One of the things that I’ve been trying really hard to work on lately has been to write more. Writing is a major part of who I am, and who I want to be. I keep telling myself I want to write fiction, and I am, but I’ve also been writing a lot of poetry lately…
Unrhyming, seemingly free-form poetry. It lacks meter and rhyme and has no discernible format.
Or at least that is how it must seem to a neurotypical person.
When I read it to myself, I hear it sing. I feel the lilt of the syllables and the pacing of the words as they roll around my tongue and into the air. It’s slight, but there is some sort of form to it, and usually it can be found in the alliteration.
As an English teacher, I’ve found that I greatly dislike teaching most forms of poetry. I imagine it has to do with my place on the spectrum, and my inability to think figuratively in some instances. Obviously I do well enough because I can write poetry as well as read most forms of it.
But there are different types of poetry and I find myself very picky about which ones I like and which ones I detest.
I like the very sensory poetry; the kind that is filled with imagery invoking all five senses. That poetry appeals to my literally minded Aspie self. It gives me an image in my head or a taste on my tongue, something that I can really sink my teeth into, metaphorically speaking. It has substance, and I enjoy writing that sort of thing as well.
And I think I do rather well with it, though some may disagree.
I asked a coworker (one who is somewhat lauded as our resident poet) to read my work and she told me that I was much too literal and needed to add a layer of subtext, though she liked the imagery. She said I hit the reader over the head with the images.
But the images are part of what makes poetry work for me.
Oddly enough, it was one of my more popular poems that she was telling me was… not awful, but she wasn’t exactly impressed.
Meanwhile, I detest rhyming poetry. I think it’s difficult to write and it never sounds natural. I suppose I have the same argument about musical theater: normal people do not talk or act like that. Just like people don’t randomly burst into song, neither do they randomly begin rhyming their sentences in some form of iambic pentameter.
It’s probably why I feel that Shakespeare isn’t as great as the rest of the world thinks he is. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a literary genius! But for the sake of all that’s Holy, do we have to teach him every freaking year?!
The rhyme bothers me. The meter bothers me. It feels heavy and forced. Writing it takes an ungodly long amount of time, and even then my rhyme is usually almost undetectable.
So then, what do I write?
I like to think that the poetry I write follows more of an ancient format. I feel that my poetry is somewhat alliterative.
Like Viking poetry.
There’s a pattern to the letter sounds, repeating certain sounds in a specific span of time. It’s not always the same sound or even the same exact pattern. It seems almost to depend on the letter repeated, and the emotion behind it, but I can sense it, feel it, and if it’s good to my ear, I’ll reread my own poetry 6 or 7 times before I post it, and then another 6 or 7 times after I post it. And sometimes, randomly, days later, I’ll read it another ten or twelve times, just to make sure it still sounds like music.
For those of you doubting my Aspie-ness, that should put some of the argument to rest.
One of my favorite examples of that is the one written at the suggestion of the last Tinderfella, the one from out of town who has for over a week now been totally radio silent. I think it’s safe to say he’s gone…
But I did get something worthwhile from him before he left. I had asked him for a topic, expecting an emotion, such as love or hate or even sleepiness. Instead, he told me to write about the forest. I happened to have my windows open, and this has been a particularly interesting time in my life where I’ve been questioning the direction of my life, and thus this poem was born:
There are some notable moments of alliteration in it. The opening stanza repeats the “w” and “th” sounds using mostly mono syllabic words, and to my ear I hear it like the crashing of waves on a shore, or wind whipping through trees:
The wind wanders through the trees
like waves crashing upon the shore
of my heart.
I hear everything up until crashing ebb and flow, like waves, and then the hard “c” followed by the “sh” does sound like a crash. I’d never particularly thought of that word being an example of onomatopoeia, but there it seems to be.
There are other examples of alliteration in my poetry. I don’t believe it happens frequently enough to call it “alliterative verse,” although the fact that such a thing exists makes me happy.
Alliterative Verse is that aforementioned style of the Norse people, as seen in Beowulf.
- Each line is divided into 4 hard syllables, you can have more syllables, but only 4 of them are stressed.
- Those 4 syllables are divided in the middle, so you have a set of 2 and 2.
- Then the stressed syllables have a similar sound. Particularly the beginning syllable of each pair.
- Sometimes the second syllable of a pair matches the first. Usually leaving 3 alliterative syllables and 1 that doesn’t match.
If we look at my example, I don’t keep the same number of syllables, but look at the first two lines. “wind” and “wanders” match, almost as if they were a pair, with the rest of the sentence being softer sounds… except trees (it’s not an exact science here, folks). Then the next line has “waves” and “crashing” for the second pair.
As I read it, the word trees almost acts as the caesura, the hard pause between the pairs, to show the definite separation, to establish the alliterative “rhyme” scheme.
I don’t do it because I’m forcibly trying to follow that format. I do it because it sounds better to my ear. To me, that form is more beautiful than a true rhyme, or the meter of Shakespeare… And you’ll find that the truly important images in my poetry will have alliteration to make it sing when I read it to myself.
So don’t be afraid to play with styles and formats. Write for you, because if you like it, surely someone else will, too.
Try it out. Try writing a sentence with at least 3 repeated letter sounds Use the image below for inspiration, and then add your alliterative verse in the comments below. Or tweet it to me: #JustAddTea
I’ll start us off:
Winding round and round, wearily I walk,
Whispering to myself of the wonders I have witnessed…