April 13, 2016: Poetry Writing Prompt – Miriam Sagan

Step A
Pick one of the following topics:
”I remember”
”Things I have lost” 
 Using a notebook and writing by hand (please do try this, we won’t do it much, but it is a good technique) start with the topic and write for ten minutes or approximately two notebook pages. Be loose, wild, and do not write poetry–no rhyme, no line breaks.

Step B
Take the prose block you have written and break it into poetry. This will work best if typed so you can see clearly–and have ready to send. Discard any material you don’t like–for example, the opening may be warm up that can just be dropped. Break the lines where it feels natural. Read aloud and break where you breath. Use long lines if possible.


Traditionally in English lines have run ten syllables with five of them “stressed’ or emphasized. This is basically iambic pentameter. However, it isn’t usually that strict. If you look at any line of Shakespeare’s you will see it is rarely in rigid iambic pentameter.
For our purposes, consider the basic traditional line in English to be 9-12 syllables, with 10 as the norm. 4-5 syllables are stressed per line. In American poetry, however, iambic pentameter is considered too British. While the meter is supposed to imitate speech, American speech differs from British speech. American poets William Carlos Williams and Charles Olsen devised a method called SYLLABICS for American poets.

In syllabics you count the number of syllables per line and attempt to standardize this throughout the poem. For example, if line 1 has 7 syllables, all the rest should have the same. You can also be looser, and run the lines 6-8 syllables or some such range. Many contemporary poets use this, including Robert Creeley and Lucille Clifton. You might look at a poem you like, count the syllable, and see what is going on.

Try to go for lines of at least five syllables and less than twelve. Stay in a moderate range.

This poetry writing prompt submitted by Miriam Sagan.

If you write a poem from this prompt, post it as a comment underneath the prompt in the Poetry Super Highway Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/poetrysuperhighway

#napowrimo #poetry

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