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CraftPerson’s Corner with Steve Corn.

Steve Corn is an exceptional poet who has agreed to do a regular Craftsperson’s Corner for Plum Tree Books. This feature will focus on how to construct a great poem. I will be featuring his posts here. I hope you enjoy them. You can connect with Steve on Facebook 538902_10150948602610071_652975070_12309931_1609232989_n

What’s in a word? Everything! 

Word choice is up for discussion this week. It’s a touchy subject for some poets and prose writers but the masters are the masters for a reason.

“In addition to its sounds and its visual appearance when written, a word has one or more meanings within a sentence. The meaning is what the word signifies, what it conveys to someone who speaks the language. Even a nonsense word may have meaning -” the po-e-try dic-tion-ar-y by John Drury.

In poetry meaning is only one of the reasons to choose a specific word. Other considerations such as rhyme, rhythm, pace, meter, pentameter, pun, or the appearance as written. These are all important considerations the author should ponder. Nonsense words have even been used effectively by authors like Ogden Nash or Dr. Seuss.

Every author has their own method, but all I can do is speak to my technique. After a rough draft I read it trying to feel the rhythm. If a word doesn’t fit or seems sticky, breaks the slant, or stops the pace, I start spinning synonyms in my head, sometimes leading me to the perfect word, other times to an enlightenment on my meaning. Sometimes different idea pop in that fit the piece better. I also spin metaphors, symbols, and literary devices around, all of which can inspire a change in direction or clarify the meaning I’m looking to communicate. Don’t get caught just looking for a synonym!

A good thesaurus should be required on every writers’ desk! Here’s a story about an image of a frosty weed that had puffy frosty structures billowing from it. Sparkling hmm? Shiny, yuck, etc. etc. Time to pop open the big blue book. Effervesce. A word I hadn’t thought about because it made me think of a liquid, but it gave a bigger, fuller picture of the image in my mind. Guess what?, it fit the slant and led me to an even better stanza than I could have imagined. Here are the first two stanzas of the poem.

Black and Tan Scottish Lass,
silent as a specter.
Sensing all – Sight -Sound- Smell-
Everything, large and small.
Mind focused – searching – thinking –
Shimmering caramel feathers flow
behind a long, rich, sable coat.
Moving like a Duchess;
Noble head held high.
Gliding gracefully-
Sassy

Swaying softly the tall gold grasses
effervesce-in frosted dresses.
Half the weathered posts are down
rusty wire along the ground.
Beneath a row of naked trees is heard-
Rustling-Crunching-Snapping-Crackling.
Issuing from a cruel season’s desiccation- –
summer’s desecration. The weakest sun
attempts to shine; but only glows.
A glorious day to Pray –
Prey

Look how that one word continues the rhyme and pace of stanza 1 to stanza 2 and led me to dresses, completing the picture. I really want to hear about everyone’s techniques they use to choose the Right Word.

Steve Corn

04/10/2013

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About Dr Niamh

When I was a little girl (a very, very long time ago), I used to love learning new, really big words like ‘discombobulate’. As I grew, my love of words grew too, until I loved them so much, I could not stop writing them down. One day, as I was scribbling a particular word, a very peculiar thing happened. The word shouted at me, “Stop! Don’t put me there!” As you can imagine, I was shocked and nearly fell off my chair. When I recovered somewhat, I said to the word, “Could you stop shouting, please? I am not used to it.” Can you guess what happened next? No! I thought not. The word said, “I might be small, but I will misbehave if you do not use me properly. I will not tell the story you would like me to tell. I will say something entirely different!” I dropped my pen. I hoped that by dropping my pen, the word would stop talking. Alas! It did not. It carried on chitterchobbling, even after the ink had dried. I was in a pickle. I could not allow my words to run away with my story, now could I? I don’t know about you, but when this sort of thing happens, there is only one thing left to do if you prefer not to spend your time arguing. “Very well,” said I. “I will do as you ask if you will just be quiet and allow me to concentrate.” Since that day, I have been paying special attention to every word I invite into my stories. After all, a story should say exactly what it means to say and not be led astray. With love from Dr. Niamh, Ph.D in Learning Through The Imagination and Founder of Dr Niamh Children's Books. www.drniamh.co.uk

13 comments on “CraftPerson’s Corner with Steve Corn.

  1. the secret keeper
    April 12, 2013

    I do love this post Steve. Thanks for posting these here ontheplumtree. A perfect place to open it up for more to see these lessons. In my explanation for how I find the words I use to write depends on the style of poetry am choosing and if it is prose. I think I am still figuring that out. I have written more in the realm of poetry than prose and journal more than fiction. I do love writing screenplays. I love playing around with dialogue and setting up scenes and how they should be shot. Plus using a limited amount of instruction on these aspects and let us not forget setting. That is fun. But my main thing here is what are the characters thinking, what is their motivation. What are they going to do next to move the story forward. But even in a script you can go anywhere with words. You could write a non-sense script similar to my favorite non-sense book and adaptation to the screen “Alice In Wonderland and the sometimes combined Alice Through the Looking Glass,” There is something very freely, yet does need discipline in its writing too, is to compose/write non-sense stories of the ilk of Dr. Seuss and others who choose this method. I like to experiment in many methods, And let me not forget the plays that were written for the Theatre of the Absurd. Who doesn’t love :Waiting For Godot?” I saw it the first time and was very young and naive and wondered what was taking him so long. Don’t want to give away the ending. 😉 jk

    Like

  2. Patricia Tilton
    April 12, 2013

    Enjoyed reading post on writing a poem and the importance of words. I love poetry, but don’t write poems..

    Like

  3. Uncle Tree
    April 12, 2013

    Hello, Steve! Hello, Niamh!
    It’s awfully quiet here. Mind,
    if I break the ice? “No.” ? Good.

    Dear Steve, I’m not sure I have a word-choosing technique to explain. Surely, when choosing a particular word for fit, it would need to keep the rhythm in time, and rhyme, when writing lyrics. For prose, I think of meaning first, and see what immediately pops into my head. Then I wait for associations, including possible alternatives, and see which phrasing I like best overall.

    As a matter of principle, I’ve never consulted a thesaurus when writing. I wish to use my own words. “My own words” – by that I mean, words currently in my vocabulary. Having said that – I will now say, I cannot always define words I’ve heard before, but that won’t stop me from using them, especially after I look them up in a dictionary and they mean what I thought they meant.

    Effervesce – I had to look that up. Effervescence is what I thought you meant, at first. That word, I’ve heard. Bubbly, like carbonation, and yes, certainly a fluid example of a weed losing frosty seeds in the wind. Except, I’m not sure that is what you mean, because dresses comes next.

    I may not understand how these two stanzas belong in the same poem, and I may not understand which technique you’re using here, or if you are varying your technique throughout the poem. Perhaps, I don’t get it at all, which makes me feel a bit ignorant, or dense, lol.

    In the first stanza, I see a Scottish terrier, and in the second, I see the noble bitch prancing and romping in the field, and nonchalantly stomping all over the tall gold grasses while looking for a bird to prey upon.

    Good golly, I imagine I’m missing the point here. You may not have the time to explain your whole poem, or these two stanzas. No real big deal, Steve. I’m treating this in a light-heart-ed manner, not knowing if you’ll reply here. Anywhoo…Happy Friday! Cheerz, Keith

    Like

  4. Steve Corn
    April 12, 2013

    Here is the whole poem Keith. It will make more sense, I hope. It is a short narrative I tried to fill with imagery and some pace changes thru slant rhyme, rhythm and line breaks and punctuation. Kind of an experiment blending Dickinson Thoreau and Melville, but I’ve done some similar ones since. As i tried to explain in the post there are a lot of considerations in poetry when choosing words, more than just image alone As far as screenplays it must sound like natural conversation or it is just cliche with the exceptions you mentioned Jennifer.. Most times the words just flow and it is when reading that something seems out of place that I work on a particular word or phrase. Keith the dresses are the crystalline structures that happen with a hard freeze when they are still slightly damp, kind of puffy covering the plant.

    Beauty-Brains-Bird Sense-
    ” Sassy”

    Steve Corn
    May 1st 2011

    Black and Tan Scottish Lass,
    silent as a specter.
    Sensing all – Sight -Sound- Smell-
    Everything, large and small.
    Mind focused – searching – thinking –
    Shimmering caramel feathers flow
    behind a long, rich, sable coat.
    Moving like a Duchess;
    Noble head held high.
    Gliding gracefully-
    Sassy

    Swaying softly the tall gold grasses
    effervesce-in frosted dresses.
    Half the weathered posts are down
    rusty wire along the ground.
    Beneath a row of naked trees is heard-
    Rustling-Crunching-Snapping-Crackling.
    Issuing from a cruel season’s desiccation- –
    summer’s desecration. The weakest sun
    attempts to shine; but only glows.
    A glorious day to Pray –
    Prey

    They hear – Crystallize – Frozen-
    sensing the approach. Prepared,
    huddled in ready crouch.
    Springs wound tight, anticipation High!
    Steps fall in rhythmic trudge,
    like the beat of a tribal drum.
    Two breathing, locked in time as one.
    Breath wafts – smoking – cloud like – vapors ascending –
    white as bleached bone.
    Artemis appears. Musk in the air-
    Where?

    Whiff – She knows! Slow, tracks a coal like nose.
    Ears dark and silky, like velvet drapery,
    blacker than a starless night.
    Hear the nervous one?
    Others carved in stone, peering.
    Frozen eyes catch stares – anticipating!
    Four look in, thirty out –
    The Stalk – -Then Stare
    all statues-
    Aware.

    There – coffee and walnut mottled;
    robed harmoniously in camouflage.
    Sticks – Leaves- Trees – an Old Man’s Breeze –
    all of Natures Creations; unanimously agree!
    – – A jet bead, the betrayer – –
    The Air Explodes – Hummms – Beaten –
    by Southern Gentlemen.
    Thundering Feathers in all Directions!
    Vulcan’s handiwork swings true!
    Cracks, Then! and Again!. All senses-
    Electric!

    Thick puffs of gray, floating like dirty snow – –
    all in slow motion – follow the quarry down.
    One in black and white duds – the other in brown;
    vainly ready for a night on the town.
    Like a Greyhound she runs the rooster down,
    returns to her partner all smiles, no frowns.
    Ready – Waiting – Anticipating – another round.
    Sulfur wafts, Impregnating the Air like sweet incense.
    Primal God’s are appeased –
    Pleased – – –

    Prickly periwinkle thistles or
    S talky canary and cocoa sunflowers,
    Kansas or the Caledonian Homeland.
    The same ancient scene replays.
    This ancient Symbiosis that has been
    Melded – Welded – Fed and Wed –
    since the beginning of time is –
    inherently Aware – that, a bird in the bush
    is always worth two in the hand –
    no matter, the –
    Land. . .

    Like

  5. Uncle Tree
    April 12, 2013

    Thanks, Steve. I just looked up the definition of ‘slant rhyme’. I didn’t know what that was. LoL / Guess I should have done that first. I like these lines best, for example:

    Thick puffs of gray, floating like dirty snow – –
    all in slow motion – follow the quarry down.
    One in black and white duds – the other in brown;
    vainly ready for a night on the town.
    Like a Greyhound she runs the rooster down,
    returns to her partner all smiles, no frowns.
    Ready – Waiting – Anticipating – another round.

    And dresses. You’re not pulling my leg, are you? He-he..I gotcha. I think?

    The last grouping does help me to see
    how the parts of the whole uniquely tie together.
    Quite an interesting idea, Steve. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

    Like

  6. Steve Corn
    April 13, 2013

    I also use allusion in this poem and quite often in my work..I love the way Melville used it so often. True metaphor vs simile and some symbols made it a well rounded example of devices. Thanks again everyone.

    Like

  7. thiskidreviewsbooks
    April 13, 2013

    I like that poem!

    Like

  8. Steve Corn
    April 13, 2013

    Thank you!

    Like

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