Friday, 1 August 2014

Poetry for everyone

I love poetry.

The fact that I couldn't write a poem to save myself is irrelevant  - I still love poetry and admire, greatly, those people who can write it.

When I was a kid, I kind of fancied myself as a poet. I thought that as long as it rhymed it was a poem but that just isn't the case, as I've since learned.

Simply, poetry doesn't have to rhyme and it can take many forms. There are sonnets, quatrains and quintets, haiku and pantoums just to name a few. They have rules and structure, some complex, others not so complex.

Your common limerick is a form of poetry.

Over the years I've done numerous courses and workshops aimed at improving my capabilities and while I've learned an awful lot, a poet I am not! That's funny - it rhymes!!

Okay, so that wasn't funny at all. 

One of the things I have learned and learned well is about meter, or beat. Perhaps, because of my musical background, the meter was a concept that came very easily to me, but many people seem to struggle with it.

Not sure what I mean? Try this:

"Australians all let us rejoice for we are young and free".

For those of you unfamiliar with the Australian National Anthem, that's the first line. If you read it as it is, it's just a line of prose.

However, if you say it and tap your foot to the words bolded, it takes on a different feel.

"Australians all let us rejoice for we are young and free". That's the beat - in poetry terms, the meter.

Here's another, see if you can count the meter on your own first. This, by the way, is a magnificent ode to Australia by Dorothea Mackellar, it's part of the second and very well-known stanza from her poem My Country.

"I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,"

Notice how both those lines have 3 beats? It's no coincidence. The meter is, to me, one of the most important features of a poem.

Some poems have rules that dictate how many beats there are per line, and depending on the type of poem, the beats per line may vary.

For example, a sonnet consists of a particular number of lines, usually 14, and a strict rhyming structure. Think Shakespeare ... check out the Marriage of True Minds probably one of the master's most famous. I love this sonnet.

We can go more into poetry in the future if you like, but since I'm not a poet myself, I'm probably not the right person to tell you all about it.

Needless to say, although I don't write poetry, I have a great love of poetry and a terrific respect for poets.

A very dear friend of mine, Rebecca Maxwell, is a wonderful poet. Rebecca is vision impaired and wrote a book called Blind and Busy which is effectively a tribute to others who are blind - it's well worth a read even if you aren't blind.

Rebecca, aside from being an author, is a very talented poet, and one of my favourite poems of all time, is her poem Wild Geese, reproduced here with Rebecca's permission.

Julie J - you'll love this one!

Wild Geese
Rebecca Maxwell

wild goose, not 'silly goose':
you run fast on strong clawed legs,
you fly high on strong wide wings,
you skim and paddle: skilled in all elements:
why should you bear our inept idiom?

loyal goose, why 'silly goose'?
smooth and fleet in every movement,
your flight defies wild winds, rough weathers.
yet seeing the needs of tired or wounded
compassion bids you wait,
or fly in help formation.

communal goose, how 'silly goose'?
you shelter your young like the earth her seeds,
from eggshell dark confines
to unfurled feathery freedom:

and know your young not more your own
than other members of your kind.
could we dispose of misconceptions, 
would your examples pierce our mind?

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