Category Archives: writing process

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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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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Free Verse Is Not a Free For All

Since today is Memorial Day, and Freedom is on my mind —

Free Verse Poetry, what’s that all about?” A question from a friend who is often bewildered by modern poetry in general. She likes reading it, but was raised in the grand tradition of Poetry That Rhymes. Don’t get me wrong, I love Shakespeare, Emily Dickinson, Christina Rossetti and a plethora of other rhyming poets. I’ve just learned to widen my scope and dig for other influences. Most poets don’t spring forth from the head of Zeus, fully inspired. Neither do poems, although it would be grand if they did.

Wild Nights—Wild Nights!
Emily Dickinson

Wild Nights – Wild Nights!
Were I with thee
Wild Nights should be
Our luxury!

Futile – the winds –
To a heart in port –
Done with the compass –
Done with the chart!

Rowing in Eden –
Ah, the sea!
Might I moor – Tonight –
In thee!

Western poetical tradition (As opposed to Eastern or Oriental tradition) has a keen interest in poetical meter down to poetical feet per line. In the English language each foot usually has a syllable with a stress and one or two without a stress, presented in a pattern. Other languages may vary depending on the length of the vowels and the number of syllables in a word. Up until the last hundred years or so Iambic Pentameter was one of the most popular forms of meter in the English language. For examples, read Shakespeare. If you’re not interested, read him anyway, for the pure joy of how language should look on the page and sound in your mouth, or fall on your ear. At least listen to a good recording done by a British Shakespearean actor. Talk about rapt attention. Or maybe that’s just me.

Sonnet CXV
William Shakespeare

Those lines that I before have writ do lie,
Even those that said I could not love you dearer:
Yet then my judgment knew no reason why
My most full flame should afterwards burn clearer.
But reckoning Time, whose million’d accidents
Creep in ‘twixt vows, and change decrees of kings,
Tan sacred beauty, blunt the sharp’st intents,
Divert strong minds to the course of altering things;
Alas! why, fearing of Time’s tyranny,
Might I not then say, ‘Now I love you best,’
When I was certain o’er incertainty,
Crowning the present, doubting of the rest?
Love is a babe, then might I not say so,
To give full growth to that which still doth grow?

Popular opinion blames Walt Whitman for the downfall of rhymed poetry or the schism that occurred when he published Leaves of Grass and liberated poets to embrace free verse as a style. There was freedom to use poetry and language in a brand new way. Whitman wanted poetry to be ‘natural’, without the constraints of traditional meter and rhyme. I see the influence of Whitman on the Beat poets, on Ginsberg, and reading one then the other is an eye opening pleasure. We cannot escape our past, and as poets we need to mine the past for inspiration as much as we observe what is around us.

From a Wikipedia article: “Free verse is a term describing various styles of poetry that are not written using strict meter or rhyme, but that still are recognizable as ‘poetry’ by virtue of complex patterns of one sort or another that readers can perceive to be part of a coherent whole.”

Free verse is not totally without rules. Free verse poetry still has to hold together internally, to have cohesion and coherence, to make a point, to follow a pattern. In its own way, free verse is as rule bound as a sestina or villanelle. If you want to create a good free verse poem that is.

Kosmos
by Walt Whitman

WHO includes diversity, and is Nature,
Who is the amplitude of the earth, and the coarseness and sexuality of the earth, and the great charity of the earth, and the equilibrium also,
Who has not look’d forth from the windows, the eyes, for nothing, or whose brain held audience with messengers for nothing;
Who contains believers and disbelievers—Who is the most majestic lover;
Who holds duly his or her triune proportion of realism, spiritualism, and of the aesthetic, or intellectual,
Who, having consider’d the Body, finds all its organs and parts good;
Who, out of the theory of the earth, and of his or her body, understands by subtle analogies all other theories,
The theory of a city, a poem, and of the large politics of These States;
Who believes not only in our globe, with its sun and moon, but in other globes, with their suns and moons;
Who, constructing the house of himself or herself, not for a day, but for all time, sees races, eras, dates, generations,
The past, the future, dwelling there, like space, inseparable together.

Whenever I Saw You I Handed You a Bouquet, and
By Sharon Olds

what about those nosegays?! If you were to return
I would give you more, for all you have given us, for
your going first. Those posies might have a
peony, a freesia, a tulip — an eye snack
and nostril snack, I could not get enough of
giving you coronation bundles, handing them
and almost bowing, tongue-tied with
respectful adoring, with gobbling
the sight of you the sound, the bouquets saying mother-
— we would not be here, without your song, your eye.

Source: Poetry (February 2017)

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