Throw Out Thursday – Changing Form

During the week I was sifting through old poems on my hard drive looking for possible works to submit to an anthology a friend worded me up to (didn’t find anything of note although I did find a younger version of me writing complete tripe).

I came across two half-finished pieces and combined some stanzas to make a relatively cohesive whole.

The starry satellites stand sentinel
over silent musings while an observer
of a different reality speculates on the starry host
these pinpoints of silver across the velvety blanket
blink without recognisance
Looking towards the blanket of the night sky
He sees a thousand times a thousand times a thousand
pinpoints of light and asks
“Does God shine a torch at night through the little holes?”

Posting it to my crit group for giggles brought one of the group to suggest it would work as a tanka. No, not a tank top.

What is tanka? Think of it as an extended haiku.

It has a 5-7-5-7-7 syllable count, as per the Japanese guidelines (not necessarily the same in English when translated but English writers use this basic format when starting out).

Go here for an introduction: (with thanks to my crit member, Sean for the link. There are some wonderful examples to read.)

A quick check with my copy of Stephen Fry’s ‘The Ode Less Travelled’ and the link above, I had a grasp of the basics of tanka. And by grip I mean a loose hold. And by loose, barely touching.

And this is what I came up with:

pinpoints of silver
against the velvety black
a blanket of stars
“Does God shine a torch at night
through the little holes?” he asks

I now have a new understanding of how form can affect and benefit a piece of writing. Changing form, in this case, forced me to focus on what were the significant images I wanted to convey in the poem, leading to the final line. Sometimes it could be as simple as breaking the line or stanza arrangement. Sometimes less is more.

But changes to a piece could be in the form of changing point of view, turning a story into a poem or a poem into a short story.

Has changing form helped you with a piece of writing?


One response to “Throw Out Thursday – Changing Form

  1. Most certainly, with regards to form. I have taken one recent piece and pushed it through a couple of iterations, from free verse to accentual -syllabic to syllabic (of two different lengths) to altenating rhyme to rhyming on 2nd and 4th lines – this caused an alteration in the last stanza that produced a far more satisfactory ending, and then finally back to a free verse again where I felt the poem benefited from having some line lengths extended and others shortened.

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