Archive for the ‘ Poetry ’ Category

Video: Spring

Friday, June 27th, 2014

My third of three poems read for the Lansdowne Public Library. There are a couple audio problems with it, but hopefully you can make it out. Factoid: This poem mirrors the form of a poem I wrote 20-some years ago called “Autumn.”



Video: Floyd the Monkey Baker

Friday, June 27th, 2014

I was so busy during April that I never got around to sharing the videos of three poems I read for the Lansdowne Public Library. Here’s a fun children’s poem.

Poems Published in FIVE

Friday, January 24th, 2014

The new issue of FIVE Poetry Magazine features five of my poems about the theme of Spring. These poems span my life events from young romance to pregnancy at age 39, all reflecting on the tumult and promise of the season. I actually get a portion of the proceeds from the sale of this issue, so please share!

FIVE Poetry Magazine Vol. 1 No. 7

Ten More Tips for Poets

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013

Poetry in ink with spatter

Last week I shared my take on an old handout that I found my filing cabinet titled “Facts Every Poet Should Know.” I promised that at a later time I would share my own thoughts on what poets should now, so here is my list.

1) Be wary of scam artists. Let’s face it, there are possibly millions of poet in the world, and many people who would like to take advantage of them. The most important guideline to keep in mind is that, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Be wary of poetry anthology sites that publish any poem, provided the poets will pony up $50 or more to pre-order a copy. Be wary of self-proclaimed “agents” who request upfront fees just to review your work or offer writing advice. Agents earn their money from a commission on sales and should not request a dime until they’ve made a sale. Be wary of companies preying on self-publishing authors with excessive prices for editing, book preparation and marketing services. To weed out the worst offenders in the above categories, visit Preditors & Editors as well as WinningWriters.com.

2) Read extensively. Just like it’s important for a musician to listen to music or for an artist to study works of art, it’s essential that poets read poetry. Read not just poetry but other sorts of writing, as well, because the more you expose yourself to, the more you learn about what works and what you’d like to emulate.

3) Pay attention to line breaks. Unless you are writing in a form which dictates when a line will end, you should use line breaks to direct the reader’s attention. Consider the end of a line to be a very short pause, like half a comma, as the eye drops down to the next line. While it is tempting to break lines solely for visual reasons (such as making each line roughly the same length) or to break according to grammatical phrases, I’d encourage you to read your poems aloud and listen to exactly what the line breaks do to the poem. You may find that changing line breaks can turn a drab poem into a fab poem.

4) Know your markets. Before you submit any work to a publication, read a sample issue or two. If the magazine frequently publishes theme issues, drop a quick, professional e-mail to the editor to ask about the upcoming themes. That way you can send your work that has the best chance of being accepted by that publication.

5) Follow the rules, and then break them. If you are writing a form poem, remember to use what Shakespeare called a “prosp’rous departure from form.” This meant he would throw in a couple extra syllables or skip a rhyme if it added to the piece’s impact. If you’re writing in form, stick to the form as much as possible, but look for ways to change it up, because  that can often raise a poem above the mere adherence to form and into true artistry.

6) Kill your babies. Of course, I don’t literally mean to harm your offspring, but you need to keep an open mind when it comes to revising your poem, even if that means cutting a line you love. For the sake of the poem, you might find  a certain line doesn’t belong, or actually detracts from the rest of the poem. But take heart: you can always keep an “outcasts” file where you stick phrases and lines cut from earlier works. I once used such an orphan as the title for another poem, solving two problems.

7) Write what is hardest to say. This was particularly good advice I learned from my grad school instructors. Often we dance around the truth, or we take two or three stanzas to get to the meat of what it is that we really want to say. That’s fine for a first draft, but when you revise, be prepared to cut those intro paragraphs in order to get to the real emotional heart of your poem.

In the same vein, many poets stop poems before they truly reach what they need to write about. In the revision process, it can be helpful to push yourself further and see where that takes you.

8 ) Avoid clichés. This is true for any writing, but for some reason it tends to come up more often in poetry. Perhaps that is because most poets know to avoid using the hackneyed phrases themselves, but they still fall back on overused ideas and phrases. If something sounds too familiar, change it.

9) Nothing is too small or too large to write about. You can find inspiration anywhere, so don’t sit around waiting for the “big idea” to hit you. Take a walk around the neighborhood and make note of what you see. What are your neighbors doing? What does the sky look like? What thoughts emerge, based on what you see? Some of my best ideas come to me while I’m on the move.

10) Be bold. Take chances. Learn. Stretch yourself. Be it subject matter or form, be willing to try new things and see where it leads you.


I would be happy to hear anybody’s thoughts on this list, as well as suggestions for other things that poets need to know. Did I leave anything out?

4 Comments

Category Poetry / Tags: Tags: , , /

Social Networks : Technorati, Stumble it!, Digg, delicious, Yahoo, reddit, Blogmarks, Google, Magnolia.

Fantastic Poetry

Sunday, November 11th, 2012

I’m scheduled to speak on the Philcon “Fantastic Poetry” panel. Here are some of the poets and resources I hope to mention.

A friend of mine recommended “If I Should Have a Daughter” by spoken word poet Sarah Kay. In that YouTube video, she first recites the roughly 4-minute poem, which draws on images such as Superman and science, and then talks about her career in poetry and her work with young people. Strictly speaking, her work is not firmly in the realm of fantasy, but I recommend going to Sarah Kay’s site and reading “Peacocks,” a short short that has mythic overtones.

I found a wonderful resource in the site Poems of the Fantastic and the Macabre, which traces the history of the fantastic poems from Medieval times to the Modern era.

If you’d like to hear work performed by one of the best-known fantastic poets, Edgar Allan Poe, consider going to the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire’s “Poe Evermore” performances, held annually in November.

The site Fantastic Poems not only includes some entertaining poetry by Adam Rulli-Gibbs but also provides his definiton of fantastic poetry: “Science fiction or fantasy poetry, as each of the above, should, whatever appears within it, be about people and their perceptions. So you will find poems about love, goals, good vs evil, wonder, Christmas, frustration, exploitation, preconceptions and the rest.”

If you’d like a list of poets to check out, Wikipedia’s Speculative Poetry article has a substantial list of speculative poets.

The Poetry Foundation site is a great resource. If you go to the Mythology and Folklore category, there is a sampling of fantastic poems. Some even are accompanied by audio recordings.

The Science Fiction Poetry Association provides both a guide to speculative poetry (with examples from back issues) as well as benefits for speculative poets.

If you want to either read or submit fantastic poetry, you can search the guide to magazines offered by the Speculative Literature Foundation.

My fellow panelist, Catherynne M. Valente, who is herself a respected speculative poet, suggested seeking out the following.

Making a Place for Poetry as a Mom

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

I often tell people that I founded Wild Violet because a poetry instructor had once inspired me to “make a place for poetry in the world.” As poets, he told us, we had to do more than simply submit our work to literary magazines. Instead, it was our role to help create make poetry more integral to society. That is part of why I created an online literary quarterly: because I wanted it to be more accessible to readers.

Now that I’m a mom, I’ve got a new goal. I want to introduce my son to poetry and show him how beautiful and, yes, fun it can be. Before he was even born, one of my oldest friends gave me “A Family of Poems: My Favorite Poetry for Children,” a collection edited by Caroline Kennedy.

While he was a newborn, I read anything to him, just so he could hear language. That book was one of the first things I read to him. It has been shelved for a little while, since he has been hard on his board books and it is a beautiful, hardback edition. Yet, he is now gentle enough with paper pages that I can read to him from it without fearing that he would suddenly hit the page and tear it.

This same friend has also given me numerous other poetry books, many of them retired from the library where she worked until recently. I also took a book from our local library lately, “The Usborne Book of Poems for Little Children.” It’s got colorful illustrations and simple poems that are better geared towards a child his age.

I’m also probably going to buy for him “The Random House Book of Poetry for Children,” edited by Jack Prelutsky, which I just purchased for my 7-year-old nephew’s birthday.

At this point, my 20-month-old son is just beginning to speak and to recognize some letters. But I’m hoping that, by introducing him to poetry early, I will help to make a place for poetry in his life.

What poetry books would you recommend for young children? (Or, indeed, for adults?)

No Comments

Category Poetry / Tags: Tags: , , /

Social Networks : Technorati, Stumble it!, Digg, delicious, Yahoo, reddit, Blogmarks, Google, Magnolia.

How to Select Poems for a Reading

Saturday, January 7th, 2012

When I gave my first poetry reading, I was in grad school. This was, astonishingly, roughly 15 years ago now. Although it was my first time at the podium, I’d attended many poetry readings and picked up some public speaking skills both through the undergrad student radio station and from holding leadership positions in various clubs. Using what I learned, I selected a group of poems that went over very well with my audience, and I avoided some of the pitfalls I’d been strike other readers.

With that in mind, here are some quick Dos and Don’ts:

  • DO choose a variety of poems that showcase your work, alternating between different types. I like to think of a poetry reading as a spoken mix CD: I choose pieces that are more “upbeat” to follow pieces which are more “mellow.” Remember that even poetry audiences like to laugh.
  • DON’T choose poems that take an excessive amount of explanation in order to enjoy them. Make the most of your limited time by keeping your explanations simple.
  • DON’T read poems that are difficult to parse from one reading alone. Listeners cannot go back and read something over again.
  • DO read poems that make use of vivid language, clear imagery, and striking word use. They tend to go over best with an audience.
  • DO read your poems aloud ahead of time, to get comfortable with them and to make sure they will work well as “read aloud” poems.
  • DO read poems directly out of any chapbook or book you might have published. It may encourage listeners to seek out those books following your reading.
  • DO bring some alternatives with you, in case you change your mind. If you’re reading on a program with other poets and writers, you might be inspired by what the other readers are doing to work in a poem that fits. Or you might decide to pull a poem that’s too similar to something another poet read.
  • DO stay close to your allotted time limit. It’s better to leave them wanting more than to overstay your welcome.
  • DON’T over-think things. It’s natural to be a little nervous (I always am), but remember that the crowd voluntarily came out to hear poetry and, generally speaking, will work with you.

Following such rules, I have successfully read for a wide variety of audiences. Since poets and writers seldom get to meet their audiences, it’s a great opportunity to be seen and to see how an audience responds.

    Kindle Version of Poetry Chapbook

    Tuesday, December 28th, 2010

    Got a new Kindle for the holidays? Check out the newly-released Kindle version of my poetry chapbook, Picturebook of the Martyrs.

    We’re going to work on a Kindle version of my essays book, The Art of Life, but that will take a little longer to prepare. In the meantime, the print version is still available from my Createspace store. Don’t forget, the $5 discount is available until the end of this month. Use this code upon ordering: 3UBEBLQH

    Poetry Ink Highlights

    Saturday, May 1st, 2010

    I’ve had a busy couple of weeks, but I’d like to give a brief update on the 14th Annual Poetry Ink event, held April 11 at the Moonstone Arts Center. Each participating poet got to read for 2 minutes, which gave me time for four short poems. They were well-received: I enjoyed seeing all the smiling faces from my place on the stage.

    I didn’t find out until after the event that it has been webcast live. If the sound is archived, I’ll share the link here once I find it.

    Finally, a shout-out to some of my favorites from the event: Dave Worrell, Kimmika Williams-Witherspoon, John Timpane, Jeanne Sutton, Amy Small-McKinney, Joe Roarty, Lili Bita, and Elijah Pringle. We had to leave about halfway through the all-day event, or I’m sure I would have come away with a longer list of great poets.

    Top of page