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ILR class makes poets

With the help of Co-Lin English Instructor Glenda Silverii, eight Institute for Learning in Retirement workshop participants joined the ranks of poets last month.


Silverii guided them in producing poems in the Japanese Haiku form, introducing them to its general rules and helping them choose their themes draft initial poems, craft and refine them.


To get them started, she inspired them with a couple exampled of classic haiku to show them how a poem looks and sounds and stimulate ideas about their own writing.  Then she put them to work.


As the starting point, Silverii armed the with six haiku basics:


·         Stick as close as possible to 17 syllables, written across three lines with a 5-7-5 pattern.

·         Use punctuation if your haiku requires a pause or break in rhythm.

·         Include words or phrases that symbolize bigger concepts, such as “autumn moonlight” for old age.

·         Keep to universal themes rather than personal feelings.

·         Focus on one single thought.

·         Create juxtaposed images for contrast or surprise.

“While poems that do no more than describe nature can be beautiful, try to find a broader meaning behind the image you are portraying,” she urged.  “A butterfly emerging from its chrysalis signifies transformation and rebirth. A winding road disappearing into the horizon represents a scary journey. A flickering candle flame signals the fragility of life.”


With a general idea, imagery, and a broad theme in mind, the writing can begin, she said.  “It is not particularly important to count syllables at this stage,” she explained.  “Just write a sentence that captures what you want to say.  Play with different words, word combinations, and punctuation.  Try to identify some short phrases that evoke strong images.”


Next, the emerging poets selected best words and phrases from the ones in their draft haikus.  If it is more than 17 syllables, it needs to be shortened, Silverii noted.  Insert punctuation to separate images from each other and break up the poem, if needed, she advised.


“With the poem in hand, read it aloud to yourself to check whether it flows and whether it has a pleasant rhythm,” she counseled. “If some words are too long or short, browse a thesaurus to find alternatives.  If you have a friend or relative who reads poetry, run it by them and ask for their honest opinion. In particular, ask them whether your images and themes are fresh.”



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