Techniques — Ellis Campbell, 4. Pattern & 5. Words

Ellis Campbell’s Writing Techniques — 4. Pattern
I believe a regular, plainly defined pattern, helps Bush Verse immensely. The number of lines in a stanza of Bush Verse can be whatever the author chooses, but I prefer to keep to four, six or eight lines.

Long stanzas of verse, like long paragraphs in prose, tend to tire the reader. That tiny break between stanzas seems to refresh the reader’s mindand allows him/her to concentrate better on the new stanza. Once you decide the number of lines in the stanza, stick to it. The only variations I make (and then only rarely) is the first stanza that may differ by way of an introduction, and the final one.

For example I might sometimes be working on an eight line stanza pattern and find I can say all that is left of any importance in four final lines. Usually, though, I keep the stanzas uniform throughout the poem.

Stanzas of five, seven or nine lines can be made to work well with one loose line of good metre, but not rhyming, to end each stanza. Or this extra line can ryhyme with almost any other line if the author so desires, but it is better not to have rhymes too far apart as they lose impact. Again this extra line is something I do only rarely.

Apart from the number of lines per stanza, the number of syllables per line and stress order go to complete the pattern. It is not necessary to have every line the same to make a good pattern. For example line one might have fourteen syllables beginning with an unstresssed syllable and line two eleven syllables beginning with a stressed syllable. But the rhyming lines should be the same. In this case, assuming that your rhyming pattern is ABAB, lines one and three must be the same and lines two and four also identical. Once you decide on these things, stick with it. It is disappointing to see a poem start off really well and change course mid-stream without reason.

Ellis Campbell’s Writing Techniques — 5. Words
Most poets, particularly in the early stages, concentrate mainly on the rhyming word at line’s end. Certainly this is an important word, as good rhyme is essential to Bush Verse. Every other word of the poem, however, is also important. Every word helps carry the poem through a logical progression to a suitable conclusion. Each word should make sense, be of the right stress to fit your chosen pattern, and flow smoothly. Sometimes I change a word two or three times, even though each makes sense and is of the correct stress.

Try not to use the same word too often, particularly in close proximity -unless it is a deliberately repeated phrase or line. A couple of examples, taken from my own poetry. “Searing winds singed fragile grass and algae fouled the creek.” In place of “fragile” I might have used,
“flaky” --“ brittle” --“papery” or “flimsy”. All those make sense and fit my stress pattern. I thought “fragile” and “brittle” the two most suitable of these. I chose “fragile” because of the preceding three words, “searing winds singed”. Brittle seemed to suggest that the grass had long been dead and past being singed by the searing wind. Fragile suggests that the grass was easily and quickly singed by the hot wind. Another example: “And I tremble at the whining sound that heralds hunters’ cry”. Instead of “whining” I MIGHT have used “shrilling” -- “droning” -- “bIaring” or “screeching”. All make sense and fit the metre pattern. I thought “whining” and “droning” the best two. I chose “WHINING” because of the danger involved.

This poem tells the story of brumby horses being shot from a helicopter. (Not Sky Of Death ~ printed in a recent issue of ABPA Newsletter, but The Cry Of The Lone Brumby Stallion, second prize-winner in the AWAG competition, Brisbane, I995). “Droning” might have given an impression of drowsiness, but “whining” sounded a danger signal to the horses. Even the first word is important — it helps decide the stress pattern of your poem. Next issue some poetic terminology.