance, this particular song “XO Tour Llif3” produced by JW Lucas and TM88 on the most popular songs on SoundCloud, a music listening website, is different from “Rap God” but still considered rap.

Lastly, or at least the last one I want to talk about, is that rap is stylistically different. As you can see from the examples, rap and poetry can have the same subject matter, or similarly explicit language, but be very different in how they approach a situation.

For poetry, conservation is the name of the game. Fit as much as you can in the tightest space possible, and then cut half of it. In rap, it’s more about the flow of the style. Fit whatever you need to in the song, but make sure you’re entertaining and giving people they can use to follow along.

All in all, the primary difference falls down to the audience’s expectations. Poems used to be more like songs or rap, but the more we expect from either class, the less similar they become. As we expect people to avoid repeating themselves, the styles change to conform, and as we expect them to read less, again, the style changes. It becomes a game of knowing your audience and writing for them.

The last thing I’d like to leave you with is a question. What differences or similarities do you see between different songs? Can you pick out a writer from the lyrics alone, or does it take the voice?

National Poetry Month

It’s that time of year again.

National Poetry Month is based on the premise that the more you write, the better you’ll get, but there’s a flipside to that. The more you write, the less time you spend reading, and that can really hinder your ability to improve.

For me, it becomes a balance between reading and writing. Read a poem, write a poem, be aware of poetic language throughout the day, all of it is what National Poetry is good for.

The most surprising place I find beautiful poetry is on the radio. There are a lot of song writers today that develop language through poetry and write stories with their songs. Some of the big names in the business do just that, like Taylor Swift, and Eminem.

Sometimes the message isn’t always the right one, but listening to how the music flows with the words can help improve craft. You can concentrate on stresses, learn to write in meter, and how to rhyme better while listening to music.

So in that way, it can be really easy to get your “reading” time in if you have to drive, but you can also hide a chapbook in the bathroom, or have one on your phone through the Kindle app. They have a lot of poetry books for free in the store.

Most of them are the old books too, so you can learn some of the more famous names like Wordsworth, Shakespeare, Longfellow, and so forth.

 

A Poem: Inaugurations

I get sick of hearing
that we’re making history
with this or that, because we’re not making history.
History is what people of the future record.
People won’t look back in the book of records
and remember two hundred years from now
that these things happened.

They will look back, decide what they wish to say
and then morph it into the important side notes of life.
Current history isn’t history,
it’s a life changing event.

I went to see this amazing event,
but the event was more important to me than
making history.

Being in that crowed of all those people,
the president spoke and hearing the words
echo over the Jumbo-trons
made me shiver like a ghost touched me.

All these people,
all these individuals from everywhere, and everything,
came in curiosity, hope, and faith in this man.
Every crowed and every section on that day
had different reactions,
different moments of sadness,
of happiness, and cheers.

Those people in those crowds made up different lives
showed to represent different places
and all of us stood together,
crouched together
huddled together in the cold,
and listened together.

We may have been making history,
but it was about the moment,
that feeling of comradery and friendship
the ability to lean on your neighbor for warmth
a neighbor whom you would never meet again
and to see everyone at once react,
being enthralled in the speech.

The Inauguration of President Obama
wasn’t about making history
it was about the United States
coming together to support and witness this man
and it wasn’t about the first black President,
it was about a leader who could take us forward,
give us the support and hard work we need
to prove our vote still matters.

A Poem: Garden

Garden It was ripped to shreds turned over, and dumped atop a chipped hole in the earth. The garden had been pretty. Weedy, but pretty nevertheless. Like anything it took time to grow a bleeding heart, a couple bushes the occasional tulip planting a horrifying dog toy and bones but in the end, all of […]