The poetry of youth: what it tells us about our kids, and ourselves (part 2)

Recently I bumped into a group of young British poets from Milton Keynes near where I live, roughly the same age as my own son (21 years old.) These are not snotty kids attending fancy private schools; they are ordinary guys going to ordinary schools and colleges. They had put together a collection of their poems and asked me what I thought of them. I looked through them. There were a few spelling mistakes, grammatical mistakes, homophones.

However what shone very brightly through all that, was the raw emotion; through the lines of these poems we can see not only what makes these kids tick, but also how much we can learn from their expressions and ideas. I found that hugely enlightening, so last week I asked two of their number a few questions which I reported on here. Here now are some excerpts from their work which I find particularly inspiring. I’ve chosen two poems from their self-published collection…

Epiphany by Zach

I walked into a pub up town, met up with some mates

Went for a drink, then we were drunk, smiles all round

Then a friend turned to me, a grin to frown

Asked why so many people in the world are allowed…

To take away the freedom of men, women and children

To excuse split blood on religion to justify killing them

I said what brought all this on, what have you been smoking

Apart from the few beers there’s nothing I’ve been toking.

So why then an angry insight to the world that doesn’t concern you

It’s not an insight he said; as much as balance between evil and common good

In ten years you could have a child, and every day its chances become defiled

Twenty and he’ll be growing up oppressed

With the imagination and innocence of youth suppressed.

With nothing but YouTube, Facebook, MySpace, MSN and Bebo

Consuming sh*t, sending blogs and terrifying the people.

Forgot how to dance

Stuck in a trance

Behind a keyboard

Nothing out of the norm at first glance.

But how long till every f*cker is stuck behind glass and concrete

Everyone being needy with everything to keep

Everybody knowing everything

But still being discreet.

We see the pain and suffering of each generation

We know what’s gonna happen next with no anticipation

Instead of using our voice

We hide behind a digital application

When for hundreds of years, freedom is the title of all our nations.

When we live to work and work so we can live

In our 3 storey houses while all our morals get sent to the tip.

I’m not one to complain or to make a scene

But this is common sense mate

Every wrong with the world has been seen.

And you just made a point about what I’ve been smoking

To assume I’m on drugs when only the truth has been spoken.

When people with opinion are outcast of society

When the production of weapons has become every government’s priority

They’re lying to me, nobody is free even the guy you work for

Is working for someone higher up the tree, so you see

To be or not to be part of system claiming to hold the key

Who says it’s easy as 1, 2, 3 looking down the barrel of a gun

Begging please.

When the crops have turned to dried mud

In fifty years nod and tell me it’s all good.

When the bombs burn boom bang thud

When every child conceived will always and forever be stained with

The past’s blood

We say we have it tough?

You haven’t seen nothing yet.

 

Attracting The Flak by Ben

It’s a sure shank with no redemption

Constriction of contemplation

Close up, give out

Prescribed suffocation designed to mess you about

These lines fill the streets

Lines of louts created as such by society’s doubts

Knife crime is rampant

The first hooligans a phantom

Silently secreting ideas into the minds of the wanton

Not tools nor geniuses but fools.

Cursed and conformed by the public schools

Prophecy fulfilled and the single ones get sent the bills

Tax laws are funny with the tax payers’ money

Laugh it up

Legal addicts with pills of prescription.

I was told to take ‘em

When times showed that I was gonna blow

Throw off this dark blanket

Explode

The doctor took control

“that’s the drugs and alcohol”

No good to think deep

Just while away your time

In a media-induced sleep.

A drug’s a drug same as a thug is always a thug

Whether it be policeman or inflicted mug

Your grave has been dug.

The media resonate the crimes

So on a dark night

All you can think of is the violence of our times…

I’m gonna get knifed

Tonight’s the night

Friendly faces turn dark

You hype for the fight

But it’s only Grandma Doe

Walking home alone

And you almost broke her nose.

Living in fear causes aggression

And the media push the pressure.

So you’re on the attack

Attracting the flak

Thinking of the knife

Every day of your life.

 

Thought provoking, isn’t it?

Some help to make you  write poetically:

“Banana Skin Words and how not to slip on them”…over 1,500 spelling and grammar tips to perfect your written English

“English to English: the A to Z of British-American translations”…more than 2,000 business and social terms from the USA, the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand

“The English Language Joke book”…hundreds of laughs about this crazy language of ours

The poetry of youth: what it tells us about our kids, and ourselves (part 1)

Recently I bumped into a group of young British poets from Milton Keynes near where I live, roughly the same age as my own son (19 years old.) These are not snotty kids attending fancy private schools; they are ordinary guys going to ordinary schools and colleges. They had put together a collection of their poems and asked me what I thought of them. I looked through them. There were a few spelling mistakes, grammatical mistakes, homophones.

However what shone very brightly through all that, was the raw emotion; through the lines of these poems we can see not only what makes these kids tick, but also how much we can learn from their expressions and ideas. I found that hugely enlightening, so I asked two of their number a few questions and I think you’ll be intrigued by their responses…

Why do you write poetry?

Zacharias: To improve my use of language and vocabulary in a personal and informative way. Expressing feelings and views that can be amplified by rhymes, word play and imagery. The same reason an artist creates a canvas; our canvas has symbols on it that talk to you … painting pictures with words.

Benjamin: I write for my own release, usually if I feel angry about something it makes me feel better. Or simply if life seems to have got stale the last couple of days it feels good to write, to change things up a bit.

What are the issues/feelings/events that inspire you most to write about?

Zach: Everyday experiences past, present, positive and negative history and the future.

Ben: Mostly political, social, philosophical. I hardly ever write about love, which most people think is the main topic of poetry but it’s really not the case. Generally it’s a build-up of frustration at everything, mainly just the way humans are toward each other and how we’re held back.

What messages do you most want to share with your readers?

Zach: I would hope that the reader would take their own messages from my poems, be it a hot point for discussion or time for reflection being able to relate to what I had to say. Poetry is personal to both the writer and reader; the message is to evoke a reaction whether positive or negative.

Ben: Enjoy the sunlight! Because it’s free. Happiness does not have to be related to money or anything we’re tricked into caring about. You regret the things you don’t do more than the things you do. Although I would hope my poems will also bring a revolution against our outdated parliament, and for people to realise how manipulated we are in society. But mainly just to be grateful for what we have.

How much influence do you think you can have with your poems, by publishing them?

Zach: I would hope that my poetry could influence people into writing themselves, or relating to how I feel about a situation, or a subject I’ve written about.

Ben: Not much, not at the moment anyway. I’m still quite young but even if you influence one person then that is enough for me. Not expecting much more than that at the moment. As long as it’s positive influence.

How do you feel poetry as a writing “genre” fits into your lives, in your age group, in this “electronic” generation?

Zach: People share information faster thanks to email and social networking sites, and so sharing with other poets has become easy. Poetry in this generation is of diverse interest; it’s a niche in popular culture. But picking out the people our age who are writing poems, lyrics and want to share them – that ability is pretty much at our fingertips because of the Internet.

Ben: I think it will evolve in some peculiar ways. I think the boundaries between music and poetry will blur even more. In hip-hop for example if an MC does an acapella song then essentially it’s a spoken word poem. Our poems are poems because we proclaim them as such. It will be interesting how the language we use evolves because of text type – your vocabulary diminishes but obviously you need a good vocabulary to write poetry. So I’m not sure how that’s going to pan out, hopefully it will create a happy hybrid or modern and original English. However people do still love honesty, and if a poem is true to whoever wrote it and you can feel the emotion drip off every word it doesn’t matter what age you are or what genre you like it will get through to you.

What advice would you give other people your age about writing poetry?

Zach: Just be honest to yourself and in your writing, Don’t think too much about stanzas and couplets; the best part of poetry is not really caring about how to and how not to write; it’s nothing like essay writing or a letter.

Ben: Just write. Don’t mess about talking about doing something or finding excuses why you can’t do it. You don’t have to show it to anyone … not until something good comes out and that might not be for a while. But it has made me a happier person.

Next week I’ll post some examples of Zach’s and Ben’s work. Be prepared to be inspired…

Some help to make you  write poetically:

“Banana Skin Words and how not to slip on them”…over 1,500 spelling and grammar tips to perfect your written English

“English to English: the A to Z of British-American translations”…more than 2,000 business and social terms from the USA, the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand

“The English Language Joke book”…hundreds of laughs about this crazy language of ours

How to write simple poetry (well, my way, anyway)

Writing simple poems can be a lot of fun, and can be very useful, too, for social occasions like weddings, anniversaries, birthdays, etc. and even for personalized greetings to clients and customers, for promotional purposes, and for PR.

Let’s start with limericks

Limericks are all-time favourites for light-hearted, happy occasions and are surprisingly easy to write. Because of their well-known structure and strong connections with the naughty world of “adult” humour readers and live audiences will tend to assume a limerick is going to be funny as soon as you start reading or reciting it.

Also, limericks only have to be vaguely connected with the person or occasion at which they are performed, and in some ways the more outrageous and/or silly they are the more the audience will appreciate them.

The rhythm of a limerick is always basically the same, although you can add little twiddles to it such as those I have included in brackets:

De DUM de de DUM de de DUM (de)

De DUM de de DUM de de DUM (de)

De de DUM de de DUM (de)

De de DUM de de DUM (de)

De DUM de de DUM de de DUM (de)

And the rhyming scheme of a limerick is always the same, too; lines one, two and five rhyme with each other, and lines three and four rhyme with each other.

The trick when writing limericks is to pick line-end words that offer you lots of rhyming options.

Recently a friend of mine was going to a birthday party where every guest had to get up and perform a limerick about the birthday boy, a lawyer whose name was a very useful “Tim.” My friend called on me for help and this is what I wrote for him to say…

There was a smart lawyer called Tim

Who never quite learned how to swim

But a plaintiff from hell

Threw him into a well

Now Tim’s back-stroke’s superbly in trim.

I think my job would have been harder if the lawyer’s name had been, say, Marcus or Boris!

As with other types of poetry it’s a great help if you decide on your theme – which is nearly always expressed in the first line of the limerick – and then list as many words that rhyme with the line-end word of your choice. This gives you a range to choose from for lines one, two and five. In the case of Tim, here, I wrote down the following:

Tim, dim, him, Jim, gym, Kim, limb, rim, vim, whim, slim, swim, trim

I liked the idea of “swim” so it wasn’t hard to come up with the idea for lines three and four. And the last line needs a bit of punch, and/or to create a surprise – it’s like the punch line of a joke.

Adapting existing poetic material

If you don’t want to write your own poem from scratch, you could consider “adapting” some well known material for the purposes of your wedding speech.

This does not necessarily have to be a poem; it can be the words of a song, a hymn, or even a prayer. And any lawyers reading book please calm down. I honestly don’t think anyone would ever complain about someone reciting the words to a copyrighted piece at a private event like a wedding. In any case a great deal of popular, well known poems, songs and hymns are either out of copyright or not subject to copyright laws anyway.

Let’s be naughty for a moment then and look at how we could use some of that old Cahn/Van Heusen song made famous by Frank Sinatra, called “Love And Marriage.”

Original:

Love and marriage, love and marriage
Go together like a horse and carriage
This I tell you brother
You can’t have one, you can’t have one, you can’t have one without the other

Now – let’s say you’re giving a speech at a wedding and want to say something about the bridegroom, whose name is Simon…

Your potential adaptation:

Love and marriage, love and marriage
Go together like a horse and carriage
This I tell you, Simon
So you be-ware, you’ll be nowhere, unless you really put the time in!

Rewritten nursery rhymes

Another type of poem / song you might like to adapt is the nursery rhyme. Here are some examples from two of my joke books, to give you a flavour of how these can work. The doggie ones are from “Canine Capers” (available in the UK here, and in the USA here) and the horsey ones are, predictably, from “The Horse Lover’s Joke Book” (available in the UK here, and in the USA here.)

Hickory dickory dock

A Collie watched his flock

A bee stung his nose

So hard that he froze

And stood still while his flock ran amok.

Hickory dickory dock

Jump off against the clock

The horse struck one

Four faults were done

“Oh, Hickory dickory … damn!”

Three Setter dogs

Three Setter dogs

See how they run

See how they run

The owner’s jumping up and down

And shouting like a demented clown

But the Setters are off for a night on the town

Three Setter dogs

Three stroppy mares

Three stroppy mares

See how they bite

See how they bite

They all ran after the farrier

And bit him on his posterior

It made him feel so inferior

Three stroppy mares

Mary Mary quite contrary

How was obedience class?

Sit and stay went quite well but his “walkies” were hell

Barbara Woodhouse, your methods were crass.

Mary Mary quite contrary

How did the dressage test go?

Counter-canter went well but my half-pass was hell

So in all it was quite a poor show.

 

Happy poetry writing!

Make sure all your writing is sheer poetry…

“How To Write About Yourself”…how to make the most of yourself, whatever you need to write

“Banana Skin Words and how not to slip on them”…over 1,500 spelling and grammar tips to perfect your written English

“The English Language Joke book”…hundreds of laughs about this crazy language of ours

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