Maybe you know I have been learning more about writing via Open Universities and studying at Curtin Uni (which is in my former stomping ground of WA)?
Well I am and I love it. I must sound like an advertisement for Open Universities, but the truth is I am just so keen to talk about the positive powers of learning new things.
I am studying a poetry unit at the moment, because I find poetry really tricky and I really wanted to learn much, much more about it. I’m 2/3 of the way through this unit and I am slowly, slowly getting a grasp on how poems work and where the words fit and how they sound too.
Because I have been sharing a lot about the things I am doing and feeling, I thought I would share A POEM WITH YOU. It makes me feel very weird to do this. Even more weird than talking about depression and anxiety, for some reason. But I think it’s good to push through weird feelings sometimes and this poem is about standing in the middle of a hard time and believing you can emerge.
Not only does this seem bolstering for times like these, but also maybe it will spark some feelings about learning new things in you, too. I highly recommend it if you are feeling a bit overwhelmed by the current crisis and weighed down by so much sad news.
I thought I would share not only the poem, but the ‘writer’s reflection’ that student poets have to provide to explain their poem, how it came to be, the challenges that arose, its influences etc. I am not very good at the reflection part yet, because it’s a type of writing I am still learning about. But I am hoping to get better! Truth be told I am not sure I am that great at the poem part yet either! But I am going to keep learning more and I think I WILL get better.
If none of this is interesting to you, that is SO FINE. Skip away, little bird and come back another time. I respect that!
If you are still here, here is my poem and following it … the writer’s reflection. It was written for an assessment task, and I am not sure how I will go, but I am sure I will learn more about poems from the feedback I get!
She’s awake in the dark,
as day breaks
like smelling salts.
Sliding one gloved hand
to the middle
where slick planks splice
of dancing water.
and grapple, ancient
briny branches hung
with a watchful
She cranes her neck
over the rope,
edging close to
the glittering ripples
And here is the reflection. Don’t laugh!!! I am just a beginner!!!
This poem was reworked from a Week 6 activity that asked students to write a poem “using end-line words that begin with each consecutive letter” of the alphabet.
I wrote a poem based on my experience of watching for platypuses from a Yarra River bridge. This ritual was always a helpful and hopeful one for me, the tonic of the natural world particularly bolstering during a challenging and transformative time. I was keen to capture this in a poem.
I rewrote the poem carefully for this assessment, concentrating more keenly on the sensory components of the platypus search to create atmosphere, and on using the platypus as a symbol of independence.
I aimed to craft a scene which was both very public and very private, reflecting the duality of the platypus, its head above water, then below. I hoped to convey a sense of being alone yet centre stage — in the middle — preparing for the next act. The platypus seeker’s own duality.
As the work developed, I realised I could use the dawn chorus as an anchor for some reinforcing performative imagery, including the explicit ‘dancing’ as well as the word ‘crane’ (substituted from stretched), alluding to the crane’s dancing symbolism and connecting back to the avian chorus.
Workshopping highlighted some weaknesses including a trite final line (‘those magical things’) and a lack of vulnerability. I reworked the poem making it more personal and removing ‘lazy’ word choices. I added gloved hands to represent a hidden nature, easily exposed.
I played with active words to instil momentum and make the poem fun to read aloud. I incorporated alliteration and consonance to interconnect lines and stanzas. I chose words like hung, rope, neck to contrast with glittering, precious, breathe representing a rebirth after darkness.
I struggled with poetic line, punctuation and capitalisation in my previous works. Further course reading helped me to better understand the power of these poetic elements and I worked to use them more effectively in this poem.
The stream of consciousness writing of Virginia Woolf in Mrs Dalloway has inspired more ‘tumbling’ writing about the natural world. Walt Whitman’s A Noiseless Patient Spider influenced some of this poem’s rhythm and repetition. Emily Dickinson’s puzzle-style works inspired a less literal approach in this poem particularly Tell all the truth but tell it slant.
I realise that much of myself is represented in both the platypus and woman, a duality which felt as transformative-ly helpful and hopeful as the initial platypus treasure hunts.
Are you interested in learning something new? Do you know much about poetry?