NaPoWriMo 2016: day twelve


Day twelve!

There were a few moments this week when I started second guessing myself. Not in writing my own poems. But in writing the next prompt to you.

Once I started writing these prompts last week, I quickly realized there was a pattern to what I was doing. And that pattern had a month long trajectory. And it wasn't necessarily what I thought it would be before we started.

Kind of like a poem, that way.

Words may start coming out one way and go in a completely different way. But by the time you are in the middle of writing them, they already seem to have been written; it is as if you are merely channeling them.

(This is what I mean, somewhat, by my term "gift poem.")

Some writers really love form. Rhyme excites them. Or (counting) syllabics brings them intense pleasure. Constraining the form of words gives them a shape, which - especially when it is successful - is like a victory of sorts.

Other poets won't (beyond a prompted poem or two) write this more formal verse. The victory isn't about the form, it's about the theme (or the emotion) to them.

And neither is "right" or "wrong." They are just writing what they need to write. The words that are spilling out of THEM.

The words that come spilling out of YOU are the ones that matter here.

Let's get to today's prompt, though, shall we?

If we're gonna do formal poetry prompts next week, the last piece of the puzzle you need to learn is metrics.

Metrics is the how-to of RHYTHM - yes, we got rhythm!

Whether you know how to count it or not, every word, every sentence we speak or write, has some kind of rhythm, because we are rhythmical creatures. (The beating of our hearts, the pumping of our blood, our breathing - all are innately rhythmic.)

Poetry takes that every day rhythm and elevates it through the cultivation of all these bits of things we've been practicing this week: shape, sound, meaning.

Later, we'll learn about how to scan a poem to find it's pattern (the meter) of stressed and unstressed syllables.

But today, we begin by counting syllables. This is called syllabic verse.

Haiku is syllabic verse (we'll devote a day to formal haiku writing later).

Today's prompt is to write a poem with a constrained number of syllables in each line.

You can choose the amount of syllables (and you can choose to write a haiku or a poem that has thirteen syllables in each line or you can make up your own varied syllabic nonce form like today's example poem:

by Heidi Steidlmayer:

I have seen the arrested
shrub inform the crag with grief.
Lichens crust the rocks with red.
Thorns punctuate the leaf.

Sorrow is not a desert
where one endures the other—
but footing lost and halting
step. And then another.

Each of the first three lines in the stanza has seven syllables. The last line has six syllables. Why? Because she wanted it to.

She still manages to keep the ending word in each line strong and the lines have an interesting balance between stopping at the end of the line and continuing on. (We'll talk about this more later, too.)

And it's all held together by the syllabic scheme. Oh, you might not notice it, but it's there, underneath, just waiting to be counted.

This is why I think of writing in syllabics as a secret pleasure for the poet. The "aha! I did it!" moment that no one else might take the time to count. Which is why it's fun to me!

I hope you have fun today writing in syllabics, too!

Or not, no need to follow the prompt if you're not feeling it (or you've already written your poem this morning). What matters is the daily writing and the poem that is waiting inside you, to be written today.

Happy poeming!