HOW TO WRITE A POEM – Chips Mackellar
The first task is to plan what you want to say.
For example, suppose you wanted to decide if your old uncle is too old to do something. Would he be too old because he has grey hair? No, because lots of people have grey hair and can do things. What about if he has bad teeth? No, because lots of people have bad teeth but can still do things. So what would make him too old? Well he would be too old if he thought he could do something then found that he was too old to do it.
So you could put your plan into verse, like this:
He’s not too old when his hair turns grey,
He’s not too old when his teeth decay.
But he’s well on his way to his last long sleep,
When his mind makes a date which his body can’t keep.
The essence of a good poem is if its end of lines rhyme, and the lines which rhyme have the same number of syllables. So, analyse the poem, to see if it rhymes, and count the number of syllables per line.
Line Number the syllables per line
- He’s / not/ too/ old/ when / his / hair/ turns/ grey.
- 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 total: 9
- He’s / not / too/ old / when / his/ teeth / de/
- 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 total; 9
- But / he’s / well / on / his / way / to / his / last / long / sleep,
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 total: 11
- When / his / mind / makes / a / date / which / his / body/ can’t/ keep
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11. total: 11
So you can see that the end of lines 1 and 2 rhyme (grey with decay) and the end of lines 3 and 4 rhyme (sleep with keep) and the rhyming lines have the same number of syllables.
In this example each word has only one syllable except in Line 2 where “decay” has two syllables thus: “de / cay.”
Easy. Isn’t it?
Chips Mackellar enjoys writing poetry and has volunteered to help Papua New Guinean who wish to improve their poetry.
[ Note: The poem here is an old maxim of uncertain origin, used here as an example of how to turn prose into poetry]
Poems from Emily that Chips made some suggestions to and as requested by Emily. (Emily’s original unedited poems have been entered in Crocodile Prize 2016).
GLAMOUROUSLY COLOURFUL 1.
Wings so big and feathers so bright,
With plumes outstretched to my delight,
King of birds and colourful too,
Glamourous and bold, we all love you.
Papua New Guinea’s symbolic device,
Our beautiful Bird of Paradise.
STAR SO BRIGHT 2.
Grant me my wish oh star so bright,
In peace and harmony tonight,
That I may not perish in thy sight,
But live and flourish with delight.
A LOVER’S WISH 3.
If our moon should ever fade away,
And the sun dies out and dark our day,
I wish our love be bold and grand,
And linger long in another land,
And never ever fail or stall,
Even if the stars should fall.