Need some inspiration? These writing exercises, idea prompts and a five-word story should get you started...
This week's exercises are inspired by
Bookbug is Scottish Book Trust's Early Years programme, encouraging parents and children to read together from birth. This Monday marks the beginning of Bookbug Week and a host of free, special events all around the country.
Reading with children is a great way to familiarise both parent and child with grammar. Instilling grammatical understanding can be a life-long endeavour, and many of us still struggle to fully appropriate our syntactic expectations.
Surprisingly enough, nonsense verse, which is often considered vacuous entertainment for children, is far more complex than it seems. Moreover, enjoying nonsense verse is a fun way to learn linguistic structure for children and adults alike.
More often than not, nonsense poetry necessitates correct sentence structure to legitimize the absurd or foreign content. This is what distinguishes it as a verse form.
For example, Edward Lear’s infamous nonsense poem, The Owl and the Pussycat, employs conventional sentence structures which are occupied by a host of neologisms and fantastical events. The illogical nature of the content reveals the significance in using valid sentence structures to create a rational environment for an irrational world to be realistically imagined.
Developing your own nonsense poem should evolve your understanding of linguistic construction, as well as providing a medium to express limitless creative licence with regard to the content explored.
1. Begin by familiarising yourself with common sentence structures. Although this may seem basic, it is fundamental to the success of your poem. Write down some examples of simple sentences, compound sentences, complex sentences and compound-complex sentences, respectively.
You should also include some sentences that describe unlikely occurrences, pairing otherwise disparate concepts. For instance, 'The hen and the toaster went for a drive'. Make sure these sentences are grammatically correct despite their realistic improbability.
2. Take some of your sentence examples and start to replace the adjectives and/or the sentence subjects with your own neologisms in each instance. Bear in mind that your coined words should maintain some semblance to established words in order to hint at potential meaning. For example, if your chosen sentence was, ‘My blue mug is very large’, your amended sentence could translate as, ‘My oceanus recepticant is very gigantiful’.
3. You should now have a collection of nonsensical sentences. Choose your favourite and use this as a starting point for a nonsense verse which should adhere to conventional sonnet form. Edward Lear exemplifies this in his poem, Cold are the Crabs. Restricting yourself to sonnet form not only enforces brevity on your writing, but also acts as an extension to our exercise in grammatical structure by applying the same premise to prosodic standards.
Try writing more than one nonsonnet (a nonsense sonnet - a term just coined for this week’s exercise!) using your other sentence examples until you feel comfortable enough to try applying your nonsense content to more elaborate verse forms.
Five Word Challenge
We give you five words from the week's headlines, you create a piece of flash fiction that incorporates all of them. Add your story using the comments box at the bottom of the page, with the 5 words as your subject line. This week's words:
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