What makes poetry?
Can an entire novel be written in verse?
Do there have to be rules?
Sally Murphy’s delightful verse novel Toppling crosses a few boundaries by its very existence. Her choice of simple language allows easy reading but does not remove the ease of poetic flow.
When I went to school, writing poetry meant following rules. One day we had to start each new line with the next letter in a chosen word.
Acrostic poems just made me cross.
Cinquain poems have me baffled. Who on earth thought them up? Wrapped at each end by the title, describing words, actions and feelings fill the three lines in between. There’s nothing plain about the formation of Cinquain. At least you don’t have to rhyme.
Colour poems ignite the senses. Pick a colour. Any colour will do, and fill each line with the way that colour tastes, feels, smells and sounds to you.
Diamente rules just drive me mental. The result might be pretty, but where’s the freedom in following a rule for almost every word?
Haiku goes further than the rest. It controls every syllable. I’m in a World War 3 concentration camp struggling to breathe when I try to write Haiku.
At least with a limerick, I get a run-on and then worry about the details later. However, knowing that the last word in lines one 1 and 3, and 2 and 4 must rhyme and certain syllables must be stressed or unstressed just causes the blood Pressure to rise.
Give me a monster poem any day where all I have to do is write about a monster.
Better still, give me a copy of Toppling, where the words flow freely. Gentle wisdom snuggles between the lines, waiting to be discovered. That is my idea of verse. Where the joy of the read is not disturbed by rules.
Thanks Jo. You say such lovely things about my book-baby. And I’m with you – too many rules can make writing poetry tough.
Jo Burnell is a Paediatric Speech Pathologist and writer.
One of her passions is to get struggling and reluctant readers excited about books.