Category Archives: Poem

Poetry Roulette: A New Way to Discover Poetry

We are all familiar in some way or another with the popular casino game roulette. The wheel spinning game involves a gamer who bets on where a wheel spins, with a choice of numbers (whether individual or odd/even), number groupings or colours (red and black). You can read up on the rules of the game here. Roulette is so ubiquitous in cultural references that it is called upon as a synonym for luck and chance.

As a casino classic, roulette evokes a wide range of cinema tropes from the classy settings of a James Bond movie to the smoky gambling dens of a Scorsese movie, not to mention its more gruesome manifestation in Russian Roulette, made famous in The Deerhunter. But there is more to this game than these traditional casino and film environments. Roulette lends itself to the random introduction of new facts and subjects, and Poetry Roulette does just that.

Ingeniously based on three spinning grids, Poetry Roulette allows you to find and read new poems based on a spin which revolves around either moods or themes (tags). Say you take a spin in the mood section, three random options will then pop up from which you can choose one. In our test of the game, we found ourselves drawn to the “tortured” mood, from which we read a wonderfully dark, insomnia fuelled poem by Lorine Niedecker. If you fancy a poetry selection based on a theme, you similarly spin to receive three random “tags”. We were attracted to “bright lights, big city” as a theme, from which we received a bright tome recounting the beauty of city life by Dionna Brant. Aside from being a unique and useful means if discovering new poems through an engaging interface, Poetry Roulette also allows you to play roulette with poets themselves, allowing you to discover one of three poets, both new and old, whose biography and poems you can read.

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Glossary of Poetic Terms

Alliteration: The repetition of the same sounds or letters at the beginning of words i.e. ‘red rabbits running’

Assonance: When the syllables of words near one another are similar, particularly with the rhyming of stressed vocals (not consonants) but also different vowels with repeated consonants i.e. ‘true shoe’

Caesura: A pause near the middle of a line often created with the use of a comma or full stop i.e. ‘I stopped. I thought’

Consonance: The repetition of the same consonants within a sentence or poem. Not to be confused with assonance.

Enjambment: When a sentence carries on, past the end of a line or stanza.

Fricative: A type of consonant which produces a friction sound when voiced, for examples ‘f’ and ‘th’

Half-rhyme: Can also be called near rhyme, imperfect rhyme, oblique rhyme, or slant rhyme. A rhyme where the stressed syllables of ending consonants match but the vowels before do not; a type of rhyme where sounds are similar but not the same.

Metaphor: A form of imagery where an object, person or thing is described by referring to it as something else. This establishes a comparison between the two things within the metaphor. For example, describing clouds as ‘rabbits’ tails’

Meter: Patterns of stressed and unstressed syllables, which makes up the rhyming structure of poems.

Onomatopoeia: The term to describe when a word sounds like what it represents or when a word is formed by sounds associated with what it represents i.e. creak

Pathetic Fallacy: When the weather in a poem or other literary work matches the speaker’s mood. When humans apply emotions to inanimate things such as the weather or objects.

Rhyme: The repetition of sounds in a phrase.

Rhythm: A sound pattern created by syllables, long and short and stressed and unstressed, being alternated.

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Best LGBT+ Poets

Some of the most important poetic figures have been writers who identify somewhere on the LGBT+ spectrum. Though centuries of censorship have worked to obscure our historic record of LGBT+ fiction and poetry, there is a strong range to pick from.

Christina Rossetti: The Victorian Pre-Raphaelite poet is best known for penning the Christmas carol ‘In the Bleak Midwinter’, but her greatest achievement, from the perspective of shaping a queer canon, is ‘Goblin Market’. Originally, the narrative poem was branded as a moralistic children’s tale warning of sexual transgressions. However, strongly hinted at instances of female/female desire allow it to be read in a whole other light. It is unclear whether Rossetti was gay herself, but it is perhaps unlikely given her Catholic upbringing, although some of her biographers seem to think so.

Frank O’Hara: An American writer, curator and art critic who is considered one of the leading figures in the New York School. His brief, intimate poems have gained popularity with the millennial generation due to their confessional tone and ironic wit. He famously had a long-term love affair with the painter Larry Rivers.

Edwin Morgan: A Scottish poet whose sensual, imagist poetry evokes tender moments. By using the first person (‘me’ and ‘I’) he avoids using gender pronouns (‘he’ or ‘she’ etc). This approach helps to create more of a sense of immediacy and the impression of closeness with the reader. However, it is also a means to disguise the homoerotic subject of much of his work.

Audre Lorde: While the writer, feminist and civil rights activist is most famous for her speeches and prose work, such as the ground-breaking ‘Sister Outsider’, her poetry expresses her anger and frustration at the homophobia, racism and sexism of the modern world and, as such, has struck a note with contemporary generations.

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