Our Favorite Poets: Gertrude Stein

While not in the least bit traditional, Gertrude Stein is one of our all-time favorite poets.

Born in Allegheny, PA on February 3, 1874, she moved to Paris in the early 1900s where she became influenced by the Impressionistic Art of the time. While in Europ she began writing poetry about a variety of subjects including homosexual tendencies and alcohol. These works include Three Lives (1909), Tender Buttons (1914 and The Making of Americans (published in 1925). Taking the abstraction and cubism in prose, her poetry is almost unreadable. This why is she is referred to as a Modernist Poet because it breaks all forms of the tradition of classic poetry. She died in France in 1946 yet her legacy continues. Some critics are in support of her work saying that is defined a genre while other critics claim that her works are utter nonsense.

One of our favorite poems by her is Susie Asado.

You can hear it read out loud by this random YouTubber below. For me, her poetry is about the use of sounds rather than the literal story. What do you think?

Sweet sweet sweet sweet sweet tea.
Susie Asado.
Sweet sweet sweet sweet sweet tea.
Susie Asado.
Susie Asado which is a told tray sure.
A lean on the shoe this means slips slips hers.
When the ancient light grey is clean it is yellow, it is a silver seller.
This is a please this is a please there are the saids to jelly. These are the wets these say the sets to leave a crown to Incy.
Incy is short for incubus.
A pot. A pot is a beginning of a rare bit of trees. Trees tremble, the old vats are in bobbles, bobbles which shade and shove and render clean, render clean must.
Drink pups.
Drink pups drink pups lease a sash hold, see it shine and a bobolink has pins. It shows a nail.
What is a nail. A nail is unison.
Sweet sweet sweet sweet sweet tea.

The Definition Of Diction

When you are writing a poem or a piece of prose, you have to think carefully about your diction. Diction is a term used to describe the process of choosing the words and phrases that you use within your writing. If you select each word with care, you’ll be able to say things in a more concise and effective way.

Many writers only have a limited understanding of the concept of diction. If you deepen your understanding of diction, you’ll become a much more effective writer. When selecting words there are three things to keep in mind:

  1. The word is accurate
  2. The word fits within the context of the piece
  3. The word is easily understandable

Finding Words With The Right Sound

When you’re selecting words, you can’t just think about their meaning. You also have to think about the way they sound. Many famous poets, like T.S. Elliot, are known for playing with alliteration. Considering the number of syllables in a word is also important.

It’s a good idea to use a thesaurus when you write. That way, you can experiment with different words and find one with the kind of sound that you want.

Eliminating Unnecessary Words

When a writer uses too many words, it can be difficult to determine what they are actually trying to say. Unneeded words can cloud your intent and remove clarity from your writing.

When you’re focusing on your diction, you need to think about whether or not a word is improving your piece. Don’t be afraid to cut words that are making your intent less clear.

Types of Diction

As mention in #2, context is important when selecting words. In certain situations, you need to be formal and have formal diction and there are other times where we can be a bit more relaxed and use informal diction. You speak to your boss in a different manner than you’d speak to a friend. Also don’t forget about slang and colloquialisms – an overuse of these can leave the reader confused.

Example of Diction in Poetry

“A frosty winter night – my love,
Chill wind whispers sweet adoration.
Binds my body with the finest wool,
The darkest of sweet sensations.”
John Anderson, Night, My Lover

In the above excerpt from Night, My Lover by John Anderson, notice how he uses words with ‘w’ and ‘s’ sounds. He did this to portray peaceful calming feelings when reading the poem. In the even that John said “Cold gales talk sugary love”, the meaning or feeling of the poem would completely change. This is how fiction comes into play when writing poetry and evoking a feeling.

Free Writing Prompt: Bad Dream

This week’s writing prompt comes from Creative Writing Now. This prompt states to write a poem based on a bad dream that you had. Try to reproduce the sensations of the dream. Little did you all know that I suffer from terrible nightmares. The subject matter from me to choose from is actually endless, so it’s not like I had to sit and rack my brain on what my last nightmare was.

One of my all-time top nightmares happened in 2010. I know this because I was working at a television production company and we were doing a show about nightmares, so I got to share this nightmare to the producers. I had a dream that my Cookie Monster stuffed animal came alive and murdered my entire family and then was coming to murder me. I distinctly remember the red blood on his fur and him knocking on my bedroom door as I lied under my covers terrified for my life. That’s really all I remember from the dream itself, but I remember feeling freaked out. It’s not every day that your beloved stuffed animal from childhood has a blood lust against you. In fact, I could never look at that doll the same way again.

But Cookie Monster cracks me up still:

Here’s my attempt to write a poem about the bad dream I had back in 2010:

Deep and sudden betrayal.
My childhood ruined.
My childhood gone.
Muddled images of death and destruction.
Such betrayal.
Whatever you think I did – it’s simply not true.
I love you more than them.
I don’t even care that they are gone.
Why me?
I would never hurt you.
I love you.
Deep and sudden betrayal.

Again, I am not the greatest poetry writer but based on the information above, I think the poem aligns itself with that and portrays the feelings that I was feeling. What do you think?

What Is The Definition Of Allusion?

Don Quixote

An allusion is a quick but indirect reference made of a place, thing, or person, or a reference to an idea of cultural, historical, political or literary importance. This reference does not describe the person or thing in detail but is merely a passing comment.

The writer of the allusion expects that the reader will have enough knowledge of the person or thing that he or she will be able to recognize it and grasp its importance.

For example, a literary allusion would be, “I don’t support this quixotic idea.” In this instance, quixotic would imply that the idea is “ridiculous and impractical” which is a reference or allusion to “Don Quixote,” a story by Cervantes about the misadventures of a foolish and delusional knight.

More Allusion Examples

  • “The estate’s lavish landscape was like a Garden of Eden.” This biblical allusion refers to the garden from which Adam and Eve were banished in the book of Genesis.
  • “That Kevin is quite the Romeo.” Romeo is a literary allusion to Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,” a play about star-crossed lovers.
  • “Ever since he landed that acting role, he’s gone all ‘Hollywood’ on us.” This modern-day allusion refers to a place Hollywood, which is known for movies, actors, shallow personalities and big egos.
  • “That candidate is just another Nixon.” This is a political allusion that refers to Richard Nixon’s reputation for being a liar and untrustworthy.

The Use Of Allusion

Allusions are often used by writers to distill a complex idea or emotion down into a simple word or phrase. The writer can convey an atmosphere, a character trait, or an emotion using a brief allusion.

The writer can also appeal to a certain audience and gain their favor by using allusions to a subject of which the readers are comfortable or partial to. For example, using biblical allusions in order to appeal to readers with religious backgrounds.

Use of Allusion In Poetry

One famous example of an allusion in poetry is found in Keats’s “Ode To Grecian Urn.”

Sylvan historian, who canst thus express
A flowery tale more sweetly than our rhyme:
What leaf-fringed legend haunts about thy shape
Of deities or mortals, or of both,
In Tempe or the dales of Arcady?”

In this verse, Sylvan is a reference to the half man/half goat deity in Greek Mythology.

Our Favorite Poets: Paul Simon

Although technically not a poet, I fundamentally believe that some of the song lyrics that Paul Simon work has the elements of poetry. This cannot be more clear in his song “Leaves That Are Green.” There are many different interpretations of this song. Some concepts that are explored in this song include the passage of time, lost love, life and death, and the impact of someone’s life on society as a whole. Music just a secondary layer that makes the poem even more thought-provoking because it is generally considered a happy tune compared to the darkness of the lyrics. But perhaps that was Simon’s intent all along. This has been done in other songs such as Hanson’s MMMbop where the tune is happy but the lyrics are quite depressing once dissected.

But if you still can’t figure it out, Simon gives you a clew in the 3 line of the song: Time Hurries On…

Take a read and listen below and tell us what you think:

I was twenty-one years when I wrote this song
I’m twenty-two now, but I won’t be for long
Time hurries on
And the leaves that are green turn to brown
And they whither with the wind
And they crumble in your hand

Once my heart was filled with love of a girl
I held her close, but she faded in the night
Like a poem I meant to write
And the leaves that are green turn to brown
And they wither with the wind
And they crumble in your hand

I threw a pebble in a brook
And watched the ripples run away
And they never made a sound
And the leaves that are green turn to brown
And they wither with the wind
And they crumble in your hand
Hello, Hello, Hello, Hello
Good-bye, Good-bye
Good-bye, Good-bye
That’s all there is

And the leaves that are green turn to brown

Do You Ever Wonder What The Poetic Term “Syntax” Means?

Do you ever wonder what the poetic term “syntax” means? If you ever have to read poetry, especially for an educational class where analysis is part of your course work, then syntax is one of many aspects of writing, literature, and written genres or forms like poetry that you are going to wind up studying. Thus, being curious about the definition and practical nature of the term, as it relates to poetry, is quite understandable.

It’s even more understandable if you write poetry. Your desire to write poems is probably just a creative instinct that flows out of you naturally, and the words likely flow just as easily. However, learning all you can about your craft at a critical or academic and technical level is likely to help your poetry and understanding of the art form.

Syntax is generally the sets of processes, principles, and rules that dictate sentence structure within a language or form of literature. Punctuation and word order are of particular importance.

The word “syntax” itself is traced back all the way to Ancient Greece, from a word loosely translated as “coordination” formed from the base parts of “together” and “an ordering.” The concept of syntax as a school of thought is often traced back simultaneously to Greece for Western languages and to Ancient India for Asian and Eastern languages and their related dialects.

In the realm of poetry, the order of words in a sentence can emphasize or empower or even demote the energy of particular words, particularly subjects and verbs. Some poets even deliberately fracture their chosen syntax beyond what is usually acceptable in the language they are writing in, betting on the reader being able to understand points made outside of the boundaries of conventional syntax.

Favorite Metaphors In Song Lyrics: TLC

You cannot think of the 1990s without thinking of this mega hit from the girl group TLC. This song is not about the dangers of boating but in fact, the chorus is one of the greatest song metaphors of all time. Waterfalls represent something that is beautiful, distant and out of sight. And although it’s great to chase dreams, sometimes in the pursuit of our happiness we can get hurt. The music video accurately represents gang violence as well as the HIV/Aids epidemic that was happening in the 90s to give an even deeper meaning to this song.

Watch the music video and read the lyrics below:

A lonely mother gazing out of her window
Staring at a son that she just can’t touch
If at any time he’s in a jam she’ll be by his side
But he doesn’t realize he hurts her so much

But all the praying just ain’t helping at all
‘Cause he can’t seem to keep his self out of trouble
So he goes out and he makes his money the best way he knows how
Another body laying cold in the gutter
Listen to me

Don’t go chasing waterfalls
Please stick to the rivers and the lakes that you’re used to
I know that you’re gonna have it your way or nothing at all
But I think you’re moving too fast

Little precious has a natural obsession
For temptation but he just can’t see
She gives him loving that his body can’t handle
But all he can say is “Baby, it’s good to me.”

One day he goes and takes a glimpse in the mirror
But he doesn’t recognize his own face
His health is fading and he doesn’t know why
Three letters took him to his final resting place
Y’all don’t hear me

[Chorus (2x)]

Come on

I seen a rainbow yesterday
But too many storms have come and gone
Leavin’ a trace of not one God-given ray
Is it because my life is ten shades of gray
I pray all ten fade away
Seldom praise Him for the sunny days

And like His promise is true
Only my faith can undo
The many chances I blew
To bring my life to anew
Clear blue and unconditional skies
Have dried the tears from my eyes
No more lonely cries

My only bleedin’ hope
Is for the folk who can’t cope
With such an endurin’ pain
That it keeps ’em in the pourin’ rain
Who’s to blame
For tootin’ ‘caine into your own vein
What a shame
You shoot and aim for someone else’s brain
You claim the insane
And name this day in time
For fallin’ prey to crime
I say the system got you victim to your own mind
Dreams are hopeless aspirations
In hopes of comin’ true
Believe in yourself
The rest is up to me and you

[Chorus (2x)]

What Does Spondee Mean?

A poet needs to be a master of language. Poets should have a deep understanding of words and how to use them. That’s why poets should take the time to familiarize themselves with terms like spondee.

What Does Spondee Mean?

A spondee is a beat within a poetic line. That beat should consist of two accented syllables. An equal amount of stress should be placed on both syllables in the word. Examples of words that contain spondee include “faithful,” “railroad,” “baseball,” “rainbow,” and “highway.”

When Is Spondee Used?

Spondee is used in a wide range of poems. It commonly appears in poems that use five metrical feet. You’ll see it in trochaic meter, iambic meter, and dactylic meter. You may also occasionally see it in poetic forms.

Most poets do not write entire poems in spondaic meter. Instead, they combine it with other forms. Spondee allows a poet to create extremely interesting metric patterns that can make a poem more appealing to listen to.

Poets That Use Spondee

Spondee has been used by many great and famous poets throughout history. For example, spondee is used in the famous poem “The Song of Hiawatha,” which was written by Henry Wordsworth Longfellow. Spondee also appears in poems by Alfred Lord Tennyson and Gerard Manley Hopkins. It even appears in the work of William Shakespeare!

Spondee is still used by a number of modern poems. Read poems carefully and keep a watchful eye out for spondee and spondaic meter. You’ll be able to find a number of examples.

Spondee is something that every poet should have an understanding of. As a poet, the more you know about words and their rhythms, the better. Researching spondee will allow you to select the ideal words for your poetry. You’ll be able to create poems that will be remembered.

Poetry Writing Prompt: Love Letter

This week’s poetry writing prompt comes from Kelli Russell Agodon again. This prompt states:

Write a poem that is really a love letter to an old flame. To make sure it doesn’t slip into sappy, make sure one or more of these words are in the poem: dung beetle, politician, nuclear, exoskeleton, oceanography, pompadour, toilet. 

Can someone please explain to my why I keep doing this to myself? What has this website done to me? The problem currently is that I am madly in love with my fianceé, so to even think of a former flame, I laugh at what I once thought was love.

The word pompadour also makes me think of this terrible musical I was a part of in Junior High called Pompadour and Poodleskirts. I can’t find our version on YouTube but here’s one from another school. It’s terrible yet also absolutely amazing:

Anyway, here’s what I came up with for this poetry writing prompt.

You peeled the lawyers away,
You removed my exoskeleton.
Leaving me vulnerable,
And exposed.
I peeled your lawyer away,
I removed your exoskeleton.
Leaving your vulnerable
And exposed.
You ran.
I stayed.
I loved what I saw.
You hated what you saw…
So you claim.
But that is not the truth.
You were scared of the nuclear explosion,
Scared that you showed your soul to someone,
Scared that I would run…
But I stayed.
You’re such a dung beetle.
That’s the last time I will let you sting me.

Well, I was able to slip in 3 words into the poem (4 if you count exoskeleton twice). I think that’s an accurate depiction of my last relationship. We became incredibly closed and commitment sometimes scares people away. But without that experience, I wouldn’t be where I am today, and for that, I couldn’t be happier.

What Is The Meaning Of The Poetic Term Anapest?

An anapest can be defined as a metrical foot consisting of three syllables, the first two are unstressed followed by one stressed syllable, often referred to as “reverse dactyl” as it follows the rapid pace of the dactyl where the emphasis is placed on the first syllable. Examples of anapest in the English language are words such as “contradict” and “understand”, both of which contain three syllables with the accent on the last syllable. Anapestic words are more common in languages other than English such as French, and many phrases that are borrowed from the French language such as “art nouveau” and “haute couture” contain anapestic words.

Examples of the use of anapests in poetry include “The Sick Rose” by William Blake, “The Unknown Citizen” by W.H. Auden and “Twas The Night Before Christmas” by Clement C. Moore – which is almost entirely made up of anapests. An Anapestic tetrameter in poetry contains four anapestic metrical feet in each line, each foot having two syllables that are unstressed with the stress on the final syllable. Foot refers to the most basic unit of a poem’s meter and is a combination of stressed and unstressed syllables making up a line of the meter.

The word “anapest”, also written “anapaest” has an identical definition to “antidactylus” and means “struck back” in Greek. A dactyl is a metric foot where the stress is on the first syllable followed by two that are unstressed, which is why an anapest is considered to be a reversed dactyl.
Three forms of anapestic meter:

1. Anapestic Trimeter with 3 metrical anapestic feet each with three syllables giving each line a total of 9 syllables;
2. Anapestic Tetrameter with 4 metrical anapestic feet each having 3 syllables in anapestic form with a total of 12 syllables in each line;
3. Anapestic Hexameter the least common anapest – contains 6 anapestic feet with 3 syllables each giving a total of 18 syllables per line.

Some idioms in the English language are common examples of anapest such as the phrases: “get a life”, “costs an arm and a leg”, “feeling under the weather”, “at the drop of a hat” and the song by Cole Porter: “In the Still of the Night”. Popular poetic forms of Limerick often contain playful anapestic meter.