Earlier this year I discovered some interesting Webinars for children’s writers. In February I signed on to The ABCs of Poetry: Writing in Poetic Form for Children & Young Adults, hosted by Texas SCBWI, featuring Leslea Newman. Leslea is an award-winning children’s author, and teaches Writing for Children and Young Adults at Spalding University’s brief-residency MFA in Writing program.
Leslea’s focus was on formal poetry, and poetic forms.
“Formal poetry is poetry that sticks to a traditional pattern or structure that often uses rhyme, rhythm, and repetition as well as other poetic techniques.”
Poems that don’t stick to a rigid form still make use of attributes of formal poetry such as rhyme, rhythm, repetition, meter, and uniformity of stanza length. Rhyming couplets, which contains four-line stanzas with the second and fourth lines rhyming, is a simple form of formal poetry.
Many of her own poems are written in rigid forms with prescribed structures. These include the pantoum, villanelle, terza rima, sonnet, sestina, cinquain, haiku, rondeau and triolet.
Just hearing those words intimidates me! But Leslea’s webinar explained the types of poetry in a way that even I could understand, giving examples of each. Here are just a few.
The ghazal, a Persian form of poetry, contains internal rhyme before a repeated refrain at the ends of the lines. Read Susan Campbell Bartoletti’s poem “NAAMAH AND THE ARK AT NIGHT.”
The ballad is a French form of poetry consisting of four-line stanzas. Using simple, direct language, the emphasis is on plot and story-telling (a heroic act). An example is THE PIRATE QUEENS by Jane Yolen.
Haiku is a Japanese form of poetry consisting of three lines. The entire poem should be as long as one breath, and should contain some description of nature, and have an aha! moment and an element of compassion. Read GUY KU by Bob Raczka, or WONTON by Lee Wardlaw
The pantoum, from 15th century Malayan literature, consists of 4-line stanzas of indefinite length and optional rhyming. Every line in a pantoum is used twice.
Leslea gave a few reasons for writing formal poetry. A few of them are:
•It develops your ear.
•Formal poetry soothes the reader.
•It provides a built-in tension of expectation and surprise.
Leslea said “I find writing formal poetry especially helpful when writing about emotionally wrenching situations.” See her book, I CARRY MY MOTHER.
Books on poetic form—
A KICK IN THE HEAD: AN EVERYDAY GUIDE TO POETIC FORMS by Paul Janeczko and Chris Raschka.
THE BOOK OF FORMS: A HANDBOOK OF POETICS by Lewis Turco.
Leslea Newman is a poet, a teacher, and a mentor. Find out more on her website at: http://lesleanewman.com/
Check out these upcoming or ongoing webinars and podcasts for children’s writers:
Picture Book Craft Intensive: Telling Children's Stories in Today's Market
An On-Demand Webinar
Guest Speaker: Mary Kole
Chapter Book Craft 101 with Simon & Schuster editor, Amy Cloud
October 20, 2015 from 7:00-8:30 pm
hosted by North Texas SCBWI
very reasonable price with reduced rate for SCBWI members
Keep your eye on this Writers’ Digest link to up-coming webinars
SCBWI Podcasts, which are free to members!
SCBWI brings our members engaging podcasts with leaders in the children’s book field. Sit in on these conversations to get informed and inspired!
For information on how to become a member of SCBWI, click here or go to http://www.scbwi.org/about/.