Tuesday, April 26, 2011

COLUMNIST: Speaking of Words

Speaking of Words…

Ever received an original poem from someone? Didn’t it make you feel special? Even if you didn’t understand it, just the thought of someone taking time to mentally create something specifically for you made you feel awesome. And even if a “special someone” gave you poetry derived from one of the great poets of our day, you still felt this unique gesture meant a lot.

April is National Poetry Month. This month serves as the Mecca for poets to sling their tongue-tools called words with pride and privilege like no other time during the year. During this month, coffee houses, community centers, dinner spots, theater stages, bar lounges, street corners, and many other social spots are where wordsmiths lay it down for their public. Pregnant with thought and full of creativity, poets, spoken-word artists, or griots, whatever they choose to label themselves as, grab the power of words and spin their unique webs to spill out their thoughts, vision, and mission about various topics and life in general. And while words reek with power and direction, some poems are just to be read and heard for the purity of pleasure.
There are many different types of poetry as well as artists. Some people write with the precision of trained creative writing techniques, while others decide to be free with pen and prose taking “poetic license” to do it their way. Perception can take on many different meanings with the different ways of ideas displayed and presented by people who entertain through words. Words are used to provoke thought, change, and present opinions; incite knowledge; and excite emotions on all levels. These mental conditions change lives and the world.

With just the addition of music, words take on new form and life. Singing in different notes and styles bring words into a different atmosphere and can set the listener in the intended mood of the entertainer. How many times have the words to a song or poem stretched you from within and tears flowed? How many times have you watched a favorite movie where a particular passage always makes you smile or laugh out loud? Therefore, it’s a safe analogy to state that words make us humanly poetic in many forms and style. Our expressions and reactions are stimulated by the things we not only see but also hear.
As we read the thoughts and words from ancient times, the language is more likened to poetry than everyday language. But the dramatic mind-set and purpose of the writer made you envision the time, situation, and subject while you read. The tone made you ponder on the words in order to grasp the intended meaning. It is a lasting and powerful way, indeed, to fertilize and landscape the reader’s mind and thoughts about what mattered through the lenses of the writer. Therefore, the technique of words also project power.

Speaking of techniques, here are just a few that apply to poetry and substantially create their own unique formula of word play.

Perception Poems – Written in different voices

Concrete Poems – Use space; how the words are arranged on the page adds meaning to the poem

Acrostic Poems – The first letter of each line reads downward and creates a word, phrase, or sentence.

A Double Acrostic is when both the first and last letters in each line creates words, phrases, and sentences.

Alphabet Poems – The letters of the alphabet are used to create a pattern for words or lines in a poem.

Important Poems – Tell the significance of an object or feeling. Both the first and last line of the poem read the same.

Found Poems – Writing that was not intended as a poem but is combined in a new way to create a poem.

Calligram – Meaning: calli = beautiful, gramma = writing; calligrams are poems written in a shape that represents the meaning or an important object in the poem.

Couplet – pair of lines in poetry, usually rhymed

Spoonerism – The swapping of the initial sounds of two words to create two different words.
Limerick – Five-line poem; lines 1, 2, and 5 rhyme and have 3 beats. Lines 2 and 3 rhyme and have 2 beats.

Free – Poems not written in any particular format. May or may not rhyme. It is more about sharing emotions than following any particular pattern.

Here’s a poem written by me. This type of poem is called a Double Rondeau. Have some fun with this poem:

• 1. read this poem from the bottom up
• 2. now read every other line from bottom to top
• 3. and every other line top to bottom


Dear Miss Annie Mae is missed
She’s buried with a teacup from which she drunk
It’s the only thing of hers that still exists
The late Miss Annie Mae’s old trunk
It contains a romantic letter or two
Her relatives ache to search it through
It’s definitely the last of its kind around
Clamped shut and starting to rust
The keys were lost and never found
Locked for years and covered with dust
From photos to awards and other glories
Its contents are full of many stories
Trimmed in shades of yellow and blues
Its insides are also crushed velvet padded
Filled with old costumes and antique shoes
It’s hid from all in the upstairs attic
Her name’s painted in red, I hear, I’m told
With big dents and its middle sunk
It’s cedar inside and very old
Dear Miss Annie Mae’s old trunk

Now here’s another type of poem by me – free verse with an occasional rhyme.


His existence was as tiny as my knowledge of him
back then
when it was the beginning.
I had just learned I was in love with someone I couldn’t even see,
someone so very much a part of me.
As time passed and my body spoke visions of another
I grew also.
Manifested to my heart were feelings so foreign that grew stronger every day
and that still sway my being.
Someone was changing me,
changing my life,
all the while he didn’t even know it.
At dusk on a Sunday past dinner at 5:21 p.m. we finally met.
Thank God too,
this unfamiliar battle had rumbled us all day.
My prince’s skin tone was a Nubian hue of perfect.
Happiness became the new color of my eyes.
Pain and pleasure lived through me,
had threw me
into a new life
the welcoming of my firstborn.
On that eve I too was born again
And yes, I had shouted halleluiah
and a few other things.
My mind would now be thinking for two.
My heart rejoiced for one more than myself.
My steps would now dictate either victory or treachery for us both,
and from the look in his tiny eyes he approved of my presence too.
What a gift from above
my firstborn
this tiny love.
Eventually his conversation turned from gurgles to words and laughter and then laughter through words until we made up our own language.
His appearance manifested as a newborn, toddler, boy, young man, teenage adolescent, grown man still approving of me. Needing me, and I he.
He’s a true king
and our bond still reigns.
My firstborn.
My first true heartbeat.
My gift from God.
My friend.
My son.
I’m glad you’re the one.

See how much fun you can have with words? Now, take some time and create your own poems. Start with a thought, memory, person, or place and let your fingers flow across the page. Don’t worry about whether or not it rhymes; just make sure it expresses your thoughts. Will you share it with others or just add it to your other memoirs of life? That decision is totally up to you. Just remember, when you share your words, you share your way of looking at the world. Words have power; therefore, so do you.

I’d love to hear your responses or read some of your poetry.

Pens up! to speaking words the write way.

Rachel Berry has been gifted by our Creator to be many things; on the list of these blessings are daughter, caregiver, wife, mother, grandmother, sister, best friend, aunt, published author & poet, motivational speaker, radio talk-show host, mentor, columnist, and community leader.

Berry is proudly promoting her latest book, A Slip In The Right Direction, part one of a YA series.

To arrange speaking engagements, e-mail her at admin@blackpearlsunited.org.

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