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The following is the Preface from my book, “A Poet’s Primer,” where I show would-be and current poets how to write utilizing new or classic poetic forms, such as English sonnets, haiku, kyrielles and almost 40 others. I also describe meter, rhyming and flow, as well as the importance of being poignant. At the bottom, I’ll leave a link to the book, in case you want to know more.


A Poet’s Primer- Preface

With rap, slam poetry and prose so popular these days, I set out to learn and master many of the oldest poetic forms that have been evolved through the centuries, some developed in or before the Middle Ages.  I learned some newer forms as well, and created my own format.

Forms can be based on a wide variety of patterns (or non-patterns), such as stanza and line counts, syllable counts, meter, rhyming scheme, theme and a “turn” or poignant finish.  The familiar haiku format of five, then seven, then five syllables in its three lines transcends meter and rhyme.  It requires a theme of nature or the seasons and may include a “cutting word,” which cuts the stream of thought during reading for any one of a variety of purposes.  An English sonnet, on the other hand, is fourteen lines, typically in three quatrains (four-line stanzas) and a couplet (two-line stanza), which uses classic meter and a strict rhyming pattern.  A sonnet sometimes employs an unexpected turn, called a “volta,” that may change the feel or even the theme of the poem, and the final couplet often serves to sum up the subject or purpose of the poem in two lines.

One can only master these forms by employing them, both with successes and failures guiding the education process.  I’ll steal a quote often used by Robert Keim, the inventor of the blitz poem.  He intimates that poet Theodore Roethke once said, “Sometimes an apparent constraint can serve to free the imagination.”  To be confined by a stringent format forces a writer to think outside of their normal vocabulary, past cliché or colloquialism, and in so doing, may find passion or poignancy where it may otherwise have been lacking.  Often the difficulty is in employing a format that guides the reader to your point without their noticing, that flows from the lips without struggle and in the case of rhyming work, that they are as natural in speech as any conversation would be.  If you accomplish these things with your poem, you have indeed mastered the form.

My readers, students, friends and family who follow my poetry often ask, “You know so many forms, how do you choose one?”  My answer is always, “It depends.”  Truthfully, form, meter and rhyme schemes all play a part in the feel of a poem.

Sometimes I decide I haven’t written with a certain form for a while, or need to create an example for an article.  I am an “ekphrastic” poet, meaning I derive inspiration from a visual art, namely my photographs, so I might start by looking through my photos to find something whose inspiration somewhat matches the feel of the form on which I’ve pre-decided. 

Sometimes it’s the opposite- I am already inspired and look through the various formats at my fingertips until, hopefully, I find the form that most closely fits.

Occasionally that means looking up new forms I’ve yet to try, though that number is shrinking.  If I have a lot to say, or am telling a story, I’m not going to select haiku, a sijo or another very short form.  If it is serious or deep, I might not want to pick a limerick style or Dr. Seuss-like rhyming format.   Even so, I might start with one form and discard it for another part-way through.

In this primer I will describe over forty formats and I’ll try to bring a little history or explanation to them when I’m able.  I will also include examples of each, nearly all of which will have come from my own hand.


For more information about how to write in poetic form:
https://www.amazon.com/Poets-Primer-Jack-Huber-ebook/dp/B0041KKKWI


See my author page on Amazon:
https://www.amazon.com/~/e/B003ZZYEF4

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