Initially an entire poem can seem as large as a universe but break your poetry down.
The answer is as big as the universe (almost). A poem comes in many forms.
Most poems I read today are free verse in style, meaning there is not necessarily a rhyme or rhythm (beat or cadence). This style of poetry has its obvious advantage. It doesn't tie the author down to a lyrical creation. However, some poets find it much easier to create a poem that rhymes. There are at least four billion rhyming dictionaries on the market making rhymes much more complex than, "I fell in love with a turtle dove." Still, I haven't been able to find a rhyme for "garlic."
For the sake of simplicity let's begin with free verse style. I used to go fishing with my Uncle Vince. Vince approached fishing like he approached his job. We were out on a huge lake early one morning and Vince began a story. He told stories better than anyone I know. Wow, could he tell a story.
"Stan," he began, "Smitty and I were on this very spot a couple of years ago. We pushed the boat into the water around five in the morning. There was still fog on the lake. We could barely see ten feet in front of us. All we could hear were the frogs and crickets, beautiful morning for fishing. Smitty and I put our lines in the water and bang! The bass started hitting everything we threw in the waters. I had almost caught my limit by seven, and then all of sudden the wind picked up and the clouds got black. Smitty wanted to get out of the water, but I told him we would stay until it started lightening. Well, guess what, lightening began streaking through the air like flying spider webs and the thunder sounded like a train wreck. I'll tell you Stan it was like all hell broke loose . . . ."
When he finished, I was smiling. It not only was a great story, but I was thinking to myself, "That's the stuff poems are made from." Think about it for a moment. The story was so vivid. I felt like I was there, looking at the entire event. A good poem is the same way. Let's see if we can create a poem from Vince's story. Let's start with a catching first line. How about, "The early morning fog thick like gray feathers." How's that sound? I added the simile "like gray feathers" for imagery.
What is a simile? A simile is the comparison of two unlike things generally using the word "like" for the comparison, for example, "dumb like a fox."
How about a second line? "Silence broken only by sounds of nature." That covers the crickets and frogs. Want to try for a third line? "Armed with poles, we harvested our prey." OK, OK. it's a little overdramatic, but let's try it anyway. Another line, "Suddenly spider webs of lightening." Notice I used two words with the same first consonant: "suddenly" and "spider." This is called alliteration – the use of two words together with the same initial consonant to add a musical quality.
I think we're doing pretty well so far. Let's add another line to connect the fourth line:"and train-wreck thunder surround us." Not the greatest, but it might work. One more line. "Smitty grabbed an oar, we pressed shoreward." Yet another, "Harvest in tow, we headed home." Finally, "with memories in our pockets.
Now, let's see what we have created:
The early morning fog thick like gray feathers Silence broken only by sounds of nature. Armed with poles we harvested our prey. Suddenly spider webs of lightening and train-wreck thunder surround us. Smitty grabbed an oar, we pressed shoreward. Harvest in tow, we headed home with memories in our pockets.
Now you have the idea, right? Right. Together we created a poem from a story told by someone else. Try this little exercise on your own. Or, try a story you have heard, or maybe one you have shared with others. Go for it. After all, you are now a poet.
Stan Grimes is a graduate from Indiana University and works in the real world as a social worker. He has written a number of articles for the American Chronicle and www.useless-knowledge.com. Stan has published a number of poems and short stories in various anthologies and on his website at AuthorsDen. He has published three science fiction/suspense thriller novels. His latest, Deacon, can be found at Double Dragon Publishing Inc.