Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Oven cleaner, apples, open fires

Hello from Kent where I've spent more time inside the oven that I really wanted to and where the cardboard boxes are gradually diminishing. But not in my writing room. We left all our library shelving in the house in France so I'm waiting for new pine bookcases and a new pine desk which won't be here until after Christmas. It's not that I really need access to all my books but I do feel better when they are all facing me, the bright colours and words on their spines smiling at me as I pass, and not lying on their backs in the dark. But not long now.

Home means apples - there are 20 acres of apple trees just outside my door. It means log fires - we've kept the wood stove alight 24/7 since being home. An open fire in late autumn and winter is one thing I really missed in the house in France.

This week I've paired things that I haven't paired before: apples and sausage-meat (for a savoury supper), and big paintings and little paintings (to create a different effect on the walls in the lounge and kitchen:

Placing them next to each other like this made me think of haiku, of the phrase and fragment (or fragment and phrase) construction a lot of contemporary haiku take:

The haiku at the end of my last post was phrase/fragment:

fall, yet new leaves
on the plane trees:
we pack to go home

The longer part of the haiku, the phrase, extends over the first two lines and the fragment (a single image or comment) is confined to the third.

Free verse poetry can play with similar constructions e.g. long lines alternating with short lines, or perhaps a poem made up from regular stanzas that closes with a single line set apart at the end. The poet's craft lies in knowing why we do this, the effects that changes in pace will have on the reader, on their breathing, how isolating lines will change their relationship to the words on the page.

Write a poem that changes its form at some point during its development. Think about:
long lines
short lines
changes in stanza structure
a poem of two halves
long sentences
short phrases

But choose your subject matter to suit this form change. Remember that form arises from subject matter, that it can be used to effectively reflect emotional tone.

Write well.