Predictions of Futures Passed

And I am sure I will blog a blog

Newspaper style

Stippled and styled

As people and paper predict.

.

I will report my reporting

From time to time

Breaking time broken time

As people and practice permit.

.

I am blogging my blog,

A way of wasting and waiting

While my broken time

Peeks through pepper backed piles

Of job listings I want to submit.

.

Trying and tasting

The experience of waiting

Weighing experience

Over fresh graduates.

***

I decided to revisit the first post I ever wrote on WordPress in order to exploit it for any possible poetic possibilities. I have taken out some of the sentences with interesting sonic possibilities and added a little spice to get this poem. If you are interested to see what I thought I was going to do with this page, you can check it out here: https://therichardbraxton.wordpress.com/2015/05/19/hello-world/

Brainstorming—Today’s Tip for Clear Writing

Picture every English class you have ever been in: the teacher is in front of the class droning on about some boring essay that you are going to have to write within the next few weeks. You have heard it all before. Every teacher has given you the same advice. If you want to come up with ideas for what to write about: brainstorm. Set aside 5 or 10 minutes to write down every word that pops into your head that relates to your assigned essay topic. This is good, boring advice. It is quick and dirty, and it helps when you need to come up with your initial essay ideas. However, brainstorming is a good general-purpose tool that can be used at any point in the writing process.

In fact, brainstorming is a great way to spice up boring writing. When ever you run into a sentence that you have written that you want your reader to remember, break the sentence down word for word. When you find an abstract word that you can’t instantly picture in your mind take 5 or 10 minutes to brainstorm different ways to explain the word through imagery.

Say for example, you wanted to spice up the sentence, “The people there felt like family.” “Family” is a fine word with many different connotations, but this sentence does not indicate specifically what it was about the people that made them feel that way. So to make the sentence more memorable, take the word “family” and brainstorm the different images that come to your mind when you think of family. Here are some examples that I came up with:

Family

The smell of Christmas turkey and pumpkin pie as you opened presents around the tree.

Sitting together on the couch watching television as your dad flicks back and forth between three different stations trying to find the one that isn’t showing commercials.

How you felt when your father picked you up and held you when you were crying after you fell off your bike and skinned your knee.

The mischief in your mother’s voice when she brought home take out and announced, “I hope you enjoy it. I have been slaving in the kitchen all day.

Any one of these could help you to create a much more vivid sentence that would stand out in your reader’s mind. So instead of “The people there felt like family” you could have “The people there are warm like the feeling you felt when your father picked you up and held you when you were crying after you fell off your bike and skinned your knee.”

But don’t feel like you need to discard the rest of the ideas you came up with during brainstorming. You can keep them as a poem. With very little editing you can turn your brainstorming into a definition poem. To write a definition poem you start with an abstract word like “family” and us it as a title. Each line of the poem uses concrete imagery to describe the title. Here is my revised version of brainstorming as a poem.

Family

Smelling Christmas turkey and pumpkin pie

As you opened presents around the tree.

Sitting all together on the couch

Watching television as your dad flicks

Back and forth between three different stations

Trying to find the one without commercials.

Feeling how you felt when your father

Picked you up and held you when you cried

After you fell off your bike and skinned your knee.

Hearing the mischief in your mother’s voice

When she brought home take out and announced,

“I hope you enjoy it. I have been here

Slaving in the kitchen the whole day.

How I Write: a Walk Through

I like to write first thing in the morning before the rest of the family is awake. I make a tall cup of coffee and sit down at the kitchen table and write and write. If I am lucky, I will have a poem or two in the making within the first 15 to 30 minutes. If I have been writing for a long time and I have yet to strike inspiration, I go back and reread the words that I have written looking for an image that came up in my writing and I expand on it.

For example, in the first line of the last paragraph I used the image “morning” along with “tall cup of coffee” and “kitchen table.” I could take these images and expand them into something like:

With the white frost of morning on the window lighting in the first rays of the sun, I sit down to watch the steam rise off the cup of coffee in my tall white coffee mug. The rim of the cup where I sip from is stained the same brown as the peanut butter in the sandwich sitting next to it on cheap plastic card table where I eat most of my meals.

Typically, expanding on this image until it creates connections or connotations to other thoughts or ideas and I follow that rabbit hole as far as it goes. And as for my example above, the cheap card table and the peanut butter sandwich breakfast make this feel like a story about someone who has little money, and the frost on the window as well as the steam rising off the coffee along with the possibility that the speaker of the poem is poor makes it likely that there is no heat on in his or her house, so I could expand the narrative with those ideas in mind.

I pull my right hand out of the pocket of my tattered foul weather jacket and warm my fingers on the cup before grabbing the handle to take my first sip. The day was much calmer than last night when the wind had the boat bumping against the dock and rocking me to a fitful sleep of remembrance.

Now, as you can see the narrative has changed to show that speaker lives cheaply in a boat so I am going to have to go back and change the word “window” to “porthole” to match the nautical theme. And we also learn that this speaker has a story to tell. And the story along with the tattered jacket makes me believe that this person is on the older side rather than just being broke from being young and just starting out.

I can see that there is a lot more of this poem to write, but this post is getting kind of long so I will take what I have written so far and format it into poem form and finish the rest of the narrative at a later date. But for now, I am going to format the poem as a sonnet and again as a string of tanka so I can compare the resulting poems and decide which one I am going with as the final piece.

The sonnet is a poem comprised of 14 lines with 5 metrical feet. A metrical foot consists of two syllables. One syllable is supposed to be accented while the other is not, but I don’t worry about that. I find that if you write enough sonnets you start to learn how to write in a pleasing rhythm even if it is not the traditional “Da-dum, Da-dum, Da-dum, Da-dum, Da-dum” rhythm. Also, sonnets traditionally rhyme, but I don’t worry about that either. And the content of the sonnet is supposed to follow certain conventions, but I let my story decide how to use the form rather letting the form decide for me how to tell my story.

With the morning frost lighting the porthole

In the first rays of sun, I sit down to

Watch steam rise off the coffee in my

White mug. The rim is stained the same brown as

The peanut butter in the sandwich that

Sits next to it on the old card table

Where I eat most of my meals. Pulling my

Right hand out from the worn pocket of my

Foul weather jacket, I warm my fingers

On the cup before taking my first sip

To shake off the lingering grip of dreams.

The day was much calmer than last night when

The wind bumped the boat against the dock and

Rocked me to sleep in fitful remembrance.

The tanka poem is the taller cousin to the haiku. It has 5 lines. The first and the third lines are 5 syllables long, and the second, fourth, and fifth lines are 7 syllables long.  Tanka are typically about nature, and somewhere around the third line, the poem is supposed to take a turn. But at least no one expects it to rhyme, so I don’t have to break that rule. Often you see tanka as single stanza poems, but there is no rule against linking them together in a string.

The frost lighting the

Porthole in the first rays of

Sun, I watch steam rise

Off the coffee in my white

Mug with its rim stained the same

 

Brown as the peanut

Butter in the sandwich that

Sits next to it on

The card table where I eat

My meals. I pull my right hand

 

Out of the pocket

Of my tattered foul weather

Jacket and warm my

Fingers on the cup before

Grabbing the handle to take

 

A sip. The day was

Much calmer than last night when

The wind bumped the boat

Against the dock and rocked me

To a sleep of remembrance.

For both forms, I had to make several changes to get the words to fit the meter of the lines. After condensing the text down quite a bit for the sonnet, I found that I only had 13 lines so I had to come up with another 10 syllable line which really seems to reinforce the narrative. But the tanka reads stronger because of the rhythm imposed by the layout of the line breaks.

While both the sonnet and the string of tanka have their benefits and drawbacks, I think I like the sonnet is better because of the extra line about shaking off the grip of dreams. So I will leave you with the sonnet as the final version of this installment of this poem.

 

With the morning frost lighting the porthole

In the first rays of sun, I sit down to

Watch steam rise off the coffee in my

White mug. The rim is stained the same brown as

The peanut butter in the sandwich that

Sits next to it on the old card table

Where I eat most of my meals. Pulling my

Right hand out from the worn pocket of my

Foul weather jacket, I warm my fingers

On the cup before taking my first sip

To shake off the lingering grip of dreams.

The day was much calmer than last night when

The wind bumped the boat against the dock and

Rocked me to sleep in fitful remembrance.

 

What do you think?

 

Which do you think is the stronger poem the sonnet or the tanka?

 

Do you like this type of post where I explain the decisions I make while writing a poem? Should I write more posts like this one?

 

Also, please visit my contact page and send me ideas for future posts.

Contact

October Poem 44: Two Revisions of a Poem From Last Month

In these two revisions I tried to work with rhyme. In version #1, I added rhymes to the end of the lines, and in version #2, I added rhymes inside of the lines. Both versions follow the ABABCDCDEFEFGG rhyme scheme.

Version #2 has much more subtle rhymes because they are not where you expect them, but version #1 makes use of some slant rhymes (words that almost rhyme), so its rhymes are not all that blatant either.  I am not sure which of the two versions I like better.

Which one do you like better?

If you want to compare these two versions to the original, you can follow this link:  https://therichardbraxton.wordpress.com/2017/09/14/september-poem-25-the-words-spoken-rocking-on-the-water/

 

#1: Words Spoken Rocking on the Water

 

Two fishermen anchored deep and boating

Surrounded by silty beaches, scrub land,

Thick brick walls in dollar bills, and smoking

New dams. And eddies. And dead rivers. And

Great many anglers. Allies puffing through

Just lit one idea and lit another.

The light edges to end one subject. To

Start another. To find no one other

Extreme at study from search and use of

The poles and hooks and tackle and what all.

Of drifting fish, dreaming in among the

Floating ice that keeps them. Bumping the walls

And breathing in the liquid air they rend

Pulling through their gills numbing to their end.

 

#2: Words Spoken Rocking on the Water

 

Two fishermen anchored in a tin boat

Surrounded by silty beaches, scrub brush,

Thick brick walls in dollar bills, and smoking

New dams. And eddies. And dead rivers. And

Great many anglers. Allies puffing herbs

Just lit one idea and lit another.

The light replies to end one subject. To

Start another. To find no in-between.

Extreme at study from search of catfish.

The poles and hooks and tackle and bucket

Of drifting fish. And dream in among the

Tickle of ice floating. Bumping the walls

And breathing in the liquid air like smoke

Pulling through their gills numbing to their end.

July Poem 24

Destruction’s creation into motion.

The world’s first begins for posterity.

At the distant edges, the thing moves fast—

Faster as it converges. I am the

Center. A universal spiral. All

Matter historian, void. Moving to

Coalesce, spin in a vortex, to gain

Because I recognize even them. It

 

Spins in reds, oranges, and whites. Once down

My face, there is a tension. My chest. Lost.

I can feel the tears streaming, only this

Tightness of sorrow. I am lying face

On my center. I remember the old

Arthritic knuckles and the wrinkles and

 

The wrinkled hands. My wrinkled hands. My hands.

Covered. In red all— The friends dead. Write down

The results. Preserve the universe. This

Moment is the event that causes me.

 

https://therichardbraxton.wordpress.com/2016/06/21/june-poem-21/

Revised Favorite

Somehow I ended up posting todays poem yesterday, so to day you get one of my favorite poems. This poem has been slightly revised from the first time that you saw it.

 

West at 2a.m.

 

These folks have been west at 2 a.m.

Gathering impressive numbers.

This entity is the Bream,

The backyard buttered toast made here

Since before European colonization.

 

This was their population

Like the Audubon Society,

A bunch of ghosts

Who make their most concentrated effort

At favored fish for the table.

 

Mitch experiences for many,

And did so for me

From early wood fire,

Homemade sausage, and native plants.

 

Mitch and I were visiting with an unusual

Diminutive creature that defies morning.

Blues Ally coincided with sunrise.

We cooked breakfast on a drift

When he mentioned the plant sale.

 

I timber along the edges,

So when I am seeing things

In the old home from search of catfish,

Plants are, I think, your childhood until now,

What spring fishing, bacon, and eggs are

Fresh from a chicken coop

Indigenous to the region.

 

He added, however, the September things

That attract him to the house are

Purely grand Insects and birds and deer

And such that have idea of ghost’s persuasion

Activity and the full moon just before daylight.

All were hard against tradition and simplicity.