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IWW Practice-W Exercise Archives
Exercise: Everyone's a poet!

These exercises were written by IWW members and administrators to provide structured practice opportunities for its members. You are welcome to use them for practice as well. Please mention that you found them at the Internet Writers Workshop (http://www.internetwritingwor kshop.org/). Prepared by: Patricia Johnson

Posted on: Sun, 9 Dec 2001
Reposted on: Sun, 23 Nov 2003

This week's exercise gets us involved in poetry. Anyone who loves and uses language is a poet at heart. From nursery rhymes to great long poems full of form and rhythm like Longfellow's Hiawatha, everyone experiences poetry. (Even fiction and non-fiction use poetic devices.)

Poetry allows one to express the central heart of an idea using pared down and succinct wording. Musical qualities, rhyme, rhythm, free verse, symbolism and other poetic devices enable our ideas to be expressed in poetic form. Poetry allows every author to think through what they are writing, and express it in a fresh new way.

Don't worry if you have no experience with poetry, here is a helpful site that provides guidelines and a quick reference or refresher: http://www.csustan.edu/english/reuben/pal/append/AXF.HTML

Think of a story and see it as a poem. There are many examples of stories made into poems. One would be the story of Santa Claus told in the poem by Major Henry Livingston Jr.,(1748-1828), 'Twas the Night Before Christmas." Here are two verses from it:

   And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
   The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
   As I drew in my hand, and was turning around,
   Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.

   He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
   And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
   A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
   And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.

This rhymes and has an iambic beat. But poetry can be unrhymed as in the free verse form. Take for instance this poem by Rumi who was born in 1207:

   When I remember your love
   I cry, and when I hear others
   speak of you,
   then inside my chest,
   with its hollowness since your passing,
   once again a rustling as in a dream.

Some more examples of poetry can be found in song lyrics, like the old nursery song:

   "Pop Goes the Weasel"

   All around the cobbler's bench,
   The monkey chased the weasel,
   The monkey thought t'was all in fun,
   Pop! goes the weasel.

   A penny for a spool of thread,
   A penny for a needle,
   That's the way the money goes,
   Pop! goes the weasel.

Most pop songs of today have lyrics and poetic qualities - from Madonna, to Rap, to Elvis, there are poems in the songs we hear.

Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven" is another good example of a poem that tells a story, here is one stanza:

   But the raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only
   That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.
   Nothing further then he uttered- not a feather then he fluttered-
   Till I scarcely more than muttered, "other friends have flown before-
   On the morrow he will leave me, as my hopes have flown before."
   Then the bird said, "Nevermore."

(You can see the full poem at http://www.gutenberg.org/files/17192/17192-h/17192-h.htm - try reading this aloud to get the full effect of Poe's craft.)

Exercise: Take a scene or short prose piece of preferably your own work (but you may use another writer's work also) and turn it into a poem. Submit both the main theme of the scene, in less than 150 words, and the poem so we can compare the two.

When you critique a submission, mention the poetic devices you found in the poem and critique whether or not the main idea of the original story is at the heart of the poem. Have fun, remember, we are all poets!

Patricia Johnson's wrap-up

Thanks to everyone of you, poets, you made this a very successful exercise. Great poems were submitted, it was hard to believe some were first attempts. The submissions often started with disclaimers like 'I'm no poet', 'this is a first attempt, but it would seem our life-long exposure to poetry has helped each of us have a high level of skills that were apparent in the submissions and critiques. So, the title of this exercise is proven right in the Practice-w group - everyone's a poet.

Themes translated well from the prose pieces to the poems. Everyone had their own style, and many poems took different slants on the ideas of the prose theme. Florence Cardinal mentioned that many of the poems placed more emphasis on emotions. Emotion and other devices such as rhyme, rhythm, the senses, and symbolism transformed the poems from prose into something of their very own. The differences expressed in the poems are that magic that separates a poem from prose.

The critiques were excellent. They were professional and covered all aspects of the poems. Pointing out the poem's differences from a prose theme enabled the hidden treasures of a poem to be studied.

Rheal mentioned that there is a thread in the writing list about poetry. He posted the poetry exercise with some comments at the writing list. Read it - it mentions that poetry does not have to be so symbolic and laden with covert messages that it becomes inaccessible to readers.

To quote Rheal in a separate post, "It's great to see people start with "I'm not a poet", then come up with a great poem." I think all your submissions helped to prove his words right.

Web site created by Rhéal Nadeau and the administrators of the Internet Writing Workshop.
Modified by Gayle Surrette.