Friday, July 29, 2011

The Portable Poetry Workshop Project: General Considerations - The Discovery Mode

Jack talks about the discovery mode as a "method of organic composition in which content and form arise without preset ideas."  Apperception, fixed form and free verse "intensions," not knowing, and complexity and simplicity are outlined in this discussion.  I think a lot of things can be included in this discussion, as everyone seems to have their own "discovery mode" when it comes to writing.

Jack emphasizes a point made by Richard Hugo, "Scholars look for final truths they will never find.  Creative writers concern themselves with possibilities that are always there to the receptive."  Sometimes I feel as if I am desperately searching for truth and that is why I write.  Other times, I just like to sit down and enjoy some word play, and sometimes, I really like what is staring back at me from the page.

I typically like to write free verse.  When at odds with my muse, I follow advice from James Arthur and  write according to a fixed form, my favorite being the villanelle.  How do you prefer to write your poetry?  What kinds of poems do you like to read?

In closing this chapter, Jack offers the "19 Questions" exercise.  I will share one of his questions with you along with one of my own:

One of Jack's 19 questions:  "Under what conditions have you experienced the joy of deep personal learning and insight?  How does your understanding of and relationship to discipline fit into this?  What would your personification of discipline look like?  In this image, are you in service to it, or is it in service to you?"  (Yes, that is all ONE question!  And I think I sense a hidden writing exercise in this one.)

My question:  In The Poet's Companion: A Guide to the Pleasures of Writing Poetry by Kim Addonizio and Dorianne Laux, the authors write, "Who you are contributes to your poetry in a number of important ways, but you shouldn't identify with your poems so closely that when they are cut, you're the one that bleeds."  How do you feel about this statement and why?  Any past bleeding experiences you'd like to share?

Happy Friday, all!  Andrea

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Heart of Haiku Touched My Own Heart

Thank goodness for the uninterrupted plane ride this past week because I was finally able to finish Jane Hirshfield's The Heart of Haiku.  It is an exquisite little book and will be joining others on my "Favorites" shelf.  Some highlights from it:

In quoting Basho:  "But unless things are seen with fresh eyes, nothing's worth writing down."

When the space between poet and object disappears, Basho taught, the object itself can begin to be fully perceived.  Through this transparent seeing, our own existence is made larger.

To read a haiku it so become its co-author, to place yourself inside its words until they reveal one of the proteus-shapes of your own life.

Art can be defined as beauty able to transcend the circumstances of its making.

One useful way to approach a haiku is to understand each of its parts as pointing toward both world and self.

Feeling within ourselves the lives of others (people, creatures, plants, and things) who share this world is what allows us to feel as we do at all.


There is so much about haiku I didn't know, and I am sure I still don't know.  I look forward to learning more and writing more of it.  I will end this blog with a question and a haiku:

What is your favorite haiku and why?

Year after year,
the monkey's face
wears a monkey's mask
 - Basho, translated by Jane Hirshfield

Thursday, July 21, 2011

What are your Scratch and Dent Dreams for your box of Now?

Give this video three minutes and you won't be able to take your foot off the gas pedal.  Eric Darby's "Scratch and Dent Dreams" makes me think of everyone who gives up too soon or says "some day" too often, especially poets and writers who allow the naysayers to get them down.  Sometimes, the biggest naysayer is staring back at you in the mirror.  No more.

What are you going to place in your box of "Now" and what tools will you need?  Where will your "tomorrow" go?  Start mapping it out and chart your progess. 

Happy writing, Andrea

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Mayfly (Gone Too Soon)

Cancer.  That ugly thing rears its head again this month and consumes yet another life, a sweet young woman not even 21 years old.  She leaves behind a son who turns 5 this Saturday.  She became engaged the week before hospice came in.  She was a mayfly, created and given to this earth for a short while.  Time never seems to be on anyone's side... 

Who knows how long a life is?  Do we want to know if we are born a mayfly?  If the ones we love are?

"Mayfly" by Douglas Florian is my poem for Viviana today.  "Its life is over/Far too soon."  May she rest in peace now.

The Portable Poetry Workshop Project: General Considerations - Mental Preparation

"Writer's Block."  We all experience it at one time or another.  Sometimes, it feels like a drought that might never end.  Everyone has a special term for it, as if by acknowledging it and naming it, we think it might just empathize with us and let up.  Jack Myers has a perfect analogy for it: "A bouquet of cut flowers might still truly be flowers, but they are cut off from their source, what nourished them, and any possibility of growth."

Do we just allow the flowers to sit in the vase?  Do we try arranging them in different ways, change the water, trim the soggy stems?  In what ways do you deal with your "Writer's Block"?  Do you have a certain name for it?  Do you just let the visitor in until it decides to leave and ignore him/her all the while?

Jack ends the chapter suggesting an exercise for when you are feeling at odds with your muse:

1.  Think of a special object in your life and write down all the detail you can about it.  "See stereoscopically."

2.  Fuse your feelings into the object you've chosen, writing about its meaning to you and the feelings it evokes.

3.  Associate the object with something it reminds you of or something that comes to mind.  Try using a trope as you expand your writing.

4.  Affirm your belief in this object and write about how you may or may not live without it going forward.

If you're like me when battling "the block," you will probably scratch and scribble all over what you've written at some point and want to wad your paper into a ball and bang it into your forehead.  A piece of advice:  don't scribble and scratch so much that you can no longer make out what you've written, and definitely resist making a shape out of it.  Calmly place it in your "To Tackle When I'm in a Better Mood" pile and walk away.  The poem will find you again.

Happy writing, Andrea

Friday, July 15, 2011

Decay, Working on Gone, Arthritis: Poems published this month.

I'm happy to have poems in Rose and Thorn Journal and The Houston Literary Review this month:

Decay and Working on Gone

Arthritis (page 5)

Happy Friday, Andrea

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Quotes about #Poetry from Richard Hugo in The Triggering Town

A few of my favorite quotes from this magnificent poet:

It is impossible to write meaningless sequences. In a sense the next thing always belongs. In the world of imagination, all things belong.

Never worry about the reader, what the reader can understand. When you are writing, glance over your shoulder, and you'll find there is no reader.  Just you and the page.

Knowing can be a limited thing.

You owe reality nothing at the truth about your feelings everything.

But in art, as seemingly in life, things happen without cause. They just happen.

It is narcissistic, vain, egotistical, unrealistic, selfish, and hateful to assume emotional ownership of a town or a word. It is also essential. will always be chasing a way to write. Actually, you never really find it, or writing would be much easier than it is.

Words love the ridiculous areas of our minds.

Ultimately the most important things a poet will learn about writing are from himself in the process.

Never want to say anything so strongly that you give up the option of finding something better. If you have to say it, you will.

Richard Hugo's The Triggering Town is a book destined to stay on your desk and speak to you when you need it most. I hope you will read it.

Do you have any favorite poetry/writing quotes?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Portable Poetry Workshop Project: General Considerations - Creativity and Consciousness

Jack Myers states, "In studying the basis for human life, you would quickly see that nature itself loves to create."  Taking a look outside my office window proves just so:  my lantana, merely leaves weeks ago, is robust with clusters of white blooms; the anthill just outside my patio looks twice its size from the time I last observed it; a spider has woven an intricate web upon the decorative door I've placed behind my wisteria bush.  Just this introduction to the chapter makes me want to write a poem.

But then, Jack pushes you off the diving board and forces you to the deepest part, the subconscious mind.  He talks about parts of the self and how they must "connect" in order to create.  He offers Wordsworth's definition of poetry and goes on to say, "This state of receptivity that forms the atmosphere for creativity seems to be galvanized into action, many times on the unconscious level, by the power of suggestion triggered by our associations and powers of deduction."  The first thing that comes to mind is his advice to me to always "read as much as I can, when I can" and to take time to "watch" the world.

This then leads me to think about the "definition" of poetry:  how many definitions are there, which one is most valid, what about its evolution, etc, etc, etc.  What is your definition of poetry?  Can one truly define it?  The poem that comes to mind when pondering this is John Ashbery's "Paradoxes and Oxymorons."  What are your thoughts on what this poem is saying? Megan Snyder-Camp suggests that "What I get, rather, is exactly what I need, which shifts with each reading."   

"The poem is you." - John Ashbery.  Now get to reading, and writing.  Watch the world.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

My Poem Made the Cut in the April PAD Challenge Results

I still can't believe it!  What an honor!  Congratulations to everyone who participated in this poetry challenge and to all those who were chosen.  It is great to stand among you all.

To see the 2011 April PAD Challenge Results, please click on this link ---> Top 50.

If you aren't familiar with Robert Lee Brewer's PAD Challenge, you can find details about it here:,category,NovemberPADChapbookChallenge.aspx.  There is a new one beginning in November, and there will another challenge following in April.  This has been a great resource for me in getting the poetry juices flowing and some words down on paper despite the days my muse has seemed to step out for a bit.  If you haven't followed him on Twitter yet, please click on his name above to go to his page.  He can open your eyes to a different poetic horizon and you can find a great, supportive community within his blog readers and followers.

Thanks for supporting me, my blog, and my poetry.  ((BIG HUG))