Tag Archives: poetry workshops

the language of poetry

Even though I’ve always enjoyed writing poetry, I’ve never felt very confident about using similes, metaphors and other poetic techniques. When using metaphors and similes in particular, I find it hard to avoid cliché and make them flow naturally with the rest of the poem.

Thankfully at the time of writing Thirty Angry Ghosts, I was reading and discussing at least one poem a week with other members of Suffolk Writers Group. These included some beautiful, inspirational work by Phyllis Wheatley, Elizabeth Barrrett Browning, Louis McNeice and William Wordsworth.

As is the case with someone who learns a foreign language, the more poetry I read, the more the language of poetry got into my blood. After a while, metaphors and similes began to seep out into my own writing fairly naturally. It is only now, looking back, that I can see how many different techniques I used.

Here are some examples

Some of these I used consciously and some just came out naturally. If you are using these resources for educational purposes, you might like to note down which techniques these quotations use and (if you have time) how they bring out the themes and meanings in the poems whilst (hopefully) adding to the reader’s enjoyment.

  • Simile
  • Metaphor
  • Personification
  • Onomatopoeia
  • Repetition
  • Rhyme
  • Rhythm
  • Alliteration
  • Consonance (like alliteration but the repeated consonants can appear anywhere in the word, not just at the start).

I have written a completed table below this one. Of course, your answers may differ from mine, especially the ‘Effect’ column. Poetry affects everyone differently after all.

Poem and QuotationPoetry TechniquesEffect
Neanderthal Woman   ‘the flame grew high, pierced the sky, licked its great orange tongue round the moon and spat.’  
Neanderthal Woman   ‘your nights will fill with memories of mechanical monstrosities’  
Neanderthal Woman   ‘She found rhythm in the rocks to match my chattering teeth.’  
Helen of Troy   ‘tangled his heart in the webbing of my silken locks.’      
Helen of Troy   ‘at the knife-edge of night and nightmares’    
Boudicca   ‘I was a drum thudding low and heavy beating out the sound for war.’    
Abu Bakr II ‘we reveled in the salty spray’    
Abu Bakr II   ‘wind lashed the waves’  
Abu Bakr II   ‘the emerald-tipped trees bowed down low’    
La Malinche   ‘For my words had wings and could fly to any man with ears to hear.’    
La Malinche   ‘the men who took me, chained me traded me for trinkets’  
La Malinche   ‘I was the face of the moon in a darkening sky. I was the bright, shining stream running over the rocks.’    
Henry VIII   ‘Fine jewels around the neck of an ugly girl shine like flies crawling upon excrement.’    
Henry VIII   ‘Taken by women stolen by women illegitimate women despised by God.’    
Margaret Catchpole   ‘Songs sung by Ancient Voices that surge silver rivers round the dry red rocks and soothe the scalded forest land.’    
Margaret Catchpole   ‘The Oak and Ash on pipes and fiddles Earl Soham Slog The Old Bass Bottle.’    
Ludwig van Beethoven   ‘Snip! – I heard it, quite clearly’    
Mary Shelley   ‘The earth trembles, turns and tumbles’    
Mary Shelley   ‘and a springtime of knucklebones surges up through the soil.’    
Mary Shelley   ‘And with their bones and blood and flesh the roots of the cypress tree shall be fed.’      

My Version – Don’t worry if yours is completely different. I just thought you might like to compare the two.

Like I said, I wasn’t totally conscious of all these things when I was writing. When I was editing, however, I worked hard to bring the techniques to the fore.

Poem and QuotationPoetic TechniquesEffect
Neanderthal Woman   ‘the flame grew high, pierced the sky, licked its great orange tongue round the moon and spat.’  PersonificationThis makes the flame seem like a conscious being which adds to the sense that it is wicked and dangerous after having taken on a life of its own.
Neanderthal Woman   ‘your nights will fill with memories of mechanical monstrosities’AlliterationI think the ‘m’ sound resembles someone calling for their mother but who is weakened or gagged. It is a mixture of a soothing sound and the sound of someone having restless sleep.
Neanderthal Woman   ‘She found rhythm in the rocks to match my chattering teeth.’Consonance and AlliterationThe ‘r’ and the ‘t’ sounds are intended to echo the sound of the rocks being rubbed against each other as well as hitting each other.
Helen of Troy   ‘tangled his heart in the webbing of my silken locks.’  MetaphorThis is a metaphor for love, taking the familiar, pleasant image of ‘silken locks’ and making her hair seem like a dangerous net or spider’s web.
Helen of Troy   ‘at the knife-edge of night and nightmares’    MetaphorThe use of the knife metaphor adds to the sense of danger and fear.
Boudicca   ‘I was a drum thudding low and heavy beating out the sound for war.’  Metaphor and ConsonantsThe repeated ‘d’ sound and the repeated ‘u’ sound (assonance) echoes the sound of a drum.   This metaphor shows that Boudicca feels powerful, strong and no longer human.    
Abu Bakr II   ‘we reveled in the salty spray’AlliterationThe repeated ‘s’ sound echoes the sound of the waves hitting the deck.
Abu Bakr II   ‘wind lashed the waves’Personification and alliterationThe repeated ‘w’ sound echoes the sound of the wind.
Abu Bakr II   ‘the emerald-tipped trees bowed down low’  PersonificationThe personification of the trees adds to the sense of Abu Bakr’s power in that even nature wants to praise him. This echoes the earlier phrase ‘the sun shone down a celebration’.  
La Malinche   ‘For my words had wings and could fly to any man with ears to hear.’  Metaphor    This emphasises how powerful her words were.
La Malinche   ‘the men who took me, chained me traded me for trinkets’AlliterationThe repeated ‘t’ sounds are reminiscent of someone tutting which emphasises how stupid she thinks the men were.
La Malinche   ‘I was the face of the moon in a darkening sky. I was the bright, shining stream running over the rocks.’  MetaphorThese images show how powerful she was but yet demonstrate how she was a symbol of hope, harmony and natural innocence as opposed to the violent cruelty of the men.
Henry VIII   ‘Fine jewels around the neck of an ugly girl shine like flies crawling upon excrement.’  SimileThis simile emphasises Henry’s distaste for women if they are unable to please him.
Henry VIII   ‘Taken by women stolen by women illegitimate women despised by God.’  Repetition and RhythmThe rhythm and repetition emphasise his outrage.
Margaret Catchpole   ‘Songs sung by Ancient Voices that surge silver rivers round the dry red rocks and soothe the scalded forest land.’  Alliteration, Rhythm and MetaphorThe repeated ‘s’ sounds are supposed to be reminiscent of the sounds of a river. The water metaphor demonstrates the power and soothing quality of the songs whilst the rhythm is meant to echo the music itself.
Margaret Catchpole   ‘The Oak and Ash on pipes and fiddles Earl Soham Slog The Old Bass Bottle.’  Rhyme, Rhythm, AlliterationThese are real, traditional Suffolk folk songs which I researched on the internet. I had a lot to choose from and I was pleased to find the half-rhyme with ‘fiddle’ and ‘bottle’ because, together with the alliteration and rhythm, it makes the stanza sound a bit like a song.
Ludwig van Beethoven   ‘Snip! – I heard it, quite clearly’  OnomatopoeiaThe word ‘snip’ imitates the sound of a pair of scissors.
Mary Shelley   ‘The earth trembles, turns and tumbles’  AlliterationThe repeated ‘t’ is supposed to echo the sound of the earth moving.
Mary Shelley   ‘and a springtime of knucklebones surges up through the soil.’  Metaphor and AlliterationAgain the repetition of ‘s’ is supposed to echo the sound of moving earth. The metaphor of comparing knucklebones to bulbs growing is meant to be nightmarish but yet hint at the environmental theme in that life can come from death and vice versa.
Mary Shelley   ‘And with their bones and blood and flesh the roots of the cypress tree shall be fed.’    Alliteration, Repetition and RhythmThe alliteration, rhythm and repetition of ‘and’ is supposed to be reminiscent of verses from the Old Testament which ties in with the overtones of Judgement Day. It is also supposed to sound a bit like a spell or an incantation. As such, I am trying to make the reader question whether Mary’s actions are just and fair or whether they are cruel and inspired by revenge.

reading and writing love poetry

‘The minute I heard my first love story,
I started looking for you’ – Rumi

Would you like to discuss classic and contemporary love poetry in a friendly, supportive group?

Would you like to learn about different forms of poetry and writing techniques?

Do you want to be inspired to write your own poetry and have the opportunity to receive feedback on your work?

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Mai Black – Course Tutor

This course consists of ten one hour workshops delivered via Zoom, spread out over ten weeks. The intention is to help you gain a deeper appreciation and understanding of poetry as well as inspire you to write a variety of new pieces of your own. It is suitable for both experienced poets and absolute beginners.

Starts: Mon 5th April 2021 (7.30pm to 8.30pm)

Ends: Mon 7th June 2021 (7.30pm to 8.30pm)

Each session costs £5 and lasts for one hour (total £50)

I have recently added a Tuesday session too. This will run from Tuesday 6th April to Tuesday 8th June. Again, it will start at 7.30pm and end at 8.30pm. The content will be the same as for Monday’s group.

Email suffolkwritersgroup@gmail.com for enquiries.

Participants on the ‘Nature Poetry’ Couse

Each week, participants will read the poem in advance and try to think of a comment to make or question to ask. All the poems (together with links to the texts) are listed below. After a reading, sharing of ideas and brief input from me, everyone will write a short piece which can either be shared straight-away or worked on before the next session.

On weeks five and ten all participants can choose to read a short published poem as well as one of their own pieces.

The course costs £50 for ten one-hour sessions and is payable by direct debit. If you email me your mobile phone number, I can text you my bank details.

There are only eight places available on each course. I can confirm a place once I receive payment. If the course is cancelled for any reason, I will reimburse you.

Unfortunately I can’t offer automatic refunds if you decide not to join the course at a later date but, if someone else is able to take your place, I will endeavour to do so.

For more information, email suffolkwritersgroup@gmail.com.

Or phone me on 07943 068033 (I’m Mai – pronounced May)

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Suffolk Writers Group at work and play. (I’m in the middle at the top).

Here is some of the lovely feedback I received about the last course.

‘This course has been great fun giving me the experience to return to poetry and fully appreciate it.  When I was at school the teacher hated poetry so I never went back to it. I have learnt so much in a relaxed and informative way.  Thank you Mai for a great experience.  I look forward to the next one.’ – Jacqui Martin

‘All I can say is thank goodness for lockdown. Without it I’d never have found this lovely group. Mai is great – I’ve learnt so much in such a short length of time.’ – Sue Dale

‘Brilliant insightful course, rediscovering the beauty of language.’ – Ian Speed

‘It’s such a supportive group and Mai does such a great job in keeping us motivated.’ – Ian Hartley

Poems for discussion and inspiration

Week 1 – Meeting at Night – Robert Browning

Week 2 – Three short poems – Rumi

Week 3 – The Clod and The Pebble – William Blake

Week 4 – Shall I Compare Thee To a Summer’s Day – William Shakespeare

Week 5 – Member’s Choice (one of yours and/or one by someone else)

Week 6 – I Wanna Be Yours – John Cooper Clarke

Week 7 – My Letters! all Dead Paper – Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Week 8 – A Marriage – R S Thomas

Week 9 – I Do Not Love Thee – Caroline Norton

Week 10 – Member’s Choice (one of yours and/or one by someone else)

To visit my main website and find out about other writing courses and creative writing resources, click here.

reading and writing poems about nature

Starts: Mon 4th January 2021

Ends: Mon 8th March 2021

Mondays 10:30am – 11:30am

Or Mondays 7:30pm to 8:30pm

Cost: £50

Rediscover your love of poetry!

…Or maybe you’re looking to find it.

This ten-week course is aimed at people who want to read, write and discuss popular poetry with a group of friendly, like-minded individuals.

The sessions are delivered via Zoom, which allows everyone to easily share their work on the screen as well as take turns to ask questions and share thoughts about the chosen poems.

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Mai Black – Course Co-ordinator

Beginners and experienced writers are equally welcome. I have deliberately chosen poems which are well-known and accessible to all.

Each week, read the poem in advance and print out a copy. Try to think of a comment to make or question to ask. During the session, everyone will write a short piece which can either be shared straight-away or worked on before the next session.

On weeks five and ten all participants can choose to read a short published poem as well as one of their own pieces.

The course costs £50 for ten one-hour sessions and is payable by direct debit. If you email me your mobile phone number, I can text you my bank details.

For more information, email suffolkwritersgroup@gmail.com.

Or phone me on 07943 068033 (I’m Mai – pronounced May)

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is image.png
Suffolk Writers Group at work and play. (I’m in the middle at the top).

Here is some of the lovely feedback I received about the last course.

‘This course has been great fun giving me the experience to return to poetry and fully appreciate it.  When I was at school the teacher hated poetry so I never went back to it. I have learnt so much in a relaxed and informative way.  Thank you Mai for a great experience.  I look forward to the next one.’ – Jacqui Martin

‘All I can say is thank goodness for lockdown. Without it I’d never have found this lovely group. Mai is great – I’ve learnt so much in such a short length of time.’ – Sue Dale

‘Brilliant insightful course, rediscovering the beauty of language.’ – Ian Speed

‘It’s such a supportive group and Mai does such a great job in keeping us motivated.’ – Ian Hartley

Poems for discussion and inspiration

Week One – I Remember, I Remember by Thomas Hood

Week Two – Pied Beauty – Gerald Manley Hopkins

Week Three – Everybody Sang by Siegfried Sasoon

Week Four – Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening – Robert Frost

Week Five – Members’ Choice

Week Six – Emmonsail’s Heath in Winter by John Clare

Week Seven – The Sunlight on the Garden by Louis McNeice

Week Eight – Home – Thoughts from Abroad by Robert Browning

Week Nine – Blackberry Picking by Seamus Heaney

Week Ten – Members’ Choice

(All these poems can be found in this book. You will also be able to find them easily with an internet search)

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To visit our main website and find out about other writing courses and creative writing resources, click here.