Poetry Challenge Monthly Prompt and Poetry Writing Tips

 

The A and I Poetry Writing Challenge has been running for several months and our poetic community grows each month. (Click Here for a sample)

Those who have never taken up the pen before, are writing fantastic poems. I can’t wait to read what you come up with this month.

 

Find instructions for joining in HERE


June Prompt

Write a poem about something small that is only 5 lines long. Write the same poem again and try to use concrete words.

Discuss which version you like best and why.

The prompt is merely a suggestion if you need help getting started with ideas.

You may of course, write about whatever you choose and still tag our A and I Poetry Challenge so that other readers can find your poetry post.

Read my Submission below, but first some Poetry Writing Tips:


Here are some tip on writing with concrete words:

Poetry Writing Tips:

One of the biggest problems with any language is the inherent ambiguity in an abstract word. It’s meaning isn’t perfectly clear, and you have to interpret it. This becomes really evident if you read different translations of the same texts. And with room for interpretation comes room for misunderstanding [Source: http://www.lookscloudy.com/2011/07/communicating-better-concrete-and-abstract/%5D

Use Concrete Words Instead of Abstract Words.

Concrete words describe things that people experience with their senses.

  • orange
  • warm
  • cat

A person can see orange, feel warm, or hear a cat.

Poets use concrete words help the reader get a “picture” of what the poem is talking about. When the reader has a “picture” of what the poem is talking about, he/she can better understand what the poet is talking about.

Abstract words refer to concepts or feelings.

  • liberty
  • happy
  • love

“Liberty” is a concept, “happy” is a feeling, and no one can agree on whether “love” is a feeling, a concept or an action.

A person can’t see, touch, or taste any of these things. As a result, when used in poetry, these words might simply fly over the reader’s head, without triggering any sensory response. Further, “liberty,” “happy,” and “love” can mean different things to different people. Therefore, if the poet uses such a word, the reader may take a different meaning from it than the poet intended.

“Concrete” means something you can experience with your senses: you can see, smell, hear, taste, or touch it. “Abstract” describes an idea, thought, or feeling–something you can’t use your five senses to describe.

Change Abstract Words Into Concrete Words

Example: “She felt happy.”

This line uses the abstract word “happy.” To improve this line, change the abstract word to a concrete image. One way to achieve this is to think of an object or a scene that evokes feelings of happiness to represent the happy feeling.

Improvement: “Her smile spread like red tint on ripening tomatoes.”


schnauzer

Here is my Poetry submission for the June prompt:

Coming Home

Rebel by name but not by nature

Your wagging tail defines your demeanour

Smiling, happy, so warm on my feet,

Fur so soft that is hard to beat

Best friends in love through thick and thin

and now for the rewrite aiming for more concrete words:

schnauzer

Coming Home

Rebel only by name but not by nature –

Excited barking shared, tail a fluffy whip rhythmically brushing the air;

Infectious smile in eyes and nose, a welcome contagion with all those

velvet soft caresses on my cheek. Now a furry, warm slipper on my tired feet.

Accepting my failings, giving me company and her special brand of Rebel love.

I must admit that the second version paints a better picture for the reader.

I wasn’t happy with the final line but could not come up with an alternative today. Perhaps I will rewrite this poem again.


Here is some more tips on Using Concrete Words:

Concrete words are always stronger than abstract words in writing. You could stand on a soapbox in the park and say: “I hate all injustice! It’s wrong! We must end it!”

Or you could get on that soapbox and say: “Bullies stink! All bullies should be forced to eat headlice!” Which do you think will make people stop and listen? Which will make them yawn? [https://amymacdonald.com/educators/concrete-instead-of-abstract/]

The key to writing great poetry is to write focused, concrete poetry. But many beginning poets write poetry based around wide themes such as love, life, and anger, generalizing their writing. By using strong language, active verbs instead of passive verbs and concrete language instead of abstract, you can capture a reader’s interest and captivate a reader’s imagination. Poetry, as something others read, should be at its best interactive, and at its worse, straight forward and clear.

The reader has a difficult time relating to poetry that is generalized, vague, or otherwise abstract. Having the reader relate to the work is an important aspect of poetry, and to help the reader you must paint your meaning in clear images and words. When you begin a poem, ask yourself what you want to say and how you want to say it. If you want to write about life, what about life do you want to write about?

Are you angry at something and want to vent?

What are you angry at?

Don’t say the whole world. Pick a person or situation that you dislike and focus on that. By personalizing your poetry, you remove the vague generalities included in many abstract themes.

Name that name. Don’t just say birds, but tell the reader what kind of birds. Are they cardinals, swallows, or canaries?

Use more specific language: people, places, numbers, dates, and details. Be wary of particularly ambiguous terms.

Many people overuse some really meaningless abstract words. “Inexpensive” “reliable” and “fast” are three of the worst. The more specific the details, the more engaged the listener or reader must be in order to follow along, yet simultaneously the message becomes more clear.

Instructions for Joining in with the A and I Poetry Challenge can be found HERE

Don’t forget to link back to this post, on your own poetry submission post, by linking this url to the words A and I Poetry Challenge so Ineke, Amanda and others can find your post.

Have fun!

~ Amanda and Ineke


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39 thoughts on “Poetry Challenge Monthly Prompt and Poetry Writing Tips

  1. This is excellent advice, Before this challenge, I was never really interested in reading poetry. I think the reason for that lies in the fact that, half the time, I found it very difficult to understand what the poet was trying to convey. Let’s just say it like it is: poetry made me feel stupid. Now, I am trying to read as much as possible but I am still a bit wary of commenting on other writer’s poems, because I may be missing the “deeper meaning”. Concrete words and statements work for me. Thank you for this. I can feel the appreciation and love you feel for your dog in both versions of your poem, but I agree that the second one has more clarity.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, Hester. I quite understand your confusion in regard to some poems. I get confused too. And sometimes the poems are subject to individual interpretations which greatly affects the meaning. I seem to have done a better job of concrete words in the second poem as you got the message I was conveying. Have fun with the challenge this month!!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Ineke. It is harder to achieve the same flow when you use more descriptive and concrete language. Still the meaning is most important.

      Like

    1. Two wonderful poems that Tafazul has written! You definitely took on board the tips from this month. Very well done! Love the metaphors you used!

      Like

  2. Thank you for explaining the difference between concrete and abstract words. It’s only 7am, and I’ve learnt my something new for today. I can see the difference that using concrete words to any writing will make.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Really enjoyed this post and liked your example – oh and in your rewrite – I liked that last line a lot – the three parts to the single line had depth and revealed much about the relationship and togetherness – and woof to the cute dog!

    The lesson here is rich and what a resource to have online- loved it even tho I disagreed with this a tiny bit :
    “and at its worse, straight forward and clear”
    — because that is quite subjective,eh? And like the difference between an ikea desk and Baroque one – the poem offers much variety and sometimes the direct and clear are refreshing like minimal furniture can be for the right spot –
    And then too many concrete words can sometimes feel dense or overdone – not here – but depends – and the good news is that there is room for all
    But getting specific is the key and as you noted – it has more weight and makes the prose say more – or can –

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, Yvette for a wonderful comment. You are right! That comment of mine is terribly subtractive. The reader’s reaction could vary enormously! I also like that you summarized the difference between concrete and abstract. As in one blogger’s entry for this month’s challenge, it is clear that concentrating on adding too many concrete words, sometimes makes a poem weighty and clunky. So, a blend of both keeps that little bit of mystery whilst still being specific enough to give colour and context to the poem!!
      You gathered that my dog/s mean so much to me. They always give my life colour!! Do you have any pets?

      Liked by 2 people

    2. Thanks for the nice reply my friend – and subtractive was not a word I felt at all – but wonderful in the sense of provoking thoughts – As usual and in a good way over here, Amanda.
      And my spouse and I have had two sets of labs together – been together a long time and our last pup – the second black lab – passed on this spring – but it was expected (he was old and had ailments and actually thought he would pass in 2017 but he trucked on).
      And I could feel the slikiness of your dog’s hair –
      Ahhhh- and how their fur might feel brushing up on a foot and so thru all of this I feel your overall goal was reached– to use poetry to connect and share and feel.

      And funny how our blogs come into our life – i was reading some poems right after blog time and your post was all fresh in my mind and I knew I had to come back and share the poems with you – or part of them.
      They are older works from old books 📖 (my mom is here in town and we hit up my favorite used book store and I sometimes collect rare books – even tho I tend to pass them on to the right owner) I got a special book on laughter and two with poems)
      And so a few of the details stood out –
      In a way that was spelendid – and this is very sincere – I feel as if I appreciated the poems more as if this post primed me for them!
      First one is a snippet from Mary O’Neil (1961):
      “Orange is a happy day
      Saying good-bye
      In a sunset
      That shocks the sky”
      ((The shock word tugged))
      And this second snippet is from Julia Kasdorf (1991):
      “Would you approve of my wearing your gloves
      to do garden work – the navy wool ones

      with leather palms? How well they grasp whatever
      is left of my life that you would accept: the worn handle of this rake, the work
      that must get done under a gray sky
      In cold wind, the first week of the year.”

      I will maybe post them later this month and come back to let you know – good stuff and Cheers for poetry ((and blog friends)

      Liked by 2 people

    3. Oh that is so lovely to think that my words may have helped you ponder more deeply those poet’s words!
      When I read Mary O Neil’s poem, I could visualize a deep orange glow in the sky, and sometimes that orange is a shocking colour – and sunsets can be shockingly beautiful! I wonder also if the poem related to the historic events, of that era, in some way. When I think of that time, a lot of orange comes to mind! Various Krishna cults, flower power, orange mini skirts and psychedelic art? Or did it refer more to nature for you?
      And the second poem is also wonderful. A message from someone who is missing a departed/separated partner, seeking approval or some response perhaps? It has a melancholy feel, but is very personal, using, as it does, those concrete describing words: gloves and hanging on to remnants of the personal values, life and memories of the reader. Wonderful poems! Speaking of the departed, It is awfully hard to say goodbye to older dogs isn’t it? They form a bond that penetrates the deepest recesses of one’s soul! And they stay there, long after they are gone. Dogs are so very special in this way! I felt you were a dog person!!!
      It is comforting to know that we can connect to other bloggers. as you mentioned, through using poetry to connect and share and feel.
      I look forward to reading them on a future blog post!

      Liked by 2 people

    4. Hi- well the O’Neil poem was from a children’s book and most of it is rather simple (I promise to post about it) and it was all about color and just light and well done.
      and yes, the dogs are part of the family and ahhh – so glad to have had them (both sets) but we are not getting any more pets for a long time.

      Liked by 2 people

    5. I am sorry to hear that you won’t be getting any more pets. Perhaps at some stage in the future? I feel like I would find life a little duller and sadder without a schnauzer by my side!

      Liked by 1 person

    6. yes, I do feel part of the dullness you mention – but it is okay right now.
      And maybe in many years to come we will get pets – but after two sets – there are tradeoffs.
      Like we just spent an extra night somewhere and did not have dog cares –
      but miss the life force they bring
      🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I like both versions. The second gave us a fuller examination of the background to the event, and the reader is better placed to put themselves in your shoes. Music can transcend cultures, languages and disabilities! It is a wonderful thing. Your concise version communicates the feeling well!

      Liked by 1 person

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