The poet must study devices and forms. The wordsmith must cast these things to the wind and write.
A traditional Japanese poem. Haiku use a 3-line form with seventeen total syllables. It is written in a 5/7/5 syllable count. Haiku emphasize simplicity, intensity and directness of expression. There is often an element of dichotomy inferred. Traditionally, haiku share some element referencing a season. Historically and across cultures, haiku focus on images from nature. Modern and romanized haiku have expanded into many themes.
Here’s an example of my passionate-themed haiku:
A thousand mornings
Until star-shine and sunshine
Whisper our goodnight
See Haiku – Spirit of a Moment for more information and links to famous haiku poets and publications.
This is another type of Japanese poem. Tanka is a thirty-one-syllable poem, traditionally written in a single unbroken line. Tanka translates as “short song.” Tanka is best known in romanized languages as a five-line, 5/7/5/7/7 syllable count form. Traditionally, Japanese poets would share tanka at waka (songs or verses) parties. People would sometimes pair up to write tanka, one person writing the first 3 lines and another person answering with the next 2 lines.
Here is an example of my first tanka attempt:
Escape free spirit
from the lash of wage slavers
assaulted by my red pill
To learn more about Tanka forms, poets and to connect to Tanka poets, check out: Tanka Society of America
When I hear the word “sonnet,” I faintly recall a tinder-dry analysis of Shakespeare in high school English class. Such exercises rarely stimulate appreciation of the sonnet’s elegant, timeless beauty. Like Haiku and Tanka, the sonnet has a formula. Sonnets are comprised of three quatrains (four lines of poetry) and a rhyming couplet. In each quatrain, the first and third lines rhyme and the second and fourth lines rhyme. Therefore, the rhyme scheme is: abab/cdcd/efef/gg. Pure Shakespearean sonnets also employ the soft/hard syllabic meter of iambic pentameter (think: bah-BAH, bah-BAH, bah-BAH, bah-BAH, bah-BAH) in each line. The follow example was written by Charlotte Smith (1749-1806).
On Being Cautioned Against Walking on an Headland Overlooking the Sea, Because It Was Frequented by a Lunatic
Is there a solitary wretch who hies
To the tall cliff, with starting pace or slow,
And, measuring, views with wild and hollow eyes
Its distance from the waves that chide below;
Who, as the sea-born gale with frequent sighs
Chills his cold bed upon the mountain turf,
With hoarse, half-uttered lamentation, lies
Murmuring responses to the dashing surf?
In moody sadness, on the giddy brink,
I see him more with envy than with fear;
He has no nice felicities that shrink
From giant horrors; wildly wandering here,
He seems (uncursed with reason) not to know
The depth or the duration of his woe.
For more about sonnets, see William Victor’s very informative Creative Writing Now.
Haiku, Tanka and Sonnet are all poetic forms, or recipes for making poetry. Poetic devices are like spices for the soup.
Alliteration is repetition of a particular vowel or consonant sound. To alliterate, the writer uses words that start with the same sound. “Absolutely abominable,” “Betty’s boisterous bonnet,” and “fabulous Phillis” are examples of alliterative phrases. The following poem by Sandra Lyon-Kramer applies alliteration.
Summer’s sultry, sweaty night
Breathes hot as a screaming saxophone.
Out there in the urban jungle,
Suspended on limbs of fire escape trees,
Bodies wrap behind wrought-iron vines,
Feeding friction to forget the heat.
The natives are restless tonight.
The animals crawl from their caves
To cling in the open windows,
Pressed to the flesh.
Lovers, be brave
And pray for no gunfire tonight.
For more about alliteration, click here.