Between the Lines

“I think a poet is anybody who wouldn’t call himself a poet.”
—Bob Dylan

Kathy Steffen

Whether you share it or keep it to yourself, writing poetry has important benefits. It exercises your mind, builds language skills, strengthens your ability to express yourself and your ideas, and gives you a chance to reflect on life and emotions. And what better month than April — National Poetry Month — to dive in and try writing some! There are many forms of poetry to try. Here are just a few:
Acrostic: Where the first letters of each line spell out a word or phrase. This is a great way to stretch your mind as you create lines about the vertical subject and work a “poetry puzzle.”
Haiku: A three-line poem with the first and last line having five syllables. The middle line has seven. The lines don’t need to (in fact rarely) rhyme.
Limerick: A five-line poem with lines in an AABBA rhyming structure. The first, second and fifth lines not only rhyme but have seven to 10 syllables and a similar rhythm. The third and fourth lines rhyme and are shorter and share the same rhythm. A limerick can be nonsensical, irreverent or bawdy. Cut loose and have some fun!
Do these sound too structured? Free Verse may be for you. Just like it sounds, no rules. No rhymes. No specific structure or patterns. Think of a theme, thought or subject and write down a few key words. Next, flesh out your poem. Pay attention to patterns that emerge in line length, repetition, sounds, images, etc. These will help you build the “structure” of your free verse poem.
Be sure to touch on each of the five senses as you write and use any tools from the poet’s toolbox: metaphor, simile, hyperbole, rhythm, alliteration and imagery for a start. Need ideas? Brainstorm turning points in your life. Choose one for a poem. List everyday moments. Choose one for a poem. Make a list of things that make you angry. Frustrated. Things that bring joy. Choose one from each list and write a poem. What about your firsts: first kiss, first child, first date, first time your heart was broken, first time you flew on a plane, first job … and you know what to do — choose one and write a poem. What about nature? Weather? Specific time of day? A season? Don’t forget emotions. Write about jealousy, fear, grief, shock, shame, stress, anxiety, love, trust or contentment (just to name a few).
Still staring at a blank page? Grab a book you don’t mind destroying or magazine or newspaper, select and cut lines, phrases and words out, and start arranging them. Before you know it, a poem will evolve. Welcome to the poetry zone!
If you have a hankering to discover and write different forms of poetry, there are around 50 different types (more than can be mentioned here). Search how to write and try your hand at a sonnet, an epic, epitaph, ballad, ode, pastoral, narrative … the list will keep you writing for years!

Vincent Kavaloski, Ph.D., lived for 37 years in these Uplands in an intentional, eco-community devoted to peace and harmony with people and the land. He is currently concluding a long academic calling at Edgewood College and looking forward to being a freelance philosopher. He can be reached at vincekavaloski@gmail.com. Mary Friedel-Hunt’s “Living Well, Dying Well” column will return next month.