Notice: Some information and poetry for this series of poetry lessons is taken from Fundamentals of Poetry by William Leahy, published by Kenneth Publishing Company, Box 11120 , St. Petersburg, FL 33733, 1987 Edition, Copyright 1963. Unless otherwise noted, all specific examples and poems in this series are from this book.
There is a saying, "The pen is mightier than the sword." To a certain extent, that is true. Force may be used in a temporary situation, but words have longer lasting power. Words, spoken or published, have sparked wars, created nations, and changed the world in many ways. Documentation is the main phrase in business, government and education. Millions of documents are stored in different media daily. Archeologists depend of discovered documents to find out more about lost civilizations. Even knowing how ruthless Hitler was, his rise to power was done legally, according to German law at the time. Without propaganda, Hitler would have remained a lowly corporal. There is power in words! Now back to poetry...
Knowing the power of words, the writer needs inspiration to tell a story and to make his or her rhymes. Poetry is not all just describing the clouds or flowers, but it1s a good place to start. These kinds of things are objects around us. Writers need subjects that are familiar to them. It could be flowers or the clouds, but like reporters, poets see things around them in a different way, and put them into a perspective that makes the object fit in that writer1s reality. Unlike traditional reporters, though, poets can use adjectives and adverbs and action verbs to show emotion or feelings for a certain subject or topic. Poets are reporters in disguise! One of my favorite recent poems is "On Days Like These". I wrote it on a December day, the day my school was to dismiss for Christmas break. This is a stressful time for everyone, especially teachers, who sometimes don't want to be in the classroom as much as students desire to be at home. There are problems, unexpected situations, and sometimes plain bad luck that happen on "One of those days" as the phrase goes.
On Days Like These When the questions are in shades of grew, it's hard to think what to say on days like these. When I wrap my arms around you tight, my insides feel just right on days like these. When my emotions are tossed about, I just want to shout on days like these. When my mind rests at ease, I sip a glass of iced tea on days like these. When life's solution1s don't seem fair, I find it hard to care on days like these. When there doesn't seem to be time, I find those who are kind on days like these. When the answers don't seem right, the end isn't in sight on days like these. When I see that old photograph, I can1t help but laugh on days like these. When I see you smile at me, I'm glad you love me on days like these.
The little bits of inspirations can be collected from many sources, not just one main source. Sometimes, one thing many remind you of several other things and then the concept of the poem, the story you want to tell, is born. Serious writers make notebooks or files of story/poem ideas. Pages have of phrases or a sets of lines. Computers are great to keep ideas in memory, but be sure to jot them down as the arrive in your head. They are gone as quickly as they appear.
In the spring of 1994, there are a series of band and choir concerts performed by my schools classes. One particular PTA meeting, featuring the band concerts, I was taking pictures for the school yearbook. I notice a very well dressed little girl whose parents were somewhere near the front rows, where I was sitting. She was in the aisle dancing to the music in her own way in her own little world. I dropped my camera and recorded the words that described the experience. The poem was eventually published. Here's "Little Dancer".
Little Dancer She smiles to no one, except perhaps herself, as she dances with the music in her head. The world around her is filled with talking, and the people don't hear a single note. Her long, black hair rises as she twirls around, and the skirt of her dress flirts with the air. Content in her setting, she hears what she wants to hear, and disregards the rest.
Inspiration can come from things you see on TV or when you travel. They can come from things you read. The following poem, "Listen to the the Leaves" was my reaction to the way the Princess in the story "Rumpelstiltskin" found out the identity of the devilish creature who demanded her first born child. She had servants scout the woods where the creature lived and one heard the name of little man from his own mouth.
Listen to the Leaves L i s t e n t o t h e l e a v e s, so s i l e n t and q u i e t. There are no secrets in the jungle because there are so many leaves, and they listen to the movements of the animals. They know the direction of the wind, when it blows. Tap the knowledge from the leaves, and wisdom will flow like water through the roots entrenched in the wild, deadly bush country. L i s t e n t o t h e l e a v e s.
The original inspiration of the poem is not evident. Poets have a license to exaggerate the facts, to create a new situation, invent details, and improve upon the kernel of inspiration. This license is used only to achieve what the poet desires from the poem. Historically correct ballads would attempt to include all the facts along with detailed accounts and descriptions of the actions. Here is a very famous poem by Tennyson, "The Charge of the Light Brigade".
The Charge of the Light Brigade Half a league, half a league, Half a league onward, All in the valley of Death Rode the six hundred. "Forward the Light Brigade! Charge for the guns!" he said. Into the valley of Death Rode the six hundred. "Forward the Light Brigade!" Was there a man dismayed? Not though the soldier knew Some one had blundered. Theirs not to make reply, Theirs not to reason why, Theirs but to do or die. Into the valley of Death Rode the six hundred. Cannon to the right of them, Cannon to the left of them, Cannon in front of them Volleyed and thundered; Stormed at with shot and shell, Boldly they rode and well Into the jaws of Death, Into the mouth of hell Rode the six hundred. Flashed all their sabers bare, Flashed as they turned in air Sabring the gunners there, Charging an army, while All the world wondered. Plunged in the battery-smoke Right through the line they broke; Cossack and Russian Reeled from the saber stroke Shattered and sundered. Then they rode back, but not, Not the six hundred. Cannon to the right of them, Cannon to the left of them, Cannon in back of them Volleyed and thundered; Stormed at with shot and shell, While horse and hero fell, They that had fought so well Came through the jaws of Death. Back from the mouth of hell, All that was left of them, Left of six hundred. When can their glory fade? Oh, the wild charge they made! All the world wondered. Honor the charge they made! Honor the Light Brigade, Noble six hundred.
There are enough words in the English language to describe any thing, situation, action or place. Poets have extended their license to exaggerate to include the right to create new words if one does not fit. As demonstrated in this lesson, the right word or punctuation mark in the right place can have a profound difference. I heard on the news that a U.S. defense contract was increased by $70,000 because a coma was left out in one particular section of the contract. Observe the things, the people and events around you for the basis for your inspiration, and like tea, let ideas seep until they can become subjects for your poems. The words may taste good. I once read a poem about how to eat a poem.