Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Unleash the Poet Within - Wendy Nyemaster

This book is an intriguing mix of self help and poetry manual. The tone of the book is relaxed, chatty and women centred. Each chapter takes the reader through a specific poetic form (eg the sonnet) or type (eg the letter poem) and suggests which form is best for writing about certain personal situations, giving examples written by the women in the author's writing circle and titles of examples by famous female poets that can be accessed online or from a library. The focus is on using poetry to explore personal issues and to allow writing to access emotions and discover solutions to personal problems. Form and craft are described in a simple (sometimes simplistic) and straightforward way that demistifies poetry and enables the reader to feel confident about starting to write. There are also nice lists of tips for each form, along with a selection of ideas around areas such as sharing poetry, how to make time to write and using poetry in journalling.

My problem with formal verse has always centred on why to use a particular form, I'm a prolific haiku writer because that is a form that suits my way of looking at the world and the things that inspire me, but I don't like to write, for example, a sonnet, just for the sake of it, I want to feel it's the right form for the thoughts I want to express. This book really helped me with its chapters outlining why each form suits particular situations, eg:

sonnet - working out emotions
sestina - making sense of memory
ghazal - allowing your mind to wander
haiku - living in the moment
villanelle - accessing your inner voice
ode - dwelling on what is good in your life

I know that each form suits other situations too, but this was really helpful in getting me to think about form and when I can use it. So in the next few weeks and months, watch out for posts here containing my first ghazals and sestinas!

The book is aimed at beginner poets and women interested in poetry as therapy. As the author says: 'I decided to write a book on poetical form because it is something I can wholeheartedly believe in and can provide personal testimony about. It can help women to live fuller, more in tune lives...' It's a book about allowing creativity to help you explore personal issues and though it is also useful for free verse writers who want to start exploring form, it is not a manual for the experienced poet who wants to develop skills in writing quality formal verse.

Unleash the Poem Within by Wendy Nyemaster, published by Source Books.


Unknown said...

Off-topic.... just wanted to stop by and thank you for your kind words in response to my haiku.

And I love your googlepages "intro to Juliet" page... might be working one of those up for myself, now!

Janice Thomson said...

I look forward to seeing your sestinas and ghazals!
Like you I write mostly haiku and tanka though I do have a large collection of sonnets too. I've never written a ghazal or a sestina.
Will have to look for that book - thanks for sharing this.

Anonymous said...

A great post! I've been writing a few triolets for ToP, but I'm not sure I like them. I tend to write frivolous or ironic verse when I write a triolet.

I've written a few sestinas that I like. They do tend to be philosophical.

I look forward to reading your new ventures into fresh forms.

Anonymous said...

That sounds very interesting. I mostly write limericks and haiku and I know I really ought to expand my poetic horizons. On the other hand I tend to avoid emotion in my poems and focus more on humor and irony. That's probably why so many of the forms you mention are scary to me.