Rock Walls and Crazy Quilts
Writing poetry is much like building a wall or designing a quilt. You can toss everything together, hodge-podge, but it won’t look nice.
A mason who builds a rock wall looks at his supply of stones. He chooses the size and color of the rock he needs and places it in the right place. If it doesn’t fit exactly right, he may move it to another spot or exchange it for a better stone.
A seamstress creates a crazy quilt in much the same way. She shuffles through her scraps of fabric. She chooses the size and color of cloth that would look best in the next spot on her quilt. She may try a few before she decides on the perfect one.
A poet writes a poem by thumbing through his store of vocabulary until the word that expresses his exact thought. Sometimes the word is too big or too small; sometimes it doesn’t flow with the rest of the poem. He may need to look through a collection of words that have a similar meaning to find one that fits perfectly.
Poems are different than prose – or story writing. Some follow strict rhyme and rhythm patterns; others seem to wander about wherever they choose. Poems have rules for capitalization and sentence structure, but punctuation rules usually remain basically the same as regular writing.
Let’s take this sentence –
A cat walks softly through the wet grass.
Breaking it up like this does not make a poem –
Poetry utilizes a group of literary techniques – metaphors, onomatopoeia, alliteration, etc. These can create a mood and make ordinary words sing and dance. The sounds can float along sleepily or crash through with anger.
Notice how this sentence can be transposed –
Through the dew-dropped
Blades of dandelions.
Or we can give it more structure –
A feline tip-toed through the grass;
She flicked her tail and mewed with sass.
When her paws gotwet,
She would get upset;
For she thought herself a regal lass.
Take this simple sentence and change the words, but not the meaning, to make it more interesting:
(You may try to make a poem, if you wish.)
The boat went across the water.
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