For this April's Challenge, we decided to delve into the murky world of stanzas, iambic pentameter, assonance and enjambement...
Or, poetry, to the rest of us.
Poetry. It's a funny beast, figuratively, metaphorically, and more often than not, philosophically. Meaning that many writers distance themselves from delving into this murky world of hidden meaning and duplicity of word. Evoking feelings that are not too dissimilar from how people feel about Marmite - they either love it, or they hate it - poetry is all at once a revered, hated and widely misunderstood form of literature.
The range of approaches an author can take when writing poetry are so varied that you can almost never go wrong. Poetry is sculpture with words. At first, a reader may not understand it, or perhaps see only surface meaning. But once inspected from a few different angles, poems can take on new meaning, new shapes and new forms - morphing from what you think you saw, into something entirely new.
So, needless to say we were very excited about running a (well overdue) Poetry Challenge. Your responses to the challenge brief encompassed such a varied range of approaches to the topic, and it was especially brilliant to see so many entries composed by WEbook members who are not regular entrants to the monthly challenges - keep it up!!
The winner of our Poetry Challenge was Keladrion, with her outstanding entry Windowless. Congratulations to Keladrion, all the runners up, and everyone else who entered the challenge!
Don't worry if you didn't manage to submit an entry in the Poetry Challenge this time around. We'll be running at least one more Poetry Challenge for all you budding Bards before the year's end. And for those of you who are tempted to dip your toe in the poetical waters, here are a few resources from around the web to help get you started on your journey:
- Poetry 101: Resources for Beginners - A collection of articles for beginners on how to read poetry, recommendations on what to read, plus a few helpful pointers.
- How to Write a Poem - A comprehensive guide for beginners to follow when approaching the creation of their first, great poetical masterpiece.
- Poetry Terms and Definitions - Write what you know, know what you're writing. Get to grips with common poetical devices and try your hand at some alternative forms of poetry, such as Pattern Poems.
WEbook: Hi Keladrion, thanks so much for taking the time to talk to us about your winning entry to our April Challenge, Windowless.
In Windowless, the opening stanza: 'Oh, / what a thing it would be / to be windowless.' seems to have a wistful longing to achieve this state of windowlessness, almost as if it's a spiritual plane of existence. Could you explain a bit about what you are trying to portray in this opening stanza?
Keladrion: To me, it’s not so much wistfulness, but more a quiet warning. I would certainly call being ‘windowless’ a spiritual plane of existence, in a way, but not an especially good one: to be windowless is to have no windows, in the sense that you’re walled off. There’s no way to look in or out, so when I say ‘what a thing it would be/ to be windowless,’ what i’m really saying is, wouldn’t that be something else: something sad. Wouldn’t that be a way to live; you’d be in the world, but you wouldn’t be part of it.
Saying that, I totally get that it could mean exactly the opposite. To be windowless, I suppose, could mean to be open, to have no windows obscuring your way. Were that my intentions, however, I imagine I’d have had an easier time focusing on doors, which, obviously, was not the challenge
WEbook: When you move onto the main body of the poem, there are repeated references to memory and especially the visual elements that are contained within their recall. Is the state of windowlessness addressed in this poem an allusion to blindness, and / or perhaps a darkening of the world?
Keladrion: The poem itself is about shutting yourself off- being windowless- and therefore having no means of living. If you don’t let people see you, you can never see them, and make friends, and with them memories and lives. If you’re not part of the world the world will never be a part of you, ‘and so to be windowless/ would wash away the world.’
With the line ‘to close your eyes and yet still see/ exists only in words,’ you can read it in more than one way (as with everything) but it’s all saying the same thing. Maybe i’m saying that, yes in your books you may find the most wondrous adventures, but they’ll still only be in books (though, as I writer, there’s no such thing as ‘only books’ but you get the general gist) or perhaps it’s literally that closing your eyes and still seeing is something that only really, truly, happens in fiction. Either way, it means the same.
It’s like saying ‘you’re kidding yourself if you expect to see if you don’t look.’ Open your eyes! Find people, make memories, live, love, fly. You’ve got from roughly here to everywhere to do whatever you want to do, so do it, don’t be walled off, don’t expect what you won’t look for, or fight for, or strive for.
I watched a trailer recently (or an advert, maybe) in which someone said ‘happiness comes to those who wait, but what are you waiting for?’ I think that’s what I was going for, really. So when I talk about memory a lot, I think I’m trying to emphasize the fact that you have to go and find them. In a poem I wrote recently for my Classics teacher (as a sort of thank you, school is over, it’s a time of sentimentality and nostalgia) there’s a line saying ‘ahead is a memory/ and behind is remembering,’ and I think that that applies here: ‘lost memories’ aren’t memories that you’ve forgotten, but one’s that you’ll never have, because you’re windowless, you can’t see the world, or ahead of you and the memories that you could be making. They’re lost to you.
I think I’ve just said the same thing about twelve times. You get the idea.
WEbook: The metaphorical associations a reader can ally with a state of windowlessness explored in your poem could also be interpreted as a form of disassociation from the world we see around us, and an attempt to find an understanding of things by exploring their other physical attributes, such as how they sound or feel: '...grasping fingers held against pricked ears, / listening for a little tangible / in the intangible,' Do you feel that we make too many assumptions about the things around us from the visual information we gather, and should we be looking at the whole picture to create a more balanced understanding of the things around us, both physical and emotional?
Keladrion: I believe in finding a little tangible in the intangible, and the opposite, that way nothing is just, what it is. Saying that, there’s such a thing as looking too far into something. There’s nothing wrong with just being. Some things just are. I’m finishing off my A-levels at the moment, and looking to English in Uni, and I both love and hate reading too much into writing. It’s a great feeling when you suddenly get it- oh, so it means that?- but I also find myself, as a writer, thinking ‘you know what, i will write in my exam that the author chose the dress that minor character in purple to imply his/her lustful state of mind, but I’ve never once had those sorts of thoughts whilst writing.’ As for the real world, though, yeah, we definitely make too many assumptions based on what we see. I’m pretty sure that’s the basis of many, many anti-discrimination movements
WEbook: This is the first poetry challenge we have run on WEbook in a while, could you talk to us a bit about your writing, especially in relation to poetry. What got you started? Where do you find inspiration? And anything else you'd like to add!
Keladrion: Poetry is weird. It’s one of those things that not many people like, very few people can learn to like, and I never ever thought I would like, let alone write. I was wrong, obviously. I sort of started and never stopped. If I get an idea - a line or a title, or a feeling, I suppose - I've got to write the poem, start to finish, or I never will. I don’t like not finishing a poem, or it’s unlikely that it will be finished; it’s hard to get back into the same beat or rhyme - I don’t like to try to rhyme, it starts to feel artificial- or meaning. Meaning, of course, is subjective. I’ve always believed that a poem shouldn’t mean what the author meant, but whatever the reader finds in it. Of course, I don’t write blind (always, Windowless was more because I was really feeling sibilance at the time, and little add ins in a poem, like extra information, the meaning came later), there’s normally something to be said, but I’m not really bothered at all if what I’m saying and what people are reading are two different things. Of course, that’s not the case when I write prose, which I do often.
Like many people, I’m writing a book or two, and I've been writing in that sense for so much longer than I’ve even liked poetry, and it’s normally my main focus. If I write a poem, its because something takes me, I don’t normally sit down and try. I suppose there’s something more natural about it.
WEbook: Thanks for taking the time to talk to us about Windowless and your writing, Keladrion! We're looking forwards to seeing more of your entires in our WEbook Challenges over the next few months.