Category Archives: descriptive writing

How Autumn Can Supercharge Your Descriptive Writing

typewriter leaves

Last month, I shared with you summer-themed poetry and suggested you study its descriptive paragraphs, sentences and phrases and apply what you learned to your own writing.

The seasons have shifted now from summer to fall. Think about the ambiance words create in these autumn poems and compare them to the mood of summer poetry.

In her “November Night”, American poet, Adelaide Crapsey (1878–1914) invokes a powerful image using less than twenty words. What does your mind “see” when you read her poem?

wood_portrait_green_silhouette_night_canon_photography_three-503901November Night
Listen…
With faint dry sound,
Like steps of passing ghosts,
The leaves, frost-crisp’d, break from the trees
And fall.

Notice how the English poet and aesthetic philosopher, T.E. Hulme (1883–1917), uses similes to create a word picture in his short poem, “Autumn”.

9029a33d97688e26b1283f4e5c264c73Autumn
A touch of cold in the Autumn night –
I walked abroad,
And saw the ruddy moon lean over a hedge
Like a red-faced farmer.
I did not stop to speak, but nodded,
And round about were the wistful stars
With white faces like town children.

Now, compare the mood of the English poet Rainer Maria Rilke‘s poem “Autumn” to Hulme’s. Rilke (1875–1926) was a master at weaving word pictures with existential thoughts.

imageAutumn
The leaves are falling, falling as if from far up,
as if orchards were dying high in space.
Each leaf falls as if it were motioning “no.”
And tonight the heavy earth is falling
away from all other stars in the loneliness.
We’re all falling. This hand here is falling.
And look at the other one. It’s in them all.
And yet there is Someone, whose hands
infinitely calm, holding up all this falling.

Three poets: Crapsey, Hulme and Rilke, all living in the same era, writing about the same theme, using words to create significantly different images. Use what you’ve learned reading their words to supercharge your own writing—

Start right now by writing
your own autumn-themed descriptive
paragraph or poem.

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How the Dog Days of Summer Can Supercharge Your Descriptive Writing

summerwriting

The Dog Days of Summer—
days when heat and humidity reign,
sizzling July days that melt into August. 

Don’t waste them allowing your writing to languish. Instead, study the descriptive paragraphs, sentences and phrases found in summer poetry. Think about how words transform into specific moods and pictures. Then apply what you learn to your works in progress.

Here are a few examples.

2de14353abcf3a19678609e6a294006e--stephen-king-quotes-stephen-kingsA stanza from John Koethe’s poem, “Sally’s Hair”

It’s like living in a light bulb, with the leaves
Like filaments and the sky a shell of thin, transparent glass
Enclosing the late heaven of a summer day, a canopy
Of incandescent blue above the dappled sunlight golden on the grass.

(Copyright © 2006 John Koethe.)

 


9781543294002_p0_v1_s550x406.jpgDiscover how Phillip Lopate uses a loaf of bread to describe layered city sounds in “The Last Slow Days of Summer” .

I’m lying on the grass, listening to city sounds.
They come to me in three-dimensional form,
Like a loaf of Wonder Bread. Baby carriages squeak
Near the middle. Cars humming through Central Park,
Somewhere near the back of the loaf.
What sound would be the end-piece, the round brown sliver?
The unzipping of airline bags.
Or a glove thwacked
By a rookie pitcher who falls apart
In the eighth inning.

(“The Last Slow Days of Summer” from At the End of the Day: Selected Poems and an Introductory Essay, copyright © 2009 by Phillip Lopate.)

 

 In his “Summer Song” William Carlos Williams describes the moon fading on a summer morning and then adds himself to the scene.

if-writers-block-is-staring.gifWanderer moon
smiling a
faintly ironical smile
at this
brilliant, dew-moistened
summer morning,—
a detached
sleepily indifferent
smile, a
wanderer’s smile,—
if I should
buy a shirt
your color and
put on a necktie
sky-blue
where would they carry me?

(This poem is in the public domain.)

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And, finally, study poet Mark Strand’s character description in “My Mother on an Evening in Late Summer”:

When the moon appears
and a few wind-stricken barns stand out
in the low-domed hills
and shine with a light
that is veiled and dust-filled
and that floats upon the fields,
my mother, with her hair in a bun,
her face in shadow, and the smoke
from her cigarette coiling close
to the faint yellow sheen of her dress,
stands near the house
and watches the seepage of late light
down through the sedges,
the last gray islands of cloud
taken from view, and the wind
ruffling the moon’s ash-colored coat
on the black bay.

From Mark Strand: Selected Poems, by Mark Strand, published by Atheneum. Copyright © 1979 by Mark Strand.

Make time during these Dog Days to read and study more summer poems. You’ll find them online at:

graphicstock-poems-word-on-metal-pointer_SPPlyPHAdub_thumbThe Poetry Foundation

The Academy of American Poets

Poem Hunter

A reminder: In narrative writing use descriptive language sparingly and with good judgement. Keep it in your writer’s “toolbox” as a technique for advancing plot, character and theme.

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Filed under Creativity, descriptive writing, Inspiration, Literary Devices, Movtivation, Observation, Poetry, Summer, Uncategorized, words, Writing craft, Writing Tips