Poetry Friday: Cephalopod Dactyl & A New Poetry Class for Picture Book Writers

© 2012 Sylvia Liu

My friend and children's poet Renée LaTulippe is hosting Poetry Friday today, and thanks to her, this is the first time I feel brave enough to offer my own poetry.

I have been part of a beta class for her new online class, THE LYRICAL LANGUAGE LAB. In this 4 week course, Renée teaches the basics of poetry for picture book writers, whether they plan to write in rhyme or not. The classes cover basics such as meter, rhyme, and types of poetry, as well as techniques to bring poetic and lyrical language to one's writing, both rhyming and prose. Renée will begin monthly classes in April 2014, and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Editors and agents will tell beginner writers not to rhyme in picture books, mainly because most people can't do it well. In her class, Renée gave me the tools to make poetry that scans and sings. I can't say I'm always successful, but now I can usually tell when and why I've fallen short. I feel like I was handed a key to a beautiful house that I could only admire from afar but that I can now visit and live in.

After learning dactyls (with a DUM-da-da beat), I wrote the following poem:

We Are Cephalopods Too

Cephalopods are obsessions of mine,
Giant squid, kraken, all those with no spine.
Ammonites fossilized, time has now slew,
Octopus, cuttlefish, nautilus too.

Mountainous heads and intelligence squared
Feet super long and their beaks never bared.
Camouflauge hides them among spotted rocks
Where can you find such a bunch of sea jocks?

Why, you may ask, do they hypnotize me?
Maybe they're part of my family.

This was my poem after Renée gave me feedback. I had written what I thought was a poem using dactyl meter, but ended up with a lot of missing beats. I'm including my original poem and her comments, which shows how thorough she is in her critiques (and how much of my poem actually owes to her brilliance): 

double click on the image to see it larger

Renée provides feedback on every assignment. Hop on over to her website to learn more about her class, including a giveaway for one lucky reader, and to see links to other poems from her beta class students.

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