A photograph to inspire poetry: a plant with yellow flowers

a plant with yellow flowers

Above is a photograph of a plant with yellow flowers.  The flowers are growing along a main part of the plant.  This photograph can inspire poetry.  Here is a poem inspired by it.

All in a line,
with their green raincoats,
waiting for the sunshine.

Poem with an explanation: the shadow, the book, and what she hears

she walked about
and took the pages
from all the books
she saw

she stacked them up
and glued the sides
and then she had a book

the book did say
what she should wear
what she should see
what she should hear
what she should say
what she should do

behind her eyes
a shadow dwelt
and spoke a whisper
that was not heard

she felt the pull
and heard the shouts
and saw the crowd
and feared outside

she felt the pull
the judges spoke
the crowd did cheer
the shadow hid

she put the words
from within her book
into the mouths
of the painted forms

what she should wear
what she should see
what she should hear
what she should say
what she should do

she feared outside
the shadow hid
she made the room
from all the words
and did all that
she heard them say

she held the book
and the read the words
and heard the forms
speak what she said

she held her sign
and joined the crowd
that she did form
while behind her eyes
the shadow hid

 

This poem is about the influence of perceived popular societal culture.  It’s about what a person thinks society is telling them to do.

In a person’s life, they encounter many influences from society that tell them how to live their lives.  Magazines say how to dress.  Television says what movies to see.  Various personalities (TV hosts, radio hosts, etc.) say what is important.  People are told how to live, what they should think, and what is important.

In all of these influences though, is the idea that a person picks to a degree the societal influences they see.  A person decides what magazines to read.  A person decides what shows to watch.  A person decides what websites to look at.  In all of this, a person has an influence in shaping the societal message they come in contact with, even if they are not aware of it.

Sometimes, a person can feel societal pressure.  There is the idea that there is something everyone is doing and that they should do it too.  There is some show everyone is watching.  Some movie everyone is seeing.  Some event everyone is going to.  There are variety of expressions regarding this idea.  Things like, “Social media can’t stop talking about …” or “The show everyone will be talking about tomorrow”.

There are more subtle pressures as well.  If a person sees something, like a movie, being heavily advertised, they might perceive that many people will see it.  If they hear a TV personality talk about a show, they might perceive the show to be important.  If they see characters in a show acting a certain way, they might feel that is how they should act.  In this, there is the fear that they will miss out on something, and won’t be part of the group, if they don’t see the movie or show or act a certain way.

Despite the ideas people often have about the value of being an individual, there is also the idea of being part of the group.  Sometimes conforming can be a strong influence on a person.  Sometimes there is a perceived value in being “like everyone else”.

This poem explores this idea under the backdrop of the idea that the person forms their own view of society.  In the poem, the person feels societal pressure, but this pressure comes from a view of society that they partially shaped.

The first stanza of the poem says, she walked about/ and took the pages/ from all the books/ she saw.  In this stanza, the character in the poem is starting to form her own view of society.  The “books” are all the places she gets influences.  They include TV shows, the news, billboards, the internet and other things.  She sees these things and pulls from them ideas of how she thinks society says she should be.

In the second stanza (she stacked them up/ and glued the sides/ and then she had a book), she over time forms a view of society.  From all the influences she has come in contact with, she has shaped, as it were, a guidebook for how to live.

In her book (in the third stanza), she has perceived how she feels society tells her to dress, what shows and movies to see, what songs to listen to, what she should feel about issues and how she should behave.

Inside her though, in the fourth stanza, the woman has a true personality.  There is the way she feels she should live her life.  This is described as a shadow whispering.  Much of how she feels she should live is at odds with the societal message she has shaped, and therefore she ignores how she feels.

In the fifth stanza, she feels societal pressure.  She feels that everyone is behaving a certain way and feels that she will be left out if she does not behave that way as well.  She feels she has to see the show everyone is seeing.  She has to see the movie everyone is watching.  She has to experience what everyone is experiencing.

In the sixth stanza, this idea is expressed.  She feels the pull of society.  She sees personalities (on TV, radio, etc.) as somehow judging behavior.  These people tell her what is important, what she should believe and how she should act.  She feels that society, in the form of the crowd, agrees with the judges.  In all of this, she hides her true feelings and personality.

The seventh stanza stresses the idea that she shapes her view of society.  In all the things she has seen, she has taken parts from them, and shaped a view of what she thinks society says she should be.  She is not aware that she has shaped this view.

In her view, in stanza eight, society tells her how to dress, what movies and shows to watch, what music to listen to, how she should believe about things and how she should act.

She feels, in the ninth stanza, that not conforming to this view is bad in some way.  She feels like it would make her on the outside.  She wants to fit in.  She wants to do what she perceives society to be saying is cool, popular, and good.  This causes her to hide her true personality and views and live her life the way she believes society is telling her to.

The tenth stanza reiterates the idea that she has had an influence on what she perceives as society.

In the last stanza, she conforms her life to her view of society while she hides her true personality.

The idea of this poem is to examine the idea of perceived societal pressure.  It looks at the idea that people shape their own views of how they think society tells them to be.  It focuses on the pressure as well as on the forming of what the pressure is about.

P. S. As a note, there will not be a new blog post on M. Sakran’s blog of and about poetry and poetry related things on Monday May 28, 2018.

A photograph to inspire poetry: Green Tomato

Green Tomato

Above is a photograph of a green tomato.  It can inspire poetry.  A poet could write about:

  • Gardening or farming. A poet could write about growing fruits and vegetables and ideas associated with that.
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  • Waiting. This tomato is green.  Assuming a person wanted it to be red before harvesting it, they would have to wait.  This idea of waiting for something could be applied to different ideas in poetry.
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  • Significance through color. This tomato is known by its color and its color signifies something about it.  This idea is in other places.  A good example would be traffic lights (yellow, green and red).  Traffic lights are known by their color and their color signifies something.  There are other examples as well.  A poet could think of examples and use them in poetry.
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  • Change over time. This tomato has changed over time.  It was a flower, then a small green tomato, and now a large green tomato.  If things go well, it will be a large red tomato.  A poet could apply this idea of changing over time to different things and use those ideas in poetry.

Poetry essay: conforming to form or not

Some times when a poet writes poetry they will use a poetry form.  It might be a traditional form like a haiku or a sonnet.  It might an experimental form like the ones on this blog.  It might be a form the poet develops as they write the poem.

In using a poetry form, there might be a question of if a poet should conform to the restrictions of the form as they are writing a poem or not

For example, if a poet were writing a 5/7/5 haiku, and the third line sounded just the way the poet wanted, but only had four syllables, should the poet keep it that way, or should they find a way to change it to five syllables to keep with the form?

There are other situations as well where this issue might come up.  Maybe a poet is having difficulty with a form.  Should they work to keep the structure, or should they alter it so it is easier?  In another situation, a poet might like aspects of a form, but feel certain parts don’t fit their expression.  Should they keep those parts or change them?

As in many situations, there are benefits to both ways of working.

In terms of sticking to a form, they are benefits.

One benefit is that sticking to a form inspires creativity.  By having to conform a poem to a form, and have it sound good, a poet might have to be more creative than if they could alter the poem however they wanted.

A second benefit is the philosophical idea of maintaining fidelity to a form.  There is the somewhat philosophical question of is a form really a form if it can be changed at any time?  A poet might feel that it is important to maintain a sense of conformity to a form for the sake of the idea of what makes a form a form.

As a third benefit, some poetry forms are recognizable.  Think of an English sonnet.  If a poet conforms to the form, they can have the benefit that some readers will recognize the form they are using.  This might appeal to some readers.  On the other hand, if they change the form, a reader who knows the form might view it as a mistake.  They might think the poet made an error in using the form and see the poem as having reduced quality.

In terms of altering a form, there are benefits as well.

One benefit is that a poet gets to combine structure with free expression.  A poet can benefit from aspects of the structure of the form while at the same time changing the form to fit their expression.

A second benefit is that writing poetry can be easier.  It might be easier for a poet not to have to conform to certain poetry form restrictions at times.  It can make the flow of writing easier and save the poet time.

A third benefit might be the development of a new poetry form.  A poet might have a form that almost works for what they want, but by changing it some it works completely.  They might find those changes are good in the sense that they fit other situations as well.  The form with those changes might then be a new poetry form.

Trying to make the decision about whether to conform to a poetry form or not can be difficult.  Weighing the idea of sticking to a form vs. writing something simply as it flows isn’t always easy.  Sometimes a poet can feel it is more important to maintain the form and other times they might feel it is more important to have the expression they wanted.

There are a number of ways to make the decision.

One way might be to set some sort of time limit.  For example, assume a poet was writing a poem according to a form, but for some reason some aspects of the form were not working for them.  They might set some time limit for working with those aspects and trying to get the poem to work.  If they can do so in the time, they stick to the form, if not, they change it.

Another solution, might simply be to flip a coin.  A poet might equally be able to write a poem according to a form or with changes to the form.  To decide which to do, they might just flip a coin.  This makes the decision simple.

A third solution might be for the poet to write two poems.  They might write one poem with changes to form.  This might be the more natural poem.  After that they might try to write the poem to conform to the form.  They could then compare the two.  They could present them to people, get opinions, send both out for publication consideration, or something else.  They could let their own views and the views of others help them decide which approach was better.

Experimental Poetry Form: revolve

This experimental poetry form is called revolve.  It is a simple form, but could be complex if a poet wanted.

The form consists of five words that revolve in position.  In the first line, the words, represented by letters, are as such:

A B C D E

In the second line, the words revolve position:

B C D E A

In the third line, they revolve again:

C D E A B

Again in the fourth line:

D E A B C

Again in the fifth line:

E A B C D

And in the sixth line, the words return to their original positions:

A B C D E

As a poem, the form looks like:

A B C D E
B C D E A
C D E A B
D E A B C
E A B C D
A B C D E

If a poet wanted the form usage to be simple, they could simply have five words that rotate.  The words might relate to the same topic or connect in some way.

Alternatively, a poet could try to select words that make sense in all the orderings.  This would make the form usage more complex.  It might also require the use of punctuation to make the word orders make sense.

Additionally, a poet could take it a step further and have all the lines make sense as a unit, such that the poem felt like a paragraph.  This would be much more complex.

If a poet went with the simple usage, the idea would be to have a poem that doesn’t conform to the idea of sentences or phrases.  It would express ideas simply with individual words.

If a poet went with the complex usage, the idea would be to have a poem that demonstrated a poetic skill, in addition to getting a message across.

Below is an example poem that is somewhere between the simple and the complex use of the form:

Quickly lilies drinking spring sunlight.
Lilies drinking spring sunlight quickly.
Drinking spring sunlight, quickly lilies.
Spring sunlight, quickly lilies drinking.
Sunlight, quickly lilies drinking spring.
Quickly lilies drinking spring sunlight.

Artwork to inspire poetry: black and white strawberry

black and white strawberry

Above is a black and white artwork of a strawberry.  It can inspire poetry.  Here are some ideas.  A poet could write about:

  • The idea of the loss of color. As this strawberry is presented without its usual colors of red, green, and so forth, a poet could write about someone or something losing color.  They could write about furniture that has faded.  They could write about a person so scared they lost the color in their face.  They could apply the idea symbolically, and write about a thing or person losing something fundamental to it or themselves.
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  • A person not wanting to be noticed. This strawberry has a muted appearance.  It does not stand out as much as a colorful strawberry would.  A poet could apply this idea to people.  They could write about a person who does not want to be noticed.  An example might be a person at a performance who hopes they don’t get called up on stage.
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  • A person not being noticed. As a corollary to the idea above, a poet could write about a person who isn’t noticed.  An example might be a person at a party who no one talks to (although not because they don’t like the person, but rather, because they don’t notice them).

 

Here is an example poem:

The leaves were green,
but then they changed,
first red,
then yellow,
then brown.
And then one day,
in the wind,
they blew away,
and the tree was bare.
The drought was in,
its hundredth day.

A photograph to inspire poetry: green dragonfly on a banana leaf

green dragonfly on a banana leaf

Above is a photograph of a green dragonfly on a banana leaf.  It can inspire poetry.  A poet could write about:

  • The idea of a person matching their surrounds. This matching could mean in terms of culture, personality, appearance or something else.  The idea is that a poet could relate a person to a place in the same way that this dragonfly relates to the banana leaf.
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  • The idea of appearance not matching reality. In this case, the dragonfly has thin translucent wings.  It almost seems as though they should not work for flying.  Despite this though, they do work.  A poet could translate this idea to people.  They could write about a person whose appearance, as perceived by others, does not match their abilities.
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  • The idea of names. The dragonfly and the banana leaf both have descriptive names.  There is a dragon-fly and there is a banana-leaf.  A poet could write about names.  They could write about how a name describes a person, thing or place and how that name is perceived by others and by the person or thing (if aware) that has it.  A poet could write about the impact of names.

Here is a poem inspired by the photograph:

By choice,
or by chance,
in sunlight,
and shadows,
everything,
aligned.