The Names of Things

One reason I write the weekly poetry exercise is to simply spend the time thinking about the craft.  Another reason is to give my dead brain something to rise for, to begin thinking so I actually write something new.  I have writing buddies who know the end of their poem before they put pen to paper.  Me, erm, not so much.  I have to start out with a literal pen in my hand and a blank piece of paper.  I have to move that hand across the paper.  It’s only when words begin to surprise me that I begin riffing on them, playing.  Then, I have to write until I get to an end.

This week’s writing “thang” is not about a form, but a topic.  It would be a useful writing topic for most short forms of writing, but I think it would work best with poetry because in poetry you don’t have to be so literal, so linear, in the structure.  Moving from Point A to logical Point B isn’t required.  It might be good as a piece of prose, either as a flasher, or a quickie – either fictional or memoir, but the end would have to be quite pithy.  The pitfall if written in prose is that it could be a didactic piece, or fall into being too “telly”.  If you take this topic on with a poem, you can play with imagery – make a “charade” game out of it, or play with rhyme.  The “thang” is to write a poem about your name.  Where it came from, what it means, anything really.  First name, last, both, it doesn’t matter.  Just play with writing a poem about your name.  There could be fun with nonce words, or maybe make an “Ode to Thyself”,  I think a poetic form would be unique in making a theme like this particularly interesting.

Many of us have chosen our names in this genre of erotica.  Writing a poem about the “why” you chose your name makes you go stop, and remember your thoughts, then work your phrasing so it’s not just:

“I chose ‘Nettie’ as a diminutive of ‘Nettlesting’ while at the same time as being able to play with the name, ‘Annette.’  And I chose ‘Kestler’ as an anagram of ‘kestrel’ and because there weren’t fifty million Kestlers in google, so I didn’t think I’d end up with a cross-identity.”

Boring.  Might as well just put it in a form and stick it on a spreadsheet.  Anyways, this writing exercise came from one of the Guardian’s poetry workshops.  If I haven’t written about The Guardian’s poetry workshops, they’re worth reviewing.  They were run nearly monthly from 2004-2011 and had a variety of poets taking on a topic, writing their thoughts for an exercise, and then reviewing and commenting on a few of the submissions they felt had sufficient quality. They’re a great resource to return to when you’re burnt out and need something to grab onto for a topic.

Here’s the source idea for doing this exercise:

Colette Brice’s Poetry Workshop – “What’s in a Name”

A Crown of Sonnets and Other Thematic Forms

I post on a site which hosts a NaPo forum.  64 people started a thread and of those 64, less than half are making it through with a poem a day.  I had one day where all I managed was an epigram, other day which was a single haiku, but at least I 2009Vietnam 908made it (or so I tell myself).  This will be my seventh NaPo (2005, 2006, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2014, 2015).  Out of those, I completed 2005, 2012, 2014, and 2015.  I think that’s because I had a specific theme I focused on for the month.  2012 “brought” me this idea.  I’d just traveled to Southeast Asia for the first time.  We made it only as far as Vietnam before my husband fell ill and was hospitalized in Saigon.  Vietnam was an overwhelming sensual experience from the moment we arrived.  I completely surprised mysel f when I began writing April 1, 2012 by what came out.  I spent the next 30 days writing poetry about the trip.  I really had something to say.  Since then, I’ve tried to focus on a theme.

There are poetry forms which are developed around a single theme.  One of these is called “a crown of sonnets.”  This is a sequence of 15 sonnets around a single theme or focused towards a single person.  Wikipedia has a straightforward definition and is worth a read.  This would be an excellent exercise for someone who wanted to conquer a highly complex 2009Vietnam 883idea, or address a multi-character narrative poem.  The hyakushuuta is a form which consists of 100 tanka strung together.

With the last half of NaPo coming up, these would be two forms worth exploring if you’re running out of steam.  Think of them as a meditation on a single topic.

Word: Neologism

I loved the game Myst and while looking at games created by Cyan, ran across the name of one called “Obduction,” which appears to be a neologism.  It has a lovely sound to it.  I love the nearly glottal stop of the two mutes, b and d as it moves to the hard stop of the syllable duc and then ends with the “strong breath”  (p.22) of the aspirate shun.  The word has a chew to it.  And I love their definition:  “The act of drawing or laying over, as a covering.”  It appears someone jabberwockygot imaginative with a geologic process and decided to use the sense of the word in another way.

Making up words, like neologisms, or portmanteau are credible tools in writing poetry.  One of the most famous will be Lewis Carroll’s, “Jaberwocky.”  These two tools usually come in to play because the writer needs exactly the right idea transmitted and it doesn’t exist, or needs a sound which resonates.  Other sonic tools, like onomatopoeia, alliteration, etc. will be covered later.  This moment is for examining the beauty of the sounds in the neologistic word, “obduction.”


National Poetry Writing Month (NAPO)

April is nearly here and that’s the National Poetry Writing Month, or NaPo.  Organized in 1996 by the Academy of American Poets to celebrate poetry, one of the offshoots is National Poetry Writing Month (NaPoWriMo).  Started in 2003, the object of NaPoWriMo is to push the writer into working for thirty days straight on making new poetic work during the month of April.  That’s 30 days, 30 poems.

Here at Nettlesting, I won’t be sharing my drafts, but I will be sharing my ideas.  I’ve “done” NaPo several times now and have come away with at least two good chapbooks of poetry.  Not everything in April will have promise, but I’ve found that by sticking to a theme it gives me greater focus and I can build upon that focus over time.  But, like everything else, after NaPo I’ve got 30 drafts which need revision or just plain tossing, so to that point, I take a break and then buckle down and “git down to it” revising the works.  I try to get that done by November.

If you want to post your daily poem here as a comment here at Nettlesting, I’d love to see it.  Sharing that you’ve written a poem helps keep you on track.  There are poetry related sites which accept daily posts.  The links below are reference links, hopefully inspirational to keep you going during the drag of thirty days, thirty poems.

The Official Site:

Oulipost will have daily prompts / ideas

The Guardian’s website:

James Fenton’s Master Poetry Class

Ashley Lister’s 6th of the Month blog at ERWA’s blog

The Academy of American Poet’s Events

and their National Poetry Month

Read others’ work to egg you on.  Send me a link to your site if you’re blogging yours.

Other reference links which give you something to browse:
Bob’s Byway of poetic terms

Poetry Foundation’s Forms

Poetry Foundation’s Essays on Poetic Theory and check out their Learning Lab