Poetry, process, progress.

Category: Writing Process

April Foolery

April Foolery

Each National Poetry Month (April!) I take on the PAD (Poem a Day) Challenge using the prompts supplied by Robert Lee Brewer of Writers Digest’s Poetic Asides. If you want to read my posted poems, contact me via Facebook (ensures I know you) and I’ll give you the password. I will not post my drafts “live” here since that leads to prior publication troubles with journals. Over all, the process has been successful for me. Later versions of drafts written by me for the PAD Challenge have appeared in Menacing Hedge, Weave, NEAT, and TAB: The Journal of Poetry and Poetics. (more…)

Reviewing “The Rules” for Intro to Poetry Students

Reviewing “The Rules” for Intro to Poetry Students

I’ve been thinking about the rules. At one point, my creative writing program had a list of rules for the intro class so that beginning poets did not go straight for the techniques or pitfalls  that pretty much guarantee failure for the newbies, no matter how talented. I still have a copy of those rules, and I’d like to not only think about them here, but also have my summer online intro students think about them too in a discussion board thread. I’m probably not going to be this rigid. Over time, I’ve found too many exceptions.  I thought though, that this would be a good  place to bring up the rules, poetry rules, that is.

First off, what? Poetry? Rules? How can that be? Well, when it comes right down to it, poetry is all about rules, usually those mandated by syntax as well as rules imposed by the poet, such as in forms like sonnets or sestinas. For beginning poets, a few limitations can help them avoid projects or techniques that are too challenging for those who haven’t mastered the basics yet. in fact, since this is the teaching-to-the-test generation, most of them have very limited exposure to either historic or current poetry, which means they don’t know what the basics are yet. Here are the general rules and some commentary:

General Rules for Poems Assignments (more…)

Beginning

Beginning

In my quest to give poetry the time it needs, I’ve been thinking about triggers, those small things that start a poem. At times, I can almost hear a bell ring–this is it! Start here. The most unlikely trigger that I’ve found this year is text messages. I use text a lot with my daughter, a friend in Michigan, and another friend who is on sabbatical on the other side of the planet. Every once in a while  a phrase will stick out and beg to start something. In the past week two finished poems and one draft began as a response to a text. (more…)

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…)

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…)

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