5 ways to sound smarter with poetry

5 ways to sound smarter with poetry

Poetry can open our minds to creative territories previously unexplored, pushing us to dig deeper into an area of interest and improve the way we express ourselves. If you are curious about how poetry works and unafraid to attempt it for yourself, what better time to do so than this month – Singapore Poetry Writing Month?

Singapore Poetry Writing Month, or SingPoWriMo for short, is a community challenge held annually in April that invites anyone to write one poem a day, for 30 days. Run by Sing Lit Station, the challenge is in its 9th year.

In the spirit of SingPoWriMo, we are showing you five different situations where you can use poetry to make yourself sound sharper and funnier, and as a result – smarter.

1. When describing a mood

Avoid: vagueness, generalisation, slang phrases.
For example: “I like it when it’s quiet. It’s a nice vibe.”

To bring your readers closer to a specific mood, the rule of thumb is “show, don’t tell.” Try tapping into more than one or two senses in your description. This will add more dimension to your poem and help your audience imagine the “vibe” better. Help them feel what you feel, hear what you hear!

A good example:
Between the sky, a shade of blue that’s solitude,
and the sea, its tint both challenge and resolve,
is the quality of quiet when it’s fully present.

Not just the absentness of noise,
but the whuff of gentle breeze
the wurzurzur of bees
how winds blow brush
to whirr-whirr-whirr
while waves mount up
shirr, shush and shlup
into pools, against rocks
on shores (schmock).
And above it all
call and call
distant birds
dewaver chui-chui, dewaver.
Between the sky and the sea
atop the rock and the city.

 – Quiet by Eleanor Wong, from y grec (2005).

2. When broaching a serious topic

Avoid: a condescending tone
For example: “Please grow up and don’t let your inner child take control.”

Nobody needs another lecture. Instead, use metaphors and analogies to describe a state of mind, feeling or being. It keeps your writing from being dry and encourages readers to think deeper about the topic.

A good example:

Inner child by Yi Jie Lim from SingPoWriMo

– Inner child by Yi Jie Lim, from SingPoWriMo on Facebook (2022).

Fun fact: The poem above is written in a poetic form known as “twin cinema”. It refers to poetry written in two separate columns, which can be read individually from top to bottom or left to right as a single cohesive piece. The first twin cinema poem was created by Singaporean poet Yeow Kai Chai, entitled “Begone Dull Care”.

3. When you want to connect with someone in a romantic way

Avoid: passing generic remarks, sounding insincere.
For example: “Hey there, you’re cute. Can I have your number?”

Pick up lines only work when you catch the recipient’s attention in a positive way. Whether you use it as a genuine conversation starter or as a joke to lighten the mood, adding a little poetic flair might help you catch them off guard and leave a good impression.

You might not always succeed, but at least you’ll sound smart!

A good example:
“Hold on, I think you left something behind,
It’s not your wallet, or keys, or any of that kind.
But that cheeky gaze still lingering in my mind.
Though I can’t return a memory, still I should be fair.
So here’s my number, let’s take it from there.”

– Here’s my number by Joseph Lim (2022)

4. When describing your favourite food

Avoid: providing little to no context.
For example: “Chicken rice is the best, I love it!”

When describing your passions, be passionate. Instead of just talking about the food you love, bring your readers through the story behind your love for it. Providing context adds a layer of intimacy to your description and can help them better connect with what makes your favourite food so special to you.

A good example:

“You don’t know how special and nice,
I felt about mama’s chicken and rice.
But for me at the time — it was beyond price,
On Friday when mama cooks her special chicken rice.

Chicken and rice, chicken and rice, I say.
Especially on a Friday, on mom’s laundry day.
My mom made the best, in her own special way.
Whenever I am feeling I am craving for rice,
I would always find an excuse to have my mama’s chicken and rice.”

– My mama’s chicken rice by Sharina Saad, from Hello; Poetry; (2013)

5. Even when writing in your journal

Avoid: Writing like a reporter, being dry.
For example: “Today I received a ton of spam calls. It got in the way of my writing.”

One aspect of journaling is having a conversation with your future self. Think about how you can include memories that you can look back on vividly. Your entries do not have to be lengthy but try not to skip the sentimental moments – no matter how hurtful or embarrassing they may be.

A good example:

Hello. This is the Ministry of Law.
For English, press one. Huayu, qing an er.
You have – one – current charge. Please take the call.

Hi, we have casino, live bet soccer
you texted me before say you want a
loan account. no deposit, best offer

Your bank statement is now available
You paid late. So here’s a fee. And compound
interest charges. Thanks, don’t feel terrible.

Here are the likes, reacts and a writer
on untackled prompts that you aren’t able
to write. Here’s Word and a blinking cursor.

Start. Stop staring. Wake up. Get a handle
on yourself. It’s not even mid-April.

– Calls from unknown plus six five number by Ben Neo,from SingPoWriMo on Facebook (2022).

Draw more inspiration from fellow poets on SingPoWriMo here.

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