Improper Words

Today’s writing exercise is a mind workout. It’s a simple process, that for me really opens my mind to new word choice possibilities.

Here we go:

  • First grab a dictionary.
  • Flip to any page you want.
  • Randomly choose a word from the page.
  • Now, use the word in a sentence, but change the part of speech it normally is to another one. So, if the word is a noun, use it as an adjective, or a preposition.
  • Do any part of speech, but try to maintain a similar meaning or at least a meaning you would expect that word to have in the new form.

Colors are a good example. You hear about a leaf greening, or a face yellowing, what would be oranging?

How about the sun oranging the street?

What about the word corolla – a noun meaning the petals of a flower?

What if a building had no windows on the first floor, but the higher up you looked the more windows there were and the tighter together they were built? What if they seemed to curve together and make up the whole top of the building. Could the windows be corolla windows?

Not only is it a word that evokes specific imagery but the vowels smooth over from one word to another. Corolla windows.

Words are limitless.

I always joke with Justin that my English degree certifies me to change the language at my will.

The truth is (I love this topic, if you can’t tell) language changes by anyone’s will.

Obviously, I think there is importance in the proper way of writing and using the language -proper spelling, grammar and all that, but I think about how fun it is to manipulate the language as well and really-how important it is too. Creatively changing the language to meet the needs of a writer wanting to express a very specific idea makes using words in uncommon ways important, as an exercise of the creative mind and a practice for writers pushing envelopes like e.e. Cummings and Shakespeare.

What are some of your favorite uncommon, improper uses of words?

 

Also, check out a review for my poetry collection by Michelle Proulx! A big thank you goes out to her for reading and letting people know about it.

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Guide to Poetry: Terms and Forms

I probably should have written this article before my villanelle post, but I was excited and exasperated by the villanelle at the time and wanted to share, but, it is due time for me to give you all a poetry run down. I’m sure for some people most of this will be a refresher, however I tried to pick a couple obscure terms that might be new and useful.

Poetic Terms

  • Alliteration- Repetition of initial sound in two or more words within a line
  • Assonance- Repetition of vowel sounds in two or more words within a line
  • Allusion- Reference to something outside of the poem
  • Ambiguity- Suggestion of more than one meaning
  • Anaphora- Repetition of word or phrase at the beginning of lines
  • Animism- Giving animals human characteristics
  • Antithesis- Balance or contrast of one thing against another
  • Apostrophe- Direct address to something/someone not present
  • Blank Verse- Unrhymed, metered (iambic pentameter) verse
  • Caesura- A natural pause within a line
  • Cliché- Overly familiar words, phrases or metaphors
  • Connotation- A word’s figurative, associated and nuanced meanings
  • Consonance- Repetition of consonant sounds within a line
  • Couplet/Tercet/Quatrain/Sestet/Octave- Stanzas consisting of two/three/four/six/eight lines
  • Denotation- Word’s dictionary definition
  • Diction- Word choice
  • End-Stopped Line- Line whose end corresponds with a natural pause (comma or period)
  • Enjambed Line- Line that ends without a natural pause
  • Foot- Unit of meter
  • Free Verse- Unrhymed, unmetered verse
  • Hyperbole- Exaggeration/ Overstatement
  • Image- Representation of a sense through concrete description
  • Internal Rhyme- Rhyme that occurs anywhere within lines
  • Irony- Discrepancy between what is said and what is meant
  • Line- Unit of poetry
  • Line Break- End of a line
  • Litotes- Understatement (often delivered by saying the opposite of what is meant)
  • Masculine Rhyme/Feminine Rhyme/Triple Rhyme- one syllable rhyme/ two syllable rhyme/ three syllable rhyme
  • Metaphor/Simile- Comparison of two unlike things / Simile uses “like” or “as”
  • Meter- Pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables
  • Metonymy- Word that substitutes for a thing associated with it. (the crown = the king)
  • Narrative- Including a story
  • Near-rhyme/Off-rhyme/Slant-rhyme- Inexact rhyme
  • Onomatopoeia- Words who imitate their meaning
  • Persona- Fictional, mythical or historic speaker
  • Personification- Giving human qualities to an inanimate object or the abstract
  • Point of View- Perspective of the speaker (first, second or third)
  • Prose Poem- Poetry in block or paragraph form
  • Refrain- Repetition of one or more lines at intervals in a poem
  • Repetition- Reiterating a word or line within a poem
  • Rhyme- Repetition of sounds
  • Rhyme Scheme- Pattern or sequence of rhyme; first sound represented by “a” the second with “b” etc…
  • Rhythm- Pattern made from stresses and pauses and their placement
  • Stanza- Unit of poetry made up of two or more lines, separated by space
  • Symbol- Something that represents another thing
  • Synecdoche- A part that substitutes for the whole
  • Synesthesia- Description of one sense using another
  • Voice- Combination of diction, syntax, images, rhythm and sound

All of these devices are common in poetry, however the point in creative writing is to be creative and use common things in new and unique ways. So, if you don’t write poetry, experiment using these devices in your own way. Maybe, in a short story alliteration in a particular part will extenuate the ambiance.

I hope to delve a little further into some of these terms and deffinetly more forms of poetry in future posts. Until then, if you have any questions, suggestions, or if you have a specific topic you would like me to expand on let me know -leave a comment, or email me- and I will be glad to post it.

 

The “Villain”elle

Okay, so it’s called the villanelle… without the villain, but I wanted to discuss this form of poetry because it can feel like a villain. I find this form hard to write and I have a lot of respect for anyone who is able to write one that works. I have written several villanelles, but I think only one of them was a success. What makes this form so difficult to write is the rhyme scheme is interwoven with refrains (and yes plural… REFRAINS). This creates a complexity that the writer pursues in 19 lines. Comprised of 5 tercets and a concluding quatrain, the refrains alternately repeat as the last line of each stanza, and together as the last 2 lines of the final stanza. By having 8 lines of your poem comprised of the same 2 lines creates a unique challenge. The writer should strive to have those lines read both fresh and reminiscent. The repetition is a great device, if it succeeds.

Villanelle Form

1 Refrain 1 (A1)
2 (B)
3 Refrain 2 (A2)

4 (A)
5 (B)
6 Refrain 1 (A1)

7 (A)
8 (B)
9 Refrain 2 (A2)

10 (A)
11 (B)
12 Refrain 1 (A1)

13 (A)
14 (B)
15 Refrain 2 (A2)

16 (A)
17 (B)
18 Refrain 1 (A1)
19 Refrain 2 (A2)

The Line number is signified by the numbers on the left, 19 total. Each break represents a new stanza: the first 5 stanzas are tercets (meaning comprised of 3 lines each) and the last stanza is a quatrain (comprised of 4 lines). The “A’s” and “B’s” throughout the poem represent where there should be rhymes. All “A” lines rhyme with “A” lines and all “B” lines rhyme with “B” lines. While dissecting poems, in order to discover the rhyme scheme you may use as many letters to signify new rhymes as you need, here there are only 2. The last detail for the villanelle is that there are 2 refrains: Refrain 1 (A1) and Refrain 2 (A2). These full lines repeat where shown. Notice that the refrain titles include “A” which signifies that both refrains should rhyme not only with each other but with all other “A” lines as well.

An Example

Below is a famous villanelle, Do not go gentle into that good night, by Dylan Thomas. Notice the form and the rhyme scheme as well as the refrains.

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

The first refrain, “Do not go gentle into that good night” seems like a command whenever it is repeated, however, the writer is able to change that between lines 5 and 6 where instead of a command it becomes an action. The “they” from line 5 carries down to the refrain (line 6) and makes it so it reads “they/Do not go gentle in that good night.” This a great example of servicing the lines both fresh and reminiscent.

If you are brave, try one for yourself. They are difficult but rewarding, even if unsuccessful. 🙂