Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Tips in Poetry Writing

Melchor F. Cichon
March 13, 2008

Every poet has his own way of writing poems.
I have my way.

Generally before I write a poem, I read. Just anything. But if there is a book of poetry, I pick that up first and read it.

While reading it, most often an idea comes in.

An idea comes in like lightning. If you cannot record it, it will be lost forever.

Or if you can remember it, good.

So what I do is, I always bring a notebook, and a pen or pencil. Once an idea comes into my mind, I write it down.

Usually, this idea becomes the focus of my poem. If more related ideas come in, I continue my writing until I finish the poem. Otherwise, I just leave it there for future use.

I write my first draft as it comes from my heart. But once I revise it, the writing will now come from my mind. I become the first critic of my work.
And I revise it without mercy.

How many times do I revise my work? I do not know. Perhaps once, perhaps two. Or even more.

If I feel that I have molded it the way I wanted it to be, then I stop.

How do I know that it has reached the end of it? When I feel that everything that I hope to put in it is already there.

How do I revise my poem?

Is it wordy? If it is, I trim the adjectives that I believe should not be included in the poem. I prefer more action words. The shorter the sentence the better.
I check the spelling, the grammar, and the words and phrases. The whole sentence.
Is there unity? Is there logic in the arrangement of the stanzas?

Can I use a noun as a verb? Instead of saying, I threw him a stone. I will say, I stoned him. That's more emphatic. Stricking, isn't it?

Can I be understood? Are there words that are very difficult to understand? If there are, I change that to something that is easily understood.

Like Robert Frost, I prefer to use easy to understand words. Easy they seem to be, but they can evoke layers of meanings.

Let us take this poem:

Melchor F. Cichon

Inay, ham-at madueom ro gabii?
May buean, Toto, ugaling may galipud nga gae-um.
Inay, ham-at madueom ro gabii?
May bombilya ro mga poste't Akelco,
Ugaling may brown-out.
Inay, ham-at madueom ro gabii?
Ginsinindihan ko ro atong kingke,
Ugaling ginapinaeong it hangin.
Inay, ham-at madueom ro gabii?
Toto, matueog ka eon lang
Ay basi hin-aga temprano pa
Magsilak ro adlaw.
Indi, 'Nay ah!
Sindihan ko't uman ro atong kingke.

Here the words are very simple. But is it really easy? Does it evoke other meanings? Does it dig your senses, your feelings, your conscience?

If I find that the word I used is abstract, I try to change it with concrete words—or words that have pictures.

Concrete words describe things that people experience with their senses: red, cold, dog. A person can see red, feel cold, and hear the bark of a dog. This is related to image.

In using images in our poems, we use our five senses: smell (fragrance of a sampaguita), taste (the taste of heaven of durian), touch (soothing touch of mother), feelings (with no one to talk to, I know the meaning of loneliness), hearing (the sound of Jawili falls).

Abstract words refer to concepts or feelings, like liberty, happy, love. A person cannot see, touch or taste any of these things. These abstract words are common in greetings cards. That is the reason why poems in these cards do not reach the textbooks, particularly in anthologies. Many of the words used in greeting cards are clichés. Simply said, generally, texts in greeting cards have no poetic value.

Example: If I used flower, I change it to a specific flower like gumamila or sampaguita or rose. If I use tall, I change it to, say, flagpole so that the reader will have something to compare with it. In short, avoid generic words.

Here is a line: She fells happy.
Better: She smiles. Or she jumps.

Here are some words that poets should avoid using when writing a poem.

Big, happy, tall, beautiful, great, little.

I also check whether I used a cliché. If I did, then that line should either be revised or be deleted outright. If I cannot create a fresh metaphor for that questionable line, I change the whole sentence.

Cliché is like a rose that has lost its fragrance and beauty.

A cliché is an over-used metaphor like: she is like a red, red rose. Here is a poem which is full of cliches:


Poor as a church mouse,
Strong as an ox,
Cute as a button,
Smart as a fox.

Thin as a toothpick,
White as a ghost,
Fit as a fiddle,
Dumb as a post.

Bold as an eagle,
Neat as a pin,
Proud as a peacock,
Ugly as sin.

When people are talking
You know what they’ll say
As soon as they start to use a cliche.

Here are some cliches that poet should avoid:

Being in the same boat
Building bridges
Clasping at straws
Cutting the Gordian knot
Earning brownie points
Getting a feather in their cup
Getting down to brass tracks
Missing by a whisker
Missing the bus
Muddying the water
Not having a crystal ball

I also check whether I used a passive voice. If I did, then I change the sentence into an active one.


Passive: My first visit to Miagao will always be remembered by me.
Active: I shall always remember my first visit to Miagao.

Many poets have been using poetic devices like metaphor, simile, irony, and other poetic devices. These devices really create great impression to the readers.

What is metaphor?

A metaphor is a statement that pretends one thing is really something else:

The lead singer is an elusive salamander.
He is an alephant.

What is a simile? It is a statement where you say one object is similar to another object. It uses "like" or "as"

He was curious as a caterpillar.
He was curious, like a caterpillar.

What is irony? Irony is the use of words to convey the opposite of their literal meanings. It is also a literary style employing such contrasts for humorous or rhetorical effects.

Here is a good example of irony.

Ni Alex de Juan

Kanila lang
Puno ng pawis ang tansan
na nagyakap sa bibig ng Coke.
Naghalakhak ang tansan
na gin-aywanan ang bibig ng Coke.
Nagtambad ang kalawang
sa ilalim ng bibig ng Coke.
Gin-inom ni Xela ang Coke.
Si Xela ay nagdighay
pagkatapos mag-inom ng Coke
dahil gusto ng tansan na maulit
ang tunog ng kanyang halaklak
sa paglaho
ng kalawang
sa ilalim ng bibig ng Coke.

Another thing which I check in my poem is the injection of moral lesson. This device has been used in many of the traditional poems. I was once a judge in Hiligaynon poetry contest, and I noticed this mistake in many of the entries. So avoid this, let us leave that giving of moral lesson to the preachers. Our business as a poet is to present what we see, hear, feel, smell, imagine, and dream of. And if possible, inject a little opinion and leave the rest to the readers.

Another technique in creating great poem is by subverting the ordinary: Subverting is turning upside down. Here is a good example:

While riding a bus, he sees a grandma and thinks of a grandma who runs a marathon.

Using rhyme and rhythm is an effective way of conveying our feelings, but we must be very careful with them. For one, if we will stick to rhyme and rhythm, most of our ideas will be trimmed because we have to suit our words with them. This is the main reason why modern poets use free verse.

Here is a poem with rhyme:

Nag-agto si Sean Marie sa Makati

Nag-agto si Sean Marie sa Makati,
Nakakita imaw it Ati;
Ginpasakay nana sa kotse,
Ag gintaw-an pa't kapote.
****Melchor F. Cichon

Pumunta si Sean Marie sa Makati,
Nakakita siya ng Ati;
Pinasakay niya sa kotse,
Binigyan pa niya ng kapote.
*****Salin ni Melchor F. Cichon

Here is an example of a poem in free verse:

Ripe Bananas

ripe bananas
in our mortgaged land
******Melchor F. Cichon

Using words thy, thyself, and other words common in the 16th century should be avoided, unless of course you want to be associated with William Shakespeare.

Great poems have conflicts, just like in a short story. There must be two opposing forces in the poem.

Let us take this poem:

Ang Matandang Ito
Rio Alma

Dahil mabigat ang liwanag.
Dahil pinakupas ng liwanag.
Dahil niluto ng liwanag.
Dahil tigib ang bibig ng liwanag.

Here is another one:

Sa Bangketa
Ni Rio Alma

Kalansing ng barya
Sa basyong lata.
Simula ba ito ng kasaysayan
Hinggil sa walang katapusang pag-asa?
O pangwakas na himala?

There are some more tips that I can offer.

Some writers are afraid to show their works to other people. That is Ok because they say they write for themselves.

But great poets think otherwise. They show their works to their fellow poets—for comments.

All great poets have written hundred or even thousand of bad poems—poems that use cliches, faulty grammar, etc. But out of these writings, come a great one. And that matters most.

All great poets have received rejections slips. I have my share.

Rejection slips have many reasons. Our works might not be suited to the editorial policy of the magazine or journals. It could also mean that our works still need revision.

But rejection slips should be appreciated—they are energy for us to cross bridges to attain greater works.

Do you know that two other publishers had turned down the first manuscript of Harry Potter. But now every publisher wants to be the publisher of this series.

There are times when you cannot produce a line for your poem. Do not worry. Ideas come like seasons: rainy season and dry season. And when rainy season comes, try as much as possible to capture in paper those bountiful ideas. And when the dry season comes, just relax. Walk around. Smell the flowers. See a movie. Listen to your favorite radio stations. Read a novel. Or just lie down. And in your relaxation, you will be surprised that you have a new line to work on.

The second to the last tip I can offer is this:

Give a surprise ending:

Here are examples from a luwa:

Sa ibabaw sang lamesa
May tiki nga nagadupa
Ginpudyot ni Lola
Abi niya ya maskada.--Anon.


Sa tanan nga bata ni Nanay
Ako ang labing ma-isog
Kulas-kulas sa dapog
Una ako nanaog.--Anon.


May manok akong bukay,
Ginbueang ko sa Ibajay;
Nagdaug pero patay.
Ginsumsuman ni Nanay.--Melchor F. Cichon

The last tip is: Revise, revise and revise your work until you are satisfied.

What makes a great poem?

If your poems are free of grammatical lapses, and they use some poetic techniques mentioned above and can create layers of interpretations, then you have succeeded in your writing.

Also great poems have:

"A determined Meter: Meter in poetry can be defined as rhythm or beat. The rhythm of the poem sets the reader up for the pace and flow of the poem. How fast or slow will the poem move along its path to the "surprise" awaiting us.

"Colorful Imagery: Poetry without colorful imagery might as well be prose. It's the imagery that releases the reader from their mundane, everyday experience and leads them on the journey you have prepared for them.

"Universality: The more universal the theme and topic of the poem, the more each individual reader can identify with the poem. You can express individual hurt (or joy), for example, but the reader must be able to see it as his or her hurt (or joy) as well."

Let us take these very short poems:

Old pond
A frog jumps in
A sound of water

winter wind —
a cradlesong sung
in an ancient tongue
— Billie Wilson

By Melchor F. Cichon

I will definitely go home
To our house
Where we can see the clouds
Through the roof.
I'm fed up
With the twinkling neon lights,
But I have not yet paid
For the earrings that I got
From Mama San.
I need them so my tinkling
Will be louder and my hips
Will be heavier.
Don't worry, John,
This Christmas
You and I will create a moon
And through the roof
We two alone
Will grasp its light.

What images can you think of? What conclusions can you give?
On the higher level, what does the poem evoke?

Monday, February 25, 2008

Uyab sang Tanan


Elenor Nieles

Sa gab-i nga walay tuhay,
Sa higad baybay ako gapahuway.
Salamat sa bulan nga manayaay.
Nakita ko si Inday naglabay.
Siya akon ginpaypay,
Agud tani mag-isturyahanay.
Waay ako ginsapak ni Inday?!
Ngaa man ay?
Akon siya ginpalapitan,
Agud tani maathagan.
Sang sa malapit na...
Akon nabatian, pangalan ni Dan-dan!
-Ang gwapo nga uyab sang tanan.
Si Inday gahilibion duman...
Sa pila ka tikang,
Siya akon napalapitan.
"Inday, Ngaa man?"
Pamalangkutanon ko sa akon abyan.
Luha iya ginpahiran.
"Ako may naluyagan...
Imo mana nahibaluan."
Sa dayon siya akon nahangpan.
"Ngaa si Dan-dan pa man?"

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Final Kiss

You let me kiss you every now and then

Yet you always wipe your lips in the end

If you only knew how it hurts me

I want to complain yet I can’t

I have long wished to touch your face

Yet that’s beyond my limits

I have long wanted to caress your hair

Yet I can’t even hold your hand

And now I see that you’ve found another one

His taller and good looking than me

How painful it is to see him there

Looking at you, expecting your kiss

You will no longer remember me

And how I touched your tender lips,

Before I bid goodbye, I beg you

Let me kiss you one last time


Monday, February 11, 2008

Curfew Poetry Anthology

Axel Pinpin Dilemma ni Carpio
Francisco Arias Monteseña Kuyom
Genevieve Mae B. Aquino Alzheimer's in the Philippines
German V. Gervacio Hu Let Da Dogs Awt?! Hu-Hu-Huhu!
Gracia Alcantara Perdiguerra Fugue
Mark Angeles Fury Tales
Marlon Hacla Isang Pagtutol
Melvin Medes Mga Taong Apoy
Michelle Brences Policurfew
Noel Sales Barcelona Bakit Gloring?
Raul Funilas May Kaba Sa Bawat Hakbang Ng Manghihimagsik
Ravelth Castro-Belicena Mundong Parisukat
Rodelen Paccial Emerald
Rustum Casia One Night Only
Victor Emmanuel Carmelo D. Nadera Jr. Anibersaryo Ngayon ng Martial Law

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Humihigpit na Humihigpit


Melchor F. Cichon
February 5, 2008

Humihigpit na humihigpit
Ang silo sa leeg
Ni Mang Pandoy.

Pero sige pa rin
Ang pagsusumbat ni Manoy
Sa humihinang Mang Pandoy.

Imbes na tutulungan raw siya
Sa pagluluwag ng silo
Sa leeg ni Mang Pandoy
Tuloy-tuloy pa rin daw
Ang pagsisigaw ng mga kalaban niya
Sa Edsa, sa Mendiola:
Tama na! Sobra na!
Layas na! Now na!

Humihigpit na humihigpit
Ang silo sa leeg
Ni Mang Pandoy.

Ngunit naroon si Manoy
Sa Australia, sa Amerika
Kasama ang mga pinunong
Busog ang kanilang bulsa
Ang kanilang tiyan,
Ang kanilang kaluluwa.

Ngunit raroon siya
Sa lugar kung saan ang kanilang mithiin
Ay sa dulo lang ng kanilang daliri.

Batid niya kaya
Na sa bawat tulo ng kanyang pluma
Sa pagpipirma ng kuntrata
Ay pumipilipit sa leeg
Ng mga kababayan niya?

Paano ba mananalo
Ang bahaw-bahaw sa hamtik?
Papaano ba mananalo
Si Manny Pacquiao kay Andre the Giant?

Lalong humihigpit ang silo sa leeg
Ni Mang Pandoy.
Gaalipugsa, gawaeas,
Sumisigaw sa paos niyang boses:

Saan ang ulam at kanin
Sa bawat hapag namin?
Saan ang pirasong lupa
Na pinangako ninyo
Bago pa man bumulagta
Ang mga kasamahan namin sa Mendiola?
Bakit ginapos ang mga kamay
Ng mga peryodista
At itinulak sa loob ng bus
Patungong silda?

Oh, Trillanes, kailan ka lalaya?
Buhay pa ba si Kumander Pusa?
Tumutubo pa ba ang balbas ni Waling-Waling?
Nilunok na ba sila ng sigbin?

Ito ba ang aming biyaya
O pasalubong sa mga paglalakbay niya?

Humihigpit na humihigpit
Ang silo sa leeg ni Mang Pandoy.

Inay…Inay…Inay...nasaan ka?

Monday, February 4, 2008

Verseculo Senti UP Poet Society presents
One day poetry workshop (In celebration of the arts month)
Free registration and Free snacks.
February 23, 2oo8
UPV-CM Library Main Lobby.

"We don't read and write poetry because it's cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for." Dead Poet's Society

Interested participants should submit 2 to 3 poems on or before february 22, 2008 to Christian-09283004717 or Junv-09194236135. The lecturer of the workshop is Prof. Zenaida Bernabe-French.

Beyond My Grasps

As I walk into the room, my heart was beating so fast..
My eyes were searching for someone I do not know..
My mind was saying something I could not hear..
Then suddenly, my trembling feet led me to her..

She was a familiar stranger, it’s odd to say..
Her smile captured me in every single way..
Then I talked to her with words I can’t remember..
Looking at her eyes, seemed like I’d be frozen forever..

A flash caught my attention…
A friend took a picture of me together with the girl..
People clapped and cheered..
The next thing I knew was I walked away from her..

Seemed like I’m out of my mind..
I left the room barely knowing her name.
.And now, she’s far away.. so far away..
Will I ever see her again?

Then I realized, I already met her.
.She was in my dream, the girl smiling in my dream..
Destiny did its job, gave me a chance to meet her..
But I ruined the opportunity, I barely know her name..

I’m hoping that I will be given another chance..
That destiny will give me another oppurtunity..
To meet her again and see her smile..
The girl in my dream..

Sad to say, the chance given by destiny is now beyond my grasps..
And all I have is a picture of me and her smiling together..
A picture that would remind me of her forever..

Sunday, February 3, 2008


by Alex Biboso

A clear stream
Traversing on a rocky and curve path
Steadily it flows through its main course
Not harming any living things
That get nourishment along its way
But rather providing them life

Large and small bodies of water
Current, a strong or weak one
Limpid or muddy
Coming from different origins
Connecting with the main stream
Still, it steadfastly flows
To its main destination--the sea

* This poem was delivered to me by Alex, a graduate of UPV.
He told me this is his first attempt in poetry writing.
What can you say about his work?

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Looking at pictures of our internship year

Looking at pictures of our internship year
(For my Med School Buddies)
Rodelen Paccial

When we were much younger,
And we had much more oil in our faces,
And we were trying to be doctors at the same time,
When we couldn’t sleep
And envy the janitor’s roosters
When we slept and regretted,
When we were half asleep
And couldn’t put in an intravenous catheter,
When we were exposed to the myriad variations
Of vulvae and penises,
Of appendices and breasts,
When we drank and got merry
And blame ourselves the next day,
When we couldn’t eat
when we didn’t have time to eat
when we were faced with the choice
of sleeping or eating,
when we had to wear the same
briefs and panties for more
than twenty four hours
(i know because I looked)
When dreams were fresh
When dreams of becoming
Greater than ourselves
For the sake of others
Were a mantra
Silently repeated in the deep
Silence of our brains,
Because all we did was curse,
On how so much sickness
Can be in this world
And land in your OPD table.

That was the time we fell in love with this occupation and preoccupation,
For like a woman we had to fetch water for and chop wood for,
Medicine was coy and lovely,
Promised everything,
But not now, she said.
“Everything”, she said,
And the wooing was just fine,
Outside her gates,
We chose to stand
And labor while she waits.