Home » Posts tagged 'Ogden Nash'
Tag Archives: Ogden Nash
If’n your summer (or winter) has been as busy as mine, I shore do ‘preciate your comin’ back for more poeming.
Still, I didn’t get many volunteers in last month‘s offer to send me your poem needing a bit of meter-tinkering. The offer is open, even if you’re reading this months or years after its posting.
Now, on to more FUN poetry specifics:
If my #1 pet peeve is meter, my #2 is when people write poetry for entirely the wrong reasons and are therefore showing off.
Their work is flowery, superfluous, showy, fluffy, wordy, adverby -in short, too much tell AND show in some of the worst ways possible. Their poem ends up a mash of obscure words and emotional pleas that lack a concise theme.
If a poet is new to The Game, s/he will do this innocently.
If a poet is old to the game, s/he will do so because swaths of followers are wowed by a naïve misunderstanding of what really makes poetry good. What will make it memorable. What makes it timeless.
How do you avoid this pitfall? The same way you do with regular writing exercises: brutal murder of useless words.
“When your story is ready for rewrite, cut it to the bone. Get rid of every ounce of excess fat. This is going to hurt; revising a story down to the bare essentials is always a little like murdering children, but it must be done.”Stephen King
This is one reason why I believe Dr. Seuss is among the poetic masters. How many words does he use in The Cat in the Hat? And yet, I love it. And yet, with my kids, that book I still get…
This is also why, in intentionally ignoring the other rules haiku must follow, I had us try 5-7-5 for our first form. I am sorry to those who felt stabbed at my casual treatment. It had to be done.
Make your poem concise!
To a point -please, please have a point to your poetry!
Easier said than done? Nah.
The way I see it, the most common reason a poet strays too far is because the poem doesn’t feel special enough. We have a misconstrued idea that poetry must be mysterious (obscure), beautiful (flowery), long (wordy), and impressive (vainglorious). It DOESN’T; at least, not in the blundering way we try to get it there.
The purpose of a poem is to capture the feelings of a moment and then use the artistry of words and meter to convey that exact moment and its feelings to another.
So, take your moment; your idea.
- Write the moment. Try the first exercise we did, word balloons, free-writing, doodling, or finger paints.
- Form the words of your moment more poetically. If you feel comfortable following a form, do so. If free verse appeals, try that.
- Follow the first two steps a few times. Let someone else read what you’ve got and tell you what they think you’re writing about.
- Next, fix the meter. Even free verse poetry follows a meter.
- Last and most difficult, murder the unnecessary.
And, I want you to use the attached form to send me what you’ve got at any step along the way. I’m happy to give pointers and I NEVER judge writers negatively. Writing’s difficult enough without worrying about judgment.
If you feel up to it, comment with what you end up with after step 6.
©2021 Chel Owens
Man, oh woman, this has been one heck of a month! Thanks to all the poets (you *are* all poets!) for playing along with these prompts despite your busy lives. I tip my hat to ya.
Last time I got up on this here stage, I encouraged y’all to intentionally mess with meter. A few did so in the comments; I hope many more tried it on their own.
Now, destruction is always easier than construction. To create more difficult than to destroy. Ice cream is far better than raisin cookies. -You get the idea.
Therefore, we must now turn our metering ear to improvement. I have a few, easy exercises for your poeting minds:
- Read this poem, preferably aloud:
At last, I lie upon my bed.
At last, I sigh; rest my head…
- Decide what’s wrong with its meter.
- Fix it.
If you did Steps 1-3, your Answer Key is that the meter -the BEAT of the poem- trips up between sigh and rest. It needs an extra syllable there; maybe an and.
Did you see that? Did you fix it?
Let’s try another:
- Read this one; again, preferably aloud:
The cow is a member of the bovine ilk;
One end is moo, the other, milk.
- Decide what’s wrong.
- Fix it.
This one is a mutilated version of Ogden Nash’s The Cow. If you are familiar with his original, your mind automatically corrected it to how it should sound. If you are unfamiliar, your Answer Key hint is that I added two words (a member) where there were none.
Let’s try another!:
- Read it so they can hear it in the back:
Because I could not stop for Death –
He sure stopped for me –
The Carriage held just Ourselves –
- *Tick* *Tock* *Tick* -Can you find the problems? There are two.
- Well, fix them!
You may have guessed that this is an excerpt from Emily Dickinson’s Because I Could Not Stop for Death. You may have cheated and fixed it based on her original words; I replaced kindly with sure and omitted but from The Carriage held but just Ourselves. Did you choose to add the same words as she? Another two-syllable word will work for kindly; another one-syllable for but.
What am I trying to do here?
…Actually, I’m trying to enclose your mind more than free it. I’m trying to help you see the pattern of words. I’m trying to help you feel the rhythm. Feel the ride.
Films aside, learning to feel the meter of a poem is very important. Knowing this meter is vital to taking your own poem and realizing one reason why it just doesn’t sound right.
So, you have homework:
Send me your poem. Use the form that I’ve included and send me that bit of your creation that’s niggling at you so much you just want to stick it in a shoebox and shove it under the bed. You and I are going to do what you did with my poem, Ogden Nash’s, and Emily Dickinson’s: FIX IT! We are going to look at the meter and decide what will make it flow.
Go on. I triple dog dare ya.
©2021 Chel Owens