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Q&A: What’s a three-syllable word for sweet? (And other poetic lessons)

Q&A: What’s a three-syllable word for sweet? (And other poetic lessons)

Sunday 26 June 2022

Q&A: What’s a three-syllable word for sweet? (And other poetic lessons)

Sunday 26 June 2022

An American poet whose first book was a “love note” to Jersey was recently back on the island to help share the secrets of her craft… Express picked up a few tips from her.

Held with the support of RampArts and local illustrators, Traci O’Dea’s workshops aimed to help islanders create their own poems bring them into the visual world.

The results went on display in an exhibition this week.

Ahead of that, Traci spoke to Express

What first appealed to you about poetry?

I have always written poetry. Even before I could write, I made up songs and little rhymes. I still remember some poems from when I was very young – they might have mentioned unicorns. 

The best part about writing poetry is the editing process. That’s the craft of poetry. Taking an idea, thought, image, or feeling and translating it into a sonnet or a pantoum—a precise work of art with rules. The rules are what lead my poems into completely new directions.

For example, if I need a three-syllable word for “sweet” in order to complete the rhythm of a line, I might choose “decadent”, which is a completely different word with its own set of connotations. Whereas if I hadn’t needed to fill the meter, I would’ve stuck with “sweet” and not gotten all the extra nuance that “decadent” offers.

Rhyme is another place where surprises happen. I have one poem that rhymes know/show/though/flow/grow/buffalo. I certainly wasn’t expecting buffalo to happen, but it works!

How do you help others write their own poems?

When I’m teaching or running workshops, I like to get my students to try new approaches to poetry.

I teach them different poetic forms; I get them to create word banks out of anagrams; I ask them to write poems about objects or pictures or specific locations.

These are all methods to get them to see the world from different perspectives and also to encourage them to treat the act of writing poetry as something light and playful even if the subject matter is heavy and difficult.

What is the main benefit of writing poetry?

Poetry is a lifeline. I cannot emphasise enough how important writing has been in my life. It allows me to wrestle with difficulties by spinning them into art.

The jumble in my head becomes tidy, metered lines that I can manipulate and control instead of letting those thoughts manipulate and control me. Creative outlets are crucial for mental wellbeing, and I am grateful to RampArts for their commitment to promoting the arts in Jersey.

Many of the students in the Illustrated Poetry Workshop had never written a poem before, and they ended up surprising themselves with what they came up with. I hope that they all keep it up.

Their work was unveiled on Friday night in an evening of poetry readings and music from Tom Rolls and Kyra Greif at the Salvation Army Café.

This article first appeared in Connect Magazine. You can read previous editions HERE.

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