TRANSLATING FEELINGS INTO POEM
Sometimes, this is easy. Sometimes, it’s just impossible. I’ve been there, and since I’ve been writing multiple poems everyday since 7th grade, I get stuck in here for an unforgiving amount of time. And no, this isn’t like getting stuck in a poem or having no inspiration to write a poem. This is something worse. You have a thought, an idea, and you’re ready to write the ish out of it…but you just can’t.
Here, let me show you a couple of steps to help you translate your feelings into a poem that makes the reader feel the exact same way you feel.
I’m going to be rounding with these three important elements that a poem must have that can help you point out what you’ve been missing or what you’ve been struggling with during the translation.
P.S. I’m shamelessly promoting Dylan Tysdal’s talk, Everything you need to know to write a poem, from Ted X on this one. And of course, I’ll be showing you an example: a poem I wrote two years ago before drafting Subway Teeth.
Feeling the rain drain down, I’m drowsy
All is a picture of me, dancing with funny pants
holes on pockets where inside are crumpled bills
They refuse to drop and break-up with the attitude of gravity
dancing and feeling shirtless
the funny pants oversized, hanging tight on my waist
They still refuse to drop
but the rain has stopped now
and I’m not drowsy
I am back to The Beatles shirt and khakis
the picture slow-dancing its way to my subconscious
shirtless and pantless
Hold on. I know this is a little bit middle-grade-english-frigging-subject kind of element, but let me just stop you right there. And I’m very emphatic on this one, especially if you’re the type of poet who publishes poems on Instagram and Tumblr.
Imagery is already soooo overrated that it has divided poets into two types: the poets who heavily use imagery, and the poets who roll their eyes at imagery. If, just in case, you’re in the latter, I just want to point out that even though poetry is subjective and you can either exceed or break rules, poetry is still poetry because these three elements are in it.
Now, there is no right amount of imagery in a poem. I still think that is bullcrap. It heavily depends on how you’re using it. Try avoiding the cliche ones that you usually read in poems, such as worn-out pants or buzzing like a bee or bloodshot eyes. Not only do they make you roll your eyes and stop reading the entire thing but it also dulls the whole translation.
The best solution for that is to be genuine and write exactly how you think it is described. And then, use concrete words instead of abstract words.
Abstract words are used to generally describe a feeling or a concept. Words like love, gratefulness and hopelessness are great examples of abstract words. They are general feelings that everyone understands easily.
Concrete words are words used to vividly describe a feeling through senses. Words like itchy, burnt and brown are examples of concrete words as you know exactly what kind of feeling or object is being described.
Again, I don’t want to be the lecture-ish type of person who’ll tell you to use every single device out there, but metaphor in poetry is essential.
If you want to make the most of your poem and you really want your readers to visualize and feel what you’ve seen and felt, use metaphor.
Now, there’s often this huge trap poets fall into when using metaphor in their poems. It is the inside metaphor that cannot be translated well by the readers when analyzing it. And let me explain this to you because this is important. Often times, we use words or objects that can describe exactly what we feel. We use these objects to explain what exactly is going on. Sometimes, however, we’ve gotten too deep in the metaphor that it won’t ever translate well when reading from a fresh perspective.
The best solution for that is to avoid sentimentality and put yourself in the shoes of your readers. Sentimentality often takes away the rawness of the feelings because it has been heavily altered for generalization. For instance, when you’re writing a poem about young, naive lovers, and your theme is about love, do not heavily rely on how others describe love because that will mean that the feeling built in the poem will be secondhand.
Remember that when writing a poem, there’s always a theme, and a theme is always composed of an idea and an opinion.
Slam poems are good to listen to because of this element. It’s not just mashing of words that don’t match. It’s a continuous consciousness of how it sounds like when read aloud. Even free-verse poems are good to listen to because there’s music in it.
Intentionally using alliteration, consonance, rhyme, meter and other ways to promote music in poetry is a great way to make your poems ninety percent better. That is because poetry is for the ear, even if we don’t read it out loud, we still read it in our minds and appreciate how smooth it rolls out of our tongues.
T.L. Thornes is a writer residing in Ilocos Sur, Philippines. She was twelve when she started keeping drafts of her poems in composition notebooks. Since then, she has found an emotional outlet through writing. When she’s not writing, she can be found in the streets of her hometown, urbansketching, or in her room, writing songs and making art journals.
HOW TO WRITE 30 POEMS IN ONE NIGHT If you are about to read this (maybe you have taken in too much caffeine), I just want you to know that I don’t recommend you doing this. This is unhealthy. Writing 30 poems in one night is not impossible but is going to drain and...