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|Zeroing onto a Theme and Choosing the Words|
What does the theme of a poem mean?
Now let me distinguish, the theme of the poem from the tone of the poem. The tone of the poem generally refers to the mood set by the poem. The tone of the poem may be happy, sad, melancholy, frustrated, expectant or dejected while the theme may be first love, heart break, spring, a dew drop.
Another related concept is the pace of the poem. The poem may flow fast, medium or slow. One sure way to see the pace of a poem is to read it. You would know the pace of a poem that way.
Take for example this poem I wrote a while ago,
The theme of the poem is a heart break and the tone is one of despair or frustration. The pace is fast.
Also, thought the theme of the poem will remain constant through out the poem, the tone may keep changing. It may start as happy, change to bittersweet and end as sad.
The theme or central idea of the poem remains a bride on her wedding day through out the poem, but look at how the tone changes from happy to sad to resigned. The pace is medium to slow.
Now how do you go about choosing a theme for your poem? I always pick instinctively. I am more of an off the cuff writer. If any idea pops in my mind or something moves me, I wrote about it. You can pick any theme, lets say love at first sight. You see a man/woman and something clicks and you know this is the person for you. How do we write it down in a poem?.
First think of the tone. With the theme we picked, it is going to be happy and expectant. Next think back to your first crush if it was years ago and think of what you felt then.
Write down your feelings, it can be written as a set of sentences at this point. I choose to write the poem in first person to make it seem more personal. So here is my list. Go ahead, type out your own.
Okay so these are some of the things I felt when I fell in love. Now how do I go about transforming them into a poem? I see the difference between a prose and a poem as the difference between a straight line and waves. Both are sets of points, but while a straight line goes straight and dry, a waves moves up and down in a smooth manner. Similarly, words in a poem, smoothly rise and fall in crescendo. Each line fall on the next and flows into it. Like you can't make out the difference between distinct waves after they tumble into the shore, similarly the individual lines of the poem should mesh together and not be a part onto themselves.
Now I can write all the thoughts in one go in a single stanza or choose to have different stanzas. At this point, I am not going to worry about the form of the poetry, right now we just write out the poetry as it comes. I am flooded with thoughts of first love so my poem is going to be quite long, so I decide to break it up into three stanzas. Generally it is a good idea not to let any stanza exceed ten lines, unless it is absolutely necessary.
I think points 1,2 and 3 above will go together well as first stanza so this is what I come up with,
Okay now to move on to the second stanza, I want to convey that I lose count of time when I saw him and am both scared and excited,
And finally I want to end the poem in the last stanza. This is where you should be careful. A good ending to a poem is as important as a good beginning. The poem shouldn't feel incomplete in the end.
Now read the whole poem at one go and see if it flows well. Do the lines feel choppy? Does any part seem forced? If it does the words you used are all wrong. You need to tweak them a bit. Now look at the punctuation. Is it okay? What about the meaning? Is it easily conveyed or is it vague? Have you over done the clich's? Clich's became clich's because they sound good and everyone likes to use them but using a clich' in your poem can make it sound jaded. What we want is the poem to feel fresh.
What I want you to do as this week's exercise is pick a theme, build on it and write a verse. I will be happy to comment on it.
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