Years ago, when I decided to dip a toe in the poetry waters, I purchased a book that has since become a favorite due to its practicality: Ted Kooser's The Poetry Home Repair Manual. I occasionally go back and flip through it anew, amazed how the old appears new again and the read appears unread again … Continue reading Both God & the Devil Are in the Details
I can't tell you how many people associate artistic genius with substance abuse. History, they say, proves their point. Romantic poets (e.g. Coleridge) on opium. Not-so-romantic poets (e.g. Bukowski) on booze. And writers of all stripes (e.g. Poe) on most everything, some of which land you in a Baltimore gutter for good ("Nevermore...".) For some … Continue reading Fake Muses: Drugs, Alcohol, & Insomnia
Rumor has it that Estonian composer Arvo Pärt is an acquired taste, like salmon, Brussels sprouts, and all those other things you steer clear of as a kid. Repetition. Tintinnabulation. Waves of mesmerizing music (much of it religious in nature) washing over you. I love writing poetry to classical music, but none more than Pärt's. … Continue reading If Music Be the Food of Poetry, Play On!
What is "good" poetry? What is "bad" poetry? Will you always know it when you see it? Or are the answers to such questions automatically suspect due to the "you" in the latter question? It's a conundrum even Socrates would have trouble beating--we know good poetry when we see it, supposedly, but what happens to … Continue reading The Good (Poetry), the Bad (Poetry), and the Ugly (Poetry)
What are ideal conditions for writing? Far be it for me to offer advice, but since you didn't ask, I'll relent. First of all, it is a myth that poetry, unlike it's more verbose cousins (novels, plays, essays) is best written on paper. Sure, many famous poets wax poetic (what else?) about blue ink on … Continue reading Ideal Conditions for Writing? Hear Ye, Hear Ye!
Your poem has been rejected. Again. But don't you wish the rejections were a bit more truthful? After all, we live in an age where "truth" is under siege. It needs all the help it can get. And boiler-plate rejections are just so impersonally vanilla. Let's try a little chocolate pizzazz, shall we, because if … Continue reading Ten Honest Rejections
Sure, some writers love to spout off about inspiration, about their passion for writing, about the way their precious ideas bloop out as finished products, ninth month in the first week and Hail Caesarean! Then you have the honest writers. The ones who write quality poems, but acknowledge it as work that seems to take … Continue reading The “Sullen Art” of Writing Poetry
What to write about? Seems like an easy enough question. Some say your topics should be determined solely by the dictator that is you. Others say have mercy on your readers' souls. Consider them. Others still--the agnostic wafflers of the bunch--say, "Why not both?" I'll be political and not take a stand because who really … Continue reading Sure Things: Food and Loneliness
Ars Poetica. According to both Merriam and Webster, it means "a treatise on the art of literary and especially poetic composition." And strictly speaking, in the Dead Language (that's Latin to you), it means "the art of poetry." Many poems carry this title, and it is considered a rite of passage to write your own … Continue reading A Poem Should Be…
Here's something I learned from the late Polish poet Wislawa Szymborska: If every word is suspect, your writing will be arresting. What does this mean? It means writing--especially poetry writing--cannot always be a prisoner of denotation. Of course, specific language serves the creative writer's purposes for imagery, but there has to be more: not only … Continue reading If Every Word Is Suspect, Your Writing Will Be Arresting