Assignment 5 – Reflective Commentary

I considered all five senses when I was writing and revising my poetry, not just sight. For example, for Making Lemonade: Grandma’s Recipe (Assignment Five), I tasted lemons and sugar to help write vivid descriptions. Also, for The Funeral(Assignment Two), I remembered how I felt on the day of my father’s funeral and described that feeling using descriptions of the location and activities: frozen in grief and the howling of the trumpet. Orr explains: ‘… memories that excited or saddened or disturbed you. That’s what I mean by disorder… These personal experiences of disorder are what lyric poetry is superbly designed to engage and make sense of’ (2018:42).

When redrafting, I read the poems aloud. This helped me check rhythm, sense, and repeated words and ideas. In At the End of the Day (Assignment Three), I added ‘to’ in the penultimate line: ‘to the kitchen she waddles’. When I read that line, it tripped up my mouth, and this added to the visual of her waddle and her need to lean on the wall. In War on Terror (Assignment Three), I used the word ‘dust’ too much. I changed it to ‘dirt’ and ‘mud’. Sansom says, ‘As you get better at reading, at listening to poems, our ear becomes attuned to more subtle effects in which rhythm and meaning can marry more exactly, the rhythm working with the poem’ (1994:80).

When reading aloud, I would also listen to the sound of the words I used and decide if the sound helped create the tone and atmosphere in the poem. For example, inYou’re Too Much! (Assignment Two), instead of using words like ‘hush’, ‘sobbed’, and ‘applied’, I chose ‘shut up’, ‘shrieked’, and ‘slashed’ to help make the characters sound angry. Padel tells us that ‘The sound becomes the meaning while it expresses it. A good poem is a love affair of sound and sense’ (2004:13).

I experimented with alliteration and assonance because I found they brought a pleasing rhythm or sound to my poems. As I redrafted The Eve Before Wintertime (Assignment Five), I added ‘mists meander’ and ‘gossamer ghosts’. Rilke’s Autumn Day(, 2003) inspired me. I enjoyed the sounds in Rilke’s poem. In the first line, ‘summer’ and ‘immense’ have a similar sound (the visual of the ‘mm’ is also pleasing), and in the fourth line, ‘fruits’ and ‘full’ have a similar sound at the beginning of the word. Oliver calls alliteration ‘…a sonorous and lively device’ and cautions us to consider where ‘…the line [is] between enough and too much’ (1994:29).

As I redrafted my poems, I used lineation to control the pace of a poem, the rhythm, and the sense. In Nunhead Cemetery(Assignment Three), some of the lines were initially too long and like prose. I tried to convey a messy cemetery but instead it was confusing, so I reduced the line lengths. The mess of the cemetery is also described in the poem, e.g., ‘Grave stones prattle and tattle around the grass/no one wants to pick them up/and put them back to where they were’. Also, in Rusty Submarine (Assignment Three), in order to sound less like prose, I cut the long lines. For example, I changed ‘in the galley, where cook twitches with his face down on the stove/grandad vomits,’ to ‘pukes, in the galley:/the chef is twitching,/his face down on the stove.’ I broke some of the lines in the middle of the meaning in The Beast without Beauty (Assignment Five) because it brought movement to the poem by pulling the reader along quickly. Plath’s The Burnt-Out Spadoes something similar:

‘A monster of wood and rusty teeth.

Fire smelted his eyes to lumps

Of pale blue vitreous stuff, opaque

As resin drops oozed from pine bark’ (Hughes, 1985:26).

Herbert says, ‘Where we choose to break a phrase in order to begin a new line has consequences for the entire poem’ (2006:181).

I chose to draft all my poems with single-line spacing and used a single line between each stanza, because I had no specific reason to use double-line spacing. In The 18:11 from Cannon Street (Assignment Two), I controlled the information by putting each person as a stanza and then the last line about going home on its own. In Milly the Cat (Assignment Three), I moved the first stanza to the last which helped with the viewpoint of the poem, leading the reader from the garden back into the house. I removed the last stanza in The Beast without Beautybecause it was repeating ideas already built into the poem: that the beast was gross, e.g., ‘rats crunch on bugs falling from his coat.’ I added a one-line stanza to the end of Whitechapel Music Hall (or Penny Gaff) (Assignment Five) to add action and drama. This was changed from the previous three lines which were ‘but she walks along/discussing her life/with a stranger.’ Oliver says, ‘It may be useful, when considering the stanza, to recall the paragraph in prose… the poet might think of the sensible paragraph as a kind of norm… from which to feel out the particular divisions that are best for a particular poem. Such divisions might be natural pauses in the action…’ (1994:61).

When revising poems, I chose language that was specific for the atmosphere and story of the poem. For example, I checked for abstract nouns and accurate verbs. I found that when I used specific nouns and the most appropriate verbs for the poem, I did not need to use adverbs or adjectives, because I had found the word that was working the hardest. In Last Night He Stood on Platform One… (Assignment Two), I changed ‘The sodium lamp throws a weak light’ to ‘He sat beneath the station lamp/that draped its yellow light’. This improved the image in the scene because it showed the colour of the light and how it enveloped the man rather than it being described as ‘weak’.I experimented with metaphor and simile, and found I could show an image instead of tell the reader something. For example, in The Eve Before Wintertime(Assignment Five), I described leaves as flames: ‘Trees fling their flames to the earth.’ I enjoyed the similes and metaphor that Clark uses in My Life with Horses. She describes herself like a horse and tells us that she ‘lay like a foal in the grass’ and that she ‘carefully cut my mane’ (Astley, 2002:226). I checked the poems for clichés and in Mists at Twilight (Assignment Two), I changed the last line from ‘gone but not forgotten,’ to ‘today is forgotten, you’ve now disappeared.’

In The Funeral(Assignment Two), I was careful to use words that showed rather than told about support at a time of grieving. In the line ‘oak boughs reach in silence’, the word ‘silence’ showed grief, dignity, and respect, and the ‘oak boughs’ were a metaphor for the strong arms that reached out to hold the grieving. With Strolling through Haworth (Assignment Five), I removed some adjectives such as changing ‘Its white-framed windows blink diamond frost’ to ‘Its white-framed windows blink frost’. Because Rusty Submarine (Assignment Three) was about a child telling a story, I wanted the poem’s tone to sound chatty and childlike. I changed words to sound more childlike, for example, from ‘vomits’ to ‘pukes’. Hesse’s Out of the Dust inspired me, which is a poem about a child during the depression in America. From the beginning, she mentions ‘Ma’ and ‘Daddy’ which are childlike words (2007:9) and later on she says ‘I got burned bad’ instead of ‘I was badly burned’ (2007:66). I changed ‘yellow flames lick the brazier’ to ‘braziers churning yellow flames’ in Whitechapel Music Hall (or Penny Gaff)(Assignment Five), because the first option was clichéd and I could see the image of the flames moving in the brazier better with the second option. Morley explains: ‘…words are sticky with meaning, history and association, and these elements are brought to life through their choice and combination…’ (2007:200-201).

When revising the poems, I also checked to see if punctuation was needed to help with the sense of the poem and that it was consistent. In God in Everybody (Assignment Three), I added punctuation to help the reader understand the poem. In Milly the Cat (Assignment Three), I made the punctuation consistent. Some of Blake’s poems showed me how to punctuate a poem, especially The Shepherd(Smith, 2007:79) and William Bond(Smith, 2007:42-43). Haslam explains that ‘Punctuation is there to help your reader understand your words’ (2006:375).

During redrafting, I also checked for tense and viewpoint. In Abandoned (Assignment Five), I changed lines and words to improve the viewpoint and help the reader understand where they are. To begin with, the woman was lying under a tree in the garden; I changed this to her standing in the doorway of the house so that she could see the graveyard. Peacock says, ‘If your poem contains description, then, check your angle on the subject… You may choose to move in or away, but don’t dodge about, or you will lose the reader (2013:56).

I have learned to use titles as part of the poems; using them to help explain the poem. With God in Everybody (Assignment Three), I changed the title to help explain the poem’s story, and the synchronicity between the guru’s and the dog’s death. In A Gin and Tonic on Whitstable Harbour (Assignment Two), I added ‘Whitstable’ to the title in order to show the reader the location of the harbour. Whitstable is a well-known seaside town in England; therefore, this title would give many readers a visual aid. Herbert says, ‘There are two main categories of title: the descriptive and the evocative’ (2006:175).

My tutor suggested I add more narrative to The Beast without Beauty(Assignment Five). I played with the poem and made changes, e.g., having Beauty come up the stairs with the darkness and bringing light into the house. However, I did not like the poem with Beauty in it. The poem is not supposed to be light or happy. It is a sad poem about a sad creature, and I think the poem encapsulates that as it is. Sylvia Plath likens a poem to a Victorian paperweights. She says, ‘…a door opens, a door shuts. In between you have a glimpse: a garden, a person, a rainstorm, a dragonfly, a heart, a city. I think of those round glass Victorian paperweights… a clear globe, self-complete, very pure, with a forest or village or family group within it… So a poem takes place’ (Herbert and Hollis, 2000:146). I liken this poem to that: a glimpse of the beast in his gross form.

In my assessment for Writing 1: Writing Skills, I noted that the assessor had commented that I should put all titles in italics. Therefore, I followed this advice and put all the titles of poems in italics in the Reflective Commentary that I drafted for Assignment Five. However, when my tutor copied my Reflective Commentary to her report, she did not copy the italics. Then she suggested in her report that ‘It might be useful to put the titles of poems in italics.’ I have explained this in this revised version so that the current assessor knows that I followed the previous assessor’s advice.




Astley, N. (ed.) (2002) Staying Alive: Real Poems for Unreal Times.Hexham: Bloodaxe Books Ltd.

Haslam, S. (2006) ‘Editing: Later stages’ In: Anderson, L. (ed.) Creative Writing: A Workbook with Readings. Abingdon: Routledge. pp.372-382.

Herbert, W. N. (2006) ‘Drafting’ In: Anderson, L. (ed.) Creative Writing: A Workbook with Readings. Abingdon: Routledge. pp.167-180.

Herbert, W. N. (2006) ‘Line’ In: Anderson, L. (ed.) Creative Writing: A Workbook with Readings. Abingdon: Routledge. pp.181-191.

Herbert, W.N. and Hollis, M. (eds.) (2000) Strong Words: Modern Poets on Modern Poetry.Newcastle: Bloodaxe Books.

Hesse, K. (2007) Out of the Dust.London: Frances Lincoln Children’s Books.

Hughes, T. (ed.) (1985) Sylvia Plath Selected Poems.London: Faber and Faber Limited.

Morley, D. (2007) The Cambridge Introduction to Creative Writing. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Oliver, M. (1994) A Poetry Handbook.New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Orr, G. (2018) A Primer for Poets & Readers of Poetry. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.

Peacock, M. (2013) Creative Writing 1: Art of Poetry.Barnsley: Open College of Arts.

Padel, R. (2004) 52 Ways of Looking at a Poem: A Poem for Every Week of the Year.London: Vintage. (2003) Autumn Day – Poem by Rainer Maria Rilke. At: (Accessed on 1 November 2018)

Sansom, P. (1994) Writing Poems.Tarset: Bloodaxe Books Ltd.

Smith, P. (ed.) (2007) William Blake Poems.London: Vintage.


Assignment 5 – Making lemonade: grandma’s recipe

It takes six lemons.

The sharp, bitter juice

is a pin that pierces

the mouth and cuts

open the tongue.

The shock;

a quick sensation:

fresh, icy winter,

jumping into a cold lake,

or sliding down the side of a frozen mountain.



Mix in one cup of white sugar,

pour over crushed ice.

Sweet as honeysuckle mixed with heaven.


Enveloped by the scent of lavender and lilies,

the hot evening vibrates with crickets,

cardinals whistle clear; flash red and blue.

Grandma rocks gently in her chair

on the white wooden porch,

sipping her lemonade.

Assignment 4 – Reflective Commentary

“A Farmer’s Wife” was influenced by the subject and form of Hardy’s (2003) “The Farm Woman’s Winter”. Revision included removing adverbs and choosing appropriate verbs and nouns, e.g., ‘shawl’ instead of ‘scarf’. Grouping lines into stanzas, I moved lines to improve sense, and removed repetitive lines, e.g., ‘hair pulled off her face’ was removed from the second stanza. The last stanza flowed better at the beginning.

I alternated tetrameter and trimeter except for the first stanza (choosing form but not at the expense of language). Oliver (1994:39) suggests that ‘In tetrameter lines there is a sense of quickness… The trimeter… line can evoke [a]… sense of agitation’ which is appropriate for a busy farmer.

“African Love Song” started in prose. Each sentence became a line of the poem, which I then combined and moved to improve meaning, e.g., the first line was moved from the middle. Punctuation was added to clarify sense.

Inspired by the love poem “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day” (Jones,1991:583), I experimented with the sonnet form, and decided to use pentameter because the rhythm of the lines was pleasing.

A translation of the African words was added as a footnote. Anderson (2006:177) says ‘There are poems which need an obscure term… given as a footnote, and to omit such information would diminish our… appreciation.’

Haiku inspired “Scattering His Ashes”. I started with ‘now he flows downstream/scattered from Waterloo as/ashes on the wind’ and revised that by moving lines around and removing words. Eventually, I realized the poem was still abstract. Cobb (2016:7) explains: ‘Concrete images, not abstract words, carry the meaning… in haiku’. Michael Longley’s The Prayer (Astley,43) gave me an example of a small poem with one subject. I started again and created different images using simile and metaphor. I experimented with the haiku 5-7-5 syllable for form, but ended using the language that worked best regardless of the line lengths.

“Memories: the crushed daisy” was inspired by Brainard’s “I Remember” (2007:3-178), and Ginsbergs’s “Howl” (2006:3-8). Starting with prose paragraphs, the poem was three pages long. Orr (2018:139) states, ‘…the best experience is to have too much… and then to cut back by crossing out stuff that the poem… doesn’t really need…’. I removed lines and words, chose memories alive with images, and divided the poem into three stanzas. To keep the essence of “I remember”, I kept it similar to prose, but controlled the language so the second stanza was the apex. I changed some of the similes to metaphors; and added alliteration e.g., ‘Baker Street’ and ‘blaring’. As Anderson (2006:187) says, ‘… alliteration helps to introduce a sense of rhythm’.

The first draft of “The Pallbearers” was of mourners standing by a hearse. Then I described six pallbearers in detail with each sentence on a separate line. Cutting repetition, I ended with four quatrains. The initial last lines of the poem ended up working better as the title of the poem; removing unnecessary words reduced the line length, e.g., the third line was initially ‘swollen belly bore deep stretch marks like crocodile skin’; and punctuation and capitalization was not necessary.

Leonora Speyer’s “Gulls” (2018) influenced “Pigeons”. After the first draft, I changed some words to help the meaning, e.g., ‘into the fountains’ changed to ‘pass the fountains’. Then I removed words so that the lines were less like prose, e.g., the last stanza was ‘You dive to catch/the last squashed chip/on the blackened pavement/of London town.’ Also, I removed lines to create quintets. To help the flow, I put the last stanza first: pooping on heads is up high and then the bird swoops down. For punctuation, I followed the example of Speyer and added it to clarify the poem.




Anderson, L. (ed.) (2006) Creative Writing: A Workbook with Readings. Abingdon: The Open University.

Astley, N. (ed.) (2002) Staying Alive. Hexham: Bloodaxe Books Ltd.

Brainard, J. (2007) I Remember.Honiton: Notting Hill Editions Ltd.

Cobb, D. (2016) ‘English Haiku: A Composite View’ In: The Member’s Handbook. Barking: The British Haiku Society.

Ginsberg, A. (2006) Howl: 50thAnniversary Edition. New York: Harper Perennial Modern Classics.

Hardy, T. (2003) The Farm Woman’s Winter. At: on 15 August 2018)

Jones, E. (ed.) (1991) The New Oxford Book of Sixteenth Century Verse.Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Oliver, M. (1994) A Poetry Handbook. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.

Orr, Gregory. (2018) A Primer for Poets & Readers of Poetry. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.

Speyer, L. (2018) Gulls. At: (Accessed on 25 August 2018)

Assignment Three – At the end of the day

“Where’ve you been?”

she rubs Cinders behind the ear

“I got you some milk”

and waddles off to the kitchen

steadying herself against the wall.


Back in her overstuffed armchair

watching the frost on the window ledge

as the evening glow appears

above the tiled roof tops

she sips lemon tea

warming her hands on the mug

as her silver rimmed glasses


she’s reminded

that there ain’t no ring on her finger…


‘Cause he left her to wander in her garden

feed seeds to the robin red breast

fill water in the iron bird bath

and tend to her winter jasmine.

Assignment Three – Reflective Commentary

At the end of the day came from the phrase “a wedding ring on an old finger.” Focusing on this phrase, I thought of divorce and based the descriptions on a person I know. I put “mist” on a line by itself because it was an analogy for her sadness.  I divided the poem into three stanzas: the cat, the chair/tea, and the garden. They are the three components of her divorced, lonely, but peaceful life.

The description of a supermodel inspired Milly the Cat.  Reminded of the neighbour’s cat, I listed everything about her – finding the best words to show her body, her movements, and her environment. Then, I removed the words that did not work, for example, “like a ballet dancer pirouetting across the stage” because a cat does not twirl. As Orr says in A Primer for Poets & Readers of Poetry, ‘Words, language—that’s what poems are made of. It’s so obvious a fact that we tend to pass over it quickly, which is a very bad idea in relation to poetry’ (2018:153).

Some members of my family are buried at Nuneaton Cemetery. The graveyard is dilapidated and overgrown. It has large tombs with angels on and in the centre of the cemetery is a chapel. The words run on and the tabs are uneven to show the paths, the overgrowth, and the gravestones that have fallen and lie on top of one another. Sansom explains in Writing Poems that free verse does not rely on ‘…established metrical patterns… Instead it relies on other devices such as… the way words are laid out on the page…’ (1994:83).

Two photographs in a newspaper inspired The Aftermath. One was a building in Syria and the other a young girl. I put the poem in two columns to imitate a newspaper article. Morley explains in The Cambridge Introduction to Creative Writing that ‘… words are sticky with meaning, history and association, and these elements are brought to life through their choice and combination…’ (2007:200-201). I chose words to describe the building as it was in the photo, but also as if it had little worth, like a pile of paper and cardboard left for the dustman to pick up.

A rusty submarine near my home reminds me of a German sub that torpedoed my grandfather’s ship. Written in four stanzas with the last line separated, the stanzas separate the sections of the story. Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse showed me how to write in a chatty fashion. When I was editing, I decided to remove a section of the poem about the bridge above the submarine and concentrate on what the submarine means to me. As Oliver states in A Poetry Handbook, ‘Cutting is an important part of revision’ (1994:111).

The last poem is a family story about the night my father’s spiritual teacher died. It is written in lower case apart from the name of his Guru to show respect for the Teacher and to elevate the Teacher above the ordinary events in the world.




Hesse, K. (2007) Out of the Dust.London: Frances Lincoln Children’s Books.

Morley, D. (2007) The Cambridge Introduction to Creative Writing. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Oliver, M. (1994) A Poetry Handbook.New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Orr, Gregory. (2018) A Primer for Poets & Readers of Poetry. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.

Sansom, P. (1994) Writing Poems.Tarset: Bloodaxe Books Ltd.







Assignment 2 – Reflective Commentary

In “My dad smells like pee,” the title describes dad’s biggest challenge during his illness. I chose similes and metaphors that described him; for example, he enjoyed tea in a china cup and was also a spiritual person. In earlier drafts, I enjambed the meaning of lines over two lines but the poem read too quickly. Dad was slow. I chose first and second combined point of view to show an intimate conversation between a daughter and her father. As Josip Novakovich mentions in Fiction Writer’s Workshop: ‘This is the type of POV combination… frequently found in love poetry’ which seemed appropriate (1995:111).

“The 18:11 from Cannon Street” describes my journey home from work. It shows irritation rather than anger. The rhythm mimics a train’s motion, but I also attempted to emulate the tempo of angry hip-hop lyrics, like Forget about Dre by Dr. Dre:

‘…But ya’ll think I’m gonna let my dough freeze
Ho Please
You better bow down on both knees
Who you think taught you to smoke trees?’ (Young, 1999)

In “Last night he stood on platform one,” I used images to show loneliness, for example, the cathedral after evensong – when everyone has gone home. Searching through the poem for adjectives, I changed the title from “Last night he stood on the cold platform” to “… platform one” as coldness is described in the poem in the sixth line “his breath drifted in clouds above his head.” Peter Sansom in Writing Poetry states: ‘We are suspicious of adjectives… if you just had the right noun or verb, you wouldn’t need any at all’ (1994:50).

“A gin and tonic on the harbour” was written to show the happiness of spring coming to England. I wrote the draft of this poem in Whitstable watching English people enjoy the seaside and warm weather. 

“The funeral” describes my dad’s funeral. I chose quatrain stanzas with alternating iambic tetrameter and trimeter to mimic Emily Dickinson’s poem Because I could not stop for Death:

‘Because I could not stop for Death,

He kindly stopped for me;

The carriage held but just ourselves

And Immortality’ (cited in Sansom, 1994:91).

I hoped the meter would show the slow procession as the hearse reaches the cemetery and through the ceremony to the end as the coffin disappears behind the curtains. Once again, I chose first and second combined point of view to show an intimate relationship.

“What’s up now?” is a poem about anger. I used short lines and repetition to show this emotion. Also, I chose words that depict rage such as “red” and “slashed.” Mary Oliver says in A Poetry Handbook that the way words sound have an influence on the reading of a poem. Words that end with mutes (b, d, k, p, q, t, and c and g hard) stop the breath. Oliver says that ‘Shut up… is abrupt; it indicates… impatience and even anger… t and p are not softened… the mutes are the final brittle explosion of the word’ (1994:23). I chose words for this poem with mutes at the end, for example, shriek, lipstick, and spat to heighten the anger.




Novakovich, J. (1995) Fiction Writer’s Workshop.Cincinnati: F&W Publications.

Oliver, M. (1994) A Poetry Handbook. New York: Harcourt.

Sansom, P. (1994) Writing Poems.Tarset: Bloodaxe Books Ltd.

Young, A. R. (1999) Forgot about Dre In: 2001. Santa Monica: Interscope Records

Assignment 1 – Poem on Sight

Ida Lou on 82

From Lubbock to Spur

The dust bowl

A small house on the horizon

Amid desolate cotton fields

The shack with its windows blown out

A wind howls through its shell

Taking its heart on to another journey

The landscape dotted with cotton debris

Loaves of lint sit in tilled ruts

The road: an arrow to the distance

And the next town