a lesson

Poetry, Poetry Album, Old, Font, Poem, Saying, Memory
Image by Ulrike Mai from Pixabay 

If there’s anything I’ve learned about writing poetry, it’s that you’re never done learning how to do it. Anytime I find a new angle, a new inspiration, or technique, it feels like my first day as a poet all over again. I pick up my imaginary feather quill, dip it in my imaginary pot of magical ink, and I write.

So get out your imaginary quill and take a few notes. Perhaps there are a few poems waiting for you to birth them. Here are a few ideas that do not come from any book I’ve read or class I’ve taken, but from my quill, and the bend my mind takes while rounding new corners to find poetry.

Let’s talk syzygy.

(Ok so I learned a new word today and couldn’t resist adding it in…)

noun, plural syz·y·gies.

1. Astronomy . an alignment of three celestial objects, as the sun, the earth, and either the moon or a planet: Syzygy in the sun-earth-moon system occurs at the time of full moon and new moon.

2. Classical Prosody . a group or combination of two feet, sometimes restricted to a combination of two feet of different kinds.

3. any two related things, either alike or opposite.

We will consider the third definition of syzygy. Two examples will help to explain.

Parallel Syzygy Poem

The first example, I call parallel poetry writing. In this technique you will follow this equation:

Equation: an object, a living being, or a train of thought + an action = new poem

Rule: The first item, being, or thought will be the actual topic of your poem but you will borrow imagery and descriptive words from the action you have chosen. The two will be similar in some way so that the comparison isn’t too forced, uncomfortable, confusing, or stark.

Here is an example of a poem that I wrote using this method:

thoughts of a child + swinging on a swing = Yesterdays

As you can see, there are easy similarities to be drawn between a child and the action of swinging and the two are easily pictured in the same scene.

Here is the poem for quick reference:

Yesterdays

Why don’t you climb inside
my braids and sing
me a song?

swinging
out over the grasses
our feet stretched so high
the chain-link grinds
as we rise
toward
sun

Why don’t you open up your
freckles and let
me inside?

I need
to know where
the June bugs hide in the winter
when swings don’t swing
and the night
stands
still

Consider the first stanza; these are the silly things you’d find bouncing around inside of the head of a happy child, lost in imaginative play. This theme carries throughout the poem as this child contemplates freckles and friendship, June bugs and their wanderings.

The action of swinging is evident as expressed in stanza two. Listen to the sound of the chain link grinding on the pole as this child swings. There’s also an interesting twist to this poem with regards to the structure…swinging out and back in with the line lengths, to mimic the pattern of swinging.

Juxtaposed Syzygy Poem

Now for the second example, I call juxtaposed poetry writing. You will, again, follow this equation:

Equation: an object, a living being, or a train of thought + an action = new poem

Rule: The first item, being, or thought will be the actual topic of your poem but you will borrow imagery and descriptive words from the action you have chosen. The two things will have very little, if anything, in common.

Here is an example of a poem I wrote using this method:

thoughts on being a poet + the cleaning of a fish (butchering) =The Poet Cleaning

Here is the poem for quick reference:

The Poet Cleaning

Ripped from the belly of the sea
pregnant with vowels
our tails slap hard
pendulous swings,
our eyes are benign, panicked moons,
fibroadenomas
sitting inside our heads.

They must be plucked out.

We climb outside ourselves,
hold the knife steady,
scrape against the grain,
shedding our silvers
until we are clean,
carve a canoe-slice across our necks
another, neck to belly,
our insides slide free.

This poem is about the vulnerability of being a poet. The poet must open up parts of themselves, sometimes very personal, with raw honesty. Now consider the action. Have you ever seen the cleaning of a fish? If you have not it is a violent really kind of gross thing to see. The knife scraping the scales away (called the “silvers” in this poem), and slicing off the head, cutting the length of the belly the fishes guts spill out in a slippery glub. The panicked eyes are wide.

I described the writer process using the terminology, visual images, and description of a fish cleaning process to show that opening process the poet does while writing. We dig pretty deep when writing poetry — our insides slide free.

One would not normally think of these two things at the same time, but the metaphor sits well in this poem, giving it richness, depth, and provokes an emotional reaction in the reader.

Now, anyone want to give it a try?

Choose either of the above methods and write your poem. Link back here so I can see what you create!

“And the time came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

― Anaïs Nin


Christina Ward is a poet and aspiring author working on her first book, a piece of literary, mainstream fiction, and is a columnist for the Observer News Enterprise newspaper. Her poetry has been published in the Cameo literary magazine, the Arrowhead literary magazine, Vita Brevis Poetry Magazine, and in Wolff Poetry Literary Magazine.

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