Tag Archives: poetry

Writing Wednesday: Poetry

I’m focusing on poetry today because of a conversation I had at my IRL writer’s group this month and I’m thinking a lot about it so I’m going to put all of that thinking to good use. I’ve written a lot of poetry in my life and published a chunk of them and read or listened to even more. I love spoken word. I love slam poetry. I love classical poetry, modern poetry, all poetry. I struggle with rhyming poetry sometimes, it can read like a greeting card sometimes, at least when I’m the one writing it, but when it’s done well, it’s a beautiful thing.

First, we’ll look at various resources on types and forms of poetry. The Writer’s Cookbook has a pretty good list of forms and explanations: Poem Forms. The most comprehensive list I’ve found is in The Writer’s Digest. Book Riot has a good beginner’s guide complete with examples also.

When you write stories, you have all this room to convey big thoughts and big emotions. In a poem, you have so little space (unless you’re writing epic poetry but that’s harder to write well and even harder to sell). You can’t afford a wasted word in poetry. There really isn’t room for filler when you’re counting syllables. With poetry, you have to draw on our shared human existence, building on the familiar to give it a different perspective and make you see a theme or a thing differently than you have before. Allegory and metaphor only really work when the audience has some familiarity with the foundation information after all.

If you’re looking to publish poetry, check the market listings at the Submission Grindr as they’re pretty extensive (and free to search). I’m of the opinion that you should get paid for your work and I don’t mean by “exposure” so I do tend to avoid the non-paying markets but that’s a personal choice. If you’re looking to publish a chapbook (a short collection of poetry), there are several presses out there and a million contests. The Poetry Society of America has a lot of great links to various presses and contests and their website is very easy to navigate but some of their older links are not active any longer. The Poetry Foundation is the home of  Poetry Magazine which is, I think, the oldest poetry mag out there and it has a wealth of information and, of course, poems to read or listen to.

No post on poetry would be complete without a few examples of my favorite poems. I have loved Cheryl Boyce Taylor’s Mango Pretty for more than a decade – it’s the kind of poem that sticks to your ribs and stays with you a very long time (side note here – IndieFeed had some great taste in poetry and it’s a shame they’re closed up). Neil Hilborn is everywhere these days because he’s different and quite talented but it is his “The Future” that sticks with me so – “I saw the future. I did, and in it, I was alive.” It’s a powerful statement that means so much to so many.

When I was young, it was Tennyson’s Lady of Shalott that spoke to my heart, then Poe’s The Raven, and Noyes’ The Highwayman (and yes, all three are so much fun to read aloud! Most of my favorite poems are.). As I got older, I read whatever poems I could find that were not in my textbooks (because those poems were never as good as what I found in the photocopied zines tacked up at the weird movie store or the coffee shop). Then I discovered spoken word and Waits, Cohen, and Kerouac. My tastes have evolved as I’ve gotten older but my love of it hasn’t changed at all. There aren’t enough hours in the day for me to read all that I want to read and poetry often gets pushed to the side and I know I should work harder to make room for it. I always learn something about myself from other people’s poems.


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200,000 words

I broke 200,000 words for the year today with a poem. It’s a good poem and I think it’ll find a home pretty easily (fingers crossed). It’s been years since I put up numbers like that. I feel like everything is getting back to what approximates normal in my craziness.

I accidentally took a month off – between strep and a decided lack of motivation, it just sort of happened. I noodled at a few stories and read some books – mine and others. I think it was needed time off and now, I’m back to writing. I am endeavoring to step outside of my comfort zone. Sometimes, writing should be uncomfortable. Writing should leave you feeling vulnerable and exposed. Sure, my comfort zone is full of monsters and mayhem and all my discomfort comes swathed in prettiness and delicate images that feel like blown glass. Right now, my discomfort and my vulnerability make for better words.

I don’t think I’ll be going this route for novels anytime soon (I am not done with my mayhem by a longshot) but for my poetry and the odd essay, it’s exactly what I need to be doing. Better out than in as they say.

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Interesting Title Here

I am not having a good title day – my brain does not want to find one, so, yeah. I’ve been doing a lot of writing lately which is good. I’m not working through Christmas in Bear Ridge the way I normally do as I’ve written the ending before I’m done with the middle. My memory hasn’t been that great lately and, if I don’t write things down when I think of them, no matter how interesting, important, or neat it is, I’ll forget it when I’m ready to use it. Writing is nothing if not flexible! I’ve also been working on poetry again. Poetry is where I started and where I’ll end most likely. Most of my poetry will never see the light of day – not everything a person writes should be seen anyway. I’ve neglected my poetry for a very long time but a thing happened.

I’ve had a lot of poetry published over the years but only recently started submitting a particular collection – it’s currently out and I’ve got fingers and toes crossed as I adore it. I’ve been in some pretty widely distributed publications with my poetry including the Pittsburgh Post Gazette and Chronogram. I’m still a nobody where that’s concerned as it’s not a thing I do enough of to be noticed but you would think the people around me would know it’s a thing I’ve done but nope. My son started writing poetry and instead of asking me about submissions and the process (a thing I know an enormous amount about), he went to a girl from school who’s had a poem published. He didn’t realize. He didn’t know. And that’s mostly because I haven’t been doing any of it. So I’m working on my poetry again because he didn’t know because I haven’t been.

I always figured I’d be further along in my career by this point. I’ve been doing this dance for better than 20 years now. Part of that problem is me also – every time I reach a goal, it’s not the end, it’s just a step and the next goal has to be met. I don’t know if I have a top of this staircase if I’ll ever feel like I’ve reached the top or will be happy with what I’ve done versus what I have left to do. My new goal is to send out at least two submissions a week and just by virtue of length and time constraints, the majority of that will be poetry again and I’m pretty sure that’s a good thing.

I’m also working on another thing but that’s six months away and deals with two of my current crafty, artsy fiddlings and twiddlings.

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February Wrap Up & March Goals

Well, February was my best month since the last time I won a NaNoWriMo. I am a bit of a spreadsheet geek – facts and figures make me so happy.

The figures!

35,221 total words written for February (47,806 for the year)

How does that break down you ask? 9201 words on Gods of the Fallen, 19552 on Hunter’s Hell, 4011 on this blog, 1694 for the Geek Girl Project, and 44 words worth of poetry (or one rough poem). I don’t do a count of any of my handwritten stuff – notes, snippets, my personal diary and such because that would be a pain in the butt to do.

I missed three days out of the month and that’s it. That’s so freaking awesome. I’m really quite proud of myself today, at least on the writing front.

The health front faired less well … stupid yummy food, stupid boring exercise … I actually gained two pounds. However, given how much junk I probably really ate, that’s not so bad. I bought some new resistance bands to help with some of that and I’m trying really hard to stick with the calorie counter app. For me, it’s really more about the calories – if I can keep that under control, I’m good. Doing actual exercise is just a thing I do so I can eat what I want.

I am tolerating the increase in methotrexate pretty well – changing the time of day has made a world of difference. Now I get to sleep through pretty much all of the tired and icky feelings. I’m not pain-free but I’m certainly at mostly tolerable levels and actually able to type. I’m not up to normal speeds but I am thinking that I have to consider this a new normal. I think my days of 80-90 wpm are probably over.

On to March Goals!

On the writing front, I’d like the total count to be higher than February’s and not just because of the missing days. I don’t mind having to not write for a day or three – I might have things that need doing, might be too tired or drained or whatever. I do want to aim for that 50k word count. Realistically, that should be my average at a minimum. That’s only 1650 words per day on average. I might have some days that are only 300 words and days that are close to 4000 words. I really should be able to do 1650 words per day on average. And I really should add a per day average number to my spreadsheet!

On the health front – my biggest goal right now is to be able to get up off the floor without help. Which means I’ll be able to do more proper yoga again I suppose if I can get the dog to leave me be for a minute. Yes, I would like to lose weight. Really, I need to lose a lot of it – 75-80 is my goal (the doctor would be super thrilled with 50 though). So monthly, maybe 5 pounds lost would be really wonderful but the ability to stand up without help is what I’m after.

I got nothing made last month and I would really like to get something neat made this month. So, I want to make at least 5 things in March. I don’t care what they are but 5 somethings. (And find at least one festival I can manage to do for this summer).

I had a lot of progress in February and I just want to keep moving forward as best I can so March is even better.


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Passion Projects

Some projects have good sales potential and broad appeal, others, not so much. I’ve found it is most hit and miss with poetry. I’ve had a fairly decent number of poems published by various publications over the years and it’s something I write that I don’t necessarily share with everyone.

A few months ago, I got a bug under my skin about a particular project, a linked progression poetry chapbook mostly dealing with anxiety, depression, and letting go of the toxic stuff in life. I don’t know if there is much call for it but I feel like there might be, like maybe there are others who would find it interesting.

I’ve played around all day with formatting, binding options, cover options, and all that jazz. I’m probably going to offer the chapbook in a few formats but initially, it’ll be hand-stitched with a glossy cover. Release day will be soon but I want to make a fair number of copies to have on hand.

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More on Bowie

I can’t seem to shake it, get it out of my head or let it go. I did not know this man except through his music. I did not know anything beyond the face he gave his fans. He told the stories of his life through music and, the more I listen to Blackstar, the more broken my heart feels. This was his goodbye, his assurance that his legacy would end on a high note. I’m listening to it, watching the videos (so very Bowie-esque), and reading the lyrics. It’s not a matter of trying to make sense of it – I’ve no need of that. This grief comes in little waves, not overwhelming floods like I’m accustomed to. I think the persona of Bowie would approve of little lasting waves that have the strange side effect of also inspiring me to reopen that part of my writing that I’ve not touched in years.

I cannot remember the last time I wrote a poem down on paper but in my head there are couplets and snippets spinning again. When these thoughts have a little more form than just the rhythm of the words or the way they feel in my head, I’ll put them down and maybe even do something constructive with them. I’ve always had pretty good luck finding good markets for my poetry.

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A little progress (and a little rant)

I have almost managed to get all the Christmas decorations put away. I should have everything but the dishes done today and if I don’t manage the switching of the dishes, I’ll do it tomorrow. That’s not too terrible but I do feel behind on it.

I have managed to work a bit on Demonborne on one of the last five days. I’ll make it two today hopefully but if not, then not. I need to get better at keeping track but wordcount doesn’t really work for me – especially during rewriting/editing. I suppose I’ll just consider it a win if I not only open the file but actually go through a few pages. I really need to add about 20k words minimum to the story – which is good as I tend to be sparse with description until I’m sure I’ve got the plots down. Description can always be added, if my plot doesn’t work, none of those descriptions, no matter how awesome, will matter in the least.

On to my tiny rant: oldest child is doing a poetry unit in school. He’s a Freshman in high school so I don’t know what I expected. I remember poetry units when I was in school. I remember that 90% of the poetry we went through was by people we would never hear of again and weren’t even all that good. I am picky with my poetry and I don’t keep up with it as much as I should but my kid could only name a scant handful of poets I classify as Must-Know poets and all of them were men. I admit, most of my list of Must-Know poets are male but only because that’s what I was most exposed to in my youth (I’ve added women to the list over the years as I’ve been exposed to more of them). Dead White Male Poets who were mostly from England, Scotland, and Ireland. There is so so so much more to poetry than that. Most poets that  our children know are lyricists. There’s nothing wrong with lyricists but what about Tennyson or cummings or Longfellow? What about Dickinson, Walker, and Kerouac? Are spoken word poets considered lyricists?

He did a segment on spoken word just before Christmas and the kid has some skill with it. It’s raw now and needs refining but it thrills me that it’s there. I showed him some of my favorite spoken word pieces that maybe not everyone knows about and he wasn’t impressed with most of it. In part because he’s 15 and hasn’t figured out yet that women’s voices should matter to him regardless of if they’re talking about female issues and in part because he has no frame of reference for so much of it. Mid-career Rollins spoke to him some just because he’s a lonely, geeky teenage boy with some level of anger about being so. Waits confuses and interests him just on wordplay alone. My boy is teetering on the edge of his emo phase but I don’t think he’ll tip into goth like his mama did (I do so miss that phase sometimes).

It does, however, make me think more about poetry. I fell asleep last night dreaming poetry and reapers. Maybe this year I’ll go back to poetry a bit and see if the last 5 years since the last time I really wrote poetry have matured me any. Probably not but it’ll be interesting to see.

Who’s at the top of your Must-Know poets list? My favorite poet is still a dead white male poet but my list of ones that everyone should know does include a number of women.


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