7:46 a.m. — Atlanta
Good-day, all. I find I am much more enthusiastic about Tuesdays, than Mondays. I hope all is well with everyone. Today we are going to work with motifs. Motifs are one of my favourite literary devices. I shall endeavor to not go off into flights of fervour.
Motifs are most commonly found in plays, novels, and short stories [because they are longer and the motif, if well-used, is more subtle] and are defined as any recurring element that has symbolic significance to the story. Through its repetition, a motif provides a narrative thread, helps characterise people, underscores themes, and several other items that we don’t need to worry about. We create motifs through imagery, structural components, language, and other elements.
The beauty of a motif is that it gives us a larger scope for nuances. The repetition of a motif tends to be different aspects of one component. Joseph Harker, in his latest Reverie, suggests using a time motif: Another trick is to use lots of time-related words to outline the frame: “minute”, “moment”, “day”, “afternoon”, etc. to keep the time images fresh in your reader’s mind. These time elements support the frame, and underline the theme that time is fleeting.
You might be writing a poem about barriers, but you don’t want to say so directly. Throughout the poem you can use different images that imply barrier: wall, fence, coffin, body of water, age and a whole lot more, but you get the idea.
For this exercise, look for patterns, motifs, throughout your house, or place of work [yes, I know some of you are out there waiting for a reason not to work]. The pattern can be one of colour, shape, size, style, thing… you are looking for repetition. In my flat, as I look around, that might be the colour red: the double-decker bus in a black and white poster, the bubblegum dispenser, the Chinese calendar, a fire extinguisher, four tomatoes, a lithograph, a pair of chopsticks… and I haven’t moved out of my chair [my nest is part of the kitchen/living room area, in what should be the dining room — it’s a small flat].
I have to look more deliberately, but I have several things that are corkscrew in shape: a corkscrew [I know], an incense spiral, rotini, a pair of earrings, the spiral at the top of my notebook; you get the idea. List what you find. Go for a couple of motifs, so you have some elbow room.
Go outside [lunchtime, work people?]. You want to find parallels with the motifs you listed in your indoor place. List them and jot brief notes giving each a context, or take photographs, so you have them to look at when you are back to your writing place. Why the parallels? To give you more scope for writing. You may write about indoors, or outdoors, or both. You might focus primarily on one area and pull an image from another.
Without directly addressing it, write a poem that shows the motif working in your world, or a world you create. Below I have a sonnet by Robert Frost which does exactly that:
I found a dimpled spider, fat and white,
On a white heal-all, holding up a moth
Like a white piece of rigid satin cloth —
Assorted characters of death and blight
Mixed ready to begin the morning right,
Like the ingredients of a witches’ broth —
A snow-drop spider, a flower like a froth,
And dead wings carried like a paper kite.
What had that flower to do with being white,
The wayside blue and innocent heal-all?
What brought the kindred spider to that height,
Then steered the white moth thither in the night?
What but design of darkness to appall?–
If design govern in a thing so small.
Thomas Hardy, in Tess of the D’Urbervilles, uses over fifty-five motifs. Hardy trained as an architect and he uses motifs to structure his stories. Shakespeare loved playing with motifs. The two he uses when Macbeth and Lady M appear are birds of prey, or something signifying barrenness. For the Macduffs and Banquo, Shakespeare uses gentle, defenceless birds, and fruitfulness. What’s that? Mercy? Oh, fine.
Don’t forget to post your poems and visit others to see what they come up with. I shall see you Thursday for either announcements or a possible reblog — if I find whatever I thought would make a brilliant reblog. I know: Should have written it down, Margo. I will see you again Friday for the roundup; and next Tuesday for an image prompt. You have been saved from homework by the last Tuesday of the month. I guess I will have to shift it to April… heh heh heh. Everyone ready for poem-a-day?
Happy writing, all.