OctPoWriMo Day 30 – Celebrate
Visit my poetry blog to read more.
OctPoWriMo Day 30 – Celebrate
Visit my poetry blog to read more.
It’s been way too long since a new post, and like forever since any updates to The Road So Far series. By now I have been living in Pennsylvania for over two years. Even after that it still seems so unreal to me. I attempted to dive right in and actually found a job just a month after moving, at a local department store for the holidays. Well it didn’t even last until Thanksgiving. Luckily I had savings and some extra cash due to a retroactive pay raise from my time at the college. So I managed to survive, financially at least. I may have lost my mind somewhere in the house during the winter though.
That’s the hardest part about getting used to living here, there is nothing to do. Even with working full-time now I can go absolutely mad of boredom sitting in the house, and until I start driving I wont have anywhere to go. Even then, it’s not what I’m used to.
Eventually, that first winter passed and I got my butt out of the house and moving. I started going on long walks and passed a temp agency with a posting about a clerical job. I ended up picking up a couple of hours a work in the temp agency office. Due to my impeccable my timing, just as the hours dwindled down, I started working at the local public library. I worked part-time until the end of the year when a fulltime slot opened up.
Things are good at the library, although there is a lot of down time and it’s easy to get bored. I also was disappointed in the lack of writing programs since before I started the job. So of course killing two birds with one stone I proposed holding a writing workshop. This past June I held my first one and have continued monthly since. I can’t believe I get to lead my own workshop. Which I has gone a long way to help improve my motivation and mood in regards to writing. It’s only once a month and it’s rocky some meetings but it’s something I needed pretty badly.
I’ve been really struggling to get into a regular writing routine and finish up some old projects. I had a little success despite my lack of motivation, for last year’s OctPoWriMo I completed more poems than previous years. So far this year I missed a couple of days but am still doing pretty well. Last year’s attempt at NaNoWriMo, on the other hand was plain sad. I guess the time I would and should have spent writing was filled up instead with reading and–more than I care to admit–Netflix binging.
I think sometimes it’s what needed. A little bit of time, especially after a major change, to be easy on ourselves and figure out a new plan. I’ve been really thinking about my situation, my writing, the future and where the hell I go from here. Plus all the reading has made me so much smarter and well informed. (lol maybe) Anyway I think I might just be starting to pull it all together. In addition to my writing workshop, I will be hosting a program for NaNoWriMo. That should give me just that extra bit of motivation I need. I am really hoping to meet the 50,000 word goal and I think I can do it this year.
Generally, things seem to have turned around the past couple of months. I feel more motivated and have been working at ways to squeeze in small burst of writing on my downtime at work, lunch breaks and whenever possible. I scaled back the newsletter from monthly to quarterly; with the small amount of subscribers the amount of time and effort needed monthly just wasn’t worth it. I have ideas of how to build my list, speaking of that you can sign up here to receive the newsletters if you haven’t already.
I’ve been posting this years OctPoWriMo poems to Lex Poetry. Since I’m spending time on poetry, I’m working again on a collection I’d like to publish. Hoping to have a manuscript, at least in rough draft form by the end of the year. I know that’ll be here sooner than I think, but I’m working at it.
I find it really sad that poetry isn’t more widely read. It was never really that popular among the general public, but it’s gotten worse over the years. Now I feel like the only people that read poetry are other poets. There are a number of reasons, but mainly I think it’s because poetry and poets are often is associated with a high level of pretentiousness. However, there are ways that poetry can be written and published in ways that are creative, fun and accessible. The following are a few examples I’ve found that I think might appeal to a wider audience.
Words by Christoph Paul, Art by Joel Amat Güell
I discovered this gem at last years Brooklyn Poetry Festival. The title really just says it all. A book of poems inspired by the horror film genre. It includes a wide variety of films including some of my favorites. As with the movies themselves some are humorous, dark, and thought provoking. It includes along side the poems illustrations. I have to admit I’m not familiar with all of the titles. But that’s a bonus since now I have a bunch of new movies I’ll have to see. I really think this is the perfect book for anybody that’s a fan of both horror movies and poetry, but could be quite a fun read for horror fans.
by Bianca Stone
I’m not even sure where or how I ended up reading about Bianca Stone, the article was about an upcoming book. Always interesting in new poetry I thought it’d be a good idea to check out her previous work before investing in the new one. Curious about the idea of a poetry comic, I figured I’d give it a try. One of the things I love about poetry is the imagery that it creates so why not combine it with actual images.
The artwork is very simple and raw. In fact the whole book has a draft like quality to it. Both the poetry and the comics are strange. The illustrations don’t always seem to be related to the accompanying text. In general the whole process of reading the book is very disorienting. But I guess that’s the beauty of it.
By Lita Judge
The minute I saw this book I was intrigued. Not only do I think she is well deserving of the recognition and should be more widely celebrated, but also the concept is interesting. It’s an illustrated novel in verse about Mary Shelley’s life. It starts with narration from the monster itself, stating the idea that some people didn’t believe a teenage girl could write the book. (It’s accepted that he edited and assisted in it’s writing but some theorize she was not the actual author at all.) Switching to the voice of Mary Shelley it begins with her father sending her away to live with friends in Scotland. While I knew of her relationship with Percy Shelly and the mythos of the creation of Frankenstein, I learned a lot more specific details. One thing I thought was interesting was the idea that it took as much time to write the book as a woman carries a child, nine months. Though coincidental it related to the central theme of the novel, creating life. Continuing through to the end of her life the book concludes with the monster speaking again, taking us full circle.
Obviously I’m familiar with the concept of narrative poetry. Just like many others I was forced to study Homer’s epics in various literature classes over the years. I’ve also attempted and failed several times to tackle Dante’s Divine Comedy. However, the modern verse novel doesn’t seem to have the same notoriety. In fact it wasn’t until recently that I even knew they existed, much less read any. Now I can’t seem to get enough of them.
The most interesting thing I found looking into the genre is that it appears to be a growing trend in young adult literature. In fact, that’s where my obsession began. I happened to pick up a used copy of Ellen Hopkins Crank. When I bought the book I had no idea that it was actually targeted towards teens. I was a bit surprised because of the very adult topics and it’s graphic depictions. It tells the story of a young girl’s addiction to crystal meth. However, being written from a teenagers point of view and the simplistic style of the poetry, I can see how it appeals to younger readers. Hopkins has published several more verse novels including sequels to Crank. All targeted at teens, they take on difficult subjects such as sex trafficking, drug addiction and mental illness. Her simplistic poetry style makes it a pretty easy read.
The next book I enjoyed was Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds. Another YA book highlighting a difficult issue that can face teens The main character Will is dealing with the grief of his brother’s violent death. The narrative takes place as he descends the elevator of his apartment building on his way to get revenge. On each floor he meets somebody that was part of the cycle of violence that led to his brothers death. The story is incredibly gripping, and I’m fairly certain I finished it in one day.
I promise this is the last YA book. Sister Slam and The Poetic Motormouth Road Trip by Linda Oatman-High was actually my least favorite so far. It definitely felt more like a book intended for a younger audience. It’s a lot lighter in tone and theme. At first I wasn’t sure I would like it at all. It seemed very juvenile, in style and content. It’s a bit silly but that ended up making it a pretty fun read. In it we meet two recent high school graduates who dream of becoming famous slam poets. Their road trip begins with a poetry slam contest in New Jersey and the adventure continues to New York City. The story itself is ridiculous but the rhythm and rhymes really pulled me in.
My latest read was one of the few adult verse novels I could find available at the my library, The Golden Gate by Vikram Seth. Just looking at the first page I realized this was going to be very different. The YA authors played around with form and style. And for the most part, excluding Sister Slam, were written in free verse. Golden Gate on the other hand is written in a consistent form of sonnets in iambic tetrameter with a set rhyme scheme. It makes it no less enjoyable to read, but due to it’s style and much longer length it definitely not a quick read. I’ve rather been enjoying the slower pace of action. The novel mainly revolves around John and Liz, a couple who met through a personal ad. The narrative then follows a eclectic group of characters connected to the couple.
I’d love to hear back about your opinions on verse novels. I will be on the lookout for new reads in the genre. Actually I already have my next one picked out Sharp Teeth by Toby Barlow. It’s about a pack of werewolves in LA, a supernatural horror verse novel. Now that sounds interesting. Leave a comment with your thoughts or any recommendations.
With all the different writing classes I’ve taken over the years, I’ve somehow never taken one on poetry. Which is interesting because my love of writing started with poetry. I very quickly realized it was pretty bad though. In my humble opinion I’ve improved a lot, mainly through reading more poetry and a few instructional texts. I still feel that some more instruction and education on the craft could definitely help me. So I enrolled, for free of course in Sharpened Visions: A Poetry Workshop, an online course conducted by California Institute of Arts.
I’m up to the third week and so far it’s really gone down to the basics. Even with the instructional texts I’ve used in the past, I skipped over a lot of the beginning stuff. I skimmed over a lot of it and skipped almost, if not all the exercises, to get to the parts I thought were really interesting. Participating in this course, I’m more committed to actually putting in the work, which means doing all the exercises even if they seem juvenile. Here’s a couple I’ve completed so far:
This exercise was for the lessons on lines. The following text was presented in a block of text I had to add in my own line breaks.
tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, creeps in this petty pace
from day to day, to the last syllable of recorded time;
and all our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death.
out, out, brief candle! life’s but a walking shadow,
a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage
and then is heard no more: it is a tale told by an idiot,
full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.
The piece is an excerpt from Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Check it out, my version made the lines just a bit longer.
For this exercise we were supposed write a poem describing an object. The instructions said to be as literal and vivid as possible, and not to use any figures of speech. Not sure how vivid my image is but I like it. I’ll likely keep working it and who knows where it might end up.
Clear glass heavy in my hand.
Filled with dark liquid and ice
popping ever so often
as the whiskey melts it down.
A sip, cold
goes down with a slight burn.
I’ve been looking for ways to get my writing into the hands of readers. The New York City Poetry Festival sounded perfect, so I will be there as a vendor. I’ll be selling small pocketbooks of poetry, postcards, handmade bookmarks, buttons, etc. (Most items are still in production, will update with pictures as they become available.)
It takes place the last weekend of the month, July 30th & 31st, on Governors Island. I can’t wait and hope to see you all there too.
They say you can’t know where you’re going without knowing where you came from, or something like that. Not a fan of cliches but it fits the theme of this series of posts. As I feel the progress in my writing career has stalled out, taking a look at how far I’ve come might help. I feel no closer to my goals than I did when I first began to envision a future as a writer. Reflecting on how I got to this point and the work that I’ve put in may just reveal how far I’ve actually come. Hopefully, it will also encourage me to keep putting in the work.
I’ve always been fascinated with writing, asking my parents what every sign we drove past said. I learned to read early, about three years old. Once able to I proudly read every sign out loud to anybody that would listen, or not in most cases. One of the fondest memories of my childhood were weekly trips to the library with my mother. I’d go through books, reading the first page to decide on my book for the week. One of my favorite show’s as a kid was Reading Rainbow. I loved books, reading and writing. Once in school, I loved English class and it just encouraged my voracious reading appetite as I grew.
I can’t really say that I’ve always wanted to be a writer, because even as a child it was more of a daydream. I don’t remember ever thinking of it as a real possibility. I didn’t put much thought into what would be required to achieve the status of published writer. I didn’t even realize how many different ways you could make a living writing. The idea of being a famous writer was simply a fantasy. The kind of thing little kids think up and you continue to fantasize about as you get older. It felt similar to the dream of being a famous singer. Something to this day I still dream about as an alternative life that might be cool, though I doubt I’ll be starting a singing career anytime soon. I discovered in middle school I have terrible stage fright and am not that good of a singer.
But writing was something I could do and it didn’t matter if I was good. I still have stories I wrote in elementary school and notebooks of horrid heart wrenching poetry. I wasn’t very sure about letting others read the things I wrote. I wrote mainly because I enjoyed it. It felt therapeutic, a way to get out all the emotions from childish drama. It was something I thought of as a hobby, to pursue while I worked away at a job I tolerated. Even in adolescence, I was much too practical to think that I could make a living off writing. I got over the fear of showing my work to others, and submitted work for publication. I thought it was always worth a shot and might be cool if I did get some work published. But it still never really occurred to me to make it a career.
I never really pursued it out of fear. There was the fear of rejection and failure. I was also afraid to venture into the world of publishing, it seemed so foreign and unknown to me. I had no idea where to start even if I wanted to pursue it. My biggest fear however was of losing my love for writing. I thought that if I turned the thing I loved so much into my job, I might not love it so much anymore. I liked writing because it was for me. I didn’t have to do it. There were no deadlines, no directives, no guidelines, and it wasn’t an obligation. My biggest fear was that once it became an obligation, something I had to do to survive, I would ruin the one thing that I loved doing.
Until a couple of years ago, I still never thought of pursuing writing as a full-time career. Even now I question myself and am unsure of my future plans. I’ve overcome most of my fears, but I still worry about losing my passion for writing. I have multiple back up plans and am not ready to fully commit to writing full-time. I have realized though that if I don’t at least try I’ll never know.
For the past year or so I have wanted to get back into writing poetry. However, it’s been a while and I feel kind of rusty. I figured the best way to get back into the flow would be to read more poetry. In high school I took a great deal of interest in poetry reading and writing, but eventually my excitement for poetry faded. I decided to move on to other types of writing and never seemed to find my way back. Other than one or two, I can’t really name poets that I like, inspire me, or that I want to aspire to. To get myself going, I asked around members of online groups for others favorite poets, especially contemporary ones. Armed with a list I hit up the library checking out more than I could carry. I resolved to read at least a couple of poems everyday. However, it was a task I found in reality was just not happening.
I realize now that in the past I had lots of free time on my hands. At lunch during high school, I would frequently visit a neighborhood bookstore buying anthologies of poetry for a dollar or two. I’d spend the rest of my break sitting around reading them. Then I had days where I would just wander around the city finding hidden secluded places to read. I’m pretty sure those days ended right after high school granWith all the demands on my time now I can’t even remember to pick up a book of poetry most days. Plus the fast pace of life and trying to keep up with several commitments at once I feel like I don’t have time for it either. I’ve always had this perception of poetry reading as a leisurely activity that needs to be done with no distractions. But my world will always be filled with distractions and I’m not going to be living the life of leisure anytime soon.
Luckily, I think I found a way to get past all of this and get in poetry everyday. I signed up for daily poem emails, one from the Poetry Foundation and the other Poetry.org. Now everyday without thinking about it I am reminded to stop for a minute and read a poem. It may be rushed some days, a quick scan as I clean out my inbox for the day, but at least it’s in there. Usually I’ll save the ones I like in a folder, hopefully to go over again later. One of the best parts of the emails is finding writers that I may have never thought to read or even heard of. Most of my adult life now I’ve let poetry take a backseat to higher priority obligations, but it’s something that always comes back to mind as something I should have always put more effort into. I know poetry may never be a profitable endeavor but that has never been the purpose of it. I just enjoyed it.
On my usual pursuit of free events I found another one from my new favorite, Gotham Writers Workshops. As part of their fall open house, last night I attended a one hour poetry class. Part of the class called for a writing exercise, to write about the world around an object, person, etc., basically describing it without actually naming it. Here’s what I came up with:
Day in Day out ripping away at my scalp
Hiding in the darkness to calm the migraines
Frustration building as nothing gets better
Yet here I come back for comfort and security
Day in Day out knowing you’re not going anywhere
So what do you think? I’m impressed with myself especially since I haven’t done much poetry writing in a long time. It actually came to me pretty quickly and easily. Well okay I did go back and edit some. (I had extra time) Even so the more important thing is I got writing and it was actually a really fun class. Carter, our instructor, was probably the only teacher that made poetry actually sound as fun as it should be. He was also funny and entertaining enough to make me think twice about signing up for the course. Then I remembered I don’t have money. Well there’s always another time, I hope.