Word Craft: Prose & Poetry, by Colleen Chesebro is an insightful and helpful instructional book for those who wish to learn more about writing syllabic poetry and prose. The first section covers Japenese syllabic poetry forms and American syllabic poetry forms are covered in section two. The author outlines the rules and inspirations for each form, and provides plenty of examples to help you get the idea.
Hiaku has been one of my favorite forms of poetry to read since it was introduced to me in the fourth grade. However, my fourth grade teacher didn’t really explain this poetry form in a way that my fourth grade mind could really grasp, so I’ve never felt very accomplished in writing Haiku. In Word Craft, Colleen Chesebro was able to explain the art of this form of poetry in a manner which my aged mind was able to grasp, giving me a much better handle on what I’m trying to do with this form of poetry. Haiku is much more than just putting the right number of syllables in each line. Haiku is written to evoke images and emotion in a succinct way. I was surprised to learn that the syllabic rules for Haiku are not set in stone, and can be varied. Below is a Haiku which I wrote after reading the chapters on this poetry form.
Spring skies let rain pour
Wings stretch, ruffling wet feathers
small Hummingbird preens
While I know poets who write Tanka poetry, which combines poetry and prose,I’ve never understood what they were doing with these poems. Although I can’t say that I’ve mastered the Tanka, I think I do understand it better, but I will need a lot of practice before I write something in Tanka or Tanka prose poem that I feel worthy of sharing.
I also had some experience in writing Hiabun, which is a combination of poetry and prose similar to Tanka Prose Poetry, but I never really understood the purpose of this form of poetry. You would think this would be the easiest form of poetry in this book for me to write, as the inspiration can come from anything and it can be in any point-of-view and any tense that you wish to write in, but I still have a hard time grasping the how of this poetry form. Fortunately, Colleen Chesebro includes many examples of each poetry style and I have no doubt that, with patience and practice I will eventually get a handle on the Haibun.
Forms of Japanese poetry that I wasn’t familiar with in this book include Senryu, which is similar in form to a Hiaku but differs in subject matter; Haiga, which uses either Haiku or Senryu and combines three art forms, imagry, poetry and calligraphy; and Gogyohka, which is based on the Tanka, but you do not count syllables, with one phrase to a line and a line-break after each breath. I found the Renga, which is design to be written by two poets, interactively, , kind of like a poetic conversation, to be in intriguing poetry form.
This is my first attempt at a Senryu poem.
Hot tea steams
on chill summer morn
wake up call
For me, the forms of American syllabic poetry were more difficult, perhaps because they tend to be longer. In the second portion of the book, Sally Cronin includes explanation and instruction and examples for Cinquains of all types, Etherees, Nonets, and Shadormas. I made several unsuccessful attempts at the basic types of each of these poetry forms, but they are much harder than they look. My hat is off to Cronin and anyone else that can meld their syllables with seeming ease.
I took a challenge on Teagan Riordain Genevieve’s blog and for that I wrote a Shadorma poem, which I published here, on Writing to be Read. You can see my example of a Shadorma here, but I don’t know if it is any good. It really was harder than I thought it would be.
If you like syllabic poetry, either Japanese or American, and would like to try your hand at it, I highly recommend the instruction of Word Craft: Prose & Poetry, by Sally Cronin. This book introduced me to new forms, as well as delving deeper into forms I was familiar with. I give it five quills.
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