Meter, Rhythm, and Rhyme, Oh My! It’s Poetry Month!

 By Ellen Leventhal poetryfun

Poetry: Evidence that the brain still thinks and the heart still feels…Robyn Adams

That’s one impressive definition of poetry, isn’t it? A few years ago, I was lucky enough to meet Robyn Adams, the talented young poet who wrote this. I’ve kept her wise words posted near my desk ever since.

Poetry comes in a myriad of forms…way too many to list here.  Good writers use poetic techniques all the time; not just in poetry. Next time you read really engaging prose, especially in children’s literature, notice the rhythm and the sounds of the words. Poetic language enhances good prose. Writing what I now think of as “Punchy Prose” doesn’t always come naturally. Last summer I was mindlessly clicking computer keys creating decidedly unpoetic and unpunchy prose. Sure, the story was there, but something was missing.  I needed help. The writing gods must have listened because when I opened Facebook, there were no pictures of kittens in tutus. Instead there was a description of the online class, The Lyrical Language Lab. That’s what I needed! My writing had to sing! The lyrically name Renee LaTulippe created and taught the course.  Renee explained that she did it because as an editor, she was repeating the same advice to authors. “Punch up your prose. Engage and delight your readers. Surprise them with unexpected turn of phrase.” (Thus, my term, “Punchy Prose”) According to Renee, this is especially important in writing for children.  Since I normally write kid lit, I thought if I tried hard, perhaps I could make my words sing. I knew Renee would be the one to help me find the melody.

As I plodded along the road to better assonance, meter, and the fun, yet devious double dactyl (nope, not a dinosaur), I met others longing for lyricism in their own work. When I met Randi Sonenshine and Buffy Silverman I was pretty much in awe of their ability to weave beautiful stories and poems. They are SO good that they were both recently in the finals of Ed DeCaria’s March Madness Poetry. If you care about quality poetry for kids, you’ve got to check it out. Randi took a break from her furious poetry writing to chat with me about the experience.  “Having children from all over read, respond, and get excited about poetry is the most amazing part of MMP.”  I asked Randi how she got her ideas. She responded, “Words have been my constant companions; sometimes they waltz around my feet like fall leaves, while at other times they dart about my head like dragon flies.” Wow. She even answers questions like a poet! She was at the top of the class. I was, well, in the class.

Happily, there’s no shortage of online sites if you are looking to surround yourself with poetry. Especially in April. Even before I met Renee, Randi, and Buffy, I jumped blindly into Angie Karcher’s RhyPiBoMo. I know it sounds like some sort of weird cult where you speak in tongues, but it stands for Rhyming Picture Book Month. Wow, did it have an impact on my writing, my goals, and my confidence! To be honest, it was the kick in the rear I needed to get back on the writing track. Angie told me that she started the group so she could hang out with like-minded rhyming picture book and poetry people. She was also in search of a rhyming critique group. She built it, and we came. And stayed.

Most importantly for me, RhyPiBoMo hooked me up with a wonderful critique group. They are creative, generous, truthful, and very supportive. I know for sure that if it weren’t for my Goodnight Moon critique group (and of course, my fellow Space City Scribes), my poetry and prose manuscripts would be hanging out together in my drawer, never seeing the light of day and never improving.

I asked one of my critique pals, Pia Garneau, what poetry means to her. She spoke about her love of nuances, imagery, and most importantly, feelings. When Pia mentioned that poetry can help you remember how much you loved your grandma’s chocolate chip cookies, I thought again of Robyn’s definition. Poetry does remind you that your heart still feels.

April is more than showers and flowers. April is Poetry Month.  So whether you are all about anapest or crave a catchy cadence, if you love poetry, this is the month to jump in. Remember, your brain can think, and your heart can feel. Write on, poets, write on.

7 thoughts on “Meter, Rhythm, and Rhyme, Oh My! It’s Poetry Month!

  1. Wonderful post, Ellen. Love the quote. I TOO love Renee, Randi, and Buffy. And YOU! Every writer needs The Lyrical Language Lab. The alumni group is filled with the lovely music of poets that I am in awe of.

  2. Wonderful post, Ellen! Thanks for the mention. I do love our Moonies and your comments have made me a better writer. I second Renee’s LLL class. So amazing! It was so much fun to see the poems during March Madness. Loved Randi’s poetic answer to your question.

  3. I can’t recommend The Lyrical Language Lab highly enough! Renee has a wonderful gift for helping others understand poetry and meter. If she doesn’t come out with a part two soon (hint, hint Renee!), I might have to sign up for her original class again just because it put me in such a good place as a writer the first time I took it.

    Lovely post, Ellen!

  4. Awesome post, Ellen! Having taken Renee’s Lyrical Language Lab and participated with you in Angie’s RhyPiBoMo, I know that we all keep on learning more and more about how poetry is so much more than just rhyme and that prose needs to be as lyrical as poetry. You are an incredible writer, a stellar friend and a brilliant critique partner. 😉 Yay for the Goodnight Moons!

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