Poetry Form and function

 

 

 

A fellow blogger asked me to post on their poetry site which specializes in the ghazal form and has a big following in India. Beside being intrigued by the thriving mainstream use of poetic form I was also inspired and spurred into action, attempting to write my own ghazal but I have to say, it’s not for beginners.

So how does poetic form help the writer to gain attention and connect with people so they want to read or listen to your message? Does the use of a particular structural poetic form such as ghazal, sestina, ballad or Octava Rima  give the writer added reassurance or even inspiration that a framework for their thoughts already exists to display them more advantageously?

It should if we bear in mind that when we browse online or pick up a book we are looking for certain specifics. If the file or cover says ‘short stories’, we expect to read a collection of short stories; if we look for Sci-Fi or Horror we expect likewise – we understand, even feel comforted by the conventions of the genre and expect nothing less than to have them writ or spoken loud as we carry out our reading journey. Poetry and forms of poetry should be likewise but they’re not. At least in the UK they’re not.

Part of the issue here is that poetry in the UK for whatever historic reasons tends to be lumped in with literary types of writing which as we all know are genre-less (except they’re not) so poetry it seems never gets any further categorised than that. What if we had stores with bookcases filled with epics and ghazals and all sorts of other genre poetry? It seems more likely to happen in India  than here but there is always hope.

Form exists to help our words to soar above the reader like a banner on a kite enticing them to read on, a magic carpet ride viewed from below but promising opportunity to jump on – what will they make of it? Form is there for us to experiment with and enjoy. Please do so – and wish me luck with my ghazal!

 

Poetry: rules and reasons

So, what is poetry and why do some of us feel the urge to write it? The first part of that question can be answered easily and succinctly by a simple definition along the lines of

poetry 

ˈpəʊɪtri/

noun

  1. literary work in which the expression of feelings and ideas is given intensity by the use of distinctive style and rhythm; poems collectively or as a genre of literature.

    “he felt a desire to investigate through poetry the subjects of pain and death”

synonyms:

poems, verse, verses, versification, metrical composition, rhythmical composition,rhymes, rhyming, balladry

If I were asked to create a set of rules for poetry, it’d be something like this

Poetry,

written or spoken,

must contain words

that hit hard.

Like a rock to the cheek

when you weren’t looking –

your eyes on the sky

and the heavens passing.

Metre should be applied

to augment mood,

sextameter, pentameter,

uttered or transcribed

in iambic  -or even,

every once in a while –

prosaic manner.

Metaphor should be powerful –

a Tyrannosaurus Rex of meaning

with widening jaws that threaten to engulf you

but similes, weak as the tea at your local Tesco caff,

work when heart-rending or touching,

like an abandoned baby blanket

forgotten on the kerbside.

Sounds are important;

the soothing siblance of s,

the amplification of rhyme, alliteration,

the assurance of assonance

and repetition,

not to mention setting up a rhythm

to get the whole show going.

Poetry shouldn’t try to be too clever –

its themes

should be universal and accessible to all –

but it should still be clever enough

to layer words to effect

that each and every one of their meanings

cannot fail to be understood.

Poetry should be a thing of beauty,

a work of art,

a song from the heart

to the heart of another.

Everybody has poetry

inside themselves

somewhere.

Okay, so that’s not a set of rules by the conventional list method, but I have to admit that, apart from the one I do for the shopping, lists are not something I’m very good at. I’ve tried throughout my life but I either become distracted by something much more interesting (i.e. anything),  or I fall into a kind of witless stupor where about 15 0r 20 minutes pass and I find  myself no further on with my list. And while I’m fairly gutted about my inability to make lists, I’ve learned over the years to compensate for this shortcoming with diagrams and spidergrams (Instagram could also be a pretty useful tool), mind maps, and post-it notes inside my handbag to remind me of what I’m supposed to be doing, when, and why I’m doing it. Keeping a journal also helps as do any large-scale visual planning aids like wall charts and even a humble calendar.  But I digress, what I’m pointing out is that I’m quite heavily visual and I find poetry very visual in both its construction and its effects.

I write poetry. I used to admit this rarely and – even then – only within the safe confines of writers’ – or the even safer, poetry writers’ groups where I felt I would be less likely to be judged for my predilection.  I say less likely because even poetry writers treat other poetry writers as something to be viewed with suspicion. Why wouldn’t they?  They know exactly the kind of things that go on in the minds of people like them. The endless, obsessive, and overstimulated types of observation and evaluation that go on, topped-up with caffeine and creative urges slooshing around, determined to be released in a frantic splash across the page that results in some kind of snapshot, merging sensory memory with imagination. Which brings us to the second part of the question: why?

I haven’t yet come across anybody who writes poetry because it makes them any money. Most of us do it for the love of its creation, and/or re-creation on page, stage or podcast. For the likes of me who still takes fright at the sight of a microphone, the fact I can create some kind of structured narrative about something that has affected me feels good. I know it’s cliche but it really is a cathartic process –  a sense of release, even some kind of healing in letting the words fall out of your head and onto the page. For me, the initial process is probably akin to a jigsaw puzzle – except you’re moving words instead of pieces around the page. Sensory events are a big stimulus – be it an image or  activity, a song or piece of music, or just something somebody says. It’s the emotion that accompanies the stimuli  – whether it’s the smell of bread on warm air wafting from a street vent, a finger pricked by a thorn or the taste of a forgotten childhood sweet – that provides the trigger.

Publication is a goal for most writers, as is the recognition and respect of others, but these aren’t the driving forces for those I’ve met. It’s back to that idea of the jigsaw puzzle. For most writers, especially the poets, the reward is in the problem solving activity that both defines the problem as it stands and creates the answer within the poem itself. It’s a bit magical or alchemical in a way. That’s my ‘why’. What’s yours?

Next time we’ll take a closer look at some poetry forms and some stimulus-response exercises.

This text passed as 100% plagaiarism-free on http://smallseotools.com/plagiarism-checker/

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From Plagiarism to Paragon: keeping it fresh

So how did you come to be somebody who writes? Was there some key incident in childhood that sparked a love of capturing events on paper? Can you recall your first experience of the process that brought the words out of your head and onto the page?

Mine was probably Mrs Shields: a frosty nightmare in pale tweed and frightening horn-rims who hated any noise – including pencils dropping, and the voices of small children in her classroom. Surprisingly, it was the harsh and hostile Mrs Shields who awarded me my first ever silver star for managing to finish a piece of writing in class – a significant event given I had struggled with written classwork up to that point. Also, equally significant, Mrs Shields had smiled when she read my story out to class – a heady sensation for a child used to irritation and chastisement.

Mrs Shields wasn’t big on self-expression or the creative arts although she did sometimes let kids who finished their work quickly do stuff like that while the rest of us caught up or, worse, ploughed their way through an unending list of red-penned corrections on the pages of their jotter. For whatever reason (it may have been school inspectors who have often been the reason teachers who run like clockwork suddenly (and somewhat shockingly for their pupils) break the most rigidly dry and dull schedules with the kind of fun assignments, hitherto unimagined and wholly unexplored by the majority of their charges.

Anyway, this particular day the entire class was asked to write a story about what we’d done over the weekend and, since my family didn’t do anything particularly exciting most weekends, I probably panicked initially until I recalled a trip taken shortly before, all the way up to Loch Ness with my dad’s elder brother; a man who tended to turn up every so often out of the blue with my aunt and their three boys -who were all fairly close in ages with me and my sister – in tow.

The four-hour drive northward from Glasgow with my uncle Tommy white-knuckling it along single track road most of the way, while the adults chattered and we kids carried on and sang songs in the back of the blue and white VW Camper became extremely vivid in my recall – how could this scenario, I wondered, fail to reek of excitement and possibility, even to Mrs Shields? And somewhere in my attempt to recount the sheer enjoyability of it all, something almost equally exciting happened and I started to enjoy myself again even while I was struggling for the words to describe where we went and what we did. It wasn’t just the recollection of events, or their subsequent embellishment that seemed tantalisingly close to lying, it was the sheer joy of committing it from memory to the page me got into the flow zone. True, I also got the unexpected smile and the silver star for my efforts (she only gave out two of these per day) which forged an early connection in my mind between writing and some level of reward. I’m not saying this equation has always held up, but it’s done so enough to keep me ploughing on and stay interested in the creative process that lies behind the writing.

The Creative Process Defined

J.P Guilford,(March 7, 1897 – November 26, 1987) an American psychologist, is one of the earliest to attempt to define the creative process and one of the leading exponents of factor analysis in the assessment of personality. He is well remembered for his psychometric studies of human intelligence and creativity. Guilford was an early proponent of the idea that intelligence is not a unitary concept and developed a strong interest in what he termed ‘divergent thinking’. He also designed numerous tests to measure creative thinking. Lubert states that Guilford’s (1950) address to the American Psychological Association and his subsequent work, refers to this creative process as the sequence of thoughts and actions that leads to novel, adaptive productions.

Lubert T. I., 2001. Models of the Creative Process: Past, Present and Future. Creativity Research Journal (volume 13 issue 3-4), (p295-308).

Mednick (1962) attributes the process to association of ideas and states his intentions to explore this terrain thus –

(a) First, we will define creative thinking in associative terms and indicate three ways in which creative solutions may be achieved—serendipity, similarity, and mediation, (b) This definition will allow us to deduce those individual difference variables which will facilitate creative performance, (c) Consideration of the definition of the creative process has suggested an operational statement of the definition in the form of a test. The test will be briefly described along with some preliminary research results. (d) The paper will conclude with a discussion of predictions regarding the influence of certain experimentally manipulable variables upon the creative process

Mednick S.A.,1962. The Associative Basis of the of the Creative Process. Psychological review, (Volume 69 number 3), (p230-232).

So what does being ‘creative’ involve? Am I now able to access the creative process more readily through understanding how it can come about? What is helpful about seeing the 8 steps of  this process mapped out before me? Can I turn my thoughts and actions into novel, adaptive productions? Um, sometimes. Can I predict future results based on current performance – well… What definitely does help is developing a set of habits that promote this process naturally or organically.

Getting out into nature for the intake (step1) – what I’d term activation – stage is one I’d recommend. There’s something extremely energising about the sights and sounds of the natural world as a kick starter most days. Even if you only take the dog for a walk across the green, take a notepad or voice recorder with you and find a place where you can sit for a few minutes in order to listen, and observe, and experience the environment around you, and then just cogitate (step 2) a bit before recording some of your thoughts .

On returning or resting from your sojourn you’ll no doubt want to brew or buy yourself a cup of coffee. I find this bit fairly crucial to my own creative process most of the time. A bar of chocolate can help too, or a bacon roll with brown sauce, but always the coffee. Once you have your preferred beverage in hand, it’s time to generate (step 3). Take out your notepad, dictaphone, camera or sketchbook and study whatever you captured during those moments where you paused. Did you note down anything about what you were thinking or feeling at that point? If so, how does that information tally with whatever else you have recorded? Think about this for ten or fifteen minutes; stare into space, do some boring and repetitive ask you’ve been putting off then go back to your notes or sketches and write down every idea that comes into your head. Don’t think about or censor them just get them down on paper and then start thinking who you can discuss these further with (hint – it’s quite often not your family or friends).

Discuss/debate (step 4) your ideas with those you see fit on and off line – writers’ groups are good for more the outlandish ones, chat forums for expertise in particular areas, random people on the bus for correlations between the weather and mood in general. Don’t think too deeply or specifically about any of these ideas yet, just keep batting them around for reactions and make some note of your own. At some particular point one or two particular ideas will come to the fore, fertilised by the group input and perhaps given some new twist – what the mathematician, Poincare, described as an evening when “ideas rose in crowds; I felt them collide until pairs interlocked so to speak, making a stable combination.” This is where you can begin to incubate (step 5).

Once you have slept and dreamt and chewed on your ‘stable combination’ of ideas you can start to create – yahay! – (step 6) and then consolidate (step 7 – Activate) your work around your ideas, using the earlier steps in repetition as a means of continually building on your current set of ideas. Keep notes on how this works for you and where and when you need to do something that disrupts the process and starts another cycle such as celebrate! (stage 8).

But what about those times you’re stuck in the house or the office all day and require a different creative kick start? More about those next time – for now, good luck with keeping it flowing and keeping it fresh.

How to avoid plagiarism in your own work

How to avoid plagiarism in your own work

Earlier in the week I discussed the row over Melania Trump’s speech and the similarity of some content to the words of Michelle Obama eight years previously. Both sections highlighted specific values and attributes each of the women is said to consider important. How then did Melania Trump’s debut speech to such a major event end up being so poorly managed? Many have pointed the finger at lazy/inexperienced campaign staff who managed to ignore the first rule of credible journalism – either cite your sources or keep it strictly original. Indeed one of the Trump speechwriting team has duly owned up. So how can we avoid the many thorny issues surounding plagiarism in our own work from day to day?

Be aware of the rules. In Academia this is an issue you’ll be confronted with from the outset of your studies, a clear set of rules that you will be expected to adhere to at all times will be swiftly issued, and a sharp penalty incurred if you fail or forget to do so. Let’s review a few of these. The cardinal rules for written (or any format) submissions are:

1. Paraphrase! Paraphrase! Paraphrase!

If you use more than two consecutive words from somebody else’s work it’s considered plagiarism. Don’t do it. It’s not just Turnitin you have to fear, the online bots pick it up too. Read the source material you have been advised to acquire then give yourself time to absorb and render it in your own words keeping it strictly original. Otherwise

2. Use quotations

Higher learning institutions frown on ‘block quotes’ of more than 40 words so keep it short! You are expected to be able to paraphrase most jargon by the time you are considered ‘proficient’ in an area or discipline.

3. Cite your sources

Important, not just for the sake of intellectual rigour and cross-referencing but also to the creation and maintenance of accurate databases and the ability to ‘check stuff’. Make sure you cite your sources accurately as well.

See here for more info

Think of your work as your own personal, intellectual property from the outset and the rules will remain clear cut. If you said it, it’s probably yours – although it’s also probably worthwhile to run it through a plagiarism check just to be absolutely sure it’s not somebody else’s. Applying these rules to all commercial areas where intellectual property rights reside with the creator, be it speechwriting, short stories, songs, web content, video or game footage, will ensure it’ll all work out just fine.

It’s also wise to also avoid the trap of those meme-like utterances that explode onto social media every now and then. I’m breaking my own rule by doing it here – but it’s  just this once, by way of illustration – honest.

I want my country back!

Is a recent prime example. This utterance, with all its undertones of entitlement and privilege for a particular racial group began being uttered by hitherto, wholly reasonable individuals a few weeks before the EU Referendum in the UK and continues unabashed across Donald Trump’s America while the rest of the world swithers between squaring up to the problem and sticking its fingers in its ears. If a phrase gets too popular and opens itself to analysis and the kind of scrutiny we would perhaps wish to avoid if we’d really thought about what we were saying in the first place, it could also open up a can of worms regarding sources. Definitely don’t say something because lots of other people are saying it. 

A second less inflammatory utterance that I came across at around the same time,

I can’ t even (followed by three imaginary dots)

was genuinely funny the first time I read it on a Facebook response to some horrible, unthinking racist remark. The idea of someone being so angry or shocked they were unable to finish their sentence started my day off with a chuckle. It became less funny at a rate of knots as it continued to appear throughout the day in a series of less inflammatory exchanges; eventually giving the impression of the poster as somebody ill-tempered and  lacking in imagination. Overuse of any phrase, even the most eloquent, diminishes its power eventually and it could also leave you more susceptible to bouts of unintentional plagiarism – so avoid cliches or everybody’s favourite meme of the moment with all the stoic resistance you can muster.

Pay attention to your work: catalogue and curate your own library collection. Get to know and trust your own ‘voice’ –  your vocal or visual imprint –  pay attention when your eyes and ears tell you that something is ‘off’. Likewise, follow others you admire and whose work can enrich your own, paying homage to them in any small way you are able. Just remember what the rules are and –  yes – feel free to use the plagiarism checker (see below).

Plagiarism Checker

This post has checked out as 100% unique and plagiarism free. Not bad 😉

Next time we’ll look at ways to keep our words flowing fresh

Plagiarism

Plagiarism is defined

plagiarism
ˈ/pleɪdʒərɪz(ə)m/
noun
  • the practice of taking someone else’s work or ideas and passing them off as one’s own.
    “there were accusations of plagiarism”
    synonyms: copying, infringement of copyright, piracy, theft, stealing, poaching, appropriation;

    informalcribbing
    “there were accusations of plagiarism”

    In the worlds of education, academia and publishing, plagiarism is tantamount to theft. But why is there such an outcry about plagiarism in the media this week? Well, in case you were entirely indisposed yesterday, the issue was brought to our notice by sections of Melania Trump’s speech at the Republican Rally in Cleveland, Ohio, where Donald Trump is presenting himself as the Republican candidate for the US presidency. A twitter user, Jarrett Hill, spotted sections of her speech that sounded a lot like Michelle Obama’s in 2008 and began tweeting his observations.

    Melania Trump allegedly plagiarises Michelle Obama

    There have been a few highly-publicised cases of plagiarism reaching the courts in the last few years. Recently there was the case against Ed Sheerin where the plaintiffs, a songwriting team who composed the song ‘Amazing’ for X-Factor winner Matt Cardle in 2011 accused Ed of stealing the chorus section. Sheerin lost and the team were awarded close to 20 million in  pounds in damages.

Also in 2011 was the case against JK Rowling which was thrown out due to the plaintiff being unable or unwilling to secure upfront costs. Why they were asked to provide these is beyond my current scope. This case was brought against the writer in an allegation she had stolen the plot for one of her Harry Potter series from a lesser-known writer’s work.

 

What’s so terrible about plagiarism, you might be asking. Why do people make such a stink about it? Surely in our ever more digitized world, with all that information out there on the internet, there’s going to be a bit of unintended plagiarism? Well, yes there will be  but within a reasonable margin. Plagiarism as defined above involves lifting sizeable chunks of another individual’s words or ideas, be they written or spoken or otherwise, without crediting them as the source – and ultimately, of passing these off as one’s own. It’s dishonesty at the least.

 

Perhaps people dislike this type of dishonesty so intensely because we live in a world of such bland, corporate, sameness and manufactured dross, it becomes harder each day to believe in the people round about us and see them as unique individuals. Yet the fact that we are all unique still exists and still shapes our ideas to a large degree even in this age of mass data gathering and data sharing, mass media, mass surveillance and the  extensive depersonalization that accompanies being part of any ‘mass’. Personal thoughts and ideas, if we have them, provide a way to reach out to others and allow them connect with us honestly. People tend to feel drawn to, and happier around people we consider as authentic just as people who consider themselves authentic are happier all round. If we are given reason at some point to believe that a person we have hitherto regarded as unique and authentic is, in fact, inauthentic and dishonest, we tend to lose trust and withdraw our connection.

Perhaps it is, as one commenter observes,  a speech ‘full of cliches and well-worn bromides was really similar to another speech that was full of cliches and well-worn bromides’. Nevertheless, the irony of Melania Trump stating that ‘Your word is your bond’ – when those words she utters turn out not to be hers – is staggering. What effect it will have on the Trump campaign and its supporters is another question entirely.

In the next post we’ll look at avoiding plagiarism in your own work.

 

The Precariat

From Wikipedia

In sociology and economics, The precariat is a social class formed by people suffering from precarity, which is a condition of existence without predictability or security, affecting material or psychological welfare.

Unlike the proletariat class of industrial workers in the 20th century who lacked their own means of production and hence sold their labour to live, members of the Precariat are only partially involved in labour and must undertake extensive “unremunerated activities that are essential if they are to retain access to jobs and to decent earnings”.

Specifically, it is the condition of lack of job security, including intermittent employment or underemployment and the resultant precarious existence.[1]The emergence of this class has been ascribed to the entrenchment of neoliberal capitalism

I joined this new and emerging class in 2012 when I left a fairly well paid, steady, job to find something ‘more flexible’ due to changes in family circumstances. It wasn’t until  a couple of years later I actually realised I’d become a member of this class or income group when I had to take an entry level job to pay the bills.
Whatever you may think of my decision-making skills, I’ll be blogging about some of my personal experiences and those of others as we negotiate the changing political and social landscapes of our post-Brexit, pre-Indyref 2 times, not to mention the emergent ‘gig’ economy in and around the UK that’s in between the takes on how (the English) language is working out formally and informally, locally, nationally, and globally . I hope you can join me for some of it.

What’s a blog?

My son actually asked me this the other morning. He’s 17 so I was surprised he was none the wiser to one of the greatest communication tools ever conceived. Then again maybe not. He’s into music and his favourite social media sites are YouTube and SoundCloud. I told him to google it. This is what came up.

blog

noun

  1. 1.

    a regularly updated website or web page, typically one run by an individual or small group, that is written in an informal or conversational style.

verb

  1. 1.

    add new material to or regularly update a blog.

    “it’s about a week since I last blogged”

With these definitions in mind I started asking myself some questions about my own blog/social media project on these pages.

Why Out There Press?

It’s a serviceable name for a digital media and marketing service – it implies getting news and content out there to the public at large. With the blog we’re looking to create more of an ezine with lefty/arty leanings. I’ll update the details as we go.

Each week I’ll blog about projects I’m involved in, interview creatives from a variety of industries, and share the best news and features content on everything out there from career and lifestyle to politics and the economy from around the web. We’ll also update you on the web. 

Oh and one last thing – saying something is ‘out there’ usually denotes that it’s a ridiculous or slightly mad concept or proposal. The phrase is often used in conjunction with that other well-worn term, the ‘conspiracy theory’. Funnily enough, Out There Press are pretty fond of the odd conspiracy theory themselves and will be showcasing some of the best. So buckle up, put on your tinfoil and join us for a journey that will hopefully shake you in your seat every now and then but will, for the most part, be entertaining, educational or just plain epic. I hope you enjoy it.