Freewriting fail and a definition of poetry


Starting this week, each creative writing class will begin with a freewriting session. I quite enjoy freewriting, but I’m…well, terrible at it. Especially since we didn’t have a prompt, and I didn’t have my tea this morning! I ending up with a page and a half of awful diary entry. To give you an idea, the last two sentences were:

God, I can’t wait for coffee. I’ll even spend the €3.50.

I think the exercise was supposed to help us think up ideas and gain inspiration for the short story we’ve to submit at the end of the semester. Unless I write about my renewed (and crippling) caffeine addiction, I don’t think I’ll get anything from it. Note to self: remember to drink my morning tea before creative writing class!

It went much better after that, especially after we broke for five minutes and I splurged that €3.50 in Starbucks for, I shit you not, a regular Americano with a shot of hazelnut. Yes, that costs €3.50 here. Criminal!

After the freewriting, we discussed the poems we were given last week, which were mostly metapoetry, and then moved on to various definitions of what poetry is and what are its objectives. I also want to look up the really awesome prose poem by Brian something-or-other in Niall MacMonagle’s anthology “Real Cool”. Which is a brilliant book that everyone should read. We’re supposed to think about what makes us like the poems we like: what techniques the poet uses; what appeals to us about the imagery and topics. Honestly, I’m not really sure. I don’t have a set type of poetry that I like, and it’s been a while since I dug out the anthologies I own. So that’s something I’ll be doing at some point this week! And of course, the only poems I could think of when she said that were A Puppy Called Puberty by Adrian Mitchell and Larkin’s This Be the Verse.

We turned our hands to fleshing out experiences we’ve had that might be used as subject matter for a poem: finding the universality of that experience. Again, I failed. The last line of what I wrote:

Poetry is not for the listener; it is not a kindness or an empathy–the hand outstretched is not to welcome you but to bid you admire the rings that adorn it.

From that, we looked at a few different poetic forms. Here too I had a bit of a leg up, having taken speech and drama classes since I was a young wan. Especially when looking at the first form we did, which was the sonnet. We also looked at villanelles (taking the ubiquitous “Antarctica” by Derek Mahon as our example), haikus, the influence of Irish language poetry on Hiberno-English poetry, and finishing with a brief definition of dramatic monologue or persona poetry.

I was a little disappointed that we didn’t look at the sestina, but that was mostly because I decided last week that since we only had to write one poem for the class, I’d go outside my comfort zone and write something with a strict poetic form. I tried writing a sestina before, and it didn’t turn out great (which means it was godawful), and I thought it would be a good challenge. But it’s been ages since I tried to write one, so my memory of the form is really rusty. The other option I was thinking of was a villanelle, which we did do; though, I’d like to look up more examples for myself, because Derek Mahon’s is the only one that’s stuck in my head! We each wrote a haiku in class as well, since it’s a really short–if strict–form that can be composed in minutes. Though obviously, good ones take longer!

Biological Clock

Shopping. A child screams;

I fall back into the aisle

And buy more condoms.

We’ve to write a persona poem for next week, as well as reading more poetry on the class site, looking in depth at the imagery. I’m a little nervous about this, because I don’t think I’ve written anything like it before. As well, I want to find a balance between challenging myself and going mad: i.e., is free verse (what I usually write in) acceptable, or should I make an effort to maintain rhyme and/or meter?

Breaking news! (not really) I just found two wonderful things: the name of the poet I’ve been driving myself crazy all day trying to remember is Brian Patten; and even better, it turns out we share the same birthday! So that’s Charles Dickens, Laura Ingalls Wilder and Brian Patten all born on the same day. Be still my heart. Also, I was right about the title of the poem I was thinking of, and I have no idea why google didn’t recognise it. So I’ll finish my description of our class searching for a definition of poetry with this.

Prose Poem towards a Definition of Itself

by Brian Patten

When in public poetry should take off its clothes and wave to the nearest person in sight; it should be seen in the company of thieves and lovers rather than that of journalists and publishers. On sighting mathematicians it should unhook the algebra from their minds and replace it with poetry; on sighting poets it should unhook poetry from their minds and replace it with algebra; it should fall in love with children and woo them with fairy tales; it should wait on the landing for two years for its mates to come home then go outside and find them all dead.

When the electricity fails it should wear dark glasses and pretend to be blind. It should guide all those who are safe into the middle of busy roads and leave them there. It should shout EVIL! EVIL! from the roofs of the world’s stock exchanges. It should not pretend to be a clerk or a librarian. It is the eventual sameness of contradictions. It should never weep until it is alone and then only after it has covered the mirrors and sealed up the cracks.

Poetry should seek out couples and wander with them into stables, neglected bedrooms and engineless cars for a final Good Time. It should enter burning factories too late to save anyone. It should pay no attention to its real name.

Poetry should be seen lying by the side of road accidents, be heard hissing from unlit gas rings. It should scrawl the teacher’s secret on a blackboard, offer her a worm saying, Inside this is a tiny apple.

Poetry should play hopscotch in the 6 p.m. streets and look for jinks in other people’s dustbins. At dawn it should leave the bedroom and catch the first bus home. It should be seen standing on the ledge of a skyscraper, on a bridge with a brick tied around its heart. It is the monster hiding in a child’s dark room, it is the scar on a beautiful man’s face. It is the last blade of grass being picked from the city park.


About finalyearfrench

I'm a final year student, studying English and French, having taken the long way round to get there (even if I'm still only 24). This blog was originally started as a class assignment, though I'm quickly finding it an excellent procrastination tool! Definite updates: Mondays on French class, and Tuesdays on Creative Writing class. Scattered updates throughout the rest of the week. Je suis étudiante de lettres, dans l'année finale, ayant pris une trotte d'y arriver! J'ai 23 ans. Nouveaux posts: le lundi sur cours de français, le mardi sur cours d'écriture créative. Posts épars tout au long de la semaine.

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