Everything you need to write a poem (and how it can save a life) | Daniel Tysdal | TEDxUTSC

let's begin with an icebreaker it's called think-pair-share instructions are really simple first think begin with the moment of reflection close your eyes and recall a very personal secret preferably one you've never shared with anyone not ever second pair choose a partner ideally someone you do not know or have just met and finally share share your very personal secret with your partner sharers use specific preferably sordid details to really bring the experience to life and listeners listen close your next step will be to roleplay and replay the scene in front of the audience for catharsis and of course entertainment you ready okay I don't really want you to think pair share and thank you for not immediately fleeing for the exits I begin with this icebreaker because I want to show two things that connect all of us the experience of life throwing us off balance and the need to communicate his experiences I threw you off balance with my terrible probably stomach-turning request and had I actually proceeded with the think-pair-share you would have later felt the need to communicate this experience whether when a friend asked you what was the worst part of TEDx UTSC or in an angry email to the organizers about letting a maniac onstage I'm a poet and a poetry teacher so I spend my time thinking about these experiences that knock us off balance both the good love birth joy and the devastating loss death and pain I explore how we poets give form to these experiences with our poetic tools utilizing poetry's precision vision and play to move console and inspire one of the lessons that teaching has taught me is that not only are we all linked by these experiences that knock us off balance but we're also linked by the fact that we could all explore these experiences in poetry and gain from our poetic explorations the first half of the title of my talk is everything you need to write a poem because the goal of my talk is to show you that you already have everything you need to write a poem the experiences of love and loss of joy and pain and the tools to put a twist on one of the world's most famous poems you're a poet and I'm about to show it how do I know you're a poet I know this because I know you use language the way poets do to express sensory experience to make comparisons and to sound well good this is what we poets do when we create with imagery metaphor and music I want to give you a deeper grasp of these tools so that you can employ them more self-consciously the way a poet does to stir our senses move our emotions and lead us to share in your world and see our own in the new way since poetry is such a hands-on process I will introduce you to the tools through the process both my own and yours in order to do this I first need to introduce my friend this is Blair this picture was taken on my parents farm while Blair and I perform songs for family and friends I first met Blair in 1992 when we started high school together and we formed a strong and enduring friendship around the creative life together we performed in plays and improv games we wrote and made movies and we learn covers and composed original songs this to give you a sense of the weird stuff we made is a picture of me in makeup as the villain of the not yet released plastic face for plastic faces revenge we wrote shot and edited the short horror film in two days we actually hadn't made plastic face one through three we just thought it'd be awesome to skip straight to the later sequel in January of 2009 Blair took his own life beyond the life and art Blair and I had shared something else a struggle with mental illness a struggle that brought us closer together but also had the power to push us apart I think about him and miss him everyday which means I write about him and to him and because of him often to go along with the eulogy poems and novel I've written for Blair I've written the two line poem as a part of this talk I will walk you through my process as a way of introducing you to the process and I hope power of poetry the power to help us remember grieve and celebrate before doing so though I want you to join me in this writing process and take a moment to remember someone you have lost this might be someone who passed away recently or long ago this might be someone you've lost touch with or broken from take a moment to remember now throughout the remainder of my talk I invite you to write down your lines or compose in your mind as we share this process of writing remembrance and revelation together so one of the first things I think of when I think of Blair is his laugh the punch of the sudden burst followed by a rapid rippling often with the Ouiser to his he either toss back his grinning face or curled it forward there was a real materiality to it you could feel his laugh in your body both the physical vibration and the joy his you inevitably started laughing to this description of my friends laughter brings us to our first tool imagery and our first step compose an image with a word phrase or lie imagery is language that represents sensory experience and in turn stimulates the senses of the reader this is one of the core powers of poetry to preserve and share this sensory experience there are many types of imagery sight sound smell taste touch and more internal sensations such as hunger or movement in the joints let's take a moment to explore imagery together with the writing exercise promoted by the comics artist Linda berry I will ask a few questions to prompt you and I invite you to write down your lines or compose in your mind when you remember the person you lost what sights and sounds come to mind what smell do you associate with them what food or drink did they most loved to taste what was the feel of their touch in composing your image one of the most fertile approaches does ask yourself a simple question what about this individual do you miss the most I miss Blair's laughter the sweetness of the decadent lattes we treated ourselves to at the cafe where we rode the Ottoman poker night and the chords we struck when we rehearsed and recorded you may also consider giving form to the unexpected sensations you miss the odd sight weird smell or strange sound for an example of the unexpected touch I can return to the day Blair and I film plastic face for during a fight scene he hit me so hard right here with a plastic gun that I nearly passed out and this goose egg was so big that I basically looked like a unicorn and of course we had to keep the shot in the movie so viewers would understand why my character had suddenly grown a throbbing third eye alternately you may write about more serious ideas and emotions through the absence of sensory experience I say this because what I am most ashamed of in relation to my friend what brings me the most pain is characterized by this absence the silence of his phone the silence of his phone after he last called me and I didn't call him back I will take this lack of sound as my opening image your silent phone when I did not return your last call when I asked you to remember the person you lost what sight sound smell taste or touch returned to you the strongest if you haven't already I encourage you again to write it down in a word phrase or line other powers of poetry are the capacity to reveal truth give form to the unseen and stir wonder one of the main ways poets accomplished this is through comparison whether through a simile a comparison that uses like or as or a metaphor a more direct comparison that doesn't use like or as in his poem for Charles Simic receives the fork is the strange thing that must have crept right out of hell a bird's foot hung around a cannibals neck Langston Hughes in his poem Harlem uses simile to meditate upon his opening question what happens to a dream deferred does it dry up like A Raisin in the Sun or does it fester like a sore and then run Phileas Maus employs metaphor to powerfully and painfully describe the transition from youth to adulthood as the arrival of knowledge that eyes are birds with clipped wings for your poem you can make your comparison to your image your image is or is like blank and to fill this blank you may draw on anything from nature's animals plants and environments to humankind's creations communities and environs though you may wish to focus on material that relates to the person you lost whether occupations hobbies passions or dreams the act of actually creating your simile or metaphor though is really this simple compare connect for example the microphone is a blank page the room lifts like a balloon the mind is a dam that stills the raging river of the world or the mind is a raging river that bursts every down the world builds to stop it a good simile or metaphor will possess some combination of surprise and aptness of trueness and new however the key to beginning is not worrying about the quality of the end result just write and let your imagination move freely let's take a moment to explore this together return to the image you wrote for the person you lost and expand it with a simile or metaphor I will again ask a few questions to prompt you and I want you to write down or reflect on your answers without judging what arises which animal is your image similar to which season is it most like if your image were a sport or a game which would it be when undertaking this exercise alone choose a simile or metaphor from the list you brainstorm and expand the comparison by answering the questions why or how why is this image like this season how is this image like this game for example I could compare Blair's silent phone to winter this connection to the cold lack of growth expresses my internal feeling the next step is to tease out the similarity with greater specificity I could explore how his silent phone is like a blizzard glacier or frozen lake or I could compare his silent phone to poker our favorite game to play together and expand this further by writing your silent phone is a game of poker in which the cards are glued to the table and I cannot pick them up or I could combine winter and poker return to my original image and revise it simply like so your silent phone is a poker game played in a blizzard once again if you haven't already I encourage you to expand your image with a simile or metaphor your image is or is like blank our final power of poetry is its capacity to rouse pleasure and stir emotions with its music the most obvious way poets do this of course is through rhyme here's a prime example from Jay Electronica exhibit see you either build or destroy where'd you come from the Magnolia projects in the Third Ward slum hum it's quite amazing that you rhyme how you do in that you shine like you grew up in a shrine in Peru the power here arises not only from that marvelous bounty of rhymes but also from their placement for example beginning a line hum with what had been the end rhyme from in slum or that wonderful internal rhyme you do tuck between you do and Peru it even in poetry that doesn't rhyme poets still often work to make their words saying to means of accomplishing this are alliteration and assonance alliteration is characterized by the repetition of consonant sounds as in termite tract trees or birds and berry bunches assonance by contrast is characterized by the repetition of vowel sounds as in the breeze is fleet and brief or a day of rain take for example William Wordsworth's reflection upon nature a few miles above tintern abbey in nature he hears oftentimes the still sad music of humanity nor harsh nor grading though of ample power to chasten and subdue note the musical centering Wordsworth builds with the repetition of s sounds oftentimes the still sad music and no to how he employs assonance to create a sonic connection between lines via sad and ample and grading and chasten we can return to our own two lines then and revise them to heighten the music through alliteration assonance and rime alternately you may work to diminish the music if it better suits your desired effect here once again is my developing poem your silent phone is a poker game played in a blizzard and here are my lines revised to heighten the music your telephone silence is poker played with invisible cards and a blizzard note how I added the striking alliterative s by changing silent phone to telephone silence and heighten the alliteration of Poker played by cutting the word game I also added assonance through invisible blizzard and with the same addition more effectively communicated my helplessness not only are the cards concealed by the snowy storm but they're also impossible to see this then is my to line poem for Blair I'll give it a title last call and I invite you to do the same with your poem when you finish it and sharing my process and inviting you to write I hope I've demonstrated is the first half of my title promised that you already possess everything you need to write a poem the experience is to explore and the tools of imagery metaphor and music to do so I also hope you see the truth of the second half of my title how it poetry can save a life what I mean is that even though I can never save my friend's life in the way I feel I should have I can at least write a poem that preserves his life and saves me from slipping into the abyss of my failure and importantly I can keep writing and aiming to save I can build these two lines into a longer poem and in this poem I can transform the frozen phone into a fiery megaphone a blazing thing that calls out in the memory of my good friend to all those who need it creating a real icebreaker a true think-pair-share and in this icebreaker I can ask you to close your eyes and think about it the ice inside you think about that massive block of ice that an skateable surface or unscalable glacier made of what is missing or of anxiety and dread or of the voice that the storts and demeans and pair up with the maker inside yourself the one who listens crafts questions and explorers and share with you're in her maker the work of encountering the ice the work of chipping it away or the work of scaling the glacier or navigating the expanse of the frozen lake and when you inevitably fall into those frigid waters know that as you're out of balance body churns under the surface your lungs a flame withheld breath that it will be the hands of this maker that break through the ice and take hold of you and pull you back through

39 thoughts on “Everything you need to write a poem (and how it can save a life) | Daniel Tysdal | TEDxUTSC

  1. Made this for my grandma last October of 2018


    Blessed I am to be your daughters son
    Born to an Irish family of love
    Poppy's feet
    Found your heart's beat
    And lucky for me
    That beautiful feat
    That part in history
    Created everything
    I've ever seen
    I'll love you for

  2. My attempt at "Poetry"
    Placid visage on display
    Smooth surface
    Rippling underbelly
    Bubbles simmer slowly
    Thunder strikes mayhem
    Heavens freeze over
    But hey
    It's all in my body

  3. The End

    Maybe it started, not on the right premise,
    Choosing the change and picking what's endless.
    These words as they sound, are beginning to speak,
    Days into night and weak into week.
    The problem is yours, but sounds just like mine,
    The past maybe different, but seeks to entwine.
    Maybe your battle, didn't quite contend,
    Better to quit, than seeking life's end.

  4. Change

    How do I know about tomorrow

    Because it happened yesterday

    For nothings new it’s all been done

    A simple setting of the sun

    Marooned by moons display

    Because it happened yesterday

    The same old tune just change in tone

    The sun and moon are not alone

    And dreams often do find a home

    Whilst tune remains the same

    Because it happened yesterday

    I’m lost I’m found each faze

    Is bound to come around

    While moments tend to slip away

    Because it happened yesterday

    Dare I hold right to change my tune

    Would it upset the sun and moon

    Would time forgive while mind forgets

    I never harvest my regrets

    I choose therefore I am

    But who am I to hold your hand

    I am a mere grain of sand

    Amongst the rocks of time

    And still I wish that you were mine


  5. Liveliness, she really is

    With her grinned smile with braces teeth

    With her happy face and also joyful lead

    From February 19th until our lives cease.

  6. Loose clothes and a strapped bag bounce
    as you skid down streets, and your arms fly out.
    Like a summer breeze set free on chilled streets; what a welcome warmth in New York City!

  7. You are
    You were
    My father

    Photo's of laughter Frozen in time

    Our laughter
    Oceans ago

    You were
    A hero
    Never at fault
    Never questioned

    You were a friend
    Never resenting
    Never demanding

    You were a father
    Never forgetting
    Never rejecting

    Icebergs reaching
    Beyond clouds

    Rivers covering
    Ancient creatures



    Frozen photo's

    Fragments of time
    Fragments of truth

    Fragments of a child

    You are
    You were
    Her father

  8. First poem I ever wrote. It's in Spanish and it's based on Petare (located in Venezuela):
    En la montaña de ladrillos
    Donde tan solo sirven los cuchillos
    Que no sirven sin sus gritos

    Sola está la guerra sin tregua
    Donde se condena al que da la cena
    No hay pena, sí hay huelga
    No besan, sino penetran

    Familias sin nada quedan abandonadas, son criticadas y humilladas
    Máquinas golpeadas y violadas, son botadas como esta montaña
    ¿Por qué lloras? Solo ora que tu Dios te salva en tu hora, que sin duda no llegará ahora…

  9. The silence in my room
    Accompanied by sobs that my lungs drew
    The night I dreamt of you
    Is another slit
    That lies on my wrist.

    I have not yet
    Nor do i plan to forget
    The day you made me cry
    Tears that have now gone dry.

  10. she said she lost faith n luv, because it just hurtz 2 bad
    & everytime she tried it,
    it just made her sad.
    feeling hurt,
    confused, waz tha weather patternz n her life,
    no sunny dayz & long dreary nitez.
    but 2 her surprize there waz a warmfront fastly approaching her doorstep,
    & all she gotta do iz open her door 2 see whatz there.
    with her broken spirit she opened tha door 2 her batterd heart,
    & on tha otherside waz a MAN who waz willing 2 give her a fresh start.
    he waz everythang she wanted & needed n her life,
    he took tha time 2 listen 2 her story & consoled her when she cried.
    he even gave her a little advice,
    he told her 2
    have fun & njoy life,
    dont waste ur time wit sum1 whoz gonna tell u liez.
    be free set ur goalz high
    & when u feel u just cant make it, look 2 tha skiez.
    tell Him how u really feel so he can understand ur heart,
    then he will start 2 move thingz & people who were tearing it apart.
    her eyez now open with so much life,
    Love again?
    she might!

  11. Missing You

    When you’re near me,
    the sky is no longer blue.
    You’re the pink lenses
    I see the world through.

    When you leave me,
    you take away your spell.
    The drabness returns,
    making me want to yell.

    Looking out the window,
    your ghost is all I see.
    Strangers are standing
    where you used to be.

    There’s nothing I can do,
    but to endure my pain.
    This poem is not an elegy,
    and we’ll meet again.

  12. I can't really write poems or do stanzas but here's mine.

    creaked, creaked, creaked the rocking chair squeaked. the baby boy would cry, cry, cry leaving the mother wondering why.

    Hearing about life from her child made the mother smile. she hasn't seen such happiness in a awhile.

    the sound of heartbreak c
    ame from the teenagers bedroom the love of his life left him behind. the mother consoled her son and told him that everything will be alright.

    A smile spreaded across the college graduate. the mother was so proud of how far her son has come. she gave him a big hug and said, "the journey has just begun"

    The mother laid sickly in her bed thinking about the things she's said and did. her grown up son sat next to her holding her hand saying because of her he became a man.

    before the sleeping begun, the mother daydreamt about the golden years with her son.

    creak, creak, creak, creak the rocking chair squeaked. she would cry, cry, cry the son looked at his mother wondering why.

    hearing about life from his mother made the son smile. he hasn't seen such happiness in awhile.

    the sound of heartbreak came from the mothers bedroom, the love of her life left her behind. the son consoled his mother and told her that everything will be alright.

    a smile spreaded across the mothers face. the son was so proud of how far his mom has come. he gave her a big
    hug and said, "the journey has just begun"

    the son sat next to his sick mother on the bed. he thought about the things his mom said and did. he held her hand and told her," because of you, I grew up to be a man."

    seeing his mother close her eyes, he kissed her one last time then looks up to the sky, thinking about his younger days and how quickly they flew by.

  13. I posted my first poetry video on my channel.
    It is about the Greek Gods.
    Check it out if you're interested. ;D

  14. It's been a while I haven't seen you,
    Dear, looking at you, I say I see you.
    The smell of grass, forest and a passing river…
    I shiver, I was dreaming I look around so now it's
    crystal clear
    I guess I really miss you
    Where are you princess
    I am here and I am your hero
    I hope you don't take it lightly
    As I used to
    Come to me
    I am looking for you…
    We come along
    Just like we used to.

  15. Venula Amigo.
    Now My Friend
    Don't Frown Upon Me
    Let That Smile Turn Into Laughter
    Remember The Cold Winter Snow Of Days Old
    The Blue Sky The Doves Flew In
    Don't Mention The Bombs Dropped From It
    You're A Humble Creature That Paints The Sky Blue
    Here's The Secret Of The Wind The Casulity Brought By Remembrence
    That Sings At Noon And Dances At Eve
    Bring Back That Old Song That Still Brews In Your Vocal Cords
    The Echoes, Screams, Words That Manipulate Your Consciousness
    Close Your Eyes And Take In The Scent Of Spring
    Wake Up And Look Around You There's A Thread Of Beauty Written Ages Ago And Kept Maintained By The Wind.

  16. Should have told you I loved
    You and for what's it worth
    A standalone rose in my memory garden
    That i failed to protect

    My regrets resemble your roots
    Sunk deep within the earth
    Dirt showers my heart with nothing
    But devastating regret

    Your smile warmed my heart
    since the first day I explored your light
    Your gentle nature

    haha well i tried, just can't quite figure out what i need to be better yet

  17. The Whimsical Dance of Certainty

    They said not to life a bond,

    that wont see its coming of age;

    Yet we were so mulishly resolute,

    to outlive those fallacies they'd heedlessly shaped.

    We spun dazzling heaps of gold,

    out of simple hopes and dreams;

    "Together we could best the world",

    from our gleamy eyes it screamed.

    While the rush was running steep,

    through our veins and soaring minds;

    A shard of grave malice seeped,

    seeding steadily ever unkind.

    Staggered and shaken with eyes wide open,

    The epiphany I had so calmly;

    And all the vows we bravely took,

    Weathered and crumbled so nimbly.

    P.S. One of my First tries, years back!

  18. making it day through day
    hoping it would not stay this way
    the crowns in our mind
    we have yet to find
    and the confidence that was never lost but on the inside

  19. a conflict
    it brought us together
    but also tear us apart
    as much as I hate you
    I still miss you
    hey if you're reading this
    thanks and for the 3rd time,
    I'm sorry
    I love you,
    my forever alone squad.

  20. 1st attempt : I used to poke my finger in his dimple, not because I liked it
    I loved the feeling of it
    because it gave me feeling of lock and key

  21. Stuck wit dese memories
    I guess till I'm deceased
    Like battle cries,all I had was pain and miseries
    Waiting to see the sunset but im still trapped on my mindset..Yet, I bet, like the King I had a dream,rage on my mind,I was once a broken man seed..

    Rate this

  22. I miss him so much, I want to cry,
    I want to scream, want to hide.
    But can’t express how I feel inside,
    So instead I lay, wanting to die…

  23. Jade

    He greets me with a cool kiss on the cheek,
    Carrying scents of what makes something truly alive. Mute, but wise.

    Beauty behind the rolling waves of vine,
    His bashful posture peeks through.
    Beams finally meet my eyes, but I don’t look away.

    Jade, white foam runs on you;
    The whispers in my ears,
    Are ever-changing.
    A language I can’t quite understand.

    My Jade is living as I am here now.
    When I expand my chest, all sinks down into my lungs
    One with me.

  24. I look around the bleak expanse and wonder where I am
    Your soothing presence missing in the field of burning sand
    My scratchy throat, my itchy eyes, the pounding in my head
    I tried and tried to speak, “Water” all I said
    And then at last as if from nothing water very near
    My cracking lips grow moister from the wetness of the tear
    I open my eyes, I look around, so many people near
    But I’ve been alone and dying since you’re no longer here

  25. What bounty will it take to break,

    this chains of shackled choice

    And not be slaved by circumstance,

    which hinders inner voice.

    Where does true strength exist?

    In me, in you or us

    I pose this question through and through

    Until its clear as glass.

    I raise it my humbled hand

    and pour my feelings inn.

    A dab of sorrow, pinch of sin

    Splash inn a smidgen smile

    And if cannot find some hope

    I’ll wait a little while.

    Mix inn a mountain of trust,

    Forget where I had hidden lust

    Remember why it is I must

    Abandon all my fears

    To gather diamonds

    Made of tears.

  26. you said you love me
    with your red, full lips
    you said you were here to stay
    you were never going to quit
    you held me as the sun arose
    and the moon said goodbye
    you kissed me in the morning light
    and it made me feel like i could fly
    now i’m here all alone
    as the minutes tick away
    you told me that you love me
    but it doesnt feel that way

    ahhhh that was the first poem i wrote! i wrote it in 6th grade, obviously i’ve never been in love lol

  27. My time is up
    Have come and gone
    memories fail
    And my heart seems frail

    I’ve lived through grey days
    I’ve lived through great days
    I’d like to lay in bed
    Now, now, no more fuzz
    For my time has come

    Nor quite Sorrow
    Nor quite joy
    It is clear now
    It’s got to be both

    I am the child which smiles
    I am the old man which cries
    For an old rag
    Please God
    May I have one last laugh?

  28. Feelings

    It’s true you’re happy
    It’s true you’re sad
    It’s true you’re have happiness big or small happens to you

    It’s true you’re don’t know what’s you feeling at the moment or you’re in the pressure.

    Lol this was my poem and I like write stories/poem you find me in Wattpad. @nazu_5sos 🌸🌸⚡️

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