poetry

Mad Skillz: Ali on being poetic

Ali writes a poetic blog. Which by default means it’s deep. It’s not necessarily all about poetry but it’s the type of blog where just reading makes you feel more artistic and creative. That’s her milieu (to steal an artistic French word). To my knowledge we’ve never met – but we’ve both lived in Townsville. Ali is a former “Steve Irwin” style animal wrangler (as indicated by her link). This gives her some sort of credibility with those who don’t like poetry…

Here are Ali’s tips on how to be, or appear, poetic.

Let me first just say, I don’t get around calling myself a ‘poet’ so I feel like this is something of a joke, and there are those out there who with more credibility than me, so feel most free to comment/differ/add stuff. (My other option was editing, which might have been more use to some but would have been just as farcical. However, if you would like to know how to catch a koala, read here.

I supplemented this with some material from a course I did with Judith Beveridge, so you get something from a real expert.

  1. Read poetry. Read lots of it, and read the great poetry so your bar is high, but also read contemporary poetry (they are not necessarily mutually exclusive, but a lot of the known greats are actually dead). Having said that, the thing that actually started me writing poetry – even though I’d read it since school – was a friend giving me a poem they wrote for me, and it suddenly came within the realm of possibility, when I had never really thought about it before.
  2. Find out what sort of poet you are, your sympathies and approach. Then learn by imitation. It is actually the way to learn all art forms.
  3. Know the elements and rules of poetry. Read a book like “Rules for the Dance” by Mary Oliver (otherwise this post will never end). Only when you know the rules (rhythm, metre, line, form, sound, image, metaphor etc) can you break them effectively and do the “freefall” (as Mark Tredinnick called it) nicely (same goes for grammar might I add – that’s what MT was actually talking about). As with all creative writing, show and don’t tell. (So mostly don’t use abstractions – eg a word like “beautiful” is an abstraction so describe the elements of the beauty instead – or else interpret the concept/abstraction with an object eg “quiet as a house in which the witch has just stopped dancing” – “quiet” is the concept, the rest is the object (and obviously the whole thing is a metaphor) – I snitched this example from Judith Beveridge.)
  4. Work hard on language and find the language appropriate to the experience, and the appropriate form. The style and the content are inseparable. With the language you want the reader to feel like they are going through the experience and to be engaged on a sensory level. The vocabulary doesn’t need to be sophisticated necessarily but using ordinary words in different ways is good. (This is a kind of summary of stuff from the Judith Beveridge course.)
  5. As with all creative writing or creativity or skill, keep practicing and writing and also revising and editing and be prepared to fail along the way. (Seeing some drafts from the masters is enlightening – we tend to think poetry just rolls effortlessly off the tongue of the greats – not so, so be encouraged.)

How to write a poetic media release

I put out my last media release an hour before I finished work last Friday. It was about a new regional economic development planning framework. It was a pretty big deal for us so I was thrilled that our Economic Development boss let me put out a media release containing the following:

“This will be a map, a guideline for the future, comprehensively,” she said (as a Haiku).

And this.

“We will be working with representatives from the regions to consider the next 20 years of development in North Queensland.”

“The goal is to ensure that our services and infrastructure are developed strategically in order to meet future demand,” she said (as a vaguely rhyming pair of sentences).”

And then this passage inspired by the governator’s veto.

An ode to an un-fan

Just look, I’ve got one less Facebook fan today;
Oh, I closed my eyes, and they slipped away.
Except I know not where they’ve gone, or what I’ve done,

Why, at this rate in a month there’ll be none.
Every time I check the stats it fills my heart with grief,
Entering the first step denial and disbelief.

In Kübler-Ross the next phase is anger.
Such rage I feel, I’d swap it for a sanger.

Gads, sir, there. I’m onto bargaining. Why bother then with all these blues.
At the end of the day, I still have youse.
Yet still, somehow, you’d make my happy by clicking here, go on. Just add me.

Poet, and don’t I know it…

Simone has been putting together some poetry 2.0 – bringing commenters together and uniting them in rhyme. I got some lines in the finished product

Actually, and six years later I’m loathe to admit it, Poetry.com did send me emails telling me what a wonderful poet I was and wanting to include my work in a very special compilation of poetry*… you can see my poems here. Please feel free to ignore the badness of “Pariah”, it was written in a particular context where it was vaguely funny. The rest, they stand the test of time, in that they haven’t improved over time.

* I am aware that everybody who puts a poem on this site gets this offer, I’m also aware that despite the claims of Readers’ Digest I have not won $75,000.

Courage under fire

Saudi Arabia is not a nice place to be if you’re a Muslim looking to become a Christian.

Anyone who wants to preach the message that Islam is a religion of love and tolerance should consider the punishment dished out on anybody who wants to leave the fold.

In Christianity we call communities that shun or excommunicate those who leave cults. It’s one of the criterion a cult must meet.

According to Islamic rules – as stated in the Hadith of Bukhari, Volume 9, Book 84, Number 57, which is authoritative for all Muslims:

“Some Zanadiqa (atheists) were brought to ‘Ali and he burnt them. The news of this event, reached Ibn ‘Abbas who said, “If I had been in his place, I would not have burnt them, as Allah’s Apostle forbade it, saying, ‘Do not punish anybody with Allah’s punishment (fire).’ I would have killed them according to the statement of Allah’s Apostle, ‘Whoever changed his Islamic religion, then kill him.’”

A Christian convert in Saudi Arabia, a young girl, wrote this poem (and posted it online) shortly before her family killed her for apostasy. Here’s an excerpt:

There are tears on my cheek, and Oh! the heart is sad
To those who become Christians, how you are so cruel!
And the Messiah says, “Blessed are the Persecuted”
And we for the sake of Christ all things bear

What is it to you that we are infidels?
You do not enter our graves, as if with us buried

Enough – your swords do not concern me, not evil nor disgrace
Your threats do not trouble me, and we are not afraid
And by God, I am unto death a Christian—Verily
I cry for what passed by, of a sad life

Talk about courage under fire.

There are three things this episode prompts me to think.

  1. I’m glad I live in a tolerant country.
  2. Atheists should be glad we live in a country with a nominally Judeo-Christian background because they have the philosophical freedom to hold their beliefs.
  3. Showing that kind of conviction is a rare thing indeed – how many of us would kill our siblings for holding contrary views – and how many of us would hold a view that would cause that sort of family reaction?

This is a more serious tone than I like to put here – but this story is just overwhelmingly sad. And this sort of insight into martyrdom is rare. This lady’s entire poem is well worth a read. Do it.

Dog was I, ere I saw God

That title is pretty much the best palindrome I could come up with after racking my brain for about 5 minutes. 

I didn’t think I’d be able to post something cleverer than the ambigram shirt for some time. I was wrong. How about a 224 word palindrome? Still not impressed? How bout a 224 word palindromic poem?

Don’t believe me? Here it is:

“Dammit I’m mad.
By Demetri Martin 

Evil is a deed as I live.
God, am I reviled? I rise, my bed on a sun, I melt.
To be not one man emanating is sad. I piss.
Alas, it is so late. Who stops to help?
Man, it is hot. I’m in it. I tell.
I am not a devil. I level “Mad Dog”.
Ah, say burning is, as a deified gulp, 
In my halo of a mired rum tin.
I erase many men. Oh, to be man, a sin.
Is evil in a clam? In a trap?
No. It is open. On it I was stuck.
Rats peed on hope. Elsewhere dips a web.
Be still if I fill its ebb.
Ew, a spider… eh?
We sleep. Oh no!
Deep, stark cuts saw it in one position.
Part animal, can I live? Sin is a name.
Both, one… my names are in it.
Murder? I’m a fool.
A hymn I plug, deified as a sign in ruby ash,
A Goddam level I lived at.
On mail let it in. I’m it.
Oh, sit in ample hot spots. Oh wet!
A loss it is alas (sip). I’d assign it a name.
Name not one bottle minus an ode by me:
“Sir, I deliver. I’m a dog”
Evil is a deed as I live.
Dammit I’m mad.”

EDIT: Thanks Joel for picking up my palindromic error in the title, all is now fixed.

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