Main PageProsody GuideMore Works by How to Get Published


Painful as it may be for him to confess it, the present author's treatise on comparative prosody is pretty much the last thing you should refer to unless you wish your manuscript to turn immediately to recycled paper (you know they don't mail them back anymore, don't you?). However, a few sensible guidelines and a couple of sound examples will solve the dilemma of how to write poetry that pleaseth the Submission Editor. Let's state, then, some useful rules.

I wished to effect my de-
fecation before my ci-
garette was put out by the
imposing hand of your mer-
ciless law against beau-
ty and all that represents

However, even this is somewhat old style: you can irritate the reader as much and with much less effort by arranging random line breaks in random-length lines. It also sounds deliciously e.e. cummings.

This said, and keeping in mind what said in the previous chapter, let's see how a poem could be built. The market is full of books that tell you that to conceive a poem you need to 'relax, surround yourself with pleasant things' and crap like that. The Present Author begs to differ: you are probably haggled by an ugly wife and surrounded by the garish toys of your spoilt children and still should produce a steady stream of poems. It is his (the P.A.'s) opinion that you can do so starting from any viable source, and that this ought not to consist of actual literature. Let's take as an example his list of groceries. It reads:

Toilet paper

It should be immediately obvious that there is something very wrong about it. Olives, oregano and cucumbers denounce the writer as the wop he actually is and imply that he might have more serum than cholesterol in his blood. That they ought to be expunged is obvious. The absence of alcohol in the list is enough to incense any born Englishman, and ought to be fixed as well. Yoghurt is a tad too healthy and should better be removed. The rest is fairly acceptable: the yoghurt is a tad too healthy but can be tolerated and oregano can be doctored to something exotic. Let's then rewrite the list, choosing a theme, for example Jamaican:
Toilet paper

Now let's build around this, tentatively. First thing, let's make the writer a dipsomaniac and express it 'poetically', introducing at the same time the idea that a supermarket might help:

  1. Another empty bottle of Appleton [you treat yourself to the best, what?] rolls on the floor,
  2. And stops on the bed sheets
  3. Still reeking of you and of me
  4. While your bronze body bends
  5. Cutting the last lime
  6. Your shape suggesting the yielding ripeness of the akee
  7. That's not there.

This said, let's see whew we stand; the writer being a male, we can do without the cherries.


Toilet paper

Seen the turn things have taken, it seems hard to introduce the toilet paper theme; perhaps we can festoon it somewhere on the floor between lines 2 and 3 for the American market (which loves toilet implements). Mace is quite easy: outside the Caribbean it is known only as a self-defence gas and nobody has the faintest of what it smells like. We can therefore shamelessly plunge in the stereotype that tropical women, other than having a bronze skin, also smell like tropical spices. Cod requires a bit of originality, but after all this hogwash it will pass unobserved. Let's see the almost-finished product:

  1. In the streets the rasta-
  2. farians celebrate
  3. their absent
  4. prophet
  5. with poor festoons.
  6. Inside
  7. Another empty bottle of Apple-
  8. ton rolls on the
  9. floor and
  10. stops on the
  11. bed-sheets still reeking of
  12. you and of
  13. me your faint scent of the
  14. mace that is
  15. not there
  16. while your bronze body
  17. bends cutting the last
  18. lime your shape suggests the yiel-
  19. ding ripeness of the
  20. akee
  21. that is not
  22. there
  23. And I wish
  24. sometimes we
  25. were like those simple
  26. believers cook-
  27. ing rice and cod
  28. that is
  29. almost not there
  30. and laying out rolls
  31. of toilet
  32. paper in the wind for Halié
  33. Selassié
  34. Who's never been
  35. Here.

Now, you might think of calling it a day, but you shouldn't. It is crappy enough, and cutting all phrases exactly where it makes them least clear improves on it a lot in the eye of the reviewer but it isn't pretentious enough yet. This is the time for clipping the most blatant stereotypes and replacing them with Roget-induced nonsense; it is the time for clouding the lack of ideas with cloudy grammar and excesses of gerundives. Let's get some sourcebook on Jamaica and se ourselves to work. The best parts to rogetise are:

'poor' (line 6): Anglo-Saxon countries dislike the word and replace it with U.S. 'underprivileged', U.K. 'working class' and Canadian 'native'. Australians never even allude to the concept.

'bronze body' (line 12): it's a bit too stereotypical. Another metal would do, even a pale grey one, but it's better not to let us be dragged by chemistry too much; a mineral, perhaps? A chalcogenide, for instance? The problem here is that we have to retain the concept that the woman is a tropical type.

'ripeness' (line 14) is too commonly referred to a body, sounds too sexual and on top of that if you are talking of akee, people expect something more exotic along with it.

'faint' (line 10) is one of those words people connect with old poetry.

The Present Author will eventually get around to improving this piece further; in the meanwhile, you can email him with your own suggestions. Preposterous enough pieces will promptly be published on this site (if not on paper).

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