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So You Want to Wear that Poet's Hat?


by _razcalz_

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Or maybe you already are a poet! After all, it doesn't taken much to mush a few phrases together and declare it a work of high-class literature. (Aside from getting people to believe you instead of snickering hysterically as well as dodging the occasional tomato, that is.)

But what I'm here for today is to show you how to be a Neo-poet. As in, published-in-the-Poetry-Contest-so-you-can-brag-about-being-famous poet. Because we've all seen how cool it would be to have your name resting in bold on top of a hunk of italicized, impressive-looking text. Right?

My name is Veyle. I'm an Ice Draik.

That being said, you can only imagine what it took for my owner, Janice, to get me to stand on this very rostrum, under these blazing, ice-melting spotlights, trying to make you all understand the art of being a published poet. Actually, we made something of a deal. She told me I wouldn't lose my dinner tonight if I made this silly speech without telling Neopia that she --

Uh-oh. I can feel that glare slicing through the crowd. Um, back to poetry. Yes.

On a side note, I'd appreciate if whoever put these horrible lights here could dim them. My goal tonight is to deliver this speech without reducing myself into a stagnant, very sad pool of water.

The Basics

Now, what you have to understand is that I'm not here to tell you how to write poetry. I'm assuming you already know that; if not, you really ought to be sitting in an old, musty classroom instead of staring at a melting chunk of ice, i.e. me. But no, I'm here to help you go from poet to Neo-poet. To explain what's not yet been covered in other guides, to tell you things about this contest Janice wishes someone had told her when she first started entering.

Nonetheless, I'll sum up the basics in a few important points here.

Originality and creativity are key. When choosing a theme, be sure it is interesting. I can't stress this enough.

Don't be intimidated by the displays of couplets/sonnets/etc. Rhyming is nice but not always necessary. If that's not your thing, lyrical free verse poetry is just as good as long as you can make it stand out.

Humour and wit = always appreciated.

When stuck with rhymes, try thinking outside the box. (A good example of this is how "stellar" and a slurred "tell her" can be rhymed.)

Use the best words. "Vile" or "malevolent" would add much more flavour than just "bad." (All three describe my humourless owner, by the way.)

Your poem should be of decent length. I'd say 24-40 lines is a good range.

There are three responses you can receive to an entry. One is a held-over neomail (good news!) and the other two are, well... a "not held-over" neomail. The reasons for rejection are that either there are too many good entries for that gallery, or your theme wasn't original enough.

If your poem is chosen (congratulations!), you will receive a trophy, a random item, and 1000 NP.

And now, due to, er... personal problems, I'm going to have to skip explaining some of these and move on. If someone could kindly mop up the puddle that was my tail, I will continue... Thank you very much...

Finding your Rhythm

This is important in rhyming and fixed poetry in general. (You heard right, this doesn't apply to the brave souls who plan to try out free verse as much.)

Having a rhythm scheme of some sort makes your masterpiece more satisfying to read. This is not easy to explain, particularly with significant drip drip noises in the background. To have rhythm, you should be selective about the words you use, because stresses on certain syllables are important.

If you choose a specific format such as a sonnet, you have a rhythm scheme of its own to follow. But if not, create your own rhythm!

For example, Janice's rhythm scheme is:

STRONG-weak-STRONG-weak-STRONG-weak-STRONG,

weak-STRONG-weak-STRONG-weak-STRONG.

...okay, that sounds odd. Like, really odd. But what it means is that when read aloud, the first syllable of the first line is stressed. The second is not, the third is... and so on. Some articles (a, an, the) can be omitted to fulfill this rhythm. Therefore, if you had something like this written out:

A shaft of pale sunlight

Leaning in, as if by a spell.

It illuminates the thorn-covered stone,

On which the Draik Nest dwells.

While the imagery is quite nice, the rhythm is awkward and patternless. If you were to follow the example rhythm, switch a few words around and you'll have:

A single shaft of sunlight pale

Leans in, as if by spell.

Illuminating thorny stone,

On which the Draik Nest dwells.

Sounds nicer, no?

Shape Poetry

While I have not explained any of the other forms of poetry, shape poetry gets its own section! That's because it has not been covered by guides so far, and it is an uncommon yet very fun style. Basically you arrange the length of each line of text so that when put together one on top of the other, it resembles a shape of some sort. The text itself would describe that shape, whatever it is.

Some pointers for this:

There are restrictions. The poem will be centered if chosen, so your shape must be symmetrical. (Past examples of this are circles for volleyballs or a drop of chocolate.)

The maximum number of characters each line should hold is fifty. This goes for the other forms of poetry, too. If you exceed that limit, the judge will have to cut some lines and your shape will be ruined. (Sadness!) The judge will notify you if this happens, though, so you can edit your lines and re-submit.

Last but not least: be creative! Choose a unique shape that no one has done before. Janice has written a faerie-shaped poem in the past, though it was not for this contest. (Thank goodness, too, it looked more like a scarecrow with wings.)

Two excellent examples of shape poems can be found on page 1071 of the Poetry Gallery. Moving on!

Themed Galleries

For pet days and other Neopian holidays, there is always a special gallery, a display of poems revolving around that topic. Most poets aim for these themed galleries, because with random (non-themed) pages, it can take up to several months for your poem to show up.

To see what holidays are coming up, just have a look at the Neopian Calendar. Every single one of those dates will have a special poetry page. Remember that news always comes out a day before (or on Friday if it falls on a weekend), so just have your entry in a few days prior and it will be read.

(Important lesson: Never, ever be a lazy clod like my owner and wait 'til the night before to write and submit. The judge is usually lightning-quick with responses, but things happen and it may not be read in time. I speak from experience.)

As of late, Neopian holidays are not the only days that themed galleries show up. We users have been planning our own themed galleries since the middle of Y11. (Past topics we've chosen are Goldrun, The Space Faerie, and Neoquest II.) This happens about once a month, and when a topic is decided, we put it in our signatures so that those on the neoboards are notified. Just something to look out for!

That's great, but I still don't know what to write about?!

Sometimes, even with a topic in mind, it's hard to think of something specific to put into poetic form. I can't tell you what to write about, but I can suggest things I have done in the past.

Write a story: This is fun, a great way to squeeze some humour in. If you're aiming for Krawk Day, why not find a Krawk character (or create your own) and describe a short scenario about something that happens to that pet?

Describe: It may be a pet, or an item, or whatever you can think of. Not just in appearance, but perhaps how the item was made, or what the pet is doing.

All right, you can all stop trying not to doze off now. My speech is over. Hey -- if you think you're about to complain, what about me? I swear, I've melted to about one-third of my regular height... Let's have a big round of applause for Veyle the frowning puddle, shall we?

If you've been snoring through the whole thing, just remember this... No guide can help if you don't take the first step. Grab a quill and get those ideas flowing. I guarantee that you will get the hang of it, and your name will be featured in big bold letters if you try. Fancy that!

Please understand that there is no sure-fire way to get published -- goodness, if there was, we'd have a terrible time trying to squeeze into those slots! This guide was written from experience and observation alone, and I hope you've found it helpful. Also, the "Draik Nest" passage has already been published, and if you borrow it for your own verse, the judge will frown at you. No good.

Oh, and one last thing. You're probably wondering how I know all of this. I mean, it's a lot, judging by all your glazed looks. Well, to tell you the truth... you know how once in a while, you see the words "By _Razcalz_" in a section of the gallery? Well, it should read "By Veyle," because I'm the one who actually pens those verses... Yep. Trust her to take all the credit--

Ah. There goes my dinner.

Well now, I'm off, folks. If you have any further questions or concerns, please don't hesitate to visit me outside the diner where lumps of dung are liable to be found inside meals, a.k.a. the Soup Kitchen lineup.

So long, and I hope to see your name in that gallery soon!

As a very annoyed figure makes her way through the crowd, the Ice Draik scurries off in great hurry, pieces of script drifting off the stage and drips of water trailing in her wake.

 
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