sharing a poetic LIFELINE with the world

Posts tagged ‘Creative Genius’

Capturing the Elusive Villanelle

Garden of the Gods, Colorado. © Graf 2006

Maybe “deconstructing” is a better word for what follows.

I love a well-constructed, nuance-laden, tension-building poem — especially one with lines or phrases repeated, each time expanding on the underlying theme. When it works, it really works. When I dabble in a structured form, I need to take it apart and put it back together in a way that makes sense to me.

Over the years, I created my own versions of “cheat sheets” — today they are usually called “templates” — for a variety of poetic forms, when it was important to have a set number of syllables or sounds per line;  control the number of lines in each stanza, especially if the stanzas are not constructed the same — like the villanelle. I’ve used them with haikus, tankas, ghazels, alternating voice layout, and for song lyrics — especially useful to bridge beats, where you want to stretch out a sound.

My Villanelle template and construction process are simpler than it appears at first glance.  I:

1. Took as my guide the Dylan Thomas poem “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night”, which Margaret used when she introduced the form.

2. Identified the rhyme pattern alongside each line, as Margaret explained. To make it easier, I highlighted the first line and each repetition that followed, then used a different color highlighter, and did the same for the third line. Since the only other rhyme was with line 2, I highlighted the last word in each of the “B/b” lines (below is a portion)

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night
Dylan Thomas (1914-1953)

… and so on.

Then, I:

3. Counted the number of syllables per line (ten); the number stanzas and lines per stanza (five stanzas of three lines each (tercets), plus one stanza of four lines (a quatrain)); the total number of lines I needed, including a blank line between stanzas (24 lines total)

Next step was to write my first three lines, using the right number of syllables or sounds, and the right pattern, knowing that the first and third lines would be repeated several times in the poem:

   We claim our fears and ghosts by what we do,
   paths drag us into, not by accident,
   territory steep in our deep taboo.

This gave me the shape of the form. Time to do the template. I:

4. Created a table with eleven columns across (one for each of the ten syllables needed in each line, PLUS a first column with the rhyme pattern), and 24 rows (for each filled and blank line in the poem)

5. Shaded in the rows that were stanza breaks (rows 4, 8, 12, 16 and 20; I didn’t create a column to number the rows — just counted down)

6. Filled in each of the first three rows, one syllable per each cell across the table, in columns 2 – 11, with my first tercet.

7. went back to column one, and, with my trusty Thomas poem, wrote in what the rhyme pattern needed to be.

8. filled in on my template where lines one and three were repeated

9. really cheated on the next step! I wrote the sound I needed to repeat (in parentheses) in the last column of each line. Yes, I’ve creatively split words as I sounded them for the cells.

… (the complete template is at the end of this post)

10. then came up with a bunch of words that rhymed with each of the endings of the two lines.

A1 and A3:  do/ taboo (DO) — view, new, clue, avenue, cue, due
B1: accident (DENT) — amazement, evident, coincident, bent, went, event, dent, sent

Then the creative process really started:

11. I wrote the poem from the last stanza forward — I knew how it started; that was already written. I decided how I wanted it to end, and, using the list of “sound alike” words, figured how to end each of the lines in the quatrain.

12. Worked my way through the poem, looking at the rhyming words I’d come up with, and moved them around.

13. wrote lines, juggled them from tercet to tercet, until they made sense to me.

And, voila! Though this is still a work in progress, you can see how each step shaped this draft of the poem’s cadence, flow, rhythm, content, and context. Now the work begins, to hone it into a sharp, complete story. Like Mary’s poem, my subject is dark. I hope to capture the same sense as hers did.

Ever Thus
by Michele M. Graf

We claim our fears and ghosts by what we do;
paths drag us into, not by accident,
territory steep in our deep taboo.

You may argue with me, bellow your view;
we both know how those branches get so bent:
we claim our fear and ghosts by what we do.

Mourn the loss, the lack of hope for the new
words to stop needless blood so poorly spent.
Territory steep in our deep taboo.

Paint it, gloss it, but you can’t hide the hue
of euphemism masking what is meant.
We claim our fear and ghosts by what we do

when we rant, and rave, call it just miscue,
no longer valid — such self-evident
territory steep in our deep taboo.

Fate enters laughing when it all comes due.
Can how its end not be coincident?
We claim our fears and ghosts by what we do,
territory steep in our deep taboo.

So, You’re a Creative Genius… Now What?: A review

“I contend that if you’re not actively creating something, you’re not entirely alive.” ~Carl King

You’re inspired, you’ve released your creative genius. What do you do with it? This is where Carl King’s book, So, You’re a Creative Genius… Now What?, comes into power.

I first tuned into this book by following links about introverts, ending up on Carl King’s blog post 10 Myths About Introverts (a good read, but another topic). I liked King’s way of thinking, and saw that he had a book. The publisher, MWP, has a sample from the book on their website. I devoured all seventeen sample pages, and filled up a page in my bliss book with quotes and inspirations from that alone. I was sold, and bought the book next chance I got.

King doesn’t mince words. Every sentence, every page, has impact. You won’t find repetition or filler here. He has a quirky humor, and tells it straight.

This book covers so many topics relating to creativity. From your personal workspace (spacestation), to social interactions, the business, and daily routines. It’s a survival guide for the creative soul. About making the most of that wonderful brain you’ve got, not wasting your imagination and creativity.

As I’ve traveled the path of submitting my writing, both fiction and poetry, in the hopes for publication, I really liked how King compared us to salesman. The salesman gets fired every day. “And at the end of the day, even if you do a great job, you get fired. Because you’re paid to wake up and look for work each and every day.” Definitely something I can relate to. But then he turns it around, shows how we can learn from this state of being. “The flip side of this paradox is that a salesman is never unemployed, because he creates his own destiny.”

I recommend this book for anyone whose hobby or work is creative.

Next time on Mary’s Expression: writers groups.

Zen in the Art of Writing: A Review

“You fail only if you stop writing.” ~Ray Bradbury

The above quote has long been my mantra for writing. I keep it at the top of my daily writing document. So, as inspired as I am by this one statement of Bradbury’s, I was delighted to come across an entire book of such words. Zen in the Art of Writing is a collection of essays that Ray Bradbury has written, ranging in publication date from 1961 to 1986. The collection, published in 1990, is still relevant today. The messages just as true.

The essays are as follows:

  • The Joy of Writing
  • Run Fast, Stand Still, Or, The Thing at the Top of the Stairs, Or, New Ghosts from Old Minds
  • How to Keep and Feed a Muse
  • Drunk, and in Charge of a Bicycle
  • Investing Dimes: Fahrenheit 451
  • Just This Side of Byzantium: Dandelion Wine
  • On the Shoulders of Giants
  • The Secret Mind
  • Zen in the Art of Writing
  • … On Creativity

In these, Bradbury shares his experiences with life and writing, and shows how entwined the two are. He takes inspiration from his own life, his own passions.

When I picked up this book and started reading, it was impossible to put down. It spoke to my own passions, reignited my zest for writing. A reminder of why I do what I do. He does share advice, some how-to for writers, but what I took most was the underlying celebration of the art. The book’s subtitle is Releasing the Creative Genius Within You, and it lives up to that task.

“When honest love speaks, when true admiration begins, when excitement rises, when hate curls like smoke, you need never doubt that creativity will stay with you for a lifetime.”

~Ray Bradbury, from How to Keep and Feed a Muse

I definitely recommend this book, both for aspiring writers and those who’ve been long in the trenches. It is a joy to read, and will take you back to the roots of not just the how-to write, but the why. If you’ve lost that love, found the passion dimming, rediscover it here.

Next time on Mary’s Expression: More on the Creative Genius.

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