Monday

Good morning! I was hoping to share my new poem with you, the one I shared an excerpt of last week, but unfortunately, as I got about halfway through typing it up, I realized it was pretty awful and cheesy. I’m not sure what I’m going to do about it. I do know that I often have trouble pulling off a villanelle — the 2 repeated lines drag down the rhythm of the poem, so the next time you see the poem, it might not be a villanelle.

I have joined Critique Circle to get critiques on my prose writing (I really like it, by the way). There is no official way to get a poem critiqued there, but I think I might submit this to the unofficial poetry critiquing. Or maybe not. At any rate, wish me luck.

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I’m Looking for Writing Critique Partners

I need 2-3 writing critique partners. I need people able and willing to critique both my poetry and my fiction writing, something I can’t find locally — the writing groups I know of locally focus on fiction, not poetry. I don’t need spelling/grammar/punctuation help, although obviously I would want mistakes corrected. I’m looking for readers to critique the flow of a piece, the goals and motivations of the characters (for fiction) and word choices (especially for poetry).

Obviously, I am looking for someone able and willing to provide quality, constructive criticism. I am willing to critique your work in return. I am envisioning communicating via email, and exchanging 1-2 pieces per week (less for really long pieces, more for really short poems). If you are local, this is open to you, we just hadn’t connected, I guess. :)

If you’re interested, email me at lizbethsgarden at gmail dot com. Let me know your name, what kind of writing you do, and why you feel you’re qualified to help me (eg you are a published author, you write a blog, you love the English language, etc). If you have a blog or website, please include a link. I am going to be evaluating replies to make sure we are compatible and write in similar genres.

Wondering how to get more poetry in your life?

National Poetry Month Display @ Forest Hills

National Poetry Month Display @ Forest Hills (Photo credit: mySAPL)

Try these tips from Melissa Wiley at Geek Mom. 5 websites and books to explore and read over the course of a year until National Poetry Month rolls around again in April. (Which I totally missed celebrating here on this blog) Most of the tips are geared to families with children, but are still great suggestions even if you don’t have kids.

And one more tip I have used: Pick a favorite poem and find a book of poems by the author. Read one poem a day until you finish the book.

NaNoWriMo

My own work. Created using "Inkscape&quot...

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I am doing NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) again this year. The goal is to write a 50,000 word novel (really, more like a novella) in the month of November. I did it 2 years ago and finished a novel that I like very much but I don’t believe I will ever take out of first draft stage. I skipped it last year, but I decided to try again this year. Strictly speaking, I am breaking the rules a little bit this year, because I am not using a brand-new idea. Instead, I am greatly expanding a story that I have been working on for over 10 years now, gradually bringing forth new ideas and adding new characters. I will be adding some of the material I have already written to my NaNo novel, but I am planning on increasing the word count to account for it (ie if I add 2,000 words of previously written material, I will finish November with 52,000 words instead of 50,000.)

I am not off to the best of starts, as I have been unable to begin work (life does get in the way sometimes of even the best laid plans) until today, November 3. I started today needing to write 5,000 words instead of 1,667 (the number one must write to everyday to write the same number of words each day of November). I didn’t manage 5,000. I have written 1,819 so far today (I think I’m done for the day). But if I can manage a few extra every day, I should catch up pretty quickly to where I should be.

I’m not going to inflict the entire thing on you as I write — this novel is very much in flux, and will probably be changing yet again before I’m done. Today, I will leave you with the first line.

I always knew my father was a dangerous man.

Are you doing NaNoWriMo? How’s it going? Tell me in the comments, or leave a link to your

blog or your NaNo work.

Poetic Forms in Modern Poetry

On the internet, many poets use rhyme, and meter, and the old poetic forms. In the poetry journals, it’s all (or mostly all) free verse and the over-use of images for their emotional impact. (Thank you, Mary Oliver, for helping me realize that with your book, A Poetry Handbook.)

The question becomes, do the internet-posting poets use the old forms because they are not experienced enough to do otherwise, or does the internet, as a fleeting medium, meant to be read quickly, if not skimmed, lend itself to the old forms that were meant to be spoken, the most fleeting medium of all? (Personally, I would argue the latter.)

And do the poetry journal poets, the poets of academia, use free verse and much imagery because that is the next evolution in poetry, or because they have not read enough poetry in the old forms to know how to use it and how to use rhyme and meter correctly? (Mary Oliver would argue the latter, but I am not sure. Perhaps there is another answer.)

Another interesting point is that the easiest place to find rhyming poems today is in children’s books.  Is this an attempt to educate our children in an important aspect of our history and culture, or are children’s books the last refuge of the old-fashioned poet who can use rhyme and meter to write about sunsets?

I know this post is full of questions. I welcome your ideas and comments. Let’s start a discussion about the place of rhyme, meter, and form in modern poetry.

90 Minutes of Writing

I have been struggling lately with finding time to write. So when StumbleUpon gave me this website Monday evening, I was intrigued. I decided I would try it Tuesday morning if I woke up early enough.

Well, I not only woke up when my husband’s alarm went off, I actually wanted to get up. I tried to make myself go back to sleep, but it was no good. I was up and writing twenty minutes later.

The website says to just write, but not being a college student any more with the luxury of as much time as I want (although it didn’t feel like it then), I decided I would just work on projects as I wanted to, and not try to write on just one for 90 minutes.

I worked on one poem I had forgotten I had started, finished editing another, started editing one more, wrote something for yesterday’s writing prompt at Daily Writing Practice, did some journal writing, reread and restarted The Cabin, wrote something for today’s prompt at DWP, and this blog post.

Actually, I spent over two hours writing. This from someone who normally whines, ‘I have no time to write.’ I think the mere act of having a plan made me want to go make it happen. Instead of thinking, ‘Oh, if I get up I’ll try and get some writing done,’ I was thinking, ‘I need to get up and get that writing done.’ A huge difference in those two thoughts.

I’m going to keep up this experiment, and I’ll let you know how it goes.

cross-posted at High Desert Writers.

Modern Poetry and Teaching Poetry

Why don’t we value poetry? is a very good question, asked recently by Philip Henser at The Telegraph. He concludes,

The reason we don’t truly value poetry – the reason we don’t buy it and share it – is simply this. We’re not interested in the art form, only in the seriousness of what it happens to convey, like a magazine article, a newsflash, a tweet. And poetry has other things in mind.

He is correct, as far as it goes. Also, I would highly recommend reading the comments on his article. There is an excellent discussion going on there. For my part, I think the reason poetry is undervalued in today’s society is that it is not taught correctly in school.

At my excellent high school, we spent maybe a week on poetry each year in English class. We read a poem or two that the teacher believed to be a ‘good’ poem, we discussed it, and that was about it.

In ninth grade (14 years old), we had to choose a poem, memorize it and read it before the class. I was reamed out by the teacher, in front of the class, for not reading it correctly. She had never explained how to read poetry before that moment.

In tenth grade (15 years old), we discussed various forms of poetry, such as the sonnet, and meter and then were expected to write our own sonnet. Mine was a miserable failure, mainly because I didn’t understand the teacher’s explanation of meter and faked it as best I could. (Take it from me, trying to fake meter in a sonnet is worse than having no meter at all.)

It’s just been in the last couple years, reading on my own and really trying to understand how a good poem works, that I have come to understand meter, how to use it in a poem, and just as important, how to write it and make the rhythms work for my poems instead of against them. I am still learning and figuring this out, but I wish we had done this in school.

I think a lot of people don’t read poetry nowadays for two reasons. First, modern poetry is badly written. It is badly written because it is badly taught. Improve the teaching of poetry and you will improve its writing. Second, people don’t read something they don’t understand. If more people understood how poems work and why certain poems really get remembered, then they would read more poetry.

How I would teach poetry:

  • Start by reading lots of poetry. The teacher would read it aloud, the students would read along, until the students had heard enough to hear how it should be done, then they could read aloud, also.
  • Study the poetry. Study not just the actions in the poetry and the motives of the poet, but study how the words and rhythms fit together to convey the poet’s meaning.
  • Write. But don’t expect students to turn out perfect sonnets after a week of study. Take time with this. Start by having students write single lines in a given meter. Then start stringing them together.
  • Discuss how the meter of a line affects its meaning and feel.
  • Talk about lots of poetic forms, and why a poet might choose one form over another.
  • Read The Poetry Handbook, by Mary Oliver.

School used to be about a lot of memorizing of famous poems and excerpts from longer works. I don’t think we should return to that, but that style of teaching has one advantage. Students are exposed to so much good writing, and good poems, and made to memorize it, that they begin to write that way automatically. Teaching good writing breeds more good writing. That is what we need to remember.

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