National Poetry Month

Here it is, almost the end of April, and I have nearly missed writing about National Poetry Month.

National Poetry Month was started by the American Academy of Poets in 1996 “to remind the public that poets have an integral role to play in our culture and that poetry matters,” as we learn from the AAP website.

I know that Writers Forum has many poets in our membership. I also know that Writers Forum has many good writers who find themselves intimidated by poetry. I know, because until a short while ago, I was one of you.

Sure, I had dabbled in poetry in college. I tried my hand at free verse and sonnets. And once I didn’t have to write poetry for assignments anymore, I stopped writing it. Poetry was hard. I had a hard time reading it. I was much more comfortable writing in prose. I had been writing prose all of my life, and it worked just fine for me. Why change?

I’ll tell you why.

Writing poetry will make your prose stronger. I guarantee it.

Poetry took me by surprise. It ambushed me after a Writers Forum Read Around. I hadn’t even read any poetry. I had read a selection from my Backcountry Trails memoir. After the Read Around, a friend in Writers Forum approached me and asked me to join her poetry critique group. Just like that. I didn’t know what to say. She said that her poetry group had dwindled through attrition down to two people, and they really needed a third for it to remain a ‘group.’ I protested that I don’t even write poetry.

She said, “You are a writer. Writers write. Poetry is just another type of writing, and I am confident that your poetry is just fine.”

I thought about it for a minute. If for no other reason than to get to know these other writers better, I agreed to check out their group. I met them at a local restaurant the next week.

Did I mention that the other two people are language teachers and published authors? Do I need to tell you that I felt intimidated and way, way out of my league to be sharing poetry with them?

I also need to tell you that they did everything they could to make me feel at ease and to assure me that I am a writer, and poetry is one aspect of any writer’s craft. I had heard it said that writing poetry helps your word choice and concision in other writing.

It’s true.

After spending almost two years writing poetry, it turns out to be the single best thing I have done to improve my writing in a long time. Give it a shot!

Even after National Poetry Month ends, we will continue posting on this blog to help you build your poetry muscles. I will also be looking for poets interested in contributing articles about the craft of poetry.

Maybe we can make it a regular feature and call it Hitting the Poetry Gym. I am open to other suggestions.

If you are a poet and would like to contribute to the blog, or if you have other name suggestions for a ‘poetry workout’ feature, leave a comment, or email me at writersforumeditor@gmail.com .

Thanks for reading,

Geo.


If you would like to contribute an original piece to Writers Forum for posting on the blog, please submit to writersforumeditor@gmail.com .  Please note ‘Submission’ in the subject line. All submissions are considered, but shorter pieces of 500-1500 words are preferred. We will consider all original works–poetry, short fiction, essays, memoir. We would also love to run your short pieces on writing as well. Share your writing insights with us. Thanks!

April is National Poetry Month

April has been dedicated as National Poetry Month in the United States since 1996. The Academy of American Poets saw how successful Black History Month (February) and Women’s History Month (March) had been at raising public awareness of those topics, and they felt the need to raise public awareness of poetry, especially in American public schools. According to the Academy of American Poets, the mission of National Poetry Month is to:

We at Writers Forum would like to give you some resources for helping poets in their craft.

First, we have The Complete Rhyming Dictionary.

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This great little book includes a one-hundred page Poet’s Craft Book. This teaches you rhythm, rhyme, stanza patterns, and various forms and techniques of poetry. The meat of the book, however, is a literal ‘rhyming dictionary’, helping you find rhymes to almost any word you would need in your poetry. Need a rhyme for ‘alabaster’, and you have already used ‘plaster’ and ‘master’, but you need more? Well, how about ‘blaster’, ‘disaster’, ‘faster’, ‘forecaster’, or ‘pastor’?

The photo is my beat up copy that I have been carrying around for twenty-five years or so. The Complete Rhyming Dictionary has been an important tool on my writing tool box.

Then we have Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Mary Oliver’s A Poetry Handbook: a Prose Guide to Understanding and Writing Poetry.

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Mary Oliver goes into the nuts and bolts of writing poetry, and she does it in clear language that is easy for the non-poet to follow. She encourages practice, practice, practice in writing, and says, “One learns through thinking about writing, and by talking about writing–but primarily through writing.” Ms. Oliver gives us plenty of examples and suggestions for writing exercises.

Then we have Pulitzer Prize-winner and former US Poet Laureate Ted Kooser’s The Poetry Home Repair Manual.

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The Poetry Home Repair Manual is especially geared towards beginning poets, but poets at any level can use Ted’s sage advice. He leaves most of the actual ‘how to’s for other books. Ted seems most concerned with the poet’s attitude and expectations, which mean everything to the heart and soul of poetry. He encourages us to write the type of poetry that we would like to read, which means accessible to most people. He writes:

The Poetry Home Repair Manual advocates for poems that can be read and understood without professional interpretation. My teacher and mentor, Karl Shapiro, once pointed out that the poetry of the twentieth century was the first poetry that had to be taught. He might have said that had to be explained. I believe with all my heart that it’s a virtue to show our appreciation for readers by writing with kindness, generosity, and humility toward them. Everything you’ll read here holds to that.

Kooser’s book is a great one for jump stating your motivation to write poetry.

And since we are in the 21st century, there are all sorts of on-line helps for the poet, from Rhyme Zone and Rhymes, to Poem-a-Day delivered directly to your e-mail box, the access we have today to poetry and writing helps is phenomenal. Don’t forget to look for poetry apps for your smart phone. Go to wherever you purchase and download your apps, and search for key words like ‘rhyming dictionary’. You might be surprised at all of the useful tools available for that marvelous little tool in your hand!

What poetry writing tools and helps have you found? What are your favorites? Please share them with us on our Facebook page, or shoot us an e-mail at writersforumeditor@gmail.com . We would love to hear from you!

#NationalPoetryMonth

Poetry Lessons…and Healing

The program for last Saturday’s Writers Forum meeting was how to Jump Start Your Writing With Poetry. WF member and published author Linda Boyden shared with the group some techniques she has learned for writing poetry that also give us great tools for other types of writing as well.

One of those techniques was called writing a Sensory Poem.

The first step in writing a sensory poem is to pick a topic. Then you brainstorm words and phrases for that topic from each of the five senses. For instance, suppose you pick the topic A Winter Day. You would brainstorm words and phrases that describe sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and feelings that you would associate with a winter day. When you have collected a good number of words, grab a few from that list and shape them into a poem.

The beautiful thing about these techniques is that the rules are few. “How many words do you need to write write down from your brainstorm?” Enough to give yourself a good selection of words to choose for your poem. Some people might write ten words and then see a poem in them. Some people might write thirty or forty words and still have to play around with them like letter tiles on a Scrabble rack to find a poem. “Do you have to use all of the words that you brainstorm?” Only if you want to. That might be a fun challenge, but don’t feel like you have to. “Can I only use words from my list?” No, the words on the list are the bricks you will use to build your poem. You still need mortar to connect them and make them solid, right?

Don’t feel like you should be obligated to spending a lot of time on this, either. Think quickly and write, and then move on. This is, after all, intended to jump start your other writing projects. Once you have your creativity flowing with a poem, hopefully it will be easier for you to move onto your other writing projects with a fresh dose of creativity. It works for me!

Here is a poem that was written at the program by WF member Carolyn Faubel. Carolyn drew upon intense images from the devastating Carr Fire. Writing poetry about the disaster might be one way to help ourselves heal.

 

The Carr Fire

By Carolyn Faubel

9/8/18

 

Perfect black leaves are floating down into my back yard,

A strange snow of destruction.

Gentle and persistent, ashfall is silent,

Unless you count the dogs howling as fire trucks and police cars go screaming by.

 

Stinking yellow smoke moves from piney campfire to burning plastic,

And other smells that must not be named.

Everywhere, sharp unforgiving branches spray out, their protection

Blasted off by the monster’s breath.

 

From the dun dry fallen leaves, a soft

Sooty fragment of upholstery fabric

The size of a moth

Balances delicately.

When I pick it up, the light shows through the thin weave of

Carbonized black thread.

And when I stroke the tufts of

Black velvet,

It crumbles and disappears in the breeze.

Was it your couch?

I am sorry.

 

If you attended the program and would like to share your poetry from the poetry program, or even if you would like to try the exercise now and write a new poem, please send them to Writers Forum at writersforumeditor@gmail.com for posting in the future.

Thanks!

 

 

Member Monday: Pilgrimage of Poetry

Today’s Member Monday sees pieces sent in from participants of Anna Elkins’ ‘Pilgrimage of Poetry’ workshop. If you recall, participants walked around outside of the meeting at All Saints Episcopal Church until they found one thing that drew their attention. Then participants concentrated on all of the sensory images they drew from that object, and by the end of the workshop, had crafted a poem from those sensory images. Here are several that were submitted to the blog.

The Blessor

Granite chunk – large, heavy, rich hue of orange/gold and pale turquoise.
You touch me with your Grandeur.
Silence emanates from you.
American Natives call Stones the Keepers of Earth Memories.

You stand alone
above adjacent field of smaller stones.

A Sentinel?     Guardian?       Transmitter of Sacred Silence?

I bow and touch your surface.
Blessing fills me.

I stand in Silence.

 

Sonia Lovejoy

 

HUMMER

You are the blur of speed-demon wings hovering overhead

You are a lively twittering of scolding and questioning family and friends

You are a feathered hobbit secretly living in the thick, fragrant branches of a Coastal Pine tree

You are an insatiable drinker of sweet red nectar

You are a harbinger of Summer’s end

You…bring me Wonder

I…give you a Safe Haven free of cats and dogs!

by

Vicki Nelson

October 21, 2017

Redding Writers’ Forum Member

 

 

The Little Library

 

You are another world, hiding in plain view from the rest of the world.

You are the chatter coming from the pages of the books.

You are the flowers and trees that surround your stand.

You are the raindrops that trickle down the shingles of your roof.

You are intriguing, luring us to enter and wander through the pages of the books.

Bring me the stories that tempt me to lose myself in.

I give you credence and appreciation for these books.

 

Vickie Linnet

 

Traveler

You are a pile of rounded river rocks, far from any river

You are the sound of cars on the road, heading somewhere else

You are the scent of damp air and dirt

Scent so strong that I can taste the rain and the clay

You are a chill in the air

 

Bring me peace that I am exactly where I am supposed to be today

I give you my love for the journeys

George T. Parker