Poetry Club – Monday 23rd March

For our first poetry club I’m going to introduce two different types of poem. The subject for your poem should be somebody you really care about, such as a grand-parent, a great-grandparent, or maybe an elderly neighbour who might be feeling quite lonely or anxious during this period of self-isolation.

The first style is a ‘metaphorical ode’. The second option will look at some of the Japanese poetry styles using a set number of syllables, such as Haiku or Tanka poems.

You could write a poem on you own, or with your brother or sister, or with a little help from your parents. I’d love to read through your poems, so please send me a copy via e-mail to head@skyswood.herts.sch.uk. When we get back to school we’ll make sure that everyone who joins our Skyswood Poetry Club has at least one of their poems published in a special Skyswood Anthology. If you join our Poetry Club it is totally voluntary, it doesn’t mean you have to write a poem every week, but just write one when you feel like it. Hopefully, one or two of the ideas will inspire you and I’m sure your poems will have the potential to make somebody’s day!

Okay, let’s start with metaphorical odes. An ‘ode’ is a special type of poem that celebrates somebody or something that we really love. To plan your metaphorical ode, start off by thinking of a special hobby or talent that you would associate with the person you’re writing about. I’ve written three examples for you to look at. The first example is for a granny with a passion for Formula 1, the second is a grand-dad who loves baking, and the third is based on my next door neighbour when I was growing up, who loved nothing more than simply spending time in her garden.

So you need to think of metaphors. This is a ‘poetic comparison’. Metaphors are similar to similes, but similes say you are ‘like something’ whilst metaphors say that you are something.

Imagine that granny loved painting. A metaphor might be ‘The brightest hue in my palette’ whereas a simile would be ‘You are like the brightest hue in my palette.’

Imagine that grand-dad loved astronomy. A metaphor might be ‘A twinkling star on a deep, velvety blanket.’ A simile would be ‘You are like a twinkling star on a deep, velvety blanket.’ Okay, I think you’ve now got the idea if you didn’t already know!

The structure of the metaphorical odes is to start off with a few well-chosen metaphors that illustrate great things connected to the chosen hobby or passion. Then you could add in a couple of lines that follow the words ‘Without you…’ These would then be the things that could go horribly wrong with the hobby. eg Granny who loves painting. (Without you… the paints would smudge, the colours would run, my clay would explode!) or for astronomy-loving grand-dad (Without you… the meteors would collide, the stars would fall from the heavens, a permanent eclipse).  You then finish off your poem with a couple of uplifting lines. Start with a line such as ‘But when you’re around’… or ‘When I see you’… or ‘When I am with you’… and then return to some really positive metaphors and this will round your poem off. If you read the three example poems that should give you a clear idea of the structure;

Granny.

To me, you are always at the front of the grid,

The perfect gear change,

The immaculate pit-stop,

The chequered flag!

Without you…

The race would simply not continue,

But when I’m with you

I’m on top of the podium

And ready to pop the cork!

Grand-dad

You are the jam in my doughnut,

The caramel on my slice,

The cream in my éclair.

When you are with me

The muffins will rise to perfection,

Meringues will sparkle

And flap-jacks will shine.

Without you…

The souffles would fall flat,

The buns would be ‘hot,’ ‘cross,’ and burnt!

My whole mixture would turn sour.

But when you’re around

You’re the icing on my cake

And everything is sweet!

Mrs Spendlove

You are the very first snowdrops of spring,

A carpet of bluebells in a sun-lit wood,

A prize-winning rose,

A sweet-scented lavender a-buzz with the bees.

Without you,

The roses would shrivel,

The tulips would wilt

And the sun would hide behind the clouds.

But when you appear,

The sunflower rises to record heights,

The buttercups light up the fields,

And everything blossoms once again!

Now for the second option – Haiku poems, or other forms of Japanese syllabic poetry. The Haiku is the most common form of syllabic poem. It consists of three lines. The first line is FIVE syllables in length, the second line is made up of SEVEN syllables, and the third line is FIVE syllables. Haikus are therefore very short poems so the top tips are to select your words carefully and count your syllables out for each line! Here’s a Haiku poem entitled ‘Grand-dad.’

Grand-dad

Head in newspaper

Figuring out the crossword

Loves his anagrams!

And one for Granny:

Granny

Warm Granny smiles,

As she passes round the muffins,

And pours out the tea.

It might be worth a brief explanation about the syllabic structure of a haiku if you sent one to a grand-parent. You could expand the poem if you wish. By adding two additional 7-syllable lines you could create a tanka, which has five lines and the pattern of 5-7-5-7-7 syllables. So, for example, I could easily turn my Grand-dad poem into a tanka.

Grand-dad

Head in newspaper

Figuring out the crossword

Loves his anagrams

Baffled by seven across

But refuses to give up!

There are other syllabic structures in Japanese poetry. A katanta is a poem with three lines and the syllable structure 5-7-7. A sedoka is like a double-katanta (it has six lines and a 5-7-7-5-7-7 structure. Choka (long poem) has nine lines (a good one for a rainy day!) The choka structure is 5-7-5-7-5-7-5,7,7. It’s interesting that all of these variations are made up with lines of either 5 or 7 syllables. I’ll finish off with a poem known as a Bussokusekika (good luck pronouncing that one!) This is also known as the ‘Buddha Footprint’ poem. It has six lines and a syllabic structure of 5-7-5-7-7-7. This is based on my own grand-dad, and some fond memories:

Grand-dad

Veteran of war

A champion of crown bowls

As wise as an owl

A passion for fruit polos

Loved his pet budgerigar

And his favourite armchair.

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