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Thursday Thoughts on Word Choice in Poetry

9:12 a.m. — Atlanta

Goodday! Today’s thought is brought to you by ViV and Paula. They were having a discussion on the difference between the way the English define a word, and the way an American might. As the definitions of a particular word are opposite, the question arises, what’s a writer to do?

Word choice is probably the most important of all the choices a writer must make and I would say that is especially so for poetry, because it is so condensed. In times before the Internet, most writers knew the audience for whom they were writing and chose their words accordingly, both to convey the poem’s truth and to make the truth accessible. But now? A poet’s intended audience and actual audience are two different animals.

I am going to reproduce for you the conversation between Paula and ViV and what I would like is for everyone to chime in with their thoughts and experiences.

ViV:

Paula, I have to ask this – I have so often wanted to ask on blogs – if there is a difference in meaning between American and English interpretation of the word ‘quite’ when used as an adverb? In English English, to say something is quite good is to damn it with faint praise; to say I am quite pleased, means that I am mildly interested. But I have a sneaking feeling that ‘quite’ to an American means ‘absolutely, or superlatively. Am I wrong?

Paula:

“Quite.” Yes…generally I think of it as “extremely.” I looked it up just now at Dictionary.com and found this entry:

1. completely, wholly, or entirely: quite the reverse; not quite finished.
2. actually, really, or truly: quite a sudden change.
3. to a considerable extent or degree: quite small; quite objectionable.

ViV:

What a can of worms I have opened!

I looked in my Chambers dictionary, which gave roughly the same definition as yours. But I was unconvinced, and looked elsewhere, to the Word dictionary of synonyms, which was enlightening in the extreme, giving these two interpretations:

1.    fairly, rather, pretty (in the sense of fairly rather than good looking), moderately, relatively, reasonably, somewhat, to a certain extent; extremely (antonym)
2.    very, completely, entirely, totally, utterly, absolutely, extremely, fully, wholly, slightly (antonym)
The same word – depending on context –can be diametrically opposed! Naturally, I was aware of the “very” definition, as in “He is quite cured of his illness” = totally; though colloquially “fairly” is far more common in British English – so to say someone is quite pretty means that they are not actually ugly!

Margo joins:

I loved reading the conversation in these emails and, having gone to a British school up through fourth form, have the same definition of ‘quite’ as ViV, so was fascinated to read your take, Paula. To me, as with ViV, ‘quite’ damns with faint praise: ‘She’s quite pretty’. It’s like saying she has a wonderful personality. Everyone knows she’s not anything to look at particularly.

ViV:

Faux amis can be a cause of embarrassment if not downright offence! I know many French/English ones – eg exposition in French translates as exhibition in English. Exhibition in French translates as to the action of exposing oneself, or flashing in colloquial English. Miserable in English means sad, down in the dumps. In French it is used for a state of extreme poverty. But my knowledge of American usage is insufficient to think of examples off the top of my head.

Paula’s suggestion of adding differences in accents is a good one. The many different accents in the United Kingdom, particularly in vowel sounds, can make a critical difference to the way rhymes are heard in different places. Tillybud had some examples, being a Northerner, where I and other Southerners were mystified.

I think that once the topic is launched, international blogger poets will be quick to find examples.

Me:

Back to my narrative. You will all have noticed that not just word choice from the point of view of meaning needs to be considered, but how the word sounds, from the point of view of both aural and pace, has been added. So, all of you international writers, what are your thoughts?

I will see you tomorrow for the usual roundup of prompts; I may or may not see you next week, depending on computer access in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. If you don’t see me Tuesday, then plan on the following week. Either way the Tuesday exercise will be an open prompt.

Happy writing and thinking!

 
18 Comments

Posted by on 08/09/2011 in poetry, writing

 

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Friday Freeforall: Poetry Prompts to Keep You Going

7:56 p.m. — Walnut Creek

Hello all. Yes, I am a trifle late. Mom’s day in the city. I like to accompany her. Lunch at Japantown. Yum! That was my opening last night before my mom’s internet went wonky. I learned the panicky feeling people are beset with when they have a regular blog that goes out, not to mention the emails I knew were piling up! The time is now 11:45 a.m. and I am hoping to get this posted before something else happens.

We start, as always, with Donna’s Poetry Tow Truck and a prompt that says: Today, I will ask you to take one of your “ugly” words and transform it into something beautiful. There are several ways to approach this….. To find out the ways and to see what Donna is talking about, you know what to do. If you missed last week’s because you wait until I post Friday, trawl back through her posts. You are looking for a prompt on reverse sonnets. I know! These both sound intriguing.

The next site is The Sunday Whirl. Visit to see Brenda’s wordle and to read up on how it works, if you wish to post responses. Otherwise, enjoy a weekly wordle, the words of which come from responses to the previous week’s wordle. And be sure to go over to see what others have done.

Poetic Bloomings, hosted by Maria Elena Good and Walt Wojtanik, asks us to try a Japanese form: This week our featured form is the Dodoitsu. The Dodoitsu is a fixed folk song form of Japanese origin and is often about love or humor. Visit the site to learn the structure, and read the poems by the hosts in response.

For Carry on Tuesday, we have a line from Shakespeare’s Hamlet: Neither a borrower nor a lender be. Play with it before going over to the site to see what others have written and for a link to read other lines from Hamlet. You will be surprised how many you know..

One Single Impression offers us respect which can be approached on many different levels. To find out more go over to the site. Check out some of the participants’ offerings while you are there.

At Scribble & Scatter’s ‘Sunday Snaps’ Susan May James has three photographs ready for you to look at. They are lovely. If you use one, consider submitting your creation to Sunday Snaps: the Stories’  a collection of 52 photos and stories/poems. Susan is finalising submissions for her next book and has posted a deadline. Head to the stories’ link to read up on it.

Whether you like to read them or want to try writing one, this site is the place to play with limericks. I enjoy the whole site more every week. It is plain fun to browse. Go to Mad Kane’s Humor Blog for her Limerick-off Mondays and a lot more besides.

Jingle Poetry’s ‘Monday Potluck’ offers us Life in Free Verse. Remember to pop by and check the site. Next week they want us to focus on art.

Visit Magpie Tales for our other image prompt. The painting is by Thomas Hart Benton and if you aren’t sure what to do with the whole, pick an individual or a small group to write on. Ask yourself what story just happened, or is about to happen, here.

For you alliterists out there, here is ABC Wednesdays letter for this week: Gad zooks!   Can you believe we have traveled from A to Z one more time on ABC Wednesday?  Head over to read the rest of the Z prompt and for a link to zydeco music, which is great fun.

The three words this week for Three Word Wednesday are indecision, option, and fate. As always, visit them for their definitions. They have a particularly good source. I realised, this time, why what intrigues me more than the words are the definitions. A mini found poem can be written from them. When you look at the definition each week keep that in mind.

We Write Poems starts its prompt with: Elizabeth Crawford’s suggestion for our prompt is to use the dictionary (or thesaurus), find some words new to your vocabulary and use them in creating the poem you write this week! Go on over and read the rest of the prompt.

Poets United ends their prompt with: So this week we give you the prompt of loneliness. When does it strike you the most, the holidays after the family has left? When someone close to you has passed on? When you move away from your childhood home? When do you feel you’re most alone?. They always have more to help us choose possible paths, so go over and read the rest of the prompt and view the photographs. Loneliness is a powerful thing to write about.

Scribble & Scatter’s ‘Alpha to Omega Thursdays‘ says: Theta is the eighth letter of the Greek alphabet and the focus of our next alpha to omega challenge. Head over to see the two words chosen and to read their definitions.

New entry this week. I know several poets try their hand at flash fiction so thought I would include a site that looks open as far as focus and topic but is there as a place to post. I haven’t quite found my way around it but you younger brains out there may be able to figure it out. Flash 55 is a site hosted by the G-Man, who posts every Thursday…I think. Feel free to let me know in comments if you know how the site works. I did look for directions.

Remember to check out Elizabeth Crawford’s discussion site Writers Speak where she asks writers of all genres to stop by and talk about the life of a writer. She will post new topics every week around Friday. This week’s topic is a series of ten questions. We may answer one, a couple, or all. Here’s a chance to get to know our fellow writers and cyber friends a little more.

That should keep you busy and writing. If you think anyone else would enjoy these, click on the buttons below. If you have questions ask. If you write in response to any of these, both the people whose blogs you visit and I would love to read your responses. So, post!

I shall see you Tuesday for a new form; Thursday for a discussion of a topic yet to be decided [Hey! I’m on vacation!]; and next Friday for more of the same. Happy writing, everyone.

P.S. If I disappear it’s my mother’s internet.

 
23 Comments

Posted by on 16/07/2011 in exercises, poetry, writing

 

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Thursday Thoughts: Freeverse + Freewriting

9:57 a.m. — Walnut Creek

Hello, gang. We have a reader suggestion today, from Viv: a discussion of freewriting, to which I added free verse, as there are people who confuse the two.

First, let’s deal with free verse. It’s not free. What the people who coined the term meant was free of metre and end rhyme. Everything else that goes into writing a strong poem still comes into play and, because we have taken metre and end rhymes out, we have to be more conscious of where we break the lines and of internal rhyme. And, the poem still needs a rhythm that works. Hmmm. I’m beginning to think we should rename it. If you missed the post on free verse over at One Stop Poetry it’s well-worth visiting and reading. An excellent essay on free verse.

Freewriting is free of all constraints. It is a strategy that works for many people [not me…sigh] either as a kickstart or a restart. When I began my blog last year, I wrote about it. Here, updated, is what I said:

Almost any writer on writing will tell you: write write write do not stop write do not edit write do not stop write write write. The problem most of us have is that we have a self-censor sitting on one of our shoulders. This censor says That sounds silly. That’s not grammatical. What kind of syntax is that? Did you put a comma in there? Did you spell that long word correctly? What kind of image is that? It doesn’t make sense. Enough of that and you will talk yourself into not writing.

If your mind goes blank because you are trying so hard not to self-censor, or your mind just goes blank, don’t stop. Keep writing the last word you wrote over and over again. Your brain won’t like that and will kick back in. The surrealist writers believed that they had to reach a state beyond reality in order to find and write that which is true. What we call freewriting developed from them.

Ideally you want to write several pages without stopping. If you can do that you will find when you go back through that your mind and hand have taken you down many paths. You can choose one of the paths to follow knowingly, or choose words and phrases that speak to you and pull them out as a seed to a possible poem.

Rather than setting a time, I have found it easier to set yourself a number of pages. If you have never done this before, start with two pages and write. If it will help, pick a topic, but then don’t worry or panic if you notice that instead of writing about whales, you are writing about hot air balloons. Your brain made some kind of connection. Go with it. It may take you wondrous places.

Things not to worry about: grammar, spelling, sense, punctuation. That can all come later. Use what you are most comfortable with: computer, pen, pencil. Above all: if handwriting, do not stop the movement of your hand. Studies have found a direct correlation with the movement of the hand and creativity. Computer people, don’t panic. While the creative process works differently, these studies do not mean you have to change your modus operandi. When freewriting if you hit a stop point hit any key and keep it up until your brain starts again.

The object of freewriting is not to come up with a poem but to loosen the creative juices; if you get a poem from the process = bonus.

Remember: You need to write before you can write well. You need to have written something before you can worry about revision. You have to write before you can craft.

Let’s start with that and if you want me to address a specific aspect, ask. I can already see a couple of areas we can delve into further, but this post is long enough.

I will see you tomorrow for the week’s roundup of prompts; Tuesday for the next form; and next Thursday is open so far. If anyone has a suggestion, an idea they want me to discourse on, please let me know. Writing on reader generated topics has quickly become something I look forward to working on. Thank you, Viv, for this one.

Happy writing all.

 
17 Comments

Posted by on 14/07/2011 in poetry, writing

 

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Tuesday Tryouts: Something Old, Something New

9:50 a.m. — Walnut Creek

Hello, dear readers. I am a trifle late, but was hoping the fuzziness enveloping my brain would disappear. Woke up with a migraine and am now feeling quite lightheaded. As a result you get another week’s grace before I toss you in the deepend with the next form, because I need a fully working brain to explain it.

Short and sweet:

Jot down four lists: Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue. Try for at least six items per category. Remember that you can be metaphorical as well as literal. You can be as creative and imaginative and as out of the box as you would like.

Take one item from each list and use the four in a poem. Allow the four to suggest your focus. Write in free verse or start shifting back into form mode by using one of the ones we have gone over in the past few weeks, or another form that you know.

If you wonder ‘Can I?’ The answer is ‘Yes’.

Remember to post a link so I, and others, can enjoy your poem. I shall see you Thursday for thoughts on freewriting and free verse; Friday, for the roundup; and next Tuesday, when, hopefully, I shall present you another form.

Happy writing, all.

 
21 Comments

Posted by on 12/07/2011 in exercises, poetry, writing

 

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Friday Freeforall: Poetry Prompts for That Summer Something

9:13 a.m. — Walnut Creek

Hello all. I hope you have had a good week and will have a relaxing weekend.

We start, as always, with Donna’s Poetry Tow Truck and an interesting prompt that says in part: We are talking word families here, words that are related through etymology!… To find out the steps and read two examples, head over to the Tow Truck and check out the rest of the prompt. I have already seen results from a couple of you.

 

The next site is The Sunday Whirl. Visit to see Brenda’s wordle and to read up on how it works, if you wish to post responses. Otherwise, enjoy a weekly wordle, the words of which come from responses to the previous week’s wordle. This week’s is from three poems, one of which, I was tickled to see, was mine. And be sure to go over to see what others have done.

Poetic Bloomings, hosted by Maria Elena Good and Walt Wojtanik, has a regular prompt and a wild card prompt, this week. Visit the site and look it over, read the prompts and the poems by the hosts in response.

The line chosen by Carry on Tuesday is the first line of Edna St. Vincent Millay’s poem “First Fig”: “My candle burns at both ends“. I love the possibilities; play with it before going over to the site to see what others have written and for a link to read the poem.

Sunday Scribblings’ prompt is: woods. And One Single Impression offers us crater which can be interesting metaphorically. To find out more go over to the sites. You might check out some of the participants’ offerings.

At Scribble & Scatter’s ‘Sunday Snaps’ Susan May James has three photographs ready for you to look at. They play with visual texture and colour. If you use one, consider submitting your creation to Sunday Snaps: the Stories’  a collection of 52 photos and stories/poems. Susan is finalising submissions for her next book and has posted a deadline. Head to the stories’ link to read up on it.

Whether you like to read them or want to try writing one, this site is the place to play with limericks. I enjoy the whole site more every week. It is plain fun to browse. Go to Mad Kane’s Humor Blog for her Limerick-off Mondays and a lot more besides [I notice, this week, that she is becoming addicted to acrostic limericks, so if you need an extra challenge…]

Jingle Poetry’s ‘Monday Potluck’ offers us Siblings, Cousins and Friends. Remember to pop by and check the image that accompanies the prompt and also a new feature that involves music. Next week they are giving us a free topic week.

Visit Magpie Tales for our other image prompt. The painting is Wheatfield With Rising Sun, by Van Gogh. The colours are gorgeous, and I have seen at least one response from among you. If you aren’t sure what to do with a landscape, think of it metaphorically, or ask yourself what story just happened, or is about to happen, here.

For you alliterists out there, here is ABC Wednesdays letter for this week: Y. Again that is all I am giving you. The intro writer has been particularly creative to use the letter y. You should visit to enjoy the creativity. Read it for fun, if you don’t play.

The three words this week for Three Word Wednesday are cease, heat, and nasty. As always, visit them for their definitions. They have a particularly good source. I realised, this time, why what intrigues me more than the words are the definitions. A mini found poem can be written from them. When you look at the definition each week keep that in mind.

We Write Poems starts its prompt with: Oft it is suggested to writers, find your own unique voice in how you write. Good advice. However this week we’re asking you to find, understand, and use another’s voice in the poem you’ll write! Head on over and find out what else is suggested. This will be interesting to watch, as the poems come in. I initially quailed, but the brain has started working on it.

Poets United asks us to Please pen a poem about reading; you can be general or specific. They always have more to help us choose possible paths, so go over and read the rest of the prompt and view the photograph.

Scribble & Scatter’s ‘Alpha to Omega Thursdays‘ is back after a brief vacation to continue the challenge. The letter this week is eta. Head over to see the two words chosen and to read their definitions.

And, while not a prompt, I want to remind people to check out Elizabeth Crawford’s new discussion site Writers Speak where she asks writers of all genres to stop by and talk about the life of a writer. She will post new topics every week around Friday. This week’s topic is on revision of work, so is something we all should have an opinion on and interest in. I’ll revisit later in the week when the hammerers, cement layers, fibreglassers have finished the deck.

That should keep you busy and writing. If you think anyone else would enjoy these, click on the buttons below. If you have questions ask. If you write in response to any of these, both the people whose blogs you visit and I would love to read your responses. So, post!

I shall see you Tuesday for a new form [cue music for Jaws], Thursday for a discussion of a reader generated topic: freewriting, and next Friday for more of the same [and a new contender for those who write the occasional prose pieces]. Happy writing, everyone.

 
7 Comments

Posted by on 08/07/2011 in exercises, poetry, writing

 

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Thursday Thoughts: Writing Sites Worth Investigating

7:39 a.m. — Walnut Creek

Hello, all. If I sound discombobulated today, my mother and I had powerwashers, lath staplers, and hammerers working on her deck all day yesterday. In a small flat there is nowhere to hide. They will be back today to lay cement. Sigh.

I have a mix of sites to suggest and I will tell you what each does and why I have it bookmarked. Sometimes it’s for an article, sometimes a whole site. Their order is random.

Kristin Lamb, author of We Are Not Alone, says in her about page: “Kristen worked in international sales before transitioning into a career as an author, freelance editor and speaker. She takes her years of experience in sales & promotion and merges it with almost a decade as a writer to create a program designed to help authors construct a platform in the new paradigm of publishing…Most importantly, Kristen helps authors of all levels connect to their READERS and then maintain a relationship that grows into a long-term fan base.”

This may seem an odd choice, but as a blog keeper, I subscribe to a few blogs about blogging. As an industry, I find it fascinating. Kristin covers many aspects of writers and their connections to social media. If this interests you, she has a site worth investigating. If you do nothing else check out her article on the advent of Google+. It is a funny read.

This next suggestion is a post about creativity based on Brian Eno’s [musician, producer, composer] creative process. We know most of these things, but I find it never hurts to read something that reminds us: “It quite frequently happens that you’re just treading water for quite a long time. Nothing really dramatic seems to be happening. … And then suddenly everything seems to lock together in a different way.” The writer of the article goes on to distil some steps we can/should have put into practice.

9 editing Tips that Make Your Writing Sparkle is also a single post with its focus on…editing. I know. You weren’t expecting that. Again, we know most of these steps, but how many do we remember to do? Uh huh…I thought so.

This next suggestion is, again, a single post, titled Becoming a Poet. Despite having been writing for twenty years, I found the post interesting and full of details I enjoyed reading because they reflect my own path in many instances. Author of the article Robin Smith-Johnson says “I don’t have my first attempts at writing poems, but I imagine they were full of abstractions. Now I admire poems for their focus, their specificity, their honesty.  Poets pay attention to the world around them and attempt to capture their vision in words. I also liked the small scale of poems. A poem can be written on scrap paper, tucked in a pocket to be worked on later. I have boxes filled with the rough drafts of poems in various stages of revision. Sometimes I take these sketchy beginnings and use them as the starting point for a new poem.

And, my brain just died. I’m feeling lucky to have managed to introduce four, but as I have been staring at the page for several minutes with the whir of the cement mixer in the background, I think I will call it a day and go drown myself in coffee.

Do tell me if any of this makes no sense, or should a question arise. Click buttons if you know someone who would be interested in any of these sites. Send me any topics you wish me to cover. I have great fun doing reader-generated topics.

I will see you tomorrow for the roundup; next Tuesday for a new form [get ready]; and next Thursday for a discussion on freewriting.

Happy reading and writing, everyone.

 
12 Comments

Posted by on 07/07/2011 in poetry, writing

 

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Tuesday Tryouts: Altering Perspective

7:25 a.m. — Walnut Creek

Hello, all. We are in the middle of summer, or winter, and probably wishing it were the other. It all depends on our perspective, doesn’t it? Today’s exercise deals with perspective and may, or may not, result in poetry. What it will do is give you a way to approach a topic you want to write about.

Aside from point of view, perspective addresses the relationship of aspects of a subject to each other and to a whole; and the ability to perceive things in their interrelations or comparative importance. [TheFreeDictionary.com]

Pick an event from your life, or from the news. It does need to be something you know about and even, have an opinion about, although that isn’t necessary. You are going to relate the same event three times and you need to do it in the order outlined.

First, relate the event in one sentence.
Next, relate, or describe, the event in one paragraph.
Finally, write about the event in one page [don’t worry if it’s longer].

Notice how the event changes as you alter the amount of space you give it. Can you figure out what changes? How is each stage different? What significance does that have for us in the amount of space we give to a poem?

While an event is the easiest topic to try the exercise on the first time, you can repeat this with a place, an object, a relationship… Try one of these and see what a difference it makes to the subject you are writing about.

Pick one of the sentences, paragraphs, or pages and let it kickstart a poem. Or, try a poem for each of the stages and see what difference it makes. If this does result in a poem[s] I would love to see it[them], but if all the exercise results in is thinking, I would love to see that too. I would love to hear what you learn whether or not you have a poem[s]! If questions arise, ask!

I will see you all Thursday for bookmarkable sites; Friday for the roundup; and next Tuesday for a new form [I know you have missed forms]. If you think this post will interest someone, do click on the buttons below.

Happy writing, all.

 
23 Comments

Posted by on 05/07/2011 in exercises, poetry, writing

 

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