Back to Class: Poetry Exercises

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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:

Week one–Poetic Lines

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.

Week Two-Abstraction and Image

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.

Post Festival Sale

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So the poetry festival came and went, along with some stormy weather that’s sticking around. It wasn’t a complete waste though, I was able to make a few sales Saturday before the downpour that cleared out the festival. Even one after, my best customer. (Thanks again Gonzo) Sunday I waited out the rain and went late. There wasn’t much of a turnout but I enjoyed the day just hanging out, listening to performances and even won a free raffle. I just have one little issue, more left to sell than I expected. So in honor of my first poetry festival as a vendor and the opening of my online shop, coming soon, I’m having a Post Festival Sale. I threw together some packaged deals in themed bundles.

 

Post Poetry Festival Sale Bundles

Deluxe Festival Bundle-$40

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Includes one of every item I had on sale at the poetry festival.

  • Dante’s Tall tales, short fiction pieces from Devilish Dante’s Domain
  • One copy of both Pocket Poetry books, Drunken Poems and Life & Death
  • “Clouds” painting
  • One of each poetry postcard featuring “The Dream”, “Clouds”, “Enjoy the Ride”, and “Black rose”
  • A top, mirror and buttons featuring poem lines.

Buy Now Button

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Pocketbook Bundle-$15

  • One copy of Life & Death
  • One copy of Drunken Poems
  • 2-1.25″ Buttons
  • 1-3″ Button
  • 1- top
  • 1-mirror


Buy Now Button

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Drunken Poems Bundle-$10

  • One copy of Drunken Poems
  • 2-1.25″ Buttons
  • 1-3″ Button
  • 1- top
  • 1-mirror


Buy Now Button

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Postcard Bundle-$5

  • One of each of my poetry postcards featuring “The Dream”, “Clouds”, “Enjoy the Ride”, and Black rose
  • Button featuring a line from “Enjoy the Ride”


Buy Now Button

Prices do not include shipping & handling fees; additional $3 for Deluxe bundle, all others $2.

Bundle prices are discounted and there’s a limited supply of some items, get them while you can. If you are interested in individual items feel free to contact me by email at lexc13@live.com, individual photos are available in my previous post. I am in the process of setting up a full online store and should have it up and running soon.

Words for Sale at the Poetry Festival

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6th Annual New York Poetry Festival

6th Annual New York Poetry Festival

 

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.

Visit the Poetry Festival website for more info and directions.  You can also follow the Facebook page or on twitter, @nycpofest.

 

 

 

Available for Sale at Poetry Festival

 

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Drunken Poems Pocket book

 

 

 

Cloud Poem painting

Cloud Poem painting

 

 

wooden bookmarks

Wooden bookmarks

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Road So Far

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The Road Ahead

Photo by MysticMoon14 via Flickr

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.

 

Fitting Poetry In Everyday

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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.

Poetry Writing Excercise

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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.

Tonight

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I’ve fallen in love with you

for the night.

Looking into your drunken eyes

for tonight.

Behind my own obstructed eyes

for the night.

I could be with you forever

for tonight.

Embracing you eternally

for the night.

Loving you for who you are

for tonight.

We are as one entity

for the night.

I know you better than any

for tonight.

Only because you’re buying my drinks

for the night.

Inspired by Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love by Oscar Hijuelos

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The Fabulous Mambo King
By Alexis M. Collazo

The Fabulous Mambo King,
Cesar Castillo.
Singing his beautiful boleros.
His machismo enticing women.
All night, every night,
Dancing across the stage.
Swinging his hips to the beats,
The Rumba, the Pachenga,
the Mambo, the Cha Cha Cha.

The Fabulous Mambo King.
Serenading all the ladies.
Miss Vanna Vane on his arm.
Drinks for all on his bill,
Festive songs flowing all night long.
Brother by his side,
With his trumpet playing,
Beautiful Maria of my Soul.
Over and over and over.

The Infamous Mambo King,
Leftover from the old days.
Haunted by ghost of his lost brother.
Memories invading Hotel Splendor,
Recollections of the Mambo U.S.A tour,
Playing on I Love Lucy with Mr. Arnez,
The girls who he wished to have loved.
Luisa, Gloria, Elena, Lydia
Maria, Ana, Margarita, and Delores.

The Infamous Mambo King.
No longer so fabulous.
Loneliness dragging in his bones,
Eating away at his body,
Whiskey eating his brain.
Long gone are the days of the Mambo,
Of the dance halls and fine women.
Old records collect dust forgotten,
While Cesar takes his last drink,
And writes his last words,

Beautiful Maria of my Soul