As a writer, I’m subject to the same inclinations as almost every other writer throughout time: the unquenchable desire to have my words appear in print. I have had the privilege of selling poetry, prose and fiction, but to date, there isn’t a book on the shelf that declares me as its author.
Of course, I’ve compiled a book for you to write (another link here), but I consider that a completely different product. This particular book does have my name in it … but not on the cover because you must tell your story as you complete the book and only you can tell that story (not me).
When I was a younger woman, I often dreamed about the books I wanted to write … someday. I also used to dream about an agent (or a publishing house) calling me out of the blue to solicit my upcoming bestseller! (I told you it was a dream!) I had this delusional notion that my brilliance was so obvious, these publishing entities should jump at the chance to snag me into their stable, though I’d never even produced a book-length manuscript!! [I have now but it’s non-fiction.] Continue reading “Dream A Little Dream”→
April isn’t over, so even though I haven’t mentioned it in recent posts, we’re still celebrating National Poetry Month!
Regular readers of my blog know my fondness for the sonnet form. Posts from July 30, 2010 and October 23, 2013 relate one of my goals was (is) to write one hundred sonnets. The earlier post mentioned that I’d originally set the goal to be accomplished in a single year. I fell short and decided it was more realistic to adopt this as a lifetime goal. (Phew!)
ASIDE: For reader convenience, I’ve set up Wise Blood Galleries so readers may click right through to either my Sonnet posts or my Verse posts. (The galleries are available at the top of the Wise BloodHome page.)
The Redeemed Reader website is one I enjoy. With a primary focus on children’s literature, the writers of Redeemed Reader offer book reviews, interviews and a ton of other resources for cultivating a love of reading. Though my childhood is far in the past, I can still enjoy being a child at heart and their posts provide me with food for thought and enjoyment.
Truthfully, I wish I’d had this website as a resource back when I home-educated my kiddos. I consider their posts a gold-mine … I and my children would have cherished RR input way back when!
Imagine my delight when earlier this month Redeemed Readerannounced their salute to National Poetry Month and challenged aspiring young poets to test their skill at the sonnet form! (The contest ends at midnight tonight.)
In addition to some helpful general instruction in the Shakespearean sonnet form (with links to other sonnets written by well-known poets), Redeemed Reader included a bonus … a link to a sonnet template as a helpful tool for beginning sonnet writers. This printable template unpacks the sonnet form for students (of all ages).
You don’t have to be an aspiring young poet (i.e. school-age) to try your hand at the sonnet form. Grab a copy of that RR template now, print it out and give it a whirl! Come on, you know you want to do it!
… Of course, I hope you’ll share your results here!
The number of websites devoted to poetry runs in the millions. To date, I haven’t browsed through even 1% of such websites, but keeping in mind this is National Poetry Month, I’m usually interested in perusing poetry sites to read their unique presentations. (Many don’t translate well into English which limits my ability to enjoy them!)
The above-pictured quote, however, didn’t come from a poetry website. I happened across this comment on Twitter first and because the quote intrigued me, I Googled it. Mr. Marks is an author, investment guru and CEO for Oaktree Capital Management … not exactly a person whose comments I would expect to touch on poetry.
From what I can tell, this quote is an expanded version of a Confucius quote, with Mr. Marks having added the last four words. Though I would not pretend to consider my poetry great, I’m curious to know what this man considers “great poetry.” Is there a specific definition? As I wandered around the web attempting to locate a Marks-provided explanation, I failed to find one.
As with the definition for beauty, the essence of great poetry is, in my view, in the eye of the beholder. I think there’s some agreement regarding the poetry of Shakespeare and Donne and Poe and Frost and Wordsworth. (I could go on, but you get the picture.) What strikes me about all these poets is their poetry has survived over time. Is survival the key component that makes them great?
I happened across another blog post that intrigued me. The post was titled How To Write Good Rhyming Poetry. Notice, the title doesn’t proffer a possibility of writing great rhyming poetry, just good. Nevertheless, I bit, and found the post writer offered some excellent observations.
The post begins on something of a down note though, as the writer states: rhyming poetry when “not done right can be kind of annoying.” Yep. Quite true. Second point of discouragement: editors of many literary journals “eschew rhyme.” True again. The coup de grâce comes later in the post: “Rhyming poetry does seem to be a dying art.” Bulls-eye, no question.
Knowing what I know, I can’t (and won’t) argue with this writer’s perspective. But none of this will dissuade me from continuing to write rhymed poetry. (Truly, I don’t believe the blogger intended to dissuade anyone, simply to make the points about rhymed poetry.) Toward the end of the post, the writer states: “The choice is yours.” Yep.
Today’s poem is … wait for it … a rhymed poem! Written many years ago, I never expected to find a place to use it, but this does seem the perfect spot. The poem appears to be a rebuttal to the aforementioned author of that particular writersrelief.com post, but that would be impossible since it was written long before I had access to the worldwide web.
I simply knew (way back when) that I was swimming upstream as a poet who enjoys (and writes) rhyming poetry. If rhymed poetry is a dying art … well … I suspect I’ll do my part to keep it on life support as long as I have the ability.
Reading various blogs this weekend, I knew I’d take time for a post entitled I don’t like poetry by Mindful Digressions author Doobster418. Yes, we’ve crossed paths before and while there are many things on which we disagree, I enjoy his posts. With this particular post, I’m duty-bound to address his assertions about poetry!
But first, consider the famous Shakespeare quote in Hamlet. The Prince of Denmark has created a play about a man who killed his brother (the King) in order to marry his brother’s wife and seize his brother’s throne. Hamlet asks his mother Gertrude (who is now married to Hamlet’s throne-seizing uncle) how she liked the play. Gertrude answers by saying (line 179): The lady doth protest too much, methinks. In other words, she’d have been more believable had she been less strident in proclaiming her innocence.
From personal experience, I acknowledge Doobster418’s steadfast insistence about disliking poetry. However, I must also acknowledge he was something of a collaborator and I will not permit him to escape admitting his contribution. When I first posted my sonnet, Playing Catch, I utilized an incorrect word − fumble − and he pointed out (very kindly) the correct word when referring to baseball was error.
Even before my original post, I realized the word was imprecise. Sure, I could argue the definition; the dictionary defines fumblegenerally in the sports context as failing “to hold or maintain hold on a ball after having touched or carried it.” While the dictionary definition isn’t exclusive to a specific sport, sports parlance very definitely differentiates a fumble (football) from an error (baseball). Doobster418 was correct insisting on precision. His contribution − collaboration − vastly improved my sonnet!
From Doobster418’s collaboration, we can surmise two things: (1) he does read poetry, at least on occasion and (2) he appreciates precision in language. There might be a third thing implied as well: he enjoys blogging interaction and the opportunity to playfully tweak other bloggers from time to time. (I’ll leave it to him to confirm or deny the foregoing.)
I freely admit my personal enjoyment of the occasional playful tweak. As soon as I read Doobster’s I don’t like poetry post, I went into action. How else would I do so? By composing a poem, of course!
I’m not sure how many words Doobster418’s post contained, but I’m pretty sure I succeeded in communicating his thoughts on the subject with fewer words. And as for my insistence he is one who “protest(s) too much,” I’m beginning to suspect a hidden agenda at play. Is Doobster418 in fact a serious poet we’d all recognize were he to reveal himself?
Here’s another slightly different poem for today’s post. Sometimes, I get a little wacky. (If you’ve read other posts on this site, I think I’ve already proven that.) The asterisk in the title and the comment that follows the asterisk explain that my poem is a parody of the opening speech from William Shakespeare’s play Twelfth Night.
As a poet, I study the works of great poets. Some years back, I decided to challenge myself with Shakespeare and chose this opening soliloquy from the Twelfth Night comedy: If Music Be the Food of Love. (This speech has also been delivered as a stand-alone piece.) I’ve reproduced the soliloquy below to give you a sense of the original before you read my parody.
If music be the food of love, play on; Give me excess of it, that, surfeiting, The appetite may sicken, and so die. That strain again! it had a dying fall: O, it came o’er my ear like the sweet sound, That breathes upon a bank of violets, Stealing and giving odour! Enough; no more: ‘Tis not so sweet now as it was before. O spirit of love! how quick and fresh art thou, That, notwithstanding thy capacity Receiveth as the sea, nought enters there, Of what validity and pitch soe’er, But falls into abatement and low price, Even in a minute: so full of shapes is fancy That it alone is high fantastical.
Now, my parody.
Comparing the two works, you’ll notice I “borrowed” some phrases at the middle. This was (I felt) permissible to honor the Bard and acknowledge his original work.
In honing my craft, I think exercises like this are helpful, though I wouldn’t recommend it as a regular practice. (Poets should, in my view, develop their own unique styles.)
It has been said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Within that context, who’s the poet you’d most want to model your poetry after?
It’s Black Friday. This isn’t something in which I participate. I don’t remember ever volunteering to subject myself to that kind of chaos!
I’ve also never camped out in order to be the first to buy tickets, attend a concert, etc.
(Oh, and by the way, I never cared for the Schwarzenegger film Jingle All The Way where he’s waiting for the doors to open so he can run a mad dash to snatch up the last Turbo Man action figure before they’re all sold out. Just the thought of that scene being played out in real life makes me cringe.)
I get jazzed though when I’m playing with words. I don’t have to jockey with an unruly crowd or find a parking spot or arrive early before the stacks have been picked over. My play goes on wherever I am, whenever I choose to engage my brain in play.
In previous posts (here, here), I’ve talked about my goal to write one hundred sonnets. This is a form I find challenging and when I’ve completed one, there’s a high level of satisfaction.
Today’s sonnet doesn’t offer belly laughs or profound wisdom. It is informal and perhaps prosaic. But this is word play for me. In a universe where it’s possible to have a nine-season television show about nothing (Seinfeld), this is a sonnet about the sonnet form.
Adventures! Yes, by my mid-teens (as I mention in my previous post), I was eager to experience real adventure … and not just as part of my reading life! After both my sophomore and junior years of high school, I had opportunity to spend the summer months in Winona Lake, Indiana. Working in food service (cafeteria, soda fountain, etc.), living in an ancient clapboard-sided “hotel,” getting around town by foot − these were all acceptable trade-offs for the “freedom.” (What were my parents thinking?!)
Early in the first summer, I checked out the local library and found it terribly deficient. As a result, I focused more on reading and writing poetry during my off-hours, though I admit those hours were minimal due to so many other distractions (social gatherings, the lake that constantly beckoned me away, etc.) Still, these brief periods of actual independence were a valuable maturing experience. Being on my own, I learned that absence does make the heart grow fonder. From afar, my once-fuddy-duddy parents suddenly seemed wiser! Go figure.
When I returned home, my reading choices started to mature. As never before, I found pleasure in Shakespeare (even outside the classroom). I did have an excellent Drama instructor whose love for Shakespeare was contagious.
When I discovered Mutiny on the Bounty, I was instantly spellbound. (I hadn’t viewed the 1962 movie with Marlon Brando, though I may have seen the 1935 version with Clark Gable.) My initial exposure came through the novel by Nordhoff and Hall. Such a tale … never having experienced the ocean for myself, reading about it and suffering alongside Fletcher Christian was high adventure indeed! I must have read the book a dozen times.
After Bounty, I devoured The Count of Monte Cristo. At the time, I read it as a romance, completely sympathetic to the “plight” of Edmond Dantès. Today, I’ve less patience with Edmond, realizing his desire for vengeance blinded him badly; instead of gaining wisdom from his suffering and learning forgiveness, he inflicted more pain. He should have known better.
Monte Cristo introduced me to a fictionalized Napoleon (apart from the man of history I’d studied in History classes). I fell in love with this daring short man! The retelling of his love for Desirée became another favorite. With typical teenage angst, I returned often to this account of star-crossed lovers, living all of it in my imagination.
Star-crossed lovers appeared to be a recurring theme for me: Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, Emma, all delivered their romantic shots in the arm and earned my readership of their other works. But no Steinbeck, no Pasternak, no Ayn Rand — other people were reading those! Edith Wharton, Chekhov, more Dumas, much of Poe, yes, yes, yes and yes! I’m also embarrassed to admit I burned through many a volume of Grace Livingston Hill (conveniently available at our church library). The books eventually gave me a strong distaste for formulaic, cardboard-character narratives.
My memory tells me no one (except me) was reading Gone With the Wind in those days. I hardly believe it! What teen girl would have dared ignore it? And despite all my readings of the book, when I eventually saw the movie (my first year of college), the faces of Gable and Leigh were almost identical to the images already fixed in my mind’s eye!
What to conclude at this point of how (and why) my reading habits influence(d) me as both reader and writer? I had yet to imbibe from the deeper wealth of C. S. Lewis or J.R.R. Tolkien. And if I’d read one story by Flannery O’Connor before high school graduation, the impact was minimal. Yet, these are the writers I most admire today.
What this three-day reminiscence confirms to me is how my interests today are unquestionably a reflection of the early reading habits I developed. I was never intimidated by the size of a book; in fact, I often preferred thick books where a story could be elegantly laid out in strands of rich tapestry and characters could be slowly revealed through subtle shading and intimate details.
Even as I’ve added choice authors in adulthood, I also observe that some of my early favorite authors are worthy of re-reads today.
One thing is for sure: given my lifelong immersion in both adventure and fancy (with a dash of romance mixed in), I crave being ushered into one magical world or another! The promise of another Narnia or Middle-earth fuels anticipation, yet I acknowledge the rarity of any world containing nearly the beauty of those … unless …!
Shakespeare (in The Tempest) tells us: What’s past is prologue. Given how my blog has been neglected, I appreciate Shakespeare’s observation.
Yesterday’s neglect (or more accurately, the last six months of neglect) isn’t necessarily set in stone for all time. It is what was, not what must always be. Today is like a clean plate, the smorgasbord of opportunities set before us!
When I read about the 31-Day Blogging Challenge, I was intrigued, knowing this worthwhile endeavor would engage my commitment and might actually rebuild my enthusiasm to get back on the [writing] train. And … here I am — at the eleventh hour on the first day — penning a stream-of-consciousness list of excuses to explain my tardiness!
Writers have a million excuses not to write, don’t we? In my case, it’s not a conscious effort (at least I don’t think it is), but at those times when I’m ready and eager to write, often all it takes is some small insignificant thing to grab away my attention, and I’m simply lost to it!
I am a writer. From the age of ten or twelve, I knew the magical nature of words and my affinity to them would constitute a lifelong enchantment. My fascination with words is easily explained: words equal connection to people. (There’s also a spiritual component, but that discussion will have to wait for another post.)
I am also a reader. Truth be told, I am a voracious reader!
Shouldn’t matter though. These two activities are thoroughly compatible, right? Writers don’t write in a vacuum. While writing invigorates the writer’s soul, reading feeds it. Both are necessary (the breathing out and in, if you will), but balance (for me anyway) has been out of reach.
Balance, yes. Can this writer (“fat and lazy” from too much feeding … reading) achieve the desired equilibrium — feeding less and engaging (exercising) more? Today is the day of the clean plate. Past can be … should be … is … prologue.
One day at a time, I’m looking forward to the next 31 days.