Carmilla Voiez writes about her life, depression, Drac in a Box Gothic Clothing, LGBTQ+, feminism, Horror Fiction, Book reviews, Horror novels, Scotland, UK, creative writing, free short stories, writing prompts, writer workshops, indie author advice.


Creativity as a part of being human

Creativity as a part of being human

Thursday, March 14, 2024

(based on a presentation I gave recently)

This illustrated poem was produced by my daughter when she was 11. A classmate died suddenly and this exercise was part of a longer period of counselling to help the children understand and deal with their loss.

Using a linguistics lens, I’ll discuss the text, pointing out its creative elements, while arguing that creativity is a common trait among humans.

Multimedia child's poem about loneliness

Above the purple background, a white foreground has been affixed. Its shape follows the lines of the poem while softening the edges, creating a thought bubble effect. To use the language of linguistics, a thought bubble is a social semiotic frequently used in comic strips to represent inner thoughts. The silhouette indicates that the poem contains the thoughts and feelings of its author.

The background colour is salient. Purple is described as one of the colours of loneliness, and the teardrop shapes reinforce the emotional content and prepare the reader for the difficult subject matter. The repetition of the word loneliness throughout the poem and inside the teardrops, reinforces its importance.

Three-part lists are used in six of the seven stanzas. This grammatical repetition is a rhetorical device used to provoke an emotional response – what Aristotle called Pathos.

The first sentence describes loneliness as 'dark grey, purple and black', and the second sentence compares it to ‘a graveyard, a bare tree and an isolated house’.

Contrasts evoke powerful, symbolic effects. In the third stanza, loneliness is portrayed as both ‘endless whispering’ and ‘silence’. These contradictory descriptions are creatively linked by sibilance: endless whispering silence – echoing the repeated ‘s’ sound.

‘Everybody’ is juxtaposed with ‘Nobody’ in the final stanza, which is the only sentence not containing a three-part list. The phrase ‘ganging up’ is the sole colloquialism in the poem. These two internal deviations make the final stanza stand out against the rest.

Poetic sound patterns creatively enrich the poem. The repetition of ‘k’ in ‘dark’ and ‘black’, a sharp cracking sound – like a heart breaking, and the long vowels of the second stanza ‘looks’, ‘bare tree’ and ‘isolated house’, slow the reader and produce a mournful effect.

Enjambment – the sentences flowing over multiple lines – coupled with the narrow margins of the thought bubble foreground, work together to create the effect of being closed off and having no room to breathe. It isn’t difficult to view the typography – the shape on the page – as an iconic representation of loneliness.

‘An isolated house’ and ‘a cold wind’ are examples of figurative language that translate the abstract into something concrete and easier to understand; metaphors that evoke distance and pain.

The poem uses second-person throughout: ‘your face’ and ‘your eye’ call on the reader to empathise while also externalising and transferring an emotion too great for an eleven-year-old to bear.

The poem successfully invokes empathy and connects the reader to the places, smells, and feelings it describes. This is evidence that it is creative, appropriate, and has value.

Having spent time analysing the linguistic and multimodal features in a child’s illustrated poem about loneliness to reveal creativity at a textual level, I accept that this doesn’t prove creativity is a trait common to all humans. However, I would argue that it strongly suggests that creativity isn’t limited to a few geniuses or as rare and exceptional as some might claim.

(Carmilla Voiez is an English tutor and editor. She lives in Scotland, and writes horror and dark fiction from a feminist lens with LGBTQ themes.)

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