*** meraki (Greek, v.) to do something with soul, creativity, or love; to put something of yourself into your work ***
Thursday, April 3, 2014
Dear Reader ,
I would like to start off by saying that English 212: Metric and Prosody at Simon Fraser University was one of my favourite courses of my whole undergrad career, and I can say this with complete sincerity because I am nearing the end of it! The material has been very valuable, as I even applied some of the technical poetic terminology and knowledge in my other courses. I am sure that I will continue to do so, myself being a literature major and all. I also loved having the opportunity to read and discuss poems that were new to me! I only wish that there was an upper division course equivalent, or that the semester was longer than twelve weeks.
When I was a child/teenager, I used to read and write a lot of poetry, and while some of it was pretty awful (and surprisingly dark), some of what I wrote was good enough to be recognized in local writing contests. However, most of my creative writing ceased when the demands of academic responsibility took over, and I believed that my poetry writing days were over for good. My brain was spent on academics and I had no capacity left to produce creative juices. This course pushed me to try writing poetry again, for the portfolio and for myself. I challenged myself to try most of the different accentual syllabic forms, such as the villanelle, or rondeau. These French forms were chosen in particular because their restrictive rhyme schemes and need for refrains seemed daunting but their short lengths seemed achievable. There has been a definite improvement from the practice of composing formal poetry, though sometimes, the strict criteria and technical requirements have curbed the easy or natural flow of rhymes and creativity that I was once accustomed to.
Because I had a concept in the past, of poetry being sentimental flights of fancy, I believed that poems were written when the right mood took hold of the writer/poet. (I think this may be the result of voraciously reading L. M. Montgomery as a child!) I never knew that poems required so much technical and meticulous work – this was a new idea to me! Because I thought all poetry was the product of “flights of fancy,” I also thought that poetic content typically dealt with nature or beauty (the Romantics have really endured!). Now, I consider poetry to be a powerful medium for conveying a political platform or a social issue, as it can evoke emotions effectively with beautiful brevity! (Oops, look at that alliteration/initial rhyme sneaking into my prose!) Hence, when I wrote my poems, I tried to cover a range of topics or genres. I wrote some silly limericks for fun, some comedic ballads or sonnets, some consciously morbid or macabre rhymes dealing with death, and some serious poetry that mentioned current events or personal issues going on in my life at the time of their conception.
For the five poems (“capsule collection”) that I wanted you to look at in particular, I chose five different forms to demonstrate my efforts at writing more than one form, and I tried to choose poems that each reflect a different theme, such as those that I have mentioned. Hopefully, this range in form also shows a growth in writing ability, as I began with an easy enough satirical ballad on the mayor of Toronto, followed by another comedic poem, a sonnet denouncing the common cold. When we were discussing possible topics for ballads in class, I suggested “Mayor Rob Ford” and then wanted to see if I could actually make a successful attempt at it! I admit that I am pleased with the result. The ballad and sonnet are then followed by a rondeau, a villanelle and a sestina, forms that I found progressively more difficult to write.
The rondeau that I wrote ends on a slightly morbid note, and I chose it out of the hope that the subject is not overdone or cliché. Initially, I had difficulty deciding between this rondeau and a rondel that I wrote, but what cinched the decision for me was when my classmate Viktoria pointed out the balance-syntactic parallelism in the rondeau, which makes me like the poem more! I also changed a word on Viktoria’s recommendation. In the first line of the third stanza, I was undecided between using “dive” or “plunge” (“into to the sea”), and while another classmate, Taylor, said “plunge” reminded her of toilet plungers, Viktoria pointed out that “plunge” reinforced a sort of internal rhyme with the word “young” in the line that precedes it. I liked this idea, as well as the fact that “plunge” as a verb is a lot more aggressive or forceful, and puts emphasis on the intention behind the action.
The penultimate poem in this quintet is a somber villanelle. It was written about the first friend I’ve had to pass away. It was very hard to accept at the time because she was so young and so it was a very emotional writing process. I put a lot of sincere emotion into it and since it is meaningful to me, I felt I could not exclude it from the five main poems of my portfolio. This was actually the first poem I picked as one of my five, and the two more light-hearted poems were chosen afterwards to balance the overall mood of the portfolio, to keep it from becoming too depressing. If it is too sad, then a solution can be found in reading the first villanelle I wrote, “I’m better off without a guy.” That one makes me laugh, as I am sure it would have made her laugh – she was always one for laughing; I hope it will make you laugh too, if you decide to read it.
Finally, my fifth poem is my one and only attempt (so far) at a sestina. Originally, I mistook the sestina word pattern for a rhyme scheme (probably because of all the rhyming French forms I wrote), and did not realize my error until I was halfway through the poem. Rather than begin again, I chose to continue and borrowed my professor’s suggestion of calling it a sestina-inspired nonce stanza, though I did succeed in using the same end words in the first and final stanzas. I chose this one for you to read because it discusses themes that I am passionate about, themes that are current and polemical. It felt a lot like I had condensed an essay into a poem! One challenge that arose in writing rhyming poetry was the search for, and the creation of innovative rhymes. I tried not to use too many cliché or banal rhymes, and had to enlist the help of a rhyming dictionary for ideas after a while.
In closing, I would like to add that the creative writing portfolio aspect was the most valuable part of the course for me. I had given up on writing poems, and thought that that part of me was lost forever, but now I have regained some confidence in my ability to write poems, which will hopefully not become suppressed again by everyday adult responsibilities. I also never thought that I would be writing villanelles or sestinas, and enjoying it! When I was twelve, I would tell adults that I wanted to be a poet someday…and now I feel like my dream might have a fighting chance! My only regret is that I did not have as much time or energy to invest in this course as I would have liked. I already borrowed a lot of time from other courses to write my poems! (E.g. “The Ballad of Mayor Rob Ford” was composed during a French class in lieu of paying attention to the lecture!) I hope you enjoy reading my poems and I look forward to hearing your feedback. I also feel like I’m giving you pieces of my soul for safekeeping (don’t worry, they are not Horcruxes!) so please take care of them!
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