All posts by Constance

This is the End, My Friend

Make that ending count!

This is the End, My Friend: How to not get a poem rejection

I realize poets don’t get much feedback on their rejections. I wanted to address some common problems we see that can get your poem rejected from our slush. The biggest thing we are seeing is an ending that just falls flat. The poem is chugging along with some good imagery and turns of phrase, and then the end goes to the easy conclusion. It wants to wrap everything up with a pretty bow.

We ask that you take the bow and stuff it in the trash. Shred it into confetti. We want an ending that leaves us thinking. That leaves us with a feeling there is more to the poem than is being said here. That makes us want to read it all over again. Not to say we should have to spend a lot of time puzzling out the ending. No one wants that. It’s a balancing act.

Perhaps your poem should have stopped a stanza before the end. We see a lot of this. There is a nice turn of phrase or image that would be a perfect end to the poem, but in the rush to get to a conclusion, any conclusion, it’s overlooked. Examine your poem carefully. What’s been said before? Do you have a new way of saying it? Does your ending border on cliché? If it’s an elegy, does it end on the maudlin?

Where to stop when writing a poem is tough. Always go back to asking, what do I want the reader to take away from this poem? What is going to be the reader’s last impression? Sometimes the first line would better serve as a last line. I know, I know, then you have to come up with another kick ass first line. You can do it. It’s what got you excited about the poem in the first place. Try and recapture that feeling at the end of the poem. Because if you aren’t excited about your final words, the reader isn’t going to be either. Flex those poetry muscles. End strong.

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Book Review: Daphne and her Discontents

Book Review

Daphne and her Discontents by Jane Rosenberg LaForge

Published by Ravenna Press 2017

Jane Rosenberg LaForge’s new book Daphne and her Discontents delves into Greek mythology to explore the trials of Daphne and her relationship to LaForge’s own life. One of the first poems in the book, Family Business, chronicles LaForge’s childhood as part of a family of Jews that sells Christmas trees during the holiday season, and their search to avoid falling into the circumstances of their less fortunate neighbors. I was drawn into what it felt like to be an outcast in a season that steamrolls every religion that isn’t Christian.

Oh, how my mother loved Christmas . . . God how I hated it, because I hated being left out. (page 3)

In the following poems, LaForge goes on to explain the difficulties of being “a compliant daughter(page  6). One who embraces her family’s past. One whose mother resembles a tree, whose branches long to curl around and protect her family from unknown threats. As LaForge lists her faults before the gods, the reader feels LaForge’s resemblance to her mother. Both long for the rootedness of trees while at the same time plotting their escape from circumstances. Gods are flawed beings like her father, holding out and withdrawing affection with impunity, as a training tool.

“. . . the only thing I blame him for is confusing the myths of stones and trees, and what fathers and gods do with their children.” (page 37)

A parent’s lessons are repeated generationally, unable to transform as Daphne transformed to escape her fate. LaForge also embraces the past through her children, as in her poem Explaining the Holocaust to My Daughter (page 64). How do you explain the unexplainable? With gentleness. Despite it all, children understand.

Trees move through LaForge’s poems like wind through the branches. Trees and books become the method of transformation away from the past. In one poem she states, “I am Daphne because I cannot peel myself open(page 68), when in fact the whole book is the peeling away of layers, of the way family influences our innermost thoughts, the push-pull of Christianity against Judaism, the sense of place as a grounding mechanism, and the self-imposed fragility of Daphne despite her strong roots. In the final poem, Burnt by the sun god, LaForge laments; When the Dutch ruled the world, and the best parts of Russian novels had to be in French, my people were a hitch above mongrel. . . (page 74). Despite this, the love LaForge has for her family shines through.

I enjoyed reading Daphne and her Discontents, pausing to savor LaForge’s deft phrases and raw honesty. The poems wend their way through family and gods with equal intensity. I highly recommend this book.

Constance Brewer, Editor, Gyroscope Review

 

Daphne and her Discontents

by Jane Rosenberg LaForge

Published by Ravenna Press 2017

$11.95

Link to book

Web site, jane-rosenberg-laforge.com,

Author page on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/Jane-Rosenberg-Laforge-Author-269805766510206/

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Villanelle – A Racy Import With An Interesting Form

If you’re a sucker for poetic homework, expand your horizons by working on a villanelle.

A villanelle is only 19 lines long, but has a strict form. The lines can be of any length, contain five tercets and a quatrain in the last stanza. The rhyme scheme is aba with the same end-rhyme for every 1st and last line of each tercet and the final two lines of the quatrain. You must repeat two of the lines, the first line of the 1st stanza is repeated as the last line of the 2nd and the 4th stanzas and as the second-to-last line in the concluding quatrain. The 3rd line of the 1st stanza is repeated as the last line of the 3rd and the 5th stanzas, and as the last line in the concluding quatrain.

Got that? Good.

(You know the most famous of the villanelles. Think eccentric Welshman.) Remember, it’s only aba in rhyme scheme, arranged as follows:

A1
b
A2

a
b
A1

a
b
A2

a
b
A1

a
b
A2

a
b
A1
A2

The first five lines are the tercets (3 tercets x 5 lines = 15) and the last line is the quatrain (4 lines + 15  lines  = 19 lines). The last two lines of the poem make a rhymed couplet. It’s not as stodgy as it sounds, you can use enjambment to break up the lines, you can modify the rhymes slightly for effect, and you can bend the rules to suit your style. So why even bother if there are so many rules to the form? Because it’s like scales in music. Working within the constraints is sometimes more freeing than free verse.

Finding the right combination of lines that doesn’t sound, well, stupid when repeated is a challenge. Not to mention that it’s damn near impossible to create a narrative poem within a villanelle. So to keep yourself from getting stuck in a ditch and writing only one thing, play with this and other forms, and thank the French, who gave us not only the villanelle, but mayonnaise and the gyroscope.

(The most famous example? Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night by Dylan Thomas. Google it.)

The Waking
— Theodore Roethke

I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.
I learn by going where I have to go.

We think by feeling. What is there to know?
I hear my being dance from ear to ear.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Of those so close beside me, which are you?
God bless the Ground! I shall walk softly there,
And learn by going where I have to go.

Light takes the Tree; but who can tell us how?
The lowly worm climbs up a winding stair;
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Great Nature has another thing to do
To you and me; so take the lively air,
And, lovely, learn by going where to go.

This shaking keeps me steady. I should know.
What falls away is always. And is near.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I learn by going where I have to go.

 

 

Essay previously published by Constance Brewer

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The Underground is Coming Up!

Here it is halfway through October and I’m still wondering where summer went. This year seems to have gone swiftly. But one thing Gyroscope Review is doing slowly is adding more options for our readers. Months ago, we were proud to roll out a print edition for those of you that prefer the hands on experience. It involves extra time to create, but we think the end result is worth it.

This month we are also proud of our newest accomplishment. We now have a Kindle edition available for those of you that prefer an electronic version. I know I’m getting overwhelmed by books at my house, and have turned to electronic novels as a way of combating that. Sometimes the Kindle edition formatting leaves much to be desired, but it seems to have worked nicely for Gyroscope Review. Poems may take up two pages where in the print edition it’s only one, but that’s minor in the grand scheme of things. The print edition is in a large format at 8.5 in by 11 in. As always, the PDF version is available for computer, tablet and phone.

We are planning further changes in the upcoming months, including an overhaul of the website to bring you the freshest look and features. Gyroscope Review has come a long way from its humble beginnings, and we are excited about that. We are open to readers’ suggestions. Hit us up on Facebook or Twitter and let us know your thoughts. A future poll is possible. Technology is a wonderful tool.

Meanwhile, we’d like our submitting poets to focus on the upcoming Winter issue. If you’ve got any poems about the ‘underground’, (a loose interpretation) send them our way. Also in our Winter issue we will be trying something different. See if you can spot the change. Hope to read your work soon.

Poetry is not Dead!

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