Learning Poetry: A guest blog with John Howell

There are people in this world that you meet in one form or another and you just connect with them immediately. I have been very lucky in this regard, to meet many of these people on WordPress. One of them, who is at the very top of my list of people I couldn’t live without on a daily basis, is the talented and often incorrigible Mr. John Howell.

John is a standup guy all the way around and has recently begun emerging as a talented poet. I have asked that he guest blog for me, and I am honoured to have him. Please welcome Mr. John Howell:


John’s main interests are reading, writing and sometimes arithmetic. He began writing full time in April 2012. John writes fictional short stories and novels as well as a twice weekly blog at http://www.johnwhowell.com. His short story, Cold Night Out won honorable mention In the Writer’s Digest 2012 Popular Fiction Award contest and his short story Never Give Inn was published in the March issue of Miracle E-Zine. He is currently under contract with Martin Sisters Publishing for his fiction thriller My GRL that is due to be released later this year. He spends off time reconditioning a 1978 Toyota FJ40 Land Cruiser and consulting with major companies in the areas of strategic planning and marketing. (The arithmetic part)
John lives on a barrier island in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of south Texas with his wife and spoiled rescue pets. He can be reached at johnhowell.wave@gmail.com

Ionia asked that I guest on her blog for the purpose of describing my adventure into the world of poetry. I really want to thank her for having me pull down my pants and address this august group about poetry. Before we move on I would like to answer the question from the back of the room. The design on the boxers is fish. Yes that’s right fish. Like in the Gulf fish not like cheddar cracker fish.

Now the first thing everyone needs to understand I AM AN AMATURE. I don’t really consider myself a poet and have been hiding my work away for years. I made a brave move several years ago to show someone one of my poems. The comment caused me to run back into my cold water garret, lock the door and put the caldron of oil on the boil. (crap what was that?). I decided then and there that I would become the Howard Hughes of poets. So what was the comment? Well in an Amadeusian kind of way the person said, “it doesn’t rhyme.”
“It doesn’t rhyme,” screamed at me for months. I figured I could correct that small problem by cutting off my left ear. IT DOESN”T RHYME because I don’t want it to fucking rhyme. If I wanted rhyme I would do rhyme. I wanted to tell a story with a way that would allow the reader to feel the words rather than just read the words.

So I decided to keep my door locked and pick up some learnin’ about poetry.
I started by reviewing the various forms of poetry to see if some of my stuff fit in. While doing so; I came across some really interesting forms that seemed natural to my style. I chose three in particular to study carefully.

1. Haiku; an essentially non-rhyming three line seventeen syllable poem form.

2. Shadorma; A non-rhyming six line twenty-six syllable poem form.

3. Paradelle; A non-rhyming twenty-four line, optional syllable form, but with some rules attached. Also this form is usually a love theme

Notice the similarities between these forms; NO RHYMING. Of the three I have spent most of my time on Haiku since I found it to be closer to my natural style of writing. I have written a number of them and really enjoy doing them.

I continue to struggle with the other forms, but did take some comfort in realizing most of my poems fit the definition given to Free Verse. That is; lacks regular meter and line length, but relies on natural speech rhythms and counterpoint of stressed and unstressed syllables. Flexible; in actuality—no rules. May be rhymed, but is usually without a metric pattern. Yeah, I resemble that.
So in closing I guess the point to be made is; even if you believe in what you are doing is correct, there is always something to be learned in other ways of doing things. I’ll leave you with this Haiku:

Single point of view, (5 syllables)

Never changing forever. . . (7 syllables)

Dull living of life. (5 syllables)

Thank you Ionia for this opportunity

*Thank you John, you may pull your pants up now.

13 thoughts on “Learning Poetry: A guest blog with John Howell”

  1. Great post and ending haiku. It’s interesting how so many people refuse to acknowledge a poem that doesn’t rhyme. Also, I’m laughing at the ‘standup guy’ line because I thought she was about to say ‘standup comedian’.


  2. I think there is a place for poetry, free verse, non rhyming poems, and rhyming ones. That’s the beauty of words, they lend themselves to all manner of creation 🙂 Also, some I don’t like until I speak it. Spoken it sounds so very lovely. Great post John, and good pick Ionia. John, you must also learn to keep your pants on around this woman. I understand she is pretty, but you are apt to make the other guys jealous.


  3. Enjoyed the post… I mostly write in form but I write freeverse also although I tend to be one that fixes a syllable count and rhyme scheme to it… I am glad you delved into the world of form to some degree… not all poems rhyme, but it doesn’t mean they are without structure… my preferences is toward form and structure. If I am to be totally honest exceptional freeverse is a very rare occurrence and a lot of it would be better lent to prose and not verse… those I find exceptional at freeverse are usually quite adept at some form of structured poetry (coincidence???)… To me freeverse is to poetry what rap and rock n roll is to music… some of it is good even great, but it is the popular genre at the moment, could it be said to rival the works of Bach or Beethoven or Mozart or those that compose classical music… which at the moment is not the popular genre… the thing that really gets my goat are people saying they write freeverse to rebel against established form when freeverse is the predominant form out there so in actuality what they are doing is conforming… I’m sorry… I have some rather strong opinions on the matter… but in the end people should write for themselves and what anyone else says be damned…


  4. Terrific guest post, I love John’s straight-forward, no-nonsense approach to poetry. There is something admirable in being a nonconformist and it seem that he fits very well into that mold. Thank you for giving John the podium. 🙂


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