RoadWriter

Heart, Soul, and Rough Edges — A Gypsy Journey of Words and Wonder

Archive for the tag “Margaret”

My Voice

I’ve been thinking about voice a lot lately. Voice, as in writer’s voice, what is it, where does it come from, what influences it. As a writer, I love words and word play, have a good knowledge of English grammar, can speak, read and write French well enough to carry on a conversation, read a book, and appreciate some of the differences in the grammars. I enjoy humor and like writing all kinds of humorous poetry.

Many things have influenced me as a writer, but one of the biggest was my father. An attorney who appeared twice before the Supreme Court, he love the English language and was adamant about correct usage. Every time my sister or I would make a mistake, he would repeat the whole rule and its explanation. Not simply the correction. The whole, blasted thing. He also refused, generally, to give us the meaning of a word; he made us look them up ourselves. At the time I found the whole thing beyond annoying. Now I view it as one of the biggest gifts he could have given me.

He also encouraged us to read widely. I recall reading Damon Runyon and O’Henry among others at about age twelve, and having to look up about one word in every sentence. Talk about vocabulary building! And I can still recall discussions about points of grammar around the dinner table.

The New York Times crossword puzzle was another big influence, in that it led to my developing my own algorithm for generating rhymes. I am an auditory learner, and one day while doing the puzzle, searching for a word where I had the first letter, I realized that there were a very limited selection of sounds that could follow:
Consonant plus L sound: for example C plus L as in clap
Consonant plus R sound: for example C plus L as in crap
For some, Consonant plus W sound:   C plus W sound would be cwap — nope, that one’s not a word.
For S, C, and T: consonant plus H
For letter q: KW is the sound
Special case : S : S plus most of the others: S plus C , S plus C plus L, S plus C plus R…

But NOTE well.  We’re talking about SOUNDS, not spelling. I use C for the K sound.
If you’re visual and this throws you off, this system might not work for you. fat frat flat

I’ve used this algorithm for years. I love to rhyme, and although I now occasionally look up the rhymes using rhymezone.com, I can go through my own algorithm pretty quickly. I do better that way, because it forces me to contemplate each word and whether or not it would fit in the poem.

Although I love music and play the flute and the piccolo, I don’t listen to music as I write, nor do I see images when I listen to music. When I listen to music, I listen to music. It evokes emotions, but I don’t see pictures unreeling in my brain. I know some writers are inspired by music, like to write to music, and the like. I don’t, not in the way most people mean. I do find music to be very freeing when I’m letting my mind wander, contemplate plot, character, or whatever.

I have written several poems that were music-inspired. In  the cases I can remember, I was in my car listening to the radio when a particular song — or songs — got me started on a poem. Here is one of them. The first part of the first stanza was what was happening when the Kenny Chesney song started to play on the radio. I did have to go search out the titles of some of his other songs in order to fill out my conception of the poem. I’m nobly resisting the urge to revise it. It was published in an ezine:

Crack Up

Swish through car-lit darkness
Past squares of light,
street signs sparkling green and white.
Roll down your window,
feel the lemon air
ruffle what’s left of your hair.
Kenny Chesney blaring on the radio
loud enough to silence the thoughts in your head
waiting to be drowned in a cold beer.

Your wheels slide through ghosts of clouds,
past skeleton trees waving bare arms,
past lighted windows with families eating
roast chicken, green beans, potatoes
while the letter from your daughter
crinkles in your back pocket,
your seat belt chafing as
Kenny croons Who you’d Be Today.

The smell of leaf smoke drifts
through the window
as you drive at twenty-five miles per hour
past the cop in the turn-out on your left,
as the rain starts dripping down your windshield
and your windshield wipers quit.
You reach for a beer
as Kenny starts singing Keg in the Closet

Your car drifts into the center of the road
as you drop the empty on the floor,
reach behind you for another,
one hand on the wheel.
The car skids on wet leaves
going around that curve in the road
you forgot was there
and Kenny sings Steamy Windows.

The sweat drips down your neck
as you wrestle with the steering wheel,
brake on the empties,
your seat belt unfastened.
Skid into the tree.
Glass arrows your cheek your eye.
You’re bleeding from your ear.
Somewhere Kenny’s singing How Forever Feels.

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Poetic forms: Cento

National Poetry Month Display @ Forest Hills

National Poetry Month Display @ Forest Hills (Photo credit: mySAPL)

Poetic forms: the cento

A cento is like a rag rug, it’s composed of bits and pieces from other things. In the case of the rug, it’s pieces of old fabric. For the cento, it’s made of verses or passages from other poems, songs, articles, stories, or whatever by other authors.

The first cento I ever wrote was a haiku sequence, and perhaps because I’m a musician, I composed it using verses from old songs: Clementine, Go Tell Aunt Rhody, The Twelve Days of Christmas, Jingle Bells, Good King Wencheslas, and the old Tennessee Ernie Ford song, “Sixteen Tons,” which is one of my favorites. The haiku sequence was the traditional 5-7-5 syllable count of the Japanese haiku, rather than the freer form (seventeen syllables or less) used in so many modern American haiku. Choosing the 5-7-5 syllable count made it easy to select the songs.

Go tell Aunt Rhody, A Haiku Sequence

Twelve drummers drumming
When the snow was round about
Now the ground is white

Nine ladies dancing
Excavating for a mine
Dashing through the snow

Ten lords a leaping
When the snow lay round about
making spirits bright

Dashing through the snow
A partridge in a pear tree
Make the Yule-tide gay

If the Fates allow
When a poor man came in sight
Let your heart be light

And the store boss said
When a poor man came in sight
jingle all the way!

Here’s one I wrote  using lines from songs about the sea.

Sailor’s Song

A hundred years ago, three thousand miles away
A Yankee ship came down the river
With the tinkers and tailors and soldiers and all

Bound to the westward where the stormy winds blow
When this bold pirate
Fought them up and down

Fire in the cabin, fire in the hold
For to fight the foreign foe
Captain Hull broke his heart and died

He fought like a hero till he died
And fifty-five more lay bleeding in gore
Then the signal was sent for the grand ship to anchor.

They dug his grave with a silver spade

Here’s where they came from:
lines from songs on website
http://www.contemplator.com/sea/index.html

A Hundred Years Ago, “A Hundred years ago”
Three Thousand Miles, “Three Thousand Miles Away”
Blow, Boys, Blow, “A Yankee Ship Came Down the River”
Blow the Man Down, “With the tinkers and tailors and soldiers and all”

The Dreadnought, “..bound to the westward where the stormy winds blow”
The Bold Princess Royal, ” .. when this bold pirate”
Admiral Benbow, ” ..fought them up and down”

Fire Down Below, ” Fire in the cabin, fire in the hold,”
Johnny Todd, “For to fight the foreign foe”
Captain Hull, “Captain Hull”
Boney Was A Warrior “broke his heart and died”

Bold Nelson’s Praise, “He fought like a hero till he died”
John Paul Jones, “and fifty-five more lay bleeding in gore”
Spanish Ladies, “Then the signal was sent for the grand ship to anchor”

Storm Along, “They Dug His Grave with a silver spade”

And how, you might ask, did I pick these lines?

After I decided I wanted to write a cento using lines from songs about the sea, I searched for a website, and found the one above. I started down the list of songs, picking lines that looked like they might fit. Then I rearranged them. Then I rearranged them again. Then I passed the result past my poetry critique group, removed two lines that didn’t fit, and rearranged the poem into three line stanzas instead of quatrains. And there it was.

Here’s a link to a cento by poet John Asbury:

http://dougkirshen.com/dong/

Try it — it’s loads of fun.

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Persona Poems

English: Gwendolyn Brooks, Miami Book Fair Int...

Gwendolyn Brooks

Persona Poems

Persona poems are poems that are written in a voice other than that of the author, where the author pretends to be someone else. The first one I wrote was in response to a poetry writing exercise. The next one that I recall writing ended up in “Lifelines.” Since then, I’ve created two imaginary poets as part of the science fiction novels I’m writing, and written at least 30 poems by each of them.

Writing a persona poems involves getting inside the head of the narrator (or in my case, the supposed author of the poems). It’s kind of like acting a part in a play, except that the writer is creating their own dialogue.

One thing that surprised me in creating the two poets and writing in their voices was the ease with which I slipped inside their heads. The first poet I created, Raketh Namar, namesake of the main character in my novel Relocated, which will be available from MuseItUp publishing this coming July, was supposed to live and write 5,000 years before the action in the novel, and was the author of one of the most sacred texts of my aliens, the Aleynis. I don’t usually write prayers or write about spiritual subjects, yet I found myself writing them without difficulty.  This past November I created another poet, Constance Trusdatter, a very political poet who lives and writes about 100 years before the action of my current work in progress, another science fiction novel with some of the same characters as the first. I don’t usually write much about politics, yet a good number of Constance’s poems are strongly worded poems about this very subject.

Here is a persona poem by Gwendolyn Brooks, one of my favorite poets.The young girl’s voice, her longing, and her desire to be  bad come through so clearly.

Notice the pattern of two unrhymed lines followed by two lines with end rhymes, and how in the final stanza both pairs of lines rhyme.

http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/172082

a song in the front yard

By Gwendolyn Brooks
I’ve stayed in the front yard all my life.
I want a peek at the back
Where it’s rough and untended and hungry weed grows.
A girl gets sick of a rose.

I want to go in the back yard now
And maybe down the alley,
To where the charity children play.
I want a good time today.

They do some wonderful things.
They have some wonderful fun.
My mother sneers, but I say it’s fine
How they don’t have to go in at quarter to nine.
My mother, she tells me that Johnnie Mae
Will grow up to be a bad woman.
That George’ll be taken to Jail soon or late
(On account of last winter he sold our back gate).

But I say it’s fine. Honest, I do.
And I’d like to be a bad woman, too,
And wear the brave stockings of night-black lace
And strut down the streets with paint on my face.

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Where do poems come from: poetry prompts

Prompts are one of the ways that I generate poems, and one of the subjects I return to again and again is coffee.  Yes, that hot, black (I like mine black), bitter, caffeinated beverage that I gulp down every morning.

I keep my poetry in Google documents, so just for grins, I searched through my documents for poems that mention coffee. I stopped counting after I reached twenty. At least three of those poems were written in response to prompts. Nope, make that at least four.

I am well and truly addicted to coffee. At various times in my life, I have drunk up to twelve cups a day. When I cut way back, now many years ago, I was tired for a month. I drink a cup every morning. If I’m working at the computer, I often pour myself more — and am just as likely to take a couple of sips and forget about the rest. I’ll drink it hot, cold, and anywhere in between. I like mine black and strong, unless it’s iced, and then I like it with half and half. It’s my favorite excuse for memory lapses. I can always think of something to say about coffee.

The poem below was written in response to the April, 2010  day 25 prompt on Robert Lee Brewer’s blog. The prompt: write a poem inspired by a song, and to include song title and artist. Most of the songs in the poem below  are from Chicago’s album, “Chicago 17.”  In order to end the poem in the way I wanted to, I had to use one song from BoyzIIMen.  The poem appeared in Summer, 2010 issue of Cyclamens and Swords .

Road Work

Cars creep along Route 6,
sign reads,
Road construction.
Expect delays,
while Chicago’s “Stay the Night”
blares on my radio.

Headlights illuminate
bits of fog,
rain blows through
open window
while Peter or Bill
sings “Remember the Feeling.”

Swig cold coffee,
get a mouthful of grounds
as “Something About You”
drifts out my window.

Jacket’s wet,
no place to pull over
while someone’s singing
“Something was Wrong.”

Car cuts in front of me,
I stand on my brakes.
Chicago’s crooning
“Please Hold On.”

Sirens sing
up the highway
while Boyz II Men belt out
“End of the Road.”

This is another that was  written in response to a prompt from Robert Lee Brewer’s Poeticasides blog. The prompt was to write a poem in which someone (or something) is stuck somewhere.

Out of Stock

At the coffee house
I order a large inspiration,
cream, no sugar,
but they’re out,

so I pull out my notebook,
sketch connected circles,
large to small
across the page,

add squiggly lines,
then rows of dots,
finally a trace
of a tree,

and wait for something
to fill in the blanks.

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