On writing reviews

So, now is about the time we get to writing reviews in class. It’s pretty cool that we’ll be able to read an entire collection of poetry and give it our harsh opinions. It’s like the workshop event of published works that we’ve always wanted.

I’ve participated in a few literary reviews before but I had a few questions about the literary review scene: namely, how do you get published? We’re always reading reviews in the New York Times and our local papers and I often hold those reviews in high regard; they must have the qualifications to judge something like this, so whatever they say is right.

It’s weird. What gives me the right – an undergraduate student who prefers fiction – to review anyone’s work as an unpublished nobody.


line break (up)

As I sit here in Panera Bread, wearing noise-cancelling headphones that don’t quite work (think: The Shins with a glorious orchestra of crying babies and clanking silverware), I’m thinking of some serious poetry questions.

Ah, the break-up poem. The glorious, multidimensional, cathartic break-up poem. After quite a tumultuous end to a tumultuous relationship, I find myself writing pages of break-up poems and angsty love poems…even when I don’t want to write about this topic because I’m sick of reading about it in my own work.

I guess this post is more of a question for all of you: how do you stray away from your immediate circumstances and write about other things? How do you write about other topics than just the one you gravitate towards? How can you use the poetic line to do this (getting away from the form and lineation that is most conducive for the topic)? How do you break-up with break-up poems, at least for a little while?

I want to write about cleaning products or farcical political things or the meat industry…not because these represent my passion, but because I want to try writing about ANYTHING that isn’t dripping with unrequited love and ice cream (most likely).

For now, I’ll eat my free apple (I wish I had chosen the baguette as a side) and brood some more.

Where to begin?

Class commenced the other day with the simple question, “How do you start your poems?” We were given three options: image, sound, or idea.

This question makes me think back to my last piece to have been workshopped, which was definitely forged from a distinct image. Imagery is such an important part of poetry, that it feels natural to paint a picture through the written word. Unfortunately, I have the tendency to digress in poems that are built on a specific image. Without an underlying message, my image-based poems tend to meander to and fro, not really lending the audience a solid theme to sink their teeth into. While I believe that poetry can stand as an art form alone and doesn’t always need to be characterized as anything other than “beautiful,” the lack of a definite meaning can be frustrating for both the author and the audience.

Personally, I overlook sound the most when it comes to poetry. Therefore, I find it interesting that people begin poems with a specific sound in mind. To anyone who does start their poetry based on a sound, I would love to know more about your process! Please feel free to share!  

On the other hand, I think using an idea as a starting block for a poem will probably result in the smoothest construction. Beginning with an idea automatically gives the poem a structure that is not as easily developed with sound and image. Thus, one’s writing may flow more naturally, or logically, along its course, rather than jumping from one image or sound to the next. While, I initially answered the aforementioned question with “image,” I believe that I am also prone to writing poems when something is bothering me, which would fall into the category of “idea.”

Please let me know what your own writing process is! I am always curious to see how other people go about writing their own pieces.