Monday, October 30, 2006

How to write a poem

I have never really given much thoughts to having to explain the process of writing a poem to anyone. I never even believed it is possible to do so, not having taken any such lesson myself anytime before I wrote the first line of what I chose to show the world. But here I was online last week when someone - a user called Basic - stalked me (and not me alone) successfully on Nairaland for days in an attempt to get me read a poem he wrote. Honestly, it is always very hard to comment on another person's poem, and I often find myself having to explain that, for one with very eccentric taste in poetry, it leaves me in a very tight spot. I do not like all I read. And I do not think all words written in lines are good poetry. But it is hard to make this point to the author without unnecessarily pissing him off or sound too rude. Luckily for me, he displayed some thick-skinned tenacity and a disposition to hear whatever I had to say, so I proceeded. His work was one very hopeful start. A good attempt, but not good enough for the public. We could tear it off, or write it again. I decided it was worth rewriting, and I proceeded to do so myself. This writing is a record of the procedure.

Note, these are my opinions/craft. In the end, it is still up to the author to decide what he wants to say, and how he wishes to say it. Read other user comments on The Rudderless Ship at I recommend the process for reading, especially for anyone interested in developing their craft of writing poetry. The only original parts of my post are my suggestions and advice. The rest are links which would help whoever considers poetry a sea good enough to swim in. At the end of a honing excersice, a tirade against man in the least attractive words ended as a cinquain. Look below.

The Rudderless Ship by Basic (Unedited)

What a huge success man had recorded
In mastering the material world
A success achieved at the expense of failure!
The failure of man to disciplione himself
On the moral and spiritual planes

Indeed founded is Western Civilisation
On a materialistic philosophy of life
Which like a vanquished soccer coach at his boys
Frowns upon all that is spiritual
And against all moral and spiritual values revolt

Like as a prayer warrior in supplication
So had man become engrossed
In this materialistic world
Of disillusionment and frustration
Of many problems by man caused

The pursuit of carnal pleasures
And the gratificatification of his sensual desires
Are what man had made his goals in life
Totally had he forsaken the spirituals
And the morals he had eschewed

Man's existence may now be likened
To that of a rudderless ship
Drifting aimlessly in a vast and stormy sea
The sea of the unknown


First thoughts were that the lines were too winding in expressing a simple opinion, so let us replace each verse with a line.

First verse
Man, to change the world, has often failed to change himself

The West spits on all we hold hallowed

Like in a trance, man rolls in the mire of waste his own hands have wrought

he now runs to lick the lust of his rebel heart

He floats, drifts, now on a vast stormy sea of the unknown

Next Step

Now, with five lines that makes some sense, I thought to include rhymes. Afterall, why not?

Here's what we came up with, finally

The Rudderless Ship (Final Version, by Gwatala)

Man, to change the world, has failed to change himself
The West he blames who spits on him with fangs wide apart.
Like in a trance, he rolls in his mire of waste like a drunken elf,
and he runs with glee to lick the lust of his rebel heart
He floats, drifts, now on a vast stormy sea from where he can't depart.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Writing (Poetry, and pretty much everything else) is beautiful.


Anonymous said...

i can only imagine the number of times u must have scoffed my poems (or my puerile lines), knowing well that u desist from making such comments as Basic enjoys. perhaps, u think they are pardonable. maybe, they are just too bad to deserve your hallowed comment. i hope we won't discuss this...

iGwatala said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Buki Omo-Alagbede said...

Gwatala, you said: FINAL THOUGHTS: Writing (Poetry, and pretty much everything else) is beautiful.

And I agree.

Your rewriting of the poem is brilliant. You transformed an ESSAY into a poem. In doing so, you confirmed that WRITING IS REWRITING!

But if I were you, I would not call your draft FINAL VERSION. I'd simply leave it as Draft 2 by Gwatala.

I believe firmly in the dictum "A poem is never finished". Okigbo it was who always made sure to tag THE VERSIONS HERE ARE NOT FINAL" to his poetry.

Never Final. Long live Poetry...

iGwatala said...

You're right. Thanks.