Arthur Conan Doyle

arthur conan doyle
Arthur Conan Doyle

When we think of writers of the 19th century, one that stands out in our mind has to be the legendary Arthur Conan Doyle, author of Sherlock Homes.

Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle was born on the 22nd May 1859, in Edinburgh, Scotland.  His parents were Charles Altamont Doyle and Mary Foley.  Doyle more than likely got his talent for writing from his mother, for she was noted for her story telling.

Aged just nine, he was sent off to a Jesuit boarding school in England.  Where he found he was good at cricket, and had a talent much like his mother as a; story teller.

In 1876, aged seventeen he graduated ready to face what the world would throw at him.  His first task was to co-sign the papers, which would see his father committed to a lunatic asylum, for he was seriously demented.

Arthur was influenced by the family lodger at that time; Dr. Bryan Charles Weller.  So Arthur Doyle followed in his footsteps, by training to become a doctor at Edinburgh University.

As a young medical student he met Robert Louis Stevenson, who was also studying at the university.  One man who left a lasting impression upon him, was Dr. Joseph Bell one of his teachers.  For he was a master of observation, logic, deduction and diagnosis, all the qualities found in a good writer, which would be used in the character of Sherlock Holmes.

Chambers Journal an Edinburgh based magazine, accepted his first short-story “The Mystery of Sasassa Valley.”  His second attempt was “The American Tale” which was published in the London Society magazine.  He soon learnt one could be paid for good fictional stories.

At the age of twenty, Doyle took a break from his studies and joined a whaling ship as ship’s surgeon, as it travelled to the Arctic Circle.  The adventure of whaling and camaraderie on board fascinated the young medical student, for his soul had been awakened and parts are found within his chilling tale; “Captain of the Pole-Star.”

Doyle returned to his studies in the autumn of 1880, and a year later graduated with a “Bachelor of Medicine” and “Master of Surgery” degree.  He drew a sketch of himself receiving his diploma, with a witty caption; “Licensed to Kill.”

His first job as a fully qualified doctor was as a Medical Officer onboard the Mayumba, working between England and Africa.  He came to hate Africa compared with the love of the Arctic.  He resigned his position when they returned home.

Upon arriving back in England, worked at a Plymouth doctor’s practice, which he described to, be rather dubious in its workings.  It was not until forty years later, that the events of those times were published as part of “The Stark Munro Letters.”

With bankruptcy looming just around the corner, he took the brave decision to leave Plymouth and open his own practice in Portsmouth.  The early years were hard, but by year three his hard work and dedication was showing a reasonable income, and in August 1885 he married Louisa Hawkins.

In March of 1886 he started writing the novel which was to catapult him to fame.  Originally titled “A Tanged Skein” but by the time of its release had been given a new title “A Study in Scarlet” and so Sherlock Homes and Dr.Watson were to become household names.

His second novel “Micah Clark” was well received, but did not get the notable fame he had so wanted.  His third novel “The Mystery of Cloomber” showed a different side to Doyle’s writing.  For on one hand, he is capable of writing with pure logic and deduction, and on the other hand he enters the world of paranormal and spiritualism.

His life was to change in so many ways, when he met with Joseph Marshall Stoddart, publisher of Lippincott’s Monthly magazine in Philadelphia and Oscar Wilde at the Langham Hotel in London.

He received a commission to write a short novel for Lippincott’s magazine, which was published in 1890 in England and the United States simultaneously.  “The Sign of Four” established Conan Doyle and his character Sherlock Homes as a serious fictional writer.

Doyle was restless for on one hand, he had achieved a profitable medical practice, and been accepted by his readers and the publishing fraternity as a serious writer.  Life improved further when his daughter was born; Mary Conan Doyle.

He travelled to Vienna to specialise in Ophthalmology, but following a visit to Paris where he experienced language issues, returned home and opened a new practice in London’s Upper Wimpoole Street.  It was to prove a disaster as not a single patient crossed the threshold.

His days of working as a doctor were slowly fading, giving way to the calling of an author, and in summer of 1891 he ceased being a doctor, to concentrate his time on writing.

Conan Doyle was represented by A.P.Watt and it was he who struck a deal with Strand Magazine to publish the Sherlock Holmes stories.  Sidney Paget the illustrator created the image of Holmes, and was instrumental in making the author, the magazine and artist; world famous.

In 1892, his wife gave birth to their son; Kingsley Doyle.

Whilst in Switzerland, Doyle found the place where Sherlock Holmes and his arch enemy Professor Moriarty would plunge to their deaths; The Reichenbach Falls.  The Final Problem was published in December 1893.

In the latter years of the 19th century his wife Louisa was diagnosed with Tuberculosis, with only months to live.  He continued his writing and cared for her, determined to keep her alive into the new century.

Doyle declared to the public his interest in Spiritualism and the occult by joining the Society for Psychical Research.  Then in September 1894, sailed to New York to give thirty lectures and arrived back in England by Christmas to see his new series “The Brigadier Gerard” stories published in the Strand Magazine.  They were an instant success with the readers.

In the winter of 1896, travelled to Egypt hoping the warmer climate would assist his wife’s health.  Whilst there he created the idea; “The Tragedy of the Korosko.”

Conan Doyle cared for his wife Louisa dearly, the mother of his two children and is said to have remained faithful whilst she lived.  Yet he fell in love with Jean Leckie in March of 1897, when she was twenty-four.  An intellectual woman, interested in sports and a mezzo-soprano singer with family ties to the legendary Scottish hero; Rob Roy.

It was about this time he wrote the play based on Sherlock Holmes, revised for the purpose by American actor, William Gillette, and the play became a success in America and England.

With the outbreak of the Boer War, Doyle volunteered for active service, but was turned down as a soldier but accepted as a doctor.  In February 1900, Doyle was not fighting bullets, but typhoid.

On his return he entered the world of politics, running for a seat in Central Edinburgh, one which he lost.  He did try again in 1906 London, and lost once again.

In August 1901 he released the first episode of his novel; “The Hound of the Baskervilles” in the Strand Magazine, which was to delight his fans and became a worldwide hit, as it still is to this day.

1902 was a great day for Arthur Conan Doyle, for he was knighted by King Edward VII for his services during the Boer War.

1903, the Strand magazine published, “The Return of Sherlock Holmes.”

On the 4th July 1906, his beloved wife Louisa and mother to his two children died in his arms.  He slipped into a state of depression which continued for many months.  A little over a year later on the 18th September 1907, Conan Doyle and Jean Leckie were married, and moved to Windlesham in East Sussex with his children

His literary works faded slightly as he shared his wife’s pursuits.  Produced a few plays, “Brigadier Gerard, The Tragedy of the Korosko” and “The House of Temperley” none of which fared well.

His next play was more captivating, for it featured Sherlock Holmes.  Original title was The “Stonor Case” and later named as “The Speckled Band” received rave reviews and was a success at the box office.

His son Denis Doyle (1909), Adrian Doyle (1910) and Jean Doyle (1912) were born to his wife Jean.

His new character Professor Challenger in “The Lost World” which involved a group stranded in South America whilst discovering prehistoric animal and plant life.  It was extended and became a set of five novels, which was noted as one of his masterpieces.

“The Valley of Fear” a Sherlock Holmes novel, was serialised in 1914 in the Strand magazine.  It was to disappoint some of its readers as Sherlock Holmes was not present much of the time.

In May of 1914 Sir Arthur and Lady Conan Doyle visited New York and Canada returning to England within the month, for Conan sensed war was coming, and wanted to be back on home soil.  He was right and as World War One broke out he enlisted, but aged fifty-five he was turned down for active service. In the latter part of 1914, he released the novel “His Last Bow” a tale of intrigue where his famous character Sherlock Holmes steps in and infiltrates a German spy-ring and goes on to expose and destroy it.

In 1916, whilst writing “The British Campaign in France and Flanders” he was granted permission to view the battle fronts first-hand.  The horrors he witnessed would live with him for the rest of his life; blood soaked remains of fallen soldiers, lay in their thousands upon the battle fields.

The savagery of war left its mark with Doyle:

On the 28th October 1918 his son Kingsley Doyle died from pneumonia during convalescence after being badly wounded during the Battle of the Somme in 1916.  His brother Brigadier-General Innes Doyle died, from pneumonia in February in 1919.

Conan Doyle’s character of Sherlock Holmes, also carried through to Doyle himself.  Maybe that is why he rose up in defence of Sir Roger Casement, accused of being a traitor.  He proved without doubt a case of insanity which almost saved his life.  However his case failed on discovery of homosexuality which was classed as a criminal offence at that time.

Doyle switched direction in his latter years, to that of Science Fiction and Spiritualism.  As his involvement deepened in the occult, little fiction was written for he concentrated more on the subject of Spiritualism.

Then in 1926 released “The Land of Mist, The Disintegration Machine” and “When the World Screamed” a set of Professor Challenger mysteries

In 1928 he compiled twelve stories about Sherlock Holmes adventures which became known as “The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes.”

Autumn 1929 and Conan Doyle was diagnosed as suffering with Angina Pectoris.  Then on a cold day in 1930, he rose from his bed at the family home; Windlesham Manor, Crowborough, East Sussex and was discovered in the garden clutching his heart and holding a single white snowdrop.

Arthur Conan Doyle died on Monday 7th July 1930 in the presence of his family, aged seventy-one.  His final words aimed at his wife were: You are wonderful.  He was buried on the 11th July 1930 in “Windlesham Rose Garden”

We have lived for many years, with Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories of the great detective SHERLOCK HOLMES, whether it be in book form or on television.

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1843 Poet Laureate: William Wordsworth

William Wordsworth - Wikipedia
William Wordsworth (1770-1850)

William Wordsworth, the son of an attorney, was born on the 7th April 1770 at Cockermouth in Cumbria.  His early life was cut short; for his mother died in 1778, and his father shortly afterwards in 1783.

Wordsworth was educated at Hawkshead Grammar School in the Lake District, where he showed a keen interest in the works of John Milton (1608-1674), and then onto St.John’s College, Cambridge.  It was here his political side emerged, and he became an early supporter of the French Revolution.

In 1790, Wordsworth went on a walking holiday to France, who would have believed, the effect it would have on him, and he returned there in November 1791.  For he wanted to improve his knowledge of France, and its language.

Whilst there, he had an affair with Annette Vallon, which resulted in an illegitimate daughter: Ann Caroline, born in December 1792.

The French Revolution had moved into a period of bloodshed, and Wordsworth was ever so involved.  Had it not been for his cautious uncles, stopping his allowance, which compelled him, to return home, which no doubtedly saved his life, the outcome could have been far worse.

In 1793, Wordsworth was forced to leave France and his loved one: Annette Vallon and his daughter.

The separation for him was painful, and left him with a sense of poetic guilt, and resulted in an important theme in his work, to that of abandoned women.  He wrote the poem; “Guilt and Sorrow” which revealed that he still had strong views on social justice.

In 1796, Wordsworth set up home at Alfoxden in Somerset, with his sister Dorothy.

It was in 1798, that William Wordsworth and Samuel Coleridge published the “Lyrical Ballads” book, which contained “Tintern Abbey.”  Described by Wordsworth as a successful blending of inner and outer experience, of sense, perception, feeling and thought.  A poem with imaginative thoughts about man and the universe.  Along with the acclaimed poem the “Ancient Mariner” by Coleridge.

In 1799 William and his sister Dorothy moved to Grassmere in the Lake District.

It was in 1802, William married Mary Hutchinson, but what should have been a time of happiness for William, saw much sadness and pain over the next five years.  Two of his children died, his brother drowned at sea, and his sister Dorothy had a mental breakdown.

In 1807, he published the poem “Ode to Duty” based on his brother’s death.  At the same time, “Resolution and Independence” along with “Intimations of Immorality” were also published, which brought out Lord Byron on the attack against his work.  However, he was popular with most critics.

At the time of writing “Lyrical Ballads” he eagerly wanted to push the boundaries of his work experiences within a philosophical lyrical manner, to include abstract impersonal speculation.

In the summer of 1802, Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy went to Calais, renewing his contact with France.  This confirmed his disappointment of the outcome of the French Revolution.  The realities of life were in stark contradiction to his visionary expectations of his youth.

Wordsworth’s friend Coleridge, had slipped deeper into his dependency upon Opium, which would see their friendship slipping further and further apart in the coming years.

In 1802, Wordsworth took a new direction.  He wrote poems on England and Scotland, with delight and solace, and France was symbols of oppression.

Wordsworth shared thoughts, that personal experience is the only way to gain knowledge, as detailed in the poem: “The Prelude” completed in May 1805.

In 1813, Wordsworth was appointed to a Government position … alongside his love as a poet.  In 1832, he opposed the Reform Bill, which merely transferred political power from land owners to the manufacturing class.  Till the day he died, he never stopped pleading for better conditions for victims of the factory system.

William Wordsworth’s crowning moment of his life came in 1843, when he succeeded Robert Southey as Poet Laureate.

William Wordsworth died at Rydal Mount in 1850 at the age of 80.

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Died in Poverty: Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde
Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde was born on the 16th October 1854 in Dublin, to parents William Wilde an eye surgeon, and Jane Francesca Wilde, a literary writer, better known by her pseudonym “Speranza.”

His early education, commenced at home, learning French and German, until he was nine.  Then he attended the Portora Royal School in Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, then onto Trinity College in Dublin from 1871-1874, where he read the classics.

His tutor J.P.Mahaffy enlightened Wilde about all things Greek, and they worked together on the book “Social Life in Greece.”  In a quote Wilde referred to Mahaffy, as my first and best teacher, whilst Mahaffy is quoted as saying; I created Oscar Wilde.

During his time at Trinity College he became an active participant of the Philosophical Society and went on to present a paper, “Aesthetic Morality.”  He won the Berkeley Gold Medal for his studies, and went on to study at Magdalene College, Oxford, from 1874-1878.

His life at Oxford would change his outlook on life, and where he was going…

Wilde had wit, talent and charm, and had a place in London’s society life, and styled himself upon Bunthorne, from the Gilbert and Sullivan opera “Patience.”

However, there was more to Wilde, than the man associated with London’s society life.

Wilde, was a member of Oxford’s Apollo Masonic Lodge, and let it be known, he was in the process of considering leaving, for it was his intention to convert from the Protestant faith to Catholicism.  Shock waves would rumble at such a suggestion among his peers.

Pope Pius IX granted Wilde an audience in Rome in 1877.  Then he went on to have meetings with the Reverend Sebastian Bowden, a priest from the Brompton Oratory.

So what changed his mind on the subject of converting from Protestant to Catholic, one will never know, all we can do is surmise.  One suggestion could be the threat by his father to cut off his allowance, and the loss of money is a powerful persuasion.  Whatever the actual reason, he backed out at the last minute, maybe he came to his senses before it was too late.  Wilde may not have converted to Catholicism, but he retained a keen interest in the faith.

In 1877 he met Walter Pater, writer of “Studies in the History of the Renaissance” which was published in 1878.  A copy of which he would always carry with him in later years.

1878 was a good year for Wilde.  He won the Newdigate Prize for his poem “Ravenna” which he read at Encaenia.  Then in November graduated from Oxford with a B.A. in “Classical Moderations and Literature Humaniores.”

Following his graduation, Wilde returned to Dublin, wanting to share his success with his childhood sweetheart; Florence Balcombe.  His intentions had been honourable, but her love led her into the arms of another; Bram Stoker, who became a well known writer of horror stories.  A gutted and distraught Wilde, felt he had no choice but to return to England.  As his funds faded, he earned money, delivering lectures in London, Paris and New York.  He was now living a hand to mouth existence.

In the summer of 1881, he published a collection of poems, and went on to present copies to many of his peers.  The Oxford Union rejected the book on the grounds of plagiarism, yet the public loved them.

That same year a caricature of Wilde appeared in the Punch magazine.  Part of his caption read: “What’s in a name.  The poet is Wilde.  But his poetry’s tame.”  For they were less enthusiastic of his works.

In 1882, Wilde was invited to tour North America by Richard D’oyly Carte, with the aim of selling his charm to the American public.  He became an overnight success, and a four month tour lasted over a year.

His aim was to take the beauty from art, and add it to daily life.  He had a reputation whilst at Oxford, for surrounding himself with blue china and lilies, and gave lectures on the merits of interior design.  For he believed, pleasure and beauty put forward in an artist’s work, were not limited to one’s individual ethical beliefs.

The Springfield Press, criticised his behaviour in Boston with caricatures, and comments, saying his actions had more to do with notoriety, than the true devotion to that of beauty.  Press receptions were often hostile, yet he drank with local miners, and often frequented fashionable drinking houses, making a name for himself.

In the early part of 1883, he moved to Paris, where he met Robert Sherard, and they wined and dined often, and Wilde was often heard to say: “We are dining on the Duchess tonight,” it was a reference to his play, “The Duchess of Padua.”

In August 1883, he returned to New York for the production of his play, “Vera” the audience loved it, but the critics review killed it, and it closed its doors within a week.

In 1884 he lectured in Dublin, there he met his future wife; Constance Lloyd, and they were married on the 29th May 1884 at St.James Church in Paddington.  They were blessed with two children; Cyril (1885) and Vyvyan (1886), for whom he wrote “The Happy Prince,” a book of fairy tales.

Wilde’s marriage was falling apart before his very eyes, just after his second child was born.  Robert Ross initiated Wilde into the life of homosexuality, and this change his future life.

During the years 1885-1887, Wilde became a regular contributor to the Pall Mall Gazette, sharing his views on art, literature and life.  Like his parents before him, he supported the cause of Irish Nationalism.  It was at this time, Charles Stewart Parnell was falsely accused of inciting murder, and Wilde defended his actions in the Daily Chronicle, with a collection of articles.

In the summer of 1887, Oscar Wilde the family man became editor of “The Lady’s World Magazine,” and promptly renamed it, “The Woman’s World,” in an attempt to raise its tone, with serious articles on parenting, politics, life and art.  Some two years later in the autumn of 1889, he left to concentrate on prose writings.

Between 1889 and 1891, Wilde published: Lord Arthur Saville’s Crime, The House of Pomegranates, which he dedicated to his wife Constance.  Along with The Portrait of Mr. W. H. This is based upon the theory that the Sonnets written by William Shakespeare were written out of the poet’s love for one Willie Hughes, designed as a rather controversial story asking more questions about the character, than giving answers.  Wilde’s interest in journalism had wavered somewhat, which saw a collection of longer prose pieces being published.

In 1890, Wilde published his one and only novel: “The Picture of Dorian Gray.  His critics gave it bad reviews, possibly because of its links to homosexuality.  Wilde responded to the comments made by the Scots Observer, and revised the story, adding six new chapters in time for its 1891 release.

In October 1891, Wilde returned to Paris, this time as a respected and published writer.  During his time there wrote the play “Salome.”  The then Lord Chamberlain refused a licence for it to be performed in England, since it depicted characters from the bible.  The play was published in Paris and London in 1893, and performed in Paris in 1896.

Wilde irritated Victorian England with his outrageous dress sense, then took it a step further with his novel: Dorian Gray, based on the world of vice, hidden beneath art.

In 1892, “Lady Windermere’s Fan,” the first in a collection of comedies was performed at St.James Theatre, and became an overnight success as it toured the country.  In 1893, “A Woman of No Importance,” was released, then followed by “An Ideal Husband,” in 1894, and “The Importance of Being Ernest,” in 1895.

In the summer of 1891, Wilde was introduced to Alfred Douglas, and their friendship grew into an affair.  Wilde was discreet, but Douglas was reckless, for he did not care who knew.  It wasn’t long before he was introduced into the world of gay prostitution.

Wilde having been accused by Alfred’s father the Marquess of Queensbury of the intense friendship came to a head in 1895, when he was imprisoned for homosexual offences, and served two years hard labour.

On the 19th May 1897, Wilde was released and it was obvious his health had suffered from such an experience.  He left for France, and would never set foot on English soil for the remainder of his life.

He lived in Dieppe for two years, during which time he wrote of the cruelties of prison life, which led to the Prison Act of 1898.  He followed up by writing “The Ballad of Reading Gaol,” whilst he stayed in the village of Bernaval-sur-Mer.  In May 1899, returned to Paris, and lived the life of a beggar.

He knew his life was coming to an end.  His last act before death, was being baptised into the Catholic Church on the 29th November, and on the 30th November 1900, he died of cerebral meningitis aged 46.

His tomb can be found in Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris.

Oscar Wilde lived life to the full, yet his downfall was one of his own making.  It is sad that such a distinguished writer should die in poverty, an outcast in his time.

He will always be remembered for his works…

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The Origins of Poetry

quill & pen 2

The Ancient Greek timeline of poetry lasted from the 7th to 4th century BC, and are believed to be the first civilisation to commit their poems to the written word.  They went on to produce most of the classic forms of literature, drama and poetry, and their great poets handed down their observations to the next and next generations.

Hesiod the 7th century Greek poet who wrote of a farmer’s life and Theogony, a genealogy of the God’s.

Pindar a 5th – 6th century lyric poet credited with writing ode’s to their victorious athlete’s.

Sappho a 7th century poet and she wrote of passionate love songs in a lyrical form.

The Ancient Greek’s period of culture ended when they were conquered firstly by Alexander the Great between (356-323 BC) and then again by the might of Rome in (250-150 BC).

The Romans went on to develop their own style of literary and poetic works, using the Greek form as their base.  From these humble beginnings the creation of a modern style of literature so began.

During the 11th – 13th centuries, the mighty Popes of the Holy Roman Empire and the Middle Ages banned creative and artistic expression.

People wanted to express themselves, and so in the mid 11th century a group of troubadour musicians in Southern France sang and wrote lyrics.  They were much influenced by the ways and lifestyle of the Arabic civilisation and Omar Khayyam and Rumi, having been inspired by Latin and Greek poets, and not of this land.  With an understanding, the musicians and poets went forth and created a refreshingly new style by the 13th century.

Early troubadours started life as singing poets, but the true masters included the likes of Bertrand de Born, Arnaud Daniel, and Marie de France, and their style of works influenced the likes of Geoffrey Chaucer and Dante Alighieri.  It was not uncommon to see the delivery of news, and performance styled sketches in a lyrical manner.

This has been referred to as the Provencal Movement of the 13th century and by the mid 14th century; most troubadours had fled to Italy and Spain to join the Sicilian School of poets.

For Frederick II let it be known he required poets to write about courtly love, and so it was between 1230 and 1266 many canzone’s (An Italian lyrical form of varying lengths, intended to be set to music, mainly based on romantic themes) were written.

A group of Sicilian poets in the court of Frederick II, were able to turn verses of love into a spiritual heartbeat, a style that would show its face during the Elizabethan and Shakespearean times.

With the 12th century, Sicily integrated the languages and cultural influences of Arabic, Greek and Latin, creating the perfect form for their lyrical poetry.

It all started with Cielo of Alcamo, a court poet, who created a form of lyrical poetry.  From these early beginnings, the court poets used lyrical poetry and the canzone style which became the standard verse of the day.  Yet like all new styles, someone was waiting in the wings to change it, and in this case it was Giacomo de Lentini, who re-invented it into a sonnet.

Giacomo de Lentini, proved himself to be more than that of a poet, for it was he who went on to create a new language: Italian.

With the help of Sicilian poets, they abolished repetitive and what has become known as interchangeable lines.  They also believed poetry was for reading, not as an accompaniment to music and created a 14 – line sonnet structure, which is still used by many poets to this day.

The works and styles of Sicilian poets came to the attention of Dante as the 14th century loomed, who spread them through Florence, and the literary heartlands.

As the Renaissance period burst into existence, shining its light upon a new era in time.  Scholars from many European countries keenly watched with interest, as a cultural awakening was taking place across Europe.

As the Italian Renaissance waned, its greatest poetic export was that of ballad and sonnet, which found their way to England with the assistance of Thomas Wyatt.

Christopher Marlowe-1585
Christopher Marlowe

Christopher Marlowe (1564-1593) was responsible for the creation of the unrhymed verse, as used by him for his plays.  He died early, and so William Shakespeare fashioned the style of the blank verse in a form which would meet the requirements of his plays.

Sonnets swept through England during the latter part of the 16th and early 17th century, through the writings of Edmund Spenser, Philip Sydney and William Shakespeare, each adding their own individual touches.

Poets of the Elizabethan era had more freedom in their writings, and so the human side became the new genre in writing.  One could say that the Elizabethan times, showed a slight resemblance to the early works of Ancient Greek.

John Milton
John Milton

The Greatest Renaissance poet would have to be John Milton (1608-1674) who wrote Paradise Lost, which was published in 1667.  An interesting fact though, by 1652 he was blind and worked as a Latin Secretary to one Oliver Cromwell, assisted by Andrew Marvel (1621-1678) a Metaphysical Poet.

Nearly a century later, a new breed arose, the Metaphysical Poets who wrote of nature, philosophy and love, starting with John Dryden.  They were known as men of learning, and they wanted to show off their abilities to one and all.

Metaphysical Poetry concluded when William Blake bridged the gap between it, and that of romantic poetry.  Poets were known to look beyond the obvious, a style which would influence the American Transcendentalism, like those of Samuel Cowley, Andrew Marvell and Katherine Philips.

England’s time had arrived with the dawning of the Romantic Poets era, a period which lasted between (1790-1824), yet went on to produce many works written by the masters which we still read to this day.

These poets included the likes of:

William Blake
William Blake

William Blake (1757-1827) An English painter and poet, who enhanced his work with illustrations as can be seen in his works “Songs of Innocence.”

William Wordsworth (1770-1850) An English poet, whose heart showed much support for the French Revolution, which shows through his works, and a love for the English countryside.

Lord Byron (1788-1824) A romantic poet, who supported Italian Independence and the Greek revolt against Turkey.  Often remembered for his sexual scandals, which saw the English society turn their backs on him.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834) Writer of romantic poems, and remembered for; “Rime of the Ancient Mariner.”

Percy Shelley
Percy Shelley

Percy Shelley (1792-1822) Writer who got himself expelled from Oxford University for co-writing “The Necessity of Atheism.”  Yet he went on to write “Ode to a skylark,” and other poems which reflected his idealism and radical thoughts on politics.

John Keats (1795-1821) Another of the English poets who wrote “Ode to a Nightingale,” and “Ode to a Grecian Urn.”

They wrote together, travelled together and lived together.

They made nature a more important part of their works, with more expression and passion, as to challenge the minds and imaginations of their readers … in so doing they planted a seed, which would flourish into a relationship.

Another poet who would be remembered for his works would be Alfred Tennyson (1809-1892) for “The Lotus Eaters.”

A new era replaced the Romantic Movement in 1836; the American Transcendentalists, for they believed in expression of their thoughts through the written word.

They changed people’s ideas on poetry, and studied utopian values, spiritual exploration, and into the artistic side.  Their ideals brought authors, poets and social leaders to their door, and so they grew.

The 19th century saw the American; Gerald Manley Hopkins (1844-1889), put forward natural speech and Walt Whitman (1819-1892) create the free-verse style of poetry.

French poet; Paul Verlaine (1844-1896) put forward the idea that poetry should contain an air of vagueness and music within poems.

The first Surrealist Movement manifesto was drawn up by Andre Breton the French poet in 1924, asking poets to explore the world of dreams, sub consciousness and hallucinations in their works.

American poet Ezra Pound (1885-1972) promoted the works of W.B.Yeats (1865-1939) and T.S.Elliot (1888-1965).

In 1948, with the Second World War over, we saw the emergence of what became known as the Beat Movement.  The style was based on characters and interests, who desired to live life, as they wished to.

It was the beginning of the narrative free verse written by Allen Ginsberg, it was all about free expression.  In 1956 he published a collection of works entitled “Howl.”  So it was that these beat poets as they had been referred to, created a new appreciation in the love of poetry.

As the interest grew, more beat poets surfaced, like; Joanne Kyger, Herbert Huncke, LeRoi Jones, to move the art of poetry further forward.

The history of poetry has had a long and mixed relationship with the reader as the styles have changed.  For in the early days, the definition of poetic writings focused on nature, love, drama and song and later concentrated on repetition and rhyme and how it would read and sound.

Poetry has been used to expand the literal meaning of words, to evoke an emotional feeling or a sensual response…

Poetry has often been referred to, as a way a poet, can create poems as a need to escape the logical side of life.

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Writer’s Tools

Fountain Pen Set

As Writer’s we like putting pen to paper, so to speak.  Have you not wondered where the fountain pen, biro or pencil originated from?  These instruments which we use daily…

The idea of writing instruments designed to carry their own ink supply had been a theoretical idea, but it was not until the beginning of the 1700’s, that the theory was being put into practice.

THE FOUNTAIN PEN: The first fountain pen was designed by M.Bion a Frenchman in 1702, but it was more than a 100 years later in 1809. When American Peregrin Williamson, patented his design in 1809.

John Scheffer obtained a British patent for his design of 1819, for his idea of a half quill – half metal pen.

Then in 1831 John Jacob Parker patented his design of a self-filling pen, but it was the design of Lewis Waterman, who patented the first practical fountain pen in 1884.

If it had not been for early fountain-pen inventors; using the hollow channel of a birds feather to create an ink reservoir, to replace the constant use of dipping into an ink well. The Romans created a reed style of pen, from the hollow tubular-stems of marsh grasses. By cutting one end to create a nib or point, with which to write with, they filled the stem with ink, and squeezed the stems, thus forcing the fluid into the nib. We would never have started a creative revolution in the design of new pens. Another design was to use a reservoir made of hard rubber, and fit a metal nib at the bottom. Unfortunately this did not have the required effect of producing a smooth writing instrument.

It was Lewis Waterman an insurance salesman, who was inspired to improve upon the early fountain-pen design, by adding an air hole in the nib, and three grooves into the feed mechanism.  His mechanism consisted of the nib, which made contact with the paper, a feed to control ink flow.  The aim of the barrel was to hold the nib, protect the reservoir, which in turn the writer holds.

By now we had reached a stage in pen designs, where they all contained some form of internal reservoir to hold ink.

The pens would have an internal reservoir, which would consist of a self-filling rubber sack, opened at one end.  To fill with ink, the reservoir was squeezed by using an internal plate, and then the pen’s nib inserted into the ink.  As pressure was released so the reservoir would fill up.

The period between the late 1800’s through to the mid 1900’s, saw a battle as pen companies, each sought to become the brand leader in reservoir pen designs.  The earliest known design of that time would be the Eyedropper, which had no internal filling mechanism.  Most open by unscrewing a section of the pen, after which the barrel is filled with ink using an eyedropper.  As long as the seal was tight, no ink should leak out.

Parker introduced the Button Filler, which had an external button connected to the internal pressure plate.  Then Walter Sheaffer responded by designing the Lever Filler, a slight variation on the Button Filler, for it used an external lever, that fitted flush with the pen.  Back came Parker, not to be outdone, with their Click Filler, using two protruding tabs, to deflate reservoir, and they clicked when reservoir was full.  Then Waterman introduced the Coin Filler, with slot in barrel, and by use of a coin, one could deflate and fill reservoir.

Some of the early inks were known to corrode the steel nib tips, which led to the introduction of a gold tip.  However, gold also had its problems; it was too soft, for the purpose of writing.  To overcome this design flaw, they used Iridium (A hard yellow-white chemical element that occurs in platinum ores) on the tip of the nib.

Early nibs were available in straight, oblique and italic designs.  As the years went by, and the need to communicate grew, so did the demand in pens, and a larger selection of pen nibs; wider, longer and shaped.

Everything changed in the early 1950’s, with the introduction of a new range of fountain pens, without the need of a reservoir.  They would revolutise the design for the future.

The reservoir had gone, to be replaced with a disposable ink cartridge, originally made of glass, then later of a rubbery plastic.  When they arrived on the scene, they were an immediate success … sixty years on and they are still going.

Ballpoint Pens - Wikipedia

THE BALLPOINT PEN: Laszlo Biro a Hungarian journalist, observed newspaper ink dried quickly, and was smudge free.  His creative juices were activated, and by 1938 he had invented the first Ballpoint pen.

The thicker ink used for newspapers would not flow unaided, which led to a small ball-bearing being fitted to the pens tip.  The idea was, as the ball rotated it collected ink from the reservoir and placed it on the paper.  So simple, yet so clever.

In 1940, Laszlo Biro and his brother George emigrated to Argentina, and applied for a new patent in 1943, and sold licensing rights to the British, as the Royal Air Force needed a pen that would not leak at high altitudes.  The success of this pen brought it to the forefront of pen design.

Laszlo and George Biro went on to form the Eterpen Company and commercialised the Biro pen, which was hailed as an ultimate success.  One of its main advantages was that it only needed re-filling once a year.

The Biro brothers neglected to apply for a U.S.Patent.  As World War Two was coming to an end, so a new battle was just starting: The Battle of The Ballpoint Pens.

For it was in May 1945, the Eversharp Company joined forces with Eberhand – Faber acquiring Biro Pens of Argentina and rebranded the product as Eversharp CA (Capillary Action).

Milton Reynolds saw the Biro Pen whilst in Buenos Aires, and returned to America with a few of them.  By October 1945, Reynolds had copied the Biro design, thus breaking Eversharp’s patent rights, and started the Reynolds Pen Company.  The release of this pen was an overwhelming success.  It was released on the 29th October 1945 priced at $12.50 and went on to sell $100,000 worth on the first day.

Eversharp sued Reynolds for breach of patent rights.

By December 1945, England’s Miles-Martin Pen Company had stepped in releasing their own design of the Biro Pen.

Advertisers claimed these pens would write for two years before the need to refill.  Sales rocketed, but it was not long before problems arose; some leaked, some worked some of the time, and others were known to fail all together

The consumer was dis-satisfied with the ballpoint pen, and sales nose dived, and by 1951, the ballpoint pen died a consumer’s death.

In January 1954, Parker Pens tossed their hat into the ring, by introducing their version of the Ballpoint Pen, known as the Jotter, which worked, so the battle for the ballpoint pen had been won.  Then in 1957 they introduced a tungsten carbide textured ball bearing in their pens.

A French Baron named Bich, removed the h from his name, and started the BIC Pen Company in the 1950’s, and by the end of the 50’s had acquired 70% of the European market.

By 1958, BIC a major player in the pen market had acquired 60% of Waterman Pens and by 1960 owned Waterman Pens outright.

BIC Ballpoint Pen Company dominates the market, selling cheap pens, whilst the likes of Parker, Sheaffer and Waterman sell the expensive Ballpoint Pens.

Pencils Rubbers Sharpeners

THE PENCIL: In 1564, in an area of Seat Waite Valley in Borrow Dale, England; Graphite which is a form of carbon was discovered, and so the first pencils were produced.

The main break through into the world of pencil technology came in 1795, when French chemist, Nicolas Conte used a mixture of fired clay and graphite before housing it in a wooden case.

Pencils got their name from the old English word meaning ‘brush’.  Conte’s method of Kiln firing powdered graphite and clay allowed pencils to be made to any hardness or softness.  The variations have changed over the years: H – 2H – 3H – HB – B – 2B – 3B and so the list goes on.

In the early days, pencils were sharpened by means of knives, similar to that used to shape feather quills.  Then in 1828 a French mathematician, Bernard Lassimone applied for a patent on an invention to sharpen pencils.  Then in 1847 Therry des Estwaux invented the first manual pencil sharpener, and the design is similar to that found in most stationers to-day.

John Lee Love an American designed the “Love Sharpener” a simple design yet portable.  The pencil would be inserted into an opening within the sharpener and rotated by hand.  Shavings would remain within the sharpener.  This was patented in November 1897.

In the early part of the 1940’s Raymond Loewy the first electric pencil sharpener, released by the Hammacher Schlemmer Company.

According to French scientist Charles Marie de la Condamine, South American Indian Tribes were using a form of rubber for attaching feathers to their bodies.  So it was in 1736, he brought a sample to the Institute de France in its natural form, for further studies on its possible applications.

Sir Joseph Priestley scientist stated in 1770 that he had observed a substance being used to wipe pencil marks from paper.  This same substance was brought back to France by Condamine.  Early types of rubber had their limitations, for it had a tendency to rot and crumble.

In came Edward Naime an English engineer and in 1770 he introduced rubber onto the market.

Charles Goodyear stepped into the frame in 1839, with his process to stop rubber crumbling, and make it a long lasting product.  He named his process: Vulcanization, after Vulcan, the roman god of fire.  In 1844 he patented his process.  Now that rubber had become a stable product, rubber or erasers became a product for removal of pencil marks on paper.

What I find quite interesting though.  Before we started using rubber or erasers to remove pencil marks from paper, our ancestors had used breadcrumbs.

Wikipedia Images

My Poetry Guide…

Quill__Scroll_and_Ink_by_MP3Designs

Poem Structure – Lines and Stanzas:

Poem structure – the line is a building block

The basic building-block of prose (writing that isn’t poetry) is the sentence. But poetry has something else — the poetic line. Poets decide how long each line is going to be and where it will break off. That’s why poetry often has a shape like this:

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying:
And this same flower that smiles to-day
To-morrow will be dying.

No matter where it is printed, the first line always ends with the word “may” and the second line with the word “a-flying” because the poet has written it this way. If you print a piece of prose such as a short story, the length of the lines will depend on the font size, the paper size, margins, etc. But in poetry, the line is part of the work of art you have created. The length of the lines and the line breaks are important choices that will affect many aspects of the reader’s experience:

  • The sound of the poem – When people read your poem out loud, or in their heads, they will pause slightly at the end of each line.
  • The speed of reading – Shortening or lengthening the lines can speed up or slow down the way people read.
  • How the poem looks on the page – Does the poem look light, delicate, with a lot of white space around the lines? Or are the lines packed solidly together?
  • Emphasis – Words at the end of a line seem more important than words in the middle.

Poem structure – types of lines

If you are writing a poem in a standard form such as a sonnet, your choices about line length are somewhat restricted by the rules of the form. But you still have to decide how to fit the ideas and sentences of your poem over the lines. When you fit natural stopping points in a sentence to the end of your line, the reader takes a little pause. When a sentence or phrase continues from one line to the next, the reader feels pulled along. If your line break interrupts a sentence or idea in a surprising place, the effect can be startling, suspenseful, or can highlight a certain phrase or double-meaning.

Lines that finish at ends of sentences or at natural stopping points (for example, at a comma) are called end-stopped lines. Here’s an example:

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying:

Lines that in the middle of the natural flow of a sentence are called run-on or enjambed lines. Here’s an example:

But being spent, the worse, and worst
Times still succeed the former.

If you are writing in free verse, you have even more decisions to make than a poet writing in a traditional form. You can decide to use short lines or long lines, or to vary the length. You can decide to stack your lines evenly along the left margin, or to use a looser or more graphical form. Some poets even write poems that are in the shape of the thing they are writing about, for example, a circular poem about the moon. You have many options, but these choices should never be made randomly.

Poem structure – stanzas:

In prose, ideas are usually grouped together in paragraphs. In poems, lines are often grouped together into what are called stanzas. Like paragraphs, stanzas are often used to organize ideas.

For example, here are the two final stanzas. In the first of these stanzas, he is explaining that being young is great, but life just gets worse and worse as you get older. In the second one, he is saying: “So get married before you’re too old and have lost your chance.”

That age is best which is the first,
When youth and blood are warmer;
But being spent, the worse, and worst
Times still succeed the former.

Then be not coy, but use your time,
And while ye may, go marry:
For having lost but once your prime,
You may for ever tarry.

Poem structure – decisions about form:

So many decisions to make — line length, line breaks, arrangement, speed, rhythm. How should you choose? The right form for your poem depends on, and works with, the poem’s content, or what it’s about. If the poem is about flying, you probably don’t want lines that feel slow and heavy. If you’re writing a sad poem, short bouncy lines might not be the way to go.

You may feel overwhelmed by so many issues to think about. How can your inspiration flow freely if you have to keep track of all of these aspects of a poem? The answer is to do the work in two stages.

  1. First, let your ideas flow.
  2. Then, go back to the poem later and work on improving the poem structure and form.

In the second stage, it’s a good idea to experiment a lot. Try breaking the lines and different ways and compare the effects. Try changing the order of things. Try reorganizing things to move different words to the end of the lines so that the reader’s attention goes to them. You’ve got nothing to lose — you can always go back to an earlier version.

As you go through this process, ask yourself:

  • What is my poem about?
  • What feeling or mood do I want the reader to have?
  • Do I want the poem to move quickly or slowly? Are there places I want it to speed up or slow down?
  • What words or phrases do I want to highlight?

There are a lot of things to consider. But the more poetry you write — and read, the more natural and instinctive some of these decisions about poem structure will become to you.

Poetry Meter:

Meter is a way of measuring a line of poetry based on the rhythm of the words. But why should you care?

  • As a reader, knowing about meter helps you understand how a poem is put together. You can see what rules the poet was following and how he or she used or went outside those rules. This lets you guess what was going through the poet’s mind.
  • If you want to write poetry, knowing about meter will make you a better poet. First, it helps you understand what poets have done in the past, so that you can learn from them. It allows you to use traditional forms such as sonnets. Even if you prefer to write in free verse, you should learn about traditional forms. Being aware of traditions gives you more flexibility to use aspects of them when you want to, or to “break the rules” in a more interesting way.

Poetry meter – stressed syllables and the iambic foot

Meter measures lines of poetry based on stressed and unstressed syllables. I’ll explain. When we speak, we put the stress on a certain part of each word. For example, take the words “apple” and “fantastic.”

  • When we say the word “apple,” we stress the first syllable, the “ap” part. We say “AP-ple,” how not “ap-PLE.”
  • When we say the word “fantastic,” we stress the second syllable. We say, “fan-TAS-tic,” not “FAN-tas-tic” or “fan-tas-TIC.”

Poetry meter – meter and rhythm:

When you read metered poetry, such as a sonnet in iambic pentameter, you may notice that the meter is sometimes sounds uneven or is hard to hear. Meter is just a form of measurement. The real rhythm of a poem is more complicated than that:

  • None of us talk like robots. We give certain words and sounds more emphasis than others in a sentence, depending on a number of factors including the meaning of the words and our own personal speaking style. So not all of the stressed syllables have the same amount of stress, etc.
  • We pause at the ends of ideas or the ends of sentences, even if these occur partway through a poetic line. So this creates a rhythmically variation. When the sentence ends or has a natural pause in the middle of a line of poetry, that’s called a caesura.
  • Poets vary meter or make exceptions in order to create desired rhythmic effects.

All of these elements combine to give each poem a unique music.

How to Write a Sonnet:

What’s a sonnet?

Sonnets are a kind of rhymed poem written in iambic pentameter.

An iamb is a rhythmic unit that includes an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed one. It has the rhythm, as in the words “about,” or “predict,” or “parade.” Iambic pentameter is a line of poetry consisting of five iambs. Here are two sentences in iambic pentameter:

There are different kinds of sonnets, but I’m going to talk about the Shakespearian sonnet, also called the English sonnet. The Shakespearian sonnet has fourteen lines in iambic pentameter that are divided into three groups of four lines and one group of two lines.

When a rhyme scheme is written in this way, each of the letters stands for one line. An “a” line rhymes with another “a” line, a “d” line rhymes with another “d” line, etc. So in a Shakespearian sonnet, the first line (a) rhymes with the third line (also called “a”). The second line (b) rhymes with the fourth line (also called “b”). The final two lines of the poem (gg) rhyme with each other.

Here’s an example of a sonnet by Shakespeare written in this form. I’ll mark each end rhyme with a letter:

Not from the stars do I my judgement pluck, (a)
And yet methinks I have astronomy, (b)
But not to tell of good, or evil luck, (a)
Of plagues, of dearths, or seasons’ quality,(b)
Nor can I fortune to brief minutes tell; (c)
Pointing to each his thunder, rain and wind, (d)
Or say with princes if it shall go well (c)
By oft predict that I in heaven find. (d)
But from thine eyes my knowledge I derive, (e)
And constant stars in them I read such art (f)
As truth and beauty shall together thrive (e)
If from thy self, to store thou wouldst convert: (f)
Or else of thee this I prognosticate, (g)
Thy end is truth’s and beauty’s doom and date. (g)

You may notice that some of the rhymes are not exact. For example, “art” and “convert” have the same final sound, but the vowel sounds (“a” in art and “e” in convert) are different. This is an example of what is called off-rhyme, or slant-rhyme

Rhyme Schemes:

Rhyme schemes and sound effects

Rhyme is an important tool in the poet’s toolbox. Traditional poetry forms such as sonnets often use rhyme in specific patterns. But even if you are writing free verse, you can use rhyme to when it helps you create desired effects.

Rhyme schemes – why rhyme

There are many reasons why you might choose to use rhyme:

  • To give pleasure. Rhyme, done well, is pleasing to the ear. It adds a musical element to the poem, and creates a feeling of “rightness,” of pieces fitting together. It also makes a poem easier to memorize, since the rhyme echoes in the reader’s mind afterward, like a melody.
  • To deepen meaning. Rhyming two or more words draws attention to them and connects them in the reader’s mind.
  • To strengthen form. In many traditional forms, a regular pattern of rhymes are at the ends of the lines. This means that even if the poem is being read out loud, listeners can easily hear where the lines end, can hear the shape of the poem.

Rhyme schemes – internal rhymes and end rhymes:

When the last word in a line of poetry rhymes with the last word in another line, this is called an end rhyme. Many traditional poetry forms use end rhymes.

When words in the middle of a line of poetry rhyme with each other, this is called an internal rhyme. Below is part of a poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Can you find the internal rhymes and end rhymes?

The fair breeze blew, the white foam flew,
The furrow followed free;
We were the first that ever burst
Into that silent sea.

In this example, “blew”-“flew,” and “first”-“burst” are internal rhymes. “Free” and “sea” are end rhymes.

Rhyme schemes – true rhymes and off-rhymes

“Smart” and “art”; “fellow” and “yellow”; “surgery” and perjury” — these are all examples of true rhymes, or exact rhymes because the final vowel and consonant sounds (or the final syllables in the longer words) are exact matches to the ear.

“Fate” and “saint”; “work” and “spark”; are examples of off-rhymes, or slant-rhymes. In each case, part of the sound matches exactly, but part of it doesn’t. Off-rhymes use assonance and consonance:

  • Assonance is a similarity between vowel sounds (the sounds made by your breath, written with the letters a,e,i,o,u,and sometimes y) “Sing,”lean”, and “beet” are an example of assonance because they all have a similar “e” sound. Another example is “boat,”bone”, and “mole,” which all have a similiar “o” sound.
  • Consonance is a similarity between consonant sounds (consonants are the letters that you pronounce with your lips or tongue, not with your breath: b,c,d,f,g,h,j,k,l,m,n,p,q,r,s,t,v,w,x,z and sometimes y). “Lake,”book”, and “back” are an example of consonance because they all have the same “K” sounds, even though the vowel sounds in these words are different. When the same consonants are used at the beginning of the word (for example, the words “sing” and “sell”), that is called alliteration.

You might choose to use off-rhymes instead of true rhymes, or in addition to them, to create a subtler effect.

Using off-rhymes also gives you more choices of words to rhyme. This often makes it possible to create more original or surprising rhymes. How many pop songs can you think of that rhyme “heart” with “apart?” And when you hear the words “heaven above” in a song, you can bet that the word “love” is lurking nearby. There are only a few words that rhyme with “love,” so they are used over and over again. Off-rhymes can help to remove some of that predictability so that you can come up with more interesting rhyme.

Rhyme schemes:

The pattern of rhymes in a poem is written with the letters a, b, c, d, etc. The first set of lines that rhyme at the end are marked with a. The second set are marked with b. So, in a poem with the rhyme scheme abab, the first line rhymes with the third line, and the second line rhymes with the fourth line. In a poem with the rhyme scheme abcb, the second line rhymes with the fourth line, but the first and third lines don’t rhyme with each other.

Here’s an example of a rhyme scheme:

GATHER ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying:
And this same flower that smiles to-day
To-morrow will be dying.

Here’s an example of an abcb rhyme scheme.

The itsy bitsy spider (a)
Went up the water spout (b)
Down came the rain (c)
And washed the spider out (b)

This one’s aabccb:

Little Miss Muffet
Sat on a tuffet
Eating her curds and whey.
Along came a spider
And sat down beside her
And frightened Miss Muffett away.

Here’s a sonnet by Shakespeare. The rhyme scheme is abab cdcd efef gg.

My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun; (a)
Coral is far more red than her lips’ red; (b)
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;(a)
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.(b)
I have seen roses damask’d, red and white,(c)
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;(d)
And in some perfumes is there more delight(c)
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.(d)
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know (e)
That music hath a far more pleasing sound; (f)
I grant I never saw a goddess go; (e)
My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground: (f)
And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare (g)
As any she belied with false compare. (g)

Types of Poems:

Types of poems – how to write an acrostic poem

An acrostic poem is one where the first letters of the lines spell out a word or words if you read them vertically. For example, here is an acrostic poem by Edgar Allan Poe. You can see that if you read the first letters of the lines from top to bottom, they spell out the name “Elizabeth.”

Elizabeth it is in vain you say
“Love not” — thou sayest it in so sweet a way:
In vain those words from thee or L. E. L.
Zantippe’s talents had enforced so well:
Ah! if that language from thy heart arise,
Breathe it less gently forth — and veil thine eyes.
Endymion, recollect, when Luna tried
To cure his love — was cured of all beside —
His folly — pride — and passion — for he died.

Choose a word to be your poem’s topic, and write it vertically, from top to bottom. Then turn each letter into a line of poetry about that topic.

Ideas:

  • Write an acrostic using your own name, or the name of someone you love.
  • Write an acrostic about a month of the year, with the lines spelling out that month.

Types of poems – how to write blank verse

Blank verse is unrhymed poetry written in a regular meter, usually iambic pentameter.

An iamb is a rhythmic unit made of an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed one. Here are examples of two sentences written in iambic pentameter:

  • Forget the car, I’ll take the train to work.
  • At school today, he caught a nasty cold.

Much of Shakespeare’s dramatic work is written in blank verse. Here’s an example, taken from Hamlet. (You will see that Shakespeare’s use of iambic pentameter is not mechanical — he varies the rhythm for effect).

Good now, sit down, and tell me, he that knows,
Why this same strict and most observant watch
So nightly toils the subject of the land,
And why such daily cast of brazen cannon,
And foreign mart for implements of war;
Why such impress of shipwrights, whose sore task
Does not divide the Sunday from the week;
What might be toward, that this sweaty haste
Doth make the night joint-labourer with the day:
Who isn’t that can inform me?

Below are some lines written in iambic pentameter that you can use in your own poem, if you want, to start you off or give you ideas.

  • Last night I had a dream about a girl
  • Before today I didn’t know your name
  • The leaves were dark against the glowing sky
  • My mother always lied about her age

Types of poems – how to write a sestina

A sestina is a poem with 39 lines. The final words of the first six lines are repeated in the other lines, in a specific pattern. For an example of a sestina, look for Elizabeth Bishop’s famous poem called just “Sestina.” Sestinas can be very haunting to read. The same words keep coming back like echoes. And they are a lot of fun to write, like working out a puzzle.

But in case you prefer to read an explanation: here goes. A sestina is divided into six six-line stanzas, or sections, plus one final stanza of three lines. We’ll call the last word of the first line a, the last word of the second line b, etc. The order of these words in the first six stanzas is like this: abcdef faebdc cfdabe ecbfad deacfb bdfeca. In other words, the last word in Line 1 is also the last word in Line 8. The last word in Line 2 is also the last word in Line 10. Etc. The final stanza, or section of the poem has three lines. Each of these uses two of the words, one somewhere in the middle of the line and one at the end. The pattern of this section is: be dc fa.

Poem Types:

Poem types – how to write a narrative poem

A narrative poem is one that tells a story, true or imagined. It can have all of the elements of fiction, including:

  • A character or characters. The main character may be the same or different from the narrator, the voice that tells the story.
  • A setting – the place where the story happens.
  • A plot – what happens in the story.
  • Dialogue – conversations between the characters.

An example… This poem is a kind of horror story. Here is the beginning of the poem:

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
“Tis some visiter,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door
Only this and nothing more.”

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December;
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow; — vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow — sorrow for the lost Lenore
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore
Nameless here for evermore.

And the silken, sad, uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me — filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating
“Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door
Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door;
This it is and nothing more.”

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
“Sir,” said I, “or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you” — here I opened wide the door…

The main character in this poem is a man who has lost a woman he loved named Lenore. This character is also the narrator or the speaker of the poem, so he tells his own story using the word “I.” The setting of the poem is the man’s room on a bleak December night. As the poem continues, a raven, a type of black bird, comes into the man’s room, settles on top of the door frame, and refuses to leave. No matter what the man says, the bird answers with the word “Nevermore,” and the meaning becomes more and more horrifying until the man sinks into despair. This is the plot of the poem’s narrative.

Poem types – write a narrative poem!

Want to try writing a narrative poem of your own? Here are some tips:

1) For there to be a story, something has to happen or change between the beginning and the end. A happy situation is not a story. It becomes a story when a problem arises that interrupts the main character’s happiness. Similarly, a depressed character moping around his room is not a story. It becomes a story when the character decides to improve his situation… or when something happens that threatens to make his situation even worse.

2) Help readers imagine the story. Give details related to the five senses – sight, sound, touch, smell, and even taste. Be specific. Did Maria seem angry at Jeff? Instead of just saying, “she seemed angry at him,” think about what, exactly, this was like. Consider showing the evidence of Maria’s anger, instead of the conclusion. If you say, “Her jaw tightened, and she refused to look at him,” this gives the reader a stronger picture.

Poem starter:

Think of an upsetting fight or argument you had with a family member, friend, or romantic partner. What was it about? Write a poem that tells the story of whatever caused the argument.

If the argument was over a particular event, then you’re all set. You have a characters, a setting, action. If the argument was over an ongoing situation (for example, your partner didn’t participate enough in child-care), then think of or invent a particular instance of this and write about that. Hint: try not to tell readers your opinion or feelings about the situation or the other person. Instead, show all the details (the “evidence”) that will let readers figure this out on their own.

Poem types – How to write a ballad:

A ballad is a rhyming narrative poem written in a form that can be sung to music. Ballads most often use the rhyme scheme abcb. This means that in a group of four lines, the second line rhymes with the fourth one. The first and third line do not rhyme.

Here’s part of a ballad by William Blake (1757-1827). I have written the letters a, b, and c to mark the end rhymes.

The Maiden caught me in the Wild,(a)
Where I was dancing merrily;(b)
She put me into her Cabinet,(c)
And Lockd me up with a golden key.(b)

Poem types – write a ballad!

Topic ideas:

  • A time you fell in love at first sight… or thought you did.
  • A car accident.
  • A time you received bad news. Don’t tell the reader how you felt about the news. Instead, show the details of the place and situation where you heard the news, doing this in a way that expresses your feelings. Think of how, in movies, the camera zooms in on objects to create a mood.

Haiku Poetry:

Haiku is a Japanese poetry form. A haiku uses just a few words to capture a moment and create a picture in the reader’s mind. It is like a tiny window into a scene much larger than itself.

Traditionally, haiku is written in three lines, with five syllables in the first line, seven syllables in the second line, and five syllables in the third line.

Haiku example:
The last winter leaves
Clinging to the black branches
Explode into birds.

The following are typical Characteristics of haiku:

  • A focus on nature.
  • A “season word” such as “snow” which tells the reader what time of year it is.
  • A division somewhere in the poem, which focuses first on one thing, than on another. The relationship between these two parts is sometimes surprising.
  • Instead of saying how a scene makes him or her feel, the poet shows the details that caused that emotion. If the sight of an empty winter sky made the poet feel lonely, describing that sky can give the same feeling to the reader.

Examples:

Sick, though I love her
even though she always lies
cherishing my bones.

Voice of nightingale
Like God’s angels, playing harp
Dwells into our hearts

The pond, blue, round, fresh
The frog jumps, breaking surface
In and wet he is

A dew drop smiles sitting on a leaf
the tree looked indulgently at the juvenile
the Great Oak secretly fumes

That quenches my thirst
Ocean vast and beautiful
But she is salty

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