My Relationship with the Ampersand

Hey fellow poets, I have a question for you all on the usage of the ampersand (&) in poetry. I like the thing well enough in handwriting, because it’s fun to make those funny flowing loops. When typing, however, my soul becomes conflicted. So my question is this: why use the ampersand and not use the word “and”? For my last poem, I caught myself just about to use it before I started questioning it and my whole poetic life. What is its purpose beyond abbreviation — or is abbreviation the ampersand’s only purpose? Does the symbol exist to create some aesthetic variety on the page? I’ve noticed many of you using it, so what’s your personal reasoning for “&” over “and” or vice versa?

Favorite Author

For an education class that I am in I had to make something called a “literary timeline,” or a timeline of types of books I have read throughout my life.  It got me thinking about all my favorite authors.  My all time favorite author has to be Ellen Hopkins.  She writes prose in poetry form.  She takes advantage of white space, of creating images with her words.  My favorite book by her is titled “burned.”  It is about a Mormon girl who acts out against her religion.  If you are looking for something poetic to read but not necessarily poetry, Ellen Hopkins is a perfect choice.  Her imagery and writing style apply particularly to the senses.  I have attached an excerpt from “burned” when the narrator realizes her father is sending her away for the summer as punishment for acting against her religion.

A Poetic Problem

In our recent class we were told to write down some of the strengths and weaknesses we have in our writing.  I find some of my weaknesses to be meter and rhyme.  I have never been very interested in writing in meter and therefore have never worked to improve my ability to write it.  I think that I would benefit from practicing writing in meter but I’m not sure how to start.  Any suggestions?  Rhyme, on the other hand, is something that I do enjoy adding to my poetry.  I believe it can help the movement of the poem and make reading more enjoyable for the reader.  I usually have trouble finding words that rhyme without it sounding forced.  I was wondering if anyone had any techniques for rhyme, or if it is something that easily comes to them?  Thanks a lot!

All Poems are Love Poems (???)

In class recently, we touched very briefly on the idea that poems don’t have to be about romantic love–a stance that I wholeheartedly agree with. After browsing some definitions of love, I’ve come to one basic conclusion about love: it’s indefinable. In order to create definitions for the word “love,” it is first important to recognize that there is no clear and concise definition that can be easily agreed upon by the masses. The origins of the English word “love” can be traced through various levels of Germanic and Proto-Indo-European languages. Throughout all of the influences and changes this word has undergone, there is a consistency in themes like affection, passion, and concern. However, as we have all figured out by now, love is not related only to feelings of happy tenderness. Love is closely related to fear, envy, jealousy, and (yes) even hate. Emotional mapping can help us visualize how our emotions connect, and how they intersect. There are basic emotions, like primary colors, that produce secondary and tertiary emotions that blur lines between what we would normally consider to be entirely separate experiences in practice. So, what does this have to do with poems? In my personal (and somewhat under-qualified) opinion, these intersections of emotion are the places where our best poems create themselves. While not all poems are related directly to romantic love, they all spawn from some sort of passion or dedication to our content, style, and belief in ourselves as poets. Essentially, all poems contain some derivative of love–the fear of losing it, the things that scare us, our obsessions, and so on. Are all poems love poems? Probably. Poems are reflections of life, and life, in essence, revolves around love (or lack thereof) in all its forms.

In regards to Children’s Poetry posts

The posts about children’s poetry (c is for cup and Lemony Snicket stuff)  reminded me of Shel Silverstein poetry and how its got some pretty adult content, in regards to incredibly dark humor, and I don’t know just general scary bizarre things like being a bare skeleton or having hinges on your head-accompanied by drawings. They also teach real world mature lessons. I think it’s pretty interesting that this poetry is lauded and deemed acceptable for children (I mean I personally have no problem with children reading it, and think it’s great, but I do find it interesting that it’s not like controversial or anything.)  I have a terrible memory, but I do remember some of Silverstein’s poetry from when I was really young, it definitely stuck with me.  I remember thinking this dark humor was funny and didn’t realize it was dark because I was a child, I enjoyed more that they were kind of riddles.  I think that this tint of darkness definitely makes these poems more appealing to older audiences.  Interestingly Johnny Cash’s song “A Boy Named Sue” is a Shel Silverstein poem- I mean I am not sure if this one is meant for children but here, because it is great/ <3 Johnny Cash.  There is also a version with Shel Silverstein playing along with Johnny Cash but wow it is so horrible I really suggest that no one watches it. Anyways I am definitely going to have my kids read his poetry because now looking back, I can see the value of this poetry from a different perspective.

Similar to Kallie and Katie/ Slam Poetry

Both of your posts brought up slam poetry in my mind.  I never really know how I feel about slam poetry since it incorporates tonal shifts in voice with actually performing and moving–and these tonal shifts are so much more exaggerated then when you hear a poet read their work.  I think I’m on the fence mainly because it kind of makes me uncomfortable for some reason, which is saying a lot coming from me.  I think the fact that poetry is so personal to the narrator, and then there they are loudly expressing it, is the reason for this, or maybe it’s because I can’t read it alone in my own space.  Either way, this is one slam poetry video that I actually enjoy.  I think it is really well done, but maybe I’d be on edge if I was in the audience.  I’m curious about other people’s thought on slam poetry/ if they have considered doing it.


Last Blog Post!? :0

There are about four different drafts on my laptop of what I wanted to say for this post, but instead I’m just going to write what is on my mind

When we all shouted out ideas/things we have learned thus far this semester, one thing Jay said truly stuck to me. He said something along the lines of, “Not all poems are about romantic love.” While this is something I have come to realize, now more than ever is this notion really hitting me.

I’m sitting at my little desk, staring out my window, and in my peripherals is this tiny baby orchid. It’s been there for weeks, but in this moment all I want to do is write a poem about it. In fact, I want to write a poem about my water speakers, my dusty fan, and even the slippers that have holes in them.

Never before would I have wanted to do that. I will admit that I am not the best poet out there (still happily learning!), but the impulse to write poems about every little thing around me is so exciting! I have on my laptop random poems about the silliest things – and I love it.

Perhaps this wasn’t the most poetic last blog post (ha, ha), but it is one of my most truthful! I’m going to miss this class more than I ever thought I would!

In Response to Katie’s Poetry Reading Post

I had a lot to say about this so decided to make it its own post instead of a response. I love hearing poets read their own work, as you can get so much more of their personality that you may have missed while reading it on your own.  My tenth grade English teacher had a really great poetry unit for us, where we did things like listening to different types of music while writing and seeing how the tone of the music influenced the tone of our work, and reading a poem in our heads, and then hearing them read by the poet. For the second exercise, she chose the poem Litany, by Billy Collins. When I first read it, it didn’t stand out too much, but when I heard the poet read it I was able to catch all the subtle dry humor in the piece.  (The audience’s reactions helped with that too, which brings up an entirely different thought that maybe it’s less of the poet reading as much as it’s the audience’s laughter or snaps or ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs,’ much in the way that the cast of a show will be more energetic if the audience is more engaged.)  Continue reading “In Response to Katie’s Poetry Reading Post”

The poems contained in this children’s poetry portfolio are not made for children.

Lemony Snicket properly starts the introduction to his poetry portfolio All Good Slides are Slippery with what I consider to be the golden rule of good children’s literature, and the reason I hesitated to agree with the quotation Lytton put on the board last class (someone help me out with the details of it, please).

Here’s the portfolio as it appeared in Poetry magazine (with awesome illustrations from Chris Raschka):

The “plain poetry” that was suggested as a tool to teach American children the meaning of the sentence would probably have the unfortunate tone that Lemony Snicket describes as “the high pitched voice of an irritating simpleton.” While it might be effective in teaching children about the sentence it certainly wouldn’t be fun, and would probably estrange children to poetry even more than what most schools achieve today.

I’ve greatly enjoyed these sort of collections(another example being Harold Bloom’s wonderful, but stupidly named, collection Stories and Poems for Extremely Intelligent Children of All Ages), and remember being annoyed by Y.A. stuff in middle school, so I’m beginning to think that children’s literature is at its best when it’s enfranchised through a collector like Snicket or Bloom rather than through the intent of the author. So why would we teach our children with plain poetry? and why would we bore them with middling Y.A. stuff?


Poetry Games/Voices in our Heads

I can’t think of the exact name of the game, but I recall in a few introductory creative writing classes/creative writing clubs doing this exercise where one person writes one line of a poem/story/etc. and then each subsequent person writes one line until it goes all the way around and the page is filled with an often offensive, chaotic, and hilarious jumble.

The game rarely produces works of merit, but I always found it fun, mostly because I was usually the first jackass to break continuity, introduce a random character, event, or object, or  bring forth any number of complications. I loved how it brought out the mischief in everyone.

But the game is important in another way, too, in that it suggests how a poem (in this case) can abruptly or subtly shift in the small space of line or even within the line. A poem of several authors rather than one will most likely come out messy, nonsensical, and inconsistent in the realm of this game, but the product is illuminating nonetheless. From these scrambled poems we can ponder the multiple screaming voices within our own heads that compete for space on the page. Will one voice calmly scribe the poem, or will our rampant mental contradictions battle on the page? The results will differ greatly.