Today, in honor of National Poetry Month, I'm welcoming poet and author Laurel Garver (Never Gone and Muddy-Fingered Midnights) to the blog. Welcome, Laurel, and thanks so much!!
Make Words Your Playground.
I started writing poetry at ten, and it has been a life-long love for me--a way of writing that’s condensed, intense, and
musical. But it’s never too late to start. Here are a few favorite tips for beginning poets.
My first, ultra-obvious piece of advice would be to READ poetry. If you’re new to the genre, there’s no need to put historical barriers in your path--start reading contemporary poets. There are loads of free e-zines with wonderful poems. Every Day Poets is a favorite of mine. They post new pieces daily that are accessible (you don’t need a PhD to understand them) and cover a variety of styles and topics. My collection Muddy-Fingered Midnights also offers diverse styles and topics.
Try a beginner’s poetry class hosted by a local writer’s group, public library, or adult education evening classes at your public school. You could also try a free online course.
Or simply read some poetry-writing books and start experimenting. Here’s a list of recommendations from a beginner poet.
If I were to pick one thing that has helped me most as a poet, it would be vocabulary building. I don't mean simply picking up a thesaurus and looking for fancier ways to say things. I mean delving deep into the world of words. A poet must look not only at a word's definition, but also its connotations and connections. A poet must hear the tones and feel the
textures of words.
Developing a wide and flexible vocabulary is a life-long pursuit, not something you can master in a few weeks. Most of all, it should be fun!
Here are a few journaling exercises I recommend to open your mind to words’ many possibilities.
Select a word and spend fifteen minutes writing down every word that pops to mind to describe it, that you associate with it, that comes from a similar setting, or has similar meanings, connotations or sounds. Here's an example:
long-eared, cottontail, velvety, fluffy, tawny, spotted, lop-eared, floppy, hop, scamper, skittish, twitchy, whiskers, nibble, hutch, hole, meadows, woodlands, thickets, briar patch, Brer Rabbit, Thumper, tree roots, Peter Rabbit, Flopsy, Mopsy, blackberries, MacGregor's garden, Springtime, Easter, chocolate treats, March Hare, Alice in Wonderland, Bugs Bunny, wascally wabbit, what's up doc, carrots, munching, crunching, large litters, perpetually pregnant, fertility, multiples, growth, expansion, invasion, hare, jackrabbit, habit, Babbitt, rabid, rapid, traffic.
Select a word and delve through its many layers. Start with a basic definition. Consider what activities, settings and
literature/films/music you associate with the word. What rhymes with it? What almost rhymes with it? What sounds ring loudest in the word? What do you sense(hear, feel) from those dominant sounds apart from the word’s meaning? In other
words, if you didn't know what the word meant and had to guess based on how it sounds, what meaning do you hear?
Here's an example:
Definition: A stemmed cup
Associations: wine, Holy Grail, Arthurian legend, king’s tables, celebrations, banquets, church, Eucharist, weddings, toasts, drink offerings, poisoning, drinking games
Rhymes: Alice, callous, cowl-less, Dallas, malice, towel-less
Slant rhymes: ballast, foulest, Gaulish, jealous
Dominant sounds: CH, S
Sound texture: Slicing, whistling, hissing, sword swinging, wind shear
By all means, don't limit yourself to nouns in these explorations. Pick a verb or an adjective. Open the dictionary to a
random page and choose a brand new term to research for its meaning and associations (Google can help there).
Let your imagination loose in the world of words, and you will never be at loss for poem ideas.
Does poetry intimidate you? How might read, study, and wordplay help you overcome your fears and set your imagination free?
Laurel Garver is a magazine editor, poet, and writer of faith-based fiction.She enjoys quirky independent films, British TV, and geeking out about Harry Potter and Dr. Who. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband and daughter.
About Muddy-Fingered Midnights
This thirty-poem collection is an eclectic mix of light and dark, playful and spiritual, lyric and narrative free verse. In an intricate dance of sound play, it explores how our perceptions shape our interactions with the world. Here child heroes emerge on playgrounds and in chicken coops, teens grapple with grief and taste first love, adults waver between isolation and engaged connection. It is a book about creative life, our capacity to wound and heal, and the unlikely places we find love, beauty, and grace.
Available now. $1.99 e-book Kindle / Nook / all other ereaders ; $6.50