Your words, your choice

Take a look over the notes that you wrote down in the previous Step. These words form the starting point for your poem, ‘The View from Here.’

Look

How would you describe those words?

  • Are they ordinary words – the kind of words that you might use in everyday speech?
  • Are there any unusual words – words that you don’t hear or use in conversation very often?
  • Have you used metaphors, similes or other tropes that stretch and bend the familiar meanings of words?
  • Have you ‘borrowed’ words – words from other languages, words that you’ve read or heard elsewhere, words that other people have spoken?

Don’t change anything in your notes at this point – just notice some of the qualities of the words that you’ve already written.

Listen

Now read your notes out loud, or get someone else to read them to you. Listen carefully to the rhythms that your words make as you read them.

  • Are there some phrases that sound heavier, or more drawn out, or lighter, or quicker than others?
  • Are there repeated sounds – for instance, have you used the same consonant or vowel sound a number of times?
  • Are there any words that rhyme (or half rhyme) with one another?

Again, don’t change what you’ve written: just be aware of some of the qualities of your words.

Feel

What do you like about the words that you’ve written?

  • Do they seem just right for the mood and the ideas that you want to express?
  • Do they call to mind people, things, emotions or experiences that are special to you?
  • Do the sounds and rhythms of the words suit the atmosphere that you want to create in your poem?

Change

Are there any words or phrases that you want to change, re-shape or develop in any way?

  • Maybe a particular word doesn’t quite fit with your poem’s mood or its rhythm.
  • Perhaps there’s a word or phrase that you want to move to alter the poem’s structure. Perhaps you want to add something in, or take something out.
  • Maybe you want to change the tense of your sentences, moving the action of the poem in the past, present or future.

You should pay attention even to the smallest words; articles like ‘a’ or ‘the’, conjunctions like ‘or’ and ‘and’, and prepositions like ‘for’ and ‘from’ can make a big difference to the overall effect of a poem.


Task

Take some time to experiment and play with different words and phrases. It’s important to remember that this is your poem. There’s no right or wrong way to write. You don’t have to understand or analyse the decisions that you make: as we’ve been saying throughout – trust your own judgement and your instincts.

In the next Step, you’ll hear from Kate and Rebecca discussing the choices that Kate has made to shape her poem, ‘Patagonia’.

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This article is from the free online course:

A-level Study Boost: Unseen Poetry and the Creative Process

University of Reading