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Categorizing Poetry

In this article, continued from last week's poetry guide, we will pick the major theme or style of either one of our poems. The best way to do this is to think about what subjects we have explored in the poem. Is it about love or politics? Was it written for a particular audience (for example, children)? Is it funny or dark, or darkly funny? Does it discuss the afterlife? Asking ourselves these kinds of questions is the first step to categorizing our poems.

Children's, Horror & Macabre, Humor, Narrative, Philosophical, Satire, Sociopolitical and Urban are just a few themes that aren't too troublesome to understand.

However, when a poem is said to be experimental, it can be experimental in various ways and that might confuse you. Experimental is often divided into Cyber Poetry, Surrealism, Typographical, etc. Cyber poetry is a relatively new style where words and computer codes are used in order to express concepts. Surrealistic poetry came out of a cultural movement in early 20th century; it expresses irrational and unconscious thoughts through absurd imagery and startling juxtapositions. In Typographical poetry, words are arranged (often using indents, other spacing formats and ungrammatical punctuation) so that they are visually pleasing, and also produce new meanings. Typographical poetry also includes poems that have a concrete visual shape. There are other types of experimental poems, and many poets choose to create their own style, through experimentation, hence the name 'experimental'. If you're confident with your prowess and feel you understand enough about poetry, you could go with more experimentation, it is highly fashionable in the poetry world today.

Romantic poetry has romance as a theme and should not be confused with Romantic as a genre which refers the Romantic Era of poetry that started around the late 18th century. Poems from the Romantic Era can be about any number of things, not necessarily about love, but romantic poetry is always about romance.

Transgressive is usually about gore, sex, and drugs, but not for the sake of being about gore, sex, and drugs. Poets use these topics in transgressive poetry to push people outside of their comfort zone and build characters that lurk within each of us. Transgressive gives voice to the part of our being that doesn't feel at home in our society and builds lively characters who seek to find an inner peace and come to terms with the world around them. The focus in transgressive is always the character.

Visual Poetry is poetry matched with a visual image, but this can't be any image or a simple back drop. True visual poetry requires a marriage of typographical and graphic design, as well as a piece of literature that is codependent on its image. In true visual poetry, neither the image nor the poem should be able to stand alone without losing a quality that defines the piece. Simple backdrops with poetry written on them do not belong in this category. A famous visual poem is Love by Robert Indiana, pictures of it can be found online.

Now we will figure out the different kinds of format that can be used to write poetry.

Free and blank verse refers to poems that don't follow formal metrical or rhyme schemes. It also does not have a definite structure. Free verse contains none of these traits but they often include meaning in where the line breaks; so prose that is broken down with line breaks will not count as a free verse. A blank verse does not rhyme, but it makes use of meter. Fixed poetry, on the other hand, makes use of definite structure, usually involving both a metrical scheme and rhyme.

Ballad, Limerick, Sestina, Sonnet and Villanelle are traditional forms of poetry. Although there are variations in their structures, they usually follow a pretty standard pattern. For more information you can run an online search on each, all though using any of the formats require a lot of expertise. Examples are:

Ballad: The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Limerick: Edward Lear's A Book Of Nonsense which includes various Limericks

Sestina: Sestina of the Tramp by Rudyard Kipling
Sonnet: Shakespeare (you'll find a comprehensive list)
Villanelle: Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night by Dylan Thomas
Haiku is a popular form hailing from Japan. Other kinds of Japanese formats include the tanka. The haiku is traditionally written in the Japanese in the 5-7-5 syllable format, but this isn't necessary in English, it is up to the poet to decide whether or not follow the traditional metrical pattern. The tanka is written traditionally in the 5-7-5-7-7 metrical pattern. More importantly than the fixed pattern, the point of a haiku is to vividly describe just one single thing, and traditionally they most often use nature-based imagery.

This leaves us with Spoken Word (also known as Performance Poetry). This is a hybrid of poetry and music, drama, storytelling or standup comedy. It is accessible in language and closer to actual speech. It is often written in the first or second person i.e. written as if speaking to an audience. In fact, it usually is performed to a rhythmic beat before an audience. Rap music can be argued to be a variant of the Spoken Word form of poetry.

So there you have it folks, now you know more about the different ways to go about writing poetry. You can try out different styles and find what you're most comfortable with. Many people suffer from the misconception that free verse is easier to write, but most poets will disagree. When there is a traditional format, with a rhyme and a meter to follow, there is a template as to what to create. In free verse, you have to create entirely. Any further queries can be directed at magick-k@hotmail.com. Write one!

By Ahsan Sajid

Châtrânam Adhayanam Tapah

“Châtrânam Adhayanam Tapah” is a Sanskrit saying which means that the mission of every student is to study. If we say that to a student today they will laugh their heads off and think I have gone bonkers! To many of them studying is the lowest priority on their to-do list. As I talked to them I found out some interesting facts. 'Serious' students, 'not so serious' students, 'not at all interested in studies' students, all of them seem to find a need for working. They rationalise it in various ways:

Reasons for working:
(a) Money: Oh yes who can escape its clutches? Is it only those who actually need money who start working? No it's not so simple. Earning money and being financially independent appears to be the first norm of being an independent adult. Tazrian Rahman (an A Level student) says “I am working for money. I don't like asking for pocket money from my parents”. A small percentage of students actually pay for their own expenses. Hail to them!

(b) Experience: A favourite question in a job interview is “Do you have any experience?” They seem to forget that a fresh graduate cannot have any experience without having a job first! So the poor students have no choice but to work while they are still studying. Sabreena Ahmed (a student of Dhaka University) says “I want to be a teacher in future. By working at a language teaching centre I am gaining experience which will help me while looking for a job later”.

(c) Others: Apart from money and experience there are quite a few other reaons for working as well. For some it is a way of developing confidence, personality and skills. Others see work as making life more productive and thus more meaningful. Sometimes students are used by family members or close friends as free helping hands. Zunayeed Alam (HSC student) says that “I am working in my family business to help out my brother and also because I want to use my time to do something productive”.

But for working students life is not a bed of roses. For the ones who work at coaching centres or give private tuition, facing guardians is a regular problem. They want their children to be taught by the best 'teachers' not by students. So they mistrust their ability and willingness to work hard. If a child does badly in his/her exams, often the teacher is blamed. Convincing the parents can be tough. The problem is further complicated by a few instances where instead of Physics; 'love' seems to be the subject between instructors and students. So the working students have to handle all these problems from irate mothers to sobbing guardians.

As you all know Dhaka is famous for its traffic jams! So rushing from work to classes leaves little time for the students to study for their own exams. If they do badly they are scolded by their parents as well as teachers. Partha Sarker is a university student who works at a call centre. When asked about his problem he says “Sometimes customers are rude to us. They ask irrelevant questions and lose their temper”.

These days a 'good' student doesn't refer to someone who is only good at studies. We see that he/she is also doing well at work and other extra curriculum activities. So these people work and study. What more can you ask of them?

Book review

Boiling a Frog

Whenever you pick up a Brookmyre book, one of the expectations from the book that you might harbour (other than a cracking good read) is a certainty that you will laugh. Thats what Brookmyre promises with everyone of his books.

This time around, meet Jack Parlabane. He's an investigative journalist with a deep mistrust of the 'system'. In the past he's been known to bring down large organisations by revealing their nefarious deeds to the public. Although a lot of his methods while investigating can termed as somewhat illegal the only reason he survived was because he never got caught. Except now he's in jail. Things haven't been going his way.

While in jail, he learns the heirarchy of the inmates, learns to classify the cons into categories just so that he can survive the harsh environment. And all the while, in the outside world, one of the biggest scandals in Scottish history is taking place.

With the start of the new millenium, Scottish politics has changed. Gone are the days when a scandal was enough to bring down a political figure. As we all know, politicians all have skeletons in their closet to hide. If any of them ever where to come into the light it would be instant RIP for the said politicians career. However, things have changed. People are more tolerant of their leaders now. They don't put as much importance to the bedroom antics of political leaders anymore.

This spells disaster for the tabloids. Without scandals to sift through their bread and water is at a dilemma. And in the mix are the Churches, whose influence in the running of the country has waned in recent years. With modern thoughts and philosophies instilled in the public, the old values don't matter hold much relevance in people's lives. Until the newest, biggest scandal in Scottish politics to date takes place.

Wih this book, Brrokmyre paints a vivd picture of the political compass of Scottish politics and the religious views of the populace. Wry, black humour, poking fun at general Scottish life, Brookmyre manages to transport the reader to the modern Scotland. Added to the mix is the gripping story that Brookmyre spins.One of Brookmyre's strengths, like other Scot writers like Rankin, is that he makes his characters human. We are privy to their secrets, their mannerisms, their insecurities and their personal problems. With social commentary he shows us how lives are lead. And along with all the firecrackers that this book packs, it becomes another must read. I got my copy at Words 'n Pages. For those interested that would be the first place to look.

By Tareq Adnan



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