Summer Hot? Write Poetry!

So far, the summer has been mild, although in some parts of Canada and the US, the heat has become unbearable. Here on PEI, the heat hasn’t been too bad because of the occasional summer squalls. When it’s too hot to go out, or if it’s raining and you can’t hit the beaches or the parks, you know it’s the perfect time to write. Fill up that extra-large double-walled tumbler with your favorite iced drink, turn on your favorite mood music–or keep it quiet if that’s how you like writing, open a blank page, and write.

In the way nature and the seasons inspire poets, let me quote The Great Gatsby to give you a bit of summer writing inspiration:

“And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.”

― F. Scott Fitzgerald

Let this summer be the start of something new to write, whether it’s a new chapter in a book you’re working on, a new story, a new angle to an old story, or a new poem. If you want to try something more challenging than free verse, try using rhyme and rhythm. Play with words and try simple rhyming patterns. You can end all your lines in a single stanza with rhyming words, or you can work with a simple pattern–the most common are ABAB, AABB, or ABBA. If you don’t remember these letter patterns, each letter simply represents a sound ending each line in your poem. You don’t need to have four lines in each stanza, although it helps build rhythm and it’s a simple way to practice writing in rhymes. You can start with couplets, or line pairs that rhyme, which is what Joyce Kilmer did in his famous poem, “Trees”:

Trees

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

Notice that each couplet has a different rhyme from the previous one, and the first and final couplets share the same rhyme. This makes it easier to find rhymes. Note as well, the rhythm he uses. Each line has the same number of syllables (measure) and the syllables are stressed in the same pattern in each line (meter). Each combination of short (unstressed) and long (stressed) syllables (a foot or iamb) is repeated–in this case, four times, hence iambic tetrameter. Shakespeare used iambic pentameter quite frequently. The rhythm changes depending on the way words are combined and this gives poems that delightful lilting quality that rolls off your tongue when read aloud–as all poems are meant to be.

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