Mirror as Poem as Mirror

In today's New York Times Magazine, Rita Dove selects a Jericho Brown poem about Jericho Brown called, quite simply yet not simply at all, "Dark." I say that because "dark" is one of those adjectives that can denote (and connote) many meanings, as certainly it does here. And though we've been discussing the poetry of …

Continue reading Mirror as Poem as Mirror

Advertisements

“Navel-Gazing” and Other Writing Hazards: Interview with a Poetry Editor

Today, in our last entry before Christmas, we share the partial transcript of an interview conducted with the editor of a small poetry journal. This excerpt focuses on the controversial concept of "navel-gazing."  FVL stands for this website ("Free-Verse Life"), as in some writer looking suspiciously like me conducting an interview. PE stands for physical …

Continue reading “Navel-Gazing” and Other Writing Hazards: Interview with a Poetry Editor

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 …

Continue reading An Abundance of Moments, an Embarrassment of Neglect

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 …

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

“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 …

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

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 …

Continue reading Angels We Haven’t Heard on High

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 …

Continue reading How Abstract “Sets” into Concrete

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 …

Continue reading The Siren Call of Submittable: Part 2

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 …

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