Everyone can Write Poems: A Reflection

-Gopal Prasad Bashyal
When students are inspired to write, they can produce texts beyond expectation. They need motivation and scaffolding – qualities which foster the scope of imagination and develop characteristics of an honest writer. As the metal-worker transfers the iron into desired tools with fire, anvil and hammer, a writer uses his intellect, imagination, passion, vocation and energy for the perpetual refinement of unformed mass of words to the expression of harmonious fusion of dispersed thoughts, feelings and emotions. “Writers are born and made” (Morley, 2010, p.1). I learnt this during facilitation of one day workshop on creative writing for Bachelor level students organized by NELTA Palpa last month.
The workshop started with introduction. I’m Gopal from Nepal. After two minutes’ thinking, I’m Ravi, studying is my hobby, a student said. Likewise I’m Jyoti, I like wearing dhoti. All 40 participants, including 7 teachers, produced two lines rhyming with their first name. This sounds a very simple exercise that made everyone happy as they developed a little hope to write poems. First, I discussed a few opinions of great poets. For example, “Linguistic creativity is not simply a property of exceptional people, but the exceptional property of all people.” – Ron Carter’s statement encouraged all the participants to take part in the workshop optimistically. Second, the differences between expository writing and creative writing helped them to understand writing much clearly. Expository writing is instrumental, factual, externally controlled, full of conventions, logical, analytical, impersonal and concerned with intellect whereas creative writing is aesthetic, imaginative, internally guided by stretched rules, intuitive, associative, personal, full of multiple meanings and concerned with both intellect and senses. Third linguistic devices like i. Simile, metaphor, ii. Personification, iii. Alliteration, assonance, iv. Rhyme and rhythm, v. Parallelism, vi. Repetition, vii. Unusual collocation and viii. Striking word choices were discussed. Mostly, students were introduced sample poems and linguistic and literary features used in them were analyzed with examples. A few sample exercises are discussed below.
i. How creative are you? I’m creative. The students are given objects like stone, wooden piece, piece of paper, stalk etc. They think how many ways they can use the object for and write. They do it in a minute. One who finds more uses is more creative. One student found 13 uses of stone. Though this is not competition, not the IQ test either, it helps them think from different perspectives.
ii. Haiku: This is a three line poem. It contains five syllables, seven syllables and five syllables in the first, the second and the third line respectively. For practice, the first two lines are given by the teacher and the third line is completed by the students. Gradually, they make second line and the complete haiku and haikus. For example: Waiting in the darkness An aged blind man sitting To marry the moon (Gopal)
iii. Parallel poems: The teacher gives a model poem and the students write another poem in similar form/structure but with different tone or on different topics or themes. The themes can be marriage, love, study, education, job or position, workplace etc. I gave a model poem on marriage with negative tone and asked the students to write with positive tone.
Sample poem
Marriage A mistake Everything went wrong Too late Now.
Students’ poems
Marriage A life Everything with joy Too fantastic Now. (Nabin)
Marriage A gift Bond to make life Memory Now. (Sadiksha)
Marriage A journey Towards happiness A suspense Now. (Shanti)
Marriage A dream Of happy life With wife But children Now. (Sangeeta)
Marriage A drama Everyone enjoys Each other Now. (Ranju)
Marriage Hope Love wins Both lose Children win Now. (Bishnu)
Marriage A journey To continue generations Too short Now. (Gopal)
iv. Diamond poem: The name is given after its shape. This is a five line poem. The first line contains the title of the poem. The second line has two adjectives which define the noun in the title line. The third line contains three gerunds which describe the manner or behaviour and the fourth line is a clause and the line has a word that is synonym or antonym or describing the topic word with an effective punch.
Teacher grey, bald-headed striking, striving, smiling enhances humanity for the better world a Creator. (Gopal)
Friend courageous, helpful sharing, pairing, visiting loves studying English Co-worker. (Prakash)
Mother affectionate, compassionate bearing, caring, rearing devotes life to others Selfless (Bikram)
Husband lovely, kind helping, working, understanding looks always beautiful Doubtful (Indira)
Teacher intelligent, dutiful controlling, inspiring wonderful educational job a Tutor (Dam)
v. Metaphor poem: This has three major steps which are as below.
a. First two columns of words are given. For example: hope a spoon life a knife marriage an egg love a brush anger a widow disappointment a mirror work a plate happiness a rope work a plate time a wheel b. Match. For example: life – a mirror, marriage – a knife.
c. Then add clause. For example: Life is a mirror you can reflect on. Marriage is a knife that cuts your singleness. Hope is a spoon that feeds us to survive. Anger is the knife that cuts our life. Happiness is an egg that broods new one. Hate is a knife that cuts relations. Marriage is the wheel that helps to continue generations. Work is a cup that serves life. Love is a wheel that runs life. Time is a wheel that keeps moving. Love is a rope that ties relations. Disappointment is a knife that cuts hope. Life is a mirror that grows through experience. (Contributors: Ravi, Sangita, Durga, Shanti, Nabin, Sadiksha, Dam, Kaushila, Bigyan, Indira, Biju, Ashish)
vi. Hello poem: Each line starts with a hello phrase and ends with a goodbye phrase. These two phrases contain opposite ideas. For example: Hello holiday, goodbye school. Hello girlfriend, goodbye wife. Hello cigarette, goodbye life. Hello mobile, goodbye landline. Hello pop song, goodbye folk song. (Contributors: Subash, Asmita, Pim, Prakash Chandra, Shrawan, Bhima, Gita)
Reflection: During the workshop the students enjoyed reciting their creative works. They were striving hard to find appropriate and new words. Though sometimes many of them wrote poems with tragic note, their willingness to follow the given structure was really exciting. They have problems in selection of appropriate words and fulfill ambition of making a complex sentence. They realised that complex writing is not creative writing. Creative writing flows freely without any extra ornamentation. If the words are put into proper structure, they can convey message effectively. Commonly used words if used at proper place according to the pattern set for particular design can express feelings well. Moreover, the structured use of language helps to convey feelings full. Likewise the students learn to use the language skills appropriately. They recall vocabulary, deliberately violate rules but in rules and these exercises develop confidence in using language. The workshop was thus concluded with the message that everyone can write poems.
Bashyal, G. P. (2011). ELT handbook. Palpa: Jaya Prakashan.
Marley, A. Mukundan, J. and Rai, V. S. (2009). Life in Words and Words in Life. Kathmandu: Bhudipuran Pubications.
Morley, D. (2010). Creative Writing. New Delhi: Cambridge University Press.

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