#22: Energy

Lockdown in England is in its last week, and so is our online poetry community, Try to Praise the Mutilated World. The prompts are here every day, and free. Access to our Facebook workshopping group costs £10, and lasts for the duration of this lockdown. The group is a place for mutual feedback, and is private so that your work in progress is unpublished. We have guest readers via Facebook Live on a Sunday – the next one is Caroline Bird. Join us at any time through November. See the PayPal button at the bottom of this post.

November. Everything slows down, it’s pale and cold and…… Right, that’s enough of that. BOOM. SPLASH. CRACK. Let’s get a little more action onto the page.

If there’s one thing lacking from most of the poems we write and read, it’s energy. Writing is a slow and contemplative process, so it’s natural that our poems often have that feeling too. At the moment our lives are on a go-slow, but some of the best things in this mutilated world are the ones that explode or leap or fizz. Let’s hitch our brains to a faster engine today, and see what it brings.

Anything from a snowball fight to a nuclear explosion has energy. As always, be a miner of your own life to bring up something that fits the subject. Bike ride, horse race, roller coaster, bomb blast, car crash, pillow fight; the fall that stopped your heart, the defibrillator that started it again. The all-night dance at Wigan Casino, the boozy tumble from one loud pub to another, the goal that brings the whole stadium roaring to its feet; the private vision that you catch after speeding. There is a wicked energy in a riot or a beating. In nature, consider the huge force of the sea, or the microscopic force that drives the sperm to the egg. A great whale bursts from the fjord; a eagle stoops; a blast of wind knocks you off your feet. Even rhubarb has its own slow energy, popping quietly in the dark and secret sheds of the Rhubarb Triangle. It’s a slower burn, but it still burns.

This topic, more than any other we’ve covered this month, will benefit from a few tricks of the trade. Don’t just describe an energetic event – make your poem itself into one. Any child fresh from the Poetry Destruction Factory will tell you that onomatopoeia gives a poem energy – those words like BOOM and SPLASH and BANG that sound like what they mean. Make verbs into nouns for a little burst of surprise – a leaf-blower hurricaning leaves, or children skittled by a clumsy dog. Select verbs for their power: make things barrel, hurtle, shoot, crash, split or rock. Vary the speed of your poem by exploiting its sounds – short, sharp vowels make things click or stop or bang, while long, slow ones make them ease or brake or fly. Short words are fast – longer and more complicated constructions…. you see? Build up energy very slowly, so that a tantalising build up (like this) is released with great force (like this). Play with punctuation, line breaks and s p a c i n g to build suspense

or

finish with a BANG!!!!!

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Join our closed Facebook group at any time in November, for feedback from other poets and access to weekly readings. Pay £10 by PayPal below, then find Try to Praise the Mutilated World on Facebook and ask to join (use the link in the first paragraph above). We are 300+ strong and there’s a lively, friendly community helping each other to write their way through the lockdown.

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Published by Jo Bell

Poet, boater, archaeologist and former director of the UK's National Poetry Day. One third of @OnThisDayShe. Erstwhile UK Canal Laureate.

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