The Writer’s Quandary

This poem sums up what forms my writer’s block most of the time when I’m creating stories and poems.  I hesitate because I worry my work isn’t novel, special, or worthwhile.  Instead of pushing my limits, I am paralyzed by the idea that someone else can write my thoughts better than me, tell my stories more creatively.  Or even worse—has already penned and published my idea that I imagine is so unique.

“The Writer’s Quandary”

Have all the poems been written?

Has every story been told?

Are all the metaphors spoken,

And are all the similes old?

 

Can I add to mankind’s canon?

Can I make a new connection?

Or am I merely an echo,

A well-traveled intersection?

 

Am I even the first to have

Thought this, wondering what remains?

I doubt it, yet I continue:

For many great songs have refrains.

 

And perhaps I can add a gem

Of value through the work I do,

Whether repeating a truth once

More or sharing something that’s new.


In this age of ever-multiplying information, is there anything left to be added?  I’ll argue that no matter what, we can always keep asking questions and searching for answers, which is what I love to do…And perhaps that pursuit is not limited to research papers and essays, like I so often assume.  Asking questions and finding answers is one avenue where creative writing, from stories to plays to poems, can also expand our knowledge and our understanding of the world and each other.

Photo credit: Photo by Pixabay from Canva.com

Rise and Fall of Rain

Rain is one of my favorite themes for poems.  Consequently, a small portion of my poetry collection is dedicated to rain and its different aspects that I’ve noticed and enjoy.  Perhaps inspired by my recent nighttime driving in the rain, I decided to dig these up and share one of them today.  This particular poem focuses on the onomatopoeic quality of rain.

“Rise and Fall of Rain”

Tap, tap, tap at the back door.

Slap, slap, slap it goes again.

Rap, rap, rap a growing din.

Crack, crack, crack—open the door.

Whoosh, crash, bang there is a roar.

Of rushing rainy torrents pounding,

Lightning cracks, and thunder sounding,

Then the rush recedes to dribble,

Pitter, patter, then to trickle.

Two Variations on a Theme Called “Song”

“Two Variations on a Theme Called ‘Song,'” using the golden shovel technique.

In the golden shovel poetry form, poets take a line or lines from another poem and make each word from this line the last word of each line in their new poem, using the words in order.  So, if you read the last word of every line in the new poem, you will be able to figure out the line (or lines) of the original poem.  The result is often a very different poem, but this poetic form can also be a challenging way to build on the original poem’s themes from a new angle.  Perhaps if I dabble a bit more, I can achieve this level of technique, but for now, I will be satisfied with a totally unrelated golden shovel pair of poems.

 

Variation 1

Grasping my keys, I go,

Buckle myself in and

Twist the key, hear it catch,

A thrum, then off on a

Night quest—uphill, falling,

Each car winks like a star.

 

Variation 2

I wish that I could tell

Who just recognized me.

It seems no matter where

I go, they know me all

From one time we met—past

Maybe three or four years?

I forgot who they are.

 

Note: If you decide to try your hand at writing a golden shovel poem, please share it in the comments.  I would love to read what you write!

Contemplation on “Dover Beach”

Dover Beach has served many purposes.  According to a BBC News Magazine article, this natural fortification once repulsed Julius Caesar, once welcomed returning royalty, once received foreign dignitaries, and now stands as a symbol of England (Winterman).  In “Dover Beach” by Matthew Arnold, two people view the famous strand at night, and the speaker of the poem contemplates the beauty of the view and the thoughts about the world, faith, and love which the scene brings to his mind.  “Dover Beach” suggests that love for another is all that people can possess because the world is futile and faith is inconstant.  The poem’s figurative language, diction, and speaker combine to support this theme.

To begin with, Arnold demonstrates the futility of the world when he utilizes figurative language to contrast the first and final stanzas.  The first stanza is full of assonance, consonance, and alliteration which paint a mysterious, dark, calm, and beautiful scene.  This scene represents the “land of dreams” which seems to lie before the speaker and the audience (30-31).  The short i sounds of words like “glimmering” (5) and “window” (6) create a quiet mood which the repeated s sounds of “is” (2), “cliffs” (4), and “cease” (12) heighten.  In contrast to this lovely scene, the speaker thrusts upon the audience the reality of the world in the final stanza.  Like the first stanza, the last one contains assonance, consonance, and alliteration, but the repeated vowels and consonants in this stanza create ugly sounds.  For example, the recurring p and t sounds of “help for pain” (34), “plain” (35), “swept” (36), “let” (29), and “certitude” (34) produce a contemptuous tone, for the speaker seems to be spitting out the words.  The repetition of “nor” in the middle of the last stanza pounds into the reader the truth about everything the world cannot provide (33-34).  Arnold further emphasizes this point by using alliteration to connect “neither” (33) and “nor” (33-34).  Finally, the onomatopoeia of “clash” (37) and harsh words such as “darkling plain” (35), “confused alarms” (36), and “ignorant armies” (37) evoke a picture of chaotic danger which starkly contrasts the calm beauty of the first stanza.  This contrast reveals how futile the world is by showing how the world’s promises compare to reality.

Dover Castle

Within the central section of the poem, the speaker continues to demonstrate the futility of the world while also discussing the inconstancy of faith.  One powerful way in which the speaker covers these themes is by his use of diction.  “Faith” in this poem denotes the general concept of belief, not just religion, for Arnold wrote the poem during the 19th century, which was a time of growing skepticism.  The word “sea” needs careful analysis because it is rather ambiguous, and looking into its denotation and connotation gives insight into the poem.  One common denotation of “sea” is a body of saltwater.  Because of this denotation, the comparison of the ebb and flow of the Aegean to the ebb and flow of human misery becomes even more powerful, for the salty seawater can symbolize human tears (15-20).  The sea thus becomes a symbol of human misery and reminds the audience that the world cannot provide joy or happiness.  While “sea” has multiple denotations and connotations, its most important connotation comes from the poem itself.  After the speaker metaphorically compares the sea to faith, the sea becomes intertwined with the concept of faith, and the natural ebb and flow of the tide represents how the speaker perceives faith to be inconstant.

Matthew Arnold

While the speaker’s views of the pointlessness of the world and the unreliability of faith come from his own observations, the speaker’s motivation for rejecting these and calling the audience to “be true” derives from the nature of the speaker (29).  The speaker of the poem is a person who is looking from a window at Dover Beach with his or her love.  Although the poem does not explicitly state whether the speaker is a man or a woman, the tone seems to be that of a man.  The speaker is well-educated, for he mentions Sophocles’ thoughts on the ebb and flow of the Aegean Sea.  Additionally, the speaker appears to be older or more experienced than his love, for he speaks in an authoritative and instructive manner, saying “Come to the window” (6) and “Listen!” (9).  In the first stanzas, the speaker seems to be a very thoughtful person who contemplates the meaning of life and the world and appreciates the beauty of the sea.  In the final stanza, the speaker suddenly becomes passionate and exhorts his love that they “be true / To one another” (29-30).  As the speaker lists what the world cannot give him, he seems enraged, for his words become a tirade against the world and its deceptive promises of happiness.

Throughout “Dover Beach,” Matthew Arnold uses figurative language, diction, and the character of the speaker to discuss the world’s futility, faith’s inconstancy, and love’s importance.  The poem indicates that only love is reliable.  However, though the world cannot satisfy human desire and often disappoints dreams, this should not lead people to reject the world as a lie.  Neither should people judge the reliability of faith on the number of people who have it; just because the number of humans who have belief changes does not mean that faith itself is inconstant.  Most importantly, if the speaker and his love base their world on each other, then they will have to trust each other to be true.  If faith is inconstant as the poem suggests, then how can love—which relies on faith—be reliable?  Only when the speaker regains his faith will he be able to enjoy love and “be true” to the woman he loves (29).  Only when the speaker realizes there is more to the world than his love will he be able to answer his own call “Ah, love, let us be true / To one another!” (29-30).

(Note: This is an essay I wrote for a freshman composition class several years ago, with a few minor modifications. Also, here is a link to “Dover Beach” in case you want to read the poem yourself.)

Works Cited

Arnold, Matthew.  “Dover Beach.”  Poetry Foundation,             http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/43588/dover-beach.

Winterman, Denise.  “White Cliffs of Dover: Why Are They So Important to the British?”  BBC News Magazine, 29 Aug. 2012, http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-19343382.

Animal Encounters of the First Kind

Have you ever noticed how writing something down gave you a whole new perspective on it? These stories all happened separately, but once I began to write each poem, I realized there was a rhythm to them. They flowed, not in chronological order, but from the biggest creature to the smallest, from the most fearful to the most fearless, in an odd juxtaposition of animal-kind.

“Feline Xenophobia”

Bright green eyes are open wide,

Watching my every move.

Pyramid ears swivel toward me,

Monitoring my every noise.

Lithe body stretches slinky-like,

Trying to sneak to safety

When her owners are distracted,

But, no, she is retracted

From a dash behind the couch or bed,

And I gently pet her silky head,

Speaking kindly to the feline

Trying to overcome her stranger-fear.

“Squirrel Indifference?”

Perched in a tree fork, nibbling away at a nut,

Merely two feet away as I stop on the path,

Reigns a lordly squirrel who solemnly gazes

Down at me without a speck of shyness, all cool

Indifference, tiny jaws and paws quivering

As he handles his food.  He stared at me so long

I’d call it quite rude, except I was no better,

Photographing the silly sovereign with my phone.

Suddenly, he skims up the tree away from view.

Perhaps his calm demeanor was but a sham

And the seeming indifference hid his fear of man.

“Turtle Courage”

Tiny turtle, I won’t hurt you.

Here, I’ll help you off your back.

Let me set you on this windowsill

To keep you safe from treading feet

Until our gardening is complete.

Tiny turtle, half-dollar in diameter

With a patterned yellow belly

And a red clay muddied back,

You never retreat inside your shell,

But stick your head out boldly.

Tiny turtle, you embark on a journey,

Full of danger, as you bravely totter

Over the brink and back to the ground

From that high sill of solitude—

A feat I thought you’d never do.

Tiny turtle, you won’t let me help you.

No, you must face the world alone.

On your back again from your tumble,

You wriggle until you flip upright,

Striking out for the flower jungle.

Tiny turtle, here’s a final helping hand

To a less-populated bit of land.

Your courage belies your yellow-belly.

You are no coward, I can tell.

Undaunted, go, and fare you well.


This poetic trio is based on perhaps my top two inspirations for poetry: true events and animals. Can you compose a poem or short story using one or both of these? If so, please share in the comments! I think you will find the process and the result rewarding.

Goodbye & Hello

 

Pen poised over paper,

I hesitate.

About to begin

No—wait!

Oops.  Too late.

Cross that out.

Let’s start again.

 

Hello, old friend.

How have you been?

I saw you just yesterday,

But you look so different

Today.  And who is this?

Oh, your sister?

I don’t believe we’ve met.

 

Hello, how nice to meet you.

(Maybe we can be friends,

But time will tell).

What’s your name?

“Two Thousand Nineteen.”

(Well…that’s unique.)

What an interesting name!

 

You know them too?

Oh, that’s so neat!

And her and him?

What a small world.

Do you have any other siblings?

Several thousand?  Well.  That’s a lot.

I have only three.

 

I need to go, but nice to meet you.

Oh, yes, I know.

Another time…

Oh, no.

Not again.

Wait!  What’s your name?

Too late.

 

Pen over paper

Begins to scrawl.

I think on old friends.

No!  Wrong again.

Ugh.  How frustrating.

Another paper and 364 more days

To get this right.

 

Goodbye, old friend.

Hello, new stranger.

You may have to tell me your name

A few times more.

But I will get it right.

Eventually.  With perhaps

A few relapses.

Little Carolina Wren

Cuter than a chickadee, you have

Ample shares of character.  You hop

Round my porch clutching a leaf that is

Old, withered, and bigger than you are.

Little wren, every happy hop

Is full of lively energy.  Please

Never stop your cheery chirping that

Always brightens up my day with smiles.

 

Wiser birds I could find, but I would

Rather your tiny company to

Enjoy than that of less silly or

Nobler birds, my Carolina wren.

College Caroler

 

The songster carols every morn

To welcome in the day newborn

As day’s first light and sunbright rays

Enter my room through branchy maze

And weave around my window shades

To stripe my floor in bright cascades.

 

And now as evening falls, again

I hear that happy song begin,

A lullaby to close the day

And bid the sun to go away

Until the moon has come and gone,

Then to return with break of dawn.


Note:  Listening to a little songbird singing outside my dorm room window one morning and evening this past week inspired me to write this short tribute.  After months of silence during my time at school, the birds have suddenly emerged and begun to carol everywhere on campus.  I would have expected them to be active in the late summer and fall, not in the middle of winter with snow and freezing temperatures, but who can know the mind of a bird?

Cacophony and Euphony: A Pair of Poems

I wrote the following pair of poems as part of an assignment from The Roar on the Other Side by Suzanne U. Rhodes.  In the poems, I personify the two abstract ideas of “cacophony” and “euphony.”

The definition of cacophony is “1. Jarring, discordant sound; dissonance; 2. The use of harsh or discordant sounds in literary composition, as for poetic effect” (“Cacophony” 226).  Euphony is defined as “Agreeable sound, especially in the phonetic quality of words” (“Euphony” 468).

Blacksmith
Blacksmith (from etc.usf.edu/clipart/)

“Cacophony”

My name’s cacophony;

I cannot be controlled.

I clash and crash and break

Wherever I collide.

With kilometrous stride

I walk and stomp and shake;

When I talk, I grate like

A rake on a gravel

Road or clang like a

Blacksmith making a plow

Or clopple like iron-shod

Steeds on granite pavement.

Why speak but do not shout?

I give each passerby

I meet a clout upon

The ear with my great roar

My name’s cacophony,

So what would I be if

I acted grand or grave?

No, I will bark and whack,

Grumble, thunder, attack,

Without restraint or tact.

Just how else could I act?

My name’s cacophony.

Snow Goose Sketch
Snow Goose Sketch by Arrietty

“Euphony”

Listen.

Can you hear the stream

Bubbling past my home?

Look.

Can you see the gleam

Of the fireflies in the gloam?

Inhale deeply.

Can you smell the crisp

Autumn scent of pine trees?

Turn your face.

Can you feel the wisp

Of the passing breeze?

Pick a pear.

Can you taste the sweet

Summer melting in your mouth?

Look up high.

Can you spot the fleet

Flock of geese going south?


Works Cited

“Cacophony.”  The American Heritage Dictionary.  2nd ed.  1985.

“Euphony.”  The American Heritage Dictionary.  2nd ed.  1985.