Category Archives: Poetry

The Modern Rap Fan’s Guide to Rhyming

I have a minor obsession with poetic techniques, rhyme schemes and suchlike. I also love wordplay. This gives me a whole new level of joy when listening to rap music. I’m always like, ‘Fierce internal rhymes’ and ‘Did you hear the enjambment on that?!’ The fun never ends in my house. This is my quick guide to poetic techniques that are in vogue in the educational medium we call hip hop music. You’re welcome. drake

  1. The Drake: Actually reputedly invented by Big Sean (who is actually medium sized for an adult human), the technique is to throw something on the end to be the rhyming word or phrase – a word that isn’t integrated into the previous sentence. See ‘Forever‘:
    She insists she got more class, we know
    Swimming in the money, come and find me, Nemo
    This makes every line a punchline; it can be witty, irreverent, and is a good way to slip in a topical reference (perhaps to a clown-fish-based Disney film).  Kanye-Creative-Genius
  2. The Kanye: The key is to find as many words as possible that rhyme with your own name and insert them as end rhymes in an A-A rhyme scheme. See ‘Famous‘:
    For all the girls that got d*** from Kanye West
    If you see ’em in the streets give ’em Kanye’s best
    Well I’m Kanye impressed. This technique is self-referential, perhaps self-mocking, and a way to marry braggadocio and punning in a meta society. Also, it’s an entertaining way to practise rhyming – look up your own name in a rhyming dictionary and go to town.
    Gambino
  3. The Gambino: This chap did not invent the rhetorical question; he’s not even the most famous proponent e.g. What’s a goon to a goblin? or Can I get an encore? However he often combines the rhetorical question with anaphora, the repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of successive clauses, to have a cumulative, powerful effect: See ‘Heartbeat‘:
    Are we dating? Are we f****ing?
    Are we best friends? Are we something…
    See also ‘Bonfire‘:
    You want to see my girl? I ain’t that dumb.
    You want to see
    my girl? Check Maxim.
    And ‘III. Telegraph Ave.‘: 
    Can we just roll with the feeling?
    Can we just roll for a minute?
    Choose a start to a question then vary the ending to have a hectoring, bold effect.
    nicki-minaj-whats-good_nu0iffukzj1qzwh14o1_500
  4. The Minaj: Go full meta and just announce what rhyming couplet you’re aiming for and hope the populous are happy to go along with it. See ‘Only‘:
    My man full, he just ate, I don’t duck nobody but tape
    Yeah, that was a set up for a punchline on duct tape
    She’s actually great at assonance (no pun intended), consonance and internal rhymes, but her ‘I’m going to include something about this because it rhymes with this’ speaks to what we all know poetry really is.
    kendrick
  5. The Kendrick: Mix every linguistic technique with extraordinary realism, conscience and a bit of free jazz and be king of everything.

Of course these clever souls use a vast array of techniques; I’ve just picked out a few that I think you should all try to employ in the rhymes (or poems or novels) you’re secretly writing in your bedrooms. You know who you are.

Are there any other rap or poetic techniques that are tickling your brainboxes at the moment? Share please!

 

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Endymion

I’ve been on holiday (sorry I haven’t posted in a while!) and I saw something that made me rather emotional: Keats’ first stanza of Endymion, in his own perfect, imperfect cursive, with crossed out lines and original insertions.

Endymion

A thing of beauty is a joy for ever: 
Its lovliness increases; it will never 
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep 
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep 
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing. 
Therefore, on every morrow, are we wreathing 
A flowery band to bind us to the earth, 
Spite of despondence, of the inhuman dearth 
Of noble natures, of the gloomy days, 
Of all the unhealthy and o’er-darkn’d ways 
Made for our searching: yes, in spite of all, 
Some shape of beauty moves away the pall 
From our dark spirits. Such the sun, the moon, 
Trees old and young, sprouting a shady boon 
For simple sheep; and such are daffodils 
With the green world they live in; and clear rills 
That for themselves a cooling covert make 
‘Gainst the hot season; the mid-forest brake, 
Rich with a sprinkling of fair musk-rose blooms: 
And such too is the grandeur of the dooms 
We have imagined for the mighty dead; 
An endless fountain of immortal drink, 
Pouring unto us from the heaven’s brink. 

It was a true thing of beauty.

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Sibilance

Sibilance is the recurrence of a hissing ‘s’ sound which can be effective in prose and poetry. It is sometimes referred to as sigmatism after the Greek letter sigma. Sibilance, as with all types of alliteration, draws emphasis where it is used. Note all the ‘s’ sounds in this extract from John Masefield’s Sea Fever:

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,

And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by;

And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,

And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking,

In this case, the sibilance gives a sense of flow, reflecting the movement of waves in the sea. It makes it very pleasing to read aloud – give it a try!

Shushing LibrarianSibilance is used commonly to draw people’s attention or admonish them (sssshhh!). Therefore, we know that it is an intense sound and can thus add this intensity to a piece of writing. A good example of this can be found in Bram Stoker’s Dracula: ‘The smell of sweetest victory swirled in his nostrils, overpowering the stale smell of battered bodies that lay underfoot.’ Here it also helps to highlight the contrast of the ‘stale’ and ‘sweet’ smells, using this phonological pattern to encourage the reader to associate the two descriptions.

Can you think of any other good examples of sibilance? Tell me in the comments!

Please do like and share if this has been an edifying read. Thank you!

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Poetry Postcards

Do you like poetry? Do you like getting postcards? I know I do! British Poet V.C Linde  is chopping up one of her excellent works and send it out, line by line, on interesting postcards, to be reassembled via picture uploads into a completely new work. I think it’s a really exciting project and I was thrilled to receive my postcard yesterday. The picture is Japanese writer, Ryunosuke Akutagawa.postcard

Would you like a poetry postcard? Here’s how it works (taken from here).

A brief rundown of how the poetry postcards project will work, step-by-step.

1. I have written a long (400 line) poem that has been broken down into 100 short poems.

2. These short poems have been typed up, printed out and stuck onto the front of beautiful postcards of writers.

3. I ask for one hundred addresses to send out these postcards to, the addresses can be a home address, work address, PO box or office – whatever is best and I promise that I am the only person to see the address and I will not keep records.

4. As soon as I get an address I pick a postcard at random (not in the original order written) and send it out. They then travel to whichever part of the world they are heading and arrive at your door.

5. You, the recipient, get a lovely postcard with a short poem pasted on the front.

6. You take a picture of the postcard, whichever part you like – but please if you are taking pictures of the back of the card take care to cover your address!

7. You upload the picture to the internet. It can be posted on Tumblr, Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook or emailed directly to me at poetrypostcards@gmail.com all I ask is that you check I can see it and reblog it here. 

8. You let me know that your picture is online (via any part of the internet) and I post your picture up on this Tumblr. 

9. In the end there will be a whole new poem online, all one hundred poems (hopefully) will be shown and will make a new poem!

Wherever you are in the world, send your address to poetrypostcards@gmail.com to receive a poetry postcard. What do you think of the idea?

 

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Why I love ‘He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven’

Happy World Poetry Day! To celebrate, I’d like to discuss one of my favourite poems.

He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven – W. B YeatsWorld Poetry Day

Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,

Enwrought with golden and silver light,

The blue and the dim and the dark cloths

Of night and light and the half-light,

I would spread the cloths under your feet:

But I, being poor, have only my dreams;

I have spread my dreams under your feet;

Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

The poem begins with stunning imagery: if he owned the most precious material imaginable, he would allow his love to walk upon it. Yeats uses the most exquisite symbolism to express the fragility and preciousness of dreams. Although the poem is essentially romantic, I believe it is applicable to any relationship where care and trust is needed. In touching first person, Yeats conveys the vulnerability of sharing one’s hopes, thoughts and aspirations. Second person is only introduced in the final lines with the warning imperative to ‘tread softly’, to be mindful of feelings.

I love its simplicity. Only one word has more than two syllables. The repeated words reinforce his theme. The whole poem could almost be told in those recurrent words: ‘cloths’, ‘light’, ‘dreams’, ‘feet’. The lyrical internal rhymes ‘night and light and the half-light’ are swept along with an insistent conjunction, ‘and’. Word choice throughout is precise: ‘Enwrought’ begins a line brilliantly. Poetic devices are used gently with great subtlety and skill. I like the way it starts with grand imagery and becomes more humble and personal.

To me, this is writing at its best: beautiful words, ordered with care to create a universal, timeless and moving poem.

What’s your favourite poem? Please tell me about it in the comments!

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Poetic Goodbyes

PoohpromiseIn Great Expectations, Dickens writes, ‘Life is made of ever so many partings welded together.’ Saying goodbye can be difficult, so, as is my default, I’m turning to literature and poetry to find the right words. 

Parting Advice

Max Ehrmann’s Desiderata provides lovely parting advice:

‘Go placidly amidst the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story…

…Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here….

With all its shams, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful.

Strive to be happy.’

Leaving on a Jet Plane

When a loved one flies off for a long trip, I always think of At the San Francisco Airport by Yvor Winters. Here’s the final stanza:

‘This is the terminal, the break.
Beyond this point, on lines of air,
You take the way that you must take;
And I remain in light and stare—
In light, and nothing else, awake.’

snoopybye

The Last Goodbye

Dylan Thomas powerfully expresses the emotions of loss in And Death Shall Have No Dominion where the title’s refrain has extraordinary rhetorical force. Also, Do Not Go Gentle into That Goodnight‘s desperate imperative deeply communicates the sadness and anger of impending death and the poet’s unreadiness to say goodbye. W.H Auden’s Funeral Blues is perfection in form, rhyme and sentiment. The world should not go on just the same after someone has been wrenched out of it prematurely:

‘The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun…’

I’m going to sign off with Alden Nowlan’s This is What I Wanted to Sign Off With. From the perspective of the unwell loved one at the end of life, it is simple, personal and lyrical: 

‘You know what I’m
like when I’m sick: I’d sooner
curse than cry. And people don’t often
know what they’re saying in the end.
Or I could die in my sleep.

So I’ll say it now. Here it is.
Don’t pay any attention
if I don’t get it right
when it is for real. Blame that
on terror and pain
or the stuff they’re shooting
into my veins. This is what I wanted to
sign off with. Bend
closer, listen, I love you.’

 

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