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Dissecting a Poem

Melody, from NAME THAT DOG!
Between new babies and other family matters, my blog has taken a back seat this month. I decided to get in a late contribution to poetry month by going through how I wrote, and re-wrote, one of the poems from my picture book, NAME THAT DOG!

My inspiration for Melody was my friend’s dog, Mellie. Every time I would go to Karen’s house, Mellie barked like crazy, even before I got the front door! I told Karen, “You don’t need a doorbell. You have Mellie!”

My first idea was to write about a dog who loved to ‘sing,’ and with his barking he would get all of the dogs in the neighborhood to join in. I called him Maestro, like the leader of an orchestra. Here’s the first draft:

Maestro
He sings along
When I play the piano
He hits the high notes
In perfect soprano.
He can hold it long
He can sing it low
Dogs follow the lead
Of my dog, Maestro.

Ok, I wasn't really happy with this poem--yet. Here are some reasons why.

Rhythm: This poem didn’t just roll off your tongue with that easy rhythm.

The stress fell on different syllables in the lines. I try to have each line stress the same syllable, either the first or the second usually, to make it easy to read. It doesn’t always work out that way, but at least it feels right when you read it out loud. The stress here falls on the second or third syllable, and doesn’t line up in order. The last line puts the stress on the word ‘my,’ which doesn’t feel natural. In addition, the lines don’t have the same number of syllables. It doesn’t always have to be exactly the same, but I felt that it was too far off.

Imagery: I didn’t feel that the end result put any special pictures or images in the reader’s mind. Ok, maybe a piano, maybe an orchestra conductor. Boring!

Language: Word choice, or language, is what creates the images that the readers see when they read a poem. It’s also what makes the reader feel something when they read a poem. I definitely thought I could do better here.

So I started to make my lists. I made a list of words of ways that a dog makes noise: bark, howl, yap, etc. I made a list of words that were synonyms for ‘sing:’ croon, tra-la-la, chant, hum, wail, moan…. I made a list of types of music: country, opera, pop, rock, rap…. I made a list of musical instruments: piano, saxophone, flute, violin….

I decided to re-name my dog Melody, after Mellie, who barked whenever someone came up the walk, and made her a girl like the real Mellie. I looked at my lists, and tried to relate the different words to a dog, in particular to a dog who liked to ‘sing.’ Here’s what I ended up with.

Melody
She sings when I play the piano.
She croons to the saxophone blues.
She wails to that sad country music
And moans to the nine o’clock news.
She boldly increases her volume,
enjoying the voice that she’s found,
And sings a duet with the doorbell—
That howling, melodious hound.

Poems are meant to be read out loud! I ended up with a much better rhythm, and a poem that was fun to read. The language was fun, too. And the images are there in every line for the reader to enjoy. I hope that you enjoy these poems, as well.  Read More 
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Babies…Grandchildren…and poetry

Our new granddaughter--inspiration #7
Our newest inspiration was born on March 29th—baby girl, Claire Elise! Claire is beautiful. Of course, all babies are beautiful. But your own are the very best.

PapPap (my husband) and I had an amazing two weeks in Missouri at the beginning of the month. Two of our children live there with their young families. We spent time with the little ones and their parents. We celebrated the new birth. We babysat. We helped our daughter’s family move into their new house a week after their baby was born. And we enjoyed the warm weather!

I always come home inspired by the comments and observations of our four (now five) grandchildren who live there. Each comment is like a slice of life, a photograph taken from life’s scheme of things. Kind of like poetry, it’s just a little piece of the picture.

Some things I learned:

If you want to get your mother’s attention, stand on a sit and spin. --from the viewpoint of a one-year old.

Lock your bedroom door when you challenge a four-year old to a race to see who gets dressed first.

A little-girl sized umbrella will make a three-year old smile for a long time.

Big helium balloons are more fun than toys.

Running in circles in an empty house is more fun than toys.

“Avocado” can make a kid laugh just because it’s fun to say.

Coloring can be great fun, or overrated, depending on which four-year old you’re with.

A kitchen chair blocking the way will not keep a one-year old away from the cabinet with the horse statues—he just crawls underneath it.

A little boy might forget about a hurt knee if you tell him you’re going to get up the stairs before he does.

A two-year old will tell you he’s going to hide under the bed, and that you have to come and find him.
A four-year old makes you count to 35 and can hide in places you can’t get to.

A one-year old can’t wait to see the next page in the book, and turns the pages before you’re done reading all the words.
A three-year old will count every apple/ball/spot on every page of the book you’re reading.
A four-year old picks the book with the most words/pages for his bedtime story and tells you when you’ve missed any words.

“Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose.” --from an almost 5-year old, playing Candyland with his mother.

And writers who get to spend time with pre-schoolers are blessed.  Read More 
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