Friday, January 10, 2014

Imagery Poetry & Word Game

Hello to all my poet friends!

Hey, today I wanted to touch on a little game I used to play to help me choose words for a poem. You know, being a writer, I love words. I like to find interesting words and see how I can use them. Sometimes it might be a phrase. You'd be surprised how one word can change your whole poem. Imagery is something you do need in a poem in order to put your reader into the moment. Getting the imagery from words and then forming a beautiful picture with words is a real art, and it takes practice.

Let me give you an example of an imagery poem that I wrote in 2009.

Walking Meditations
Lorelei Bell 2009

Softly falling rain,
blue cascading language
to sacred doorway of afterlife.
Windspeak ancient dreams
spirit-walk the veil of night
decrescendoed voices of stars

Yeah. There's a few words in there that I invented. "windspeak" was one, and I actually borrowed "decrescendoed" from another poem. Inventing words or word phrases that grab your reader is a bit hard, like this poem was. But for this, the words merely came to me one day. I will usually have some bit of paper in order to write lines down, and develop the poem later on.

Imagery here is 
softly falling rain--you hear it, you might even see and smell it.
doorway-not just any doorway, but a sacred doorway
veil of night
voices of stars

I chose these as the imagery in this poem not for any specific reason than I had been playing my little word game. Take a magazine, a book, or newspaper. Find the most interesting words/phrases from these choices and write them on a separate sheet of paper. 

I love finding wonderful phrases in novels. Here is an example of a list from one of my finds:

black pitch candles
witches riding on broomsticks
human hair, fingernail parings
bare-limbed trees
bubbling cauldron
peer from
black cat
dry leaves skitter
witch from Toulous
dried up bat wings
haunted house
enchanted potions
skeletal wood
hinges moan
odors issue
pumpkin guts
candles ablaze
parts of dead human bodies
full moon

What I like to do is cut each word/phrase out (after I've written them large on a separate sheet of paper) and put them on another sheet of paper, and then move them around to see if a story/poem evolves. 

Well, from this you can see this would make a really scary poem. And it did. I actually wrote a short story from it as well, later on.

Here is the poem I created from the above list:

Witch From Toulouse
Lorelei Bell 6/1/09

Bare-limbed trees
stand guard, creating
a tunnel of gnarled fingers
up to the front porch

Yellow eyes peer from
second-story windows

Black cat jumps
from behind a tree
You scream
I cry out

Dry leaves skitter
across sidewalk sounding
like dried up bat wings

Hand-in-hand we walk
up to the house
our steps clack
like castanets
along cracked sidewalk

Skeletal wood fence
silvered with time
leads drunkenly up
to the hold house

Door latch clicks
Hinges moan
as the door opens 
all on its own

Roasted pumpkin guts
issue from within
Candles ablaze
glowing evilly from
sardonic grins.

Silently we stride forward
through a cobweb-draped doorway
Skeletons clatter in the
breeze hung from rafters

Human arms
and legs
 litter the hallway

Turning, we open a door
Plunge into the near-darkness

Down a blood-splattered
staircase the hairs
 on my neck prick

Black pitch candles
 on each riser

A caustic laugh
Bubbling cauldron
Witch from Toulouse
has enchanted potions
lining her shelves

I think 
I have just
enough money.

The bottom sentence in the poem above had been written in one line: I think/ I have just/ enough money. and I separated them to end it in a sort of funny way. The poem was a bit chilling, and I took the horrific cast off by making a little joke. If I had really wanted to, I would have made it more horrific, which is what I did with the short story I wrote from it.
This is what I like about poem building. You can do just about anything with it.  Now, here's a couple of rules you can go by when writing a poem.

The way most poems work, the last word in each line gets the emphasis. Counting syllables and creating smooth line breaks enhances the end of each line. But don't neglect the front words in each line, either. Try to make sure you aren't over-using words such as "the" or "and", replace them with strong verbs and nouns and drop some of the modifiers.

Ask yourself: Do the lines feel best when they're short or long?
In free verse there is no pattern to the line breaks, but two rules of thumb are: 
1-Break the line where you would typically take a breath. 
2-Break it where it makes sense in terms of syntax and where it will help the reader.

And one last thought: End on a feeling or tone--but know beforehand what that is. Well, sometimes a poem can chose the way it wants to end--which is what happened to the poem above.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Free Verse Poetry

A big HELLO to everyone who stopped in last (my first post), time I posted. I'm hoping I get a few more "followers" - looks like I'm the only follower, so it would make me feel wonderful if someone else joined in. I don't have a schedule for posting as yet, so it will be whenever I can. Once a week, or once every two weeks.

As I've said I would touch upon types, or genres, of poetry. Some of you may think that poetry is merely short lines, or only a few words in a line, center-spaced and that's that - and of course this is a wonderful form of the free verse (my poem "Tetons" below is a good example). Yet, some people feel that poems need to rhyme. The free verse came into being because a number of 20th century poets decided to go against the grain.

If one were to examine poetry from its beginnings you would understand it goes back as far as human kind with odes, pastorals and epics. There are also allegory, pastoral, and dramatic monologue, and many more.

Let's take a look at free-verse in this poem.


Last morning
drying out
moving on
down the road.
Pelican and osprey
marshal the sky;
maybe a bald eagle too.
At Jackson Junction
an RV with Alaskan
plates drove down
We can't remember...
did we go to Utah in '86?
(poem by Lorelei Bell - unpublished)

This is a sort of travel log poem. It tells a story, it paints a picture, you know where the writer is, and what they are doing, what she is thinking. As form, it is centered because it worked best with this poem. I could have written it out like this:

Last morning drying out moving on
down the road.
Raining naturally.
Pelican and osprey
Marshall the sky;
Maybe a bald eagle too.
At Jackson Junction an RV with
Alaskan plates drove down 191
We can't remember, did we go to Utah in '86?

It's good to experiment with how you want the poem to read. The line Raining needed to be placed by itself, as well as the word naturally because it was important to the poem. The couple have been camping and got wet, "drying out" tells you this, and the word "raining" reiterates this because it is part of the story. This one is more compact, too, but if read out loud the words tend to fall into one another. It's good to experiment with how you want your words to be placed on the page, and be mindful as to how you want the words to stand out. You want a mix of syllabic counts in a line too. Too many similar syllabic counts in each line can make the poem pedantic and boring. The workings of a free verse is to keep the reader from doing a sing-song in the reading.

I think when I discovered Lorine Niedecker's works of poetry she inspired me to write in a near-Haiku-like way that evokes the surroundings, or landscape. That is a very difficult poem to write.

Here I'll share another one that gives a sense of place, and tells a story. It's called Miner's Cabin, written in 2009. It was written during another camping trip up in the Rockies.

Miner's Cabin

Beheaded ghosts
immersed in darkness
skitter through mouse holes
beneath the old kitchen sink.

Shredded curtains dance
like pale phantoms
in dark corners across
worn plank floors.

Wasps have guilt a nest
 on one main beam.
Discovering me, one
flew about my head.

Discarded antique
bottles with rusted lids,
and a tin-colored fork
in the weeds by the privy.

You get the sense of place: an old abandoned cabin, and you know how old, and how out of the way it must be if there is a privy nearby and bottles so old they're antique. I actually collected a ketchup bottle from the waste and it was extremely old and unusual.

The above was an extended version from a shorter poem I wrote called "Lovely Gloom"

Lovely Gloom

Beheaded ghosts (4)
immersed in darkness (5)
skitter through (4)
mouse holes. (2)

Shredded curtains dance (5)
like clouds in (3)
an approaching storm. (5)
Lorelei Bell copyright 2005

Beside each line you will see I've put down the number of syllables. The rhythm keeps changing, holds your interest while reading this--as well as the picture it paints.

Well, I hope you enjoyed this post, if you have any thoughts you want to share here, do so. I hope a poem will be birth from some inspiration for you today.

Sunday, December 22, 2013


A brand new blog! This is for anyone who has an interest in poetry--writers and readers. It doesn't matter if you are just starting out or an old pro, I want to see you here. I'd like to encourage anyone who wants to, get in touch with me if they wish to do a guest post. I'll get my pages up in a few days, but in the meantime you can contact me at

I hope for this blog to evolve out of the various needs of those of you who stop by. Give me feedback, I'd like to know if what I'm doing here is something you'd like to see more of.

I'm fleshing out ideas about posting the hows of certain types of poetry. I will post my own poems for now, until I get any brave soul who wishes to post their own here. I also suggest that if you are having trouble with writing poems, to not be shy and ask for help. I'm going to try and hunt down poets who are more apt at this than I am. I am more of a fiction writer, but poetry is a way to stretch the writing muscles, try and find some new way of saying something, capturing a feeling, a thought, an idea, etc. in a new way.

Let me know among the famous poets who you enjoy reading, who you want to emulate. I think this will be a fun blog, and I hope people won't be too shy to pull their heads out of the sand and say they'd like to share. I'm a gentle person, I will tell you where you can improve. I do not make fun of anyone's writing.

Poems can be short, they can be long. They can read like prose (prose poems), and do not have to rhyme. I will try and post how such poems came into being/who began the trend. Reading other poet's poems helps the beginner learn how to write, but you need to know more about the subject matter. I'm not exactly a pro, but I'd like to help out.

Hope you will join me!