Theory of Poetry: Writing a Mold – Haiku and Sonnet

Warm sunshine and singing birds announced the day when you decided to become a poet(ess). But how does one embark on a flight with the inexperience of a fledgling?

The answer is rather simple: follow the beaten path. To put it in practical terms, it might be a good idea to work in a well-established genre. While it may seem unoriginal, it is undeniably much better than never getting started at all.

This post is the first in a series that Davide and I are collaborating on. We would like to explore the theoretical aspect of poetical works and their creation. Today, I will offer some insights on the haiku genre, whereas Davide will present the sonnet, a true ‘banger’ of a form.

We have agreed to spare the details of the conventions surrounding the genres in question, but you can nonetheless read up on that here (search for HAIKU). Additionally, if you want to embrace Freedom™ and break the mold in several ways, you can also find out about Ezra Pound, his use of the haiku form, and the Modernist movement of Imagism.

I must admit that when first struck with the haiku, I found its 5-7-5 syllable structure to be quite limiting. It is supposed to have an immediate effect, but that seemed hollow to me. However, I managed to make use of this confined form to convey a sensation of anxiety and uneasiness:

HAÏKUS UNIVERSITAIRES

I.

Well, I came alone
I saw alone, I conquered
not my newfound fears

II.

TODAY I AM MUTE
TODAY I AM MUTE, I AM
TODAY I WAS MUTE

III.

someone please talk to
this loser. Oh hello! I
am glad I met you.

Oh, hello! Hong Kong?
I am glad we are three now.
See boy. Oh, hello!

Pretty boy. Went well.
Bearded, multilingual, we
might be just two now.


The quick pace manages to leave an impact with its direct sentences. Awkward pauses arise, but in this case it contributes to aesthetic.

These pieces reveal the thoughts I had during my first three days at university. I was notably afraid the very first day when I arrived as I did not process the radical changes my everyday life was about to undergo. After that, during the first informational meeting for English Studies I found it excruciatingly hard to connect with anybody at all. I only remember looking over at Gary (hey, Gary!) that day, the rest was a blank.

P.S.: Even though he is bearded and multilingual (and a pretty boy?), Gary was not the person in the last stanza, as we did not properly meet then.

For my better fortune, the day after was Welcome Day and some random people talked me up. It was trivial and I can’t say I’m still in touch with them, but they really changed my entire attitude towards being in Luxembourg.

But you must understand: the form here has meaning. It is (partially) the message. It certainly does not stick to the traditional thematic strands in haiku (nature, impression, realisation); it is more similar to a stream of consciousness.

The reason I resorted to this ‘frame’ instead of my usual way of writing is naught spectacular: with my move to the Grand Duchy, I had a poetical rebirth of sorts. New themes, issues and languages would be found in my work. And I do not regret it one bit.

~Darinov


-The metaphorical progression of the main idea is guided by the imagery you create. –

This quote by me was a thought regarding the creation of a poem. Whilst you can have a smoldering heart and a head full of ideas, the beginning is often the hardest part. To give you some sort of guidance I would like to introduce to you my 2 cents on creating poetry. As Flame mentioned beforehand we intend to have a “weekly™” theoretical blog post about the craftsmanship of poetry in which we intend to talk about rhyme schemes, the flow of the poem, metaphorical imagery and so much more.

What I would like to talk about today would be the “canvas” of a poem, or, as I call it, the “frame”.

The frame you apply to a poem might help you in the actual writing process. Look at it as a mold which you can fill with whatever ideas you have.

Let’s start at the very beginning. Pen, paper and an idea in your mind. Let’s assume you want to write a love poem for your significant other. You have an inspiration and a general idea of what you would like to write. Maybe the person twists her hair in a specific way or she has a distinctive laugh. Whatever the case might be is not of real importance here, what matters for now is the approach you have towards getting the idea on paper.

Sooo you sit down with some music in your ear and you start scribbling away at sentences and maybe a rhyme here and a cute metaphor there. After a while you just have an amalgamation of loose sentences, one longer than the other, one maybe having a nice end rhyme the other might not.

You look at it and, whilst the different writing entities look appealing to you, the “poem” is just not a poem really. It looks like conglomerate of free verses and has no coherent underlying concept. Here is where a frame might help you, especially if you are not fully decided on a final product. A mold that just helps you shape ideas. Look at it like a metaphorical funnel for your creative output.

One potential form would be a sonnet which is defined: Traditionally, the sonnet is a fourteen-line poem written in iambic pentameter.source? (I will not go into the specificities since I do not see the immediate benefit of cramming every piece of information in one blogpost and poetry shouldn’t strictly follow every rule. It is, after all, your emotional expression.)

To circle back to the sonnet and you with a pen and paper in your hand, let’s look at this problem in a more practical way. Let’s have a glance at the Deep Sleep sonnet (because I think it needs more recognition hehe.)

When you read this poem, you might be able to distinguish two concepts which work in an excellent way if you choose the sonnet frame.

First, we have the idea of setting up a foothold for creation. Within the first 4 lines (called quatrain): the setting is introduced and the stage for the imagery is created. (Recall the quote about the progression!) The first 4 lines introduce the starting ground, the following 4 lines further enhance it and create a broader picture.

Then, I tried to play with the standard form and I wanted to create a shift which I introduced in an old-fashioned manner… with a thunder. The pace changes and so does the imagery of the poem. The progression you encounter whilst reading the poem is altered here, which leads me to my second observation: the final couplet.

The epigrammatic final couplet of a sonnet is the show-stealer, the fireworks, the grand finale of your work; and you should treat it as such! Look at the last two lines and how powerful they appear. They stand out only by looking at them and should, ideally, round off your work. I like to give a special treatment to the last two lines to really go out with a bang.

Maybe you want to have a thought-provoking ending, or maybe a sad/happy one? Whatever you want to portray in your poem, you can enhance it to a tremendous extent with your finishing lines. Just look at all the Shakespearean sonnets and how remarkable the endings are!

Next time you have an epiphany and you somehow get inspired to write a poem, try to set yourself a frame. This helps you to shape your poem and possibly guide your creative path. Sonnets do not necessarily require a sense of progression, nor do you have to force yourself to use a specific rhyme scheme but maybe try and experiment with different forms! If you choose a form, such as a sonnet, you can play with your imagination in the given boundaries without risking to lose yourself.

Boundaries entail freedom… at least to some extent.

~Di Ronco

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