Friday, June 19, 2020

Trying Something New: Syllable-Square IN ONE WORD Poem

Happy Poetry Friday! I share a link to this week's round-up at the end of this post, below the poem I wrote using a new form invented by my brilliant co-blogger, April Halprin Wayland! But first, I want to share another in our series of GRAB 'N GO WRITING EXERCISES.

When I first became interested in writing for young readers (many years ago!), I took a continuing education class on the topic at our local community college. I'd fallen in love with the picture books I was reading my young son and wanted to write some myself. I spent the first five weeks of the class working only on picture books. Then, as one of our last assignments, the instructor asked us to write in a different form or genre. I ended up writing the first chapter of a young adult novel. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed that assignment. I went on to finish a complete draft of the novel and applied to Vermont College MFA program with the intention of revising the novel for publication. That particular novel ended up in a drawer, but writing it helped me discover my novelist's voice and eventually led to the publication of my two novels.

So I want to give you the same exercise today: Try Something New! Write in a different form or genre than you're used to. If you're a picture book writer, perhaps try a short story or a chapter of a novel. If you're a novelist, you could try a picture book. But if that doesn't sound fun, then perhaps try a short story, or a different genre of novel. For example, if you typically write realistic, contemporary stories, you could try fantasy or historical. Whatever you decide, I'd love if you'd report back here on how the experience was for you.

My poem today is also the result of trying something new. April kicked off this series of GRAB 'N GO WRITING EXERCISES by introducing the IN ONE WORD poetry form she invented. Well, my poem today is in that form. As it happens, my current work-in-progress is a collection of poems in a variety of forms with connections to math. For example, I've written several Syllable- Square poems, where the number of syllables per line equals the number of lines. I first learned of this form from JoAnne Growney's Intersections–Poetry with Mathematics website. One of my favorite Syllable-Square poems is Growney's 5x5 "Counting the Women."

For today's poem, I decided to use April's IN ONE WORD form to write a Syllable-Square. For this form, you choose a core word, and then each line of the poem must end with words made from the letters in the core word. I chose the word MATHEMATICS as my core word. According to the Wordmaker website, you can make 420 different words from the letters in MATHEMATICS! That was rather overwhelming. So I started to choose words from the list that most appealed to me. The word mismatch ended up being the key that unlocked the poem for me. I've included a bit more of the poem's backstory (as April calls it) below. I also share a great poetry writing app I recently discovered.

The poem's backstory: After writing the first line, poetry and math, I new my poem would be a 5x5 Syllable-Square. I played around until I had a decent first draft I liked, then shared it with my dear April, who gave me some helpful suggestions. As I revised, I realized I wanted to make the poem more "mathy" by including words with math connotations. That's when it occurred to me to incorporate perfect (as in perfect numbers) and powerful (as in raising to a power). I initially hyphenated power-ful to make the connection clearer, but decided the line looked cleaner without the hyphen. In case any of you aren't familiar with the term, the last word, STEAM, is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics. Finally, I wanted a title that also consisted of 5 syllables, to match the lines of the poem. I couldn't think of anything clever so I initially used the first line "Poetry and Math." But then I realized that the poem was the result of "Trying Something New," which happens to have five syllables! 😊 I'd love to know what you all think of the end result. In particular, would you hyphenate powerful?

Now for the poetry-writing resource I mentioned: Not long ago, I discovered a phone app with tools that help with poetry and songwriting: Lyric Notepad. It's available for both Android and iPhone. One of its great features is the line syllable counter--it's caught my counting errors numerous times. The app also highlights words that rhyme, though the "near rhyme" function doesn't work that well, in my opinion. If you use it, just be careful to save your work elsewhere, too. I've lost revisions to poems even after I've "saved" them in the app.

For more poetry, be sure to check out today's Poetry Friday round-up by Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect. And if you'd like to see videos of STEAM poetry, be sure to visit the STEAM Powered Poetry site.

Posted by Carmela


Fran Haley said...

I've just become aware of the one-word poetry springboard - and now, the Syllable Square. Such an inviting creative challenge - I must give it a try. "Trying something new," indeed! Thank you for sharing your process and discoveries - creative journeys are endlessly fascinating.

Fran Haley

Carmela Martino said...

Thanks for stopping by, Fran. Let us know if you try it.

Linda B said...

I loved April's One Word idea, Carmela & did try it. I guess it's time to work on another, too, & perhaps now with your Syllable Square. I enjoyed hearing about your writing & the challenge. I plan to take a July break, so perhaps will give another genre a go then. Thanks for so many good resources today!

Carmela Martino said...

Hi Linda, so glad to know you tried April's form too. Enjoy your break! And let me know if you write a Syllable-Square!

Bridget Magee said...

So much good stuff in this post! I am excited to try April's IN ONE WORD form and I will definitely download that app before I try the Syllable-Square. Yes, mismatch was the perfect word for your Trying Something New poem. Yay, now I will try something new - thanks for the inspiration! :)

Carmela Martino said...

Bridget, I'm smiling at the thought that I've inspired you! :-) You're most welcome.

Janice Scully said...

Hi Carmela! I also attended Vermont College and while I was there experiments a great deal with different genres. I guess I'm grateful that my time there taught me to experiment and introduced me to poetry. I like your Syllable-Square poem. Just a thought: You could title it "Math and poetry" and the first line would reinforce that idea. I don't think you need to hyphenate the word powerful. What a fun form! I have to try it.

April Halprin Wayland said...

Carmela ~

Thanks for the shout-out--I'm blushing!

I love the idea of mixing poetry and math. I always learn something new from you--I've just downloaded the Lyric Notebook app and can't wait to try it out.

I like your makes me want to read the poem to find out more. And I don't think you need the hyphen either.

Can't wait for more of your poetry!

Margaret Simon said...

I've loved mixing poetry and math and have taught my students about fib and Zeno poetry forms. Now the syllable square is another one to use to mix up language with math. I love the double use of words like power and perfect. But I appreciate you pointing them out because my math skills are not all that great. Thanks!

Carmela Martino said...

Janice, Thanks for the title suggestion--good idea! Let me know if you try the form.
Thanks, April, for the encouragement.
Margaret, I've had fun with fibs but haven't tried a Zeno yet. I'll have to add it to the list!