Tag Archives: writing poetry

When Can You Call Yourself a Writer?

This is a concept I personally struggle with. I’ve been writing poetry for years, had my first poem published in 2013, and have had multiple piecing of writing published since. I’ve been a writer on this blog, as well as the managing editor, since its inception in 2012. I’ve been published in The Socialist before being asked to join the editorial board and becoming the managing editor for my political party’s magazine as well.

But when people ask me what I do, these are projects of passion in my mind. I don’t call myself a writer. Instead, I say I work at Cal Poly or that I’m a student. I say that poetry, writing, and editing are all hobbies.

I do them, I’m good at them, but because I’m not paid to do them, I don’t see myself as a writer first. I think part of my reluctance to call myself a writer does have to do with capitalistic ideals—you are your job, not your hobbies. When people ask what you do, after all, they want to assess your income and living.

That’s how it was when I was growing up. That’s how it was in movies. But times have changed, and I think my idea of when to call myself a writer should change too.

Writing Goals: Poetry Addition

April was National Poetry Month. So, of course, on my Facebook page, I posted a poem or two a day. And, inspired by all the poetry I was posting, I tried to write more poems than I usually do.

Now that April’s over, I want to continue pushing myself to write poetry. I’ve written in the past how deadlines work really well for me when it comes to writing, but how arbitrary ones, not attached to a literary journal’s deadline, kinda never seem to have the same effect on my writing.

My new goal is to write two poems a week. Is that doable? Maybe. I’m older and more mature now, so maybe I’ll be able to hold myself to my writing goals. But there are a few other tricks I’m using to motivate myself to keep my writing goals.

First and foremost, I’m telling all of you about my goal. When other people, like my co-blogger Melanie, know about my goals and can ask me about them, I tend to do better at holding myself accountable for my goals. So I’ve told her, and you, that I plan on writing two poems a week and now there’s an expectation that I will be writing two poems a week.

Damn, Poetry’s Hard

In Adam Frank’s recent article on NPR, the writer compares poetry to physics. He begins his discussion with T.S. Eliot’s Wasteland, which is 434 lines. In other words, it’s long. For some readers, that length provides something to hold onto a bit longer. An author might claim that more space allows for them to create greater meaning. But for some readers, longer poems can be daunting.

However, length isn’t the only thing that makes certain poems more difficult for some than others. Why someone may not “get” a poem can be for many reasons. In Frank’s article, the writer interviews John Beer, poet and professor at Portland State University. Beer had this to say about the subject:

There are, it seems, as many ways for a poem to be difficult as there are for it to be a poem at all. For most people, a lot of poetry written before the twentieth century will be a challenge: the vocabulary will often be unfamiliar, the syntax may be more complicated than we are accustomed to reading, and allusions, especially to classical learning, abound.

So You Want to Write A Villanelle

Okay so maybe you don’t want to write a villanelle, but that’s only because you don’t know what a villanelle is yet. But once you do know what a villanelle is, you’ll totally want to write one because it is a fun form to write.

In 16th century Italy and Spain, dance songs known as villanella or villancico were peasant tunes without any fixed form. French poets started to write poems called villancelle that again did not follow any fixed rhymes or schemes shortly thereafter.

The first villanelle with a fixed structural form, Jean Passerat’s Villanelle also known as J’ay perdu ma tourterelle, came about in the late 19th century. While the villanelle started in France, it never really caught on there but American poets claimed the poem form and are most known for executing its rigid structural form.

One of the most famous practitioners of the villanelle is Dylan Thomas, with his poem Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night:

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Now that you’re familiar with the form, let’s talk about the specific features that make the villanelle a villanelle.

Happy National Poetry Month!

That’s right – it’s April 1st! And we all know what that means. National Poetry Month has officially begun.

So let’s celebrate poetry together. Here’s three great ways to get you started in your celebrating.

1. Share a poem a day over social media! Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, or whatever else you use. There are plenty of great sites out there, like Poets.Org or PoemHunter.Com, that have plenty of poems for you to choose from and share. We also have plenty of poetry posts for you to find poems to share in. You can have fun with this and make it thematic – like you can post a Shakespeare Sonnet a day, in order, or only post on social media in the form of Haikus. If you have fun with it, then your friends are going to have fun with it too.

2. Read a new poet a day! Not just a new poem, mind you, but go out there and find poets you’re not familiar with. There are many great poems and great poets out there. If you’re into American poetry or British poetry, try to go outside of the western influence and check out some work by Pablo Neruda from Chili, Li Bai from China, Matsuo Bashō from Japan, or Alexander Pushkin from Russia to get you started on your poet-a-day quest. You can also let chance play a part in your new-poet a day and sign up for Poets.Org’s poem-a-day email.

How To Write A Last Minute Love Poem

Well, it’s February 11th. What’s the significance of that? It’s three days away from Valentine’s day.

If you ascribe to the capitalist tradition of giving gifts once a year on February 14th to begrudgingly express affection, you’re in deep shit if you haven’t purchased anything yet.

Fear not! Nothing says love like a poem. And if poetry isn’t your strong suit, continue your fearing not, because I’m here to help you write the perfect poem to express just how amorous your amour is for your paramour.

1. Bigger isn’t always better. Can’t pull off a big love poem? Write your lover a haiku and promise him or her it will be longer next time.

Example

Short Love

We are but two souls
Brought together by our love
More to come later

2. Commit, hardcore. I generally advise people to avoid absolutes in writing, but, hey, go for it – in the name of romance. Tell your lover you will always love him or her and never leave. This can’t bite you in the butt later.

Example

Sonnets from the Portuguese 43: How Do I Love Thee
by Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806–1861)

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight.
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace
I love thee to the level of everyday’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.
I love thee freely, as men strive for right
I love thee purely, as they turn from praise
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints, –I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life! — and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

3. Show them you know them. Be sure you know the person you’re writing your love poem about REALLY well. Like, too well. Like, follow them around for a day and write a poem based off of their daily activities.

Example

Helen’s Day

3:10 – Helen goes into the bathroom.
3:30 – Helen exists the bathroom. She has taken a long time. I did not hear her wash her hands.
3:33 – Helen sneezes. I say bless you. She looks around, confused, because she thought she was alone. She can’t spot me. She starts to walk faster.

A Master of all Forms

If I know one thing for certain it is this: not one person has ever woken up one morning, said they wanted to be a writer without ever having studied or practiced writing, and cranked out the best story ever (sorry Tom Hanks) or a decent poem.

Sorry again Tom Hanks.

No, my friends, writing takes practice. One way I suggest you practice is by writing poetry, whether or not you are a poet. Poetry gives a writer great practice in conciseness, simile and metaphor, rhythm, structure, and diction choices, just to name a few. Great writers of the past like William Shakespeare, John Donne, Ben Jonson, and Andrew Marvell wrote multiple forms of poetry as a way of mastering their craft. Why not do the same?

Here are two poetic forms to get you started on your journey to master different poetic forms.

Throwback Thursday: Me Between the Lines, Part 1

John Keats, famous English romantic poet of the 18th century, once wrote, “Nothing ever becomes real ‘til it is experienced.” Donald M. Murray, author of “All Writing is Autobiography” and professor emeritus of English at the University of New Hampshire, writes in his article that “We become what we write” (71) or, as I’d like to put it, what we write becomes our experience which then becomes us.

When I reflect upon my own life and my own writing, I can see the link between my life experience and what words I put down on the page. Murray further explains what he means by autobiography in that he has his “own peculiar way of looking at the world and [his] own way of using language to communicate what [he] see[s]” (67). In this I see a statement that mirrors what I like to think of as a writer’s presence within the work. Every piece of poetry I produce has imprints of me and those imprints are reflective of my past or become part of my present through the experience of writing.

Why Study or Write Poetry?

I’m a fan of poetry. I read it, I write it, I talk about it, write about it, and share it as often as I can. I’m also an advocate of poetry being taught to students in primary, secondary, and higher education, even if English isn’t their major.

Poetry offers a lot to the students that study it. Like other literary forms, poetry allows students to analyze and critically engage with the text, but poetry offers something other literary forms don’t—conveying meaning with as little words as possible.

The point of poetry is to convey an image or impression with controlled, specific, and brief language. While I can tell you a story in broad, complex, compound, or complex-compound sentences, poetry shies away from grammar conventions and tries to construct a new meaning of words through the misuse of grammar conventions to make the reader really slow down and contemplate what is being said within the poem.

Reading poetry is like solving a puzzle—and often times, that single poem can paint many true and varying pictures. Developing reading and critical thinking skills through poetry makes one an overall better reader, and these reading skills can be transferred to other realms as well. Being a critical thinker that can see multiple outcomes to the task at hand is a very marketable skill.

Writing poetry is also different than writing a story. Understanding the nuances of poetry can help one become a better story teller because it allows the writer to convey the same message or meaning with fewer words, but it can also help an author make better choices in diction, add rhythm to enhance the flow of a story, and give another layer of meaning to a text that can be picked up on a second, third, or fourth read of the work.

Let me tell you a story: