Tag Archives: Poetry

10 Ways To Make Your Words More Beautiful

April is National Poetry Month.

Today I celebrate beautiful words.

Regardless of tastes, preferences or trends, I believe the beautiful calls to us.

There is something inside of us that longs for symmetry, for rhythm, for thoughtful curves. Often we can appreciate delicate images that spurn our emotions, that bring out in us the good and noble. We all enjoy art for a variety of reasons, but no one can deny how well-crafted art serves a purpose. Art can point us to the good in humanity, echoing ancient truths. Beautiful art feeds our souls.

As we write, we can organize our words in such a way that their patterns, their meaning, their rhythm, their structure, and their message all sing together.  Beautiful words, in prose, cannot be accidents. Finely crafted words come with discipline and practice. Lovely sentences do not lay on the page passively waiting for an optic nerve to come by and give them life. Beautiful sentences dance — they vary in their length, in their structure, in the vivacity of their verbs and in the nuances of their nouns. These words paint a picture — they don’t slap it together.

10 Ways To Make Your Words More Beautiful

Beautiful words point to the strongest emotions on the human spectrum. They can inflame anger. The right words can render jealously hotter. They can pour out pain like a trickle or an avalanche. Beautiful words can sum up joy, can skip and staccato with each laugh and giggle. At their best, they are for Hallmark cards and tweets, fortune cookies and voicemails. Delicious words are for poets and teenagers, novelists and children, literati and pedestrian.

Famous Poetic Words. The 50 Most Quotes Lines of Poetry. Here’s another one I just want to sit and savor. 

Beautiful sentences dance. They vary in their length, in their structure, in the vivacity of their verbs and in the nuances of their nouns. Beautiful words paint a picture — they don’t slap it together. They can point to the strongest emotions on the human spectrum, inflaming anger, rendering jealously hotter. Beautiful words can pour out pain like a trickle or an avalanche. They can sum up joy, can skip and staccato with each laugh and giggle. They are are for Hallmark cards and tweets, fortune cookies and voicemails. Beautiful words are for poets and teenagers, novelists and children, literati and pedestrian. Words pair together like friends to create a private party of emotion and delight.

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Beautiful words play dress up when they are a metaphor, simile or allegory. They toy with their meaning, putting on a disguise, like a fake mustache or a floppy hat to be to the reader something they’re not. Oh, coy words tease and taunt the meanings and the similarities and the comparisons and the reader watches the burlesque stimulated to read more.

Buzzfeed’s Beautiful Words: 51 Of The Most Beautiful Sentences in literature. I found them very inspiring.

Beautiful words hide meaning like a treasure, daring the reader to look for clues to the mystery. Beautiful words leave ellipses like bread crumbs that tempt the reader to go deeper into the woods. Is the reader escaping the real world or rushing to danger? Beautiful words will never tell, they’ll just keep looking behind them as they run over limb and log to keep the chase going.

Beautiful words march together in alliteration. Bearing the beat together as brothers in a band, blaring their business to any reader who claps along in the parade. Beautiful words are not democratic. Some words get the short end of the stick. They are the low feeders in the phonetic and etymological gene pool. Those words are edited and beaten and mocked and their superior sisters are given chances to go to the ball.

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Untranslatable Words. This is a beautiful collection of words from other cultures that can’t be translated into English. I love the illustrations and I also like thinking of the imagination that came up for the need for these words. I also want to put them in my every day use right now. And then I found the same list even MORE beautifully illustrated! 

Beautiful words are parts of a whole. The vowels and consonants are like toddlers in a playground, picking their favorites for the swings or the ball game, holding hands or playing tag. Poor silent E can’t object. Insecure Q can’t go anywhere without U. Lonely Z finds himself picked last for the game. Bossy A tells them all to line up.The words are acrobats, flipping and flying in their palindromes and anagrams. The suffixes and prefixes fly like lost feathers as up they go to the highest of heights.

The Last Words. Huffington Post has a list of the most beautiful last lines in literature that “will make you want to read the whole book.” (Hey kids! Who wants to go to the library with me today?)

The beautiful words are our medium. They are crisp and wide like a crayon or pastel. Precise like a fine pen. Bold like charcoal and pool in the crevasses of meaning like a dab of watercolor. The words are gold and crimson and emerald and cobalt. Rich with facets and karats and sparkle. They dazzle and enchant and when they are put together like beads on a chain, we can wear them around our neck like jewels.

How can you make your words more beautiful?

1. Eliminate the adverbs and adjectives. Stick in a metaphor if you want the reader to appreciate the nuances and features of the noun. Or pick a better noun.

2. Read it out loud. Listen for rhythms and cadence. Add in phrases or clauses to slow things down, add description or amp up emotion.

3. Don’t let sentences start with “There was” or “There were.”

4. Rearrange where the verb and noun are in the sentence but don’t make it passive.

5. Add an element of emotion, especially in the verb choice you make.

6. Use Anglo-Saxon words rather than Latin words. Don’t know the difference? Check out this excellent blog post that explains the difference! 

“Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.”
Rudyard Kipling

7. Substitute any “be” verb for a verb that’s specific and vivacious. You know you’ve got a good one when you can see exactly what is happening.

8. Substitute every word for a synonym to see what you come up with. But don’t get fancy. Big, multi-syllable words may muddy your meaning.

9. Combine two short sentences or separate a long sentence into shorter ones. Sentences should be varying lengths. This is a bit hard to read, but you can get the point.

10. Look for weak modifiers like “very” or “some”. If a word in a sentence doesn’t have a precise purpose, take it out. In fact, read the sentence the omit the first word. Read it again omitting the second, then the third. If you don’t miss the word, or the meaning is unchanged, omit the word altogether.  In this point, I can safely omit the words, “weak”, “precise”, “in fact”, and “altogether.” See?

Beautiful words are our medium. We have control over them. We have them lined up in little drawers of our mind and dig through our thesaurus if we can’t find the right one. If we are good at what we do, they are chosen with care and precision. They are picked gingerly from the box and pressed into place with our fingertips. There they do not rest. They are to be re-read and deleted, edited and proofread, taken out and put back in.

I am thankful that I have such a glorious, magnificent, illogical, sometimes unwieldy medium in which to practice my art.

Sometimes I make the words more beautiful.

Sometimes they make me.


If you liked this post on beautiful words, you may also like:

Why Modern Writers Need Poems (Or Why Poems Are The Equivalent of Kale Smoothie) Or, Top 10 Ways Poetry is Better Than Food


Katharine Grubb is a homeschooling mother of five, a novelist, a baker of bread, a comedian wannabe, a former running coward and the author of Write A Novel In 10 Minutes A Day. Besides pursuing her own fiction and nonfiction writing dreams, she also leads 10 Minute Novelists on Facebook, an international group for time-crunched writers that focuses on tips, encouragement, and community.

Top 10 Ways To Make Your Words More Beautiful

by Katharine Grubb, 10 Minute Novelist

“Summer afternoon—summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.”
Henry James

Regardless of tastes, preferences or trends, I believe the beautiful calls to us.

There is something inside of us that longs for symmetry, for rhythm, for thoughtful curves, for delicacy, for images that spurn our emotions, that bring out in us the good and noble. We all enjoy art for a variety for reasons, but no one can deny how beautiful art serves a purpose.

Beautiful art points us to the good in humanity.

As we write, we can organize our words  in such a way that their patterns, their meaning, their rhythm, their structure, and their message all sing together.   Finely crafted words come with discipline and practice. Beautiful sentences do not lay on the page passively waiting for an optic nerve to come by and give them life. Beautiful sentences dance — they vary in their length, in their structure, in the vivacity of their verbs and in the nuances of their nouns. Beautiful words paint a picture — they don’t slap it together. Beautiful words point to the strongest emotions on the human spectrum. Beautiful words can enflame anger.  Beautiful words can render jealously hotter. Beautiful words can pour out pain like a trickle or an avalanche. Beautiful words can sum up joy, can skip and staccato with each laugh and giggle. Beautiful words are for Hallmark cards and tweets, fortune cookies and voicemails. Beautiful words are for poets and teenagers, novelists and children, literati and pedestrian. Beautiful words pair together like friends to create a private party of emotion and delight.

Beautiful words, in prose, cannot be accidents.

Beautiful words play dress up when they are metaphor,simile or allegory. They toy with their meaning, putting on disguise, like a fake moustache or a floppy hat to be to the reader something they’re not. Oh, coy words tease and taunt the meanings and the similarities and the comparisons and the reader watches the burlesque stimulated to read more.

“I don’t know what it means and I don’t care because it’s Shakespeare and it’s like having jewels in my mouth when I say the words.”
― Frank McCourt, Angela’s Ashes

Beautiful art exalts mankind’s creativity.

Beautiful words hide meaning like a treasure, daring the reader to look for clues to the mystery. Beautiful words leave ellipses like bread crumbs that tempt the reader to go deeper into the woods. Is the reader escaping the real world or rushing to danger? Beautiful words will never tell, they’ll just keep looking behind them as they run over limb and log to keep the chase going.

Beautiful art echoes ancient truths.

Beautiful words march together in alliteration. Bearing the beat together as brothers in a band, blaring their business to any reader who claps along in the parade. Beautiful words are not democratic. Some words get the short end of the stick. They are the low feeders in the phonetic and entymological gene pool. Those words are edited and beaten and mocked and their superior sisters are given chances to go to the ball.

Beautiful art feeds our souls.

Beautiful words are parts of a whole, the vowels and consonants are like toddlers in a playground, picking their favorites for the swings or the ball game, holding hands or playing tag. Poor silent e can’t object. Poor insecure Q can’t go anywhere without U. Poor Z finds himself picked last for the game. Bossy A tells them all to line up. The words are acrobats, flipping and flying in their palindromes and anagrams. The suffixes and prefixes fly like lost feathers as up they go to the highest of heights.

“The two most beautiful words in the English language are ‘cheque enclosed.”
― Dorothy Parker

The beautiful words are our medium.

They are crisp and wide like a crayon or pastel. They are precise like a fine pen. They are bold like charcoal and pool in the crevasses of meaning like a dab of watercolor. The words are gold and crimson and emerald and cobalt. They are rich with facets and carats and sparkle. They dazzle and enchant and when they are put together like beads on a chain, we can wear them around our neck like jewels.

How can we make words more beautiful?

How can we sculpt our sentences in such a way that the true essence of our meaning shines through? How can we enhance truth through a well-crafted sentence?

Top 10 Ways To Make Your Words More Beautiful by Katharine Grubb, 10 Minute Novelist

 

Try these suggestions:

 

 

1. Eliminate the adverbs and adjectives. Stick in a metaphor if you want the reader to appreciate the nuances and features of the noun. Or pick a better noun. Need inspiration? The 50 Most Quotes Lines of Poetry. Here’s another one I just want to sit and savor. 

2. Read it out loud. Listen for rhythms and cadence. Add in phrases or clauses to slow things down, add description or amp up emotion. Need inspiration? Try reading Buzzfeed’s Beautiful Words: 51 Of The Most Beautiful Sentences in literature. I found them very inspiring.

3. Don’t let it start with “There was” or “There were.” Look at these quotes for the structure or how they begin the sentence. This may give you a good idea how to improve. The website calls it, “These 33 One-Sentence Quotes Will Blow Your Mind Every Time. Especially The 8th One.” That’s a bit of an overstatement, but they are nice and noble and short! (That can’t be said about the ads!)

4. Rearrange where the verb and noun are in the sentence, but don’t make it passive. Poets and songwriters have to tinker with word arrangement to make sentences work better rhythmically. Need examples? This fascinating article from The Guardian admires the beauty of the lyrics in Stephen Sondheim musicals. I loved this!

5. Add an element of emotion, especially in the verb choice you make. Here’s a list of 317 “power words” that you can sprinkle in your prose. The context of this article is blogging, but any of these words will do for your fiction too!

6. Use Anglo Saxon words rather than Latin words. Don’t know the difference? Check out this excellent blog post that explains the difference! 

“Poetry is the rhythmical creation of beauty in words.”
Edgar Allan Poe

7. Substitute any “be” verb for a verb that’s specific and vivacious. You know you’ve got a good one when you can see exactly what is happening. You can be more expressive with a little work and imagination. Need inspiration?  This is a beautiful collection of words from other cultures that can’t be translated into English. I love the illustrations and I also like thinking of the imagination that came up for the need for these words. I also want to put them in my every day use right now. And then I found the same list even MORE beautifully illustrated! 

8. Substitute every word for a synonym just to see what you can come up with. But don’t get fancy. Big, multi syllable words may muddy your meaning. Just for fun, check out these multi-syllable words that can add a bit of flavor. 

9. Combine two short sentences or separate a long sentence into shorter ones. Sentences should be varying lengths. In a similar vein, this is a  fascinating article from NPR about loving sentences. I want to sit and read this forever.

“He wanted to cry quietly but not for himself: for the words, so beautiful and sad, like music.”
James Joyce

10. Look for weak modifiers like “very” or “some”. If a word in a sentence doesn’t have a precise purpose, take it out. In fact, read the sentence the omit the first word. Read it again omitting the second, then the third. If you don’t miss the word, or the meaning is unchanged, omit the word altogether.  In this point, I can safely omit the words, “weak”, “precise”, “in fact”, and “altogether.” See?  My friend Jude Knight has a list of “filter words” that are dull, uninteresting and serve little purpose. Use this list to weed out the ugly and make room for the beautiful.

Beautiful words are our powerful medium.

We have control over them. We have them lined up in little drawers of our mind and dig through our thesaurus if we can’t find the right one. If we are good at what we do, they are chosen with care and precision. They are picked gingerly from the box and pressed into place with our fingertips. There they do not rest. They are to be re-read and deleted, edited and proofread, taken out and put back in.

I am thankful that I have such a glorious, magnificent, illogical, sometimes unwieldy medium in which to practice my art.

Sometimes I make the words more beautiful.

Sometimes they make me.

Top 10 Ways Poetry is Better Than Food

Poetry is better than food.

At least sometimes it is.

Just like we eat a variety of things so that we can nourish our bodies, I think we should read a variety of poems so that we can nourish our souls. I love that some poetry  is bite sized like a Dickinson poem or a haiku. I like that some poetry is a full five course meal, like a Longfellow poem.

Hungry yet?

Top 10 Ways Poetry Is Better Than Food by Katharine Grubb 10 Minute Novelists

 

1. Like vegetables, poetry is good for you. 

If you have the literary nutrition of a poem daily, the you can  appreciate rhythm, imagery, metaphor, meaning, communication, pathos, story telling and good craftsmanship. If you analyze it,  much in the same way you would analyze a novel, you will most certainly find value.  Ask yourself these questions: What is the poet trying to say? Why did he make the choices that he made? What emotions are you experiencing as a result of the poem? What insight do you have that you didn’t have before? Why was this so important to this poet? What literary elements, like alliteration and repetition and assonance are used here? What does this poet want his reader to take from it?

2. Many great writers were poets. If you read these manageable bites from great writers, you’re sampling great writing. 

YouTube is full of lectures on the great poets of literature. By taking the time to study the turbulent lives of the poets, their muses, their successes and their failures, it can make you appreciate not just the art that is created but the journey each writer took to make it. Crash Course has a great series on literature. And this one is about Emily Dickinson is hilarious. Can you sing them to I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing or Yellow Rose of Texas?

I was angry with my friend; I told my wrath,

3. Poetry won’t make you fat. Little Debbies cakes will. 

You can indulge all you want. If I want to gorge on the 500 most popular poems in literature, check out this book. It’s one of my favorites! You can even hoard, I mean, collect your favorites in one place at PoemHunter.com. 

 4. You don’t have to go to the grocery store to get great poetry.

You don’t! You can find it nearly everywhere! Besides Poetry Hunter, there’s also The Poetry Foundation, Academy of American Poets and Poetry.com which is an online community for amateur poets. If you still can’t find that one with the dashes by Emily Dickonson or the sad one by Sylvia Plath or the Wordsworth poem in which he ponders how great nature is, check your local library. It’s likely they have a whole section devoted to poetry and all of these resources are free! 

5. Poetry is for everyone. Beluga caviar is not.

Poetry was originally used to remember events, pass down history and entertain the common people long before literacy. If you are really into poetry, you’re not all that different from people of ancient civilizations who treasured the way poetry made them feel or reminded them of the past. You are not a literary snob if you can recite Paul Revere’s Ride,  you just like everyone else who wanted to remember a great event in a fun way. It’s even more fun if you listen to Sean Astin read it. 

6. Food just gives you necessary chemicals for life. Poetry makes you a great writer.

Some poems are even about food. But is food ever a poem? Not very often.
Some poems are even about food. But is food ever a poem? Not very often.

Novelists can benefit from the lessons taught by the great poets. We’re so busy making our characters likable and our plot points believable that we leave out the metaphor, the pathos, the art. I think in our rush to self-publish that we forget the necessity of the time required for good craftsmanship. As long as we don’t take a lesson from Coleridge and use drug use to create a Kubla Khan, (which I think should be an exception, not a rule.) A little nuance, a little subtlety, a little mystery a challenge may do them some good. We can learn this from great poems.

7. Poetry can get you through tough times better than chocolate ice cream.

We’ve all had some bad break-ups that requires high calorie dairy products to get over. But with poetry as the salve to your broken heart, you can articulate your pain more precisely. This is When We Two Parted  by Lord Byron. Don’t look too closely to Byron for relationship advice. He was kind of, um, weird.

8. Quoting poetry makes you look smart. If you memorize the back of the cereal box, no one cares.

I think everyone should memorize poetry. Memorize it for the sake of the discipline of it, of committing something to your soul, of tasting the words as they come off the tongue, of subconsciously realizing that these poems were put together with great care and craftsmanship. This is Longfellow! Tennyson! These aren’t slapdash inklings of a self-absorbed teen. This is something you can carry with you.But this article argues this point far better than I can. So does The New Yorker. So does The New York Times. 

So my kids and I like "We Are The Music Makers" so much that we rewrote it. It's about food, which shouldn't surprise anyone.
So my kids and I like “We Are The Music Makers” so much that we rewrote it. It’s about food, which shouldn’t surprise anyone.

9. Poetry can go with you everywhere. You don’t need a cooler. 

This article is from 2012, but it’s still mostly relevant. You can carry poetry in your head. You can carry poems on your phone. And no matter how many times you quote The Raven, you’ll never get crumbs in the bottom of your purse.

10. Good poems have a longer shelf life than dairy products.

We shouldn’t let our own voice sink to the lowest common denominator. We should, instead, nurture it with great words like those found in the poems of the past and present. We imitate what we have before us. If all we read is junk literature, the latest pulp novel, a sappy, uninspired romance — all of which are like pop culture bursts of nothing —  then our work will could potentially be stuck in the pedestrian and the common. One way to fight this is to surround ourselves with the wholesome, the healthy and the literarily nutritious.

Why do we need it poetry? Writers who savor poetry become better writers. 

 This Ted Talk lauds the value of poetry! 

What about you? What’s your favorite poet? Your favorite poem? Your favorite source for great poetry! Please share! 

A Melody of Beautiful Words: A Guest Post by Amalie Cantor

 

Music and the Art of Writing

Before I embraced the mantle of “writer,” I spent two years in graduate school studying to become a professor of music theory. For those who may not know, music theorists take apart musical structures and analyze them as you might a work of literature. After years of searching, I thought I had finally found the perfect career path. My love of music always intertwined with my love for language. To me, music’s notes and rhythms were letters and words of a tongue I longed to better understand.

But, as Victor Hugo once wrote, “Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.” I could never adequately explain in words the emotions and images that musical masterpieces evoked in my mind, at least not objectively enough for scholarly inquiry. How do we interpret the meaning of a scale? Could I write a thesaurus for chordal structures? Music survives and thrives in its universality. Attempts at specific translation dishonor its purpose.

A Melody Of Beautiful Words

But beautiful writing, in music as in prose, is intentionally expressive.

The philosopher Roger Scruton argues that “Music exists when rhythmic, melodic, or harmonic order is deliberately created, and consciously listened to, and it is only language-using, self-conscious creatures, I argue, who are capable of organizing sounds in this way. . . .” If we cannot understand music, even if only at its basest, most emotional level, then its beauty is for naught.

Meaningful prose and poetry likewise rely upon an ability to express and to be understood. William Carlos Williams, in his poem “January Morning,” wrote:

I wanted to write a poem
that you would understand.
For what good is it to me
if you can’t understand it?

A-Melody-of-Beautiful-Words

Neither musicians nor poets write to be misunderstood. They write because something beautiful hidden within their souls cannot be spoken in any other way.

Music and poetry, in their attempts to express the inexpressible, create languages all their own. Notes and ideas become phrases become verses become songs, each element building upon the others in ecstasy or tragedy, joy or despair. What then can such works teach us about our own writing?

Music_expresses_hugo_quote

  1. Beautiful writing is emotional.

Our words impact readers most when they portray the most desperate, dangerous longings of our souls. As writers, connecting to those emotions can be painful, even terrifying. We must remember that we are eternally trapped within our own skin and limited perception. To commune with our readers, we must break through that skin and gift our fears to the world, lest we fortify the walls between us rather than breach them.

  1. Beautiful writing is intentional

I strongly advocate freewriting. Allowing the pen to flow wherever it will generates the seeds of what we wish to express. But no amount of freewriting will produce a perfect piece. Beauty and meaning come from the careful cultivation of those seeds into fully mature words, phrases, and ideas. The emotional value of the end product depends entirely on our intentional, deliberate nurturing.

  1. Beautiful writing is musical.

Like the movements of a symphony, beautiful words ebb and flow in rhythmic variation. They use metaphor and symbolism to define the undefinable. They employ alliteration and cadence and climax and crescendo in such a way that the words sing in our hearts as well in our heads. We must engage with all the tools available to us until we find precisely the melodic lift that each line needs.

  1. Beautiful writing is a process.

Ideas may simmer in our heads for days, months, even years before they are ready to escape onto the page. Then, once an idea reaches the page, it may go through dozens, even hundreds, of revisions before it is ready to be shared. Each word or turn of phrase must be tasted, seasoned for proper flavor and nuance before it can be served.

Ludwig von Beethoven, one of the most beloved composers of all time, left behind thousands of pages of notebooks and sketches. Not all of his ideas found homes in his published works, yet no one today would consider his career a failure.

For those of us who have jobs, children, or other responsibilities, allowing beauty to come in its own time may seem like a Sisyphean task. The reward may not always feel worth the effort.

Do it anyway. 

When we take the time to create beauty, whether in music, literature, or art, we embrace one of our most primal ambitions: to discover ourselves and our place in the world around us. We embrace our desire for companionship and camaraderie and even conflict now and again. We reach into the souls of both writer and reader and draw them together in a symphony of order and chaos and intellect and emotion. Whether we are read by one or a million, our words reflect the innermost truth about ourselves. We owe it to our souls to make them to shine.

photoAC

Amalie Cantor currently lives in Norman, Oklahoma with her partner Katherine and their feline familiars, Sadie and Salem.  She writes poetry, prose, and fiction focusing on the intersection of identity and spirituality.  She also blogs about whatever shiny object has captured her attention at DaughterOfKieran.com.  When not hiding behind a computer screen, Amalie enjoys cooking, knitting, crocheting, and enjoying the literary debauchery of her local book club.  She also watches far too many bad BBC shows and is pretty sure her personal trainer has reported her missing. Her debut novel, Choosing Her Chains, will be independently published in summer 2016.

Becoming A 10 Minute Poet: A Guest Post by Sherry Howard

Greetings 10MinuteNovelists!      It’s time to become a 10MinutePoet.

All writers are poets.

When we write our prose, we search for just the right word, often searching days for the right form of a verb, or the perfect iteration of a concept.

I realized that I already had poetry in me a year ago when I first explored The University of Iowa’s MOOC on poetry for the first time. I’d enjoyed their fiction writing class so much that I decided to jump into the poetry as well. (Archives have a post on the fiction writing class.) The very skills that serve us so well as fiction writers enhance our skills as poets, and the reverse of that holds true. Our chops as writers are like a braid, when well-woven they create a more solid piece of work.

Becoming A 10 Minute Poet by Sherry Howard

I’ve just begun the 2015 How Writers Write Poetry class and it’s not too late for you to join. More about that in a minute though.

For each class session, there is a video. The videos feature outstanding representatives of whatever concept the class features. The introductory video included the famous poet Robert Haas. This is the information Iowa provides about him:  Awarded the MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship, twice the National Book Critics’ Circle Award (in 1984 and 1997), the Yale Series of Younger Poets in 1973, and the 2014 Wallace Stevens Award, Robert Hass is a professor of English at UC Berkeley. His most recent collection of is The Apple Trees at Olema: New and Selected Poems.

Everybody loved his presentation—it felt like a conversation with your dad, brother, or favorite uncle, if only they wrote poetry. Robert’s challenge was to look around your setting at that moment in time and write one line about it, then two, then three, and finally four.

Hmmm. It was the middle of the night. I couldn’t sleep, so I’d watched the video, and loved it. So, taking his directions quite literally, I looked over and saw my granddaughter, with Bahamian braids, just back from a cruise. This is what I wrote.

Overnight at Nan’s

Sleep denied but not missed

Forbidden popcorn in the bed

Movies, wiggles and pink toes

Impossible to deny tiny braids and bright eyes

Now, if I hadn’t just watched Robert speak I’d not have thought in those lovely terms about the spilled popcorn in my bed that night. And I wouldn’t have attempted to convey a feeling with such economy of words. I’m already getting feedback from readers about how much they love this poem, how gorgeous it is. I’m not bragging, I’m just saying that we fiction writers already have an edge. And one guy said, drop “impossible to deny” and he’s right!

So, take a few minutes right now and look around you. You know the drill: write one line, then two, then three, then four. Please leave your poem in the comments sections so we can enjoy it with you.

Writing Poetry

The other two presenters talked about something all writers I know do– keeping all of those inspirational notes. The emphasis was on collecting them everywhere and often, and then keeping them in a way that helps you be creative. 

If you can’t participate in these classes, it is worth enrolling just to watch the awesome videos. I promise you will find inspiration in many of them. I’m a little disappointed to tell you that the platform for presenting the classes changed this year and it is a much steeper learning curve to navigate the classes. They are being presented via Canvas and Piazza if anyone is familiar with those. Also, new this year, you may get a certificate of completion if you meet certain criteria. That’s been added because, for some people, that was important. The class is free, the certificate is $50 if you meet the standards to earn it.

Click here for the course overview as offered by the University of Iowa.

Sherry Howard is a writer and budding poet and blogs at www.SherryHoward.org

Creating Beautiful Words — Scifaiku! A Guest Post By Wendy Van Camp

One Friday afternoon, I was sitting on a bench at a local science fiction convention with little to do for the next few hours.  I learned that there was to be a workshop on how to write scifaiku poetry. I had never heard of scifaiku before and was intrigued by the idea. I ended up attending the seminar and this decision changed my direction in writing. As it turned out, I was the only student at the workshop along with a couple of magazine editors that published this form of poetry.  The instructor taught how to brainstorm ideas for your poems and the elements that were needed for scifaiku.  I not only became hooked on the poetry form, but I ended up publishing the poem I wrote in that workshop several months later.

What is Scifaiku?

Defining Scifaiku

Scifaiku is minimal in execution and elegant, similar to Haiku. It is distinctive since it contains the human insight, use of technology and vision of the future that is natural in science fiction, but delivers it in three short poignant lines. The form is inspired by the principles of haiku, but it deviates due to its science fiction theme. The standard length of a poem is 17 syllables.  While traditional haiku has three lines of five syllables, then seven, and then five again, scifaiku does not need to follow this structure unless the poet wishes it.  The structure is merely a guideline in scifaiku and the poet can write more than 17 syllables if they wish.  This is due to science fiction having technical terms that make the shortness of traditional haiku difficult.

Original drawing by Wendy Van Camp
Original drawing by Wendy Van Camp

How to write Scifaiku 

Scifaiku contains certain theme elements, much like haiku does.  In traditional haiku, the poems are about nature.  In scifaiku, the poems are about science fiction. Each poem needs to evoke a science fiction premise along with its own observation of that idea.  For instance you might include a technological word like space, laser, nebula, biofeedback, teleport, ect. Technical words often can be long and have many syllables, but this is allowed in Scifaiku.

In traditional haiku, a word is included to indicate the season or time this poem is taking place in.  I was taught in the workshop to also include this element in the scifaiku poem.  It is not a requirement, but I am finding that including it makes my poems stronger.  I tend to not use seasonal words, but I do like to use words that give a sense of the time.

Haiku and scifaiku both involve creating a sense of a single moment in time and space.  You need to discover that tiny moment and the feelings that it invokes within yourself.  Scifaiku is about creating a small small, a tiny bubble in the universe that makes one think.

Original Drawing by Wendy Van Camp
Original Drawing by Wendy Van Camp

Authors of Scifaiku

  • One of the earliest published poems in this form was Karen Anderson’s “Six Haiku” from the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, July 1962.
  • Terry Pratchett used Scifaiku as a chapter epigram in one of his early novels, “The Dark Side of the Sun” in 1976.
  •  Robert Frazier published “Haiku for the L5” in Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine(1979) and also  “Haiku for the Space Shuttle” (1980)
  • The most extensive use of scifaiku in science fiction is by David Brin in his “Uplift Universe” and in his novel “The Postman”.  In Uplift, the dolphin characters speak a haiku-like language called Trinary and he has characters quoting and writing haiku in the story.  In “The Postman”, Brin used scifaiku as chapter epigrams.

Awards for Scifaiku

There are few awards for scifaiku.  It is a rare form of science fiction inspired poetry and often will not be eligible for recognition in regular poetry wards.  However, The Science Fiction Poetry Association gives out a  “Dwarf Star Award” for the best short length speculative poem each year which does include scifaiku.  The nominees for the award are published in their annual anthology, Dwarf Stars. Joining the Science Fiction Poetry Association allows you to nominate and vote for the award in addition to giving you a copy of the anthology. Http://http://sfpoetry.com/

Original drawing by Wendy Van Camp
Original drawing by Wendy Van Camp

Final Word

Scifaiku is a poetry form that I’ve grown very fond of. It is my hope that more people will begin to write it and that it will flourish as an art form.  From a single seminar on a lazy Friday afternoon, I have been transformed into a poet of sorts and my life has become all the better for it.

*****

Wendy Van Camp is the writer behind No Wasted Ink, a blog about the craft of writing, featuring author interviews, book reviews and scifaiku poetry. She makes her home in Southern California with her husband. Wendy enjoys travel, bicycling, gourmet cooking and gemology. Her articles, short stories and poetry has appeared in literary and science fiction magazines such as “Shadows Express”, “Luna Station Quarterly”, “Serendipity”, and “Far Horizons”.  Her first Amazon ebook is a regency romance entitled: “The Curate’s Brother: A Jane Austen Variation of Persuasion”.

Wendy Van Camp
Wendy Van Camp

Want more information about Scifaiku? Check out these links!

Website: http://nowastedink.com
Book Link: http://www.amazon.com/Curates-Brother-Austen-Variation-Persuasion-ebook/dp/B00OU1V45A

Why We Need The Beautiful

10 Minute Novelists’ theme for April is Beautiful Words. Please check out all of our posts and consider how you can make your words more beautiful. 

Regardless of tastes, preferences or trends, I believe the beautiful calls to us.

April's Theme is Beautiful Words
April’s Theme is Beautiful Words

There is something inside of us that longs for symmetry, for rhythm, for thoughtful curves, for delicacy, for images that spurn our emotions, that bring out in us the good and noble. We all enjoy art for a variety for reasons, but no one can deny how beautiful art serves a purpose.  It points us to the good in humanity. It exalts mankind’s creativity. It echoes ancient truths. Beautiful art feeds our souls.

As we write, we can organize our words  in such a way that their patterns, their meaning, their rhythm, their structure, and their message all sing together.  Beautiful words, in prose, cannot be accidents. Finely crafted words come with discipline and practice. Beautiful sentences do not lay on the page passively waiting for an optic nerve to come by and give them life. Beautiful sentences dance — they vary in their length, in their structure, in the vivacity of their verbs and in the nuances of their nouns. Beautiful words paint a picture — they don’t slap it together. Beautiful words point to the strongest emotions on the human spectrum. Beautiful words can enflame anger.  Beautiful words can render jealously hotter. Beautiful words can pour out pain like a trickle or an avalanche. Beautiful words can sum up joy, can skip and staccato with each laugh and giggle. Beautiful words are for Hallmark cards and tweets, fortune cookies and voicemails. Beautiful words are for poets and teenagers, novelists and children, literati and pedestrian. Beautiful words pair together like friends to create a private party of emotion and delight.

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Beautiful words play dress up when they are metaphor,simile or allegory. They toy with their meaning, putting on disguise, like a fake moustache or a floppy hat to be to the reader something they’re not. Oh, coy words tease and taunt the meanings and the similarities and the comparisons and the reader watches the burlesque stimulated to read more.

Beautiful words hide meaning like a treasure, daring the reader to look for clues to the mystery. Beautiful words leave ellipses like bread crumbs that tempt the reader to go deeper into the woods. Is the reader escaping the real world or rushing to danger? Beautiful words will never tell, they’ll just keep looking behind them as they run over limb and log to keep the chase going.

Beautiful words march together in alliteration. Bearing the beat together as brothers in a band, blaring their business to any reader who claps along in the parade. Beautiful words are not democratic. Some words get the short end of the stick. They are the low feeders in the phonetic and entymological gene pool. Those words are edited and beaten and mocked and their superior sisters are given chances to go to the ball.

Beautiful words are parts of a whole, the vowels and consonants are like toddlers in a playground, picking their favorites for the swings or the ball game, holding hands or playing tag. Poor silent e can’t object. Poor insecure Q can’t go anywhere without U. Poor Z finds himself picked last for the game. Bossy A tells them all to line up.

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The words are acrobats, flipping and flying in their palindromes and anagrams. The suffixes and prefixes fly like lost feathers as up they go to the highest of heights.

The beautiful words are our medium. They are crisp and wide like a crayon or pastel. They are precise like a fine pen. They are bold like charcoal and pool in the crevasses of meaning like a dab of watercolor. The words are gold and crimson and emerald and cobalt. They are rich with facets and carats and sparkle. They dazzle and enchant and when they are put together like beads on a chain, we can wear them around our neck like jewels.

Beautiful words are our medium. We have control over them. We have them lined up in little drawers of our mind and dig through our thesaurus if we can’t find the right one. If we are good at what we do, they are chosen with care and precision. They are picked gingerly from the box and pressed into place with our fingertips. There they do not rest. They are to be re-read and deleted, edited and proofread, taken out and put back in.

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I am thankful that I have such a glorious, magnificent, illogical, sometimes unwieldy medium in which to practice my art.

Sometimes I make the words more beautiful.

Sometimes they make me.

 

Why Modern Writers Need Poems (Or Why Poems Are The Equivalent of Kale Smoothie)

Everybody hates the guy who tells them how to eat.

Except it’s not usually a guy. Usually, it’s a conscientious, often neurotic mother, who while having very good reasons to monitor her family’s needs decides that everyone else in the world need her wisdom too. She may criticize your gluten, your sugar, your GMOs or your 99 cents a pound hot dogs. Her answer to everything is based on her research, her scouring of local farmers and her refrigerator full of raw dairy. And she’ll be happy to tell you what you’re doing wrong.

I’m going to be that mom today. I’m going to say:

You should read more poems. It will be good for you. 

 

Throughout the month of April, this website and the 10 Minute Novelists Facebook group will be celebrating Beautiful Words. Join us!
Throughout the month of April, this website and the 10 Minute Novelists Facebook group will be celebrating Beautiful Words. Join us!

Poetry is portable literature.

Poetry is seasoned metaphor. Poetry is the literary equivalent of a take-out gourmet sandwich shop. Poetry is a vitamin-packed smoothie. Taste one! Sample it! Savor it!

What kinds of poetry should you read?

Read anything you love. Subscribe to a poem website and get their daily poems. Commit them to memory. Start with the familiar and move on.

Memorize all you can. 

Memorize it for the sake of the discipline of it, of committing something to your soul, of tasting the words as they come off the tongue, of subconsciously realizing that these poems were put together with great care and craftsmanship. This is Longfellow! Tennyson! These aren’t slapdash inklings of a self-absorbed teen. This is something you can carry with you.

What do you take from a poem?

If you have the literary nutrition of a poem daily, the you can  appreciate rhythm, imagery, metaphor, meaning, communication, pathos, story telling and good craftsmanship. Analyze it while you thinking of it, much in the same way you would analyze a novel. What is the poet trying to say? Why did he make the choices that he made? What emotions are you experiencing as a result of the poem? What insight do you have that you didn’t have before? Why was this so important to this poet? What literary elements, like alliteration and repetition and assonance are used here? What does this poet want his reader to take from it?

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 I make my kids memorize poems.

I pick long, rhythmic poems that have some sort of concrete elements to them, like the repetition in Charge of the Light Brigade or the story described in Paul Revere’s Ride or Ballad of the Boston Tea Party, and then Casey At The Bat just because it is fun and perfect for opening day. We’ve memorized William Blake, Robert Frost, Robert Louis Stevenson, tons of Jack Prelutsky and Mary Ann Hoberman. I knew I was on to something when my ten year old son looked at my bookshelf and said, “You have the complete works of Emily Dickinson, but you don’t have Rudyard Kipling!”

(Need a website to go to? Try PoemHunter. It’s easy to manage & create your favorites list!

The study of poetry is, sadly, a neglected one.

And in today’s literature, a good dose of this isn’t such a bad idea. Novelists can benefit from the lessons taught by the great poets. We’re so busy making our characters likable and our plot points believable that we leave out the metaphor, the pathos, the art.

Screen Shot 2014-06-27 at 10.10.24 AM Poets also worked on their poems for months.

I think in our rush to self-publish that we forget the necessity of the time required for good craftsmanship. As long as we don’t take a lesson from Coleridge and use drug use to create a Kubla Khan, (which I think should be an exception, not a rule.)

 I think we’re so busy sometimes worrying about being clear that we make it too easy on our readers.

A little nuance, a little subtlety, a little mystery a challenge may do them some good. We can learn this from great poems. Will we lose readers? Maybe. But my books weren’t for everyone anyway.

Why do we need it poetry? Because it is one of the easiest and most accessible forms of art out there. Writers who savor poetry become better writers. 

 

 

 This Ted Talk lauds the value of poetry! 

We shouldn’t let our own voice sink to the lowest common denominator.

We should, instead, nurture it with great words like those found in the poems of the past and present. We imitate what we have before us. If all we read is junk literature, the latest pulp novel, a sappy, uninspired romance, then our work will could potentially be stuck in the pedestrian and the common. One way to fight this is to surround ourselves with the wholesome, the healthy and the literarily nutritious.

 Read poems every day. Your mind and your words will thank you.