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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Paterika Hengreaves Speaks Out

The traditionalist, modernist and post-modernist poets have their particular approaches for creating poetry. There is a vast amount of variations in poetic genres for poetry connoisseurs as well as for those who simply like to read poetry.

Poets from the traditional school believe in structures. Their poems have predetermined meter, rhymes and stanzas.

Modernist poets adhere lukewarmly to poetic structures. This position of theirs allows them to write poems with variable meter, rhymes and stanzas. Their artistic creations are known as Blank Form poetry. In this genre, the poems are written without rhymes but they retain a set metrical pattern, usually in iambic pentameter in English Verse.

Post-modernist poets write in Open Form. This genre allows them to write poems in Free Verse. Hence, their creations do not use established patterns of meter, rhymes and stanzas. The rhyming techniques in their creations are derived from the repetition of words, phrases, or grammatical structures, the layout of words on the page, or by some other means.

What's up with the Iambic Pentameter?

The iambic pentameter in English Verse is the most common. I find it quite fascinating to write my poems with verses in iambic pentameter in English Verse. You know, the iambic (u/) pentameter refers to a verse consisting of five iambic feet. This is among the most common metrical forms of English poetry. It consists of an unstressed (u) syllable and a stressed (/) syllable. In the word, "attack" the first syllable is unstressed and the last syllable is stressed. Hence, it has one iamb so it measures one iambic foot. There are two classifications for the iambic pentameter verse. We have got the standard iambic pentameter verse and the non-standard iambic pentameter verse. In standard iambic pentameter verses each verse must begin with an iamb. Seldom do I write standard iambic pentameter poems. My forte lies with non-standard iambic pentameter poems. Take for example, if you analyze my poem, "Musing in the Blooming Forest" as found in my poetry book, "Poetry for all Seasons: Poems, Forms and Styles" you will readily see that not all the verses begin with an iamb even though all the verses rightly measure five feet. What we do have in this scenario then, are non-standard iambic pentameter verses. If all the verses in this exemplar were iambs then the poems would have be crafted with standard iambic pentameter verses. It is okay though, to have variations in iambic pentameter verses. As prosody would have it, it is not uncommon for poets to vary their iambic pentameter, while maintaining the iamb as the dominant foot. The second foot is almost always an iamb. The first foot is the one most likely to change by the use of the inversion technique. This is to counteract the metronomic effect by substituting for an iamb another type of foot whose stress is different. So it is not unusual to see any of these (trochee, spondee, dactyl, anapaest or pyrrhic) appearing in non-standard iambic pentameter verses. My next article will focus on these other foot types.

Another common departure from the standard iambic pentameter is the addition of a final unstressed syllable. This therefore, creates a feminine ending or what is referred to as a weak ending. This too, I will explore in the near future with you.

Where do I fit in as a Poet?

Some how, I find that labels tend to box people in. But if you do something consistently so then what do you expect but to be labeled. If the label is good, then wear it with pride that does not label it as a copy.

Do I write my poetry from the heart?

The other day I was asked this question. Now I share with you my thoughts having said "Absolutely not" in my answer but of course with good reasons.
I think that to write poetry from the 'heart' is dangerous and irresponsible on the part of the indulger. Why would you want to spill your unedited guts to john public. Isn't there enough pollution in the world as of now? Add to that, the dangerous times that we live in. How dare me to put out my raw emotions in the public forum. What irresponsible behaviour would I be sending to impressionable minds? One's actions must be for the greater good not to add chaos or confusion to a world already tainted with too much turmoil. When you write from the heart emotions are never edited you just let it flow out unrehearsed, your rage, your joy and the inspiration of the moment. You don't have a draft, the first utterance is the poem from the heart. If any changes are made to that first utterance then you have crossed the line into the realm of the mind. You tell me that spontaneity is not suppressed when writing poetry from the heart. Please, listen to yourself and weigh the consequences as the next step. Now you have for sure dug yourself into an abyss without realizing what could be the consequences whenever the tide changes. As a poet writing from the heart how will you keep up with this roller coaster of emotions so characteristic of humans and how will such emotional outbursts sustain your audience with your blatant neediness. Believe me, pretty soon your audience will get wind of this type of egotistic behaviour and run for the hills. No one is eager to cling to a narcissist. Why for the life of me, would any poet put a shelf-life on his or her creations carved exclusively from raw emotions? It beats me!

I'm not one of those poets who write poetry from the heart. I do acknowledge that my poetic expressions come from heart-felt emotional moments with their concomitant inspirations. These initial encounters are raw emotions sometimes dwelling on love, rage, joy, loss, pain, suffering that tend to suck me in. Then I vent my pent up emotions in a way for my audience to understand without arrogance but with humility by putting the mind to work on the poetic by-product. Take for an example, the Presidential elections in the United States of America, for me that provided the fuel for all kinds of emotional outburst as I read and listened to people who spoke in support of their political affiliations, and be inspired by it all. Do you know how I felt to witness a black man and black like me to be the first from my race to become POTUS-elect of a great nation? Were I to write my raw feelings of this historical magnitude no doubt, would bring up hurt feelings of the past and by extension alienate those folks who would most likely be offended? What would be the point of it all? As President Barack-elect has said, (not in these exact words, but the gist is there) we bury the past and move forward to greater and better things in store. Yes, as a poet, the moment must be captured poetically too, but with the mind playing the key role when capturing the moment poetically. This is the wise thing to do for the mind which is more powerful than emotional outburst which gushes out like the steam from a kettle but will surely dissipate to make room for the next emotional upheaval.

Yes, indeed there is without doubt that the birth of poetry starts with the heart and its emotions inspire the poetry. However, the morphing of these inspired emotions into poetry must come from working the mind. The mind provides the organizational tools needed in order to mesh the emotions and the inspiration into a product called poetry. As the emotions are poured from the heart they begin to play second fiddle to the mind. The mind then rebrands these emotions into measured doses around a framework that is either structured poetry or unstructured poetry. The mind transforms these emotions in proper under- and outer-garments for the various seasons and with appropriate or matching accessories by evoking the tools found in poetry. Hence, each poem is created. In a nutshell, that's the process I use when writing my poetry from the heart, soul and mind. Remind me to talk about the tools of poetry sometime soon.

So what kind of Poet am I?

My position on this is that, no I'm not a poet who writes from the heart. I use my mind to guide my heart. That said, I'm indeed a poet who writes from the mind. However, with deep understanding that the heart and soul provide the inspiration of the moments for me to write poetry, but the mind takes over. Therefore, much consideration is given with the expressed intend on creating verses worthy of showing great beauty with emotional sincerity or intensity or profound insight. My poems go through many drafts before the final draft is ready to be printed or shared. This process that I apply when writing my poetry negates any assertion that I write poetry from the heart. My best poetry comes when I have managed to overcome the antithesis between raw feelings of the heart and the frustrating mental process of turning that into something beautiful and meaningful. Poetry is impossible without the heart-felt emotions, for that is where one derives one's inspiration, but poetry requires the mind.

©Paterika Hengreaves

Marja said...
Hi Paterika I am very impressed by your knowledge understanding and professionalism in writing poetry.
It surely shines through in your poems.
I am possibly guilty of many points as how not to do it in my attempts to write a poem. I have zero background or knowledge in this area and english is my second language.
For me it is just fun but
I will never call myself a poet and so I hope you don't mind my play.
I am however honered I know one and I love to read your work.

2:39 PM
Ruahines said...
Kia ora Paterika,
What a wonderful essay, so rich with knowledge, understanding, process, and truth. I so appreciate your place and your poems, and now your words in opening up this world to me.
Like Marja, I too play at poetry without understanding what it is I am doing, and coming here helps me to understand that process.
I tingled reading your words about the heart, and it makes me glow that in my own way I approach it like you describe. When in the mountains I am always struck by something in Nature that leaves a feeling in my soul, and maybe a line in my head. I will jot down a note, and work it through many times before I feel I can enjoy and maybe even share. A process I never realized I was undertaking.
Paterika, kia ora for all your beauty and wisdom. Have a lovely day.

1:13 PM
Marja said...
Hi paterika Thank you so much for your nice comments. It make me feel so good that I had to wipe a tear.
Yes Mayke is doing very well. She was a very quiet girl in primary school and had therefore lots of social problems, including bullying. My doctor recommended to sent her to young writers, a two hour writing school on Saturday, so she could express herself. There were all gifted kids and Mayke wasn't that good so I was a bit worried but she learned well along the way and now she gets all excellences at school for poetry and creative writing

Again thanks and bless you, Marja

1:09 PM
Marja said...
sorry one more time but I got a well deserved award for you

12:42 PM
PATERIKA HENGREAVES, Poet Laureate said...
Thank you very much Marja. I'll be right over. Ka Kite ano.


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