While the year is coming to a close, I couldn’t end the semester without saying something about ekphrasis, writing inspired by art. It has long been one of my favorite methods of writing. It allows for an expansion of the conversation that the art has established. In this way, ekphrastic writers have the opportunity to create a powerful network.
POETRY IS AWESOME AND YOU’RE AWESOME
NEVER LET ANYONE TELL YOU OTHERWISE
WRITE POEMS ABOUT SPACE AND FLOWERS OR WHATEVER YOU WANT BECAUSE YOU KNOW HOW GOOD YOU ARE
GO KICK THE WRITING WORLD’S ASS
While reading Fanny Howe’s “The Virtues of Verse,” I had a slight flashback to a class conversation we had weeks ago, on the difficulties that seem to be almost inherent when teaching poetry to children and teenagers.
One of the difficulties we talked about is the limited access most children have to a variety of poetry. Most of us recalled only really having been exposed to Shel Silverstein in our early elementary school days. Although I am now remembering the thin paperback collections of some of the “great” poets (Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, Lewis Carroll, etc.) that my mom gifted me once, they didn’t immediately stick out in my head, and besides learning how to read the poems out loud in different ways, I don’t think that my young self knew all that much of how to make use of them.
This is the bud of one of the reasons why Howe’s essay excited me. Constructing her piece in a lineated, “poetic” form, she advocated a teaching method where the instructor would have children lineate any or all class writing pieces, similar to how her essay was. This way, they would be able to learn about the relations that can exist between sentences and single words by applying the care of line breakage to writings such as essays and other small, more typically prose-like exercises. The idea is beautiful, in that it aims to instill an appreciation for one of the most markedly “poetic” elements of poetry, without forcing children to read any poems against their own will. When these kids later encounter poetry in other settings, some of this care and thought would unavoidably remain somewhere in the back of their minds
The other overarching problem we talked a bit about in our class conversation was how the pieces of canonical poetry that are required to be taught in grade, middle, and high schools aren’t necessarily accessible or helpful to students. All too often, they seem to cause kids to rule out poetry writing as something that could ever be for them. These required “greats” are also entirely unrepresentative of what contemporary poetry—the living, growing part of poetry—looks like these days. Even if kids did feel inspired with some of the poetry prescribed in classes, they may still not be able to access or interact with the ongoing conversation. Howe’s idea could also help with this issue because of its focus on line breaks. I feel like without anything else to grab onto, I always focused on the language and diction of poems in high school, which kind of alienated me from the craft itself.
Even if teachers could somehow tilt or guide focus in poetry curriculum to a facet like line breakage, I feel like this could help to bring the youth into poetry in a more welcoming way.
I thought this would be a great way to get some cool tips and tricks out there for revision!
We know the usual ways of revising: sitting down in a cute coffee shop and crying into a latte is my go-to. But really, we’re used to revising a certain way, and we could be doing so much more with nuanced approaches!
Revising method 1. Play games! Too many people doubt the power of writing games! Sometimes cool ideas stem from simple word games with friends that can offer new insight on a poem!
Method 2. Try out a new form! By giving yourself new limitations with which to work, you can see what’s important in your poem. Giving yourself a set number of syllables to use per line or using a different alliteration per line can be a fun way to play with different sounds!
Gimme more methods!! (please I’m desperate)
I’ve been thinking about my last workshop piece. It felt like two poems stitched together, and that’s because it was. I lean heavily on certain aesthetics and imagery we all already know I have a soft spot for, and I keep trying to use them as a crutch or disguise to talk about other things that, if I’m frank, I don’t always want to talk about.
Something we’ve struggled with this semester, both as peers in our workshop commentary and in relation to our own work, is separating the poet from the poem. We talked in class about ‘fudging the truth’, how once something becomes a poem, it should not, and cannot, try to be completely truthful and authentic to the poet’s reality.
I don’t have a problem with that; even in the middle of writing it, I could tell my most recent poem was veering away from its origins in my real-life experiences, and that’s okay. I’m left with this dilemma, however, one that I feel I have very often, where my writing seems to be trying to say something, but I don’t know what that something is.
I’m excited to work on it, but find myself at a loss. When I manage to write something I do like, I often feel as though my writing is cleverer than I am. So I’m left with this, a half-formed amalgamation of things, ideas stitched together, that’s taken on a life of its own.
How do you wrangle your Frankenstein’s monster?
I started wondering do poems have to be evasive and have a secret code. Is it bad if the message is clear, does that make it a “weak poem”.? Many of the poems we read we tend to look for what are they talking about or what was the poet going through that could have influenced that. However what if is just a combination of words that worked well together or images that came to mind and they just made sense of them. Does there have to be something for the reader to figure out or can it be straightforward?. I just notice that most of the more spoken about poems have hidden messages so I fell as though they make it better in the world but is that always the case. I guess I am curious as to what makes a poem stick or what makes it a strong poem. I always thought it was language and how you make certain words blend together. Or if there was a story aspect to it and takes your reader from their reality and into this mini world or moment you created.
“the em dash is a people pleaser and will not turn down any of your numerous requests to use it even when its presence is not needed which is why you must be the adult in that relationship”
Though we are alway supposed to assume that what our fellow poets produce and share does not give us insight about them, most of us automatically jump to conclusions, myself included. The moment I begin reading workshop pieces, I assume that the speaker or the protagonist is the author, although I realize that this is a grand fallacy. I even catch myself stumbling over this in workshop, as I critique someone else’s work. I typically consider the speaker and the author the same person, even going so far as to make the author’s name and the speaker, “I,” interchangeable.
On a similar note, I believe that writing poetry and sharing it requires bravery. Many of us write about deeply personal topics regarding our family relationships, pasts, sexuality, and heritage. Needless to say, it can be nerve-wrecking to take such a vulnerable piece of yourself and let a classroom full of students critique it.
Even when I read published collections, I mesh the author and the speaker’s identities together.
I believe that I stop writing from other people’s perspectives because it feels fraudulent and sometimes politically incorrect. I know that other people have struggled with this, as well. If you do write a poem that does not revolve around oneself, how do you justify narrating someone else’s thoughts?
I was wondering how everyone else stops themselves from assuming that the speaker of the poem is in fact themselves. I also was wondering if anyone else gets nervous exposing themselves through their writing.
Poets! Use moons in your poems! Use birds & flowers & oceans! Don’t trust anyone who says “Poetry has had enough of these things.” Because what they’re actually saying is “I have had enough of these things.” & how could anyone who’s “had enough of the moon” be right about poetry?