Saturday, June 27, 2015

Prompt #228 – Let's Fib


Don’t let this prompt’s title mislead you! We’re not going to write poems in which we tell fibs. Nope! This week we’re going to work with Fibonacci poems.

Math has never been my strong suit (I even failed geometry in high school, and I can only count on my fingers), but some time ago, I was introduced to a form of poetry based on the Fibonacci numbers sequence that appeals to me despite it math-based origins.

To introduce you to the form, I’m going to quote from a definition provided by The Fib Review’s editor, distinguished poet Mary-Jane Grandinetti.

"The Fibonacci poem is a poetry form based on the structure of the Fibonacci number sequence. For those unfamiliar with the Fibonacci Sequence, it is a mathematical sequence in which every figure is the sum of the two preceding it. Thus, you begin with 1 and the sequence follows as such: 1+1=2; then in turn 1+2=3; then 2+3=5; then 3+5=8 and so on. The poetry sequence therefore consists of lines of 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, and so on with each number representing the number of syllables or words that a writer places in each line of the poem. As a literary device, it is used as a formatted pattern in which one can offer meaning in any organized way, providing the number sequence remains the constancy of the form.

The subject of the Fibonacci poem has no restriction, but the difference between a good fib and a great fib is the poetic element that speaks to the reader. No longer just a fun form to write as a math student, the poets who write Fibonacci poems have replaced the ‘geek’ with the poet."

Here's the format: 

For a 6-line poem:

1 syllable or word for first line
1 syllable or word for second line
2 syllables or words for third
3 syllables or words for fourth
5 syllables or words for fifth
8 syllables or words for sixth

Note: A Fib poem doesn't have to stop as above but may continue the sequence as far as the poet wishes to take it. 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8 ...

An example (one that I wrote, published in Fib Review, Issue #3)

     Still 
     there,
     through the
     frame of a
     broken window—the
     torn lace curtains flutter like wings.

Bear in mind that Fibonacci poems go beyond mere number sequencing and should incorporate poetic language, heart, and spirit. It isn’t enough to just adhere to the syllable or word number sequence. In other words, you don’t just drop a so-what poem into a numbered frame. Instead, you create a real poem that appears in Fibonacci form.

At first, I found myself comparing Fib poems to haiku. Mary-Jane Grandinetti offered the following in response:

"Several Wiki sites have called the Fib the Haiku's "cousin". People who are unfamiliar with formal poetry don't realize how many other poetry forms require a specific syllable count. I've been holding workshops every Tuesday night for the past 7 years on short poetry forms and there are hundreds of forms that count syllables. I believe it is an injustice to haiku to continue the "myth" that haiku is all about 17 syllables of 5-7-5, so I try to make a point of debunking the supposed relationship of the Fib to haiku.

I don't believe that a Fib needs to focus on a single moment of experience. In any short poetry form that would be the most important part of the poem - capturing a specific moment, thought, idea.  But having given our Fib poets the freedom to experiment with the form, many have written substantially longer poems with line lengths of over 55 syllables, or with multiple stanzas.
Ms. Grandinetti also offered us the following suggestions (for which many thanks):
  • Sentence versus Poetry—shouldn’t be a sentence divided in 20 syllables/words.  This is especially true in word count Fibs.  People just split a standard poem by words, and use enjambment just to make the poem fit. Poetic - this is poetry isn’t it? It should be a poem, poetic, each line doesn’t have to be a sequence of the one before it but the natural break at the end of each line should work to the advantage of the poem
  • No Cheater words—words like a, the, very, unnecessary adjectives are not the best choice for those one syllable words, and no fair using “very, very, very” to make up the 8 syllable line.  Rethink what you want to say and use different words that do fit.
  • First two lines should set the tone—these two words should show what the poem is about. The first 2 words are always the most difficult. And if you use the reversed or diamond shaped form the last 2 words are equally difficult and the most important.  This is where most poets fail - they can't find a way to end the poem.
  • Last line —the juxtaposition, punchline, point of the poem - just like with any other poem.

Guidelines:

1.  Fib poems may include figures of speech, so don’t shy away from similes and metaphors.

2. Remember that you may use the Fib number sequence through syllable count or word count. You choose whichever works best for you.

4. You might like to try a Fibonacci sequence—that is, a series of Fib poems that link to one another or, in some way, relate to each other. Don’t be afraid to experiment.

5. Of course, you may begin with a Fib poem and veer off into something else. Let your poem take you where it wants to go!


Tips:

1. Keep your poem accessible and engaging.

2. Use fresh language

3. Avoid abstractions and clichés.

4. Avoid “preachiness.” Poetry that instructs on some level is fine, but don’t annoy your readers with something you feel compelled to "teach" them.

5. Craft counts—always—no matter what form of poetry you’re writing, pay attention to technique.

6. Working with a form is a good way to practice discipline in your writing. It can also be fun, so enjoy writing your Fib poems.

7. If you'd like to read more about Fibonacci poems, here's the link to an article on Gregory Pincus's blog  that you'll find helpful:
www.gottabook.blogspot.com/2006/04/fib.html.

Examples:



Saturday, June 20, 2015

Prompt #227 – Summer & Remembering a Childhood Friend



With summer beginning tomorrow in my corner of the world, I find myself thinking about long-ago summer days and some of the friends with whom my childhood summers were shared. The qualities of that sharing are understandably different from the qualities of our adult friendships. Children don’t ask complicated questions, and most live in a more carefree place than adults do.

This week, how about writing a poem to or about a friend from your youth. This friend might be someone with whom you still interact or someone with whom you’re no longer in touch but remember fondly. Dig deeply—remember ...  remember—and celebrate!

Guidelines:

1. Begin by thinking about the summers of your youth and by selecting one friend from back in the day (not necessarily a child friend, you might choose an adult who was an important part of your long-ago summers, someone you respected and admired).

2. Make two lists: one that details specific memories of your friend (appearance, age, attitudes, typical clothing, etc.) and one that includes particular memories of times spent with that person. Think about thunderstorms, hot days, summer nights, summer stars, summer vacations, day trips, days at the neighborhood park.

3. Begin writing using your lists as source materials. You may limit your memories to one, or you may include several. Just be careful not to clutter your poem with too many details.

4. You might try writing from an adult perspective or from the perspective of your child self. Alternatively, you might writer a letter poem to your old friend.

Tips:

1. Remember that your memories may be interesting to you, but in a poem you need to work on making connections that will make your poem interesting to anyone who might read it. What are you saying about childhood friendships and feelings that addresses something universal through your personal experience?

2. Try to write in the active, not the passive, voice. To do that, it can be helpful to remove “ing” endings and to write in the present tense (this will also create a greater sense of immediacy).

3. Be on the lookout for prepositional phrases that you might remove (articles & conjunctions too).

4. Avoid clichés and sentimentality.

5. Show, don’t tell—through striking imagery, a strong emotional center, and an integrated whole of language, form and meaning. 


Saturday, June 13, 2015

Prompt #226 – "Hip" Tips for Editing Your Poems


Often when I conduct poetry workshops, I give participants the following list—I thought you might find these tips helpful in revising, editing, and perfecting your poems. The idea this week is to go back to an already-written poem and make it stronger.

Here Are the Tips:

1. Try to write in the active, not the passive, voice. To do that, it can be helpful to remove “ing” endings and to write in the present tense (this will also create a greater sense of immediacy).

2. Be on the lookout for prepositional phrases that you might remove (articles & conjunctions too).

3. The great author Mark Twain once wrote, “When you catch an adjective, kill it. No, I don’t mean utterly, but kill most of them—then the rest will be valuable. They weaken when close together. They give strength when they are wide apart.” This is especially true in poetry. So ... as you work on a poem, think about adjectives and which ones your poem can live without. (Often the concept is already in the noun, and you don’t need a lot of adjectives to convey your meaning.)

4. Avoid clichés (and, while you’re at it, stay away from abstractions and sentimentality).

5. Show, don’t tell—through striking imagery, a strong emotional center, and an integrated whole of language, form and meaning.

6. Challenge the ordinary, connect, reveal, surprise! And … remember that a poem should mean more than the words it contains.
7. Create a new resonance for your readers, a lit spark that doesn’t go out when the poem is “over.”

8. If you take a risk, make it a big one; if your poem is edgy, take it all the way to the farthest edge.

9. Understand that overstatement and the obvious are deadly when it comes to writing poetry. Don’t ramble on, and don’t try to explain everything. Think about this: a poem with only five great lines should be five lines long.

10. Bring your poem to closure with a dazzling dismount. (Be careful not to undercut your poem’s “authority” by ending with trivia or a “so what” line that doesn’t make your readers gasp.)

Guidelines:

1. This week, I’d like you to take a look at one or more poems that you’ve already written, and apply the five items above as a kind of checklist for editing.

2. Go through your poem (s) one item at a time and see if there are changes you can make based on the "high five" list.

3. After you’ve finished, compare your original version and the newly edited one. Is one stronger than the other?

4. Another interesting way to go about this is to ask a poet friend to do the exercise with you. Instead of you editing your own poems, exchange poems and see what edits you both come up with for each other.

Tips:

1. Be sure to work with a poem that you finished or put aside some time ago. Don’t try to work with a new poem or a poem in process.

2. Be as objective as you can (I know, that's not easy when working with your own poems).