Category Archives: writing process

Et Tu, Scriptor?

Et Tu, Scriptor?

Did you know that March 15 has another important meaning, besides it being the day Julius Caesar was assassinated in Rome in 44 BC? The Romans also observed this day as a deadline for settling debts.

It’s a good time for writers to settle their debts also. Especially the ones they have with themselves. I know, I know, you’ve been meaning to submit those poems to various markets, but . . . the weather was nice so you went outside, laundry needed to be done, or there was chocolate at the grocery store you just couldn’t live without. I’m sure procrastination stretches all the way back to our caveman ancestors, when Urgh put off gathering wood that day and had to sit in a cave jumping at the rustling noises in the pitch black night.

As writers we find all kinds of ways to avoid doing what we need to do when it comes to our poetry. We fear rejection, and some fear success. I’m here to pester you. Do not be like Julius Caesar and ignore the warnings deep inside. You can procrastinate yourself out of another year of submitting. Take a deep breath, and circle today on your calendar. Then go into your favorite submissions guide and find some places to submit. Circle them on your calendar. Don’t set the dates too far out. The farther away they are, the easier to ignore them.

Pick the day when you are going to sit down, read your poems, edit your best poems, read submissions guidelines, then submit your best poems. Editors love to see new work. We live for the day when we click on a waiting poem in the slush and are just wowed. It’s what keeps us going, the chance to be the first to spot a gem. That could be you. Settle that debt with yourself, silence the little voice that says you can’t. You can. You will. You must.

When someone tells you your work is good, submit. When you think your poem is ready, submit. When you’ve sculpted your magnum opus, submit. It’s the best way to move forward. Your poems are the Julius Caesars of the world. Get out your assassination knives, carve that poetry into a bloody beauty. We’ll be looking for it in the slush pile when Gyroscope Review reopens for summer submissions on April 1.

 

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Wild Places for Wild Poets

Today is the anniversary of the creation of Yellowstone National Park. Established on March 1, 1872, Yellowstone was the first national park in the world, a place set aside as a public park…for the benefit and enjoyment of the people (wording from The Yellowstone National Park Protection Act).

In thinking about this place, a place I visited both as child and adult, I remember the way Yellowstone grabbed me by both shoulders with its magnificence. Mountains. Gorges. Rivers. Elk. Bears. Moose. Geysers. Eagles. Bison. Lodgepole pines. I remember taking pictures, but found it difficult to capture what I saw. So much was missing from those photos – the smells, the sounds, the feel of the air. The best they could do was offer a nudge to go there in person, see what the place evoked, and let it reach a person’s heart.

Yellowstone, and other wild places I’ve visited, show up in my poetry. Experiences hiking and lingering along a stream, watching Old Faithful shoot out a violent column of steam, or coming upon a moose with her calf are all images ripe for use. And I’ve learned that, for me, the need to unplug and go where I intentionally disconnect from social media is an absolute necessity to keep my poetry skills sharp. That’s when I observe without making comment, and when I take things in without someone else’s comments popping up in front of me.

And I’ve learned from talking with my poetry colleagues that they, too, value the way time in a wild place informs their work, shifts their perspective, makes daily stresses fall away to make room for the creative process. Wild places are the antidote we all need when we can’t take in one more bit of news.

So today, Yellowstone’s birthday, is a perfect day to head out wearing your hiking shoes, try your hand at poetry that honors wild places. A national park is a great place to start, but if you don’t live near one, find another wild place. A state park, a wildlife reserve, a path along a river that cuts through your town. Any green space set aside for the people. Poetry, too, is there for the people. Bringing the wild and the poet together is a perfect match.

One more thing. If you’re interested in poetry specifically related to national parks, the Academy of American Poets commissioned 50 poets to write poems about national parks in all 50 states to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service in 2016. You can see the list of 50 poems HERE.

Yellowstone River. Image courtesy of Pixabay.com.
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About Poetry Resources

Last week on our Instagram account (@gyroscopereview), we ran a series of helpful resource books for poets that people seemed to like quite a lot. We’ve also noticed that writers love blogs that publish interviews with editors – we see them shared around Facebook all the time. Facebook, by the way, offers multiple groups that share and support writers. So, we thought it might be time to run an article that brings a few of these resources together in one place.

We’ll start with the list of poetry resource books we ran on Instagram. Here they are:

Ordinary Genius by Kim Addonizio

the poetry dictionary by John Drury

The Making of a Poem: A Norton Anthology of Poetic Forms by Mark Strand and Eavan Boland

The Poetry Home Repair Manual by Ted Kooser

A Poetry Handbook by Mary Oliver

There are many, many other resources, of course; A Poet’s Glossary by Edward Hirsch comes to mind, a comprehensive volume of poetic forms and terms. There are resources like The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron that, while not specifically for poets, pushes writers and artists of all sorts to rethink their creative work. Find what works for you, for your lifestyle and learning style.

Next, let’s talk about blogs and websites. There are so many helpful options for poets that we know we cannot cover them all. We’ll give you a few of the well-known ones below and you can find more from there.

The Alchemist’s Kitchen – Poetry, Travel, and the Creative Writing Life   – This blog, run by poet Susan Rich, not only has inspiring posts, but also offers the opportunity to buy services for poets (editing, coaching, how to do a grant proposal, etc.) on a sliding fee scale.

The Music In It: Adele Kenny’s Poetry Blog – This blog offers poetry prompts and guest bloggers from the poetry community. The post from February 10 discussed preparing for publication.

Poetic Asides – Writer’s Digest poetry editor Robert Lee Brewer runs this blog with poetry prompts, discussions of various poetic forms, and other tidbits for poets.

Poetry Foundation – This website is one of our favorites. Learn about poets and poems of all sorts. You can listen, too. They are also the folks who will send a poem a day to your email inbox. And the Poetry Foundation blog, Harriet, discusses poetry and related news.

Poets & Writers Blogs – Here you can find calls for submission, grant deadlines, workshop information, and more. By the way, the Poets & Writers website has a tab called, “Find Your Community”. It has directories for writers, literary events, MFA programs and more.

Trish Hopkinson – Trish’s blog consistently delivers a series of places to submit, particularly places with no reading fees, publishes interview with editors, and has guest bloggers. (Bonus: a Gyroscope Review editors interview will be available on the site this week.)

For a comprehensive list of blogs by poets and writers, visit the list that New Pages put together here: https://www.newpages.com/writers-resources/poets-and-writers-blogs

There are many groups that offer news and support. Facebook is full of those – simply do a search for poetry groups and you’ll find all sorts of options. Search #poetsofinstagram to find posts related to poetry on Instagram. Search #poetrycommunity on Twitter. Hashtags are quite useful to search for other poets, calls for submission, deadlines, etc. Follow your favorite poetry journals on whatever social media you use the most. And don’t be afraid to ask for group members who might be interested in looking at your work to give feedback.

Finally, if you need a nudge now and then, prompts are posted by many journals and poets, including us. Visit our Instagram feed every Sunday morning to get a new prompt for the week, or look up our hashtags, #promptsforpoets and #GRcultivatepoetry to get the whole list. We repost them on Facebook and Twitter, too.

Remember, resources are abundant. The poetry community is a large and welcoming place. And you, dear poets, all have your place in it.

 

image courtesy of Pixabay.com

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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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