Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Playing with Words--Rhymes and Dual Meanings

I'm putting together a poetry collection right now and really enjoying it.  It feels like getting back to my roots.  I've been writing poetry far longer than prose, although I really don't consider myself a "poet".  My poems rhyme, they're usually playful and I know nothing about poetry forms save what I learned from "A Kick in the Head".  So I prefer to call myself a "poemist".

Most of my poetry has been written long-hand--in notebooks, late at night, without aide of a rhyming dictionary.  So I have my own method for rhyming that I came up with somewhere along the way.  It's pretty simple and perhaps everyone does it, but I'll share anyway.

I have a word I need to rhyme, say "ham".  I go through the alphabet in my mind replacing the first letter: "Am, bam, dam (damn)..."  Then I'll go through and add an "L" after each letter:  "blam, clam, glam..." Then I'll do the same with an "R":  "cram, dram, gram (graham)...."  Then I'll try a "CH" and an "Sh" in front: "Sham"  I keep a list as I go and sometimes the rhyme will lead me to multi-syllable words that might work as well, like "diagram".  Then I will examine my list and try out any promising ones.  If I can't make a word work perfectly I go at it from a new angle, perhaps replacing "ham" with "beef" to see if those rhymes might work better.  I make a new list and keep trying.  It's one of my favorite ways to play with words.

I also love to use dual meanings in poetry.  Dual purpose words pack such a punch, like "cleave" for example.  It can mean: "to split", or it can mean "to cling to".  Exact opposite definitions for the same word!  Use it in a poem the right way and it could give it two entirely different meanings depending on how a reader interprets that word--I love that!

Here's a poem I wrote that uses a word with a dual meaning.  It was accepted for publication by a fantasy magazine, but the mag tanked before it was published. :(

                                                                  Dragon's Brood

                                                                    Shall I be a fiery lizard? 
                                                                     Will my siblings all be beasts?
Will we pilfer farmer's livestock
And consume appalling feasts? 

Will we hole up in our caverns?
Will we sleep upon our hoards?
Will we guard abducted damsels,
Fighting heroes armed with swords?


Will we be kind and noble?
Honest creatures strong and wise,
That improve the world around us
As we soar through azure skies?

Shall we lend our strength in battle
To the righteous and the just?
And defeat the realms of darkness
              With a last decisive thrust?

                                                                         Within my shell I'm brooding,
                                                                          Curled between my mother's legs,
                                                                         For here there will be dragons
                                                                          Where there now be dragon eggs.

"Brooding" can mean: "to sit on or hatch eggs" and "to be deep in thought".   What a great word! Words like this make me happy and get me thinking.   


  1. Thanks, Kathy! I don't think I could stop myself. :)

  2. I like "poemist." That made me giggle.

  3. Seems more appropriate for me, doesn't it, Leah? :D


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