Poetry, process, progress.

Month: January 2016

The Long View

The Long View

I’ve been thinking a lot about process, mainly because of my Poem-a-Day project this year. I’ve been shifting strategies as I go along, sometimes using the prompts book, sometimes taking an older draft that badly need revision, sometimes writing what comes out when pressed to write with nothing in hand, or sometimes writing what I must write. Along with this I started this spring semester’s classes–two Writing II courses and a science fiction nd fantasy literature course. There are other things as well. I’d like to apply for a grant this year and I have major revising to do with my poetry manuscript. That is what I need to think about here. (more…)

When good lit journals die

When good lit journals die

I just sent an email pretty much like this: “Is unnamed literary journal that’s small yet enticing now a closed project? If not, you should know that Duotrope has noted it as ‘believed defunct.’ If it is true, I regret it since you have a good concept that others are not doing. You still have poems from me with no decision made and I believe you may have others as well. If the mag is indeed defunct, it would take just a moment to craft a goodbye page for your site and send a generic email to all submitters. It’s sad when a project ends, but things happen.Please let people know one way or another. Best wishes…”

I am all but positive that Duotrope is right and this journal gave up the ghost. However, as an editor, I can’t understand how one can decide to close down a journal yet not let that journal’s readers know. That is a wasted opportunity for future goodwill since people who start journals tend to do it again, but it is also a good opportunity to be a nice literary community member and use that goodbye notice on the site to note a list of where you would send now that your very special journal is gone. Typing a textbox and making that last announcement on the site takes less than a minute. Especially if the site is on a free-hosted site like WordPress.com or Blogger.com, that dead journal could be up for another year or more before WordPress or Blogger notices the tumbleweeds rolling through and takes it down. A final notice is needed.

Most if not all editors who start literary journals are also writers themselves. That is why I am especially disappointed that an email was not sent to all current submitters. That would take one group email (bcc). If they did not have a database for the submissions, there must have at least been a submissions folder in email so that pasting the email addresses would not take a lot of time.

It may be that I’ll get an email saying they are alive and kicking much like the one I got from them this summer when I sent a status request two months past when they said responses would be made. I do that more now since the time when I had poems accepted and a journal neglected to tell me. Mistakes happen. My record for time span is for a journal that took my poems, sent a contract (always good), then did not put out an issue. That was in 2013 and they are certain that it will be out this month. Gosh, I hope so. I have reasons to be forgiving in this case, but that is not always true. Reputations are easy to make and to lose. I hope things turn out well for this journal, either way–live or die.

One more process post

One more process post

Something happened that hasn’t for a long time. I woke up repeating the first two lines of a poem to myself. It was that half-dream state that happens just before sunrise for me. Long ago, when I had one of those Macbooks that has a handle and looks like a purse, I would keep it at the foot of my bed. It woke up instantly when opened and I could get those moment down before they disappeared. If I didn’t, they were gone, gone, long gone, dead and gone. So I rushed to the iMac in my home office and (more…)

Last process post for a while

Last process post for a while

Day nine and I’m still drafting daily. These process posts are going to stop though because it seems that my process is not that intricate. I think of something , maybe an image, ruminate, tell myself I can’t do it, then try anyway until it’s done. Today’s poem was a big revision of a failed draft from April. I lopped off the last half where it went wrong and tried something else. I think it’s better, but am not sure it is the whole poem. I will check it again in a week or two and see if I have any more. The photo is of snow on pampas gras. When I know why I took the photo, I may write about it.

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Days 7 and 8 process

Days 7 and 8 process

Yesterday I went promptless and felt a bit like someone lolling around the house scratching and belching. I felt shiftless, and when crunch time came, I was muttering to myself about being lazy and that was the moment the title came: “Lackadaisical.” From there, I just wrote it. Boring, but that’s how it goes sometimes. Today I was determined to be freshly motivated and returned to the prompts. It was a good prompt, too. However, I just didn’t have my mind right about it. I felt other things going on that I didn’t want to pass up so I went with the poem that was asking to be on the page. Finishing course preps for the new semester that starts on Monday doesn’t help either, but I have a feeling it will always be something trying to get in the way of daily writing.

I think I may have to do some planning if I’m not going to drive myself crazy with this project. I may check the prompt first thing in the morning and see if it fits the three specific projects I’m trying to fill with this year of drafting. If it doesn’t though, I’m going to just write. After the stack of drafts gets high enough, there may be revision weeks. As long as there is productive drafting, that should be enough.

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Day 6 process

Day 6 process

Yesterday’s poem was a bit of a surprise. I felt heavy most of the day, that feeling that I will never write another poem ever, so why try? I felt a bit of a hint with the prompt though, but did not like certain other parts of it. In the end, I took the image that I wanted to start with and did what I do most of the time, which is start writing anyway even though I have no idea what I’m going to say. (more…)

Day 5 process

Day 5 process

As next week and the new semester get closer, I am increasingly aware of how important it is to set up a poetry-writing habit. Of course I already write poems, but a daily poetry draft is another thing. Yesterday’s draft squeaked through at 10:30 PM or so. Between that and the band rehearsal earlier, I couldn’t sleep until late. I need to start each day reading the prompt so that it simmers or dies. That’s what has worked for me in month-long poetry challenges and I think it will work here too. I didn’t do that yesterday, and my mind wasn’t ready for it and simply added the prompt to a to-do list instead of setting an subconscious thread that remained working through the day. That unconscious, unvoiced prewriting is an irreplaceable part of my writing process. (more…)

About Morning Pages

About Morning Pages

One of the good things about a process log is that it can highlight how idiosyncratic writers are. Truly, there is not only one right way to do this. That is why I went on for my doctorate in Rhetoric and Writing. The complexity and the scope of what happens when someone writes is awe-inspiring. Each year brings new questions, new things to write about in terms of writing theory.

This is a fairly long preface to show that I take both my writing and the writing others do seriously. My main area for theory has been centered on writerly identity and social media writing, with some side trips to feminist rhetorics and lately, assistive devices and the creative process. Recently, a friend of mine tried out the idea of Morning Pages, an idea proposed by Julia Cameron, AKA Julia Cameron Live at the Artist’s Way. She has a series of videos on the subject, twelve plus three introductory videos to be exact and I must admit I didn’t look at them. The idea is simple and potentially effective: write three pages every morning in longhand. That’s pretty much it. It’s a cousin to the composition studies concept of freewriting so beloved by followers of Peter Elbow, and I have to say, it’s very difficult not to like Peter Elbow. As time goes on, so much of what he has proposed has turned out to be true and/or very effective.

Cameron also has the over forty books in multiple genres including poetry, so she has the productivity to back the idea up. Granted, from her books page it looks like most books there are about writing, inspirational, or inspirational books about writing. I searched hard for her poetry books, but only found two devotional books that could, in a pinch, be considered poetry. I get the impression she is the writer’s Anthony Robbins–lots of inspiration and classes for a better life. I do not doubt that Morning Pages can help many people, especially in terms of “writing to learn” and leading an over-all more productive life. There are testimonies to that effect. I probably will ask students to try this too, but only in my composition classes or fiction classes. I strongly believe that for most writers who primarily identify as poets, not crossover artists like Cameron but the ones who start a story and then find themselves saying gee, this would make a great poem, for those writers this idea is death, death incarnate. (more…)

Day 4–revision day

Day 4–revision day

Today was a revision day, and if this is to be a productive year of poetry, I need revision days. Sure, sometimes poems just happens, but most of the time a great deal of chipping away has to happen. besides, the idea of 365 fresh drafts with no followup is horrifying. I’m going to have to revise a bit every week if this is going to work.

That’s pretty much what I did today. I chipped off words here and there and lopped off the first third of the poem. In the end, it was half the size it was before, but it’s tight now. on a side note–I got my first decline email for 2016. Yea?

The photo is the inspiration for the poem I revised. The bird is a blood-tailed hawk.2014-02-20 17.hawk1

Day 3 process

Day 3 process

2009-03-14 12.12.00This was a hard one, and I’m still not sure how it turned out. As I write these process posts, I’m going to take steps to ensure that I don’t give out all the prompts for The Daily Poet. I think people should but it instead. After all, it’s not the prompts that are the point with these posts, but detailing the process. That said, I can say it was a prompt that involved a word list and coming up with a list that fit the parameters gave me fits. I did it though, and let clusters of the words associate to make unexpected combinations, ones that led to a narrative with a fairly strong image at the core.

It’s not very flattering, but for me the most important part of the process is seat time. I have to actually sit down and write whether I think I can or not, and come back to write more when I think I have no hope of coming up with any more. I find that the hopeless draft I leave on screen earlier in the day turns the corner when I add more later. That is the main thing–add, snip, add more, shift breaks, repeat.