Friday, 24 September 2010

Coffee Break: Truth

Welcome, welcome - who would like an iced coffee? It's still sweltering out there, so why not have a cool off in the aircon and a long cold drink?

Last week we were thinking about consquences, so for this break maybe it would be interesting to think about truth in our writing. Maybe like me you subscribe to the daily email from Garrison Keillor's 'Writer's Almanac'? It's a brilliant start to the day, and a way to read poetry by writers you've never come across. Poets leave me in awe - the way they can deftly cut to the truth in a few words, where it takes me an entire novel.

Do you write across genres, or stick only to fiction/poetry? Beyond the predictable Hendrix inspired teenage poetry (which mercifully is lost in the annals of time ...), I hadn't written any poetry for years. Then someone suggested writing haikus. A haiku consists roughly of three lines - 5 syllables, 7 syllables, 5 syllables. Like this one by Basho:

'The butterfly is
perfuming its wings in the
scent of the orchid'

Haikus celebrate the beauty of everyday life. To kick start your writing it's a great way to start the day, and the confines of the form really force you to think about choosing the best words you can.

Another poetry exercise I like and use a lot are 'Bantus'. These are inspired by the oral traditions of the nomadic African tribe. In a Bantu, it's all about contrast and similarity. For example: 'White plate laid in a dark dining room. Full moon in the sky.' It's a way of generating some great similes and metaphors for your writing.

In poetry there's no room for faffing around - you have one shot to find the right words, and put them in the right order. Maybe by experimenting with some of the forms, we can make our fiction better? Why don't you have a go today ...

8 comments:

Karen said...

I've always been a bit wary of writing poetry, after the angsty stuff I produced as a teenager (!) but this is a great idea and I'll definitely be giving it a go :o)

sheepish said...

Hi I get the Writers Almanac each day and find it sometimes gives me an unexpected idea. I only started writing poetry after the death of my son, it allowed me to give vent to feelings that I could not write about otherwise, to admit the truth,and now I write poems about ordinary life aswell. An excellent idea for thinking outside your 'normal' box.

Cathy said...

I'm another fan of The Writer's Almanac and I think reading and writing poetry does benefit prose writing. I love the discipline of writing poetry, the way it makes you concentrate on every word, but I only dabble in it occasionally nowadays. Most of my own poetry is for my eyes only, but I do like reading modern poets.

Denise said...

I've avoided poetry since university (hmm, a while ago...) just because I had to read so much that I didn't enjoy. The bad really overshadowed the good for me and I've not been tempted back since. I might take a look at the Almanac, but I think I've a lot of prejudice against poetry to overcome!

Jenny Beattie said...

My interest in writing started with poetry (in primary school) and yet I write none now. I often think I should hive haiku a try. I will. Thanks for the prompt.

Kate Lord Brown said...

It's interesting how many of us 'dabble'. Today's poem on the WA was beautiful - someone gathering pears with their grandmother. Just an ordinary thing, but expressed with such love.

LilyS said...

I won second prize in a poetry compeition at school but since then I haven't written anything more than a limerick. I can't seen the harm in having a go though. Thanks for posting!

HelenMHunt said...

I love the idea of bantus as a way of generating metaphors. I will definitely give that a go. Thanks for a great post.