Poetry Month–It’s Coming!

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April is National Poetry Month, time to celebrate. Let us count the ways . . . .

  • Download, print and display this year’s poster.
  • List and find your group’s or area’s poetry-related events.
  • Attend a poetry open mic or poetry slam event.
  • Put on your poetry-writing contest face for the local library or calls for poems from literary and news publications.
  • Learn how to read and study poetry like a pro!
  • Track down and read the work of that poet you keep hearing about.
  • Students and teachers, check out Poetry 180, the Library of Congress project of former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins.
  • Learn about the national recitation contest Poetry Out Loud.
  • Empty your pockets so they may be blessed with the bounty of beautiful verse on April 21, Poem-in-Your-Pocket Day.
  • Get out and poeticize (it’s a word, I swear! poets can make up words, too) nature, politics, facebook, school, the arts, work, your wardrobe, jelly beans, your car, that bad hair day, dust bunnies, March Madness, tattoos gone wrong–whatever!
  • Pen a song, write a rap, craft a poetic recipe, or make your own poetry crossword puzzle.
  • And if you’re ready to publish, check out guides such as 2016 Poet’s Market.

Worship words, savor sounds, lather up your language, make music, praise poetry.

Gear up for the verses.

Access all the awesomeness!

#rhymingoptional


Here are my blog’s 10 top-viewed posts in poetry.

  1. Adapted Bawdy Lyrics: Outlander TV Series, Episode 114, “The Search”
  2. Scotland’s Burns and Outlander rival Shakespeare’s bawdy
  3. Nature Poetry by Famous Poets
  4. Wild Verses, 5 of 10 / Writing 201: Poetry, Day 1 (Haiku, Water, Simile)
  5. Famous Poets’ Nature Poetry, 3: Wordsworth’s Daffodils
  6. Call of the Wild Poetry
  7. Famous Poets’ Nature Poetry, 2: Elizabeth Bishop
  8. Famous Poets’ Nature Poetry, 1a: “The Sunlight on the Garden”
  9. On Process: Verse Writing. Introduction and Part I: Motivation (involves writing an elegy for the late, great Leonard Nimoy/Spock)
  10. Writing 201: Poetry, Day 2 (Limerick, Journey, Alliteration)

 

 

Wild Verses 5 of 10 / Writing 201: Poetry, Day 1 (haiku, water, simile)

As part of my Wild Verses poetry excerpts series, and in the spirit of Discovery Channel’s Shark Week and NatGeoWild’s SharkFest, both starting July 5th, I’m re-posting my bull shark haiku. Enjoy!


Writing 201: Poetry, Assignment 1: an original haiku related to water using simile (I opted for other devices)

Brackish river mouths
gape wide, yawning bull sharks in
to hunt the unschooled.

copyright 2015, C. L. Tangenberg

originally written in February for the poetry writing course hosted by The Daily Post

On Process: Verse Writing, Part IV: Reflection

ICYMI:

My previous post, On Process: Verse Writing, Part III: Home Stretch and Final Draft, dealt with the last phases of my verse writing process toward a complete elegy for Leonard Nimoy. It also contains excerpts from the finished product. This time, for my final post of the series, I reflect upon both process and product, sharing my self-evaluation and how I’ve grown as a writer.

Update: I decided that reading the poem aloud was an important final step, which led to a few more revisions, and I feel more satisfied with the results than when I last thought the poem was finished. Next comes peer feedback at writing group.

You’re welcome to comment or tweet @Carrielt37.


The Verse Writing Process, Part IV: Reflection

Milestones reached

The goals I had when I started this process of discussing the verse writing process were:check-mark_red_pencil_red

  1. Remember, and say something in memory and support of, Leonard Nimoy.
  2. Create a fitting tribute by carefully attending to emotion, detail, and quality.
  3. Finish The Daily Post‘s Writing 201: Poetry, Day 5 task: elegy, fog, metaphor.
  4. Learn about the features and models of elegies, and apply lessons to the work.
  5. Chronicle the process I go through and assess how it affects the poetry and me.
  6. Share my poem and journey with poets, writers, poetry lovers, loved ones, all.

As of this post, I believe I have reached goals 1-5 and some of 6. The skill with which I did so is another matter. I know the poem is not perfect, the posts about it are not perfect, and I expect no acclaim for either. I only hope for reader enjoyment and some degree of acknowledgement, some day.

How did I do all this?: Lessons learned

Beats me! Well, no, that’s disingenuous. But seriously, I was pleasantly surprised by the results, but I guess it shouldn’t be so surprising. With all the structure, rules, procedures, and restrictions I applied, I doubted my ability to tap into my creative side effectively at the same time. However, I am an experienced verse writer, though not yet published; I do possess some skills that deliver. Being accountable to my blog followers doesn’t hurt either!

The thing that helped most was probably my determination to celebrate Leonard Nimoy. Passion for the subject and, thus, the project is a great motivator. In a way, I didn’t want to let him down. Losing the man was sad enough without also losing a cohesive, coherent, tangible expression of that loss. Choosing to write an elegy really commits you to it in a unique fashion.

I think it worked fairly well, too, because I intentionally toggled between roles throughout: from writer to my own beta reader, from creative to reductive, artist to analyst, right brain to left and back. It helped that I opened myself to a new process.

Image credit: Bernard Goldbach, Creative Commons.

Image credit: Bernard Goldbach, Creative Commons.

This time, to let the art live and breathe, I let the ideas and feelings flow on and on for a substantial period before I even started thinking about poetic form. I added the missing ingredient of idea development to my verse writing process. When it was time to craft poetry, the parameters no longer seemed so restrictive.

Remaining questions

Still, I wonder, now that I’ve judged the work to be done, whether or not the form and structures I imposed squeezed the life out of the art, making the poem feel choppy, seem forced, or come off as boring. Using the shorter tetrameter line (four units of one stressed and one unstressed syllable each within the same line) compared to the traditional hexameter-pentameter alternating lines of the elegy might have helped the squeezing along.

The formal, archaic language I tend to gravitate toward may also be a contemporary reader turn-off, but that’s kind of its own conundrum, a larger issue across much of my verse. I guess I’m just old fashioned.

The point is, I know I still have a lot to learn. This was my first elegy, and I am extremely proud of the results for never having attempted this kind of poem before. I felt comfortable using meter, rhythm, rhyme, alliteration, enjambment, punctuation, syntactical inversion, and the other specific devices I applied. But I realize there are other considerations besides the minute details. See Poetry Foundation’s Glossary Terms for more information about poetic devices.

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Image credit: Creative Commons via launchyourgenius.com

A vital turning point

This time, in a real, significant way, it was the bigger picture, the thematic and tonal journey within the poem, that I learned more about how to execute. That might have something to do with my experience participating in National Novel Writing Month for the past 4 years. I have become more comfortable with longer forms of creative writing.

Prior to that period, my poetry felt stuck or trapped, without clear purpose, clear meaning, or a sense of satisfying completeness. This effect may be why, though I have always loved reading and writing in verse, I only wrote a poem or two every six months for several years.

The elegy‘s big picture, for instance, is that it has three main “movements,” if you will: lament, praise of the departed, and acceptance. A condensed version of the psychological stages of grief you may be familiar with. Fortunately for me, by this time in history, the rules beyond that structure have very much loosened or fallen away.

They already had cut me some slack, so I cut myself that same slack when it was time to assess my results. As a self-proclaimed recovering perfectionist, I’m also proud of doing that. Ultimately, good enough was good enough.

We all have to do that for ourselves, just as much as we need to work with diligent care in our writing. It’s what makes public expression possible, that final letting-go.

Note that I have no immediate plans to publish my whole elegy, so, clearly, I have yet to embrace fully, to trust an audience with, such a release. Of course, that’s not just a personal issue; writing in general, and poetry writing in particular, can be a poor way to earn an income. The trick is to find some value in publishing it despite the deterrents.

Now that I can see, for the first time in years, that I am developing in my craft, I can also see that next stop approaching, the point of full sharing, of unfettered expression. And I am more ready for it now than ever.

Oh so meta: a new awareness

Thinking about the verse writing process in a holistic sense–thinking and writing about my writing process for a specific project with clear goals–gave me a new kind and level of structure within which to create. It helped me maintain a balanced approach and perspective on how things were going. I saw my work through my reader’s eyes in a more real way, and I recognized more clearly my limits and potential. Accountability met confidence and led to productivity. It’s very encouraging.

Best of all and towardA Leap of Faith 1_Goldfish_small_to_large_bowl that point, I am teaching myself how to live without fear, repeating the refrain of carpe diem even as I experience it.

As I say in the last stanza of the poem, in essence, for ourselves and on behalf of those who’ve gone, we the living, so privileged, must press on. We must act in gratitude for every remaining moment to choose freely our own way. Some day, that freedom will end, and so will we.

Carpe punctum. Seize the moment.

I have cherished these moments remembering Leonard Nimoy and his celebrated character Spock. In a way, I’d almost rather not finish working on the poem because it’s like a final good-bye, but at least now I have it to come back to, along with access to most records of his life and achievements. Thank you for spending some of your moments with me as well.


? What are your thoughts on this series or on verse writing?  I welcome your comments or tweets @Carrielt37.

If you’re just joining me and would like to read about how this project began, go to On Process: Verse Writing, Introduction and Part I: Motivation and follow the bread crumbs from there.

Thanks again for following me on this journey of writing–and thinking about the process of writing–in a new poetic form, the elegy. I wish you all the best in your own creative endeavors.

On Process: Verse Writing, Part II: Developing an Idea, Trying a New Form

Last Time

In my last post, this series began about my poetry writing process and how it is evolving. Part I focused on my background and motivation; this post represents a key piece of the evolutionary puzzle. The discussion arose out of my attempt to complete an elegy assignment from a recent, free online course hosted by The Daily Post called Writing 201: Poetry.

Feel free to comment or tweet @Carrielt37.


The Verse Writing Process, Part II: Developing an Idea

Inspiration: Getting It Down and Getting Down to It

It turns out that I am also glad that I waited to tackle, for instance, Day Five’s assignment, an elegy related to fog using metaphor, until after hearing of Leonard Nimoy‘s death. Having such a meaningful, interesting, and personally impassioning subject present itself and align with the purpose of a task with a clear and fitting goal has brought new depth to my process.

A new approach to the writing of a substantial, formal poem has proven fruitful as a result, in the sense of ensuring (I hope) quality, cogency, and justice to the subject, in this case, the departed.

The approach constitutes my first real foray into any significant development of ideas and intentions before applying poetic form to the content. Aided by my determination not to stop writing and thinking until I was satisfied that I had said all that needed saying about Leonard Nimoy and Mr. Spock, I developed not just a poem but also the patience to do it with rich intention and to do it Aha_white_on_black_inside_lightbulbwell.

I have yet to learn whether the quality will fulfill its promise or whether this could serve as a formula to perpetuate, but I know with certainty that the experiment signals a new phase in my development as a poet. That realization alone is invigorating and encouraging.

Paradoxically, embracing the idea of development and the need for it has lifted, if just temporarily, the burden of perfectionism, which only ever becomes a block to progress. Patience replaces anxiety, and daily (or every other day’s) attention replaces the impulse do it all in one sitting.

These elements, along with years of experience, in turn have opened the valve to a freer flow of creativity. Faith in my skills and talent bring me to the next station, where I believe that this journey will end in more artful and satisfying results. I am the Little Engine That Could and Can. Although I know it will be difficult, I will do my best to leave judgment of quality and what the results indicate to the reader alone.

Development

With the goals of getting the content right, writing an elegy of some length, and making it a traditional type with rhyming couplets, four-line stanzas and other formal features, here’s what I did to apply The Daily Post‘s fog/elegy/metaphor assignment to create a tribute to Leonard Nimoy. Disclaimer: Remember, I’m not advocating a particular approach or duration of time spent, just sharing my own experimental steps. For the purpose of development, brainstorming through lists played a central role as I focused mainly on ideas first, then form.

  1. I started with a list of words associated with fog that I could write about, which I wrote before Nimoy died.

  2. After I learned of his passing, I made a new list of terms, phrases, ideas, and quotes that I associate with both him and Spock.

  3. Then, I copied the new combination of these two lists to bring together the most relevant concepts and appropriate pairings.

  4. Next, I wrote out lines of concepts and points I knew I wanted to make, seeking the essence of what I feel needs to be said from me personally and as a member of the American populace.

  5. I then researched and read about the Spock “canon” (a little), not having read any Star Trek books myself and harvested quotes on the Imdb.com database from select Star Trek movies.

  6. I drafted a rough, inconsistently metered and lined set of elegiac stanzas toward expressing poetically what would probably be easier said in prose. Patience is key in this phase.

  7. Afterwards, I highlighted the best of the lines, terms, quotes, and concepts to bring myself closer to the crux of what I wanted to focus on.

  8. In between some of these steps, I let things percolate, giving the subject more thought away from my notes. Here comes form. . . .

  9. I started over with a new poem that covered some of the conceptual territory I hadn’t quite hit upon in the first draft, focusing a bit more this time on form and wording.

  10. When I returned to the draft in the next sitting, I transferred it from paper to computer along with all the preceding lists and quotes. In the process, I added more poetic lines.

  11. I printed out the draft alone, without all the notes, and scanned it for lines that were really duds and ideas I decided against or facts that I mistook.

  12. I highlighted parts of the poem that I liked best, that felt most right, and also scanned the lines for meter and rhythm, isolating the parts that flowed more naturally than others.

  13. Upon reviewing the highlighted parts, I added lines for concepts I felt needed more, better, or different coverage or any coverage at all.

  14. With a few semi-intentional gaps between writing/assessing days for my poem, I began to lose some momentum, feeling inadequate to the task of writing an elegy about such a storied public figure and the American icon he created.

  15. Then, I pressed on to soul-search, seeking a way through.

The poem remained a work in progress when I first shared this post.


Phew! Lots of steps, right? So what do you think? Consider the above process and these questions in light of your own work:

? Do the above steps seem excessive or seem to constitute perfectionism? 

? Which steps seem most worthwhile? Which ones seem unnecessary? (Keep in mind that the elegy has a particular form with a set of guidelines to follow.) Perhaps some steps work well for some types of poems but not others?

? What steps do you go through and find most fruitful in writing poetry?

? What insights have you learned from other poets’ processes?


Want to know how it turned out? Me too! Tune in for the next post in the series, On Process: Verse Writing, Part III: Home Stretch and Final Draft, which will address the results of the development and drafting process, providing insight into the schedule I followed. Plus, I’ll discuss the journey of revision and reflect upon each phase undertaken so far.

If you’re just joining me and would like to read about how this project began, go to On Process: Verse Writing, Introduction and Part I: Motivation.

I welcome comments and tweets @Carrielt37.

On Process: Verse Writing. Introduction and Part I: Motivation

Introduction

For the next few posts, I’d like to share some of my recent discoveries, reflections, and experimental steps in my poetry writing process. My motives will become fully evident farther down the page.

Mainly, though, I heeded the principle I learned in teacher training that meta-cognition, or meta-writing—which is thinking about thinking, or writing about writing—would aid that process and improve my work. I know already that with a clearer, steadier process and better results, my motivation to keep working on my craft will also increase.

I hope you find this series insightful and enjoyable. I invite you to share your thoughts and resources throughout by commenting, reblogging, or tweeting me @Carrielt37.


The Verse Writing Process, Part I: Motivation

The impetus came from my participation in the free, online Writing 201: Poetry course through The Daily Post, for which I am extremely grateful.

For those of you not familiar with the course, here’s my brief description and evaluation:

  1. The prompts were good, and I think writing prompts are a generally useful tool.

  2. The presentation of the course, also good, involved each assignment addressing a new form, device, and topic.

  3. The pace for poetry writing posed an interesting challenge to me. I was able to keep up with the daily assignments at first, but I found unrealistic the expectation of daily production as difficulty and the accumulation of assignments increased.

I understand that it was meant to be a crash course that encourages plunging in without too much forethought and certainly little to no focus on editing, but after completing Day 3, an acrostic poem about trust using internal rhyme, I had trouble achieving lift-off.

Still, forward motion did and still does occur thanks to my attentive participation in the course.

My Poetry Writing Background

For me, poetic phrases come readily once the pen has been roaming the paper for a bit. However, bona fide poems of any length or complexity, good ones, take time, thought, revision, and sometimes research or re-reading of established poets’ work for inspiration and guidance.

I have been trying my hand at poetry since age 10, and even into my early 20’s I could find myself clinging to the childish expectation that the poem would be finished and polished upon first drafting. Well, perhaps it was more of a hope than an expectation, but either way it meant I put minimal effort into revision, though I didn’t always see it that way at the time.

Granted, part of the reason may have been because I did not know quite how to go about revising a poem. Only very recently have I realized that revision may not have been the issue at all.

My interest in poetry sprang more from a love of words, their sounds, and how they can fit together than it did from creating a coherent, cohesive message through the poem. I explored ideas and sounds, but exploration, rather than communication, was the main goal. At times, I ventured into nonsensical territory intentionally and with gusto. At others, I just couldn’t separate sense from nonsense.

I suppose this is a natural phase to experience as a poet, but I felt inadequate in my college verse writing class and understandably dejected when my entries into poetry contests brought no recognition. Then, not long after college, verse writing became a much less frequent activity.

A Helping Hand

Unless you’re especially talented or highly skilled from long-term schooling and disciplined practice, no creative undertaking begins its creation being good nor ends up great on the first pass, and for many writers, the same can be said about their long-term development. That’s what makes an engaged, supportive writing community so beneficial, and sometimes instrumental, to a writer’s development.

For this reason, I am grateful to have found the blogging world, WordPress.com, and The Daily Post, among other resources. It’s just not the same to read writer’s magazines or books about writing for motivation, momentum, or inspiration. The dusty stacks of writing periodicals strewn about my home and the rows of unread writing books on my bookcase attest to this truth for me.

Those do have their place, certainly, but the interaction of an online or in-person writing course, forum, or group adds a critical element of weight, relevance, and, most of all, energy to the work.

Although I have opted not to force a daily product from the Writing 201 course on poetry via The Daily Post, the initial feedback and opportunity to read others’ work have boosted my confidence and motivation as the daily assignments take on the more passive resource role. These feelings have made the prompts seem as interactive as they first were, and certainly as useful.

? If you participated in the course, what did you think of it?

? What resources help you in your poetry writing?

Please share any thoughts you may have about the poetry writing process.


In the next post, On Process: Verse Writing, Part II: Developing an Idea, Trying a New Form, I’ll discuss what inspired me to delve at last into Day Five’s assignment to write an elegy related to fog using metaphor, as well as the realization that development, not just revision, could be a vital missing piece for my usual poetry writing process.

Writing 201: Poetry, Weekend Potluck

One of my favorite poems, of which there are dozens, is “Beethoven, Opus 111” by Amy Clampitt.

The poem appears in Clampitt’s original anthology, The Kingfisher (Knopf, 1983), and in the posthumous The Collected Poems of Amy Clampitt (Knopf, 1999), which is edited with a foreword by my former poetry professor, Mary Jo Salter, 1997.

In her own “opus” of sorts, Clampitt draws thematic parallels between her father’s farm-bound efforts from her childhood and Beethoven’s compositional work on his opus from Piano Sonata No. 32. The dual spectacle of protagonist passion, fury, frenzy, obstinacy, and the journey of creation/destruction blend with a deeply personal recollection of Clampitt’s father.

Adding her mastery of rhythm, alliteration, internal rhyme, and other sonic devices to unusual word choice, varied allusions, startling use of enjambment coupled with thematic transitions, and circumnavigating phrasal refrains, Clampitt pays tribute to Beethoven’s musical form and artistry while presenting her own.

Prefaced by a quotation from Osip Mandelstam on which the poem builds, and spanning a total of 117 relatively short but densely packed lines, the piece merits reading and re-reading and reading about. In response to coming to view the work as a slice of poetic genius, I have added the poem’s first published home, The Kingfisher, to my Goodreads to-read list.

My first introduction to Clampitt and “Beethoven, Opus 111” came in college with my 4th edition copy of The Norton Anthology of Poetry, also co-edited by Salter, who used it in at least one of my poetry courses, as I recall.

Other, more well-known and beloved poems of Amy Clampitt’s featured there include “Beach Glass” and “The Sun Underfoot Among the Sundews.” As I am a bird lover, her avian poems “The Cormorant in Its Element” and “Syrinx” delight me just as much as the other two, but “Beethoven,” as usual, wins top prize–so far.

Writing 201: Poetry — Day 3 of 14 (acrostic, trust, internal rhyme)

Writing 201: Poetry, Assignment 3: An acrostic about trust using internal rhyme

Trust–the first thing to go, you know, when the act comes to light–yields to fear.

Risk factors abound and can come down to a mind unsound, and a mean streak.

Every traitor has motive; few have good reason (save American colonists, 1776).

Able-minded misanthropes take and break Constitution or Office, and show that

Suspicion proves insufficient deterrent to thugs when no one blows the whistle.

Obama, W., Libby, Cheney, JFK guns, NSA, CIA . . . all risked or ruined life by it.

None are immune to power’s sepsis. The strong wield anti-bodies of conscience.

copyright C. L. Tangenberg — course hosted by The Daily Post