reflection on introtopoetry challenge

Warning: This is a long post. Self-reflection and analysis exploring the results of the eight poems written in response to this challenge. Please feel free to enter if you have the time and the interest  🙂

The WordPress introtopoetry challenge – well – I didn’t finish all ten. Life and work got in the way. When I began the challenge I was interested to see whether I could write in response to the prompts – and was pleased that I could. This confirms what I’ve discovered over the last few months – I don’t need lightening to strike in order to write. I can call on my experience and imagination to begin, and then let the words flow.

Some of the technical terminology of poetry eludes me. It was either never learnt, or since forgotten. I’m not too worried, but if I really want to know my first place to search is my copy of “The Poet’s Manual and Rhyming Dictionary” or the ubiquitous internet.

So I may not always be that precise in my poetic descriptions and analysis – but – at least I’m giving it a try :). I thought this was a good opportunity to look back at these eight poems and give some serious thought to what I was doing. Hindsight is often a very revealing tool. I’m going to choose favourite lines from each poem – and I’m wondering what that will show me.

 

1. water – haiku

I enjoyed the challenge of working within the syllable pattern of 5/7/5. I tried two or three possibilities, before settling on the “dog at the beach” scenario. The image it formed in my mind made me smile, and then remember taking my dog to the beach as a kid.

I noticed the “break/shakes” rhyme as it occurred, and later realised there was a long “ay” vowel rhyme that recurred within the first two lines – “waves, break, shakes, tail”. I think the repetition of this sound served to connect the first two lines, and the absence of it in the last line perhaps made it more effective.

None of this was a deliberate act at the time. Words will often present themselves and be chosen because they just “sound right” in the moment. Its not until later that I can look more closely and recognise what I was doing. In fact, the more I try to fit within a rhyme scheme, or a particular model of writing, the more uncomfortable I feel – because it is difficult. So it is good for me to try, to push beyond my comfort zone. I just feel that sometimes the results feel overworked, and don’t seem to have a life of their own.

I recall how as a child I was aware of the sounds of words, in the syllabic sense, recognising “chunks” of sound within words. I’m sure this helped with spelling. And now, if I have to spell an unknown or difficult word, I’ll say it aloud, listening for each syllable and almost being able to see each one, so then I can spell my way through the word.

Favourite lines:

wet dog shakes from head to tail

 

2. face – alliteration

I began by looking at a poem I wrote in January this year, and thought of “cheating” by just submitting that. But it didn’t meet the challenge of alliteration.

So I started again with the same subject, holding her image in mind and the challenge of alliteration – and started describing “black hair braided, pulled tightly back”. And there they were – b/b/b. I think “posed, poised and passionate” it a bit too “try hard” and I’m thinking of editing this, perhaps cutting “posed”. “Dark eyes…” was originally directly after the description of hair, but I moved it to the end and changed the word order to make a stronger closure.

Alliteration is something I’m comfortable with, along with internal rhymes that occur randomly in sentences, and vowel rhymes within words. I’m not that happy trying to rhyme at the end of lines, in a set pattern.

Favourite lines:

the rainbow halo frames
a flamboyant madonna of sorrows
dark eyes defined
by darker brows

 

3. friend – acrostic

This was a bit of a challenge. I started using the word “friend” itself – but it kept sounding too earnest and self-help-ish.

I changed direction using the name of a friend – Thomas. Immediately, the senses engaged, and I felt the emotion. This tiny poem wrote itself quite quickly.

Favourite lines:

turning, I see you
my open heart keeps your
memory close

 

4. journey – simile

Well – this was interesting! This challenge really confirmed that I am much more attuned to metaphor than simile. I felt the first simile I used was unnecessary, but I was trying to meet the challenge. The second simile slipped in more naturally, and I left it at that!

The topic “journey” was interesting. I was thinking quite literally at first, and as I wrote the first words “the journey begins with a thought”, suddenly thinking itself became the journey.

Favourite lines:

the journey begins
with a thought
an idea drops
and ripples spread
a multi-dimensional
map of associations

 

5. imperfect – limerick

I was interested in the prompt “imperfect” and quickly had the idea that something imperfect had its own beauty. This shifted to thoughts of self-reflection and different perspectives.

But – I couldn’t cope with the suggested limerick form – it felt like one experiment too many and decided not to try. But I took on the challenge to rhyme, arranging and rearranging until I settled on the rhyme scheme – a, b, c, d, c, d, a, b.

Favourite lines:

the torn leaf
the broken bowl
the lost belief
the damaged soul

 

6. screen – enjambment

The prompt suggestions referred to computer screens, movie screens – but somehow I began thinking of screen as a barrier between people.

Personal circumstances demanded release and I used this challenge as an opportunity to do that, then edited the raw, personal content (over 300 words) to something more focused, aiming for something that could stand alone as a considered poem rather than the original feast of personal angst.

I realised enjambement is something I’ve always done, continuing ideas – sentence or phrase – from one line to the next. Good to explore this in more detail though, and be able to give a name to the way I often write.

Favourite lines:

your words fall between us
a barrier projecting
negativity, and you are now trapped
behind a self-referential screen

 

7. flavour – found poetry

I saw the exhibition – “Frida Kahlo: Her Photos”, just a day or two after reading the next challenge was “flavour”. I sat in the exhibition and wrote the first six lines.

After that, I remembered her paintings of fruit and other foods, and the connection to flavour was reinforced. Searching for information on Mexican food, I found references to the old gods of Mexico – I hope they don’t mind the way I’ve included them here.

So I took some liberties with this challenge – reinterpreting the intent of “found poetry” by finding text and inspiration in the exhibition “Frida Kahlo: Her Photos”, in her paintings, and websites describing the food of Mexico, and using these to inform the poem.

There is a lot in this poem that I love, and wonder about re-working some of it.

Favourite lines:

six thousand photographs
taste of time and love,
and speak of a time
when you used colour
to flavour your life

 

8. pleasure – anaphora/epistrophe

Anaphora and epistrophe – the repetition of words or phrases, either at the beginning or end of a sentence, or both (when its called symploce). “the rain falls” was repeated, but not really achieving the emphasis this form usually seeks.

Attempting this form was enough of a challenge without thinking about what gave me pleasure. I remember wanting to step beyond the obvious – reading, dozing in the sun, rich conversations… I had this challenge in mind as I was driving to a meeting. Waiting in the car, wondering if the rain would stop, I realised I had two choices – battle against the rain, resenting it, complaining about it – or accepting it and being mindful of what I was experiencing. This poem about rain and the sensory experience of it was the result. Partly based on my experience that day, and part imaginative, wish-fulfillment – wondering how, if I wasn’t working, I might have immersed myself in the elements.

Favourite lines:

I walk out into the rain
barefoot, ankle deep
hands reach out
sliding over wet leaves

 

Reflections done – and interesting to discover that by choosing my favourite lines, I’ve managed to further condense each poem, and perhaps really capture the essence of each one.

Time to move on to some new works 🙂

 

© Claire Griffin 2016

22 May to 6 June 2016

pleasure : poetry : day 8

grey clouds gather
the rain falls
thunder breaks
the rain falls
streets flood
and the rain still falls

I walk out into the rain
barefoot, ankle deep
choosing the attitude
of least resistance
allowing the rain
to fall where it will
not fighting against it

my senses open
as the rain falls
skin open to the wet and cold
eyes open to the shine and swirl
ears open to the splash and drip
smelling the wet earth
hands reach out
sliding over wet leaves
standing head back
savouring each drop
that settles on my tongue

there is pleasure
to be had in this acceptance
and still,

the rain falls

© Claire Griffin 2016

pleasure : #introtopoetry : day 8 : anaphora/epistrophe

another downpour, and the need to go out into the rain as part of my work – walking quickly from the car to one meeting then to another – I tried to hold this attitude in mind – “don’t resist the rain, accept it” – helped me stay relaxed but I was drenched!!
this poem is how I wish my day had been – I wish I could have tossed work aside and just messed about outside without any time pressures – enjoying the weather like a playful dog
🙂

flavour : poetry : day 7

i
six thousand photographs
taste of time and love,
pain and determination
who would have thought
these black and white
relics could taste so rich?

ii
these small portraits
are bitter-sweet
and speak of a time
when you used colour
to flavour your life
paint became the spice,
the chilli, the salt, the honey
the canvas became the table
on which your life was served

iii
love and art and pain
are the three fire dogs
on which your life was seared

scrape the spines from the nopales
crunch the slices between your teeth
slice open the papaya
roll the seeds around on your tongue
split open the watermelon
quench your thirst with the sweet juice

leave the fire dogs sleeping
live life in the raw

iv
there is passion
in the ripe fruit,
the soft flesh
the spiky skin
describe the body
you live within

v
hold the bitter chocolate
in your hands
until it melts
and paint
with that
then lick
your fingers
clean

vi
heat the tortilla until it curls
wrap yourself inside it
like a funeral shroud
Xochiquetzal the goddess of painters
is your guide
as you walk through marigolds
Mizcoatl, Tozpan and Iiutl
the fire dogs stand guard
Huehuetéotl the old god
lights a new fire
ensuring your purification,
your transformation,
your regeneration

vii
it was never your intention
to live within convention

 

© Claire Griffin 2016

flavour : #introtopoetry : day 7 : found poetry

I saw an exhibition a few days ago – “Frida Kahlo: Her Photos”, just a day or two after reading the next challenge was “flavour”.
I sat in the exhibition and wrote the first six lines. After that, I remembered the paintings of fruit and other foods, and the connection to flavour was made. Searching for information on Mexican food, I found references to the old gods of Mexico – I hope they don’t mind the way I’ve included them here.
So I’ve taken some liberties with this challenge – reinterpreting the intent of “found poetry” by finding text and inspiration in the exhibition, in her paintings, and in websites describing the food of Mexico, and I used all these to inform the poem.

screen : poetry : day 6

your words fall between us
a wall of miniature time-bombs
that don’t explode until I think
about them later, in silence

if you ever choose to listen you might find
there was never any counter-fire,
you might find that you can no longer hear
anything beyond the beat of your own heart

what might have begun for your own
protection is now a barrier projecting
negativity, and you are now trapped
behind a self-referential screen

 

© Claire Griffin 2016

screen : #introtopoetry : day 6 : enjambment

(this started life as 325 words and managed to edit to this 75 word version)

imperfect : poetry : day 5

imperfection
leads to self-reflection
just as
the tarnished mirror
calls for introspection

the torn leaf
the broken bowl
the empty space
the wilted rose
the averted face
the fallen arrows
the lost belief
the damaged soul

depending on your
point of view
all are cause for
celebration

 

The suggested limerick form was just one experiment too many
– but I took on the challenge to rhyme.

© Claire Griffin 2016

imperfect : #introtopoetry : day 5 : limerick (no, no, no)

journey : poetry : day 4

the journey begins
with a thought
an idea drops
and ripples spread
(do I need to say
they are like ripples in a pond?)
this is a journey through the mind
through time

each memory
triggers another
there is no predictable sequence
more like a multi-dimensional
map of associations
(ah – there it is)
a map I create
through my experience of memories
rather than a map I follow

this is a journey
without a destination
this is a journey of trust
that I will find my own way
to wherever thought takes me
and back again to the present

 

© Claire Griffin 2016

journey : #introtopoetry : day 4 : simile