Hi all, just a quick exercise a friend and I came across when messing around in InDesign yesterday:
Write your poem with the text aligned to the right margin, not the left. Pay attention to how odd it feels to break the line, and to how your words look when they’re crawling left instead of reaching right. Enjoy!
I recently participated in a poetry slam that was hosted by RLK. The slam had a topic of “positive body image.” I recited a poem that was workshopped in class “to love (Marilyn)”. There is something so incredibly empowering about reciting your own poetry in front of others. I thought it was a great experience and I would really love some pointers for reciting original poetry. Do you guys find it hard to show your poetry to others? I sometimes am not comfortable showing my work to my parents but I don’t mind reciting it to a bunch of strangers. How do you all feel about sharing your poetry with others?
Some of the poems we read in Lyric Postmodernisms used languages other than English; we’ve encountered other languages in workshop; and the use of multiple languages in poetry is really a pretty common practice, with a lot of different intents and reasons behind it. I am not a bilingual or multilingual person, so it is very easy for me to express myself only in English, as those are the only words I’ve ever needed to use to express myself, with the exception of my French studies. As a French major, I’ve had to struggle through strict “French only” teachers and professors at several levels, and through this struggling, I’ve developed a love for the language and the concept of language in general. I’m obsessed with multilingualism and the way it can be used in poetry. However, I always hesitate to use French in my poems for a couple of reasons. One: I’m not a native French speaker, and the last thing I want to do is sound cheap or fake. French in my poem will never be authentic. Two: The French language is so often romanticized, and can become so cliché, particularly in poetry. Are these hesitations legitimate, or am I just projecting exaggerated insecurities onto poetry as a whole and limiting myself? Is this something, as a lover of language, an admirer and studier of the French language and French/ francophone culture, and someone who hopes to eventually become bilingual that I should say “screw it” and just try? I know this blog isn’t meant to be an advice column, but I’m curious to hear what others think about this. Ultimately, I know it’s a decision that I will make on my own for the sake of my own poetry.
I should start by saying that I definitely am going to try some of the exercises that you’ve all blogged about. For me, the hardest part about a poem is the beginning, because you’ve got to get yourself to think about things like a poet–at least in my case, I don’t walk around thinking like a poet all the time. Putting myself in the poetry mindset is really hard, and not something that you can just instruct yourself to do and you’re suddenly there.
My challenge to you (and also to myself) is to write early in the morning when you first wake up. I was once advised to do this because although everybody goes about their morning differently, we all start out the same: groggy, contemplative, withdrawn, etc. I haven’t gotten to it yet, but my goal for myself is to wake up and before talking to anybody or having any interactions, write a few lines.
As this semester has continued, I have found more and more that I’m very interested in examining how form (or a lack thereof, formally) can lend to the idea or message a poem is trying to convey. I keep circling back to prose poems, primarily because they both befuddle and intimidate me. I want to work through my stuck-ness on them, and on form in general. I’ve yet to attempt this prompt myself, but break isn’t quite over yet, so we’ll see where I land when I do.
Prompt: Take a lineated poem you’ve written and re-write it as a prose poem. Don’t just remove breaks; find a way to make the poem function in its new form. Try to retain the original tone that the lineated piece had (unless, of course, the piece is pulling in a different direction. You can follow that, too. Or do both. See what happens). Put the lineated & prose piece side-by-side. What differences do you find between the two? How did the poem change when you couldn’t use line breaks or form to help tell the poem?
Are you ever reading and you come across something and you say “well damn, that’s just it, isn’t it”? I think that’s the mark of good, tuned writing–somehow it resonates with a truth of emotion, reality, what have you. I was reading some William Carlos Williams just now (his book/manifesto “Spring and All,” featuring many fantastic pieces of writing and pieces about writing), and I just read this line (in the poem “IX”), put the book down, and had to tell y’all:
“In my life the furniture eats me”
Isn’t that great? It might have to do with the context, and it might have to do with the zoom function of life > furniture (similar to Eliot’s life > coffee spoons), but I think you can admire the line itself for the fact that that’s just it, isn’t it?
A bit of context for that line, an excerpt leading up to and following it:
Continue reading “Just a Line to Share”
I often think that our reading eyes have two modes: criticism and enjoyment. When we read a published book of poetry or a piece by a famous poet, it usually doesn’t even cross our minds to think of revising it. Even in class when we read poets’ works in Lyric Postmodernisms, we may challenge the artist’s statement, but we never suggest how the poems could be improved. This is because we are using our “enjoyment eyes”. When we read works like this, we often are just seeking to find some pleasure or sense of understanding. Even when reading for class, The Logan Topographies for example, we seek meaning in the poem and question its contrasting aspects, but we never make suggestions for changing the poems. I wonder why exactly this is. In workshop, we are clearly using our “criticism eyes”. We read our peer’s poetry to seek understanding as well, but it seems the main goal is to figure out how the person can better it in some way. Sometimes we may not even want to provide revisions, but feel compelled to tell the person to change something. Is this simply because we know that is what we’re supposed to do in workshop? Because we know we’re being graded on it? I wonder, then, why we don’t view other published poetry this way. Is it because we aren’t in contact with the author? Because we know they probably wouldn’t care even if we did give them suggestions? It may seem like an obvious distinction, but I’m wondering if anyone else has thought of this. Thoughts?
As many of us have discussed lately, both in class and on the blog, poetry often intersects with a variety of other art forms. We become inspired by art or mimic it in our poetry.
Try writing a poem about a piece of artwork. It could be a painting, sculpture, movie, song, etc.
An extra challenge: use language specific to the type of art that you’re describing (art/music jargon, etc.)
This exercise incorporates our 5 senses into poetry in ways that may not always be present or obvious. It also causes us to think about what separates different forms of art.
I was inspired by Marjorie Welsh’s poem “Veil.” She writes, “A loved one produces things. Then there is this question/ of existence.” What kinds of things does a loved one produce–whether material, or non-existent? Do these things act as some sort of veil? I’d love to see if any of you come up with something for this prompt I’ve created.
Hope you’re all enjoying break! 🙂
Whether we know exactly what our poetic statements are right now, or we haven’t quite developed them yet, we all have things we don’t believe in as poets: things we hate, things we’ve sworn off, things we’ve told ourselves will never surface in our poetry. When you write your next poem, contradict yourself/ your ideas about what poetry is/should be, or more specifically, what your poetry is/ should be. Purposely write in something that you don’t like (whether it be a line, punctuation, formatting, an image, or even a whole poem). The catch: upon revision, don’t delete what you hate. Make it work within the poem. Surprise yourself. If the poem wants to get rid of whatever it is, transform the poem so it can stay.
Share your poem when you’re ready. Read it over and over again, even if you hate it. Read it because you hate it. Read it and revise it until you don’t hate it. Through this reading and revision, you hopefully will have spent a lot of time considering why you don’t believe in what you believe in, as well as thinking about how we can make things we hate work. Maybe we can even come to understand why several of the poets in Lyric Postmodernisms seemed to contradict themselves. Is there an underlying complexity that we can only discover through forcing ourselves to write a contradiction? Share what you find.