Wednesday, September 21, 2011

When writing about God

Fernando Ortega (songwriter) gives advice to lyricists that applies to poets too:

  • "Be specific when you write songs (poems) about God. 
  • Avoid cliché. 
  • Avoid convenience. 
  • Avoid an obsession with the consumer. 
  • Avoid the temptation to make commercial success your central goal. 
  • Write with intelligence, employing all the craft, skill, and experience with which God has endowed you."

Read all of "Avoiding Convenience: A Word to Hymn Writers"

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Poetry Pickings [09-14-11]

The internet is rich with poetry these days. Here are a few of my recent finds.

What is Poetry?
That's what we're discussing this month at Tweetspeak and on the TS Poetry Press Facebook page. Angela Alaimo O'Donnell writes today on the Tweetspeak blog:

"I am a teacher of Poetry.

This means that several times a year I walk into a classroom, the seats filled with Bright Young People between the ages of 18 and 22, and try to make them fall in love with poetry. This, I admit, is a challenge. Poetry is difficult to define and defend—and past the age of 8, is difficult to learn to appreciate.

To read poetry, we need to cultivate a mode of reading that is less frantic than the hunt-and-gather method instilled in us by content-driven disciplines (not to mention daily life), to discover how to be patient with ambiguity and uncertainty, and to give ourselves permission to read for the pure pleasure of it...
Read the rest of "What is Poetry: Falling in love, 1"

Rabbit Room CD release party
Cool poetic lyrics by Jason Gray along with the songs are posted in the Rabbit Room. He has put up the lyrics of every song on his new album A Way to See in the Dark along with the story of each. It's an online record release party. But don't delay if you want to hear the songs. The audio files will only stay online for 24 hours. Here's the title cut "A Way to See in the Dark."

Magical Mystical Teacher
Magical Mystical Teacher posts photos along with short poems, often haiku, and once in a while a reflection about teaching (like "Praying in My Classroom"). You will be lifted!

Porch Poems
Canadian poet Janet Martin has poetry coursing through her veins. She posts to two poetry blogs. Front Porch Poems has poems of faith. Love and nature are her study on Another Porch right now. Here's first stanza of the very charming "Summer's Quadrille" from that blog.

We feel a tender beauty-tug
A bitter-sweet caress
As summer, with a mindless shrug
Begins to shed her dress
Choosing instead of emerald green
A gown of red and gold
With petticoats of scarlet sheen
And sashes bright and bold

Read the rest here...

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Advice to rhyming poets

We all know that unrhymed free verse is the most common form poetry comes in these days. But perhaps you're not like everyone else. Maybe words come to you in rhyme and rhythm.

I gave the dilemma of a rhyming poet in a mostly free-verse universe some thought the other day when a writer friend emailed me about a poet we both know who writes beautiful rhyming poems. She was discouraged because that's what she writes, loves to write, yet people say keep saying things to her like, "I don't read it if it's not free verse." What's a rhyming poet to do?

Here are some suggestions I (a writer who likes writing in both rhyme and free verse) passed on to her. Maybe, if you prefer writing rhythmic, rhymes, they will encourage you too.

You / we are not alone. Have you heard of the New Formalism? It's a modern movement of poets who prefer to write in rhythm and rhyme. I found a pretty good definition (including the names of some people who are involved) here.

A wonderful website called The Poem Tree features lots of poetry from New Formalism poets. One of my favourites is A. E. Stallings. Who can resist:

Cardinal Numbers

Mrs. Cardinal is dead:
All that remains—a beak of red,
And, fanned across the pavement slab,
Feathers, drab.

Remember how we saw her mate
In the magnolia tree of late,
Glowing, in the faded hour,
A scarlet flower, 
Read the rest...
The Machines Mourn the Passing of People

We miss the warmth of their clumsy hands,
The oil of their fingers, the cleansing of use
That warded off dust, and the warm abuse
Lavished upon us as reprimands.

We were kicked like dogs when we were broken,
But we did not whimper.  We gritted our cogs—
An honor it was to be treated as dogs,
To incur such warm words roughly spoken, 
Read the rest...

The Tantrum

Struck with grief you were, though only four,
The day your mother cut her mermaid hair
And stood, a stranger, smiling at the door.

They frowned, tsk-tsked your willful, cruel despair,
When you slunk beneath the long piano strings
And sobbed until your lungs hiccupped for air, 
Read the rest...

For further education along these lines I have just the book. Writing Metrical Poetry: Contemporary Lessons for Mastering Traditional Forms by William Baer came out in 2006. It teaches about rhythmic styles and forms (Sonnets,  the quatrain, couplet, tercet, and French forms such as the Villanelle, Rondeau, Triolet). Your local library might have it.

Also, you might enjoy Your Daily Poem. It's a website with  a new poem every day. The poems are wide-ranging in style from modern free verse to traditional poetry that's in the public domain. The standard is that the poems must be interesting and accessible to ordinary readers (not just literary types). (After you have read it for a while and if you feel your poems would fit with it, here is information on how to submit poems to the site.)

Finally read "A World Short on Masters," a wonderful article that encourages you as a writer to be your own artist and, more, to become a master artist in your chosen genre. I think that means if you're a rhyming poet, be the best rhyming poet you can possibly be. It will make both you and your readers happy.