Free Writing: Life After Death

This week’s creative writing prompt comes from Creative Writing Now. I had my friend select a number between 1 through 20 and he chose number 7, which states: Write a poem based on your belief about life after death… or about what you WISH you believed.

This prompt has me thinking a lot more than any of the other free writing prompts that I’ve done before. There’s a lot of directions that this could take. I think the natural response would be I wish that we coulda ll be immortal, but think of the potential ramifications of that, we’d use up all the natural resources on earth fairly quickly. It also reminds me of the best book I’ve ever read called Elsewhere, when you die you go to heaven and age backward and then are reborn as a baby. How cool would it be if that happened? And then there’s this theory that my family has that my grandfather was reincarnated into a white butterfly. I know that sounds really strange but it’s true – there’s a white butterfly that follows me around on important occasions and sits on my grandfather’s gravestone. This theory totally let to my parents getting a divorce but I still think it’s true!

There are a lot of famous incarnation stories that can be seen here, mine is a little wacky too, but not as wacky as this:

Meanwhile, I should probably actually write something.

I see you.
I know it’s you.
I don’t care if people don’t believe it’s true.
Whether it’s my SATs or the day I moved.
You have been there – watching me, guiding me, loving me.
When I see you I know it will be OK.
That all is right in the world.
One day I will join you to help guide the rest of our family.
Being reborn for a greater purpose.

What do you think? Do you think I met the challenge?

The Definition Of Simile

A lot of people get the terms “simile” and “metaphor” confused. When writers use a simile they are making a comparison between two things directly usually using the words “like” or “as”.

All similes are metaphors because you are making a comparison between two things, but not all metaphors are similes because similes refer to a comparison as previously mentioned with using the words “like” or “as”.

Similes are usually used by writers to help describe something. For example, a simile to describe the rain that was falling down from the sky and it was painful, you might say something along the lines of “the rain was like sharp needles pouring down from the sky.” If you wanted to use a metaphor, but not a simile, you could say something like “razor sharp needles poured down from the sky.” Because we know that rain falls from the sky, we still understand that the razor sharp needs are rain and not to take it in the literal sense. But to be safe and to make sure the reader doesn’t misinterpret the work, a lot of writers prefer to use similes over metaphors.

Examples of Similes In Everyday Language

  • as cute as a kitten
  • as busy as a bee
  • as light as a feather
  • fought like cats and dogs
  • boring as watching paint dry
  • sitting like a bump on a log

Example of Similes in Poetry

One of the most famous examples of a simile in a poem is none other than Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. The last line of the poem compares the star to a diamond. And based on science, we know that he’s not far off as carbon is what makes diamonds and is also found in stars! But of course, we know that stars are not diamonds in the literal sense.

“Twinkle, twinkle little star,
How I wonder what you are.
Up above the world so high,
Like a diamond in the sky.
Twinkle, twinkle little star,
How I wonder what you are.”

Metaphors in Song Lyrics: Afternoon Delight

Made popular again by its use in Anchorman (which I am sure made their estate a ton of money), “Afternoon Delight” was originally recorded in 1976 by the Starland Vocal Band. In this case, there’s metaphors and euphemism as discussed in our last post. The euphemism is painfully obvious – substituting sex with the phrase of afternoon delight. And who can’t help but roll their eyes at the euphemism of rubbing sticks and stones together make the sparks ignite!  sky rockets in flight

The metaphor, however, is a bit more subtle. In the song, they compare sky rockets in flight to afternoon delight. To me, they are basically saying something as wonderful and magical as sky rockets flying in the air is the same as some really good sex! Take a listen to the song and read the lyrics below:

Gonna find my baby, gonna hold her tight
Gonna grab some afternoon delight
My motto’s always been ‘when it’s right, it’s right’
Why wait until the middle of a cold dark night?
When everything’s a little clearer in the light of day
And we know the night is always gonna be there any way
Thinkin’ of you’s workin’ up my appetite
Looking forward to a little afternoon delight
Rubbin’ sticks and stones together makes the sparks ingite
And the thought of lovin’ you is getting so exciting
Sky rockets in flight
Afternoon delight
Afternoon delight
Afternoon delight
Started out this morning feeling so polite
I always though a fish could not be caught who wouldn’t bite
But you’ve got some bait a waitin’ and I think I might try nibbling
A little afternoon delight
Sky rockets in flight
Afternoon delight
Afternoon delight
Afternoon delight
Please be waiting for me, baby, when I come around
We could make a lot of lovin’ ‘for the sun goes down
Thinkin’ of you’s workin’ up my appetite
Looking forward to a little afternoon delight
Rubbin’ sticks and stones together makes the sparks ingite
And the thought of lovin’ you is getting so exciting
Sky rockets in flight
Afternoon delight
Afternoon delight
Afternoon delight
Afternoon delight!

The Meaning of Euphenism

In our everyday speech as well as writing there is a device that is commonly used called a euphemism. It is a word or phrase that is given to another word or phrase unrelated to the object or term being spoken of. It is commonly understood as a gentler or less harsh way of putting things.

For instance, a company that lays its employees off will make cuts to various employees. It is a common euphemism to refer to the cuts as downsizing. Another euphemism example is letting someone go for firing a person. Someone who is homeless may be spoken of with a euphemism term like “on the streets.”

There are different types such as the phonetic type. This pertains to the spoken abbreviation of an otherwise offensive term. Jeez is a shortened phonetic euphemism for Jesus which in many instances would be an offensive name to shout in public because there are people who feel the name must be revered.

Euphemisms can differ slightly from politically correct statements. If someone is visually impaired it often means that they are blind. However, the term could be construed as a euphemism but in actuality, it is a perfectly appropriate description for those who are blind or who cannot see well. It is a broad term that applies to different levels of difficulty seeing. It serves as a clearer indication of what a speaker or writer is referring to when they use the phrase visually impaired.

Common Types of Euphemisms

Abbreviations such as B.O.instead of body odor
Foreign words such as faux pas instead of mistake
Abstraction such as before I go instead of before I die
Longer words such as perspiration instead of sweat
Technical words such as gluteus maximus instead of butt
Mispronunciations such as darn instead of damn

Example of Euphemism In Literature

In this line of dialogue from Othello, Iago the main villain of the story tells the King the following:

“I am one, sir, that comes to tell you your daughter and the Moor are now making the beast with two backs.”

Beast with the two backs is a euphemism for the act of sexual relations.

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:

Betrayal!
Deep and sudden betrayal.
My childhood ruined.
My childhood gone.
Confusion.
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.
Betrayal.
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.