Friday, June 17, 2011

How I Learned to Write Poetry, Part II

   I was serious enough in my desire to write good, old-fashioned, well-metered poetry to call in the help of a friend who had written some very good hymns (Glenn Conjurske.)  He wasn't overly enthusiastic at first.  He told me that poets were born, not made. Nonetheless, he was a friend, and he gave me some pointers and some healthy criticism. He even expressed some hope for me when he saw the following poem, which was patterned after one of his:

    To Hear a Loon’s Cry

   I want to hear a loon’s cry,
      I want a wooded lake.
I want to ride the placid waves,
      And watch the gentle wake.
   I want the soothing quiet,
      Of little splashes made,
When paddles touch the peaceful lake,
      Where never oar was laid.

   I want a starlit evening,
      A campfire on a bay,
In deep, untrammeled wilderness,
      Where cares are far away.
   I want the muffled stillness,
      The birch, the fir, the pine,
The woods that shield from troubled thoughts,
      And whisper peace divine.

   I want a dewy morning
      All stillness but the loons,
Whose distant melancholy cries
      Are sweet, alluring tunes.
   I want a place to listen,
      To think and pray and dream,
A rock, the woods, the lake, the loons,
      All near my God supreme.


   He became more earnest in helping me and even sent me one of his poems with his own critical remarks scribbled all over it. He was a tough critic, and I didn't always like having my poetry torn apart, but I never would have learned if I had received all praise.

   The basic and most important things he taught me are:

1.) Have something to say.  A poem should speak to the heart, and therefore must come from the heart.  A poem which is merely an intellectual exercise may have the form of poetry, but it lacks the spirit and essence of it.

2.) Don't include any words that don't have meaning.  Work and rework your lines if you have to until every word counts.  None should be thrown in merely to make up the meter or the rhyme.

3.) Try not to sacrifice either meter or sense, but if you must sacrifice one, sacrifice the meter ~ never the sense.

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