“Thou Shalt Not Write About Pet Death” (and Other Commandments Moses Never Brought Down)

As a high school English teacher, I can remember teaching a unit on admissions essays. We had many resources, of course, and almost all of them warned of clichés and clichéd topics. One of these verboten topics? You guessed it: pet death. Pet death is an entry drug to bad writing, the experts warned. Admissions …

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When the World Slaps You, Poetry…

One of the themes running through Gregory Orr's book,  Poetry as Survival, is the role of trauma and adversity in the creative process. The "survival" in Orr's title speaks to the lyric poet's need to make sense of past difficulty, hardship, and pain. One poet who Orr quotes is Stanley Kunitz. In the first, more …

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It’s Giving Tuesday. You Know What THAT Means!

Yes, it means you are supposed to be giving, and that explains why you are getting all of these e-mails from journals and magazines that once (or three times) rejected your poetry but now promise NOT to reject your money. I could get jaded and do a narrative eye roll here, but I fully understand …

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Angels We Haven’t Heard on High

Yesterday I shared D. H. Lawrence's poem "Song of a Man Who Who Has Come Through," which ends with strange angels at the door ("Admit them, admit them."). It brought to mind these ethereal beings I've given little thought to since childhood, when I was a bit leery about the topic of guardian angels watching …

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The Dangerous But Necessary Art of Compression

I still have my George Bilgere book out from yesterday, so why not share another poem? Although wistful, like sentimentality, is quicksand-dangerous for a poet, Bilgere seems to walk the edges with aplomb. What is creativity without risk? Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't, but we're not in this to play safe. This poem, …

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How Abstract “Sets” into Concrete

Abstractions are hard---to write about successfully. Especially when concretes have to do all the talking for them. As Exhibit A, I give you the concept of "silence." It's basically a nothing that is something. But how do you describe it? If you look at a long list of abstract nouns and pick one to write …

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200 Candles for Ivan Turgenev!

It's hard to keep up with family birthdays, much less venerated writers' birthdays. You stumble across them by accident on the Internet, however. How else would I know that Ivan Turgenev just turned 200 on Nov. 9th? Like many bibliophiles, I have fond memories of my Russian phase. In fact, if my literary leanings were to …

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