Halloween approaches and it conjures up associations with the horror films of Hollywood. There was “Attack of the Killer Tomatos,” “Frankenstein,” “The Exorcist.” Think of anything Hitchcock … “Psycho,” “The Birds,” “Vertigo.” Think of a title to use as the title of your poem and write it. Or make up your own Horror film title and be inspired by it … If you dare!
PICKLED IN THE MIDDLEDrinking to excess
is not considered a success
if you can still stand,
or still stand still.
The difference between
falling and staying erect,
is just failing at being erect.
In the middle you're suspended
until you're upended.
Then the drink's on you!
(C) Walter J Wojtanik
Marie will be in the middle of nowhere this week as she and hubby Keith embark on their annual trek to their personal Mecca, the cabin in Hocking Hills. She may join us, internet connection permitting. Her escape is well deserved.
Well, I will have hit the road to head up to the North country to spend Thanksgiving with my daughter and son-in-law and his family. Haven’t been up in over a year and a half. So the car will be loaded up and I’ll be traveling.
Think of a mode of transportation and write it into a poem. Planes, trains and automobiles. Snow shoes, roller blades. Covered wagon (if you’ve got one). Head to your destination and tell us about it poetically. Even a garden cart to the back yard is going somewhere. Give us a view!
Four-wheeling across the state,
the slate is clear. I am here
steering this starship, hip
to the restrictions in place
to keep the world safe
from miniscule bacterium,
people staving I'm
with a smile hidden behind a mask.
The task not taken in 18 months.
Up to the Great White North
to spend Thanksgiving with
my daughter and her family.
Giving thanks for this gift!
If you can create a poem, you can create a book of poems. Period.
I was looking for someone to republish a chapbook whose publisher had decided to retire right after putting my chap out. The first place I queried (they had published books for two people I know) replied [more or less] that yes they did republish, and they would be willing to read the chapbook, but did I have enough material for a book-length collection? They’d really prefer that.
I had done any number of gift booklets, samplers, and mock chapbooks, as well as two published chapbooks; and I certainly had poems. So: Sure.
Having a publisher willing to look at a manuscript—without paying some contest entry fee—was a massive piece of good luck, but the tradeoff was time. I did not have the luxury of months or even weeks to assemble, refine, and rewrite a target minimum of seventy-five poems. The chap had eighteen.
I tried to turn that into a single, unified “poem” of a book, and that was NOT working, when I noticed (duh) how many books of poems (research) were broken into sections, like chapters. Like chapbooks. hmmm. I had two chapbooks, both with extra, associated poems that hadn’t fit for space. That was the beginning.
It is easier to work with several smaller units than with one large one.
So I set aside the poems for those two sections and started in on a third, new one. And this is essentially my process for putting together a chapbook. Even if my memory were as good as it once was, I would have printed out almost everything resembling a usable poem. Waste paper. I have no guilt. Everything gets to be read again and again. Spelling, punctuation, lame words, better phrasing, etc.
First piles. (at this point there is no theme, no nothing)
Short poems and fragments (Enough for a section of their own? Punctuation?) “Finished” poems “Needs work.” Potentially useful (a fuzzy category, but I can’t function without it) No way, José (“Why did I print out a Christmas poem?”)
No Way—into a box Shorts and Potentials—into open boxes
Second (and third, etc.) piles
Poems that MUST be in the collection Other good poems Favorites This is interesting Probably not I don’t think so No
The four “best” I laid out to begin and end the section, and I started looking for similarities. Tone, theme, sound, look. Don’t want any that are too similar—set one of them aside. Nothing jarringly different.
Eventually, every poem is like a line for a larger poem, and it is a matter of arranging them so that a reader can go from one poem to the next, not seamlessly, with a sense of rightness. Maybe a little surprise, because there are surprises within poems. I had to do some rewriting to make some poems fit.
And plenty of changing my mind about what constituted a good beginning/ending/middle. But the time came when I couldn’t take anything away or add even my favoritest favorite without damaging the integrity of the whole. Can’t explain that: it just happens.
Then back to the other two sets, repeat the above—adding some, taking some out, tinkering.
And finally back to the computer, and revised the individual poems’ files. Set up the compiled book both as .doc and pdf. Sent it to a couple of people, hoping they would catch any embarrassing mistakes. Tinkered some more.
Sent it to the publisher. From there, the pride-swallowing, comma-eating process.
If I were advising someone without that existing chapbook structure that simplified building Heirloom Language, I would suggest creating sections that serve the same function. Choose three or four, or five (if you have enough material) of the strongest pieces. Strong, because they will collect similar poems to them—magnets for light poems, or father poems, or poems with lots of trees, maybe something subtle like water flowing downhill in one poem and cars in another and in a third changing jobs. Let those be your anchors.
Have you published a book of poems? If so, may we pick your brain? If you are willing to share your process, we’d love to hear all about it. Here are some questions to get you rolling, but feel free to simply tell us anything you feel would be helpful for those who have never dipped a toe in the waters.
– What steps did you take to determine the length and style?
– How did you wade through your possibly thousands of poems?
– What route did you take? Traditional? Indie? Self?
If you would like to share your experience(s)/advice with us, please e-mail your submission to firstname.lastname@example.org . We will gladly post your sage advice. If you wish to include the names of your published works and links to follow for purchases, you are welcome to do so.
It seems the paintings and works of artist Edward Hopper are great fodder to inspire other artists in their endeavors. We as poets have come across this from time to time. Many an Ekphrastic poem has sprung from these offerings. Some show the desolation of the human condition, or the interaction of the same.
Today I offer three such works for your poetic interpretation:
Each painting expresses something and it’s your job to relate what it says to you. Choose one and tell us what you see!
The man had many hang ups,
and this one will have him hung over
all day. Another Sunday with nary
a prayer on his lips, but plenty of
Jack Daniel’s on his breath.
He curses God for his lack of strength
in battling his demons, for they’ve
cost him his job and his family.
Responsibility was never his,
and he wasn’t laying claim to this.
On any given Sunday you’ll find him
pissing his life away; he thinks
he’s keeping his demons at bay.
Autumn is upon us and as the season takes hold we take comfort wherever we find it. It could be from a bowl of hot soup, it might be a warm blanket or a seat next to a warm fire. What is your comfort? We’re writing a comfort poem!
On Wednesday, during our exploration of Wallace Stevens’ work through his “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird”, I instructed you to be mindful of this piece of poetics. Stevens observed his subject from many different angles, yet staying true to his subject, blackbirds.
I ask that you choose a subject, be it something in your travels or something in your realm of influence, and write your observations in as many parts as you see fit. The point of view is all yours. There is more than one way to skin a cat, so they say. There are many views of your chosen subject. Write them!
Today is September 12th. Twenty years after The Day After. We’re writing “The Day After” poems. You decide what day you are referencing and write that poem. “The Day After Tomorrow”, “The Day After I Lost My First Tooth”, “The Day After The Earth Stopped”… Let’s revisit that day. The day after.
We’re writing a night poem. The shining could be the moon and stars. The armor can be an alcove of trees. The romance is whatever stirs your emotions! Take your words and try to get medieval on us. Or better yet, make us swoon.