Friday, April 23, 2010

Patterns in Poetry! How I wrote This Poem—a Poetry Writing Workout

Happy Poetry Friday!  There's a poem for you at the end and a Writing Workout for you, too.  But before we begin, I want you to know that I'm still in the thick of the Poem-A-Day Challenge for Poetry Month. In fact, it's TAKEN OVER MY ENTIRE LIFE!...please don't click on this next link's poem is the same one I'm discussing in this post.  You've gotta read the story behind the poem first.  It's the law.  

And one more thing before we begin: Tricia has just posted an interview with me at her marvelous The Miss Rumphius Effect.

Come celebrate our blogiversary!   Enter to win a critique of your work, in honor of our blog’s first birthday! 
And please note: Your first entry must say how you follow us—via Google, Networked blogs, or email.  You must post a SEPARATE comment to get a second entry. This makes tracking entries much easier.   Entry deadline is 11 pm (CST) Tuesday, May 4, 2010.

Birthdays. Earth Day.  Poetry Month. Poetry Friday.  The world turns.  What was cloudy becomes clear.  The patterns in our lives rise to the surface.  We lean towards structure.  Forks, spoons and knives separated by dividers.  Children in a choir arranged by height.  Blouses at my local thrift store (yay, thrift stores!) arranged by color.

My mother could always count on me to put her pencils, rubber bands and paper clips in order.  All my marbles grouped themselves into marble villages.  The treasured plastic dinosaurs my sister and I got from a junk shop (all for a dime) quickly found their families.

And something beautiful happens in my brain when a word goes “click,” fitting into a poetic pattern.

There’s an elegant website called Patterns in Poetry researched, written and created by Constance Curran, of Cranberry Designs. I hope one day she’ll add more types of poetry.

So let’s play with patterns in poetry today, in honor of the patterns of our lives.  I’ll take you on the behind-the-scenes tour on how I wrote today’s poem.

I was thinking about how Earth Day and our Blogiversary were both on April 22nd.  I thought back to last year, how I almost told my potential blogmates, “Thank you for inviting me to join your blog, but I’m waaaay too busy to take on another project.”

I thought about the hands of five authors reaching out to me, all the way to the West Coast, and how for some reason I reached back.  THANK GOODNESS!  I wanted to catch that “thank goodness” feeling in a poem.

I began goofing off, thinking of trees and of leaping across the country, across cyberspace.  A first and then a second line came to me:

What does it mean to have made this leap?
To swing from tree to tree to you?

Suddenly I was in a jungle.  So I wrote (still playing, not sure where this was going):

To find, in the midst of the jungle a few
friends who are smart and kind and true?

I put them together:

What does it mean to have made this leap?
To swing from tree to tree to you?
To find, in the midst of the jungle a few
Friends who are smart and kind and true?

I saw the beginning of a pattern:What’s the pattern?  Can you see it, too?

The last three lines rhyme.  The first line doesn’t.  But it needed more.  So I decided to write a few four-line stanzas in which the first line of each stanza rhymes with the first line of the other stanzas, and in which the last three lines of each stanza rhyme with each other.

To put it another way, if each letter stands for a different end rhyme, my first stanza looked like is:

Or, to conserve space, A,B,B,B.  What would the next stanza be?  I decided it would be A,C,C,C.  And the next?  A, D,D,D.

Then I began scouring my rhyming dictionary for earthy words that had enough relevant rhymes to support this pattern.

Here’s my list.  Sorry it's so long...but I did promise a back-stage tour. You have a stage pass, might as well get the full tour!  (I’ve sorted them in alphabetical order because…oh!  I guess because I like patterns!)

Bird, heard, nerd, word, absurd, blackbird, songbird, hummingbird, overheard, blurred, purred, stirred,  
Blog, bog, slog, jog, dialogue, travelogue
Book, brook, look, took, shook, overlook,
Branch, blanch,
Creek, beak, peek, seek, week, critique, sneak, tweak, speak, tweet, cheek, meek, geek, weak, mystique, speak,
Deep, sweep, heap, cheep, sleep, reap, steep,
Dirt, alert, convert, divert, expert, insert, unhurt, blurt, assert, revert, introvert, extrovert,
Earth, birth, worth, unearth,
Fellow, hello, mellow,
Green, clean, keen, queen, scene, caffeine, sixteen, routine,
Grow, so, flow, glow, slow, so, ago, tiptoe, zero, volcano, studio, afterglow, bravissimo,

Leaf, …
Leap, deep, sleep, upkeep, reap, keep,

Learn, discern, earn, turn, concern, return,
Old, gold, enfold, bold, hold, retold, told, uphold, thousandfold,
Post, boast, west coast, most, almost, hitching post,
Readers, pleaders, feeder,
Sing, bing, wing, swing, anything, bring, spring, full swing, ring, thing,
Six, politics, mix,
Teacher, creature, preacher, feature,
Teaching, reaching, screeching, beseeching
Thrive, I’ve, hive, alive, arrive, survived, test-drive,
Tree, si, bee, free, gee, key, me, see, we, forsee, agree, esprit, community, disagree, history, courtesy, anthology,
Tweet, feet, seat, beat, sweet, athlete, bleat, complete, greet
Twig, big, sprig, gig, brillig, dig,
World, unfurled, twirled, pearl, girl,
Read, freed, lead, she’d, we’d, exceed, proceed, succeed, head, need, speed, bleed, plead, concede, misread, feed, greed, seed, weed, stampede,
Write, fright, might, night, quite, right, in spite, excite, goodnight, handwrite, polite, tonight, twilight, unite, parasite, oversight, watertight,

And then I chose my words and began to play.  Here’s the result:

by April Halprin Wayland

How does it feel to cross over this creek,
to fly from tree to tree to you?
To find, in the midst of the jungle a few
readers discerning, kind and true?

How does it feel, week after week,
to water a seed, now one year old?
To watch its young, green leaves unfold
as it gives me back a thousand fold?

I feel I’m Bird, just opening her beak,
at the top of a tree, on the first day of Spring,
easily found on Google or Bing,
joining five friends to Tweet, to sing!

© 2010 April Halprin Wayland. All rights reserved

                                                   WRITING WORKOUT

1) Brainstorm a topic.  You can search our posts for the word brainstorming. 

Here’s one: scroll down to the Writing Workout on Carmela’s post. 

2) Find a rhyming dictionary in the library or work with one online, such as RhymeZone.  Begin listing words that might fit your friend or your family or dog or whatever memory or dream you’ve decided to write about.

3) Now play with stanzas in this pattern:

(Ha ha. ADDD indeed!)

4) If you can’t fit your ideas into that pattern, look for a poem you like, figure out its pattern and imitate it.  Or create your own pattern. 

5) Play!  Remember to breathe!  And write with joy.
drawings © 2010 April Halprin Wayland. All rights reserved


Carmela Martino said...

April, thanks so much for this behind-the-scenes peek at how you wrote your poem. And I love everything about this poem, from the title, "Blog-i-verse-a-tree" :-), to the rhyme scheme, to the way it merges our blogiversary with Earth Day, to the terrific last line:
"joining five friends to Tweet, to sing!"
[And I'm SO GLAD you decided to join us a year ago!]
You've gotten my Poetry Friday to a lovely start. :-)

Ms. Yingling said...

April- I usually hate everybody else's poetry, but this-- not bad. Not bad at all. I have Girl Coming in for a Landing on reserve at the public library even though I usually REALLY hate novels in verse. I'm looking forward to it.

Looking for the Write Words said...


How very generous of you! I continue to be amazed by individuals like yourself. I love your poem and the behind the scene tour of your thinking process.

I am a rookie - having recently started dabbling into the blogging world. Started with Slice of Life at TwoWritingTeachers and along the way have met so many fabulous writers/teachers. Many thanks. You have already inspired me with fresh ideas. I will surely be sharing your work with my 4th graders.

Many thanks!!

April Halprin Wayland said...

Carmela, thank you! You are such a hero in my books~

Ms. Yingling, you crack me up! I'll hold my breath until I hear how reading Girl Coming in for a Landing is!

Theresa ~ Thank you so much...I'd love to hear how your 4th graders do!

Laura said...

Hi April,

What better way to celebrate your blogiversary than with such a clever poem! Congratulations!

Laura Evans
all things poetry

April Halprin Wayland said...

Thank you for stopping by to read it, Laura! xxx

Short Poems said...

Congratulations, April you have such a nice blog and really great poetry :)

hugs marinela x x

April Halprin Wayland said...

Thank you so much, Marinela!

Dianne said...

April - I loved reading about your way into this lovely poem. You make your process look so EASY, or, at least, accessible.
I know that finding the "right word in the right order" isn't always as simple a task as it might appear.

Thanks, also, for the link to Patterns in Poetry site.

April Halprin Wayland said...

Dianne, you know it isn't easy--oy! I look at the poems I've written for the Poem-a-Day Challenge and most of them were like squeezing blood from a stone...the good ones AND the crummy ones.

I just posted a three-line haiku for tomorrow. It took me three hours.

And yet...we all love this writing island, don't we? I wouldn't leave it for the world.

TinyReader said...

Thanks for a behind-the-scenes look at your process! Perfect for poetry month!

April Halprin Wayland said...

I love your profile pix, TinyReader!

janet wong said...

That is both a terrific poem and a terrific poetry lesson, April. This is the kind of lesson that will make kids LOVE poetry!

April Halprin Wayland said...

Thank you, Janet. This, coming from you, in particular is such a wonderful comment. :^}
Anyone reading this, go to