Hello everyone. I sense a ballad battlefield strewn with wounded, moaning poets. And those of you who don’t write, but follow me to read my posts [bless you], are thinking: Wow! Glad I didn’t have to try that. But, maybe a small percentage of you tried? I hope so. It’s worth it to add ballads to your arsenal.
Let me, for a moment, before I talk about this week’s exercise, tell you why form is so important to a writer. I wrote free verse for years before tackling forms, because the structure of most forms seems daunting. But, once I conquered my fears, I found that forms not only freed me, but give me great pleasure. To have to work within constraints to craft a poem makes me stretch my writing muscles.
I also became aware that to write good free verse, I needed to learn about structure. Free verse is not writing anything down without a form. Free verse has structure, uses poetic devices, requires pacing. The freedom comes in the structure not being a set structure but one a writer devises. In many ways, writing good free verse is more difficult than following a set of rules.
That’s my 101 for today. Now to the exercise. I will give you a break from form and give you one of my favourite things to play with in creating poetry: the cento. Those of you who follow We Write Poems know that they set that as their prompt this week [totally independently–I do love serendipity], as well. I will tell you what you need to do and tomorrow you will have an extra post from me with two examples, as I will be posting responses to We Write Poems.
Choose a poet you enjoy and find an online resource that carries several of his/her poems [I Googled: Robert Frost’s poems]. Go through and copy one or two lines you like from at least five poems. You probably want to aim for having fifteen to twenty lines. You can keep an undefined theme running through your choices, or go nuts and pick lines without worrying whether they will be easy to make work. Be sure and note for each line you copy, the name of the poem.
To make my life easier, I write the lines so I can cut them into strips and sit at a table, or on the floor, to shift the order of the lines around until they make sense. In a proper cento, nothing should be changed except the punctuation. I had to, with my choices, shift the point of view, so the speaker was all first person, or third person.
But, I also enjoy tweaking the cento and incorporating lines. You may remember a poem I posted a few weeks ago using first lines from e. e. cummings. Much of the poem had my words as well. You might try a pure cento first and then if you have one you are itching to tweak, go ahead. After the poem is done, remember to write the author and titles of the poems from which you took the lines.
Don’t forget that I enjoy seeing the fruits of your labours and do post your efforts in my comments, or link to your own blog. You can always remove the poem later.
If you know anyone who would enjoy this, click on the buttons below. And, I shall see you Thursday for seven random facts about me, plus some of the blogs I will nominate for the Versatile Blogger award. Friday will be the week’s roundup of prompts and next Tuesday we will look at cascade poems. Don’t they sound lovely? Happy writing.