Before we start in on this much-anticipated workshop (most highly-voted in our previous poll), I'm going to put a quick word out about our current status: ~tromacom, ~Shuriken95, and I have been running this on our own for the past few months, (with ^Beccalicious having had her baby ) and we'd love some workshop host volunteers! So if anyone has an idea for a workshop, send it in a note, and we'll try to get you all set up to host.
Okay, so, that PSA outta the way...I'd like to talk to you about:
Specifically, romantic love. It can be ooey-and-gooey, sweet and innocent, lustful, dangerous, sexy, or even traumatic. It's one of the most universal emotional experiences people have, and it's so powerful people have been compelled to write about it for centuries. But after centuries of being written about, it can be easy to fall into cliches.
People write in cliches because they make sense. They fit! And they were actually creative plotlines or metaphors when they were first thought of. Like the rose, for instance.
"my love is like a rose;
my sweat its scent
it draws you in, quivering butterfly girl,
but get too close
and you'll be pricked by my thorns
get even closer
the layers of my petals
drink my vermillion beauty
with your thistle-pricked fingertips."
It's got all the right elements--danger, lust, sweetness, beauty. But that poem sucks, partly because I wrote it in five minutes. But mainly because the metaphor is a cliche! My love is a rose? It's been done to freakin' death.
As a poet, the challenge in de-clicheing a love poem is talking about love in a way that has never been talked about before, but still rings true. Sometimes it can be helpful to pick an element of love you want to talk about--lust, longing, beauty, etc--and think of an object, or action, that can help you talk about it in a new way.
You can also do it the other way around. So, for part one of the Workshop, the challenge for poets is this (the challenge for story-writers comes soon): Pick one of these objects or actions and use it in a poem as a metaphor for love. You can either state its outright (aka, "my love is...; my love does...;") or describe the object or action in a way that the reader can infer you're talking about a relationship.
-- a rock
-- two lego pieces
-- a dandelion
-- a glass eye
-- polishing a shoe
-- combing hair
-- a bowl of soup
-- a velociraptor
-- a top hat
-- a bass drop
-- naked knees
Keep in mind, it doesn't have to be a perfect romantic relationship. You can be describing a flawed relationship. In fact, an element of romance you could be talking about is frustration, or accepting less than you deserve. You could talk about how the relief of having a happy ending can be coupled with the fear of having it fade away. Let these emotions come out in your poem.
Remember, in a poem, "show, don't tell." Describe what's going on, not just visually, but aurally, tactilely, or even olfactorily!
Ask yourself questions like, "what are the naked knees doing? How are they doing it? (description!) Why are they doing it?" and, most importantly, "what is this showing about my love, or my relationship?"
A note: it's okay if, in the course of writing the poem, what you're trying to say about love or romance changes. In fact, it's more than okay--it's excellent! It means you're letting the poem move through you.
Another note: please try to pick just one metaphor on the list, but you can incorporate other metaphors if you want to. Just, you know, don't be like..."Like dandelion seeds / we blow aimlessly / but we're also totally like a rose!" Just, yeah, don't do that.
I dunno what the word for that is...prosests?
Okay, your challenge is going to be a bit tougher. First, I want you to write a romantic scene. It can be a scene of someone confessing their love, someone getting married or rejected, a first kiss, or old-timers looking back on their life. Just the one scene, though, no more than 1000 words. Maybe 1200 if you absolutely need it.
At the same time, I want to to write a true, non-fiction, short creative essay or story about a time when you were in love. Even if the person didn't like you back, or was a total douche. Or, hey, maybe it was awesome and you got married and you're still married! Write about that too! In this essay, don't worry about being formal, just pick a time and write all the details you can remember. About the other person, about you, about how you felt, about how your parents felt if that's relevant. Everything, just let it pour out, raw.
I emphasized short because I know if I just give you permission to rant, some people will go on forever. So, again, 1000 words max. And, hey, if you can write it all out in 200, awesome. Remember, we don't need your whole life's story; just one moment in time when you were in love, or in a romantic relationship.
Some of you may be able to guess where this is going, but I kinda want to keep part two secret until the next few weeks, so it doesn't influence your writing.
Has the same deadlines.
Get your stuff in the new folder by November 26th!
The following week will be the second part of both challenges.
It can only help you. Read some of these great love stories and poems from around the web:
~Gryffen's Lieblings is not strictly a romantic love poem, but it's a poem about two people who try to connect and fail, in a way that so often happens with romantic attempts.
LieblingsYou asked me once,
what was my favorite color.I told you it was the ocean on an early summer afternoon with white clouds around the sky.
(it's definitely sunlight shining on crashing water with dolphins in the surf.)You asked me once,
what was my favorite smell.I told you it was twilight October when the sun turns trees to fire and witches come out to play.
(or maybe it's a spring morning in the grass and trees when the sun shines after rain.)You asked me once,
what was my favorite song.I told you it was the flash of white on black when a mockingbird takes wing.
(or maybe it's just the first days of spring when the morning's just begun.
A Letter To My Wife is another story about a romantic relationship that maybe could be worked out better.
*RalfMaximus's story Visitation remains one of my favorite love stories on this site, and it earned a well-deserved DD.
~MariaTala's Math and Poetry uses Math as a metaphor for love and beauty without ever saying it explicitly.
Math and PoetryShe used to tell me
of math and poetry
by the length of her arm
and rhythm of her heart
condensing verse and fraction
with form following the function
of communist theories
and greek philosophies.
she beat out aesthetics
with a perfect symmetry.
because no one understands
the relationship between
seafoam and shoreline
the way she does
[swimming in saltwater sorrows]
reimagining time in an hourglass,
she shot up infinities with a glance
and left me moondrunk in the night.
she emits sparks throughout my system
breaking and entering--
my kingdom under siege.
her name was an amalgam of numbers
1.61803399 . . . .
and I lov
And, because I admit I'm a little obsessed with myself, (sorry, it's a problem ) here's a poem I published in Pif magazine where the metaphor for love is madness (and a few other things). [link]
I am going to say, I'm mostly posting it because I feel more comfortable publicly critiquing my own work and using it as an example than I do other people's. I also know my own personal creative process that led to this poem, something I can't say for other people's work, so I'm willing to go into depth about that more during Critique Week.
The folder is open! [link]