the tamago report

Eggs benedictated

Tag: poetry

What I did this weekend.

by MDY

I struggled on the weekend. It was the water’s fault. The sun was out but the wind was cold, turning my already-sparse muscles into shadows of themselves. The water was heavy from the previous night, immobile save for the faintest shards of wind-chill. When I pulled, it sucked quietly at my strength and turned it into bubbles, and by the seventh lap my only thought was I don’t really want to do this. By the time I was done, though, it wasn’t so bad. On Wednesdays I swim sixteen laps, and on Saturdays fourteen. I used to be antipathetic towards swimming fourteen because no portent outweighs that of certain death.

One of my friends is antipathetic towards kidney beans. I’m not sure why: although kidneys are the life-giving organ, their leguminous counterparts do have a bit of an alkaline taste which sticks in the mouth. We shared tonkatsu and salmon on the weekend after a long hiatus, and she told me about many instances where her only thought was I don’t really want to do this. She also told me that despite my fears, saying to a girl You’re beautiful never gets old. I thought this was good advice and wrote it down, but not on a piece of paper. I also wrote down a short story, which my reader read.

I wouldn’t choose it as an apartment number, but at the end of the day it’s only a matter of belief. If you think it’s cold, then it’s cold, but if you choose to think about tonkatsu or your reader then the crawl doesn’t seem so hard after all. Everyone needs a green light to swim for, otherwise you just end up depressed by the act of covering the same fifty metres over and over again. Even when I do struggle against the current, it’s always comforting to know that I can get out, dry myself off, and have a warm shower which’ll leave me glowing until nightfall. That’s what I did this weekend.

Write lots, write often.

by MDY

When I was in high school, a series of unfortunate accidents led me to write a novel. It was a shambling, bloated husk of a thing, bleeding streams of clichéd metaphors and melodrama from the many plot-holes in its flesh. I spent two years putting it together and tearing it apart. Sometimes I would tweak a few sentences; other times I would hack away at swathes of prose, excising adjectival sores and purging the worst of its excesses in the self-piteous fits which only an adolescent male can muster. Frankly, it stank. And after pitching it at numerous publishing houses, agents and family “connections”, I relegated the manuscript to a dusty corner of my bookshelf and a dustier platter of my hard-drive.

What did that monumental failure teach me?

  • 1000 words is nothing compare to 80 000.
  • Think before you plan. Plan before you write.
  • Draft on paper, proof on-screen.
  • Don’t get too attached to your words.
  • Make every word count.

And most importantly of all,

  • The more you write, the more you learn.

If you averaged out my writing to around two hours a day (a conservative estimate), across two and a half years, that novel consumed a total of 1825 hours, or 76.042 days. You can learn much in 76.042 days. Admittedly, it helped that I had some of the best mentors, friends and family members to guide me through. But some things – like knowing the difference between a fresh turn of phrase and a rotten one, or mastering the art of self-proofing, or finding a voice that is truly your own – just take time.

So if you want to write better, write lots. Write often, every day if you can. Keep a diary, create a blog, compose an epic poem – it doesn’t matter what you write about, or for whom, or even why. But keep writing, and keep learning from what you write. At the start, almost everything you write will be terrible. But if you keep at it, eventually some of it will be a little less terrible. Then more of it. And if you write for long enough, you’ll be able to know when your writing is terrible and when it’s only somewhat bad. And that’s when you really start learning.

In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell hypothesises that it takes 10 000 hours of practice to become truly great at something. So far, I have spent approximately 6387.5 hours of my life writing. That means I have around 3612.5 hours to go before I hit potential-greatness level, give or take a few days. I’m looking forward to each and every one of those hours. They are only the beginning.

Poetry for Beginners

by MDY

Writing poetry is a skill
Which many like to think they know;
But many so-called “poems” will
Cause pain to eye, and ear, and toe –

Anyone can drop a rhyme
Or spew forth syllables acrostic,
But how to make it sound sublime? –
I’ll share with you my secrets gnostic,

Guide your poems till they be
As splendid as those writ by me.



Let’s start off with the basics first,
Of rhyme and metre, two old friends
Without which poets would be cursed
To write to more prosaic ends.

Rhyme‘s a game of finding pairs
Of words which start and end alike
(Although not everyone’s aware
Of eye-rhymes, ear-rhymes and the like).

Metre‘s all about the beat:
It’s like a verbal metronome
Of dactyls, spondees, stops and feet
That bring the poem marching home.



Now let’s learn to use them better,
With a simple exercise:
Composing a seductive letter
Meant for your love interest’s eyes.

First, the rhymes must fit precisely
When you read them out aloud;
Homophones can work quite nicely;
Breaking rhyme schemes? Not allowed.

Sentences which span a break should
Flow without a disjoint pause
When crossing lines; the best of these could
Pass as prose devoid of flaws.

As for metre? Try to drum
A solid pulse which fits your theme.
Ti-TUM ti-TUM ti-TUM ti-TUM –
Syllabic stresses ought to seem

Quite natural, like spoken word.
They shouldn’t sound too forced or glib
Or beat a tattoo too absurd
For you to keep to with your nib;

In short, your poems should speak true,
Concise, precise, with feeling ample.
In light of that, without ado,
Let’s move right into our example:


Dear potential lover,

Hey, I just met you,

My rhymes are crazy,

I really like you,

So write me maybe?

Cheers,

Your loving stalker (name witheld)

In brief: Never.