Listen to a conversation between a student and his creative writing professor.
John, listen, I can clearly see that you put a lot of time into your response paper...
I did! It took me forever. I rewrote it a dozen times.
And your hard work shows. Unfortunately…it’s a week late.
I know, sorry. I just got a little behind, y’know, sports and homework… But I’m on top of things now.
Glad to hear it. Now, as for our meeting today… I like to talk to all of my creative writing students one-on-one at least once during the term and see how they’re doing.
I think I’m doing OK. Busy, you know, but other than that…
Well, I’ve found through the years that some of my assignments can be pretty tough for first year students like yourself.
Like the response paper you just did, the explication of a Pablo Neruda poem.
Uh, by the way, why did you choose “The Lemon”? It’s an… unusual choice.
It was my favorite in a book of Neruda’s poems. All the poems are about everyday objects and, y’know, simple pleasures.
Right. Elemental Odes. One of my favorites.
I liked how Neruda took things like fruit and vegetables and... socks... and used metaphors and similes to describe them as these wonderful, mysterious things.
Like in “The Lemon,” he describes a lemon falling to Earth from the stars!
And he compares a slice of lemon to a stained-glass window. It’s so original.
Beautiful images, aren’t they? Neruda didn’t win the Nobel Prize for literature by accident.
No, he didn’t.
Now, as you know, the paper was only the first half of the assignment…
and I’m concerned about your ability to complete the second part on time, considering how much time the first part took you.
Actually, I finished it just before I came here.
It was tricky, too. You know, having to write a poem inspired by “The Lemon”, but in a completely different style.
In order to do that, I really had to study Neruda’s style and read a lot of his stuff, which was great.
But... “The Lemon” is free verse. So to do the assignment, I decided to use a strict meter—iambic pentameter, to be as different as possible.
So each line of your poem has ten syllables and every other syllable is stressed.
Interesting choice. Iambic pentameter is certainly different from free verse!
It was hard for me, though, because usually when I write a poem, I choose my own topic, and I just write. I don’t worry about counting syllables or anything.
So... I’m kinda hoping we won’t have more assignments like this.
Sorry to disappoint you, but these assignments are designed to get you out of your comfort zone, to get you reading and writing a wide variety of poetic styles.