Monday, September 30, 2013

Poetry Writing Tip: A Lesson from Emily Dickinson

I took this photo when I visited Emily's house in April, 2010.
I wrote the poem below today thanks to the image prompt from Magpie Tales. I like it well enough, given it was written so quickly and all, but I wasn’t completely satisfied with my word choices. Rather than hesitate due to concern about the poem being perfect, I posted it anyway.
I was reminded of something Emily Dickinson taught me.

For those who don’t know, I make treks to poets’ homes. To me, visiting the homes of fellow word-lovers is like visiting the great cathedrals or other holy spaces. I have literally felt the presence of the word-artists when in their space. 

On my second visit to Emily’s home I learned this: the poems we read of hers oftentimes have several different versions. If you look at her handwritten versions, she had a habit of writing a + sign by a word she wasn’t sure was “the best word” and then would list in the margins other words she might use instead. 

It takes away lots of the judgment and hesitation, interesting – sort of like ths  poem I wrote today
The image is from Mark Haley. The image prompting came from Magpie Tales from poet Tess Kincaid.
Promise breathes within the bleak sky
burnished grasses
the rarely walked upon path -
barren trees sing, even when naked of leaves -
clouds pause -
hesitate before leaving -
wait before dropping
their punctuation upon -
this sacred scene

I have two words I am still not completely satisfied with:

1.      this sacred + space  (Other possibilities) dreary, desolate, serene, unruffled

2.      barren trees sing, even when naked+ of leaves – (other possibilities) exposed by lack, unprotected, thirsty for

I will continue to play with these words, perhaps trying a variety of compositions. You may try this out when you write a poem and are not quite ready to publish it, shuffle the word combinations to see which you like best. You also may try it out by not changing a thing and letting go of those other words.

Recognize alongside me: I am completely content with what I have published on my poetry blog yet I also know there may be another version waiting to be birthed, to teach me something I have yet to know.

October begins tomorrow.

OctPoWriMo begins tomorrow.

I look forward to this journey (adventure, passage,quest, challenge) with you.

-- Julie Jordan Scott

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Poetry Tip - Connecting with Your Higher Self

Ideas for your poetry can come from anywhere but what about your higher self? That part of you that whispers softly that you may not hear. How can you connect to your higher self and write poetry from that place?

For me it depends on the day.

Sometimes I use dance to connect in and open myself up to be able to hear that small voice inside to allow the words to flow onto the page.

Sometimes I use energy work such as Reiki to connect in.

You may decide to use prayer, meditation, or even yoga.

You can use anything that helps you to connect and open to your higher self to write from that place.

Tuesday is October 1st and this poetry challenge will begin. No matter where you get your inspiration from to write your daily poetry I hope you will come back and share your words with us by linking up and visiting other poets on this incredible journey of writing 31 poems in 31 days.

Come back to link up your poetry on our daily poetry prompts. See you then!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Poetry Writing Tip: The Surprising Joy of Being with What Is.....

I sat quietly at a table at the Art and Spirituality Center at Mercy Hospital with a paint brush in my hand on Wednesday. Before me, a tray I am upcycling/repurposing from utilitarian tool of women FOR YEARS into a work of art about women artists, writers and poets whose voices were squelched.

I haven’t allowed myself the luxury of attending Open Studio much this season, but I felt compelled to go because I wanted to be busy and I wanted to be around people rather than alone.

I meant to make some cobalt blue random swipes along with the yellowish white swirls but my first swipe looked weird, not at all swipey. It looked like an intentional shape of some sort but not only that, it looked like an intentional shape.

I put the brush back onto the board and the same shape, the same shape and the third time the same shape. I picked up the brush and looked at its face and there I saw it, the same shape.  I decided to follow the lead of the brush and dipped it into the paint, keeping the shape intact.

Soon there were randomly placed shapes among the swirls and I found myself falling in love with what the “paintbrush said” much more than what I thought I wanted to say. I started an inner chant with each new movement of the paintbrush I added, “What is, What is, What is….”

I was consciously being with “What is” and in my own way, showing gratitude to the paint brush reminding me how important is to simply be with what is in each moment rather than try to make it be something it isn’t.

So, what does this have to do with poetry?

There are times when “I” can’t write a word of poetry. Usually I turn to free writing at this point. I can’t tell you how many times I have read my free writing aloud at my writing group prefacing it with “This will make no sense, I’m embarrassed to even read it to you,” and after I read my group is stunned into silence in a POSITIVE way.

At some point in October when you will think you haven’t got a thing to write. Do like we do in yoga, when you can’t “do a pose well” just lean into it. Don’t effort, just lean. If you can’t write poetry, just write “What is,” even literally at times, scribing what is, even if the word you write is yellow, yellow, yellow – and then free write – stay with “what is” and write – and you will eventually find treasure.

-- Julie Jordan Scott

Thursday, September 26, 2013

What is the mood of your Poem ?

What we write , the one that reaches across to others , is mostly the very words that echo our mood for the moment. Sometimes , when you are in a particular mood  , experiencing a particular emotion , it is very much possible to capture it in your poem within a few hours than to do the same , a few days later.

But I feel,  everyone's writing has a mood of its own. Years back , when I started writing , most times I wrote to let my fears and thoughts out of my mind. It were not happy times and the nights would be a little too hard to handle. That's when I discovered poetry writing and it helped me cope up with my feelings. In the process , my writing took a character of its own. A face that is kind and sad at same time. A voice that talks of past and is hopeful of the future too. A mood that is aware of the pain it has seen and expects but also knows that love exists.

Whenever I have written with such mood and honesty , not just have I felt satisfied with the poem but the process itself has been rewarding. And its same with so many bloggers I read around. I can almost judge the thought process , the mood , the projection of the thoughts from them to me. It is a sense of familiarity that envelops me when I read such poems.

I agree that one should step out of boundaries and try new writing ways , new techniques. But can not the same feeling be expressed in hundred different ways ? Is it so important to write happy poems even if you know you are doing a below average job with that ?

Writing is about being honest . To please yourself . Not to appeal to others.

On second thought , If you still want to try changing the mood of your poem, once it is finished , I will suggest you to give it few weeks. Let the feelings fade , and then sit with words not with your heart  , but with a critical head. Let it talk , argue back to the mood , change it on your whim and voila ! you might have a completely new picture for yourself.

This link might give you a stepping board for this task.

Leaving you with this lovely poem -

A Mood

A blight, a gloom, I know not what, has crept upon my gladness--
Some vague, remote ancestral touch of sorrow, or of madness;
A fear that is not fear, a pain that has not pain's insistence;
A sense of longing, or of loss, in some foregone existence;
A subtle hurt that never pen has writ nor tongue has spoken--
Such hurt perchance as Nature feels wen a blossomed bough is broken. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

It Doesn't Have to Rhyme, But....

I didn't set out in this life to become a writer, much less a poet. I began my adult life as a teacher. Not an English teacher, mind you, but a math teacher. I had always been drawn to math because it seemed to offer some semblance of order to the chaos in my mind. It tickled something in my left brain that gave me a framework to follow when approaching new problems. I have often found that I benefit from this same sort of framework in my writing, particularly with poetry.

In a recent post here at OctPoWriMo, Morgan mentioned Shadow Poetry, a resource that I return to frequently when I'm in the process of composing a new poem. The Shadow Poetry site provides simple, detailed descriptions of both traditional and invented poetry forms along with several examples of each. Sometimes I approach the site with an idea or an image that I want to write about and I begin sifting through the different forms until a single line emerges in my mind that happens to fit one of the forms. Other times, I'll choose a form that I've never tried before (look for a prompt on this idea soon!) and I'll challenge myself to try to write within that framework. Instead of straining my brain for words that rhyme, if the form happens to include a rhyming element, I jump to my other favorite tool - Rhyme Zone.

© Perkmeup | Dreamstime Stock Photos
 &Stock Free Images

I enter the last word of the first line in the Rhyme Zone engine and am given a list of multiple words that rhyme (or nearly rhyme) with it. From there, I can begin to play with rhyming lines. Sometimes I will come up with several lines that could work. I say each of them aloud with the initial line until I find the one that sounds best TO ME. (I capitalize here to remind myself that I am not writing for anyone other than myself. It takes the pressure off just a bit!) Once I have a couple of lines and the page (screen?) is no longer blank, the words begin to flow, gaining momentum as they go.

Many people are hung up on the idea that poems have to rhyme and have to follow some sort of formula. This is not the case. Poetry can be free verse. However, if you find yourself in need of a framework or if you just want to challenge yourself to try something you haven't tried before, Shadow Poetry and Rhyme Zone can quickly become two favorite tools in your poetry tool box!

~Amy McGrath

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Poetry Ripped From the Headlines

Did you know that one of the methods John Lennon used to come up with song ideas was to peruse the newspaper and take headlines, phrases or entire sentences and work them into his material? One instance in particular is the song "A Day In the Life" wherein lies the lyric "I read the news today, oh boy...". What follows is a near verbatim recounting of the day's news, tweaked and reworked creatively to weave a musical tale that to this day conjures so much imagery for me.

Another of his songs with the Beatles, "Being For the Benefit of Mr. Kite" was taken from a poster announcing that the circus was coming to town. Again, some of the lines were taken straight from the poster, but reworked to enhance the story.

What does all this have to do with poetry, you ask? Plenty! I use this same method in writing songs when I'm stuck and need an idea or an interesting line. It's sort of like using word magnets or words cut out of newspapers or magazines, but in a longer form. And if you go a bit further with it and mix some of this story with some of that, what you come up with is sometimes very interesting and whimsical or even poignant.

Is it plagiarism? No. Because you are taking artistic license with the medium and not using the piece in its entirety, it's a bit like found objects in visual art. You're using found word imagery and piecing it together to create something new and entirely from your own perspective in your own voice.

Sometimes with poetry, unless you have a definite inspiration, a reason to pick up the pen and begin writing prose, it can be difficult to know where to begin. When you use found word imagery from a newspaper, what you can come up with can be topical, funny, absurd, thoughtful and of the times. 

Monday, September 23, 2013

EveryDay Muse: Woo Our Poets Within and Move Our Pencils (Pens, etc.)

One of my favorite ways to be inspired by other poets is to begin my journey by collecting words from other poets by including a poetry reading practice into my writing practice.

What I love about this first word offering from another poet is the "everyday life" aspect of the content. It isn't a big a-ha moment she is seeking, but asking her poetry muse for guidance in her everyday life as a Woman, as a Mom.

"Release a stanza

from the sink's hot suds

where dirty dishes glow

Seal a message inside:

encourage me to hold on.

Inform me

in detail

exactly how to do it."

Kate Daniels in Prayer to the Muse ofOrdinary Life

One of my daily practices as a writer and poet is to read at least one published poem a day. I have a wild assortment of poetry anthologies to choose from and my normal way of finding a poem to read is simply to open up a chosen book and read wherever my eyes fall. Today my eyes fell upon a poet I have never bumped into before. Now she has managed to take both arms and pull them out at the sides in an enormously full stretch. She did all this with her word power.

I remember when I had the triangular shaped hair cut, the mini-van, a couple preschoolers and a part time job sort of, I didn’t even know I could be praying to the muse of ordinary life. I was so busy trying to do what I thought my husband, God and society had for me to do I couldn’t imagine doing something as foolish as picking up a pen and writing again or actually writing with creation itself as the primary focus.

The writing I allowed myself to do taught how-to’s and practical wisdom or so I thought.

I didn’t leave space to be open to the most practical wisdom I didn’t even know I had yet!

I thought the “inform me in detail exactly how to do it” as our poet, Kate Daniels requests, was about losing weight or communicating well with your husband and teen daughter or maybe it was about being frugal or cooking a month worth of meals in a day. I couldn’t possibly imagine the “inform me in detail exactly how to do it” meant to audition for a play or write and perform a poem or collage together painted pages from a book destined for the dump and learn I have every right to call what I do art and call myself an artist.

My everyday muse is the one who tilts my attention in the direction of a photo op in the perfect light as I drive, so once I drop my daughter at school I may turn around and snap a shot, like today. I had never noticed a detail on a favored clock downtown and as of today, it is even a more favored clock.
My everyday muse says “Help me help you, Julie. You’re overflowing with books here, I know – I know, paper is your media but you can’t make your entire home a messy studio,” and then my Everyday Muse finds me the perfect thrift scores to create shelves and decorate my house with books and furniture I am proud to say I’ve created.

My Everyday Muse says, “Wait for the bus with Samuel. Talk to him about anything and everything he brings up.” She knows our conversations will have a root in more writing, more sharing, more connection to other Moms with sons and daughters on the autism spectrum. The conversation has gotten so good, older sister Emma gets up earlier now so she can be out on the porch, chatting too.

To any of you out there, reading: for those of you who are so busy you can't imagine writing a poem a day in October, listen here for encouragement. Hold on. Slow and steady,  watch for your Everyday Muse. She appears rather unexpectedly at times and nothing would make her more happy than to play with you today.

Perhaps, right now in this moment or right in the next moment.

Relax your shoulders and look to your right. Close your eyes and listen. Breathe deeply and open your eyes. Move into the flow.

I can’t wait to hear how it goes. (And see how I managed to write a practical how-to and add some wisdom + ask you to play? I make me laugh!)

-- Julie Jordan Scott

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Poetry Writing Tip - List of Possibilities

Poetry comes to us bringing life, and focuses on giving us a better understanding of life. Between poetry and other genres of literature there is one sharp distinction. Poetry writing is a friend to all writers. Engrossing and honest, poetry extends universally to all members of society. Poetry exists to communicate significant experience imaginatively and creatively, deepening our knowledge of the senses more poignantly. ~Why Poetry is So Important
 This morning I am struggling with how to explain why I believe poetry is so important. Once again Google shows itself to be helpful and I found the above article. It probably does a much better job than I ever could of explaining why poetry is so important to you as an individual and as a community. I hope you decide to check it out.

We have a little over a week until OctPoWriMo begins. I am getting so excited about all the poetry that will be written and shared (though you don't have to share) over the coming month. October has been one of my favorite months for many years. The weather is cooler, the fall colors are spreading across the country side, children are getting ready for Halloween, and the time of family gatherings are just around the corner. All of which are fodder for poetry.

If you have decided to join us to write 31 Poems in 31 Days have you started making a list of the topics/themes that you may want to write about?

Here is a list of possibilities:

  1. Autumn/Fall
  2. Holidays
  3. Changing seasons
  4. Halloween
  5. Family
  6. Horror
  7. Magic
  8. Fantasy
  9. Phobias
  10. Shadow
  11. Darkness
  12. Love
  13. Friendship
  14. Nature
  15. Politics
  16. Food
  17. Gardening
And the list could go on and on. Of course each of the above could have sub-categories and lists of their own.

What are some of the topics/themes on your list, what interests you most, what causes a fire in your belly, and gives passion to your words?

Saturday, September 21, 2013

  Whether we like it or no, poetry and poets have an image.  Say that you're a poet and people will often imagine that you're a head in the clouds dreamer with no practical knowledge or skills, or that you have a drink problem or are on drugs, or that you have sex with anything that has a pulse.  These clichés can put a lot of people off.   Years ago when I did a bit of creative writing at university, my poetry teacher Tim Liardet, a very fine poet, asked the class to think about the clichés associated with poetry and poets and write a poem about them.  So here is my effort.
In Order to be a Poet…..

You don’t have to be high brow, low brow or a cow.

You don’t have to be mad, bad or sad.

You don’t have to have a PHD, a GCSE or be an S.O.B.

You don’t have to be well read, well bred or dead.

Don’t have to be Greek, a geek or a freak.

Don’t need to be hairy, scary or a fairy.

Don’t need to be medicated, alienated or inebriated.

Don’t need to be poor, a whore or insecure.

Don’t need a Rolls-Royce, or to be James Joyce; just need your own voice.

  So don't let what other people think stop you from achieving what you want from poetry.  You don't have to be a cliché, you just have to be yourself.

Janet Parfitt
photograph from i-stock royalty free photography

Friday, September 20, 2013

Poets: Prepare to Start Your Engines - Poetry Pre-Writing Tip

Note in the title I did not say START your engines. We have ten days left until the “big” day appears.

Car racing is part of the life blood of the family I was raised in and is even showing up in parts of the next generation of Jordans. When I was a young girl, I would spend hours and hours and hours in the garage, handing my brother, the race driver, tools. You know, sort of like a doctor asks for scalpels.

All that gorgeous, seemingly without effort grace on the race track doesn’t start when they raise the flag, it starts long before, when the drivers work on their cars and finally warm up their cars during the days before the big race.

I am going to share with you one of my favorite poetry writing warm ups.

I use my old fashioned notebook and simply write lines of poetry. Not poems, but lines of poetry, sometimes smoothed together into several lines, but usually just lines.

Because I love the haiku form, I often write lists of five syllables and lists of seven syllables and then I randomly put them together.

This has two effects: one is it sharpens my observations and helps me write clearly and concisely with carefully chosen words, it also allows me to the space to see the grace in simply showing up at the page to warm up.

Sometimes those non-effort haiku have actually been better than when I was trying.

I just saw a play, so I am going to revisit some of the scenes in a list of five syllables:

Stripes of glitter
His ears were not his
Gold dust  all around
Thees, thous, Entreats, huh?
Only one in white?
Bookish Helena
“Hermia” now blonde
Thin Lysander
Bottom stole the show
After Puck, he died

And now, how about some seven syllable lines?

Demetrius, more wispy
Dead Poets society
Plays in my head while I watch
Love the feathers in that crown
Feathers, can they sing like birds?
Pixie like face glitter smile
Down home music strums, struts, pounds
Yee haw, let’s try some moonshine
Animals always woo us

 + + + + +

The first time I made up this exercise I was sitting in a coffee shop, just writing what I saw, lines like:

Red deck sneakers squeak
Mommy takes baby
Baby takes Mommy
Purr, computers, purr….
Espresso smells so….
Who does she wait for?
Textbooks in a pile
Awkward laugh hovers
“Forgot my back pack!”

It is more fun than it looks – I guarantee it.

I also guarantee that warming up through using this very simple exercise over the next few days will assist you in being more attentive and writing more concretely, with more details and fewer “fluff” words.

If I happen to see one of you at a coffee shop scribbling in your notebooks or pretending to text on your phone, I’ll know what you are doing. I won’t tell a soul!

-- Julie Jordan Scott