Friday, October 24, 2014

Carrie Clickard: Step One– PICK A BEAT

Have you heard? 

          Igor Meter is on the prowl! 

Fortunately, TLD's resident rhyming gumshoe, Carrie Clickard, is back with some expert advice on how to approach this dastardly villain.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Every rhymer I know has had it happen.

Longing for the company of other writers you decide to attend a conference.  At the welcoming cocktail party, you soak in the camaraderie of the creative community, sharing hopes, dreams, frustrations, aspirations.  This is JUST what you needed.  There’s so much supportive banter you decide to risk a little honesty. “That’s right,” you bravely admit. “I write in RHYME.”

Suddenly it’s not a cocktail party, it’s an INTERVENTION.

Well-intentioned souls will bombard you with reasons not to waste your time, since “editors hate getting rhyming manuscripts.”  Others will offer advice on how to break your rhyme habit, pointing you to articles, books, seminars in perfecting prose techniques instead.  And a few will look down their long literary noses and declare that rhyme is simply too limiting, implying rhyme is something a poet will eventually grow out of.


These situations tend to divide rhymers into two groups:  The first will hear all the anti-rhyme bias and limp off to huddle in the world of prose, afraid to bring their verse out in the open.  But the second group, ah, those stubborn rhymers among us, we square our shoulders, lick our wounds and continue to versify, despite all the nay-sayers.  We’re determined to write clean, flawless rhyme that no one can take exception to.

This article is for us. 

With three of my upcoming picture books in rhyme, versus just one in prose, I know what the battle is like out there in the query/submission trenches.  And I’ve come to believe that the pro-rhyme/anti-rhyme divide is a matter of deep-seated personal taste, like the preference for red over blue, or jazz vs classical. You can’t change other people’s opinions, so don’t waste the energy.  Avoid the ‘haters’ as much as you can and focus on making your own poetry irresistible and undeniable. Then, in the end, your rhyme will speak for itself.

So let’s take some steps in that direction – with our first Rhyme Crime perpetrator:

That’s right. We’re about to dive into the feet and beats and stressors and all that tongue tripping stuff that makes up scansion and meter. Now, if you’ve done the poetry basics (iambic, trochaic, tetrameter, double dactyls, ad nauseum) in school, right now you’re probably thinking:

Don’t run away. Getting the meter right doesn’t have to be dry and daunting.  All we need to do is –
Pick a beat.
Make it stick.
Change it up.
And we can do it all to your favorite song. Really. Let’s tackle step one.


Now if you’ve already got a piece you’re working on, you might not need this section, and you’ll have to wait for MAKE IT STICK next time.  But if you haven’t settled on the meter of your poem already, here are some things to think about.

Does the beat I pick matter?
Opinions vary on this subject but I say wholeheartedly “yes”. First, because stressors in normal conversation can immensely change a sentence’s meaning. Consider the difference between
YOU don’t like school anymore     (but I do) 
You DON’T like school anymore    (you just say you do) 
You don’t LIKE school anymore     (now you LOVE it / or HATE it ) 
You don’t like SCHOOL anymore   (but you like chess club, or cheerleading, or Principal Stevens etc ) 
You don’t like school ANYMORE   (but you USED to)
In the same way, the beat you choose to emphasize, especially in your poem’s first few lines, can make a huge impact in how the reader interprets what you wrote. 

Secondly, the beat we choose helps set the emotion of our piece.  From a very young age, we’re surrounded by musical rhythms: lullabies, songs on the car radio, the theme song of a favorite TV show, classroom sing-alongs, weddings, funerals, even the muzak piped in to malls and elevators.  Without any effort on our part that music gets linked in our subconscious to a particular feeling or mood. When we hear that song again, or something similar in style, it reminds us to “feel the same way.” Part of that is down to the lyrics and the tune, but the beat can trigger our emotional memory all by itself. For anyone who’s heard the opening stamp-stamp-clap, stamp-stamp-clap to Queen’s “We Will Rock You,” you know what I’m talking about.

This emotional memory makes selecting the right beat important if we’re trying to set a mood for our story.  Are you looking for quirky and funny, or inspirational and stirring?  Is your poem a soothing sail across silky oceans or a rollicking pirate romp?  Read the opening of your poem aloud. (If you’re on the subway, you might want to wait until you get somewhere less public.) Is the rhythm putting you in the right mood?

If the beat in your poem doesn’t fit right, try thinking of a song that evokes the right emotion.  Sing the song and tap out its beat with your hand or toes.  Pay attention to the heavier beats. Are you hearing “bah-BOOM bah-BOOM” or “BOOM-bah BOOM-bah” or something more complicated?  Don’t worry about sticking the correct meter-label on it now, just listen to the beat and see how it makes you feel. If you can’t think of a particular song, grab a random playlist and try several out.  Which beats make you dreamy and which ones crackle and pop?

Chances are, if you’ve been writing rhyme for any length of time, you already have rhythms and meters you’re naturally drawn to.  Some writers find their voice in short clean beats, others crave intricate wordplay, and there’s room for both.  But be sure you’re actively choosing. Take a moment at the beginning of any new poem and ask yourself: Is this the right beat or am I just repeating what comes easily?

Wait a minute! I hear all the scansion addicts out there cry.  You can’t just tell people to imitate a song. If you’re going to write good metered rhyme, you MUST know whether you’re writing in iambic or trochaic. You have to know the difference between tetrameter and pentameter. That’s what makes good poetry, right?

I’ll answer that with a strong “Maybe.”

If you already know all the Greek terms and can tell the difference between anapestic hexameter and amphibrachic tetrameter at 50 paces, then you’re probably stellar at polishing your rhyme already.  But for those who aren’t, I’m not sure the terminology is absolutely critical.  Of course, to be treated as professional, your rhyming piece must be written in clean, consistent meter. It needs to be as flawless as possible, without accents on the wrong syllable or tortured feet. But whether you have beautifully penned sheets of iambic pentameter marked with short/stressed syllables, or beat out the rhythm of a Pharrell Williams song on your kitchen table, all that matters is that you MAKE IT STICK.

That being said, let’s identify some beats.  Pick a few favorites from your playlist and as Pharrell says “Clap Along.”  While you’re listening, ask yourself

How many beats before the BOOM?

BOOM-bah  (Trochee)
"When You Wish Upon A Star" by Jiminy Cricket (Cliff Edwards)
When you wish up on a star 
Makes no diff rence who you are
A ny thing your heart de sires will come to you.

ba-BOOM   (Iambic)
"Karma" by Alicia Keys  
Weren’t  you the one who said that you don’t want me an y more
And how you need your space and give the keys back to your door
And how I cried and tried and tried to make you stay with me
And still you said your love was gone and that I had to leave

BOOM-ba-ba  (Dactyl)
"Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" by John Lennon 
Foll ow her down to a bridge by a foun tain where
Rock ing horse peo ple eat marsh mall ow pie

ba-BOOM-ba  (Amphibrach)
"Famous Blue Raincoat" by Leonard Cohen 
It's four in the morn ing, the end of De cem ber
I'm writ ing you now just  to see if  you're bet ter
Oh New York is cold, but I like where  I'm liv ing
There's mu sic on Clin ton  Street all through  the eve ning.

Now don’t be surprised that many songs don’t follow the same beat all the way through (we’ll talk about that under step number three: CHANGE IT UP). And also, a singer may choose to vary the meter to suit their personal vocal style or interpretation.  What you’re looking to do here is to find a list of songs or parts of songs you can use as meter examples.  Note down the names, which beat pattern they follow, and a few notes about the mood the song evokes.  Keep adding to this list in the weeks ahead, whenever you find a useful tune. It can become a valuable reference for step two: MAKE IT STICK, which we’ll address next time.

Phew! Thanks for making it all the way through.  Here’s a little piece of fun as a reward for your hard work: "Flow like Poe" by MC Lars.  “I’m going hard on that tetrameter…” cracks me up every time.  I can’t give the song a high grade on clean rhyme and meter, but it’s a hoot and a half.

Born in the Midwest and transplanted to sunny Florida, Carrie Clickard is an internationally published author and poet whose career also spans graphic design, illustration and film.  Her fourth picture book, THOMAS JEFFERSON & THE MAMMOTH HUNT has just been acquired by Simon and Schuster for publication in 2017.  Her first picture book, VICTRICIA MALICIA, debuted in 2012 from Flashlight Press.  MAGIC FOR SALE and FU LING AND THE DRAGON GATE will publish in 2016.  Her poetry and short stories have appeared in numerous anthologies and periodicals including Spider (forthcoming), Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, Clubhouse, Spellbound, Penumbra, Haiku of the Dead, Underneath the Juniper Tree, Inchoate Echoes, and The Brisling Tide.  You can find out more about Carrie and her work at her website.

To find out what other rhyming criminals are lurking in our midst, be sure to check out Carrie's first post on Today's Little Ditty – Carrie Clickard: Rhyme Crime Investigator.

There's just ONE WEEK LEFT to submit your zeno for J. Patrick Lewis' DMC challenge.  Next Friday will be our end-of-month wrap-up post... and what a doozy it will be!

Please pay Cathy a visit over at Merely Day By Day. She's our gracious host for today's Poetry Friday roundup.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

DMC: "In silence, stillness emerges" by Carol Varsalona

In silence, stillness emerges.
Quietude flows.
Open your heart
Bold and 
The Divine One

© 2014 Carol Varsalona. All rights reserved.

J. Patrick Lewis has challenged us to write a zeno this month. What's a zeno, you ask? Click HERE for details.

To join in the fun, send yours to TodaysLittleDitty (at) gmail (dot) com, or use the contact form in the sidebar to the right. All zenos will be included in the wrap-up celebration on October 31st, and one lucky participant will win a copy of Pat's gorgeous, new, "best of" collection:

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

DMC: "Catch a Falling Star" by Sydney O'Neill

Catch a Falling Star

I need to catch a falling star,
paste it on my
head real
I won't have to
say stuff
Everyone will
see I'm

© 2014 Sydney O'Neill. All rights reserved.

J. Patrick Lewis has challenged us to write a zeno this month. What's a zeno, you ask? Click HERE for details.

To join in the fun, send yours to TodaysLittleDitty (at) gmail (dot) com, or use the contact form in the sidebar to the right. All zenos will be included in the wrap-up celebration on October 31st, and one lucky participant will win a copy of Pat's gorgeous, new, "best of" collection:

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

DMC: "Worrying About Worrying" by Vivian Kirkfield

Worrying About Worrying

I can’t
Perhaps I’ll try
to count
What if they fall
when they

© 2014 Vivian Kirkfield. All rights reserved.

J. Patrick Lewis has challenged us to write a zeno this month. What's a zeno, you ask? Click HERE for details.

To join in the fun, send yours to TodaysLittleDitty (at) gmail (dot) com, or use the contact form in the sidebar to the right. All zenos will be included in the wrap-up celebration on October 31st, and one lucky participant will win a copy of Pat's gorgeous, new, "best of" collection:

Monday, October 20, 2014

DMC: "Illusion" by Linda Baie


Exaggerated alibis
cannot excuse
Don’t imagine
I can
no debate-fired.

© 2014 Linda Baie. All rights reserved.

J. Patrick Lewis has challenged us to write a zeno this month. What's a zeno, you ask? Click HERE for details.

To join in the fun, send yours to TodaysLittleDitty (at) gmail (dot) com, or use the contact form in the sidebar to the right. All zenos will be included in the wrap-up celebration on October 31st, and one lucky participant will win a copy of Pat's gorgeous, new, "best of" collection:

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Poetry Friday Roundup: enter if you dare!

Attached at the brain. The Barnes family pumpkin, courtesy of Miranda

I've been waiting a long time for this day to arrive...

Welcome to the Poetry Friday Parlor of Horrors!

Those who know me, know that I have a bit of a dark side... especially when it comes to limericks.  Cases in point: Bridget, Sinclaire, and last year's Halloween zombie encounter.

Grab a cup of Joe and stay a while!
Okay, so maybe that's a bit more more than just a bit.

Most of the time I successfully keep that dark side, my "inner creature,"  under wraps. But when Halloween comes around, all bets are off.

While I'm sorry to say I do not have a limerick to share with you today, with a little help from a friend, I do have a HalloZEEN-O!


My dear, I'm rotten to the core.
How repulsive 
could I 
Forgive my brain-
though yours tasted 

© 2014 Michelle Heidenrich Barnes. All rights reserved.

By now you've probably heard that J. Patrick Lewis challenged us to write a zeno this month.  This week I featured ditties by Jan Gars, Margaret Simon, Laura Purdie Salas, and Gayle Krause.  But did you know that today's zeno satisfied another challenge as well?

David Harrison is celebrating five (count 'em: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5!) years of his Word of the Month ("W.O.M.") poetry challenges.  This month he's looking for 100 (no counting required) poets to share work inspired by the word "spree."  I dare you to leave a ditty on David's blog!  Adult W.O.M. poems may be shared HERE. Young poets may post their W.O.M. poems HERE.

And speaking of leaving a ditty, let's get to the Poetry Friday roundup, shall we?

Oops!  Sorry, there's a catch.

Some time ago, Tabatha Yeatts fed my hungry inner creature with a set of horror themed refrigerator poetry magnets.  I have been dying to use them (ha! dying... get it?) and what better way than a Poetry Friday Five for Friday?

I've chosen 15 words from the magnet set:

Choose one or more of the words above (a form of the word is also okay– for example, "possessed" instead of "possess") and leave your five-word, horror-inspired ditty in the comments, along with your Poetry Friday link and a short description.

Before you curse me for such an onerous task, yes, this is optional.  You may:
1. come up with 5-word ditty on the spot (please don't stress over it),
2. leave your link now and come back to add your 5-word ditty later,
3. choose not to participate in the Five for Friday at all, or
4. participate in the Five for Friday without a link.  

I will get you... er... love you, my pretties, all the same.

Here's mine, to start us off:

1. From Michelle at Today's Little Ditty:

rotting flesh:
stench of madness

2. From Laura at Author Amok:

Nightmare's tentacles
devour my day
It's my second post on a new poetic form called the Golden Shovel, featuring original poems by Linda Baie, Michelle H. Barnes (our hostess!), and my Golden Shovel based on "The Red Wheelbarrow."
3. From Jama at Alphabet Soup:

Devour moaning tentacles:
fresh sushi
At Alphabet Soup, a mini celebration of Claude Monet (poem + his favorite madeleines au citron).
4. From Robyn Hood Black:
across the page
I'm in travel mode today (i.e., didn't have act together for PF), but I hope to get out the broom later and visit more posts!
5. From Penny at a penny and her jots:

Bloodcurdling beast,
chilling, moaning
I have Episode 4 of A GREAT Nephew & A GREAT Aunt over at my blog.
6. From Matt at Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme: 

Corpse-beast rotting,
nightmare chilling.
I see we both have zenos AND Halloween on the mind! I have a new poem posted at Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme. 
 7. From Bridget (who is glad there is not a limerick about Bridget again this year) 
      at wee words for wee ones:

bloodcurdling moan
devour rotting beast
It seems food is never too far from my mind or my poetry. My offering for PF is for those poor souls who must avoid dairy.
8. From Carmela at Teaching Authors

Bloodcurdling beasts
possess my dreams.
I'll also work on something for David Harrison's Word of the Month challenge, since he was kind enough to allow me to share his poem, "cicada ghosts" in my PF post. I'm also celebrating the publication of my article "Writing for Boys (and other 'Reluctant Readers')" in the 2015 CHILDREN'S WRITER'S AND ILLUSTRATOR'S MARKET with a giveaway of the book. So I hope everyone will stop by to enter our drawing!
9. From Diane at Random Noodling and Kurious Kitty:

Dust to Dust...

And in between
putrefying rot.
At Random Noodling I have a summary of my visit last weekend to Salem, MA.  Kurious Kitty has a poem by Richard Eberhart.
10. From Joy at Poetry for Kids Joy:

Blood-curdling scream
cemetery at midnight
Joy has another zombie zeno!
11. From Crystal at Reading Through Life:
My Poetry Friday post is all about construction. Our bodies feel the rumbles of the equipment as we teach and learn each day so the feeling of change is seeping into our bones. The renovation of our school is kind of taking over my mind.
12. From Tara at A Teaching Life:
 My contribution is inspired by an old bike I saw tossed by the street.
13. From Iphigene at Gathering Books:
We aren't in Halloween mode yet at Gathering Books, but our offering for today's Poetry Friday is "The Moon Stares" by Neal Imperial.
14. From Carol at Beyond Literacy Link:
My five-word piece is embedded in a meme that was an original photo turned into a graphic design via PicMonkey. My original poem was inspired by a photo taken at the beach at night giving a totally different feeling to my summer serenity scenes. I want you to see the full effect of the five-word ditty as it sits on the page so thank you in advance for taking a stroll over to my blog.
15. From Julie at The Drift Record:

Getting Up from the Sofa on Halloween to Pass Out Candy to Trick-or-Treaters

Muscles groaaannning,
Old bones mooooaannning.
 My Poetry Friday offering is Alastair Reid on kids and counting rhymes.
16. From Catherine at Reading to the Core:

Frankenstein revives
rotting corpse.
I've been reading Frankenstein, so I'm sharing "Mutability" by Percy Bysshe Shelley.
17. From Carol at Carol's Corner:
My Poetry Friday entry is a review of FRIDA, a biography of artist Frida Kahlo, told through poetry.
18. From Margaret at Reflections on the Teche:

Bloodcurdling splatter
Nightmare's the matter.
My students are loving the zeno form and are choosing it freely. Today I have poems about starling murmurations with two zeno poem movies.
19. From Laura Purdie Salas:

A Cannibal's Menu

One corpse, chilled (just-killed)
I'm in with a poetryaction poem on my site today, inspired by a character in The Tree House That Jack Built, by Bonnie Verburg.
20. From Tabatha at The Opposite of Indifference:

Escape from the Zombie Aquarium:
Rotting tentacles
can't hold me
Hooray! Tabatha has another zeno: "Ode to Lucy's Ears."
21. From Irene at Live Your Poem...:
I've got a beautiful kind of darkness in Lilian Moore's poem "Letter to a Friend."
22. From Mary Lee at A Year of Reading: which I'm thrilled to receive some validation for my bad housekeeping.
Octopus Bike Ride

Halfway uphill:
tentacles moan.

23. From Karen Edmisten:

Chilling nightmare:
No coffee. 
I'm in with Louis Jenkins this week.
24. From Katie at The Logonauts:

Survivable nightmare?
Impromptu, chilling poem
 I am celebrating the poetry of Paul Fleischman over at The Logonauts.
25. From Violet Nesdoly:
My poem today is "October Fashion," wherein:
Autumn's style
survives the chill

26. From Becky at Tapestry of Words:

Forbidden words
Bleed life’s stories
On my blog today, I am sharing a fall poem by Arthur Guiterman and a poem I wrote after a trip to the mountains last weekend.
27. From Sylvia at Poetry for Children:
I'm off-topic with a look at memoirs in poetry.
28. From Doraine at Dori Reads:
I'm a bit off topic, too, with a Georgia poetry project on watersheds.
29. From Renée at No Water River:

What Mama Zombie Says When Zombino Misbehaves

Go to your tomb.
Today I have another installment in the NCTE Poets series with Lee Bennett Hopkins, this one featuring the work of Arnold Adoff.
30. From slayground at Bildungsroman:

Simply put:

I was born to survive.
I posted "Good Hours" by Robert Frost at my blog.
31. From Ruth at There is no such thing as a God-forsaken town:

Day off school: survived nightmare!
We have a day off school today, to celebrate Dessalines Day.  
32. From Amy at The Poem Farm:

Forbidden words.
Forbidden poems.
Over at The Poem Farm, I share a wee kitten poem and the words of a wise young poet, Emily.
33. From Donna at Mainely Write:
I decided to give emaze a try combining my poems and photos of fall in "The Fall of the Leaves of Fall". I was inspired to give it a go by Margaret Simon's work with her students' zenos displayed in emaze.
34. From Buffy Silverman:
No post for me this week, but I'll still ditty:
beast moans,
corpse splatters--

35. From Heidi at my juicy little universe:

beast's tentacles--
devour them deep-fried
I'm here with the second in my Science Series--a classic from Robert Frost.
36. From Ramona at Pleasures from the Page:
Scrambling to meet the midnight deadline - five word ditty is title for blog post: Students Succumb to Poetry's Spell.

37: From Robyn Campbell:

Bloodcurdling beast
hayride gone bad

The parlor doors are now closed.   
...unless you have come back to leave a 5-word ditty.  Creature LOVES ditties.

Thank you, my beloveds, for your links and the 
delicious morsels of ditty horror!  

DMC: "Uninvited" by Gayle C. Krause


The witches don their ritzy hats
with sequins, plumes,
and bows.
They forgot to
to their 'Fright Night'

© 2014 Gayle C. Krause. All rights reserved.

J. Patrick Lewis has challenged us to write a zeno this month. What's a zeno, you ask? Click HERE for details.

To join in the fun, send yours to TodaysLittleDitty (at) gmail (dot) com, or use the contact form in the sidebar to the right. All zenos will be included in the wrap-up celebration on October 31st, and one lucky participant will win a copy of Pat's gorgeous, new, "best of" collection: