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  • Writer's pictureAttie Lime

How I Wrote a Poem


First off, this is one of the ways that I write poems. This is not How to Write a Poem 101. This is not how I write all my poems. This is how I wrote this particular poem. And my, was it tricky to think about the process as I went along. Of course, I already knew that I get a lot of ideas, and that most days I write at least one poem, but thinking about every tweak that I made at speed, and trying to remember and explain it, made me realise that when I write, many things are happening all at the same time. Quickly! Doing this significantly slowed down my creative process, and although I like the finished poem, and this was an interesting exercise, writing it while thinking about writing it was not nearly as fun as how it all usually happens!


Anyway, this is the creative diary of a poem called…oh, wait, I haven’t actually got a title yet! So that’s another insight into how things work around here! *Re-reads poem*


This is the creative diary of a poem called Imagining Mercats. (Not meerkats. *Insert jolly illustration of a swimming mercat here*.)


Writing The Poem


I had an idea whilst doing something else. A mercat instead of a mermaid. The first line started to write itself, because that’s what was happening: Sometimes I think about mercats.


When I had my phone, before the idea disappeared, I wrote this:



I started to think about things that cats do, which I could then reflect in the life of a mercat. I thought about my cat sleeping on the sofa. In my house we call it a sofa, but because I wanted to use coral in the poem, I chose to write couch, for the alliteration. This alliteration then told me that curl would be a good first word for the following line. So, that’s two stanzas, first draft, done.



I then went back to the beginning and READ IT OUT LOUD. If there’s anything that this exercise has highlighted, it is just how often I do this. I do this A LOT. All the way through the process, not just at the end. So, I read it aloud to myself, and didn’t like how stanza one was scanning. Wonder felt like it had one syllable too many, and as usual, the word and was unnecessary. I’m sure if there was a clever app for this, it would discover that the word I cut most from my poems is AND. So, then I had this:









The rhyming words at the end of stanzas one and two decided themselves; I don’t often consciously think about if or how I’m going to use rhyme, when I start a poem. I suspect, because tea is one of those words which has many rhymes, that made it sort of happen naturally. Because of the chatty nature of the poem, and it’s loose-ish structure, I didn’t worry about rhyming patiently with tea. It sounded natural when I read it aloud (what I mean is, I didn’t feel the need to change it to be, flea, or pea).


So, stanza three. I had to think a bit more about this, because by now a pattern was emerging; the poem is asking questions: Do they chase mermice? Do they eat fish…? Do they watch merbirds…? I looked at the first line of each stanza:


1) Sometimes I think about mercats (followed by questions)

2) Do mercats sleep on coral couches?


In this kind of poem, I usually try to start each stanza with a different word, so I went with the questioning theme, and chose What for stanza three. Again, I thought about cat-things, and decided to write about names. I wrote the stanza, I READ IT OUT LOUD, then I edited it to sound better:

At some point in all this, I made a sort of Rhyme Spider. I do this a lot. I have stopped using RhymeZone online, which on bad days seems to think spanner rhymes with porridge. This way works for me. Sometimes I write down ALL the rhymes I can think of, other times I only write down the ones which I know will fit and won’t sound forced for the sake of rhyming.


I saw that me was on there, which I felt might be a useful word to finish with. In a children’s poem particularly, bringing it back to me often works well, and in this case reminds us of the ‘poet’ saying at the beginning that they’re ‘thinking about mercats’.













I jotted this down:





For the final stanza, I chose another ‘question word’, Would, and thought about cats playing. The stanza pretty much wrote itself, but I chose the line breaks to highlight the rhyme within the stanza, of paw and or. This also causes me to pause briefly during reading, which gives a little punch to the final two lines.


And that’s that. A finished poem. Except I haven’t yet recorded myself reading it aloud, and so it may yet change further. Also, it is brand new, and sometimes poems need to be left to settle for a few days or weeks, before things which need tweaking float up to the surface; I need some distance from them, and them from me. When I go back to it, the first thing I will do is READ IT OUT LOUD.


I hope that this has been interesting, maybe useful, and not too dull! It has been really quite eye-opening to me, to examine all the many things I’m doing every time I write a poem in quite a short space of time. Thank you to the person who asked me to do this, and the rest of you who thought it might be interesting – I hope it has been.


Happy reading, writing, and poeming,

Attie x


UPDATE: In typing out the ‘finished’ poem for the blog, I changed two more things, for sense and meaning. And so it goes on!


Imagining Mercats (finished?)


Sometimes I think about mercats,

do they chase mermice

under the sea?

Or just *eat fish for their mercat tea? *catch


Do mercats sleep on coral couches,

curl up in shipwrecks,

watch merbirds

patiently?


What kind of names do mercats have?

Fluffy can’t be right

down there,

their fur all watery.


Would a mercat play with a mermaid’s tail?

Bat starfish with a paw? or

would he rather

*live at home, with me? *play

Imagining Mercats (almost certainly finished...)


Sometimes I think about mercats,

do they chase mermice

under the sea?

Or just catch fish for their mercat tea?


Do mercats sleep on coral couches,

curl up in shipwrecks,

watch merbirds

patiently?


What kind of names do mercats have?

Fluffy can’t be right

down there,

their fur all watery.


Would a mercat play with a mermaid’s tail?

Bat starfish with a paw? or

would he rather

play at home, with me?



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3 comentarios


Miembro desconocido
21 abr 2023

Thanks so much for doing this, Attie! It's so interesting to see how one of your poems came to life. I like your rhyme spider idea. When I know that I'm going to need a rhyming word for a subsequent line, I string all the options I can come up with at the end of the current line. For example: "I jumped into the swimming pool/stool/drool/rule/cool/jewel." Sometimes I come up with a word I love so much (like drool) that it completely derails the stanza and I have to rewrite the whole thing to make it fit. :)

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Attie Lime
Attie Lime
21 abr 2023

I do it every which way - sometimes just notebook, sometimes just in notes on my phone, sometimes completely in my head until I type it out!

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valliharris
21 abr 2023

Wow that was quickly turned around for such a detailed and interesting post! I confess that although I have many notebooks, a lot of mine begin first thing in the morning, in bed on my ipad notes. Later they probably get transferred to a notebook or printed out.

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