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A Word Snapshot of Autumn’s Poetry

October 2, 2013

A Word Snapshot of Autumn’s Poetry

by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

One of my favorite parts of teaching at a technical college for twenty years was presenting a poetry unit. Of course, this unit culminated with my students’ presenting their own “Poetry at the Podium”—a wonderfully creative way to conclude each term. Each semester, when I first talked with students about writing poetry, two of the typical comments were: “I have not written a poem since elementary school” and “I have never written a poem.” Since I began writing poetry in the second grade and have continued writing poetry throughout my life, I was surprised how many young-adult students and middle-aged students told me that they had never written a poem. Well, we broke that record—and amazingly, without a chorus of complaints. With the final poetic product in hand, each student seemed pleased with the accomplishment and, most often, eager to share the creative effort. Signing one’s name on the dotted line of a poetic license can perpetuate satisfaction and a little pride.

Each semester, I gave each class long lists of topics which could be developed into unique and strong stanzas. While these given lists gave much leeway for those ready to embark with a poetic license, I also allowed a student to nurture a topic of his or her own choosing. Some of those meritorious results still echo through this retired teacher’s mind.

To assist students who were more challenged with getting started with the creative endeavor, I suggested writing an acrostic poem because this form not only helps with initiating a poem, but also guides the writer through each line, and lets the writer know exactly when to conclude the poem. Do you want to write an acrostic poem? First, select a short or long word(such as “apple,” “mauve,” or “Congratulations”); or you may choose a two- or three-word phrase (such as “Happy Fiftieth Anniversary”). Then, each letter of the selected word or phrase will begin each appropriate line of the poem. Thus, the first letter of your chosen word will be the first letter of the first word of the first line of your poem; the second letter of your chosen word will be the first letter of the first word of the second line of your poem. Then, continue in this fashion until you have a line for each letter of your selected word or phrase. For example, looking down the left margin of the following poetic lines, you will read vertically the word “autumn.”

A Word Snapshot of Autumn’s Poetry

Aspen trees quiver flakes of gold

under autumnal, mountain-scaped skies.

Tangerine leaves over Hoosier hills unfold

umbrellas of delicately painted disguise.

Maples—hard and soft—unite to crimson this hearty season.

Nature, thanks for all these sweet tastes of autumn before your dose of bitter winter.

Are you inspired to write a poem? Would you like to try an acrostic? I hope so. The changing of seasons does inspire many people to write more creatively. How fortunate we, in the Midwest, are to have all five seasons—spring, summer, autumn, winter, and construction!

When writing autumnal poetry or poems of another season, consider the following handful of suggestions:

1. Never wait for the Muse to arrive at your “Poetry Party”: if the Muse is late or does not even attend your party, commence with your “Poetry Party” without her. Just start writing! (Frequently, I think of an idea for a poem or develop the first stage or draft of a poem in my mind while I am on a long walk with my guide dog. Create wherever and whenever you can.)

2. After you have written a poem, carefully read the poem and ask yourself if any word or phrase can be written more creatively. If so, revise the word, phrase, or line to display more imagery, more figurative language.

3. Do not be afraid to punctuate your poem. If you can punctuate a sentence and a paragraph, you can punctuate a poetic line and a stanza. Punctuating a poem should be as easy as punctuating an essay or a short story. Punctuation marks are the keys to help your reader unlock your intended meaning of the poem. Do not suspend a stanza in
mid-air—punctuate the stanza!

4. While counting syllables and noting stresses in a poetic line is crucial for some poetic forms, reading your poem aloud will give you confidence in the rhythmical quality of each line. If a line does not read aloud well, revise the line.

5. In the construction of a poem, remember that your poem is not written in cement: you can tinker with the little words, lines, stanzas, and punctuation until you set the poem aside for a few hours, a few days, or a few months—at which time, you can enjoy tinkering with your poem again.

POET’S TEST: If you are excited to discover that the wonderful word “crimson” is not only a noun and an adjective, but also a verb (as I did to write the above poem)—you pass this test; and you need to write a poem today!

By perusing previous posts on this blog, you will find several long poems and the lyrics for one lullaby which I have written.

Happy Autumnal Poetry Reading and Writing!

October 2, 2013, Wednesday


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  1. Hi Alice, did you know that October 15th is National Poetry Day. This would be a good time to schedule a reading or some other event to commemorate poetry. Happy writing and keep blogging.

    • Abbie–Thanks for the information about October 15. For a long while, I have just thought of April as National Poetry Month and had not known of this special day for poetry. What we have celebrated on or around October 15 has been White Cane Day (although I have used a guide dog for 22.5 years). On this October 15, I hope you have an opportunity to read and sing your poetry. AJM

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