Last Friday, I posted about walking the dolphins. This week, I had planned to post on a completely different topic. But, this morning as i walked along the beach, I had an encounter with a different marine animal – a stingray, that swam into the shallows very close to me feet and which I then followed along for a while, chatting away to it about the beautiful day. So, of course, by the time I’d finished my walk, there was a poem in my head.
And, if you’d like to see more of Mr Ray, here’s a little video I took.
This morning my usual walk with the dolphins was made extra special because I also walked with a stingray. Of course, by the time I got back to the car I had a poem in my head. Walking is so good for creativity.
Posted by Sally Murphy on Thursday, March 2, 2017
Earlier this week, I posted about mentor text, and how can use them to inspire new poems of your own. Today, I wanted to share another effort. This one is based on what I suspect might be the most-used mentor-text poem ever, and a poem which changed my world.
First, the poem, by William Carlos Williams, which I hope you’ve come across before:
This is Just to Say
Anyway, back to the use of a mentor text. Williams’ This is Just to Say ahs been used in classrooms and by writers as a mentor text many many times. There have even been books written based on the poem, my favourite of which is Joyce Sidman’s This is Just to Say: Poems of Apology and Forgiveness.
Here is my own attempt a ‘This is Just to Say’ poem. I stuck with the food theme, and also gave an extra nod to Williams’ poem with my mention of plums.
This is just to say
I have eaten
that was in
you were probably
and no icy plums.
(Copyright Sally Murphy, 2015)
Have you ever written a This is Just to Say Poem? Or do you have your own favourite mentor text? I’d love to hear about it.
This post is part of Poetry Friday, where bloggers around the world post about poetry every Friday. Later today, you’ll see a round up of all the Poetry Friday posts at Penny’s blog.
Do you like poetry but have trouble coming up with things to write about? Perhaps you want to try something new in your writing? How about using a mentor text?
A what? I hear you ask. Let me explain.
A mentor text is, quite simply, a piece of good writing (in this case, a poem) which you study and use to inform your own writing. AT its simplest level, you may actually try to replicate the style and form of the poem, though you can of course use a mentor text as a starting point to inspire you to write something quite different.
Here is an example. This week I read a poem by Richard Edwards, which I found in the Puffin Book of Twentieth Century Verse. This poem, which I can’t reproduce entirely, appealed to me both because it had a slightly humorous, but uplifting message about age, but also because it had a really unusual rhyme and rhythm pattern. Here’s the opening stanza:
‘What did you do when you were young?’
I asked of the elderly man.
‘I travelled the lanes with a tortoiseshell cat
And a stick and a rickety van,
I travelled the paths with a sun on a thread,
I travelled the roads with a bucket of bread,
I travelled the world with a hen on my head
And my tea in a watering can,’
Said the elderly, elderly man. (Extract from Me & Him, copyright Richard Edwards)
I was so taken by this rhyme scheme, that I decided to try my hand at replicating it. It’s harder than it looks. Here’s a very early effort:
Grandmother Jo is a funny old thing
She lives in a van near the sea
With her cat, and her dog, and her mouse and her bird
But she always makes room for me.
When the holidays come I jump on a train
So eager to get to see Granny again
And vacation with her in her special domain.
We’ll have crumpets for breakfast and jelly for tea
And talk through the night, as happy can be. ( Copyright Sally Murphy 2017)
You might note that although I’ve used the same rhyme scheme, I didn’t find it easy to replicate the rhythm. In a future draft I might try to do that. However, the point of a mentor text is to make something new, so I’m happy to experiment and change the pattern.
You can find mentor texts easily. Do you have a school English text? See if you can use one of the poems in that as a starting point. Or pick up any book of poetry (if you don’t own one, try your school or local library). Or, feel free to use one of the poems I’ve posted here on my blog. Once you’ve found a poem you like, read it closely. Ask yourself: is there a pattern of rhyme? of syllables and rhythm? What other techniques does the poet use – repetition, simile, metaphor? What other topic might suit this form (you’ll note in my example, I also wrote about an elderly person, and the word ‘van’ unconsciously made its way into my poem). Then, when you feel ready, have a go at writing a poem of your own. Maybe even just a line or two.
If this seems overwhelming, start with a short poem, or work with a friend to write a joint poem. Remember, after you’ve written something, you can always rewrite it or, if you don’t like it, try again with a different mentor poem.
Let me know if you do write a poem. I love to hear from readers and writers.
I’ve been absent from Poetry Friday for the past few weeks, caught up in the wonderful busyness which comes with the arrival of not one, but two, new baby granddaughters, born 10 days apart. I’m also busy trying to finish my doctoral thesis and there have been new floors being laid in my house, which means furniture and possessions everywhere – and much packing and unpacking.
Anyway, I didn’t want to let another week go by, and today is Remembrance Day, so I wanted to share a poem of remembrance. This one, by Langston Hughes, is not a war poem, but spoke to me. I hope you like it too – and the red poppy which fortuitously is blooming in my front garden right now.
It’s supposed to be the middle of Spring here, but it sure feels like winter is here to stay – it is cold and wet and miserable. I long to be barefoot at the beach, soaking up some sun and even swimming, but that all seems so far away as we’ve just finished our coldest September on record and October has continued the trend. So, feeling a bit miserable about this, I decided I needed to share a happy poem for today’s Poetry Friday. And the wintry weather has given me lots of photos to go with it, so I decided to record it. Here it is, The Milkbar.
Hopefully by next week I’ll be writing about Spring springing, but in the meantime. have a great Friday. The Poetry Friday roundup will be hosted by Violet.