“Ocean Tales,” by Laura Purdie Salas, pt. 2

Thinking About a Poem

Usually in this feature, I share my process as a reader reading a poem someone else wrote. But for this one, I’m sharing the writing process behind a poem I shared last week on Poetry Friday, “Ocean Tales.” I was working on a set of poems that eventually became BOOKSPEAK! POEMS ABOUT BOOKS (Clarion, 2011), and I was comparing books to things’stars, trees, cages?I wanted to bring in the ocean, too. I was born and raised in Florida, and I think I still harbor a secret desire to grow up and be a marine biologist! I used one of my favorite poems, ?Seal Lullaby,? by Rudyard Kipling, as a jumping off point. I love its comforting, rolling rhythm and beautiful melancholy. (Cool choral performance of it here.)?

I decided to use Kipling’s meter, which has the rhythm of waves built right into it. [CCRA.W.5] For sounds, I looked for words with lots of Rs and Ls. They tend to be rolling, motion-filled sounds. Words that flow right into each other.? [CCRA.W.4]

So I had a shape and sound for my poem. But what to say? I wanted to paint a word picture of a fantastical world. I pictured two things as I wrote this: 1) an animated, fantasy ocean world; and 2) Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. Strange, right? I guess I wanted to yoke oceans and books together and show how they can both be places of magic. They transform and heal and are just plain fun! Books open new worlds and show all sorts of possibilities to readers. [CCRA.W.3]

And for me, books are an escape from that darker side of life. Conversely, they’re a safe peek into it. As an unhappy kid, I would read dark books and be relieved that someone was worse off than me or that I wasn’t the only kid who felt alone.

So I think that’s where the third stanza, with the storms and the spindrift, came from. [CCRA.W.3] Yes, there will be storms, but it’s ok. Ocean, Story, Life itself can encompass all your troubles and comfort you. I was not thinking anything lofty as I wrote, though! I just like storms and thought the poem should come to a definite End. But reading it now, I hear an echo of the grave in that final stanza.

Boy, I should quit analyzing my own poems. Really, I just wanted a cool poem that tied oceans and books together and wasn’t as locked into logic as most of my work is!

The tree and cage poems I mentioned earlier made it into BOOKSPEAK, but the star poem and this one, ?Ocean Tales,? did not. I’m glad I finally shared it with you here on my blog.

In this blog feature, I externalize my process of reading a poem and then I go back and pop in the CCSS Anchor Standards that I think I happened to address in my thoughts. I’m hoping this will be useful for those of you who are?educators sharing poetry, especially if you might not be too comfortable with it. This might give you ideas of some?elements you could include?in your poetry discussion.

26 Responses

      1. It is because, as you discovered, you discover things in re-reading that you had not intended when you wrote it. And then you start to second-guess your subconscious!

      1. It is because, as you discovered, you discover things in re-reading that you had not intended when you wrote it. And then you start to second-guess your subconscious!

  1. Laura,
    Your process is fascinating. I know that I have other poems’ meters in my head when I write but rarely am I conscious of it or of the particular poem. I want to think about that more.

  2. Laura,
    Your process is fascinating. I know that I have other poems’ meters in my head when I write but rarely am I conscious of it or of the particular poem. I want to think about that more.

  3. It’s good to hear from you about your approach Laura, good for me in writing, & good to share with students too. Thank you!

  4. It’s good to hear from you about your approach Laura, good for me in writing, & good to share with students too. Thank you!

  5. This is amazing as you write do you keep notes of the
    Thing that inspired the poems? I often think i should do that with my poems but haven’t yet but I have made notes of my stories for my story times that I have I often use a lot of my own artwork and even my own stories some times you sharing this will help me in my own writing thank you

    1. Thanks, Jessica. Nope, I don’t keep notes, and I often can’t remember! But I had written this for another blog, for a guest post when I was invited to do one. Then that blog shut down, and I figured I use this elsewhere. It would be great to keep notes, since my memory is so bad. Happy writing!

  6. This is amazing as you write do you keep notes of the
    Thing that inspired the poems? I often think i should do that with my poems but haven’t yet but I have made notes of my stories for my story times that I have I often use a lot of my own artwork and even my own stories some times you sharing this will help me in my own writing thank you

    1. Thanks, Jessica. Nope, I don’t keep notes, and I often can’t remember! But I had written this for another blog, for a guest post when I was invited to do one. Then that blog shut down, and I figured I use this elsewhere. It would be great to keep notes, since my memory is so bad. Happy writing!

  7. Thanks, Laura, for sharing your process. I like the idea of choosing a meter from a favorite poem before you start. Then picking words that have sounds which go with the idea of your poem. I’m been playing with writing poems in meter and rhyme and this sounds like a great idea. I struggle with having the idea and then picking the meter and then the sounds. Some of my friends have no idea how hard it is to write in rhythm and rhyme. But I love to try.

    1. I usually start with the idea, but sometimes it’s really fun to just start with either a specific form (haiku, acrostic, etc.) or a “mentor poem” to model mine after. I tend to fall into the same meter and rhyme scheme over and over, and modeling after other poems helps me stretch myself. Good luck!

  8. Thanks, Laura, for sharing your process. I like the idea of choosing a meter from a favorite poem before you start. Then picking words that have sounds which go with the idea of your poem. I’m been playing with writing poems in meter and rhyme and this sounds like a great idea. I struggle with having the idea and then picking the meter and then the sounds. Some of my friends have no idea how hard it is to write in rhythm and rhyme. But I love to try.

    1. I usually start with the idea, but sometimes it’s really fun to just start with either a specific form (haiku, acrostic, etc.) or a “mentor poem” to model mine after. I tend to fall into the same meter and rhyme scheme over and over, and modeling after other poems helps me stretch myself. Good luck!

  9. Thanks for sharing your process, Laura! Eventually you’ll write an entire book about the ocean, and this will fit perfectly!

  10. Thanks for sharing your process, Laura! Eventually you’ll write an entire book about the ocean, and this will fit perfectly!

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