Part Five – Write up of poems read

Canto XLV

Ezra Pound

Its about loans which is an odd thing to write a poem about

He basically says creativity cannot exist with loans or high loans

He starts saying that you can’t have the basics of life with loans as that life is not built solid

He uses old language “hath” “re3ceiveth” even though ti was written in last century which seems odd

Only one stanza

Repeats “with Usura”

I don’t understand what he has done with capitals

Lines 3-20 have no caps at start of line and apart from the occasional comma no full stops until end of line 20. But the last 13 or so lines have caps at start of each line. It seems to add emphasis to those lines as if he starts off poem grumbling but then explodes “WITH USURA” and starts to get angry.


Lawrence Durrell (yes – of The Durrells!)

Every single first word of each line is capitalized and I don’t know why. I guess it does not matter really but I feel I should know in order to write poetry and talk sensibly about the decisions I make.

The images are strong but seem more like countryside that city

Mountain roads

Mule teams

Sleepy eagles


Maybe it was a sleepy town

4 stanzas

1st– 7 lines

2nd– 6 lines

3rd– 6 lines

4th– 5 lines

No rhyme

Seems like full punctuation

Some sentences end mid line

The Gypsy

Ezra Pound

Written before WW1 and you can tell. Nice little poem about a gypsy. I like the way it looks. The variable lengths of the lines.

You know what I like best about this (it’s a moment, its simple) but its written as it is spoken each line ends at a natural breath and the lines that done’t are indented beneath,. I can understand that.

Do not go gentle

Dylan Thomas

A Villanelle – I like seeing that and it works – I might try

19 line poem

5 Tercets – 3

1 quatrain – 4

Two refrains

Two repeating rhymes

First and third line of first tercet repeated

Form frequesntly used for obsessions (Wikipedia)



Pentameter possibly iambic

Caps at start of each line


E.P. Ode Pour L’Election de son Sepulchre

Ezra Pound

I found this hard to follow. It seemed like Ginsberg’s Howl in some sense that he’s raging against war and politics: “A half savage country”

He uses foreign words in places that I don’t understand and references to old myths: Dionysus and Sappho which gives it an old fashion feel but then throws in “phallic” which is quite modern along with “ambrosial” which makes it old/new and erotic. So it is odd.

But then wasn’t Pound?

In stanza IV he has quite a bit of repetition: some and home

I like stanza IV the best. It is the one that makes most sense. It is about the horrors of WW1. AS I’ve done a lot of work on WW1 it resonates with me.


From Epitaphs of the War

Rudyard Kipling

Seems they are just snippets from larger piece but I like them. Very simple.

It throws out the anger about WW1 – the young were killed and it was thought for nothing. That is up for debate but it seems RK thought so as did many artists of the time. A Dead Statesman has six lines, four feet (so tetrameter?), and rhyming like this AA BB CC – very simple.


Allen Ginsberg

Similar to Howl – like prose and very political which is probably why I don’t like it [political – but I did like Howl]

3 pages long

It’s a rant in poetry form which is what he was famous for – Beat poet

Patti Smith was influenced by Beat Poets

It was a rejection of all traditional ways.


I did not lose my heart to summer’s even

AE Housman

Wonderful original imagery

Shocked me

I thought it was a love poem

And in some ways it is but gay love

Two stanzas – 4 lines each – pentameter possibly iambic

2/4 line each stanza rhymes at end



Noel Coward

A 3 page long poem about the death of Queen Victoria

Rather irreverent but not nasty or mean. Just poking fun.

A bit like a list poem of things she had represented.

Capitals at beginning of line but that was the fashion and punctuation.

Compares QV death with his Auntie Cordelia’s

Most lines end at a breath


Autumn Morning at Cambridge

Frances Cornford

Very Simple Poem about what it says

2 stanzas 4 lines each rhymes AA BB CC DD


14 syllables per line – 7 what is that?

Except last line of stanza

Last Stanza

Irregular lines



John Masefield

Simple poem about three different ships and their cargos

3 stanzas – each 5 lines

Caps at start of first word of line – punctuation

Varying form

3rdStanza (1stand 2ndstanza similar)

12 syllables – first line

11 syllables – 2ndline

7 syllables – 3rdline

4 syllables – 4thline

10 syllables – 5 line

2 and 5 lines rhyme


Rome and Another

William Watson

Simple poem about Queen Victoria and her empire – and how all empires come to an end

2 stanzas – 4 lines each – caps at beginning – punctuation (seeing a pattern here in poems before WW1)




John Mansfield

Obsessive forward-driven poem about the sea and sailing

With lots of ands in that show this

3 stanzas – 4 lines (some tabbed over 2 lines)

Rhyme – AA BB CC DD etc


Part Four – Write up of poems read

For the Fallen

Laurence Binyon

Grand Language used

‘into immortal spheres’

‘a glory that shines up on tears’

‘straight of limb’

‘proud thanksgiving’

‘death august and royal heavenly plain’

No particular metrical form that I can make out

7 stanzas and 4 lines each

Ends of 2 and 4 line rhyme

Death and Night are capitalized

England is made into a person – personification – in the first stanza

The poem feels like it is seeking to calm a nation in its sorrow


The Vacuum

Howard Nemerov

Three stanzas 5 lines ech

The vacuum is used as a metaphor for his wife

The first lines seem to have a similar rhythm with a slight difference in syllable amounts

Da Da Da Da Da Da Da Da

The first letter of each line is capitalized

It feels like with each stanza he says the first line as a statement and then the other four lines as run ons like he is mumbling under his breath – like:

‘I got this to say

But if she were alive

Now she’d stop me and make

Me go do the washing up’ [my words]


Love: Beginnings

CK Williams

It’s about desire between a couple – not the actual sex – it seems more the way it shows as they are together – at the beginning of a relationship with desire is strong.

No stanzas but written with each other line indented like the idea runs over to the other line.

The breath is at the end of the second line (or the even lines)

16 lines but only one sentence.

This made me consider why there are stanzas – still not sure but trying it out with farmer’s wife – see if the 3 stanzas for separate ideas works.

It seems stanzas hold different ideas or portions of the one whole that is the poem.

With this poem it seems each two lines has an idea

So there are 8 ideas in a sentence about the beginning of love and how it is shown in this couple and seems to be universal.

It does seem like a good idea – I have lines that go on over the “line” and indenting them would be a good idea – like my “I remember” – or Howl.



Tess Gallagher

I don’t understand much about this poem

And don’t like it

It seems to be about mourning but I don’t relate

4 stanzas

1st– 3 lines (1 sentence)

2nd– 2 lines (2 sentences)

3rd– 2 lines (1 sentence)

4th– 1 line (2 sentences)

Again it seems the stanzas hold a different idea so if I go off on tangents, it can be a new stanza.


Desire’s a Desire

Selima Hill

At first I didn’t like this. It seemed preachy and strange. But I read a little about the poet and I have started to like it now.

I don’t think I will ever write a poem like this.

Well of course not because I don’t have the life and experiences of Hill but I know mental illness and I know desire.

I think I also didn’t like it because it’s feminist in its preachiness and I find that hard but I am a feminist so I can relate. Well I’m a woman and can relate which is more important.

2 stanzas – first long 24 lines – second short four lines

I don’t understand it all but my understanding of the last line

“to be free of desire” says to me “free of men’s desire” that universal desire that destroys not the intimate desire that is part of a relationship.

It is the building site men that holler

It is the guys in the clubs that want to dance

Its those in the pubs who want to buy drinks.

It is the #metoo.

First stanza is one sentence each line starts with no capitalization.

Second stanza is three sentences.

It is full of similes – 9 of them.


Rasin Pumpernickel

Marge Piercy

Let’s test the one idea per stanza theory.

It pretty much is

The penultimate stanza seems to have more than one but when it comes down to it – it really is just the idea that “why is she still in love with him – he’s devious, bold, and direct – but still the best novel she’s ever read.”

I love that metaphor – the novel.

Seven stanzas – each five lines.

First four have questions at the end with repetitive “so are you…” The questions don’t have questions marks so they really are statements “so are you happy”. That he is happy and this is how above rather than “are you happy?”

Different sentence.

She could have said

“Thus are you happy” but that is rather old school. She chose “so” instead which gives you an idea of when this was written.

4thstanza she writes repetitive “now it” at the beginning of 2,3,4 lines. I could do something like that with my I remember poem – instead of I remember… I would like to choose something different, but it has to be for a reason.

Many similes and metaphors

“like a sugar maple”

“as silk scarves”

“fierce butter”

“tomcat a ready lover” etc.

The punctuation is proper and some stanzas have two sentences while others have more.

If a sentence goes over the line there is no capitalization on the next line.


To Autumn

John Keats

Seasons of Mists and meloow fruitfulness

Reminds me of mum

If I have a connection to a poem (like mum likes this and dad had it framed for her) I tend to like it if the connection is good (dad framed it)

The lines are not short

The end words rhyme but not each line it is like this


3 stanzas

11 lines each

I don’t know if this is a set form but I will look

Its pretty complicated form wise. Apparently, its structure is odal hymn – English ode 17the century (these were iambic but irregular line length).

Strophe – first part of ode – ancient Greek now – division of poem with stanza of varying line length

Antistrophe – nature of a reply balances effect of strophe

Epode – third part of the ode – completes the movement – with choir chants to left then right then epode comes together in the middle.

Milton ‘strophe antistrophe epode were a kind of stanza framed for the music when used with the chorus that sang’


Sonnet 73 – Autumn Theme


Typical Shakespeare rhythm and words ‘doth, thou, seest’ etc.

Shakespeare sonnet – 14 lines iambic pentameter


Great form

I like Sh Sonnets – they are comforting in their form.

This is about Autumn and the coming to the end of life

I enjoyed it


Autumn Day

Rainer Maria Rilke

Wonderful poem – clever but easy to understand – not too clever for its own good.

3 stanzas

1st3 lines

2nd4 lines

3rd5 lines

First two stanzas describe autumn ‘lay your shadow on the sundials’

The last one describes the autumn of our lives ‘whoever has no house now will not build one any more’


Ee cummings

I read Tulips and Chimneys

The poems are very clever

They fall down

They move

They twirl

They say what they mean

They are original

I want to write like that


Notes on The Cambridge Introduction to Creative Writing by David Morley

Chapter on Writing Poetry (8)

Cellular life of poem is its language

Many poets say that something else takes over a poet when they write*

Richard Hugo says “How you feel about yourself is probably the most important feeling you have”

*RH also says that all those ideas imply that the self as given is inadequate

I feel that about older poetry they were trying to exclude people and make it seem that poetry was for the elite/special people.

All language possesses rhythm

Rhythm is used to create and defend territory and communicate.

Whale song, owl’s call, bird song

Metre and rhyme

Rhythm of language and rhyme engages you.

We stress some words more than others

No final science on this

A lover may sound words differently than a murderer – a good poet plays with this

Poetry sings, says, whispers, shouts – intentionally

Lines of poems have metre

Stressed syllables counted into feet

Terms given to various patterns, e.g., spondee – two stresses

Most common pattern is iambic pentameter

Iamb is a foot with unstressed and stressed syllables

“A ball will bounce, but less and less” This iambic line (4 stresses) imitates the ball

Stanzas (verses) make meaning, line, and shape

Many traditional forms had origins in song

Regular metre, rhyme and form help remember poem

Rhyme and time sound the same but look different

A “full-rhyme” like “full-time” can be played on by a half-rhyme like “fall-time” or “full room”

Repetition devices shape a poem and carry it forward

I am the womb of every hull

I am the blaze on every hill etc

Hearing your own nature

Our language is our first song

Birdsong of our species

“Many poets teach the technical apparatus of metre and versification… a purely technical focus on the early stages can make a beginning writer run for cover “

Very good to hear that above – I can want to run for cover with all the metre etc.

Rest of chapter unfolds maps for finding our way into the language of poetry; exploring introductory modes for making poems and myths that might hold you back.

Poets place value on language above every other literary consideration

Reading poems helps you understand if you are getting it right

Some poets write to preserve moments of significance

“A butterfly’s shadow passing over his hand”

Observation and memory important to poems as character and story to fiction

Poems try to create a small clear world.

assign 3

Awakening language

Meaning and Being

Words are sticky with meaning, history, and association

Choice and combination are crucial in poetry [and all creative writing but especially poetry]

Words we:

Hear “click” “chuckle”

See “freckled” “veined”

Taste “vinegar” “sugar” “honey”

Touch “prickle” “oily”

Smell “tar” “onion”

Words that act “flick” “balance”

Poems should be clear and not need further explanation

We sometimes think they should be mystical and obscure but this is not the case.

Poems do not need to mean anything significant nor justify their existence in social or political terms

“A bad poem is one that vanishes into meaning” Valery

“All bad poetry is sincere” Wilde

Subjects and Ways of Saying

It is what your poem is not what your poem says that makes it work

It is how you write it

The problem is that new writers have been taught to view poetry through over-serious and personal spectacles

Shaping Language


Sets up a reader’s expectations

A reader expects something different from a sonnet than a haiku

For not a mould rather a sieve to catch certain material

Free verse

Not free – often harder than writing in form

Freedom from fixed forms of metre and rhyme

Free form uses devices like alliteration, figures of speech and imagery

Good free verse harder to write than good formed verse

James Fenton thinks DH Laurence  unmetred poems better than metred



As if she had spilt

From cherries, from holly, from

A shake of nightshade

Simple but concise words that show the colour of the Redpoll (whatever a red poll is… oh yes it’s a bird)

Subverting Form

A good sonnet about contemporary war would subvert form of sonnet, which is usually about love

A dark limerick would similarly turn that form inside out

Shaping Sequence and Collection

A group of poems can be set in sequence depending on what they are about or any sequence that gives them further form

Playing with Language

Volcano and Diamonds

Read a lot of poetry to develop your discrimination (volcano spews a lot of ash etc but might send out the odd diamond)

Many species of poems:

Christmas Carols

Nursery Rhymes



Prose poetry

The blues

Read five poems a day

Read backwards in time

“Found poetry” in museum labels, office memos, etc

Write a lot of poetry to get a little




Notes on Coursebook Part Three

Problems writing in traditional form

It can happen when hunting for the right rhyme that you approximate tone, meaning or association, which can pull poem off track, undermining your thinking, and weaken your writing.

First part of poem (fragment)

I am a rose –

a hidden symphony

played out in velvet,

The opening prelude –

guarded petals to

a budding pianissimo…”

Imagery mostly taken from music with moody adjectives – all rather luscious but vague and chocolate box imagery.

Second part of poem (fragment)

I am a rose –

Interflora’s perfumed agent,

a global language for communication,

St. Valentine’s ardent messenger,

the naked model of the Dutch school.

Not the cloned imitation of hats and handbags…”

She removed the first two verses and developed the last two. Thus making a statement on phniness. Now the rose was observed in positives and negatives.

Emily Dickenson: tell all the truth but tell it slant

CB says the slant on truth; let it be your own [your own way of looking at life and your experience is “the slant”]

Notes on Course Book Part 2

Connection has been perceived between poetry and madness

Believed that the poet is specially gifted

Poets are slightly dotty

Poetry is a craft as well as an art

Depending on good observation and much practice

Read other’s poems with an intelligent and well-informed eye

This will increase your understanding of what they are doing and what can be done

Imitation is an important method of attaining technical skill

Read widely

Not just 20thand 21stcentury writing

Read first and foremost for enjoyment

Sample and taste and if you find something you enjoy read it again

Learn why you like it and how it is built

“Make yourself aware of the sounds and rhythms of a poem that catches your attention”

Originality depends on freshness of observation and the words chosen to convey it

Your own life with provide material for originality – that is the your own slant on life – is how it has happened in your life


How to read a poem

Skim through it to get an idea of tone and shape

Look carefully at title which might give an idea of  the poets particular slant

Read again but slowly

Then read out loud – notice moods in the sounds


Good poetry does not approximate and needs no explanation. It stands on its own.

Words speak for themselves with understanding, associations and sounds

No two words have identical connotations

“words are sticky with association and history”

The sounds of words are just as important as their meaning

Formal form and metre has become less necessary

But sounds are used with rhythm just not formal rhythm

The exercises included working with

The rhythm of names [Crewe – Cannock Chase – Budleigh Salterton]

The rhythm of sentences [I’m sitting down to drink a cup of tea]

The sound of words [a sound of word may connect closely with its meaning – smooth – livid – slide – dawdle – hullaballo]

Sounds and breath [The lights begin to twinkle on the rocks. (Like a whisper)

The long day wanes. The slow moon climbs. The deep (long drawn out and the breathe after “deep”)

Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends! (the end is decisive)






Notes on Course Book Part 1

“Good writing depends on good observation”


See through all senses








“The more accurately you use your senses, the more you will find that you need to distinguish between the words at your disposal in order to record your observation.”


Needed for writing poetry



Maybe a space set aside (I find I can work anywhere, in front room with my husband, on train, at work)

Pens (I like to work on computer but do use pens on train)

Notebook to hand

Computer (but beware distractions of the Internet – that black hole that sucks you in)

Wastepaper basket (to get rid of those poems that don’t work!)



Dictionary with etymological component


Sources of myth

The Bible

Greek and Roman myths



Poems can’t be hurried. Sometimes you need to leave them a while and come back to them.





Part One – Poetry – Write up of A Poetry Handbook by Mary Oliver










Apparently, “poets are born and not made in school.” I might as well give up. Unless, of course, I was born a poet. There is the evidence as I enjoyed writing in school and have always had a yearning to write a novel; but that is no poetry. However, Oliver does go on to say that “whatever can’t be taught, there is a great deal that can, and must, be learned.” That makes me feel better.

All books I have read on how to write say you must read and Oliver is no different. She has a chapter on Reading Poems. She goes on to say that the choice can be overwhelming. She says to be careful not to only read the present poems but read the past too. That is many poems. I have bought five poetry books from different eras: current, Victorian, and further back. Oliver recommends imitating the poets that we enjoy in order to learn from them.

Poetry from the past was written in metric form and with full rhymes. Current poetry is written in free form. Its form comes from imagery, language, alliteration, and assonance.

Oliver tells us about the “Families of Sound.”

Vowels and consonants.

Consonants divided into semivowels and mutes.

Semivowels are consonants that can be imperfectly sounded without a vowels so that at the end of a syllable its sounds may be protracted as l, n, z, in al, an, az.

Semivowels are f, h, j, l, m, n, r, s, v, w, x, y, x, and c and g soft. But w. or y at the end of a syllable is a vowel. C, f, g, h, j, s, or x is only protracted as an aspirate, or on a strong breath.

Four of the semivowels – l, m, n, r, – are termed liquids because of the fluency of their sounds.

Four others – v, w, y, and z, are more vocal that the aspirates.

A mute is a consonant that cannot be sounded at all without a vowel and stops the breath at the end of a syllable – k, p, t, in ak, ap, at.

Mutes are: b, d, k, p, q, t, and c and g hard (k, g, c, hard sound the same). B, d, g, hard stop the voice less suddenly than the rest.

This all sounds really boring until you realize how it makes the poems sound.

Oliver gives the examples of Hush! Please be quiet! And Shut up! They all mean the same but sound different.

So a poem can sound angry just with the words we use.

More Devices of Sound

Alliteration – repetition of the initial sound of words in a line or verse “The bear’s tongue, pink as a baby’s.” It also includes the repetition of initial and internal sounds “blueberry”.

Assonance – repetition of vowel sounds within a line or verse. “and land so lightly”.

Onomatopoeia – word that sounds like what it means “buzz” “belched”.

The Line

Where the line turns is and should be meaningful.

Length and Rhythm – each line divided into feet – each foot into stresses. An iambic foot is one light stress followed by one heavy stress “upon”. Five iambic feet in one line is an iambic pentameter line

Page 37 – list of metrical line names and metrical feet names and symbols.

“Put one world on a line by itself in a poem of otherwise longish lines and it becomes a critical word” 43

“Lines of good poetry are apt to be a little irregular.” 44

She talks a lot about the different metres and how they are used.

Most poems start with iambic meter. The mood is relaxed. If you begin with a heavy stress (spondee, trochee, or dactyl) it signals that something dramatic is at hand. 52

Ending lines with rhyme gives pleasure. That can either be true rhyme (spears/tears) or off rhyme if they almost rhyme (down/noon). Feminie Rhyme uses words of more than one syllable that end with a light stress (buckle/knuckle). Femine and off rhyme blur end rhyme where true rhyme (masculine) are forthright.

Repetition of lines is s source of enjoyment.

Turning the line – using a sentence or full meaning works so that the reader is invited to pause and weigh the information. If enjambment occurs (the meaning is cut over two or more lines) the reader hurries up to read the rest and so is pulled along. This can make that part of the poem faster.

Forms – Stanza (verse)

On page 59 Oliver gives examples of rhyming patters – couplet aa bb cc dd etc.

Any change from an established pattern indicates that the poet wants the reader to feel something different at that point. 61

Syllablic verse – a good example of that is on 65 The Fish – shows how different sized lines (by syllables) can add rhythm and pull the reader along.

Free Verse

Free verse is not quite so free. It still has some sort of pleasant form, or if it changes that form, it points to the reason in the words and sound – the change highlights that something of import is happening.

The initial premise is made up of everything the old metrical premise is composed of – sound, line length, and rhythm patters, but in this case they are not strict, they are not metrical. Refrain and repetition are still effective. Alliteration and assonance are used. 68

Free verse poems are more friendly and less “teacherly” than the metrical form poems. Less formal. Probably came about because of a more classless society.

Enjambment can be serious, disruptive, almost painful. In the Red Wheelbarrow it is not 75

The Red Wheelbarrow – Williams


so much depends



a red wheel



glazed with rain



beside the white



Diction, Tone, Voice

Diction – word choice

Tone – choice of subject imagery design of the poem

Voice – Agent who is speaking through the poem 76


Diction – sound, accuracy and connotation of word (connotation – idea or feeling invoked by a word)

Atmosphere created by word choice

Modern poetry mostly written in language that belies a friendly and natural intimacy

Modern poems – words placed in order you would use yourself – accessible

This tone of intimacy did not just happen but it is created by the poet.

Past poems – voice took role of professor

Modern poems – voice takes role of friend and intimacy


Negative Capability– where you step back ad the poem takes over. Phrase originates with Keats

Poem by Type –

  • Lyric Poem

Fairly brief up to about 60 lines

Usually concentrated on one subject

No more than a single voice

Simple and natural musicality

Might feel in a vortex


  • Narrative Poem

Longer than Lyric

Discursive – digressing from subject to subject – rambling

More comfortable than Lyric

Examples – Whittier’s Snowbound

Walter de la Mare’s The Listener

Robert Penn Warren’s The Ballard of Billie Potts


  • Longer Poem

No longer epic poems are written now but long poems are

They have central idea, digressions, and different voices

Example – TS Elliot’s The Wastelands


  • Epic Poem

No longer written

Requed dignified theme, organic unit and orderly progress of action

Examples – Beowulf and Iliad


  • Prose Poem

Very recent form

Looks like short block of type on page

Paragraph or two – no more than a page

Perhaps characters – perhaps not

Seems to have at center a situation rather than a narrative

Nothing much happens

A problem is making language work without musicality of the line

Syntax (arrangement of words and phrases) is often exquisite

Examples – Charles Baudelaire and Arthur Rimbaud first

Then maybe, James Wright and Robert Bly


Inappropriate Language

Language of poems is romantic – patches of woods are bowers – fields are emerald carpets – avoid these clunkers

Do not use clichés

Inversion – changing natural order of the words – mostly does not work – sounds @out of whatck@ – Bad inversion occurs in metrical verse in order to make syllables fits. – it calls attention to itself – good inversion is difficult to achieve

Informational language – the language you would use to write a paragraph on how to operate a can opener – don’t do it


Appropriate Language

Syntax – correct grammer and forceful graceful syntax

A phrase with no verb does not work

Advert and adjectives worth 5 cents

Verbs worth – 50 cents


Variety versus habits – effective writing varies its ingredients – use loads of different words

Beginning writer should write poems simply, freshly and clearly


Imagery [figurative language]

Language of poetry is language of particulars

Detailed and sensory language incorporating images

“My love is like a red rose” = imagery

“My loves is sweet, wild wonderful” are all abstract and not specific

In a poem there is a figure/image.

Patience could be represented as a statue as patient as stone

Specific devices are metaphor, simile, allusion, personification


Particulars and Texture


Fruit – informational – no image

Apple or peach – abstract and only a word mean any or all apples

The last apple on the tree or The one small peach as pink as dawn = developing texture

Example – The Fish by Elizabeth Bishop


Particulars –

Whitman, in one line, establishes the reader in place-where-the-poem-is “over the sharp-peak’d farmhouse, with its scallop’d scum and slender shoots from the gutters”

Stanley Kuntz in the Round – the poet leaning closer into the flowers so that he sees more than how the light flowed over the honey bees “down blue-spiked veronica light flowed in rivulets over the humps of the honey bees”

The poet must scrutinize the world intensely.

Figurative language –

Love like a burning city in the breast – Millay Fatal Interview

The clouds were low and hairy in the skies like locks blown forward in the gleam of eyes – Frost, One by the Pacific

Simile –

“Like” or”as”

Metaphor –

Implicit comparison – does not use like or as

Little boys lie still awake, wondering, wondering, Delicate little boxes of dust – Wright, The undermining

Personification –

Gives physical characteristic or quality of animation to something inanimate

I bowed my head and heard the sea far of / washing its hands – James Wright

Allusion –

Reference to something that belongs to a world beyond the specific sphere of the poem, e.g., using Van Gogh’s paintings of sunflowers to describe any old sunflower

Universal language –

We all live in the saem world country and city and feel same emotions. Some language is used by everyone to describe:

Ocean as mother

Sun as health

“Dark satanic mills”

“My love is like a red, red, rose”

The power of poetry comes from both mental inquiry and figurative language

Too much imagery can be jolting and cause poem to lose its meaning. Make sure imagery is appropriate – if not sure, don’t use it.


All poems need revision

Leave poem few days – so you come back to it fresh

Write poem for stranger who will be born in some distant country hundreds of years from now – everything necessary must be on page – it needs to carry all that it must to sustain life and not a lot of extra weight.

Too many metaphors can slow down the forward flow

Cutting is important

Oliver revises 40/50 drafts – others take longer

Some poems are unfixable


Flaubert to Van Gough – Talent is long patience, and originality an effort of will and of intense observation”

What Oliver says about that “…Look at what he does say: Patience is necessary and an effort of will and intense observation. What a hopeful statement! For who needs to be shy of any of these? No one!

That makes me hopeful.

Writing Down The Bones – Rough Notes

I read this book because of the recommendation regarding free writing. I have found it useful to get the creative juices running when I get up early in the morning and find time to free write but then I don’t know what to write. I will use this book every day for freewriting ideas. It is wonderful

In the chapter A List of Topics for Writing Practice, there is just that: a list that I can pick from when I have a moment to write. I have not used it yet, but it is good to know it is there. When I have used it, I will come back and complete this.

I find that my Editor gets in before the Creator has jumped off the diving board. It can be very frustrating. In Trouble with the Editor, it was a relief to see that I am not the only one with this problem. Next time I have this problem, I will write what the editor is saying. Often though, it is unconscious. I just find myself stalling or my writing is stilted.

Man Eats Car has shown me what metaphor is. When the Creator is taking charge anything can happen. So yes the ant is the elephant. And the door knocker can sneer (I used that in my second assignment). Apparently you have to believe in the metaphor (when the Editor comes knocking). If not, it will sound wrong. But mainly I like the way she say to get out of the way and let the writing come. Just like this morning when I was sitting on the moon with David Bowie. As Goldberg says, “You will leap naturally when you follow your thoughts, because the mind spontaneously takes great leaps”.

I discovered that when I started to write 10 three-lined poems in 30 minutes. My mind leaped from tea to rhyming slang. This, by the way, is a suggestion in A Sensation of Space. I enjoyed that exercise and will definitely do it again and again.

Goldberg encourages us to use original detail as we see it in writing. If I look around my office, I see worn desks, stained floor tiles, and tired assistants. It is the same if my office were in New York. The details are the same wherever and we can use the ones that are close to us. So as we walk through life, we need to note those details. I could do free-writing in the morning and journaling at night after I have had a day of details.

Details are the basic unit of writing, Goldberg tells us. But she goes on to mention that we need to add heat emotions etc to make it interesting. I’m not sure how I do that. I feel like I am a little detached from my writing. Maybe I am not writing about things that I care about. I am writing family stories. I do care about that. In what way? I never knew my grandparents (apart from Rose – and really I did not know her much except that she did not like me much – but there it is – the emotion – I did not feel loved by her – mostly). Writing about Bill and Grace, I feel closer to them. They become alive for me. I have to think about their characters, what motivated them, where they lived, what they ate for breakfast, etc. Those are the details. Then the emotions that happened because of all this. Their story is easy in some ways because he left. He must have been in pain or confused or just plain mean to have left. She must have been devastated when he did.

Goldberg says “caress the details… care about what is around you… let your whole body touch the river … so if you call it yellow or stupid or slow, all of you is feeling it” (Baking a cake). But she does go on to say in Big Concentration that while we are writing all these details about how to “carve… your first spoon out of cedar” you remember that the snow is falling outside or the lady next door is wearing weally weally red lipstick. And remember that 1+1 might equal 4 as she mentions in One Plus One Equals a Mercedes-Benz – when freewriting I find my editor coming in and wanting to make sense or I feel my Editor coming in and wanting to make it interesting – rather than just letting the writing take over and describe myself as “the warrior in a red horse” or however I am feeling. And do it without thinking if it is good or not or makes sense.

Goldberg talks about listening and becoming one with your listening (Listening). This has helped me recently because I have written down things that I hear on bus or in the office, e.g., “by six it could be chilly it could”. But also listening with all of me. She says “listen with your whole body”. I can understand that through my spiritual practice. Notice all things – like why do some people not like others?

There is a good exercise at page 67 Syntax that I will use for freewriting.

In Nervously Sipping Wine, Goldberg talks about Russell Edson and his poem that are crazy and fun. This is something to remember too for freewriting. Write a list of good first lines that are unconventional: “A man wants an aeroplane to like him”. Then write the poem. As she says “dive into absurdity”. Another one for freewriting.

The chapter Make Statements and Answer Questions is about women and language. She mentions that we make states like “The Vietnam war is awful, isn’t it? “I like this, don’t you?” as if we are in some way trying to get permission for our opinions and tastes. Don’t do that! I know I do and it is not always conscious.

Another exercise is Why Do I Write? Which is an exercise is writing down all the reasons I write. Especially when I think that it is a waste of time.

The last couple of exercises that interested me where writing about a meal (A Meal You Love) – something you really do love like bacon sarnies. The other is writing about home and family – “make a list of all the expressions your family uses and incorporate them in your writing”. I will have a field day with Kelly but there are also the nonsense words that my dad has always used like Shlozalbonce (my nick name) and ch ch ch bang as he sits down.

Finally she also said in this book (but I did not note where): “when I have students who have written many pages and… the writing is not all necessarily good but I see they are exploring… I am glad. I know these people will continue and are not just obsessed with “hot” writing”. I feel that she was writing about me here. I keep trying. I keep exploring. I keep wanting to write and fly.

Patti Smith – M Train


I read M Train as an author’s notebook. She uses her notebooks to write an autobiography of sorts. This book resonated with me – the poetry is impressive. She uses the perfect words for the story. Her writing is like a poem, a song, and a story all wrapped up in a bow of coffee (her favourite vice). I can see how writing poetry in project 1 of our class can help with writing stories. She certainly showed that.

Smith’s use of notebooks is inspiring – she is always writing. She favours writing in cafes. She has her favourite café in New York, but visits others around the world. She writes in notebooks, but also on napkins. I enjoy her use of photos to supplement her words.

This book was stimulating and creative ideas popped as I was reading. I had wanted to write about my grandmother, but I can feel now that my next story is about my father. He has dementia and has changed from the man of my childhood to a young soul. He had a spiritual life and I can see how close spirituality is to madness. Saint Francis surely showed us this.


The Creative Writing Coursebook – 1

I started reading this book. I completed the first four articles. So far it seems these articles are explaining the exercises that we are following in class.

It helped me to read in Clearing your Throat by Julia Bell that daily writing in my notebook and free writing will help me to improve. I liked how she likened it to exercise and limbering up: that made sense to me and helps me through the times when my notebooks seems to be full of rubbish. This is just the beginning.

Françoise Sagan also mentions limbering up in Getting into the Groove. There was so much in her article: ideas, exercises, inspiration… that I will certainly use her article as a reference point going forward when I need ideas for my notebook. I have tabbed her article for this use.

I enjoyed Paul Magrs’ Notebooks because he wrote a story about his childhood and his love of writing. I was easily drawn into his world. The fact that he had loads of notebooks helped me because I now do not worry about “what do I do when I get to the end of my notebook!” Buy myself a new one! The descriptions of his characters (especially his teacher) where instructive. I tend to step back when writing descriptions and do not always find the right way to place the description where they will not halt the action. And he mentions the details that we have to notice and how hard work it is. I find that my tendency is to skim over the surface. I am afraid to write to deep. It can get scary down there.

Nicole Ward Jouve mentions this too in On Keeping a Diary. She says in item seven that dreams can help find the essence of a character. Delving into my dreams and putting on paper what I dream seems scary but it provided fodder for the start of a poem, so it seems we do put a lot of ourselves into our writing. If I fear that, or at least allow that fear to stop me delving, I will not develop as a writer. It takes courage to write.