CLASSIC POET’S CORNER: Elizabeth Barrett Browning

A Lesson in HYPERBOLE

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We’ve all heard the opening line of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s most beguiling love poem, Sonnet 43. We’ve quoted it, parodied it, seen it in textbooks and on coffee mugs, and have probably heard it at a dozen weddings or more. It sings of true love—a heart bursting with emotional truths—and maybe a tad bit of unhealthy obsession, too.

Browning’s playful extremes, aching with desperation, resonate with anyone who has ever fallen irrevocably in love with someone–a love so deep the idea of death do us part doesn’t even seem like it could bring those feelings closure.

As a writer, it would be a practical exercise to mimic this poem. Why? The poem’s overuse of hyperbolic statements makes it a wonderful lesson in going to the extreme. Writing a poem in general is like pouring a glass of wine into a thimble and doubting the sip will embody all the wine’s fruity notes…and yet, it does. One tiny drop of wine on the tongue can deliver its overall explosive flavor to your taste buds—that’s why wine tasting is just that—a sip. (If you’re a teen, disregard my implied metaphor and think, wow, that stick of gum still tastes like mint even after I’ve been chewing on it for an hour. I bet my breath will stay fresh forever!)

Poems hold everything a reader needs to know to fully understand the poet’s intentions in just a few verses or stanzas, like a sip of wine (or a stick of gum–just go with it).

            Emulating Sonnet 43 in your own original poem will give you an opportunity to mess around with hyperbole—a play on words easily overlooked as a poetic device because of their overuse in everyday life as common language. A hyperbole is an absurd exaggeration meant to prove a point. Your creative challenge will be to veer from the theme of love that Browning expounded upon, and dive into another emotion wrapped around a different context.

Here are some possible prompts to create your own hyperbolic poem:

Your passion for writing

Your anguish over a political topic

Your hope in a dream coming true someday

Your sorrow over the loss of something valuable

Your determination in reaching a goal

Your grief in losing someone you love

Your inner strength and focus on self-care

Your rage over a situation in which you were wronged

Your joy in accomplishing a project

Your respect for someone you admire

Your responsibility towards someone you care about

Your fears towards something you cannot control

Now, go forth, you imaginative artist, and write some hardcore, over-the-top poetry, and feel free to overuse the pesky exclamation point all you want!!! I can’t wait for you to share your poetry with me!

~ Brooke E. Wayne

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CLASSIC POET’S CORNER: Adelaide Crapsey

A Lesson in REPETITION

Whether you’ve stumbled upon this section of my website by accident, or if you zapped one of the QR codes in my latest publication, WELCOME!

Repetition, as a poetic device, can seem like a shortcut to making your poem longer, but it’s actually a multifaceted technique that makes your poetry shiny and reflective. You’ve heard of the poem about all the miles to go before that guy can sleep. You know the one where he’s trudging through the woods on a snowy evening. Ring any bells? No? Frost, anyone? Anyone? Celine Dion borrowed his line for a song; I even stumbled across a weightloss blog that lifted the phrase, too. The point is, repetition sticks in people’s heads, so they use it (even if it’s someone else’s line). People like it, connect to it, and feel all cozy and familiar because of it. That’s not a bad thing. You want your poem to be remembered, right? Throw a catchy line in it, then lather, rinse, and repeat every stanza or so.

Notice how Adelaide Crapsey uses the phrase, “properly scholarly attitude,” like an excuse, a weapon, a fault, a badge, and even an unattainable burden? As the inventor of the Cinquain poem, she knows her way around repetition in all sorts of manifestations. In this poem’s case, the meaning of the repeated phrase changes with every utterance due to its context.

As my “Dear Writer,” section of my poetry workbook and journal explains, REPETITION comes in different flavors. You can have the standard repeating of a word, phrase, verse, or more (think couplet/quatrain, etc.) You can also sprinkle a bunch of synonyms in your poem, and voilà, there’s a concept repeated. Patterns, rhythms—you name it—do it more than once, and check off this device as done.

The other thing you might want to know about repetition as an FYI thing is that it takes on specific (Greek and Latin rooted fancy-shmancy) names depending on where you plug your repetition into your work and how. (For example: Anaphora—a word or phrase that hangs out at the front of a line … Mesodiplosis—a word or phrase that hangs out in the middle of every line …) Shall I go on? Overwhelmed much? I’ll save the full-blown college course on all these types of repetition for another blog (or workbook) … Let’s keep it simple with what’s commonly referred to as a REFRAIN (which hangs out at the end of a stanza, like in Crapsey’s poem above) for this exercise.

Here are some one-liners you can use in your work, if you want, but no pressure, mm-kay?

… for all the reasons why.                                        

… because no one could.                                           

… underneath the shimmering stars.

… when I look into your eyes.                                  

… inside my heart.

… around the merry-go-round to me.                        

… before we knew it all.                    

… into the mist they went.                                       

… until the world grows wise.

… between the lines.                                                 

… where I find my place in you.       

… beyond the realm of reality.                                   

… behind the lies comes truth.

… somewhere inside my heart.                                 

… after the rain came to an end.        

… amid the burning embers.               .                                   .

Now, go forth, my suave poet, and use one of these prompts or come up with your own prepositional phrase to make some memorable poetry. I can’t wait for you to share your poetry with me!

~ Brooke E. Wayne

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CLASSIC POET’S CORNER: Edgar Allan Poe

A Lesson in ONOMATOPOEIA

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CLASSIC POET'S CORNER: Edgar Allan Poe
A Lesson in ONOMATOPOEIA

Onomatopoeias fall under the poetic device of Imagery, which taps into all five senses. The star of the show for this term is sound. This device uses words that actually imitate the sound they’re describing. Using words as sound effects makes for an imaginative playground in your head. Wrap some SLAM poetry around a handful of onomatopoeias, and your competition doesn’t stand a chance the minute you step up to the mic. This poetic device beckons to be spoken aloud. But, if you’re the silent type, that’s okay. You do you. Just feel free to load up your poems with words that trickle off the tongue with every intention of evoking emotion, or at least let others whisper them while they read your work.

Lots of people think of words like, “pow,” “zoom,” “boink,”–or any other 1960s-Batman-television-show variety–when they think of onomatopoeias. Those are fine. Maybe even a little, meh. I challenge you to level up with some better choices that serve a stronger purpose in the poems you write. Choose onomatopoeias that actually have meaning and provoke sound imagery within a setting you’ve created in your poem that includes other senses, too. My workbook and journal has an extensive list of words to use for every sense. You should take a peek, and use as many as you want.

If the example provided by Poe doesn’t do it for you, check out the complete version of his poem, “The Bells.” I wanted to use the full poem, but since it’s super long—I took a pass worried that my readers would lose interest and want to get right down to writing instead of reading the whole thing. “The Bells,” though, is the quintessential example of all things onomatopoeia, so when you have the time of day (or night—this is Poe we’re talking about, night is a good time to set the mood), then do an Internet search for it and enjoy hearing all the different sounds of the types of bells he celebrates in his poem.

For this exercise, here’s a list of onomatopoeias that would love to hang out in a verse that comes to life with other sensory details:

Trickle          Sputter         Squeak         Crackle            Clap             Squeal

Hush             Howl               Sizzle              Rev                  Woof             Mumble

Gurgle          Warble            Smash             Ring                Splash           Click

Stutter         Whisper          Whine             Fizz                Tick-Tock       Thud

Gulp             Chug              Slurp               Rattle              Slosh               Clip

Here are some scenarios to bring to life with a few sound descriptors:

A lifeboat with two survivors drifting on the turbulent sea, pitch black, nothing but stars …

A hungry wolf stalking its prey, ribbons of neon green flowing above them, the full moon dances with the Northern Lights …

A field of tulips in every color imaginable, a swarm of bees feast on all the nectar …

A man stands in the rain outside her window, drench, shaking, wondering if she knows …

A shark cruises the shoreline, his fin slicing the undulating waves, a surfer mounts his board …

Now, go forth, my word-whisperer, and make some noise all up in those sweeeet poems of yours. I can’t wait for you to share your work with me!

~Brooke E. Wayne

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