An Abundance of Moments, an Embarrassment of Neglect

Pinch yourself. You're alive. But how do you know, and what is it you're hardly noticing as days roll in and out with numbing regularity? Answer: a lot. Solution: the five senses. Even more so the four neglected senses. You know how partial we are to our eyes. To sight. The favored child among our …

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The Mysterious Equations of Narrative Poetry, Where “Less Is More”

Story. Cavemen loved them, apparently, as do the so-called civilized types we call ourselves today. Tell me a good story, and I'm your captive till the happily ever after. Words to live by. Especially if your name is Sheherazade and your pretty life depends on it. The last entry from my reading of Gregory Orr's …

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“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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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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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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The Siren Call of Submittable: Part 2

Yesterday I wrote at length (for me) about ways Submittable has shifted the playing field for writers and literary magazines alike. Today: How Submittable fosters bad writer habits. For literary magazines, Submittable giveth (to the bottom line, as magazines keep 62% of reading-fee proceeds) and it taketh away (the ability to staff readers who can …

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Why Do Some Poems Inspire You To Write While Others Don’t?

After Roman Coliseum-like spectacles like yesterday's special Senate hearing on the pending Supreme Court nomination, one can't help but curl up in a ball of despair or read poetry. I chose poetry. It took my mind off ugly things and reminded me of what can be beautiful in life. For succor, I chose my copy …

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A Certain, Lovely Ghostliness

There is more poetry in autumn than summer, it would seem. Traveling from the congested highways of an overcrowded Commonwealth to the quiet shorelines of a Maine lake proves as much. Last night we arrived to high winds and whitecaps. This morning I arise to clear, Canadian air, sun, calm. That coupled with the possibility …

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Guilt as the Root of All Poetry

Emotions and feelings. They are like the gasoline and oil of that engine we call creativity. Take guilt, for instance. A powerful motivator. A source of bitter reflection. And not the type of thing a fugitive from conscience wants chasing after him. Below are two war-related poems with guilt as their tap root. It's the …

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